'Your Majesty must excuse her,' the Red Queen said to Alice, taking one of the White Queen's hands in her own, and gently stroking it: 'she means well, but she can't help saying foolish things, as a general rule.'
The White Queen looked timidly at Alice, who felt she OUGHT to say something kind, but really couldn't think of anything at the moment.
'She never was really well brought up,' the Red Queen went on: 'but it's amazing how good-tempered she is! Pat her on the head, and see how pleased she'll be!' But this was more than Alice had courage to do.
'A little kindness--and putting her hair in papers--would do wonders with her--'
The White Queen gave a deep sigh, and laid her head on Alice's shoulder. 'I AM so sleepy?' she moaned.
'She's tired, poor thing!' said the Red Queen. 'Smooth her hair --lend her your nightcap--and sing her a soothing lullaby.'
'I haven't got a nightcap with me,' said Alice, as she tried to obey the first direction: 'and I don't know any soothing lullabies.'
'I must do it myself, then,' said the Red Queen, and she began:
'Hush-a-by lady, in Alice's lap! Till the feast's ready, we've time for a nap: When the feast's over, we'll go to the ball-- Red Queen, and White Queen, and Alice, and all!
'And now you know the words,' she added, as she put her head down on Alice's other shoulder, 'just sing it through to ME. I'm getting sleepy, too.' In another moment both Queens were fast asleep, and snoring loud.
'What AM I to do?' exclaimed Alice, looking about in great perplexity, as first one round head, and then the other, rolled down from her shoulder, and lay like a heavy lump in her lap. 'I don't think it EVER happened before, that any one had to take care of two Queens asleep at once! No, not in all the History of England--it couldn't, you know, because there never was more than one Queen at a time. 'Do wake up, you heavy things!' she went on in an impatient tone; but there was no answer but a gentle snoring.
The snoring got more distinct every minute, and sounded more like a tune: at last she could even make out the words, and she listened so eagerly that, when the two great heads vanished from her lap, she hardly missed them.
She was standing before an arched doorway over which were the words QUEEN ALICE in large letters, and on each side of the arch there was a bell-handle; one was marked 'Visitors' Bell,' and the other 'Servants' Bell.'
'I'll wait till the song's over,' thought Alice, 'and then I'll ring--the--WHICH bell must I ring?' she went on, very much puzzled by the names. 'I'm not a visitor, and I'm not a servant. There OUGHT to be one marked "Queen," you know--'
Just then the door opened a little way, and a creature with a long beak put its head out for a moment and said 'No admittance till the week after next!' and shut the door again with a bang.
Alice knocked and rang in vain for a long time, but at last, a very old Frog, who was sitting under a tree, got up and hobbled slowly towards her: he was dressed in bright yellow, and had enormous boots on.
'What is it, now?' the Frog said in a deep hoarse whisper.
Alice turned round, ready to find fault with anybody. 'Where's the servant whose business it is to answer the door?' she began angrily.
'Which door?' said the Frog.
Alice almost stamped with irritation at the slow drawl in which he spoke. 'THIS door, of course!'
The Frog looked at the door with his large dull eyes for a minute: then he went nearer and rubbed it with his thumb, as if he were trying whether the paint would come off; then he looked at Alice.
'To answer the door?' he said. 'What's it been asking of?' He was so hoarse that Alice could scarcely hear him.
'I don't know what you mean,' she said.
'I talks English, doesn't I?' the Frog went on. 'Or are you deaf? What did it ask you?'
'Nothing!' Alice said impatiently. 'I've been knocking at it!'
'Shouldn't do that--shouldn't do that--' the Frog muttered. 'Vexes it, you know.' Then he went up and gave the door a kick with one of his great feet.