The Duchess and the Cheshire Cat

Inside, a large, ugly woman sat with a baby in her arms. There was a cook by the fire and there was food on the table. Near the fire, there was a large cat with a big smile. This smile went from ear to ear on its face.

‘I think that woman is the Duchess,’ thought Alice. ‘Can girls speak to Duchesses?’ she wondered.

But the Duchess did not say anything to her, so Alice asked, ‘Please, why is your cat smiling?’

‘Because it’s a Cheshire Cat, that’s why,’ said the Duchess.

‘So Cheshire Cats can smile. I didn’t know that,’ said Alice.

‘You don’t know much,’ said the Duchess.

‘That’s not very polite,’ thought Alice.

She started to say something. Suddenly, the cook threw a plate at the Duchess. The Duchess didn’t move. The cook threw more things — plates, cups, spoons. Some of them hit the Duchess and the baby. The Duchess did nothing, but the baby started to cry. ‘Oh, don’t throw things at the baby!’ cried Alice. ‘You’ll hit its pretty nose!’

‘You be quiet, it isn’t your baby!’ the Duchess shouted. She began to sing to it. These were the words of the song:

Be angry with your little boy,

And hit him when he cries:

He has to know that he’s a child,

He’s really not your size!

The cook sang the song too. When they finished, they sang it again. The Duchess started to throw the baby up and down. At the end of the song, she threw the baby to Alice.

‘Here, you can have it now,’ site said. ‘I have to get ready. I’m going to see the Queen.’

The cook threw another plate at the Duchess. It didn’t hit her, but she left the room quickly.

Alice looked at the baby. It was a strange little thing and not very pretty. She took it outside. ‘I’ll have to take this child away from here, or they’ll kill it!’ she thought. The baby made a strange little sound and she looked at it again.

‘Its nose is changing!’ she cried. She looked at it very carefully. ‘Its face is changing, everything is changing! Oh! It’s not a baby any more, it’s a pig!’

It was very strange, but the baby was now a pig.

‘What am I going to do with it?’ Alice thought. The pig made another, louder sound. Alice put the little animal down and it ran happily away into the wood.

‘It wasn’t a pretty baby, but it’s quite a pretty pig,’ thought Alice.

She looked round her and jumped. The Cheshire Cat was up in one of the trees. The Cat smiled at Alice.

‘It looks kind, but perhaps it will get angry. They all get angry in this place,’ thought Alice. So she spoke to it very politely. ‘Cheshire Cat, dear,’ she said.

The Cat’s smile got bigger.

‘Please, can you help me? I want to go somewhere new,’ said Alice.

‘Where do you want to go?’ asked the Cat.

‘Somewhere different,’ Alice said.

‘Somewhere different,’ repeated the Cat. It thought for a minute or two. Then it said, ‘Walk that way and you’ll come to a house. A man lives there. He makes hats and he’s very strange. We call him the «Mad Hatter».’

‘But I don’t want to meet a strange man,’ said Alice.

The cat didn’t answer her. It said, ‘Walk this way and you’ll find the March Hare. He’s strange too.’

‘But I told you, I don’t want to meet strange animals.’

‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all strange here. I’m strange. You’re strange.’

‘How do you know I’m strange?’ asked Alice.

‘Of course you are,’ the Cat said. ‘Everybody’s strange here. I’m very strange. I laugh when I’m sad, and I cry when I’m happy. That’s strange. Are you going to see the Queen today? She’s quite strange too?’

‘I’d like to see the Queen,’ Alice said, ‘but I haven’t got an invitation?’

‘You’ll see me in the Queen’s garden?’ said the Cheshire Cat, and vanished.

‘That’s strange, but not very strange,’ thought Alice. She waited for two minutes, and the Cat came back again.

‘What happened to the baby?’ it asked.

‘It changed into a pig? Alice said.

‘I knew it!’ said the Cat and vanished again.

Alice stayed under the tree for a short time. ‘Perhaps it will come back again?’ she thought. ‘But it didn’t.’

‘I think I’ll go and visit the March Hare?’ said Alice. She started to walk to his home. After some minutes, she heard a sound. She looked up, and there was the Cheshire Cat in a tree — a different tree.

‘Did you say «pig»?’ asked the Cat.

‘Yes?’ Alice answered. Then she said, ‘Cheshire Cat, one minute you vanish and the next minute you’re there again. I don’t like it?’

‘I know?’ said the cat. And this time it vanished quite slowly. First its body went, then its legs. Then all of it vanished, and there was only its smile.

‘There are a lot of cats without a smile, but a smile without a cat! Now that’s very strange!’ Alice said.

Slowly, the Cheshire Cat’s smile vanished too, and Alice began to walk again. She saw the March Hare’s house through the trees. It was bigger than the Duchess’s house.

Alice ate some of the white mushrooms. She got bigger again. In a short time she was about 60 centimetres high. She felt afraid, but walked to the house.

‘I hope the March Hare isn’t too strange,’ she thought.


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