DOWN THE DEAD-HOLE
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having noth¬ing to do. Her sister had seemed very displeased about having to accompany her against her will down to the graveyard that sprawled adjacent to their home. The graveyard, her favorite place to play, was all tangled gray vines and tilting ancient tombstones, bearing names she'd never heard be¬fore, though she supposed they must be family, in some distant past before she had been born. Alice loved to stroll through the graveyard, to pick the funereal flowers from old grassy knolls where someone dead most certainly must lie beneath. For her, there was always adventure in a graveyard.
Despite her sister's nasty disposition, it would have been a perfectly cloudy, chilly day in her
favorite play place had she not been so hungry, for her sister had refused to have tea before angrily bringing Alice outside. Tea and a sandwich would be nice. Perhaps a nice meat pie, if the cook could be bothered to bake one up. For their cook made the best meat pies in the world and Alice could think of no better meal than a delicious hot meat pie.
As if being ravenous wasn't enough, now her sister was also refusing her the joy of perusing the ancient stones, and had hold of her arm while she read such dull material. Once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice "without pictures or conversation?"
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the chill of the bleak day made her feel very sleepy and stupid) whether the plea¬sure of making a daisy chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a sleek Black Rat with shining dark eyes ran straight from a nearby tomb and quite close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Black Rat say to itself, "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!" (when she thought it over af¬terwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but, when the Black Rat actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice broke from her sister's grip and started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rat with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the graveyard after it, despite her sister's angry yells for her to come straight back to her this instant, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down into a gaping open grave. Clods of gray dirt sat all around its edge and a displeasing smell seemed to waft up from it.
For a moment, Alice stood beside the grave, her sister's voice far away and still frightening for all the distance, deciding whether she'd dare jump in after the strange Black Rat. In another moment, down went Alice after it, hardly considering how in the world she was to get out again.
Then she was tumbling forward into the stink¬ing, black grave which went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down and down. On the way down, she hit her head upon the leaning tombstone, and tears filled her eyes for a moment as she tumbled forward.
Either the grave was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she checked the smarting place on her head and pulled back a small hand coated with bright red blood. Her head hurt quite a bit, but as there was nothing to do but cry or get along with her adventure, she chose to stifle her tears and smile through the pain bravely. Then she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see any¬thing; then she looked at the sides of the deep, deep grave, and noticed that they were filled with strange and frightening things. In some places, she could see rotting bones poking from the dark soil; in others skulls leered at her as she fell by them, missing teeth giving silent voice perhaps to warn her back from what lie at the bottom of the grave. It made her feel quite out of sorts to see such em¬blems of death sitting so close next to her.
"Well!" thought Alice to herself, "after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they'll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn't say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!" (Which was very likely true.)
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! "I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?" she said aloud. "I must be getting somewhere near the center of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think-" (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) "-yes, that's about the right distance-but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I've got to?" (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)
Presently she began again. "I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think-" (she was rather glad there WAS no one listening, this time, as it didn't sound at all the right word) "- but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma'am, is this New Zealand or Australia?" (And she tried to curt¬sey as she spoke-fancy curtseying as you're falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) "And what an ignorant little girl she'll think me for asking! No, it'll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere."
Down, down, down. The pain in her head had turned into a deep throb, but she continued to ignore it and held in her tears some more. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talk¬ing again. "Dinah'll miss me very much tonight, I should think!" (Dinah was the cat.) "I hope they'll remember her saucer of milk at tea-time. Dinah my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There are no mice in the air, I'm afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that's very like a mouse, you know. But do cats eat bats, I wonder?" And here Alice began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way, "Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?" and sometimes, "Do bats eat cats?" for, you see, as she couldn't
answer either question, it didn't much matter which way she put it. She felt that she was doz¬ing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Dinah, and saying to her very earnestly, "Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?" when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of cold sod¬den earth that smelled of dead things. Nasty, pale worms writhed throughout the small hill and she hastily threw herself from the dirt, wincing in disgust. Worms and beetles crawled through the sodden earth, clicking and grubbing along at her feet. Was this what a grave was like inside? She wondered. She'd often wondered how the dark¬ness got along without the light of the sun, how things lived; now she had a better idea how the things that lived without light got along.