... and I will wait for the search parties to come looking for me and then, when I see them coming, I will run down to meet them!’
So, with this plan in mind, Alice set off down the track looking for somewhere suitable from which she could spy out the countryside.
The trouble was that, as she went on, all she could see were more and more trees and very little evidence of anything else, including hills.
‘This won’t do at all!’ she said, finally, throwing herself on the ground. ‘How can I look for the search parties if I can’t find anywhere to look from? Why, we might well overlook each other without even knowing it!’
While she was sitting there thinking this over, Alice heard a scampering sound coming from somewhere behind her.
‘Whatever can that be?’ she asked herself and, not getting a satisfactory answer, she quickly made her way to one side of the path in order to get a better view of whoever it was that was following her.
After a few moments, she was able to make out the shape of an oversized white rabbit making its way along the path, from the same direction where she had just come.
‘How curious,’ said Alice, for the Rabbit was attired in the manner of a country gentleman out for a morning walk.
‘That is certainly not a sight that one sees every day,’ she thought.
For a moment she debated whether or not to approach the Rabbit before firmly deciding that the best course of action would be to make herself known to the creature.
‘For, if I do,’ she said, ‘he must surely be no threat to me as he is just a rabbit, and I do so desperately need someone to help me to discover where it is that I am.’
So she emerged from her hiding place and called out to the Rabbit.
The Rabbit bolted upright in surprise at the sight of her and leapt clumsily to the far side of the path, tripping and falling over in the process.
Alice rushed to his side and helped him to his feet.
‘Oh my ears!’ cried the Rabbit, clutching at his chest. ‘You gave me quite a start!’
‘I am so sorry,’ said Alice, in her most apologetic voice. ‘I do hope that I didn’t startle you too badly?’
‘No, no,’ said the Rabbit, sitting down on the ground and fanning himself with his pocket handkerchief. ‘Rabbits do tend to overreact to sudden surprises and I am, after all, a rabbit, myself.’
He took several deep breaths and mopped his brow.
Alice waited for him to speak again, but the Rabbit just kept dabbing his forehead and patting his chest.
‘This is all very strange,’ said Alice, after what she thought to be an acceptable period of time. ‘I am sure that things are not as they were and I just can’t understand it at all.’
‘Pray explain,’ said the Rabbit, as he tucked his handkerchief away and made himself more comfortable.
‘Well,’ said Alice, ‘as an example, rabbits don’t normally dress in fine clothes and speak with a funny accent.’
‘Don’t they?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Not where I come from,’ said Alice.
‘And where might that be?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Why, home, of course!’ said Alice, in a surprised voice.
‘Quite extraordinary!’ said the Rabbit. ‘Home is where I come from as well.’
‘No,’ said Alice, correcting him. ‘I mean that I come from my home which is …’ her voice trailed off, ‘… why, I don’t quite remember where it is anymore!’
‘How inconvenient,’ said the Rabbit, with genuine sympathy, ‘and I don’t suppose that you could find your way back again, in that case?’
‘No,’ said Alice, sadly. ‘For even if I did remember where there is, I am still not really sure where here is or how, for that matter, I got here in the first place.’
The Rabbit reached into his coat pocket for a box of carrots and offered one to Alice.
‘Maybe I am dreaming,’ she said, brushing the offer to one side.
‘How would you know whether you are dreaming?’ asked the Rabbit, as he took a bite of carrot.
‘Well,’ said Alice, thoughtfully, ‘I suppose that I could pinch myself to find out whether I am dreaming or not. That way, if I woke up, I would know that it was a dream.’
‘And what if you didn’t wake up?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Then I suppose it would be real,’ said Alice.
‘Either that or I hadn’t pinched myself hard enough,’ she added.
‘So really, you would only know for certain whether it was a dream or not, if and when you woke up?’ said the Rabbit.
‘Yes,’ said Alice. ‘That’s not very helpful, is it?’
‘No, it isn’t,’ agreed the Rabbit. ‘You either have to stop dreaming it to know that it was a dream or you keep experiencing it without knowing whether it is real or not.’
He crunched on the carrot again.
After a few minutes he said, ‘For my part, I feel perfectly real. What about you?’
‘Well, I feel as if strange things are happening to me,’ said Alice. ‘Does that make it a dream?’
‘Possibly,’ said the Rabbit, rubbing his whiskers. ‘Do strange things ever happen to you when you know that you aren’t dreaming?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Alice, sadly. ‘If I can remember something strange happening to me in the past then how do I know that I didn’t dream that as well?’
‘Or even whether you are still dreaming it?’ agreed the Rabbit.
‘And if I can’t remember strange things happening to me in the past,’ Alice ventured, ‘then maybe I only dreamed that the strange things didn’t happen.’
They both fell silent for a while, lost in their respective thoughts.
After a while, the Rabbit stood up and started brushing the dried grass off his clothing.
‘Well, it has been delightful chatting with ...
To be continued next week