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ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND Lewis Carroll

CHAPTER V

                    Advice from a Caterpillar    
    
     The Caterpillar and Alice looked at  each  other  for  some  time  in
silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out  of  its  mouth,  and
addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
     - Who are YOU? - said the Caterpillar. This was  not  an  encouraging
opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, - I  -  I  hardly
know, sir, just at present-at least I know who I WAS when I  got  up  this
morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.
     - What do you mean by that? - said the Caterpillar sternly. - Explain
yourself!
     - I can't explain MYSELF, I'm afraid, sir - said Alice, - because I'm
not myself, you see.
     - I don't see, - said the Caterpillar.
     - I'm afraid I can't put  it  more  clearly,  -  Alice  replied  very
politely, - for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and  being  so
many different sizes in a day is very confusing.
     - It isn't, - said the Caterpillar.
     - Well, perhaps you haven't found it so yet, - said Alice; - but when
you have to turn into a chrysalis - you will some day, you know - and then
after that into a butterfly, I should think you'll feel it a little queer,
won't you?
     - Not a bit, - said the Caterpillar.
     - Well, perhaps your feelings may be different, - said Alice; - all I
know is, it would feel very queer to ME.
     - You! - said the Caterpillar contemptuously. - Who  are  YOU?  Which
brought them back again to the beginning of the conversation. Alice felt a
little irritated at the Caterpillar's making such VERY short remarks,  and
she drew herself up and said, very gravely, - I think, you out to tell  me
who YOU are, first.
     - Why? - said the Caterpillar. Here was  another  puzzling  question;
and as Alice could not think of any good reason, and  as  the  Caterpillar
seemed to be in a VERY unpleasant state of mind, she turned away.
     - Come back! - the Caterpillar called after  her.  -  I've  something
important to say!
     This sounded promising, certainly: Alice turned and came back  again.
- Keep your temper, - said the Caterpillar. - Is that all? -  said  Alice,
swallowing down her anger as well as she could.
     - No, - said the Caterpillar. Alice thought she might as  well  wait,
as she had nothing else to do, and perhaps after all  it  might  tell  her
something worth hearing. For some minutes it puffed away without speaking,
but at last it unfolded its arms, took the hookah out of its mouth  again,
and said,
     - So you think you're changed, do you? - I'm afraid I am, sir, - said
Alice; - I can't remember things as I used - and I  don't  keep  the  same
size for ten minutes together!
     - Can't remember WHAT things? - said the Caterpillar.
     - Well, I've tried to say - HOW DOTH THE LITTLE BUSY BEE,  -  but  it
all came different! - Alice replied in a very melancholy voice.
     - Repeat, - YOU ARE OLD, FATHER  WILLIAM,  -  said  the  Caterpillar.
Alice folded her hands, and began:
    
     - You are old, Father William, - the young man said, - And your  hair
has become very white;
    And yet you incessantly stand on your head     
      Do you think, at your age, it is right?     
    
     - In my youth, - Father William replied to his son,  -  I  feared  it
might injure the brain;
    But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,    
      Why, I do it again and again.     
    
     - You are old, - said the youth, - as I mentioned  before,  And  have
grown most uncommonly fat;
    Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door     
      Pray, what is the reason of that?     
    
     - In my youth, - said the sage, as he shook his grey locks, - I  kept
all my limbs very supple
    By the use of this ointment - one shilling the box     
      Allow me to sell you a couple?     
    
     - You are old, - said the youth, - and your jaws  are  too  weak  For
anything tougher than suet;
    Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak     
      Pray how did you manage to do it?     
    
     - In my youth, - said his father, - I took to  the  law,  And  argued
each case with my wife;
    And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,    
      Has lasted the rest of my life.     
    
     - You are old, - said the youth, - one would hardly suppose That your
eye was as steady as ever;
    Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose     
      What made you so awfully clever?     
    
     - I have answered three questions,  and  that  is  enough,  Said  his
father; - don't give yourself airs!
    Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?    
      Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!     
    
     - That is not said right, - said the Caterpillar.
     - Not QUITE right, I'm afraid, - said Alice,  timidly;  some  of  the
words have got altered.
     - It  is  wrong  from  beginning  to  end,  -  said  the  Caterpillar
decidedly, and there was silence for some minutes.
     The Caterpillar was the first to speak. - What size do  you  want  to
be? - it asked. - Oh, I'm not particular  as  to  size,  -  Alice  hastily
replied; - only one doesn't like changing so often, you know.
     - I DON'T know, - said the Caterpillar. Alice said nothing:  she  had
never been so much contradicted in her life before, and she felt that  she
was losing her temper.
     - Are you content now? - said the Caterpillar.
     - Well, I should like to be a LITTLE larger,  sir,  if  you  wouldn't
mind, - said Alice: - three inches is such a wretched height to be.
     - It is a very good height indeed! - said  the  Caterpillar  angrily,
rearing itself upright as it spoke (it was exactly three inches high).
     - But I'm not used to it! - pleaded poor Alice in a piteous tone. And
she thought of herself, - I wish  the  creatures  wouldn't  be  so  easily
offended!
     - You'll get used to it in time, - said the Caterpillar; and  it  put
the hookah into its mouth and began smoking again.
     This time Alice waited patiently until it chose to speak again. In  a
minute or two the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth and  yawned
once or twice, and shook itself. Then it got down off  the  mushroom,  and
crawled away in the grass, merely remarking as it went,
     - One side will make you grow taller, and the other  side  will  make
you grow shorter.
     - One side of WHAT? The other  side  of  WHAT?  -  thought  Alice  to
herself.
     - Of the mushroom, - said the Caterpillar, just as if she  had  asked
it aloud; and in another moment it was out of sight.
     Alice remained looking thoughtfully at the  mushroom  for  a  minute,
trying to make out which were the two sides of it; and as it was perfectly
round, she found this a very difficult  question.  However,  at  last  she
stretched her arms round it as far as they would go, and broke off  a  bit
of the edge with each hand.
     - And now which is which? - she said to herself, and nibbled a little
of the right-hand bit to try the  effect:  the  next  moment  she  felt  a
violent blow underneath her chin: it had struck her foot!
     She was a good deal frightened by this very sudden  change,  but  she
felt that there was no time to be lost, as she was shrinking  rapidly;  so
she set to work at once to eat some of the other bit. Her chin was pressed
so closely against her foot, that there was hardly room to open her mouth;
but she did it at last, and managed to swallow a morsel  of  the  lefthand
bit.
    
    
                         * * * * * * *    
                             * * * * * *    
                         * * * * * * *    
    
     - Come, my head's free at last! - said Alice in a  tone  of  delight,
which changed into alarm in  another  moment,  when  she  found  that  her
shoulders were nowhere to be found: all she could  see,  when  she  looked
down, was an immense length of neck, which seemed to rise like a stalk out
of a sea of green leaves that lay far below her.
     - What CAN all that green stuff be? - said Alice. - And where HAVE my
shoulders got to? And oh, my poor hands, how is it I can't  see  you?  She
was moving them about as she spoke, but no result seemed to follow, except
a little shaking among the distant green leaves.
     As there seemed to be no chance of getting her hands up to her  head,
she tried to get her head down to them, and was delighted to find that her
neck would bend about easily in any direction, like  a  serpent.  She  had
just succeeded in curving it down into a graceful zigzag, and was going to
dive in among the leaves, which she found to be nothing but  the  tops  of
the trees under which she had been wandering, when a sharp hiss  made  her
draw back in a hurry: a large pigeon had flown  into  her  face,  and  was
beating her violently with its wings.
     - Serpent! - screamed the Pigeon.
     - I'm NOT a serpent! - said Alice indignantly. - Let me alone!
     - Serpent, I say again! - repeated the Pigeon, but in a more  subdued
tone, and added with a kind of sob, - I've tried every  way,  and  nothing
seems to suit them!
     - I haven't the least idea what you're talking about, - said Alice.
     - I've tried the roots of trees, and I've tried banks, and I've tried
hedges, - the Pigeon went on,  without  attending  to  her;  -  but  those
serpents! There's no pleasing them!
     Alice was more and more puzzled, but she thought there was no use  in
saying anything more till the Pigeon had finished.
     - As if it wasn't trouble  enough  hatching  the  eggs,  -  said  the
Pigeon; - but I must be on the look-out for serpents night and day! Why, I
haven't had a wink of sleep these three weeks!
     - I'm very sorry you've been annoyed, - said Alice, who was beginning
to see its meaning.
     - And just as I'd taken the highest tree in the wood, - continued the
Pigeon, raising its voice to a shriek, - and just  as  I  was  thinking  I
should be free of them at last, they must needs come wriggling  down  from
the sky! Ugh, Serpent!
     - But I'm NOT a serpent, I tell you! - said Alice. - I'm a - I'm a
     - Well! WHAT are you? - said the Pigeon. - I can see you're trying to
invent something!
     - I - I'm a little girl, - said  Alice,  rather  doubtfully,  as  she
remembered the number of changes she had gone through that day.
     - A likely story indeed! - said the Pigeon in a tone of  the  deepest
contempt. - I've seen a good many little girls in my time, but  never  ONE
with such a neck as that! No, no! You're a serpent;  and  there's  no  use
denying it. I suppose you'll be telling me next that you never  tasted  an
egg!
     - I HAVE tasted eggs,  certainly,  -  said  Alice,  who  was  a  very
truthful child; - but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents  do,
you know.
     - I don't believe it, - said the Pigeon; - but if they do,  why  then
they're a kind of serpent, that's all I can say.
     This was such a new idea to Alice, that she was quite  silent  for  a
minute or two, which gave the Pigeon the opportunity of adding,
     - You're looking for eggs, I know THAT well enough; and what does  it
matter to me whether you're a little girl or a serpent?
     - It matters a good deal to ME, - said Alice hastily; - but  I'm  not
looking for eggs, as it happens; and if I was, I shouldn't want  YOURS:  I
don't like them raw.
     - Well, be off, then! - said the  Pigeon  in  a  sulky  tone,  as  it
settled down again into its nest. Alice crouched down among the  trees  as
well as she could, for her neck kept getting entangled among the branches,
and every now and then she had to stop and untwist it. After a  while  she
remembered that she still held the pieces of mushroom in  her  hands,  and
she set to work very carefully, nibbling first at  one  and  then  at  the
other, and growing sometimes taller and sometimes shorter, until  she  had
succeeded in bringing herself down to her usual height.
     It was so long since she had been anything near the right size,  that
it felt quite strange at first; but she got used to it in a  few  minutes,
and began talking to herself, as usual. - Come, there's half my plan  done
now! How puzzling all these changes are! I'm never sure what I'm going  to
be, from one minute to another! However, I've got back to my  right  size:
the next thing is, to get into that beautiful garden - how IS that  to  be
done, I wonder? - As she said this, she came suddenly upon an open  place,
with a little house in it about four feet high. - Whoever lives  there,  -
thought Alice, - it'll never do to come upon them THIS size: why, I should
frighten them out of their wits! - So she began nibbling at the  righthand
bit again, and did not venture to go near the house till she  had  brought
herself down to nine inches high.


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