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... you but it is high time that I was off,’ he said, ‘so I will bid you good day.’

 

‘Please don’t go,’ said Alice, quickly gathering her wits.  ‘I still don’t know where I am and, if you leave me, then I shall be all alone again.’

 

‘Oh my whiskers!’ said the Rabbit.  ‘I hadn’t thought of that.’

 

He looked at the girl for a moment and then a slight smile crept across his furry face.

 

‘I know,’ he said, suddenly.  ‘You can come home with me.  At least for a little while.  You would make good source material.’

 

‘What sort of a sauce?’ asked Alice, who was always interested in food.

 

‘I beg your pardon?’ said the Rabbit, not quite comprehending the question.

 

‘Anyway,’ he continued, without waiting for a reply, ‘it will be good for me to have some company.  I live alone, you know.  Not far from here.  I will show you the way,’ and he set off so quickly that Alice had to hurry to catch up with him.

‘Thank you very much,’ said Alice, when she had caught both the Rabbit and her breath.  ‘I do appreciate your concern.’

 

‘Nonsense,’ said the Rabbit, by now quite pleased with himself.  ‘Think nothing of it.  It will be you who will be helping me.  Now, tell me more about yourself as we go.’

 

So Alice told the Rabbit about herself and the adventures that had befallen her the night before.  She explained how she had crawled under the bed covers and how she had done her very best to become a cat (without quite succeeding) and how she had woken up all alone in the woods, just a short while previously.

 

The Rabbit listened attentively.

 

‘Do you have any family?’ he asked.

 

‘Oh yes,’ said Alice, and she told the Rabbit about her sisters and all of the things that they got up to.

 

‘Excellent!’ said the Rabbit.  ‘Very interesting!’

 

They walked on a bit further and Alice said, ‘It is all so puzzling, being here right now.  Everything is so different from what I am used to.’

 

‘For better or for worse?’ asked the Rabbit.

 

‘Neither,’ said Alice, looking around and shaking her head.  ‘Just different.’

 

The Rabbit shook his head, in turn.

 

‘For me, it is all the same,’ he said.

 

After a moment, the Rabbit added, ‘Why don’t you try to recite something that you know?  That way, we can see whether it turns out any differently from usual and that will tell us whether things really are different from what you are used to or not.’

 

This sounded like a good idea to Alice so she set her mind to recalling a familiar piece of poetry.

 

At length, she said, ‘I have just the right thing in mind,’ and she began.

 

‘Alice had a little lamb,

Its fleece was white as snow;

It ate some cake that Alice had,

And it began to grow.

 

‘Alice had a little lamb,

Its fleece was green as grass;

Before too long that lamb had grown,

Until it was quite vast.

 

‘Alice had a little lamb,

Its fleece was blue as sky;

It grew and grew until it was,

More than a mile high.

 

‘Alice had a little lamb,

Its fleece was black as ink;

Alice gave it drink to sup,

And it began to shrink.

 

‘Alice had a little lamb,

Coloured like a rainbow;

If you give it food to eat,

It will (most likely) say, “No!”’

 

‘Semi-autobiographical, is it?’ asked the Rabbit, when Alice had finished.

 

‘Not really,’ said Alice.  ‘I just couldn’t remember the girl’s name, so I used my own one, instead.  Do you know the rhyme?’

 

‘No,’ said the Rabbit.  ‘I have never heard it before.’

 

‘And I cannot recall any other words,’ said Alice, ‘so really we don’t know whether it is the same as it should be or completely different.’

 

‘So much for that idea,’ said the Rabbit.

 

The trees began to thin out and presently they turned a corner into an open lane.

 

‘This is my house,’ said the Rabbit, as he ushered Alice through a lovely little lychgate, grown over with roses.

 

Ahead of her, Alice could see a charming country cottage, set back from the road and surrounded on all sides by a neatly trimmed hedge.

Inside the gate, there were rows of pretty flowers, set against the edge of the path and leading up to a solid looking wooden door with a big brass lock.

‘Why!’ said Alice, ‘I was quite expecting to see a hole in the ground.’

 

The Rabbit gave her a strange look.

 

‘Funny that you should say that,’ he said.  ‘Why on earth did you expect to see a hole in the ground?’

 

‘Well,’ began Alice, ‘what with you being a rabbit, I thought that you might live in a rabbit-hole.’

 

‘A rabbit-hole?’ said the Rabbit, with a note of disgust in his voice.  ‘Why ever would I want to live in a hole?  No, a house is a far nicer option, I think.’

 

Then, as an afterthought, he paused and added, ‘You don’t live in a man-hole, do you, by any chance?’

 

‘No, of course not,’ said Alice.

 

‘Just wondering,’ said the Rabbit, and he started searching through his pockets for the key to the front door.

 

As Alice watched, the Rabbit began by emptying all the pockets on the right side of his coat and putting the contents into the corresponding pockets on the left side of the garment.

Then he repeated the whole process by emptying the contents of the pockets on the left side into the pockets on the right.

‘He has too many pockets,’ thought Alice, after a while.

‘The problem,’ said the Rabbit, as if reading Alice’s thoughts, ‘is that I don’t have enough keys.’

‘I don’t understand,’ said Alice.  ‘I thought that you were only looking for one key.’

‘Quite so,’ said the Rabbit.  ‘It really is most frustrating!  If I had a copy of ...

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