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ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND Lewis Carroll

CHAPTER III

                  A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale    
    
     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 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 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:
    
                     - 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,     
                         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?
     - 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 look at it!
     This speech caused a remarkable sensation among the  party.  Some  of
the birds hurried off at once: one the 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.



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