'You let IT alone,' he panted out, as he hobbled back to his tree, 'and it'll let YOU alone, you know.'
At this moment the door was flung open, and a shrill voice was heard singing:
'To the Looking-Glass world it was Alice that said, "I've a sceptre in hand, I've a crown on my head; Let the Looking-Glass creatures, whatever they be, Come and dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me."'
And hundreds of voices joined in the chorus:
'Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can, And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran: Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea-- And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times-three!'
Then followed a confused noise of cheering, and Alice thought to herself, 'Thirty times three makes ninety. I wonder if any one's counting?' In a minute there was silence again, and the same shrill voice sang another verse;
'"O Looking-Glass creatures," quothe Alice, "draw near! 'Tis an honour to see me, a favour to hear: 'Tis a privilege high to have dinner and tea Along with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!"'
Then came the chorus again:--
'Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink, Or anything else that is pleasant to drink: Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine-- And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!'
'Ninety times nine!' Alice repeated in despair, 'Oh, that'll never be done! I'd better go in at once--' and there was a dead silence the moment she appeared.
Alice glanced nervously along the table, as she walked up the large hall, and noticed that there were about fifty guests, of all kinds: some were animals, some birds, and there were even a few flowers among them. 'I'm glad they've come without waiting to be asked,' she thought: 'I should never have known who were the right people to invite!'
There were three chairs at the head of the table; the Red and White Queens had already taken two of them, but the middle one was empty. Alice sat down in it, rather uncomfortable in the silence, and longing for some one to speak.
At last the Red Queen began. 'You've missed the soup and fish,' she said. 'Put on the joint!' And the waiters set a leg of mutton before Alice, who looked at it rather anxiously, as she had never had to carve a joint before.
'You look a little shy; let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,' said the Red Queen. 'Alice--Mutton; Mutton--Alice.' The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.
'May I give you a slice?' she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other.
'Certainly not,' the Red Queen said, very decidedly: 'it isn't etiquette to cut any one you've been introduced to. Remove the joint!' And the waiters carried it off, and brought a large plum-pudding in its place.
'I won't be introduced to the pudding, please,' Alice said rather hastily, 'or we shall get no dinner at all. May I give you some?'
But the Red Queen looked sulky, and growled 'Pudding--Alice; Alice--Pudding. Remove the pudding!' and the waiters took it away so quickly that Alice couldn't return its bow.
However, she didn't see why the Red Queen should be the only one to give orders, so, as an experiment, she called out 'Waiter! Bring back the pudding!' and there it was again in a moment like a conjuring-trick. It was so large that she couldn't help feeling a LITTLE shy with it, as she had been with the mutton; however, she conquered her shyness by a great effort and cut a slice and handed it to the Red Queen.
'What impertinence!' said the Pudding. 'I wonder how you'd like it, if I were to cut a slice out of YOU, you creature!'
It spoke in a thick, suety sort of voice, and Alice hadn't a word to say in reply: she could only sit and look at it and gasp.
'Make a remark,' said the Red Queen: 'it's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!'
'Do you know, I've had such a quantity of poetry repeated to me to-day,' Alice began, a little frightened at finding that, the moment she opened her lips, there was dead silence, and all eyes were fixed upon her; 'and it's a very curious thing, I think-- every poem was about fishes in some way.