T HEY 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
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.
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 favoured 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
"Ugh!" said the
Lory, with a shiver.
"I beg your pardon!"
said the Mouse, frowning, but very politely. "Did you speak?"
I!" said the Lory hastily.
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—'"
what?" said the Duck.
the Mouse replied rather crossly: "of course you know what 'it' means."
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
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.
wet as ever," said Alice in a melancholy tone; "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——"
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
"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."
a Caucus-race?" said Alice; not that she much wanted 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.
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
"The race is over!" and they all crowded round it, panting, and
asking "But who has won?"
question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it
stood 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."
who is to give the prizes?" quite a chorus of voices asked.
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,
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 apiece all round.
"But she must have a prize herself, you know," said the Mouse.
course," the Dodo replied very gravely.
else have you got in your pocket?" it went on, turning to Alice.
a thimble," said Alice sadly.
it over here," said the Dodo.
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.
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.
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
"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.
"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:—
"Fury said to
a mouse, That
he met in the
us both go
to law: I
cute you. —
take no de-
"You are not
attending!" said the Mouse to Alice severely. "What are you
"I beg your pardon,"
said Alice very humbly: "you had got to the fifth bend, I think?"
had not!" cried the Mouse, angrily.
knot!" said Alice, always ready to make herself useful, and looking
anxiously about her. "Oh, do let me help to undo it!"
shall do nothing of the sort," said the Mouse, getting up and walking
away. "You insult me by talking such nonsense!"
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.
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!"
tongue, Ma!" said the young Crab, a little snappishly. "You're
enough to try the patience of an oyster!"
wish I had our Dinah here, I know I do!" said Alice aloud, addressing
nobody in particular. "She'd soon fetch it back!"
who is Dinah, if I might venture to ask the question?" said the Lory.
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 ca'n't think!
And oh, I wish you could see her after the birds! Why, she'll eat a little
bird as soon as look 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.
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