The Caterpillar

The Caterpillar looked at Alice for some time before it spoke. Then it said slowly, ‘Who are you?’

It was a difficult question. ‘I… I don’t really know, Sir,’ Alice said. ‘I was Alice when I got up this morning. But then I changed — and then I changed again — and again.’

‘What do you mean?’ the Caterpillar asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘You see, I’m not me now.’

‘I don’t understand,’ said the Caterpillar.

‘I’ll try and tell you,’ said Alice. ‘You see, I change all the time. It’s very difficult for me.’

‘Why? I can change very easily.’

‘Well, perhaps it’s not difficult for you, but it is for me,’ said Alice.

‘For you? Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar and laughed. Alice felt angry. ‘It asked me that question before,’ she thought. She stood very tall and said, ‘I will tell you, but first, you tell me. Who are you?’

‘Why do I have to tell you?’ asked the Caterpillar.

This was another difficult question and Alice could not answer it.

‘This caterpillar isn’t very friendly,’ she thought. So she walked away.

‘Come back!’ the Caterpillar called. ‘I want to tell you something important.’ Alice turned and came back again.

‘Don’t get angry,’ said the Caterpillar.

‘Is that all?’ Alice asked. She felt very angry with the Caterpillar.

‘No,’ said the Caterpillar.

It did not speak for some minutes, then it said, ‘So you’re different, are you?’

‘Yes, I am, Sir,’ said Alice. ‘I can’t remember things, and my size changes all the time. Sometimes I get bigger and then I get smaller again.’

‘So you can’t remember things,’ said the Caterpillar. ‘Try this. Repeat, «You are old, Father William.»‘

Alice put her hands behind her back and repeated:

‘You are old, Father William,’ the young man said,

‘And your hair is now very white;

So why do you often stand on your head —

Do you think at your age it is right?’

‘You are old, Father William,’ the young man said,

‘You are old and really quite fat;

But you jump up and down and turn round and round,

Now what is the answer to that?’

‘That is not right,’ said the Caterpillar. ‘I know. Some of the words are different,’ said Alice.

‘It’s wrong from beginning to end,’ said the Caterpillar. It was quiet for a time. Then it asked, ‘What size would you like to be?’

‘I’d like to be taller,’ said Alice. ‘Seven centimetres is too small.’

‘Seven centimetres is a very good size,’ said the Caterpillar angrily. It stood up very tall.

‘It’s a good size for you, but not for me,’ said Alice. And she thought, ‘Why does it get angry all the time?’

The Caterpillar was quiet for some minutes. Then it climbed down the mushroom. ‘Eat from my mushroom and you’ll get bigger. Eat from that brown mushroom there and you’ll get smaller,’ it said. It started to move away a minute later, it vanished behind a flower and Alice never saw it again.

Alice looked at the two mushrooms and thought for a minute. Then she went to the Caterpillars mushroom and broke off some of it with her right hand. She went to the brown mushroom and did the same with her left hand.

She ate some of the brown mushroom. Suddenly, her head hit her foot.

‘Oh!’ she cried. ‘I’m really small!’

She quickly ate a little from the white mushroom in her left hand. She started to get bigger. She ate some more, and got very tall. Then she ate some from one hand and some from the other. In a short time, she was her right size again.

She felt quite strange. ‘What shall I do now?’ she wondered. ‘I know! I’ll look for that beautiful garden.’

She began to walk through the wood. After some time, she came to a little house. It was about one meter high.

‘I can’t go inside, I’m too big,’ Alice thought. ‘The people in the house will be afraid of me. I know! I’ll eat some of the brown mushroom.’

When she was 18 centimetres high, she walked to the house. She opened the door and went in.


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