"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 gray 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 have got altered."
"It is wrong from beginning to end," said the Caterpillar, decidedly; and there 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't like changing so often, you know."
"I _don't_ know," said the Caterpillar.
Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in all her life before, 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," said Alice: "three inches is such a wretched height to be."
"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 to herself, "I wish the creature 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 into 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 right-hand 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 left-hand 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 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, but 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."