For a minute or two she stood looking at the house and wondering what to do next, when suddenly a footman in livery came running out of the wood — (she considered him to be a footman because he was in livery: otherwise, judging by his face only, she would have called him a fish) — and rapped loudly at the door with his knuckles. It was opened by another footman in livery, with a round face and large eyes like a frog, and both footmen, Alice noticed, had powdered hair that curled all over their heads. She felt very curious to know what it was all about and crept a little way out of the wood to listen.
The Fish-Footman began by producing from under his arm a great letter, nearly as large as himself, and this he handed over to the other, saying, in a solemn tone, 'For the Duchess. An invitation from the Queen to play croquet.' The Frog-Footman repeated, in the same solemn tone, only changing the order of the words a little, 'From the Queen. An invitation for the Duchess to play croquet.'
Then they both bowed low, and their curls got entangled together.
Alice laughed so much at this that she had to run back into the wood for fear of their hearing her, and when she next peeped out, the Fish-Footman was gone, and the other was sitting on the ground near the door, staring stupidly up into the sky.
Alice went timidly up to the door and knocked.
'There's no sort of use in knocking,' said the Footman, 'and that for two reasons. First, because I'm on the same side of the door as you are; secondly, because they're making such a noise inside, no one could possibly hear you.' And certainly there was a most extraordinary noise going on within — a constant howling and sneezing, and every now and then a great crash, as if a dish or kettle had been broken to pieces.
'Please, then,' said Alice, 'how am I to get in?'
'There might be some sense in your knocking,' the Footman went on without attending to her, 'if we had the door between us. For instance, if you were INSIDE, you might knock, and I could let you out, you know.' He was looking up into the sky all the time he was speaking, and this Alice thought decidedly uncivil. 'But perhaps he can't help it,' she said to herself; 'his eyes are so VERY nearly at the top of his head. But at any rate he might answer questions. — How am I to get in?' she repeated, aloud.
'I shall sit here,' the Footman remarked, 'till tomorrow — '
At this moment the door of the house opened, and a large plate came skimming out, straight at the Footman's head: it just grazed his nose and broke to pieces against one of the trees behind him.
' — or next day, maybe,' the Footman continued in the same tone, exactly as if nothing had happened.
'How am I to get in?' asked Alice again, in a louder tone.
'ARE you to get in at all?' said the Footman. 'That's the first question, you know.'
It was, no doubt: only Alice did not like to be told so. 'It's really dreadful,' she muttered to herself, 'the way all the creatures argue. It's enough to drive one crazy!'
The Footman seemed to think this a good opportunity for repeating his remark, with variations. 'I shall sit here,' he said, 'on and off, for days and days.'
'But what am I to do?' said Alice.
'Anything you like,' said the Footman and began whistling.
'Oh, there's no use in talking to him,' said Alice desperately: 'he's perfectly idiotic!' And she opened the door and went in.
The door led right into a large kitchen, which was full of smoke from one end to the other: the Duchess was sitting on a three-legged stool in the middle, nursing a baby; the cook was leaning over the fire, stirring a large cauldron which seemed to be full of soup.
'There's certainly too much pepper in that soup!' Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing.
There was certainly too much of it in the air. Even the Duchess sneezed occasionally, and as for the baby, it was sneezing and howling alternately without a moment's pause. The only things in the kitchen that did not sneeze were the cook and a large cat which was sitting on the hearth and grinning from ear to ear.
'Please would you tell me,' said Alice, a little timidly, for she was not quite sure whether it was good manners for her to speak first, 'why your cat grins like that?'
'It's a Cheshire cat,' said the Duchess, 'and that's why. Pig!'
Next: Pig and Pepper (cont.)