necessarily have no weight, relatively to each other, though each would

have its usual weight, looked at by itself.”

“Some desperate paradox!” said the Earl. “Tell us how it could be.

We shall never guess it.”

“Well, suppose this house, just as it is, placed a few billion miles

above a planet, and with nothing else near enough to disturb it:

of course it falls to the planet?”

The Earl nodded. “Of course though it might take some centuries to do


“And is five-o’clock-tea to be going on all the while?” said Lady Muriel.

“That, and other things,” said Arthur. “The inhabitants would live

their lives, grow up and die, and still the house would be falling,

falling, falling! But now as to the relative weight of things.

Nothing can be heavy, you know, except by trying to fall, and being

prevented from doing so. You all grant that?”

We all granted that.

“Well, now, if I take this book, and hold it out at arm’s length,

of course I feel its weight. It is trying to fall, and I prevent it.

And, if I let go, it fails to the floor. But, if we were all falling

together, it couldn’t be trying to fall any quicker, you know: for,

if I let go, what more could it do than fall? And, as my hand would be

falling too–at the same rate–it would never leave it, for that

would be to get ahead of it in the race. And it could never overtake

the failing floor!”

“I see it clearly,” said Lady Muriel. “But it makes one dizzy to think

of such things! How can you make us do it?”

“There is a more curious idea yet,” I ventured to say. “Suppose a cord

fastened to the house, from below, and pulled down by some one on the

planet. Then of course the house goes faster than its natural rate of

falling: but the furniture–with our noble selves–would go on

failing at their old pace, and would therefore be left behind.”

“Practically, we should rise to the ceiling,” said the Earl.

“The inevitable result of which would be concussion of brain.”

“To avoid that, “said Arthur, “let us have the furniture fixed to the

floor, and ourselves tied down to the furniture. Then the

five-o’clock-tea could go on in peace.”

“With one little drawback!’, Lady Muriel gaily interrupted.

“We should take the cups down with us: but what about the tea?”

“I had forgotten the tea,” Arthur confessed. “That, no doubt, would

rise to the ceiling unless you chose to drink it on the way!”

“Which, I think, is quite nonsense enough for one while!” said the

Earl. “What news does this gentleman bring us from the great world of


This drew me into the conversation, which now took a more conventional

tone. After a while, Arthur gave the signal for our departure, and in

the cool of the evening we strolled down to the beach, enjoying the

silence, broken only by the murmur of the sea and the far-away music of

some fishermen’s song, almost as much as our late pleasant talk.

We sat down among the rocks, by a little pool, so rich in animal,

vegetable, and zoophytic –or whatever is the right word–life,

that I became entranced in the study of it, and, when Arthur proposed

returning to our lodgings, I begged to be left there for a while,

to watch and muse alone.

The fishermen’s song grew ever nearer and clearer, as their boat stood

in for the beach; and I would have gone down to see them land their

cargo of fish, had not the microcosm at my feet stirred my curiosity

yet more keenly.

One ancient crab, that was for ever shuffling frantically from side to

side of the pool, had particularly fascinated me: there was a vacancy

in its stare, and an aimless violence in its behaviour, that

irresistibly recalled the Gardener who had befriended Sylvie and Bruno:

and, as I gazed, I caught the concluding notes of the tune of his crazy


The silence that followed was broken by the sweet voice of Sylvie.

“Would you please let us out into the road?”

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis