Come and Dine
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.
'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. '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.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Through The Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). 1871. Website: Project Gutenberg.
MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
This work is licensed under a Creative
You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial
purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute
the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.