The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: a_ast the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in _anguid, sleepy voice.
“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rathe_hyly, “I—I hardly know, Sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when _ot up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times sinc_hen.”
“What do you mean by that?" said the Caterpillar, sternly. “Explain yourself!”
“I ca’n’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,” said Alice, “because I’m no_yself, you see.”
“I don’t see,” said the Caterpillar.
“I’m afraid I ca’n’t put it more clearly,” Alice replied, very politely, “fo_ ca’n’t understand it myself, to begin with; and being so many differen_izes 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 t_urn into a chrysalis—you will some day, you know—and then after that into _utterfly, I should think you'll feel it a little queer, wo’n’t you?”
“Not a bit,” said the Caterpillar.
“Well, perhaps your feelings may be different,” said Alice: “all I know is, i_ould 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 fel_ little irritated at the Caterpillar's making such very short remarks, an_he drew herself up and said, very gravely, “I think you ought to tell me wh_ou are, first.”
“Why?” said the Caterpillar.
Here was another puzzling question; and, as Alice could not think of any goo_eason, and as the Caterpillar seemed to be in a very unpleasant state o_ind, she turned away.
“Come back!” the Caterpillar called after her. “I’ve something important t_ay!”
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, an_erhaps after all it might tell her something worth hearing. For some minute_t puffed away without speaking; but at last it unfolded its arms, took th_ookah out of its mouth again, and said, “So you think you’re changed, d_ou?”
“I’m afraid I am, sir,” said Alice. “I ca’n’t remember things as I used—and _on't keep the same size for ten minutes together!”
“Ca’n’t remember what things?” said the Caterpillar.
“Well, I’ve tried to say ‘How doth the little busy bee,’ but it all cam_ifferent!” 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 hav_ot altered.”
“It is wrong from beginning to end,” said the Caterpillar, decidedly; an_here 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'_ike changing so often, you know.”
“I don’t know,” said the Caterpillar.
Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in her lif_efore, 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,” sai_lice: “three inches is such a wretched height to be.”
“It is a very good height indeed!” said the Caterpillar angrily, rearin_tself 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 sh_hought to 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 hooka_nto its mouth, and began smoking again.
This time Alice waited patiently until it chose to speak again. In a minute o_wo the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and yawned once o_wice, and shook itself. Then it got down off the mushroom, and crawled awa_n the grass, merely remarking, as it went, “One side will make you gro_aller, 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 t_ake out which were the two sides of it; and, as it was perfectly round, sh_ound this a very difficult question. However, at last she stretched her arm_ound it as far as they would go, and broke off a bit of the edge with eac_and.
“And now which is which?” she said to herself, and nibbled a little of th_ight-hand bit to try the effect. The next moment she felt a violent blo_nderneath her chin: it had struck her foot!
She was a good deal frightened by this very sudden change, but she felt tha_here was no time to be lost, as she was shrinking rapidly: so she set to wor_t once to eat some of the other bit. Her chin was pressed so closely agains_er foot, that there was hardly room to open her mouth; but she did it a_ast, and managed to swallow a morsel of the left-hand bit.
* * * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * * * *
“Come, my head’s free at last!” said Alice in a tone of delight, which change_nto alarm in another moment, when she found that her shoulders were nowher_o be found: all she could see, when she looked down, was an immense length o_eck, which seemed to rise like a stalk out of a sea of green leaves that la_ar below her.
“What can all that green stuff be?” said Alice. “And where have my shoulder_ot to? And oh, my poor hands, how is it I ca’n’t see you?” She was movin_hem about as she spoke, but no result seemed to follow, except a littl_haking among the distant green leaves.
As there seemed to be no chance of getting her hands up to her head, she trie_o get her head down to them, and was delighted to find that her neck woul_end about easily in any direction, like a serpent. She had just succeeded i_urving it down into a graceful zigzag, and was going to dive in among th_eaves, which she found to be nothing but the tops of the trees under whic_he had been wandering, when a sharp hiss made her draw back in a hurry: _arge pigeon had flown into her face, and was beating her violently with it_ings.
“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, an_dded with a kind of sob, “I’ve tried every way, and nothing seems to sui_hem!”
“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 n_leasing them!”
Alice was more and more puzzled, but she thought there was no use in sayin_nything more till the Pigeon had finished.
“As if it wasn’t trouble enough hatching the eggs,” said the Pigeon; “but _ust be on the look-out for serpents, night and day! Why, I haven’t had a win_f sleep these three weeks!”
“I’m very sorry you've been annoyed,” said Alice, who was beginning to see it_eaning.
“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 o_hem 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 inven_omething!”
“I—I’m a little girl,” said Alice, rather doubtfully, as she remembered th_umber 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 nec_s that! No, no! You're a serpent; and there's no use denying it. I suppos_ou'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 _ind of serpent: that’s all I can say.”
This was such a new idea to Alice, that she was quite silent for a minute o_wo, 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 littl_irl or a serpent?”
“It matters a good deal to me,” said Alice hastily; “but I’m not looking fo_ggs, as it happens; and, if I was, I shouldn’t want yours: I don’t like the_aw.”
“Well, be off, then!” said the Pigeon in a sulky tone, as it settled dow_gain 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 the_he had to stop and untwist it. After a while she remembered that she stil_eld 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, an_ometimes shorter, until she had succeeded in bringing herself down to he_sual height.
It was so long since she had been anything near the right size, that it fel_uite strange at first; but she got used to it in a few minutes, and bega_alking to herself, as usual, “Come, there’s half my plan done now! Ho_uzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from on_inute 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 sh_aid this, she came suddenly upon an open place, with a little house in i_bout four feet high. “Whoever lives there,” thought Alice, “it’ll never do t_ome upon them this size: why, I should frighten them out of their wits!” S_he began nibbling at the right-hand bit again, and did not venture to go nea_he house till she had brought herself down to nine inches high.