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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 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.
'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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Chapter 03 - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale

7405 Folder Collection
Bryan published on July 25, 2014
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