Curiouser and Curiouser: The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
It was the White Rabbit, trotting slowly back again and looking about anxiously, as if it had lost something; it was muttering “The Duchess! The Duchess! Oh my dear paws! Oh my fur and whiskers! She’ll have me executed! Where CAN I have dropped them, I wonder?”
Alice guessed in a moment that it was looking for the fan and the pair of white kid gloves, and began hunting about for them, but they were nowhere to be seen. Very soon the Rabbit noticed Alice and called out to her in an angry tone “Why, Mary Ann, what ARE you doing out here? Run this moment and fetch me a pair of gloves and a fan! Quick, now!”
Alice was so shocked that she ran off at once in the direction it pointed to. The rabbit’s directions led to yet another room . It was filled with fans, pocket watches, and gloves of all varieties. “How queer it seems,” Alice said to herself, “to be running errands for a rabbit! I suppose Dinah’ll be sending me on messages next!”. Alice scooped up a pair of gloves and a fan and was about to leave when she noticed a bottle. She was thirsty from all the running! There was no label, just the words `DRINK ME,’ but nevertheless she uncorked it and put it to her lips. “I know SOMETHING interesting is sure to happen” she said to herself.
And it did, much sooner than she had expected: before she had drunk half the bottle, she found herself becoming so tall she almost touched the ceiling. Alice could see lots of tiny rooms filled with all kinds of exquisite things, before she could begin inspecting any one room in detail, she heard a voice.
“Mary Ann! Mary Ann!” said the voice. “Fetch me my gloves this moment!” the rabbit came bounding round the corner and stopped in front of the now gigantic Alice. He staggered back and yelled “Bill! Bill! Where are you?” Alice’s head was now tilted to the side so she would not bump it on the ceiling and her arm had gone through a window-pane upstairs and her foot was stuck in the downstairs foyer doorway. “I wonder what they’ll do! I don’t want to stay like this any longer!”.
Her question was answered when she felt something touch her foot, Alice was ticklish. She squirmed and felt her foot loosen, the thing touched her foot again and she was able to squirm just enough to pull it out. When she drew back her foot a lizard stepped into the foyer, Alice had not expected this and jumped with such force that she kicked the lizard into the air; he landed with a thud on the stairs.
As Bill tumbled back down, Alice remembered the bottle in her pocket, maybe this one would make her small again! Once she was normal height again, she could fix everything. It began to work almost immediately, and as Alice was shrinking down, down she grasped a balcony on the middle floor. She pulled herself up over the ledge and stood brushing herself off. She felt she was back to her usual size again and turned to check behind her at the bottom floor where the rabbit was with the poor little Lizard, Bill.
They started to yell at Alice and shocked she backed away, turning to see the room behind her. It was then she realized that she was still shrinking, when she had finally stopped the room was like a jungle with all the animals and scenery that spanned the space.
There was a large mushroom just ahead of her, about the same height as herself; and when she had looked under it, and on both sides of it, and behind it, it occurred to her that she might as well look and see what was on the top of it. She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large caterpillar, that was sitting on the top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else.
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One of the jurors had a pencil that squeaked. This of course, Alice could not stand, and she went round the court and got behind him, and very soon found an opportunity of taking it away. She did it so quickly that the poor little juror (it was Bill, the Lizard) could not make out at all what had become of it; so, after hunting all about for it, he was obliged to write with one finger for the rest of the day; and this was of very little use, as it left no mark on the slate.
Between being kicked out of a chimney and having his squeaky pencil nabbed, poor Bill doesn’t have a very good time during Alice’s visit to Wonderland.
The lizard on display here is an exotic species – the Asian Water Monitor can be found across south east Asia, from India to Indonesia. Ours is an average size, but they can occasionally grow to around 2m in length. They mostly inhabit wetlands, swamps and mangroves, but have also adapted to the presence of humans and have been found in canals and abandoned mining pits.
Though not a threatened species globally, it is protected under conservation laws in many countries, which should hopefully discourage people from kicking them up chimneys.
One of the most well-known of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland is the encounter with the ‘Drink Me’ bottle. Finding herself too big for a small doorway, Alice drinks the potion and shrinks to the perfect size to enter. But not before she thoroughly inspects the bottle:
It was all very well to say `Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. `No, I’ll look first,’ she said, `and see whether it’s marked “poison” or not’; for she had read several nice little histories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things … 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 Alice 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,) she very soon finished it off.
Eagled-eyed visitors might recognise this distinctive bottle, with its heart-shaped stopper, as it is usually on display in the Chemists Shop in our Local History gallery. It was probably intended to hold perfumes, or similar products, made by local chemists and pharmacists.
Chapter 4 Blogs, games and activities: