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Chapter 5 Advice from a Caterpillar

  • 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.
  • * * * * * * *
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  • “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.