Alice in Wonderland in Words of One Syllable/Chapter 3


CHAPTER III.

A RACE.

They were a queer look-ing crowd as they stood or sat on the bank—the wings and tails of the birds drooped to the earth; the fur of the beasts clung close to them, and all were as wet and cross as could be.

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The first thought, of course, was how to get dry. They had a long talk a-bout this, and Al-ice joined with, them as if she had known them all her life. But it was hard to tell what was best.

"What I want to say," at last spoke up the Do-do, "is that the best thing to get us dry would be a race."

"What kind of race?" asked Al-ice, not that she much want-ed to know, but the Do-do had paused as if it thought that some one ought to speak, and no one else would say a word. "Why," said the Do-do, "the best way to make it plain is to do it." (And as you might like to try the thing some cold day, I'll tell you how the Do-do did it.)

First it marked out a race-course in a sort of ring (it didn't care much for the shape), and then all the crowd were placed on the course, here and there. There was no "One, two, three, and here we go," but they ran when they liked and left off when they liked, so that no one could tell when the race was ended. When they had been running half an hour or so and were all quite dry, the Do-do called out, "The race is o-ver!" and they all crow-ded round it and and asked, "But who has won?"

This the Do-do could not, at first, tell, but sat for a long time with one claw pressed to its head while the rest wait-ed, but did not speak. At last the Do-do said, "All have won and each must have a prize."

"But who is to give them?" all asked at once.

"Why, she of course," said the Do-do, as it point-ed to Al-ice with one long claw; and the whole par-ty at once crowd-ed round her as they called out, "A prize, a prize!"

Al-ice did not know what to do, but she pulled from her pock-et a box of lit-tle cakes (by a strange, good luck they did not get wet while she was in the pool) and hand-ed them round as priz-es. There was one a-piece all round.

"But she must have a prize, you know," said the Mouse.

"Of course," the Do-do said. "What else have you got?" he went on as he turned to Al-ice.

"A thim-ble," said Al-ice looking quite sad.

"Hand it here," said the Do-do.

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Then they all crowd-ed round her once more, while the Do-do hand-ed the thim-ble back to Al-ice and said, "We beg that you accept this fine thim-ble;" and when it had made this short speech they all cheered.

Al-ice thought the whole thing quite fool-ish, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh, and as she could not think what to say she bowed and took the thim-ble, while she looked as staid as she could.

The next thing was to eat the cakes: this caused some noise, as the large birds said they could not taste theirs, and the small ones choked and had to be pat-ted on the back. It was o-ver at last and they sat down in a ring and begged the Mouse to tell them a tale.

"You said you would tell us why you hate cats and dogs," said Al-ice.

"Mine is a long and a sad tale," said the Mouse, as it turned to Al-ice with a sigh.

"It is a long tail, I'm sure," said Al-ice, look-ing down at the Mouse's tail; "but why do you call it sad?"

"I shall not tell you," said the Mouse, as it got up and walked off.

"Please come back and tell us your tale," called Al-ice; and all joined in, "Yes, please do!" but the Mouse shook its head and walked on and was soon out of sight.

"I wish I had our Di-nah here, I know I do!" said Al-ice. "She'd soon fetch it back."

"And who is Di-nah, if I may dare to ask such a thing?" said one of the birds.

Al-ice was glad to talk of her pet. "Di-nah's our cat; and she's such a fine one to catch mice, you can't think. And oh, I wish you could see her chase a bird! Why she'll eat a bird as soon as look at it!"

This speech caused a great stir in the par-ty. Some of the birds rushed off at once; one old jay wrapped it-self up with care and said, "I must get home; the night air doesn't suit my throat!" and a wren called out to her brood, "come, my dears! It's high time you were all in bed."

Soon they all moved off and Al-ice was left a-lone.

"I wish I hadn't told them of Di-nah," she said to her-self. "No one seems to like her down here, and I'm sure she's the best cat in the world! Oh, my dear Di-nah! Shall I ev-er see you an-y more?" And here poor Al-ice burst in-to tears, for she felt ver-y sad and lone-ly. In a short time she heard the pat-ter of feet, and she looked up with the hope that the Mouse had changed its mind and come back to tell his "long and sad tale."