‘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.