Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on thebank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped intothe book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures orconversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice“without pictures or conversations?”
So she was considering in her own mind
as well as she could, for thehot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid
, whether the pleasure ofmaking a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up andpicking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ranclose by her.
There was nothing so _very_ remarkable in that; nor did Alice think itso _very_ much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, “Ohdear! Oh dear! I shall be late!”
when she thought it over afterwards,it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at thetime it all seemed quite natural
; but when the Rabbit actually _took awatch out of its waistcoat-pocket_, and looked at it, and then hurriedon, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that shehad never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or awatch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across thefield after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down alarge rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering howin the world she was to get out again.
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and thendipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to thinkabout stopping herself before she found herself falling down a verydeep well.
Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she hadplenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder whatwas going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make outwhat she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then shelooked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled withcupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictureshung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as shepassed; it was labelled “ORANGE MARMALADE”, but to her greatdisappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fearof killing somebody underneath, so managed to put it into one of thecupboards as she fell past it.
“Well!” thought Alice to herself, “after such a fall as this, I shallthink nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think meat home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off thetop of the house!”
Which was very likely true.
Down, down, down. Would the fall _never_ come to an end? “I wonder howmany miles I’ve fallen by this time?” she said aloud. “I must begetting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that wouldbe four thousand miles down, I think—”
for, you see, Alice had learntseveral things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, andthough this was not a _very_ good opportunity for showing off herknowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was goodpractice to say it over
“—yes, that’s about the right distance—butthen I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I’ve got to?”
Alice had noidea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nicegrand words to say.
Presently she began again. “I wonder if I shall fall right _through_the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walkwith their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think—”
she was ratherglad there _was_ no one listening, this time, as it didn’t sound at allthe right word
“—but I shall have to ask them what the name of thecountry is, you know. Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand or Australia?”
and she tried to curtsey as she spoke—fancy _curtseying_ as you’refalling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?
“And whatan ignorant little girl she’ll think me for asking! No, it’ll never doto ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere.”
Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon begantalking again. “Dinah’ll miss me very much to-night, I should think!”
Dinah was the cat.
“I hope they’ll remember her saucer of milk attea-time. Dinah my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There areno mice in the air, I’m afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that’svery like a mouse, you know. But do cats eat bats, I wonder?” And hereAlice began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in adreamy sort of way, “Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?” andsometimes, “Do bats eat cats?” for, you see, as she couldn’t answereither question, it didn’t much matter which way she put it. She feltthat she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she waswalking hand in hand with Dinah, and saying to her very earnestly,“Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?” when suddenly,thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, andthe fall was over.
Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment:she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was anotherlong passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying downit. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind,and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, “Oh my earsand whiskers, how late it’s getting!” She was close behind it when sheturned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: she foundherself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hangingfrom the roof.
There were doors all round the hall, but they were all locked; and whenAlice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying everydoor, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever toget out again.
Suddenly she came upon a little three-legged table, all made of solidglass; there was nothing on it except a tiny golden key, and Alice’sfirst thought was that it might belong to one of the doors of the hall;but, alas! either the locks were too large, or the key was too small,but at any rate it would not open any of them. However, on the secondtime round, she came upon a low curtain she had not noticed before, andbehind it was a little door about fifteen inches high: she tried thelittle golden key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted!
Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, notmuch larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along thepassage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to getout of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of brightflowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her headthrough the doorway; “and even if my head would go through,” thoughtpoor Alice, “it would be of very little use without my shoulders. Oh,how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I onlyknew how to begin.” For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things hadhappened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few thingsindeed were really impossible.
There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so she wentback to the table, half hoping she might find another key on it, or atany rate a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes: thistime she found a little bottle on it,
“which certainly was not herebefore,” said Alice,
and round the neck of the bottle was a paperlabel, with the words “DRINK ME,” beautifully printed on it in largeletters.
It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice wasnot going to do _that_ in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said,“and see whether it’s marked ‘_poison_’ or not”; for she had readseveral nice little histories about children who had got burnt, andeaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they_would_ not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them:such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long;and that if you cut your finger _very_ deeply with a knife, it usuallybleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from abottle marked “poison,” it is almost certain to disagree with you,sooner or later.
However, this bottle was _not_ marked “poison,” so Alice ventured totaste it, and finding it very nice,
it had, in fact, a sort of mixedflavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, andhot buttered toast,
she very soon finished it off.
“What a curious feeling!” said Alice; “I must be shutting up like atelescope.”
And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her facebrightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for goingthrough the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, shewaited for a few minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further:she felt a little nervous about this; “for it might end, you know,”said Alice to herself, “in my going out altogether, like a candle. Iwonder what I should be like then?” And she tried to fancy what theflame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out, for she couldnot remember ever having seen such a thing.
After a while, finding that nothing more happened, she decided on goinginto the garden at once; but, alas for poor Alice! when she got to thedoor, she found she had forgotten the little golden key, and when shewent back to the table for it, she found she could not possibly reachit: she could see it quite plainly through the glass, and she tried herbest to climb up one of the legs of the table, but it was too slippery;and when she had tired herself out with trying, the poor little thingsat down and cried.
“Come, there’s no use in crying like that!” said Alice to herself,rather sharply; “I advise you to leave off this minute!” She generallygave herself very good advice,
though she very seldom followed it
,and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears intoher eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for havingcheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself,for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people.“But it’s no use now,” thought poor Alice, “to pretend to be twopeople! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make _one_ respectableperson!”
Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table:she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words“EAT ME” were beautifully marked in currants. “Well, I’ll eat it,” saidAlice, “and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if itmakes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I’llget into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!”
She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, “Which way? Whichway?”, holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it wasgrowing, and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the samesize: to be sure, this generally happens when one eats cake, but Alicehad got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-waythings to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to goon in the common way.
So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.