Advice from a Caterpillar (cont.)
(for audio, see previous page)
'You are old, Father William,' the young man said,
'And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?'
'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 grey 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 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 of herself, 'I wish the creatures 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 in the grass, merely remarking as it went, 'One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.'
'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 lefthand bit.