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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

The Queen’s Croquet-Ground

The Wasteland

She was looking about for some way of escape, and wondering whether she could get away without being seen, when she noticed a curious appearance in the air: it puzzled her very much at first, but, after watching it a minute or two, she made it out to be a grin, and she said to herself “It’s the Cheshire Cat: now I shall have somebody to talk to.”

“How are you getting on?” said the Cat, as soon as there was mouth enough for it to speak with.

Alice waited till the eyes appeared, and then nodded. “It’s no use speaking to it,” she thought, “till its ears have come, or at least one of them.” In another minute the whole head appeared, and then Alice put down her flamingo, and began an account of the game, feeling very glad she had someone to listen to her. The Cat seemed to think that there was enough of it now in sight, and no more of it appeared.

“I don’t think they play at all fairly,” Alice began, in rather a complaining tone, “and they all quarrel so dreadfully one can’t hear oneself speak—and they don’t seem to have any rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them—and you’ve no idea how confusing it is all the things being alive; for instance, there’s the arch I’ve got to go through next walking about at the other end of the ground—and I should have croqueted the Queen’s hedgehog just now, only it ran away when it saw mine coming!”

“How do you like the Queen?” said the Cat in a low voice.

“Not at all,” said Alice: “she’s so extremely—” Just then she noticed that the Queen was close behind her, listening: so she went on, “—likely to win, that it’s hardly worth while finishing the game.”

The Queen smiled and passed on.

“Who are you talking to?” said the King, going up to Alice, and looking at the Cat’s head with great curiosity.

“It’s a friend of mine—a Cheshire Cat,” said Alice: “allow me to introduce it.”

“I don’t like the look of it at all,” said the King: “however, it may kiss my hand if it likes.”

“I’d rather not,” the Cat remarked.

“Don’t be impertinent,” said the King, “and don’t look at me like that!” He got behind Alice as he spoke.

“A cat may look at a king,” said Alice. “I’ve read that in some book, but I don’t remember where.”

“Well, it must be removed,” said the King very decidedly, and he called the Queen, who was passing at the moment, “My dear! I wish you would have this cat removed!”

The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. “Off with his head!” she said, without even looking round.

“I’ll fetch the executioner myself,” said the King eagerly, and he hurried off.

John Tenniel illustration from the chapter “The Queen’s Croquet-Ground,” from Lewis Carrol’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: The Cheshire Cat's head floating in air; and the King, Queen, and Executioner Arguing

When she got back to the Cheshire Cat, she was surprised to find quite a large crowd collected round it: there was a dispute going on between the executioner, the King, and the Queen, who were all talking at once, while all the rest were quite silent, and looked very uncomfortable.

The moment Alice appeared, she was appealed to by all three to settle the question, and they repeated their arguments to her, though, as they all spoke at once, she found it very hard indeed to make out exactly what they said.

The executioner’s argument was, that you couldn’t cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn’t going to begin at his time of life.

The King’s argument was, that anything that had a head could be beheaded, and that you weren’t to talk nonsense.

The Queen’s argument was, that if something wasn’t done about it in less than no time she’d have everybody executed, all round. (It was this last remark that had made the whole party look so grave and anxious.)

Alice could think of nothing else to say but “It belongs to the Duchess: you’d better ask her about it.”

“She’s in prison,” the Queen said to the executioner: “fetch her here.” And the executioner went off like an arrow.

The Cat’s head began fading away the moment he was gone, and, by the time he had come back with the Duchess, it had entirely disappeared; so the King and the executioner ran wildly up and down looking for it, while the rest of the party went back to the game.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

“The Queen’s Croquet-Ground”

Open thread.

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