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... I have only two legs on which to follow you.’

‘Quite so,’ said the kitten, with an air of superiority.  ‘Some sad trick of nature, no doubt.  Do try to keep up in future.  We cannot have you falling too far behind in your lessons.

‘But for now,’ she continued, ‘I am going to show you how to deal with Obstreperous objects and presumptuous playthings.  Pay close attention to the way in which I put this ball of wool in its place,’ and with that the kitten launched herself at the ball of wool and latched on tightly with claws and teeth while the ball rolled helplessly on the floor.

Every now and then the kitten would disengage from the ball by kicking her body in the opposite direction and landing on her feet, where she would then crouch momentarily before springing back into the fray.

After several further engagements the kitten gave an extra high kick and landed perfectly at Alice’s feet.

‘Your turn,’ said the kitten, in a matter-of-fact way.  ‘Just do everything that I did and you will be fine.’

Alice looked doubtfully at the kitten and then at the ball of wool.

‘I am not sure that I can …’ she started to say, but the kitten cut her short.

‘Cats are always sure!’ she said, with such an air of authority that Alice felt obliged to put her doubts to one side.

‘All that I have to do,’ said Alice, to herself, ‘is to do everything that Kitty just did.’

 

So she lowered herself onto all fours and prepared as best she could, all the time addressing the ball of wool in the appropriate manner.

 

First, Alice screwed up her body ready to pounce.

 

Then she spread her fingers wide like claws and fixed her eye on the ball of wool.

 

Finally, she wriggled her whole body and threw herself headlong at the ball.

 

The result, Alice was pleased to say, was not that much different from the kitten’s effort, previously.

 

The only real difference was that Alice came off second best this time and the ball of wool emerged victorious.

 

The kitten was less than impressed with Alice’s efforts.

 

She put her head in the air and sauntered away slowly, swishing her tail from side to side.

 

‘Please wait Kitty!’ cried Alice (in what sounded more like a very young kittenish wail), but the kitten was gone before Alice could get back on her feet.

 

‘Oh no!’ cried Alice, in frustration.  ‘Now I will have to find her again!’

This time it was rather more difficult to find the kitten.  Alice searched high and low for some considerable time, and she was almost thinking that this was another test (or possibly that the kitten had simply given up in frustration and disgust at Alice’s limited abilities), when she finally saw the kitten once more.

 

The kitten was sitting quite still with her front legs stretched out towards Alice.

 

‘Look what I have for you, you lucky thing!’ cooed the kitten, as Alice approached.

At first Alice could not make out what she was referring to and then she saw that under each of the kitten’s forepaws was a soft grey shape with what looked like a piece of brown twine tied to the end of each object.

 

‘Our next lesson,’ said the kitten, ‘is How to eat a mouse.

Alice screwed up her face.

 

She wasn’t sure that she really wanted to be a cat quite that much.

‘But first,’ continued the kitten, before Alice could say anything, ‘you have to catch your mouse!’ and with that she lifted her left paw and let the first mouse go.

 

The startled mouse sat up and blinked for a moment and then made a direct line for Alice.

 

‘Catch him!’ cried the kitten, in obvious delight.

 

Alice jumped to her feet and screamed as the mouse ran towards her.

 

‘Don’t let him go!’ called the kitten, but it was too late and the first mouse disappeared into the semi-darkness.

 

‘Really Alice!’ said the kitten, with a measure of disgust in her voice.  ‘That was a perfectly good mouse and you just let it go.  Whatever shall I do with you?’

‘Oh Kitty!’ said Alice, ‘I didn’t mean to let it go.’

‘Then try this one!’ cried the kitten, lifting her right paw and releasing the second mouse.

The second mouse didn’t wait like the first one but took off instantly and was gone before Alice could move a muscle.

 

The kitten shook her head disapprovingly.

 

‘I think that we both need to acknowledge that there is a considerable amount of work that needs to be done before you can become a cat,’ she said, sadly.

 

‘I think that you might be right,’ said Alice, equally sadly.  ‘For I am not sure that I could actually eat a mouse (or at least not a raw one),’ she added, quietly.

 

‘In that case,’ said the kitten, ‘let us part for now and we will say no more about it.

 

‘I will tell Dinah that you are all right,’ she added, ‘and then I will come straight back to keep an eye on you.’

 

In another instant the kitten was gone again.

‘Oh dear,’ said Alice, to herself.  ‘I did so much want to be a cat, but at least I tried it and now I know that there is so much more to it than I ever imagined.’

She looked around.

‘Whatever shall I do now?’ Alice asked herself.

‘I have come too far to go back,’ she continued, ‘and even if I could go back, I am not sure that I would know the way.  What is to become of me?’

Poor Alice felt so despondent that she sat down on the ground and she began to sing softly to herself …

 

‘Fairy, fairy, light and airy,

Whither doest thou blow?

With gusts and gales and bursts of hail,

I know not where I go.

 

‘Oh, I ...

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‘Kindness, my lucky rabbit’s foot!’ spluttered the Rabbit, as he suppressed a cough.