Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
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
`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
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
`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, `
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
`But she must have a prize herself, you know,' said
`Of course,' the Dodo replied very gravely. `What else
have you got in your pocket?' he went on, turning to
`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
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
he met in the
us both go
to law: I will
prosecute YOU. —
Come, I'll take
no denial; We
must have a
Sir, With no
old Fury: "I'll
try the whole
`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
`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
`I wish I had our Dinah here, I know I do!' said Alice
aloud, addressing nobody in particular. `She'd soon fetch
`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 the 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
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