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
'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 spoken first.
'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,' 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.