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Arpi in Wonderland
Arpi in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
First published in 1865
Arpi was beginning to get very tired of sitting by his sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice he had peeped into the book his sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Arpi ‘without pictures or conversations?’
So he was considering in his own mind (as well as he could, for the hot day made him feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by him.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Arpi think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when he thought it over afterwards, it occurred to him that he ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Arpi started to his feet, for it flashed across his mind that he had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, he ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Arpi after it, never once considering how in the world he was to get out again.
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Arpi had not a moment to think about stopping himself before he found himself falling down a very deep well.
Either the well was very deep, or he fell very slowly, for he had plenty of time as he went down to look about him and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, he tried to look down and make out what he was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then he looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there he saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. He took down a jar from one of the shelves as he passed; it was labelled ‘ORANGE MARMALADE’, but to his great disappointment it was empty: he did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as he fell past it.
‘Well!’ thought Arpi to himself, ‘after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! ‘I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’ he said aloud. ‘I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think—’ (for, you see, Arpi had learnt several things of this sort in his lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off his knowledge, as there was no one to listen to him, still it was good practice to say it over) ‘—yes, that’s about the right distance—but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I’ve got to?’ (Arpi had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)
Presently he began again. ‘I wonder if I shall fall rightthroughthe earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think—’ (he was rather glad therewas no one listening, this time, as it didn’t sound at all the right word) ‘—but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand or Australia?’ (and he tried to curtsey as he spoke—fancy curtseying as you’re falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) ‘And what an ignorant little boy she’ll think me for asking! No, it’ll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere.’
Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Arpi soon began talking again. ‘Dinah’ll miss me very much to-night, I should think!’ (Dinah was the cat.) ‘I hope they’ll remember his saucer of milk at tea-time. Dinah my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There are no mice in the air, I’m afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that’s very like a mouse, you know. But do cats eat bats, I wonder?’ And here Arpi began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to himself, in a dreamy sort of way, ‘Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?’ and sometimes, ‘Do bats eat cats?’ for, you see, as he couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t much matter which way he put it. He felt that he was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that he was walking hand in hand with Dinah, and saying to him very earnestly, ‘Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?’ when suddenly, thump! thump! down he came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.
Arpi was not a bit hurt, and he jumped up on to his feet in a moment: he looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before him was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Arpi like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, ‘Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!’ He was close behind it when he turned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: he found himself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof.
There were doors all round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Arpi had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, he walked sadly down the middle, wondering how he was ever to get out again.
Suddenly he came upon a little three-legged table, all made of solid glass; there was nothing on it except a tiny golden key, and Arpi’s first thought was that it might belong to one of the doors of the hall; but, alas! either the locks were too large, or the key was too small, but at any rate it would not open any of them. However, on the second time round, he came upon a low curtain he had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door about fifteen inches high: he tried the little golden key in the lock, and to his great delight it fitted!
Arpi opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: he knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How he longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but he could not even get his head through the doorway; ‘and even if my head would go through,’ thought poor Arpi, ‘it would be of very little use without my shoulders. Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.’ For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Arpi had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.
There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so he went back to the table, half hoping he might find another key on it, or at any rate a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes: this time he found a little bottle on it, (‘which certainly was not here before,’ said Arpi,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words ‘DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters.
It was all very well to say ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Arpi was not going to do that in a hurry. ‘No, I’ll look first,’ he said, ‘and see whether it’s marked “poison” or not’; for he had read several nice little histories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and he had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.
However, this bottle was not marked ‘poison,’ so Arpi ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) he very soon finished it off.
‘What a curious feeling!’ said Arpi; ‘I must be shutting up like a telescope.’
And so it was indeed: he was now only ten inches high, and his face brightened up at the thought that he was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, he waited for a few minutes to see if he was going to shrink any further: he felt a little nervous about this; ‘for it might end, you know,’ said Arpi to himself, ‘in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?’ And he tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out, for he could not remember ever having seen such a thing.
After a while, finding that nothing more happened, he decided on going into the garden at once; but, alas for poor Arpi! when he got to the door, he found he had forgotten the little golden key, and when he went back to the table for it, he found he could not possibly reach it: he could see it quite plainly through the glass, and he tried his best to climb up one of the legs of the table, but it was too slippery; and when he had tired himself out with trying, the poor little thing sat down and cried.
‘Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’ said Arpi to himself, rather sharply; ‘I advise you to leave off this minute!’ He generally gave himself very good advice, (though he very seldom followed it), and sometimes he scolded himself so severely as to bring tears into his eyes; and once he remembered trying to box his own ears for having cheated himself in a game of croquet he was playing against himself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Arpi, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!’
Soon his eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: he opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words ‘EAT ME’ were beautifully marked in currants. ‘Well, I’ll eat it,’ said Arpi, ‘and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!’
He ate a little bit, and said anxiously to himself, ‘Which way? Which way?’, holding his hand on the top of his head to feel which way it was growing, and he was quite surprised to find that he remained the same size: to be sure, this generally happens when one eats cake, but Arpi had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.
So he set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.
‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Arpi (he was so much surprised, that for the moment he quite forgot how to speak good English); ‘now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when he looked down at his feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off). ‘Oh, my poor little feet, I wonder who will put on your shoes and stockings for you now, dears? I’m sureIshan’t be able! I shall be a great deal too far off to trouble myself about you: you must manage the best way you can;—but I must be kind to them,’ thought Arpi, ‘or perhaps they won’t walk the way I want to go! Let me see: I’ll give them a new pair of boots every Christmas.’
And he went on planning to himself how he would manage it. ‘They must go by the carrier,’ he thought; ‘and how funny it’ll seem, sending presents to one’s own feet! And how odd the directions will look!
Arpi’s Right Foot, Esq.
near The Fender,
(with Arpi’s love).
Oh dear, what nonsense I’m talking!’
Just then his head struck against the roof of the hall: in fact he was now more than nine feet high, and he at once took up the little golden key and hurried off to the garden door.
Poor Arpi! It was as much as he could do, lying down on one side, to look through into the garden with one eye; but to get through was more hopeless than ever: he sat down and began to cry again.
‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself,’ said Arpi, ‘a great boy like you,’ (he might well say this), ‘to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!’ But he went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round him, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall.
After a time he heard a little pattering of feet in the distance, and he hastily dried his eyes to see what was coming. It was the White Rabbit returning, splendidly dressed, with a pair of white kid gloves in one hand and a large fan in the other: he came trotting along in a great hurry, muttering to himself as he came, ‘Oh! the Duchess, the Duchess! Oh! won’t he be savage if I’ve kept him waiting!’ Arpi felt so desperate that he was ready to ask help of any one; so, when the Rabbit came near him, he began, in a low, timid voice, ‘If you please, sir—’ The Rabbit started violently, dropped the white kid gloves and the fan, and skurried away into the darkness as hard as he could go.