‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.’
‘It must come sometimes to “jam to-day,”’ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first—’
‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’
‘—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘I’m sure mine only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’
‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.
‘What sort of things do you remember best?’ Alice ventured to ask.
‘Oh, things that happened the week after next,’ the Queen replied in a careless tone. ‘For instance, now,’ she went on, sticking a large piece of plaster on her finger as she spoke, ‘there’s the King’s Messenger. He’s in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn’t even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.’
‘Suppose he never commits the crime?’ said Alice.
‘That would be all the better, wouldn’t it?’ the Queen said, as she bound the plaster round her finger with a bit of ribbon.
Alice felt there was no denying that. ‘Of course it would be all the better,’ she said: ‘but it wouldn’t be all the better his being punished.’
‘You’re wrong there, at any rate,’ said the Queen: ‘were you ever punished?’
‘Only for faults,’ said Alice.
‘And you were all the better for it, I know!’ the Queen said triumphantly.
‘Yes, but then I had done the things I was punished for,’ said Alice: ‘that makes all the difference.’
‘But if you hadn’t done them,’ the Queen said, ‘that would have been better still; better, and better, and better!’ Her voice went higher with each ‘better,’ till it got quite to a squeak at last.
Alice was just beginning to say ‘There’s a mistake somewhere—,’ when the Queen began screaming so loud that she had to leave the sentence unfinished. ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ shouted the Queen, shaking her hand about as if she wanted to shake it off. ‘My finger’s bleeding! Oh, oh, oh, oh!’
Her screams were so exactly like the whistle of a steam-engine, that Alice had to hold both her hands over her ears.
‘What is the matter?’ she said, as soon as there was a chance of making herself heard. ‘Have you pricked your finger?’
‘I haven’t pricked it yet,’ the Queen said, ‘but I soon shall—oh, oh, oh!’
‘When do you expect to do it?’ Alice asked, feeling very much inclined to laugh.
‘When I fasten my shawl again,’ the poor Queen groaned out: ‘the brooch will come undone directly. Oh, oh!’ As she said the words the brooch flew open, and the Queen clutched wildly at it, and tried to clasp it again.
‘Take care!’ cried Alice. ‘You’re holding it all crooked!’ And she caught at the brooch; but it was too late: the pin had slipped, and the Queen had pricked her finger.
‘That accounts for the bleeding, you see,’ she said to Alice with a smile. ‘Now you understand the way things happen here.’
‘But why don’t you scream now?’ Alice asked, holding her hands ready to put over her ears again.
‘Why, I’ve done all the screaming already,’ said the Queen. ‘What would be the good of having it all over again?’