Alice’s Adventures Under Ground – Chapter 4

A large rose tree stood near the entrance of the garden: the roses on it were white, but there were three gardeners at it, busily painting them red. This Alice thought a very curious thing, and she went near to watch them, and just as she came up she heard one of them say “look out, Five! Don’t go splashing paint over me like that!”

“I couldn’t help it,” said Five in a sulky tone, “Seven jogged my elbow.”

On which Seven lifted up his head and said “that’s right, Five! Always lay the blame on others!”

“You’d better not talk!” said Five, “I heard the Queen say only yesterday she thought of having you beheaded!”

“What for?” said the one who had spoken first.

“That’s not your business, Two!” said Seven.

“Yes, it is his business!” said Five, “and I’ll tell him: it was for bringing tulip-roots to the cook instead of potatoes.”

Seven flung down his brush, and had just begun “well! Of all the unjust things–” when his eye fell upon Alice, and he stopped suddenly: the others looked round, and all of them took off their hats and bowed low.

“Would you tell me, please,” said Alice timidly, “why you are painting those roses?”

Five and Seven looked at Two, but said nothing: Two began, in a low voice, “why, Miss, the fact is, this ought to have been a red rose tree, and we put a white one in by mistake, and if the Queen was to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off. So, you see, we’re doing our best, before she comes, to–” At this moment Five, who had been looking anxiously across the garden called out “the Queen! the Queen!” and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat upon their faces. There was a sound of many footsteps, and Alice looked round, eager to see the Queen.

First came ten soldiers carrying clubs: these were all shaped like the three gardeners, flat and oblong, with their hands and feet at the corners: next the ten courtiers; these were all ornamented with diamonds, and walked two and two, as the soldiers did. After these came the Royal children: there were ten of them, and the little dears came jumping merrily along, hand in hand, in couples: they were all ornamented with hearts. Next came the guests, mostly kings and queens, among whom Alice recognised the white rabbit: it was talking in a hurried nervous manner, smiling at everything that was said, and went by without noticing her. Then followed the Knave of Hearts, carrying the King’s crown on a cushion, and, last of all this grand procession, came THE KING AND QUEEN OF HEARTS.

When the procession came opposite to Alice, they all stopped and looked at her, and the Queen said severely “who is this?” She said it to the Knave of Hearts, who only bowed and smiled in reply.

“Idiot!” said the Queen, turning up her nose, and asked Alice “what’s your name?”

“My name is Alice, so please your Majesty,” said Alice boldly, for she thought to herself, “why, they’re only a pack of cards! I needn’t be afraid of them!”

“Who are these?” said the Queen, pointing to the three gardeners lying round the rose tree, for, as they were lying on their faces, and the pattern on their backs was the same as the rest of the pack, she could not tell whether they were gardeners, or soldiers, or courtiers, or three of her own children.

“How should I know?” said Alice, surprised at her own courage, “it’s no business of mine.”

The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a minute, began in a voice of thunder, “off with her–”

“Nonsense!” said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and the Queen was silent.

The King laid his hand upon her arm, and said timidly “remember my dear! She is only a child!”

The Queen turned angrily away from him, and said to the Knave “turn them over!”

The Knave did so, very carefully, with one foot.

“Get up!” said the Queen, in a shrill loud voice, and the three gardeners instantly jumped up, and began bowing to the King, the Queen, the Royal children, and everybody else.

“Leave off that!” screamed the Queen, “you make me giddy.” And then, turning to the rose tree, she went on “what have you been doing here?”

“May it please your Majesty,” said Two very humbly, going down on one knee as he spoke, “we were trying–”

“I see!” said the Queen, who had been examining the roses, “off with their heads!” and the procession moved on, three of the soldiers remaining behind to execute the three unfortunate gardeners, who ran to Alice for protection.

“You shan’t be beheaded!” said Alice, and she put them into her pocket: the three soldiers marched once round her, looking for them, and then quietly marched off after the others.

“Are their heads off?” shouted the Queen.

“Their heads are gone,” the soldiers shouted in reply, “if it please your Majesty!”

“That’s right!” shouted the Queen, “can you play croquet?”

The soldiers were silent, and looked at Alice, as the question was evidently meant for her.

“Yes!” shouted Alice at the top of her voice.

“Come on then!” roared the Queen, and Alice joined the procession, wondering very much what would happen next.

“It’s– it’s a very find day!” said a timid little voice: she was walking by the white rabbit, who was peeping anxiously into her face.

“Very,” said Alice, “where’s the Marchioness?”

“Hush, hush!” said the rabbit in a low voice, “she’ll hear you. The Queen’s the Marchioness: didn’t you know that?”

“No, I didn’t,” said Alice, “what of?”

“Queen of Hearts,” said the rabbit in a whisper, putting its mouth close to her ear, “and Marchioness of Mock Turtles.”

“What are they?” said Alice, but there was no time for the answer, for they had reached the croquet-ground, and the game began instantly.

Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in all her life: it was all in ridges and furrows: the croquet-balls were live hedgehogs, the mallets live ostriches, and the soldiers had to double themselves up, and stand on their feet and hands, to make the arches.

The chief difficulty which Alice found at first was to manage her ostrich: she got its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck straightened out nicely, and was going to give a blow with its head, it would twist itself round, and look up into her face, with such a puzzled expression that she could not help bursting out laughing: and when she had got its head down, and was going to begin again, it was very confusing to find that the hedgehog had unrolled itself, and was in the act of crawling away: besides all this, there was generally a ridge or a furrow in her way, wherever she wanted to send the hedgehog to, and as the doubled-up soldiers were always getting up and walking off to other parts of the ground, Alice soon came to the conclusion that it was a very difficult game indeed.

The players all played at once without waiting for turns, and quarrelled all the while at the tops of their voices, and in a very few minutes the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about and shouting “off with his head!” or “off with her head!” about once in a minute. All those whom she sentenced were taken into custody by the soldiers, who of course had to leave off being arches to do this, so that, by the end of half an hour or so, there were no arches left, and all the players, except the King, the Queen, and Alice, were in custody, and under sentence of execution.

Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice “have you seen the Mock Turtle?”

“No,” said Alice, “I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is.”

“Come on then,” said the Queen, “and it shall tell you its history.”

As they walked off together, Alice heard the King say in a low voice, to the company generally, “you are all pardoned.”

“Come, that’s a good thing!” thought Alice, who had felt quite grieved at the number of executions which the Queen had ordered.

They very soon came upon a Gryphon, which lay fast asleep in the sun: (if you don’t know what a Gryphon is, look at the picture): “up, lazy thing!” said the Queen, “and take this young lady to see the Mock Turtle, and to hear its history. I must go back and see after some executions I ordered,” and she walked off, leaving Alice with the Gryphon. Alice did not quite like the look of the creature, but on the whole she thought it quite as safe to stay as to go after that savage Queen: so she waited.

The Gryphon sat up and rubbed its eyes: then it watched the Queen till she was out of sight: then it chuckled, “What fun!” said the Gryphon, half to itself, half to Alice.

“What is the fun?” said Alice.

“Why, she,” said the Gryphon; “it’s all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody, you know: come on!”

“Everybody says ‘come on!’ here,” thought Alice, as she walked slowly after the Gryphon; “I never was ordered about so before in all my life–never!”

They had not gone far before they saw the Mock Turtle in the distance, sitting sad and lonely on a little ledge of rock, and, as they came nearer, Alice could hear it sighing as if its heart would break. She pitied it deeply: “what is its sorrow?” she asked the Gryphon, and the Gryphon answered, very nearly in the same words as before, “it’s all its fancy, that: it hasn’t got no sorrow, you know: come on!”

So they went up to the Mock Turtle, who looked at them with large eyes full of tears, but said nothing.

“This here young lady” said the Gryphon, “wants for to know your history, she do.”

“I’ll tell it,” said the Mock Turtle, in a deep, hollow tone, “sit down, and don’t speak till I’ve finished.”

So they sat down, and no one spoke for some minutes: Alice thought to herself “I don’t see how it can ever finish, if it doesn’t begin,” but she waited patiently.

“Once,” said the Mock Turtle at last, with a deep sigh, “I was a real Turtle.”

These words were followed by a very long silence, broken only by an occasional exclamation of “hjckrrh!” from the Gryphon, and the constant heavy sobbing of the Mock Turtle. Alice was very nearly getting up and saying, “thank you, sir, for your interesting story,” but she could not help thinking there must be more to come, so she sat still and said nothing.

“When we were little,” the Mock Turtle went on, more calmly, though still sobbing a little now and then, “we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle–we used to call him Tortoise–”

“Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?” asked Alice.

“We called him Tortoise because he taught us,” said the Mock Turtle angrily, “really you are very dull!”

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself for asking such a simple question,” added the Gryphon, and then they both sat silent and looked at poor Alice, who felt ready to sink into the earth: at last the Gryphon said to the Mock Turtle, “get on, old fellow! Don’t be all day!” and the Mock Turtle went on in these words:

“You may not have lived much under the sea–” (“I haven’t,” said Alice,) “and perhaps you were never even introduced to a lobster–” (Alice began to say “I once tasted–” but hastily checked herself, and said “no, never,” instead,) “so you can have no idea what a delightful thing a Lobster Quadrille is!”

“No, indeed, said Alice, “what sort of a thing is it?”

“Why,” said the Gryphon, “you form into a line along the sea shore–”

“Two lines!” cried the Mock Turtle, “seals, turtles, salmon, and so on–advance twice:–”

“Each with a lobster as partner!” cried the Gryphon.

“Of course,” the Mock Turtle said, “advance twice, set to partners–”

“Change lobsters, and retire in same order–” interrupted the Gryphon.

“Then, you know,” continued the Mock Turtle, “you throw the–”

“The lobsters!” shouted the Gryphon, with a bound into the air.

“As far out to sea as you can–”

“Swim after them!” screamed the Gryphon.

“Turn a somersault in the sea!” cried the Mock Turtle, capering wildly about.

“Change lobsters again!” yelled the Gryphon at the top of its voice, “and then–”

“That’s all,” said the Mock Turtle, suddenly dropping its voice, and the two creatures, who had been jumping about like mad things all this time, sat down again very sadly and quietly, and looked at Alice.

“It must be a very pretty dance,” said Alice timidly.

“Would you like to see a little of it?” said the Mock Turtle.

“Very much indeed,” said Alice.

“Come, let’s try the first figure!” said the Mock Turtle to the Gryphon, “we can do it without lobsters, you know. Which shall sing?”

“Oh! you sing!” said the Gryphon, “I’ve forgotten the words.”

So they began solemnly dancing round and round Alice, ever now and then treading on her toes when they came too close, and waving their fore-paws to mark the time, while the Mock Turtle sang, slowly and sadly, these words:

“Beneath the waters of the sea
Are lobsters thick as thick can be–
They love to dance with you and me,
My own, my gentle Salmon!”

The Gryphon joined in singing the chorus, which was:

“Salmon come up! Salmon go down!
Salmon come twist your tail around!
Of all the fishes of the sea
There’s none so good as Salmon!”

“Thank you,” said Alice, feeling very glad that the figure was over.

“Shall we try the second figure?” said the Gryphon, or would you prefer a song?”

“Oh, a song, please!” Alice replied, so eagerly, that the Gryphon said, in a rather offended tone, “hm! no accounting for tastes! Sing her ‘Mock Turtle Soup’, will you, old fellow!”

The Mock Turtle sighed deeply, and began, in a voice sometimes choked with sobs, to sing this:

“Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau-ootiful Soo–oop!
Beau-ootiful Soo–oop!
Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful beautiful Soup!

“Chorus again!” cried the Gryphon, and the Mock Turtle had just begun to repeat it, when a cry of “the trial’s beginning!” was heard in the distance.

“Come on!” cried the Gryphon, and, taking Alice by the hand, he hurried off, without waiting for the end of the song.

“What trial is it?” panted Alice as she ran, but the Gryphon only answered “come on!” and ran the faster, and more and more faintly came, borne on the breeze that followed them, the melancholy words:

“Soo-oop of the e-e-evening,
Beautiful beautiful Soup!”

The King and Queen were seated on their throne when they arrived, with a great crowd assembled around them: the Knave was in custody: and before the King stood the white rabbit, with a trumpet in one hand, and a scroll of parchment in the other.

“Herald! read the accusation!” said the King.

“On this the white rabbit blew three blasts on the trumpet, and then unrolled the parchment scroll, and read as follows:

“The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts
All on a summer day:
The Knave of Hearts he stole those tarts,
And took them quite away!”

“Now for the evidence,” said the King, “and then the sentence.”

“No!” said the Queen, “first the sentence, and then the evidence!”

“Nonsense!” cried Alice, so loudly that everybody jumped, “the idea of having the sentence first!”

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen.

“I won’t!” said Alice, “you’re nothing but a pack of cards! Who cares for you?”

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream of fright, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some leaves that had fluttered down from the trees on to her face.

“Wake up!, Alice dear!” said her sister, “what a nice long sleep you’ve had!”

“Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!” said Alice, and she told her sister all her Adventures Under Ground, as you have read them, and when she had finished, her sister kissed her and said “it was a curious dream, dear, certainly! But now run in to your tea: it’s getting late.”

So Alice ran off, thinking while she ran (as well she might) what a wonderful dream it had been.

But her sister sat there some while longer, watching the setting sun, and thinking of little Alice and her Adventures, till she too began dreaming after a fashion, and this was her dream:

She saw an ancient city, and a quiet river winding near it along the plain, and up the stream went slowly gliding a boat with a merry party of children on board–she could hear their voices and laughter like music over the water–and among them was another little Alice, who sat listening with bright eager eyes to a tale that was being told, and she listened for the words of the tale, and lo! it was the dream of her own little sister. So the boat wound slowly along, beneath the bright summer-day, with its merry crew and its music of voices and laughter, till it passed round one of the many turnings of the stream, and she saw it no more.

Then she thought, (in a dream within the dream, as it were,) how this same little Alice would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman: and how she would keep, through her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would gather around her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a wonderful tale, perhaps even with these very adventures of the little Alice of long-ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.