Won­der­land

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Our con­tin­u­ing se­ries on Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land con­tin­ues this week with Chap­ter 3 of Lewis Car­roll’s clas­sic chil­dren’s story.

They were in­deed a queer looking-party that as­sem­bled on the bank — the birds with drag­gled feathers, the an­i­mals with their fur cling­ing close to them, and all drip­ping wet, cross, and un­com­fort­able.

The first ques­tion of course was, how to get dry again: they had a con­sul­ta­tion about this, and af­ter a few min­utes it seemed quite nat­u­ral to Alice to find her­self talk­ing fa­mil­iarly with them, as if she had known them all her life. In­deed, she had quite a long ar­gu­ment with the Lory, who at last turned sulky, and would only say, “I am older than you, and must know bet­ter”; and this Alice would not al­low without know­ing how old it was, and, as the Lory pos­i­tively re­fused to tell its age, there was no more to be said.

At last the Mouse, who seemed to be a per­son of au­thor­ity among them, called out, “sit down, all of you, and lis­ten to me! I’ll soon make you dry enough!” They all sat down at once, in a large ring, with the Mouse in the mid­dle. Alice kept her eyes anx­iously fixed on it, for she felt sure she would catch a bad cold if she did not get dry very soon.

“Ahem!” said the Mouse with an im­por­tant air, “are you all ready? This is the dri­est thing I know. Si­lence all round, if you please! “William the Con­queror, whose cause was fa­vored by the pope, was soon sub­mit­ted to by the English, who wanted leaders, and had been of late much ac­cus­tomed to usurpa­tion and con­quest. Ed­win and Mor­car, the earls of Mer­cia and Northum­bria.” “Ugh!” said the Lory, with a shiver. “I beg your par­don!” said the Mouse, frown­ing, but very po­litely: “did you speak?” “Not I!” said the Lory hastily. “I thought you did,” said the Mouse. “— I pro­ceed. ‘Ed­win and Mor­car, the earls of Mer­cia and Northum­bria, de­clared for him: and even Sti­gand, the pa­tri­otic arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, found it ad­vis­able — ’” “Found what?” said the Duck. “Found it,” the Mouse replied rather crossly: “of course you know what ‘it’ means.”

“I know what ‘it’ means well enough, when I find a thing,” said the Duck: “It’s gen­er­ally a frog or a worm. The ques­tion is, what did the arch­bishop find?”

The Mouse did not no­tice this ques­tion, but hur­riedly went on, “— found it ad­vis­able to go with Edgar Atheling to meet William and of­fer him the crown. William’s con­duct at first was moderate. But the in­so­lence of his Nor­mans — How are you get­ting on now, my dear?” it con­tin­ued, turn­ing to Alice as it spoke.

“As wet as ever,” said Alice in a me­lan­choly tone: “it doesn’t seem to dry me at all.”

“In that case,” said the Dodo solemnly, ris­ing to its feet, “I move that the meet­ing ad­journ, for the im­me­di­ate adop­tion of more en­er­getic reme­dies — ”

“Speak English!” said the Ea­glet. “I don’t know the mean­ing of half those long words, and, what’s more, I don’t be­lieve you do ei­ther!” And the Ea­glet bent down its head to hide a smile: some of the other birds tit­tered au­di­bly.

“What I was go­ing to say,” said the Dodo in an of­fended tone, “was, that the best thing to get us dry would be a Cau­cus race.”

“What IS a Cau­cus race?” said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that some­body ought to speak, and no one else seemed in­clined to say any­thing.

“Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to ex­plain it is to do it.” (And, as you might like to try the thing your­self, some win­ter day, I will tell you how the Dodo man­aged it.)

First it marked out a race course, in a sort of cir­cle, (“the ex­act shape doesn’t mat­ter,” it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away,” but they be­gan run­ning when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. How­ever, when they had been run­ning half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo sud­denly called out “the race is over!” and they all crowded round it, panting, and ask­ing, “But who has won?”

This ques­tion the Dodo could not an­swer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one fin­ger pressed upon its fore­head (the po­si­tion in which you usu­ally see Shake­speare, in the pic­tures of him), while the rest waited in si­lence. At last the Dodo said, “ Ev­ery­body has won, and all must have prizes.”

“But who is to give the prizes?” quite a cho­rus of voices asked.

“Why, she, of course,” said the Dodo, point­ing to Alice with one fin­ger; and the whole party at once crowded round her, call­ing out in a con­fused way, “Prizes! Prizes!”

Alice had no idea what to do, and in de­spair she put her hand in her pocket, and pulled out a box of com­fits, (luck­ily the salt wa­ter had not got into it), and handed them round as prizes. There was ex­actly one a-piece all round.

“But she must have a prize her­self, you know,” said the Mouse.

“Of course,” the Dodo replied very gravely. “What else have you got in your pocket?” he went on, turn­ing to Alice. “Only a thim­ble,” said Alice sadly. “Hand it over here,” said the Dodo.

Then they all crowded round her once more, while the Dodo solemnly pre­sented the thim­ble, say­ing, “We beg your ac­cep­tance of this el­e­gant thim­ble”; and, when it had fin­ished this short speech, they all cheered.

Alice thought the whole thing very ab­surd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not think of any­thing to say, she sim­ply bowed, and took the thim­ble, looking as solemn as she could.

The next thing was to eat the com­fits: this caused some noise and con­fu­sion, as the large birds com­plained that they could not taste theirs, and the small ones choked and had to be pat­ted on the back. How­ever, it was over at last, and they sat down again in a ring, and begged the Mouse to tell them some­thing more.

“You promised to tell me your his­tory, you know,” said Alice, “and why it is you hate — C and D,” she added in a whis­per, half afraid that it would be of­fended again.

“Mine is a long and a sad tale!” said the Mouse, turn­ing to Alice, and sigh­ing.

“It is a long tail, cer­tainly,” said Alice, looking down with won­der at the Mouse’s tail; “but why do you call it sad?” And she kept on puz­zling about it while the Mouse was speak­ing, so that her idea of the tale was some­thing like this:

“I beg your par­don,” said Alice very humbly: “you had got to the fifth bend, I think?”

“I had not!” cried the Mouse, sharply and very an­grily.

“A knot!” said Alice, al­ways ready to make her­self use­ful, and looking anx­iously about her. “Oh, do let me help to undo it!”

“I shall do noth­ing of the sort,” said the Mouse, get­ting up and walk­ing away. “You in­sult me by talk­ing such non­sense!”

“I didn’t mean it!” pleaded poor Alice. “But you’re so eas­ily of­fended, you know!” The Mouse only growled in re­ply. “Please come back and fin­ish your story!” Alice called af­ter it; and the oth­ers all joined in cho­rus, “Yes, please do!” but the Mouse only shook its head im­pa­tiently, and walked a lit­tle quicker.

“What a pity it wouldn’t stay!” sighed the Lory, as soon as it was quite out of sight; and an old Crab took the op­por­tu­nity of say­ing to her daugh­ter “ah, my dear! Let this be a les­son to you never to lose your tem­per!” “Hold your tongue, Ma!” said the young Crab, a lit­tle snap­pishly. “You’re enough to try the pa­tience of an oys­ter!”

“I wish I had our Di­nah here, I know I do!” said Alice aloud, ad­dress­ing no­body in par­tic­u­lar. “She’d soon fetch it back!”

“And who is Di­nah, if I might ven­ture to ask the ques­tion?” said the Lory.

Alice replied ea­gerly, for she was al­ways ready to talk about her pet: “Di­nah’s our cat. And she’s such a cap­i­tal one for catch­ing mice you can’t think! And oh, I wish you could see her af­ter the birds! Why, she’ll eat a lit­tle bird as soon as she looks at it!”

This speech caused a re­mark­able sen­sa­tion among the party. Some of the birds hur­ried off at once: one old Mag­pie be­gan wrap­ping it­self up very care­fully, re­mark­ing, “I re­ally must be get­ting home; the night air doesn’t suit my throat!” and a Ca­nary called out in a trem­bling voice to its chil­dren, “Come away, my dears! It’s high time you were all in bed!” On var­i­ous pre­texts they all moved off, and Alice was soon left alone.

“I wish I hadn’t men­tioned Di­nah!” she said to her­self in a me­lan­choly tone. “No­body seems to like her, down here, and I’m sure she’s the best cat in the world! Oh, my dear Di­nah! I won­der if I shall ever see you any more!” And here poor Alice be­gan to cry again, for she felt very lonely and low-spir­ited. In a lit­tle while, how­ever, she again heard a lit­tle pat­ter­ing of foot­steps in the dis­tance, and she looked up ea­gerly, half hop­ing that the Mouse had changed his mind, and was com­ing back to fin­ish his story.

Said cun­ning old Fury: ‘I’ll try the whole cause, and con­demn you to death.’”

“You are not at­tend­ing!” said the Mouse to Alice se­verely. “What are you think­ing of?”

“Fury said to a mouse, That he met in the house, ‘Let us both go to law: I will pros­e­cute YOU. — Come, I’ll take no de­nial; We must have a trial: For re­ally this morn­ing I’ve noth­ing to do.’ Said the mouse to the cur, ‘such a trial, dear Sir, With no jury or judge, would be wast­ing our breath.’ ‘I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury,’

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