But these, as it happened, Alice had not got; so she contented herself with turning round, looking at the shelves as she came to them.
The shop seemed to be full of all manner of curious things — but the oddest part of it all was, that whenever she looked hard at any shelf, to make out exactly what it had on it, that particular shelf was always quite empty: though the others round it were crowded as full as they could hold.
“Things flow about so here!” she said at last in a plaintive tone, after she had spent a minute or so in vainly pursuing a large bright thing, that looked sometimes like a doll and sometimes like a work-box, and was always in the shelf next above the one she was looking at. “And this one is the most provoking of all — but I’ll tell you what — ” she added, as a sudden thought struck her, “I’ll follow it up to the very top shelf of all. It’ll puzzle it to go through the ceiling, I expect!”
But even this plan failed: the “thing” went through the ceiling as quietly as possible, as if it were quite used to it.
“Are you a child or a teetotum?” the Sheep said as she took up another pair of needles. “You’ll make me giddy soon, if you go on turning round like that.” She was now working with fourteen pairs at once, and Alice couldn’t help looking at her in great astonishment.
“How can she knit with so many?” the puzzled child thought to herself. “She gets more and more like a porcupine every minute!”
“Can you row?” the Sheep asked, handing her a pair of knitting-needles as she spoke.
“Yes, a little — but not on land — and not with needles — -” Alice was beginning to say when suddenly the needles turned into oars in her hands, and she found they were in a little boat, gliding along between banks: so there was nothing for it but to do her best.
“Feather!” cried the Sheep, as she took up another pair of needles.
This didn’t sound like a remark that needed any answer, so Alice said nothing, but pulled away. There was something very queer about the water, she thought, as every now and then the oars got fast in it, and would hardly come out again.
“Feather! Feather!” the Sheep cried again, taking more needles. “You’ll be catching a crab directly.”
“A dear little crab!” thought Alice. “I should like that.”
“Didn’t you hear me say ’Feather’?” the Sheep cried angrily, taking up quite a bunch of needles.
“Indeed I did,” said Alice: “you’ve said it very often — and very loud. Please, where are the crabs?”
“In the water, of course!” said the Sheep, sticking some of the needles into her hair, as her hands were full. “Feather, I say!
“Why do you say ’Feather’ so often?” Alice asked at last, rather vexed. “I’m not a bird!”
“You are,” said the Sheep: “you’re a little goose.”
This offended Alice a little, so there was no more conversation for a minute or two, while the boat glided gently on, sometimes among beds of weeds (which made the oars stick fast in the water, worse than ever), and sometimes under trees, but always with the same tall river banks frowning over their heads.
“Oh, please! There are some scented rushes!” Alice cried in a sudden transport of delight. “There really are — and such beauties!”
“You needn’t say ’please’ to me about ’em,” the Sheep said, without looking up from her knitting: “I didn’t put ’em there, and I’m not going to take ’em away.”
“No, but I meant — please, may we wait and pick some?” Alice pleaded. “If you don’t mind stopping the boat for a minute.”
“How am I to stop it?” said the Sheep. “If you leave off rowing, it’ll stop of itself.”
So the boat was left to drift down the stream as it would, till it glided gently in among the waving rushes. And then the little sleeves were carefully rolled up, and the little arms were plunged in elbow-deep, to get hold of the rushes a good long way down before breaking them off — and for a while Alice forgot all about the Sheep and the knitting, as she bent over the side of the boat, with just the ends of her tangled hair dipping into the water — while with bright eager eyes she caught at one bunch after another of the darling scented rushes.