Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass Looking-Glass, Chapter 9
By Lewis Carroll
Looking-Glass, Chapter 9
Alice tries to get used to the idea that she is now a Queen. She gets up and walks back and forth, feeling the weight of her crown on her head.
Suddenly the Red and White Queens are sitting on either side of Alice. They tell her that she won't really be a Queen until she has passed an examination.
Alice tries to talk to them, but they twist her words and don't let her finish her sentences. She gets frustrated, and they tell her that she's bad-tempered.
There is a silence. The Red and White Queens invite each other to Alice's dinner party that afternoon. Alice didn't even know about the party, but they still think she's rude for not issuing the invitations.
The Queens begin asking Alice about what she learned in her lessons. The White Queen asks an addition question, but Alice loses count. The Red Queen asks a subtraction question, but Alice says it's impossible.
The White Queen gives Alice a division problem: divide a loaf by a knife. The Red Queen answers before Alice can: "bread and butter."
The Red Queen asks Alice what happens when you subtract a bone from a dog. The answer is that the dog's temper remains, because the dog loses its temper and then runs away.
Confused, Alice asks the White Queen if she can do these kinds of sums. The White Queen admits that she can do addition, but not subtraction – which she calls substraction.
The White Queen and Alice talk about the alphabet. The White Queen brags that she can read words of one letter.
The Red Queen tries to ask Alice a "useful question" about how to make bread, but she stops Alice every few words and makes her define her answer.
The Queens decide that Alice must be feverish with so much thinking and fan her madly.
Next, the Queens ask questions about languages and about the cause of lighting. This brings up the subject of weather, and the White Queen talks about the thunderstorms that happened on the last set of Tuesdays. As the Queens explain, days and nights come two or three at a time in Looking-Glass World.
Alice gives up on trying to understand, but the Queens keep telling stories about their strange country. The White Queen says that during the thunderstorm Humpty Dumpty came to her door carrying a corkscrew and looking for a hippopotamus.
The White Queen admits that she was frightened of the thunderstorm. The Red Queen asks Alice to excuse her for saying foolish things and tells Alice to pat the White Queen on the head.
The Red Queen begins singing a lullaby for the White Queen, who goes to sleep in Alice's lap. Then the Red Queen also falls asleep. Alice doesn't know what to do.
The Queens begin snoring, the sound of which turns into a tune. The Queens vanish, but Alice hardly notices. Looking up, she sees that she is standing in front of an arched doorway with the words "Queen Alice" over it.
Alice wants to go through the doorway, but there are two bells – one for visitors and one for servants – and she doesn't fit either category. She doesn't know what to do.
A footman sticks his head out the door and tells her that she can't get in until the week after next. Then he slams the door shut.
Alice knocks and rings both bells for awhile, to no avail. An old frog sitting under a tree gets up and comes to see what she's up to.
Alice says that she's trying to get someone to answer the door. The frog wants to know what the door has been asking.
Alice and the frog argue for awhile, then the frog shuffles away.
The door is flung open and Alice hears a song from inside. The song is about her, welcoming Queen Alice to her banquet. Each time they come to the refrain, the number of guests gets larger. Alice finally goes in when they get to "ninety times nine" guests, afraid the hall just won't hold them all.
When Alice appears, the crowd falls silent. The hall is full of about fifty guests, including many of the creatures she met on her adventure in Looking-Glass World.
Alice joins the Red and White Queens at the head of the table. The Red Queen tells Alice that she missed the first two courses of the meal.
The third course, the Joint, arrives at the table. The Red Queen introduces Alice to the Joint, which is a Leg of Mutton. The Mutton gets up and bows to Alice. Alice offers to carve the Mutton and give slices to the other Queens, but they tell her it's rude to cut someone she's been introduced to. ("Cut" in Victorian slang meant "pretend not to know" – so to "cut" someone was to snub them in public. Yes, it's yet another pun.)
The waiters take away the Joint and bring a Plum Pudding. Alice asks not to be introduced, because she wants to eat it. The Red Queen introduces her anyway and sends the pudding away.
Alice orders the Plum Pudding brought back and cuts slices of it. The Pudding tells her that she is being impertinent.
The Red Queen tells Alice to make conversation, so she tells the Pudding that she's heard a lot of poetry over the course of the day, mostly about fishes.
This reminds the White Queen that she knows a poem that is a riddle about fishes. She recites it to Alice and the guests.
While Alice thinks about the riddle, the guests drink a toast to her health.
The Red Queen tells Alice to make a speech. While she does, the Queens try to support her – literally. They push from either side and Alice rises up in the air.
Suddenly, all the candles grow tall, the bottles on the table make themselves wings out of plates, and everything becomes strange and chaotic.
The guests and tableware start changing places. The White Queen ends up in the soup tureen and the Leg of Mutton in her chair.
Alice pulls on the tablecloth and everything comes tumbling down in a big crash.
The Red Queen, who has shrunk small again, is running around on the table chasing her shawl. Alice grabs her and decides to shake her until she turns into a kitten.