“It’s very provoking,” said Alice to herself; she had been trying for the previous quarter of an hour to attract the attention of a large and very solemn caterpillar that was perched on the top of a big mushroom with a Gothic fringe. “IVe heard that the only chance of speaking to it is to catch its eye,” she continued, but she found out that however perseveringly she thrust herself into the Caterpillars range of vision its eye persistently looked beyond her, or beneath her, or around her—never at her. Alice had read somewhere that little girls should be seen and not heard; “but,” she thought, “Tm not even seen here, and if Tm not to be heard, what am I here at all for.?” In any case she determined to make an attempt at conversation.
“If you please—-” she began.
“I don’t,” said the Caterpillar shortly, without seeming to take any further notice of her.
After an uncomfortable pause she commenced again. “I should like—-”
“You shouldn’t,” said the Caterpillar, with decision. Alice felt discouraged, but it was no use to be shut up in this way, so she started again as amiably as she could.
“You can’t think, Mr. Caterpillar—-”
“I can, and I often do,” he remarked stiffly; adding, “You mustn’t make such wild statements. They’re not relevant to the discussion.”
“But I only said that in order—-”
“You didn*t,” said the Caterpillar angrily. “I tell you it was not in order.”
“You are so dreadfully short,” exclaimed Alice; the Caterpillar drew itself up.
“In manner, I mean; no—in memory,” she added hastily, for it was thoroughly angry by this time.
“I’m sure I didn’t mean anything,” she continued humbly, for she felt that it was absurd to quarrel with a caterpillar.
The Caterpillar snorted.
“What’s the good of talking if you don’t mean anything? If you’ve talked all this time without meaning anything you’re not worth listening to.”
“But you put a wrong construction—-” Alice began.
“You can’t discuss Construction now, you know; that comes on the Estimates. Shrivel!”
“I don’t understand,” said Alice.
“Shrivel. Dry up,” explained the Caterpillar, and proceeded to look in another direction, as if it had forgotten her existence.
“Good-bye,” said Alice, after waiting a moment; she half hoped that the Caterpillar might say, “See you later,” but it took not the slightest notice of her remark, so she got up reluctantly and walked away.
“Well, of all the gubernatorial—-” said Alice to herself when she got outside. She did not quite know what it meant, but it was an immense relief to be able to come out with a word of six syllables.