Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass Looking-Glass, Chapter 5 Summary
Wool and Water
Alice returns the shawl to its owner, the White Queen, who comes running along behind it. She tries to help the Queen put the shawl back on and straighten her untidy hair which has the brush caught in it.
Alice remarks that the White Queen seems to need a lady's maid. The White Queen offers the job to Alice, but they get confused about terms. The White Queen offers jam every other day, and Alice is confused because this seems to mean it's never the day for the jam.
The White Queen tells Alice that the confusion comes from living backwards. She explains that, in Looking-Glass World, effects happen before causes. For example, the King's messenger is in prison now, his trial begins on Wednesday, and after that he'll commit the crime.
Alice asks what would happen if the messenger never committed the crime at all. The White Queen says that would be even better.
Suddenly the Queen starts screaming and shaking her hand, saying that her finger is bleeding. After this, she pricks her finger on the pin of her brooch. Then she's fine. The pain came before the accident, because things happen backwards.
Alice begins to feel lonely and starts crying. The White Queen encourages her to stop crying by considering things. She asks Alice's age, and Alice says she's seven and a half. The Queen says she is 101 years old, plus five months and a day.
Alice can't believe the Queen's age. The Queen says she used to practice believing impossible things when she was young.
The White Queen's shawl is blown away on another gust of wind, and she runs after it and catches it.
Alice says she hopes the Queen's finger is better. As they're walking, they cross a little brook, and as the Queen repeats the word "better," it turns into a bleat. She has transformed into a sheep, and they are in the Fifth Square.
The Sheep, who sits at a counter knitting, is a shopkeeper. Alice looks around the shop, but it's hard to tell what is being sold because things keep moving around.
Alice begins to stare at the Sheep, who is knitting with fourteen pairs of needles at once. She gives a pair to Alice and asks if Alice can row.
Alice says she can't row on land with needles, but before she has finished explaining, she finds herself in a boat holding oars. The Sheep keeps telling her to feather so she doesn't catch a crab. Alice thinks she is talking about a literal feather and the animal crab, but of course these are rowing terms: feathering is what you do with the oars in the water, and a crab is when one of the oars gets stuck in a strong eddy and pulled out of your hand.
The boat drifts among some beautiful scented rushes. Alice picks as many as she can, but the most beautiful ones are always out of reach.
One of the oars gets stuck in the water and the end of it catches Alice under the chin. She is thrown to the bottom of the boat, but she doesn't get hurt. The Sheep says that Alice caught a crab, but Alice still thinks she means the animal.
The Sheep asks Alice what she wants to buy, and Alice realizes they are back in the shop. Alice asks to buy an egg and somehow finds the money in her pocket to pay for it.
The Sheep sets the egg down at one end of the shop and tells Alice to go get it herself. As Alice walks toward the egg, it seems further and further away. She finds herself walking through a wood. Then she crosses a brook, and – you know what that means – she's in the Sixth Square!