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 dryest thing I know. Silence all round, if you please! ‘William the Conqueror, whose cause was favored 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 ‘iṯ 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 he 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 his head to hide a smile: some of the other birds tittered audibly.
“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 much wanted 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 managed it.)
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...
(The entire section is 1,710 words.)