`That’s nothing to what I could say if I chose,’ the Duchess replied, in a pleased tone.
`Pray don’t trouble yourself to say it any longer than that,’ said Alice.
`Oh, don’t talk about trouble!’ said the Duchess. `I make you a present of everything I’ve said as yet.’
`A cheap sort of present!’ thought Alice. `I’m glad they don’t give birthday presents like that!’ But she did not venture to say it out loud.
`Thinking again?’ the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin.
`I’ve a right to think,’ said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried.
`Just about as much right,’ said the Duchess, `as pigs have to fly; and the m—’
But here, to Alice’s great surprise, the Duchess’s voice died away, even in the middle of her favourite word `moral,’ and the arm that was linked into hers began to tremble. Alice looked up, and there stood the Queen in front of them, with her arms folded, frowning like a thunderstorm.
`A fine day, your Majesty!’ the Duchess began in a low, weak voice.
`Now, I give you fair warning,’ shouted the Queen, stamping on the ground as she spoke; `either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time! Take your choice!’
The Duchess took her choice, and was gone in a moment.
`Let’s go on with the game,’ the Queen said to Alice; and Alice was too much frightened to say a word, but slowly followed her back to the croquet-ground.
The other guests had taken advantage of the Queen’s absence, and were resting in the shade: however, the moment they saw her, they hurried back to the game, the Queen merely remarking that a moment’s delay would cost them their lives.
All the time they were playing the Queen never left off quarrelling with the other players, and shouting `Off with his head!’ or `Off with her head!’ Those whom she sentenced were taken into custody by the soldiers, who of course had to leave off being arches to do this, so that by the end of half an hour or so there were no arches left, and all the players, except the King, the Queen, and Alice, were in custody and under sentence of execution.
Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, `Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?’
`No,’ said Alice. `I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is.’
`It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from,’ said the Queen.
`I never saw one, or heard of one,’ said Alice.
`Come on, then,’ said the Queen, `and he shall tell you his history,’
As they walked off together, Alice heard the King say in a low voice, to the company generally, `You are all pardoned.’ `Come, that’s a good thing!’ she said to herself, for she had felt quite unhappy at the number of executions the Queen had ordered.