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  • 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