Alice in Wonderland: The rabbit sends in a Bill (4/12)

It was the White Rabbit who trotted back again. It looked from side to side as it went as if it had lost something; and Alice heard it say to itself, “The Duchess! The Duchess! Oh, my dear paws! She’ll get my head cut off as sure as rats are rats! Where can I have lost them!” Alice guessed at once that he was in search of the fan and the pair of white kid gloves, and like the good girl that she was, she set out to hunt for them, but they were not to be found. All things seemed to have changed since her swim in the pool; the great hall with the glass stand and the little door—all were gone. Soon the Rabbit saw Alice and called out to her, “Why, Ann, what are you out here for? Run home at once, and fetch me a pair of gloves and a fan! Quick, now!” And Alice was in such a fright that she ran off and did not wait to tell it who she was.

“He took me for his housemaid,” she said to herself as she ran. “What will he think when he finds out who I am! But I must take him his fan and gloves—that is if I can find them.”

As she said this she came to a small neat house on the door of which was a bright brass plate with the name W. Rabbit on it. She ran upstairs in great fear she would meet Ann and be turned out of the house before she had found the fan and gloves.

“How funny it seems that I should do things for a Rabbit! I guess Dinah’ll send me to wait on her next!”

By this time she had made her way to a tidy room with a table near the wall, and on it, as she had hoped, a fan and two or three pairs of small white kid gloves. She took up the fan and a pair of gloves, and turned to leave the room, when her eye fell upon a small bottle that stood near. There was no tag this time with the words “Drink me,” but Alice put it to her lips. “I know I am sure to change in some way, if I eat or drink anything; so I’ll just see what this does. I do hope it’ll make me grow large again, for I’m quite tired of this size,” Alice said to herself.

It did as she had wished, for in a short time her head pressed the roof so hard she couldn’t stand up straight. She put the bottle down in haste and said, “That’s as much as I need—I hope I won’t grow any more—as it is, I can’t get out at the door—I do wish I hadn’t drunk so much!”

But it was too late to wish that! She grew and grew, till she had to kneel down on the floor; next there was not room for this and she had to lie down. Still she grew and grew and grew till she had to put one arm out the window and one foot up the chimney and said to herself, “Now I can do no more, let come what may.” There seemed no sort of chance that she could ever get out of the room.

“I wish I was at home,” thought poor Alice, “where I wouldn’t change so much, and where I didn’t have to do things for mice and rabbits. I wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit hole—and yet—and yet—it’s funny, you know, this sort of life! When I used to read fairy tales, I thought they were just made up by some one, and now here I am in one myself. When I grow up I’ll write a book about these strange things—but I’m grown up now,” she added in a sad tone, “at least there’s no room to grow any more here.”

She heard a voice outside and stopped to listen.

“Ann! Ann!” said the voice, “fetch me my gloves, quick!” Then came the sound of feet on the stairs. Alice knew it was the Rabbit and that it had come to look for her. She quaked with fear till she shook the house. Poor thing! She didn’t think that she was now more than ten times as large as the Rabbit, and that she had no cause to be afraid of it.

Soon the Rabbit came to the door and tried to come in, but Alice’s arm pressed it so hard the door would not move. Alice heard it say, “Then I’ll go round and get in at the window.”

“That you won’t!” thought Alice; then she waited till she heard the Rabbit quite near the window, then spread out her hand and made a snatch in the air. She did not get hold of it, but she heard a shriek and a fall.

Next came an angry voice—the Rabbit’s—”Pat! Pat! Where are you?” And then a voice which was new to her, “Sure then, I’m here! Digging for apples, yer honor!”

“Digging for apples, indeed!” said the Rabbit. “Here! Come and help me out of this! Now, tell me, Pat, what’s that in the window?”

“Sure it’s an arm, yer honor”

“An arm, you goose! Whoever saw one that size? Why, it fills the whole window!”

“Sure it does, yer honor; but it’s an arm for all that.”

“Well, it has no right there; go and take it out!”

For a long time they seemed to stand still, but now and then Alice could hear a few words in a low voice, such as, “Sure I don’t like it, yer honor, at all, at all!”

“Do as I tell you, you coward!” and at last she spread out her hand and made a snatch in the air. This time there were two little shrieks.

“I should like to know what they’ll do next! As to their threats to pull me out, I only wish they could. I’m sure I don’t want to stay in here.”

She waited for some time, but all was still; at last came the noise of small cart wheels and the sound of voices, from which she made out the words, “Where’s the other ladder? Why, I hadn’t to bring but one; Bill’s got the other. Bill, fetch it here, lad! Here, put ’em up at this place. No, tie ’em first—they don’t reach half as high as they should yet—oh, they’ll do. Here, Bill! catch hold of this rope—Will the roof bear? Mind that loose slate—oh, here it comes! Look out. (A loud crash.)—Now who did that? It was Bill, I guess—Who’s to go down the chimney? Nay, I shan’t! You do it!—That I won’t then!—Bill’s got to go down—Here, Bill, you’ve got to go down the chimney!”

“Oh, so Bill’s got to come down, has he?” said Alice to herself. “Why, they seem to put all the work on Bill. I wouldn’t be in Bill’s place for a good deal; this fire-place is small, to be sure, but I think I can kick some.”

She drew her foot as far down as she could, and waited till she heard a small beast (she couldn’t guess of what sort it was) come scratch! scratch! down the chimney quite close to her; then she said to herself: “This is Bill,” gave one sharp kick and waited to see what would happen next.

The first thing she heard was, “There goes Bill!” then the Rabbit’s voice, “Catch him, you by the hedge!” Then all was still, then the voices—”Hold up his head—Water now—Don’t choke him—How was it, old fellow? What sent you up so fast? Tell us all about it!”

Last came a weak voice (“That’s Bill,” thought Alice), “Well, I don’t know—no more, thank you, I’m not so weak now—but I’m a deal too shocked to tell you—all I know is, a thing comes at me like a Jack-in-the-box, and up I goes like a rocket.”

“So you did, old fellow,” said the others.

“We must burn the house down,” said the Rabbit’s voice, and Alice called out as loud as she could, “If you do, I’ll send Dinah after you!”

At once all was still, and Alice thought, “What will they do next? If they had any sense, they’d take the roof off.”

Then she heard the Rabbit say, “One load will do to start with.”

“A load of what?” thought Alice, but she had not long to doubt, for soon a shower of small stones came in at the window, and some of them hit her in the face. “I’ll put a stop to this,” she said to herself, and shouted out, “You stop that, at once!” Again all was still.

Alice saw that the stones all changed to small cakes as they lay on the floor, and a bright thought came to her. “If I eat one of these cakes,” she said, “it is sure to make some change in my size; and as it can’t make me larger, I hope it will change me to the size I used to be.”

So she ate one of the cakes and was glad to see that she shrank quite fast. She was soon so small that she could get through the door, so she ran out of the house and found quite a crowd of beasts and birds in the yard. The poor lizard, Bill, was in the midst of the group, held up by two guinea pigs, who gave it something to drink out of a bottle. They all made a rush at Alice, as soon as she came out, but she ran off as hard as she could, and was soon safe in a thick wood.

“The first thing I’ve got to do,” said Alice to herself, as she walked round in the wood, “is to grow to my right size again; and the next thing is to find my way to that lovely garden. I think that will be the best plan.”

It was a good plan, no doubt, but the hard thing was that she did not in the least know how she should start to work it out; and while she peered round through the trees, a sharp bark just over her head made her look up in great haste.

A great puppy looked down at her with large round eyes, stretched out one paw and tried to touch her. “Poor thing!” said Alice in a kind tone and tried hard to show it that she wished to be its friend, but she was a bit scared, it might want to eat her up.

Alice could not think what to do next, so she picked up a bit of stick and held it out to the puppy. It jumped from the tree with a yelp of joy as if to play with it; then Alice dodged round a large plant that stood near, but the puppy soon found her and made a rush at the stick again, but tumbled head over heels in its haste to get hold of it. At last, to her joy, it seemed to grow tired of the sport and ran a good way off and sat down with its tongue out of its mouth and its big eyes half shut.

This seemed to Alice a good time to get out of its sight, so she set out at once and ran till she was quite tired and out of breath, and till the puppy’s bark sounded quite faint.

“And yet what a dear puppy it was,” said Alice, as she stopped to rest and fanned herself with a leaf: “I should have liked so much to teach it tricks, if—if I’d been the right size to do it! Oh dear! I’ve got to grow up again! Let me see—how am I to do it? I guess I ought to eat or drink something, but I don’t know what!”

Alice looked all round her at the blades of grass, the blooms, the leaves, but could not see a thing that looked like the right thing to eat or drink to make her grow.

There was a large mushroom near her, about the same height as she was, and when she had looked all round it, she thought she might as well look and see what was on the top of it. She stretched up as tall as she could, and her eyes met those of a large blue caterpillar that sat on the top with its arms folded, smoking a pipe with a long stem that bent and curved round it like a hoop.