Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Chapter VIII — The Queen's Croquet Ground
A large rose-tree stood near the entrance of the
garden: the roses growing on it were white, but there
were three gardeners at it, busily painting them red.
Alice thought this a very curious thing, and she went
nearer to watch them, and just as she came up to them she
heard one of them say, `Look out now, 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 looked up 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 you deserved to be beheaded!'
`What for?' said the one who had spoken first.
`That's none of YOUR business, Two!' said Seven.
`Yes, it IS his business!' said Five, `and I'll tell
him--it was for bringing the cook tulip-roots instead of
Seven flung down his brush, and had just begun `Well,
of all the unjust things--' when his eye chanced to fall
upon Alice, as she stood watching them, and he checked
himself suddenly: the others looked round also, and all
of them bowed low.
`Would you tell me,' said Alice, a little timidly,
`why you are painting those roses?'
Five and Seven said nothing, but looked at Two. Two
began in a low voice, `Why the fact is, you see, Miss,
this here 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, you know.
So you see, Miss, we're doing our best, afore she comes,
to--' At this moment Five, who had been anxiously looking
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, oblong and flat, with
their hands and feet at the corners: next the ten
courtiers; these were ornamented all over 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, and among them 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 crimson velvet
cushion; and, last of all this grand procession, came THE
KING AND QUEEN OF HEARTS.
Alice was rather doubtful whether she ought not to lie
down on her face like the three gardeners, but she could
not remember every having heard of such a rule at
processions; `and besides, what would be the use of a
procession,' thought she, `if people had all to lie down
upon their faces, so that they couldn't see it?' So she
stood still where she was, and waited.
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, tossing her head impatiently;
and, turning to Alice, she went on, `What's your name,
`My name is Alice, so please your Majesty,' said Alice
very politely; but she added, to herself, `Why, they're
only a pack of cards, after all. I needn't be afraid of
`And who are THESE?' said the Queen, pointing to the
three gardeners who were lying round the rosetree; for,
you see, 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 moment like a wild beast, screamed `Off with
her head! Off--'
`Nonsense!' said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and
the Queen was silent.
The King laid his hand upon her arm, and timidly said
`Consider, 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
`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, in a very
humble tone, going down on one knee as he spoke, `we were
`I see!' said the Queen, who had meanwhile been
examining the roses. `Off with their heads!' and the
procession moved on, three of the soldiers remaining
behind to execute the unfortunate gardeners, who ran to
Alice for protection.
`You shan't be beheaded!' said Alice, and she put them
into a large flower-pot that stood near. The three
soldiers wandered about for a minute or two, looking for
them, and then quietly marched off after the others.
`Are their heads off?' shouted the Queen.
`Their heads are gone, if it please your Majesty!' the
soldiers shouted in reply.
`That's right!' shouted the Queen. `Can you play
The soldiers were silent, and looked at Alice, as the
question was evidently meant for her.
`Yes!' shouted Alice.
`Come on, then!' roared the Queen, and Alice joined
the procession, wondering very much what would happen
`It's--it's a very fine day!' said a timid voice at
her side. She was walking by the White Rabbit, who was
peeping anxiously into her face.
`Very,' said Alice: `--where's the Duchess?'
`Hush! Hush!' said the Rabbit in a low, hurried tone.
He looked anxiously over his shoulder as he spoke, and
then raised himself upon tiptoe, put his mouth close to
her ear, and whispered `She's under sentence of execution.'
`What for?' said Alice.
`Did you say "What a pity!"?' the Rabbit
`No, I didn't,' said Alice: `I don't think it's at all
a pity. I said "What for?"'
`She boxed the Queen's ears--' the Rabbit began. Alice
gave a little scream of laughter. `Oh, hush!' the Rabbit
whispered in a frightened tone. `The Queen will hear you!
You see, she came rather late, and the Queen said--'
`Get to your places!' shouted the Queen in a voice of
thunder, and people began running about in all
directions, tumbling up against each other; however, they
got settled down in a minute or two, and the game began.
Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground
in her life; it was all ridges and furrows; the balls
were live hedgehogs, the mallets live flamingoes, and the
soldiers had to double themselves up and to stand on
their hands and feet, to make the arches.
The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in
managing her flamingo: she succeeded in getting its body
tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its
legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its
neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the
hedgehog a blow with its head, it WOULD twist itself
round and look up in 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 provoking 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 furrow in the 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, quarrelling all the while, and fighting for the
hedgehogs; and in a very short time 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.
Alice began to feel very uneasy: to be sure, she had
not as yet had any dispute with the Queen, but she knew
that it might happen any minute, `and then,' thought she,
`what would become of me? They're dreadfully fond of
beheading people here; the great wonder is, that there's
any one left alive!'
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
`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
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.
Alice thought she might as well go back, and see how
the game was going on, as she heard the Queen's voice in
the distance, screaming with passion. She had already
heard her sentence three of the players to be executed
for having missed their turns, and she did not like the
look of things at all, as the game was in such confusion
that she never knew whether it was her turn or not. So
she went in search of her hedgehog.
The hedgehog was engaged in a fight with another
hedgehog, which seemed to Alice an excellent opportunity
for croqueting one of them with the other: the only
difficulty was, that her flamingo was gone across to the
other side of the garden, where Alice could see it trying
in a helpless sort of way to fly up into a tree.
By the time she had caught the flamingo and brought it
back, the fight was over, and both the hedgehogs were out
of sight: `but it doesn't matter much,' thought Alice,
`as all the arches are gone from this side of the ground.'
So she tucked it away under her arm, that it might not
escape again, and went back for a little more
conversation with her friend.
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
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
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
The Cat's head began fading away the moment he was
gone, and, by the time he had come back with the
Dutchess, 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.
Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright ©2001.