Do you know why they're so fond of fishes, all about here?'
She spoke to the Red Queen, whose answer was a little wide of the mark. 'As to fishes,' she said, very slowly and solemnly, putting her mouth close to Alice's ear, 'her White Majesty knows a lovely riddle--all in poetry--all about fishes. Shall she repeat it?'
'Her Red Majesty's very kind to mention it,' the White Queen murmured into Alice's other ear, in a voice like the cooing of a pigeon. 'It would be SUCH a treat! May I?'
'Please do,' Alice said very politely.
The White Queen laughed with delight, and stroked Alice's cheek. Then she began:
'"First, the fish must be caught." That is easy: a baby, I think, could have caught it. "Next, the fish must be bought." That is easy: a penny, I think, would have bought it.
"Now cook me the fish!" That is easy, and will not take more than a minute. "Let it lie in a dish!" That is easy, because it already is in it.
"Bring it here! Let me sup!" It is easy to set such a dish on the table. "Take the dish-cover up!" Ah, THAT is so hard that I fear I'm unable!
For it holds it like glue-- Holds the lid to the dish, while it lies in the middle: Which is easiest to do, Un-dish-cover the fish, or dishcover the riddle?'
'Take a minute to think about it, and then guess,' said the Red Queen. 'Meanwhile, we'll drink your health--Queen Alice's health!' she screamed at the top of her voice, and all the guests began drinking it directly, and very queerly they managed it: some of them put their glasses upon their heads like extinguishers, and drank all that trickled down their faces--others upset the decanters, and drank the wine as it ran off the edges of the table--and three of them (who looked like kangaroos) scrambled into the dish of roast mutton, and began eagerly lapping up the gravy, 'just like pigs in a trough!' thought Alice.
'You ought to return thanks in a neat speech,' the Red Queen said, frowning at Alice as she spoke.
'We must support you, you know,' the White Queen whispered, as Alice got up to do it, very obediently, but a little frightened.
'Thank you very much,' she whispered in reply, 'but I can do quite well without.'
'That wouldn't be at all the thing,' the Red Queen said very decidedly: so Alice tried to submit to it with a good grace.
('And they DID push so!' she said afterwards, when she was telling her sister the history of the feast. 'You would have thought they wanted to squeeze me flat!')
In fact it was rather difficult for her to keep in her place while she made her speech: the two Queens pushed her so, one on each side, that they nearly lifted her up into the air: 'I rise to return thanks--' Alice began: and she really DID rise as she spoke, several inches; but she got hold of the edge of the table, and managed to pull herself down again.
'Take care of yourself!' screamed the White Queen, seizing Alice's hair with both her hands. 'Something's going to happen!'
And then (as Alice afterwards described it) all sorts of things happened in a moment. The candles all grew up to the ceiling, looking something like a bed of rushes with fireworks at the top. As to the bottles, they each took a pair of plates, which they hastily fitted on as wings, and so, with forks for legs, went fluttering about in all directions: 'and very like birds they look,' Alice thought to herself, as well as she could in the dreadful confusion that was beginning.
At this moment she heard a hoarse laugh at her side, and turned to see what was the matter with the White Queen; but, instead of the Queen, there was the leg of mutton sitting in the chair. 'Here I am!' cried a voice from the soup tureen, and Alice turned again, just in time to see the Queen's broad good-natured face grinning at her for a moment over the edge of the tureen, before she disappeared into the soup.
There was not a moment to be lost.