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Chapter V, Advice from a Caterpillar. Part II
‘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 righthand 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 on the lookout for serpents night and day! Why, I haven’t had a wink of sleep these three weeks!’
‘I’m very sorry you’ve been annoyed,’ said Alice, who was beginning to see its meaning.
‘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 of them 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 invent something!’
‘I – I’m a little girl,’ said Alice, rather doubtfully, as she remembered the number 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 neck as that! No, no! You’re a serpent; and there’s no use denying it. I suppose you’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 a kind of serpent, that’s all I can say.’
This was such a new idea to Alice, that she was quite silent for a minute or two, 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 little girl or a serpent?’
‘It matters a good deal to ME,’ said Alice hastily; ‘but I’m not looking for eggs, as it happens; and if I was, I shouldn’t want YOURS: I don’t like them raw.’
‘Well, be off, then!’ said the Pigeon in a sulky tone, as it settled down again 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 then she had to stop and untwist it. After a while she remembered that she still held 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 and sometimes shorter, until she had succeeded in bringing herself down to her usual height.
It was so long since she had been anything near the right size, that it felt quite strange at first; but she got used to it in a few minutes, and began talking to herself, as usual. ‘Come, there’s half my plan done now! How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute 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 she said this, she came suddenly upon an open place, with a little house in it about four feet high. ‘Whoever lives there,’ thought Alice, ‘it’ll never do to come upon them THIS size: why, I should frighten them out of their wits!’ So she began nibbling at the righthand bit again, and did not venture to go near the house till she had brought herself down to nine inches high.
Chapter VI, Pig and Pepper. Part I
For a minute or two she stood looking at the house, and wondering what to do next, when suddenly a footman in livery came running out of the wood – (she considered him to be a footman because he was in livery: otherwise, judging by his face only, she would have called him a fish) – and rapped loudly at the door with his knuckles. It was opened by another footman in livery, with a round face, and large eyes like a frog; and both footmen, Alice noticed, had powdered hair that curled all over their heads. She felt very curious to know what it was all about, and crept a little way out of the wood to listen.
The FishFootman began by producing from under his arm a great letter, nearly as large as himself, and this he handed over to the other, saying, in a solemn tone, ‘For the Duchess. An invitation from the Queen to play croquet .’ The FrogFootman repeated, in the same solemn tone, only changing the order of the words a little, ‘From the Queen. An invitation for the Duchess to play croquet.’
Then they both bowed low, and their curls got entangled together.
Alice laughed so much at this, that she had to run back into the wood for fear of their hearing her; and when she next peeped out the FishFootman was gone, and the other was sitting on the ground near the door, staring stupidly up into the sky.
Alice went timidly up to the door, and knocked.
There’s no sort of use in knocking,’ said the Footman, ‘and that for two reasons. First, because I’m on the same side of the door as you are; secondly, because they’re making such a noise inside, no one could possibly hear you.’ And certainly there was a most extraordinary noise going on within – a constant howling and sneezing, and every now and then a great crash, as if a dish or kettle had been broken to pieces.
‘Please, then,’ said Alice, ‘how am I to get in?’
‘There might be some sense in your knocking,’ the Footman went on without attending to her, ‘if we had the door between us. For instance, if you were INSIDE, you might knock, and I could let you out, you know.’ He was looking up into the sky all the time he was speaking, and this Alice thought decidedly uncivil. ‘But perhaps he can’t help it,’ she said to herself; ‘his eyes are so VERY nearly at the top of his head. But at any rate he might answer questions. – How am I to get in?’ she repeated, aloud.
‘I shall sit here,’ the Footman remarked, ‘till tomorrow–’
At this moment the door of the house opened, and a large plate came skimming out, straight at the Footman’s head: it just grazed his nose, and broke to pieces against one of the trees behind him.
‘–or next day, maybe,’ the Footman continued in the same tone, exactly as if nothing had happened.
‘How am I to get in?’ asked Alice again, in a louder tone.
‘ARE you to get in at all?’ said the Footman. ‘That’s the first question, you know.’
It was, no doubt: only Alice did not like to be told so. ‘It’s really dreadful,’ she muttered to herself, ‘the way all the creatures argue. It’s enough to drive one crazy!’
The Footman seemed to think this a good opportunity for repeating his remark, with variations. ‘I shall sit here,’ he said, ‘on and off, for days and days.’
‘But what am I to do?’ said Alice.
‘Anything you like,’ said the Footman, and began whistling.
‘Oh, there’s no use in talking to him,’ said Alice desperately: ‘he’s perfectly idiotic!’ And she opened the door and went in.
The door led right into a large kitchen, which was full of smoke from one end to the other: the Duchess was sitting on a three-legged stool in the middle, nursing a baby; the cook was leaning over the fire, stirring a large cauldron which seemed to be full of soup.
‘There’s certainly too much pepper in that soup!’ Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing.
There was certainly too much of it in the air. Even the Duchess sneezed occasionally; and as for the baby, it was sneezing and howling alternately without a moment’s pause. The only things in the kitchen that did not sneeze, were the cook, and a large cat which was sitting on the hearth and grinning from ear to ear.
‘Please would you tell me,’ said Alice, a little timidly, for she was not quite sure whether it was good manners for her to speak first, ‘why your cat grins like that?’
‘It’s a Cheshire cat,’ said the Duchess, ‘and that’s why. Pig!’