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  • 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 ought 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