HEY REACHED A CLEARING. FILLING THE clearing were all manner of chattering folk. In the crowd Alice spotted the fish head in a bucket of green paint. There were hares stood in a huddle, dormice dawdling about, dogs daydreaming and cats curled up.

 

Sitting atop the largest mushroom was the Caterpillar, who raised an eyebrow at Alice before puffing on his pipe.

The portly man scurried through the crowd, pushing people out of the way, to much uproar. He reached the large mushroom handing the looking glass to the Caterpillar, who promptly drew out a monocle and inspected the looking glass, turning it this way and that.

 

Once he was quite done, he took a long drag from his pipe and blew a gigantic smoke ring. It rose high in the air, widening, until it fell encircling the crowd. With that the babble grew silent and everyone turned to look at the Caterpillar.

 

      “Well, hello, hello, citizens. You know why we’re here, for the annual auction.           We all know what we’re doing, so we’d better just get on with it. Our first lot            is this looking glass. Any starting bids?” the Caterpillar drawled.

 

       “A handkerchief,” came a cry from the gathering.

 

       “A button,” came another.

 

       “An old diary!”

 

       “A briefcase!

 

       “A pair of gloves!

 

       “A pantomime horse!

 

At that the room fell silent, with a low murmuring of awe. The bidder, a dormouse wearing a pocket watch, looked around, pleased with himself.

 

      “Any advances on a pantomime horse?” the Caterpillar enquired, casting a                 glance in Alice’s direction.

Alice rummaged in her pockets, finding nothing but a used tissue.

 

            “I’ll take it!” She cried.

 

And with that she sprinted through the crowd, pushing the dormouse out of the way. She bounced from the fish’s head straight up onto the mushroom, snatched the looking glass straight from the Caterpillar’s hand. Leapt from the mushroom top and ran!

 

The portly man waved his fist at her, the dormouse shook his head and followed her in quick pursuit. The whole crowd followed, apart from the Caterpillar, who remained seated, puffed on his pipe, and moved his lips in something that seemed to be a smile.