“How are you getting on?” asked the Cheshire Cat.
“Tm not,” said Alice.
Which was certainly the truth.
It was the most provoking and bewildering game of croquet she had ever played in. The other side did not seem to know what they were expected to do, and, for the most part, they weren’t doing anything, so Alice thought she might have a good chance of winning — though she was ever so many hoops behind. But the ground she had to play over was all lumps and furrows, and some of the hoops were three-cornered in shape, which made them difficult to get through, while as for the balls (which were live hedgehogs and very opinionated), it was all she could do to keep them in position for a minute at a time. Then the flamingo which she was using as a mallet kept stiffening itself into uncompromising attitudes, and had to be coaxed back into a good temper.
“I think I can manage him now,” she said, “since I let him have a latchkey and allowed him to take up the position he wanted he has been quite amiable. The other flamingo I was playing with,” she added regretfully, “strayed off into a furrow. The last I saw of it, it was trying to bore a tunnel.”
“A tunnel?” said the Cat.
“Yes; under the sea, you know.”
“I see; to avoid the cross-current, of course.”
Alice waited till the Cat had stopped grinning at its own joke, and then went on —
“As for the hedgehogs, there’s no doing anything with them; they’ve got such prickly tempers. And they’re so short-sighted; if they don’t happen to be looking the same way they invariably run against each other. 1 should have won that last hoop if both hedgehogs hadn’t tried to get through at the same time.”
“Yes, the one I was playing with and the one I wasn’t. And every one began shouting out all sorts of different directions till I scarcely knew which I was playing with. Really,” she continued plaintively, “it’s the most discouraging croquet-party I was ever at; if we go on like this there soon won’t be any party at all.”
“It’s no use swearing and humping your back,” said the Cat sympathetically. (Alice hadn’t done either.) “Keep your temper and your flamingo.”
“Is that all?”
“No,” said the Cat; “keep on playing with the right bali.”
“Which is the right ball?” asked Alice.
But the Cat had discreetly vanished.