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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
“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 onions.” 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, please,” 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 recognized the White
Rabbit: it was talking in a hurried nervous manner, smiling at