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... like little scrabbly mouse noises and Alice broke off immediately in fear that the kitten would hear her and think that she was actually a mouse burrowing under the covers.

 

‘Then,’ she thought, ‘I would be back in the same predicament of being hunted by my own kitten, which would be very embarrassing indeed.’

 

Just at that moment a thought struck Alice that left her feeling very cold and frightened.

 

‘What if I am making noises like a mouse precisely because I am a mouse?  What if I have inadvertently turned into a mouse without even thinking about it?  That would be so inconvenient under the circumstances!’ she added.  ‘Just imagine, a mouse seeking help from her own cat!

 

‘But how could I tell if I am a mouse?’ she asked herself.

 

‘I know!’ she cried.  ‘I could check to see if I have grown any whiskers,’ and with that she rubbed her face just to find out.

 

Thankfully, Alice found that she was not growing whiskers and, moreover, she was pleased to find that her hands were still hands and not paws.

 

‘That is a great relief,’ she sighed, ‘and now I can get on with calling for Kitty without worrying about being eaten by my rescuer!’

 

With this weight lifted from her mind, it occurred to Alice that she could clap her hands together as she did when she was calling for the kittens in the evening.

 

‘That way,’ she said, ‘Kitty will know that it is me

 

... and she will come running to my rescue.’

 

So Alice tried her new plan and let out three sharp claps with her hands.

‘But I won’t call out at the same time, as I usually do, on account of my voice being so squeaky,’ she added.

All at once, there was the sound of movement under the covers and it wasn’t long before Alice felt a familiar soft body pressed up close to her own.

 

Chapter II

Conversation with a Cat

In which Alice learns the art of being a cat

‘Why, Miss Alice!’ said the kitten, sniffing at her and placing a warm paw on Alice’s face just to make sure that it was indeed her.  ‘There you are at last and we have been looking all over for you!’

 

‘I am sorry, Kitty,’ said Alice, in her little squeaky voice, ‘but I really have been trying to attract your attention.’

 

‘Well, obviously not hard enough,’ said the kitten, taking charge.  ‘You have no idea how worried we have all been.  You really have been so very naughty, going off like that without telling anyone.’

 

‘I am so sorry, Kitty,’ said Alice, contritely, ‘but I don’t usually have to account for myself before doing this sort of thing.’

 

‘That is just where you are wrong,’ said the kitten, sternly.  ‘You are no longer in your own world and you must take great care that you don’t make a mistake or you may very well lose your head entirely.’

 

By now it was starting to get slightly lighter, and Alice could just make out some dim shapes around her in the darkness.

 

In the half light, she noticed that her nightdress had gone and that she was wearing her day clothes instead.

 

Moreover, the sheets which had been pressing down on her had now lifted and she felt that she was in an altogether more roomier and airy place.

 

‘That feels so much better,’ thought Alice, ‘and now that I have Kitty here with me I am certain that I will be out of this place in no time at all.

 

‘Please Kitty,’ said Alice, addressing the young cat, ‘can you teach me how to be a cat, just like you?  I should like that ever so much.’

 

The kitten thought for a moment.

 

‘This is most irregular,’ she said.  ‘Doesn’t happen at all often.’

 

‘I would be ever so grateful,’ pleaded Alice, ‘and it would be so much easier for me to take care of myself if I knew what you know already.’

 

There was an awkward silence while the kitten considered her answer.

 

‘It must be so lovely being a cat and I would very much like to see what it is like,’ Alice continued, stroking the kitten’s back and rubbing her ears.

 

The kitten wriggled her body and rubbed her face against Alice’s hand.

 

‘And you would be such a good teacher,’ added Alice, as she brushed the kitten’s coat, ‘having been a cat all your life.’

 

The kitten purred contentedly.

 

‘You make some very good points there, Miss Alice,’ she said, in a low throbbing voice.  ‘Just a bit harder there behind the ears, if you please ... I really must consider your request on all its merits … and under the chin please … and I think that you might … and around the eyes please … make an excellent … ah … pupil.’

‘Oh, thank you!’ cried Alice, jumping to her feet and clapping her hands together.

The kitten cleared her throat loudly and gave Alice a disapproving look.

‘Oh, I am sorry!’ said Alice, dropping back down on her knees and grooming the kitten again.  ‘I don’t know what I was thinking!’

The kitten ignored her and continued rubbing against her hand for some minutes.

After a while the kitten stopped and she looked up at Alice.

‘The time has come,’ she said, and with that she bounded off into the semi-darkness.

The movement was so sudden that Alice was left thinking for a moment that she had been completely deserted by the kitten.

But then it dawned on her that she was meant to follow, so she picked herself up and ran smartly after the disappearing form.

Now, running on a mattress isn’t the easiest thing to do, particularly if you have never tried it before.

In Alice’s case, she had jumped on a mattress many times in the past but she had never tried running on one.

The effect, she found, now that she was actually doing it, was something akin to running on jelly but without ...

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‘Fairy, fairy, light and airy …’