There was a Beetle sitting next the Goat (it was a very queer carriage-full of passengers altogether), and, as the rule seemed to be that they should all speak in turn, he went on with `She'll have to go back from here as luggage!'
Alice couldn't see who was sitting beyond the Beetle, but a hoarse voice spoke next. `Change engines--' it said, and there it choked and was obliged to leave off.
`It sounds like a horse,' Alice thought to herself. And an extremely small voice, close to her ear, said `You might make a joke on that -- something about "horse" and "hoarse", you know.'
Then a very gentle voice in the distance said, `She must be labelled "Lass, with care", you know--'
And after that other voices went on (`What a number of people there are in the carriage!' thought Alice), saying `She must go by post, as she's got a head on her--' `She must be sent as a message by the telegraph--' `She must draw the train herself the rest of the way--', and so on.
But the gentleman dressed in white paper leaned forwards and whispered in her ear, `Never mind what they all say, my dear, but take a return-ticket every time the train stops.'
`Indeed I sha'n't!' Alice said rather impatiently. `I don't belong to this railway journey at all--I was in a wood just now--and I wish I could get back there!'
`You might make a joke on that,' said the little voice close to her ear: `something about "you would if you could", you know.'
`Don't tease so,' said Alice, looking about in vain to see where the voice came from. `If you're so anxious to have a joke made, why don't you make one yourself?'
The little voice sighed deeply. It was very unhappy, evidently, and Alice would have said something pitying to comfort it, `if it would only sigh like other people!' she thought. But this was such a wonderfully small sigh, that she wouldn't have heard it at all, if it hadn't come quite close to her ear. The consequence of this was that it tickled her ear very much, and quite took off her thoughts from the unhappiness of the poor little creature.
`I know you are a friend,' the little voice went on: `a dear friend, and an old friend. And you wo'n't hurt me, though I am an insect.'
`What kind of insect?' Alice inquired, a little anxiously. What she really wanted to know was, whether it could sting or not, but she thought this wouldn't be quite a civil question to ask.
`What, then you don't--' the little voice began, when it was drowned by a shrill scream from the engine, and everybody jumped up in alarm, Alice among the rest.
The Horse, who had put his head out of the window, quietly drew it in and said `It's only a brook we have to jump over.' Everybody seemed satisfied with this, though Alice felt a little nervous at the idea of trains jumping at all. `However, it'll take us into the Fourth Square, that's some comfort!' she said to herself. In another moment she felt the carriage rise straight up into the air, and in her fright she caught at the thing nearest to her hand, which happened to be the Goat's beard.
* * * *
* * * * *
But the beard seemed to melt away as she touched it, and she found herself sitting quietly under a tree-- while the Gnat (for that was the insect she had been talking to) was balancing itself on a twig just over her head, and fanning her with its wings.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|