They were indeed a queer-looking party that assembled on the bank—the bird_ith draggled feathers, the animals with their fur clinging close to them, an_ll dripping wet, cross, and uncomfortable.
The first question of course was, how to get dry again: they had _onsultation about this, and after a few minutes it seemed quite natural t_lice to find herself talking familiarly with them, as if she had known the_ll her life. Indeed, she had quite a long argument with the Lory, who at las_urned sulky, and would only say, “I’m older than you, and must know better.” And this Alice would not allow, without knowing how old it was, and, as th_ory 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, calle_ut, “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 _ad cold if she did not get dry very soon.
“Ahem!” said the Mouse with an important air. “Are you all ready? This is th_riest 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 an_onquest. 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 yo_peak?”
“Not I!” said the Lory, hastily.
“I thought you did,” said the Mouse. “I proceed. ‘Edwin and Morcar, the earl_f Mercia and Northumbria, declared for him; and even Stigand, the patrioti_rchbishop 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 archbisho_ind?”
The Mouse did not notice this question, but hurriedly went on, “‘—found i_dvisable 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 i_poke.
“As wet as ever,” said Alice in a melancholy tone: “it doesn’t seem to dry m_t all.”
“In that case,” said the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, “I move that th_eeting adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies——”
“Speak English!” said the Eaglet. “I don't know the meaning of half those lon_ords, and, what’s more, I don’t believe you do either!” And the Eaglet ben_own 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 th_est thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.”
“What is a Caucus-race?” said Alice; not that she much wanted to know, but th_odo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one els_eemed inclined to say anything.
“Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” (And, as yo_ight like to try the thing yourself, some winter-day, I will tell you how th_odo managed it.)
First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (“the exact shap_oesn’t matter,” it said,) and then all the party were placed along th_ourse, here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away!”, but the_egan running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it wa_ot easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been runnin_alf 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, “Bu_ho has won?”
This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, an_t sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the positio_n which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the res_aited in silence. At last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all mus_ave 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; an_he 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 you_ocket?” 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 presente_he 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 tha_he did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not think of anything to say, sh_imply 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 smal_nes 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 somethin_ore.
“You promised to tell me your history, you know,” said Alice, “and why it i_ou hate—C and D,” she added in a whisper, half afraid that it would b_ffended again.
“Mine is a long and a sad tale!” said the Mouse, turning to Alice, an_ighing.
“It is a long tail, certainly,” said Alice, looking down with wonder at th_ouse’s tail; “but why do you call it sad?” And she kept on puzzling about i_hile the Mouse was speaking, so that her idea of the tale was something lik_his:—
“Fury said to a
mouse, That he
met in the
both go to
law: I will
I’ll take no
must have a
mouse to the
“You are not attending!” said the Mouse to Alice, severely. “What are yo_hinking of?”
“I beg your pardon,” said Alice very humbly: “you had got to the fifth bend, _hink?”
“I had not!” cried the Mouse, sharply and very angrily.
“A knot!” said Alice, always ready to make herself useful, and lookin_nxiously 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, yo_now!”
The Mouse only growled in reply.
“Please come back, and finish your story!” Alice called after it. And th_thers all joined in chorus “Yes, please do!” But the Mouse only shook it_ead impatiently, and walked a little quicker.
“What a pity it wouldn’t stay!” sighed the Lory, as soon as it was quite ou_f 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 you_ongue, Ma!” said the young Crab, a little snappishly. “You’re enough to tr_he patience of an oyster!”
“I wish I had our Dinah here, I know I do!” said Alice aloud, addressin_obody 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 ca’n’_hink! And oh, I wish you could see her after the birds! Why, she’ll eat _ittle bird as soon as look at it!”
This speech caused a remarkable sensation among the party. Some of the bird_urried 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 m_hroat!” And a Canary called out in a trembling voice, to its children, “Com_way, my dears! It’s high time you were all in bed!” On various pretexts the_ll 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 th_orld! Oh, my dear Dinah! I wonder if I shall ever see you any more!” And her_oor Alice began to cry again, for she felt very lonely and low-spirited. In _ittle while, however, she again heard a little pattering of footsteps in th_istance, and she looked up eagerly, half hoping that the Mouse had change_is mind, and was coming back to finish his story.