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爱丽丝漫游奇境3-4
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    CHAPTER III

   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 driest thing I know.  Silence all round, if you please!

"William the Conqueror, whose cause was favoured 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 "it" 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 it

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 its 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 wanted much

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 asking, `But who has won?'

  This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of

thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon

its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare,

in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence.  At

last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have

prizes.'

  `But who is to give the prizes?' quite a chorus of voices

asked.

  `Why, SHE, of course,' said the Dodo, pointing to Alice with

one finger; and the whole party at once crowded round her,

calling out in a confused way, `Prizes! Prizes!'

  Alice had no idea what to do, and in despair she put her hand

in her pocket, and pulled out a box of comfits, (luckily the salt

water had not got into it), and handed them round as prizes.

There was exactly one a-piece all round.

  `But she must have a prize herself, you know,' said the Mouse.

  `Of course,' the Dodo replied very gravely.  `What else have

you got in your pocket?' he went on, turning to Alice.

  `Only a thimble,' said Alice sadly.

  `Hand it over here,' said the Dodo.

  Then they all crowded round her once more, while the Dodo

solemnly presented the thimble, saying `We beg your acceptance of

this elegant thimble'; and, when it had finished this short

speech, they all cheered.

  Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked

so grave that she did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not

think of anything to say, she simply bowed, and took the thimble,

looking as solemn as she could.

  The next thing was to eat the comfits:  this caused some noise

and confusion, as the large birds complained that they could not

taste theirs, and the small ones choked and had to be patted on

the back.  However, it was over at last, and they sat down again

in a ring, and begged the Mouse to tell them something more.

  `You promised to tell me your history, you know,' said Alice,

`and why it is you hate--C and D,' she added in a whisper, half

afraid that it would be offended again.

  `Mine is a long and a sad tale!' said the Mouse, turning to

Alice, and sighing.

  `It IS a long tail, certainly,' said Alice, looking down with

wonder at the Mouse's tail; `but why do you call it sad?'  And

she kept on puzzling about it while the Mouse was speaking, so

that her idea of the tale was something like this:--

                    `Fury said to a

                   mouse, That he

                 met in the

               house,

            "Let us

              both go to

                law:  I will

                  prosecute

                    YOU.  --Come,

                       I'll take no

                        denial; We

                     must have a

                 trial:  For

              really this

           morning I've

          nothing

         to do."

           Said the

             mouse to the

               cur, "Such

                 a trial,

                   dear Sir,

                         With

                     no jury

                  or judge,

                would be

              wasting

             our

              breath."

               "I'll be

                 judge, I'll

                   be jury,"

                         Said

                    cunning

                      old Fury:

                     "I'll

                      try the

                         whole

                          cause,

                             and

                        condemn

                       you

                      to

                       death."'

  `You are not attending!' said the Mouse to Alice severely.

`What are you thinking of?'

  `I beg your pardon,' said Alice very humbly:  `you had got to

the fifth bend, I think?'

  `I had NOT!' cried the Mouse, sharply and very angrily.

  `A knot!' said Alice, always ready to make herself useful, and

looking anxiously about her.  `Oh, do let me help to undo it!'

  `I shall do nothing of the sort,' said the Mouse, getting up

and walking away.  `You insult me by talking such nonsense!'

  `I didn't mean it!' pleaded poor Alice.  `But you're so easily

offended, you know!'

  The Mouse only growled in reply.

  `Please come back and finish your story!' Alice called after

it; and the others all joined in chorus, `Yes, please do!' but

the Mouse only shook its head impatiently, and walked a little

quicker.

  `What a pity it wouldn't stay!' sighed the Lory, as soon as it

was quite out of sight; and an old Crab took the opportunity of

saying to her daughter `Ah, my dear!  Let this be a lesson to you

never to lose YOUR temper!'  `Hold your tongue, Ma!' said the

young Crab, a little snappishly.  `You're enough to try the

patience of an oyster!'

  `I wish I had our Dinah here, I know I do!' said Alice aloud,

addressing nobody in particular.  `She'd soon fetch it back!'

  `And who is Dinah, if I might venture to ask the question?'

said the Lory.

  Alice replied eagerly, for she was always ready to talk about

her pet:  `Dinah's our cat.  And she's such a capital one for

catching mice you can't think!  And oh, I wish you could see her

after the birds!  Why, she'll eat a little bird as soon as look

at it!'

  This speech caused a remarkable sensation among the party.

Some of the birds hurried off at once:  one old Magpie began

wrapping itself up very carefully, remarking, `I really must be

getting home; the night-air doesn't suit my throat!' and a Canary

called out in a trembling voice to its children, `Come away, my

dears!  It's high time you were all in bed!'  On various pretexts

they all moved off, and Alice was soon left alone.

  `I wish I hadn't mentioned Dinah!' she said to herself in a

melancholy tone.  `Nobody seems to like her, down here, and I'm

sure she's the best cat in the world!  Oh, my dear Dinah!  I

wonder if I shall ever see you any more!'  And here poor Alice

began to cry again, for she felt very lonely and low-spirited.

In a little while, however, she again heard a little pattering of

footsteps in the distance, and she looked up eagerly, half hoping

that the Mouse had changed his mind, and was coming back to

finish his story.

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