“I must teach the kittens some tricks,” said Alice one day. “They are
getting so big and plump. Don’t you think they are old enough to learn
to do things, mamma?”
“Well, little daughter, suppose you try teaching them,” said mamma.
So Alice went to the door and called: “Kittens! kittens! kittens!
Come, Tip! Come, Trot! Come, kittens!” Now their real names were
Tipkins and Trotkins, but Alice always called them Tip and Trot for
When the kittens heard their little mistress call, they came running as
fast as their fat little bodies and their short little legs would let
them come; for “Kittens, kittens, kittens!” almost always meant: “Here
is some nice warm milk to drink.”
Alice gathered the funny little things up in her arms. They looked
just exactly alike, for Tipkins had a black spot on the end of his
tail, and Trotkins had a black spot on the end of his tail, too;
Tipkins’ eyes were blue, so were Trotkins’; Tipkins’ nose was black,
and Trotkins’ nose was black, too. Alice often wondered how their
mother, Topsy, ever told them apart.
“Now,” said the little girl, “you have grown to be such big pussies
that it is time you learned to work. You must earn your dinner. What
do you say to that?”
“Meow! meow!” said Tipkins. “Meow! meow!” said Trotkins. “Meow!
meow!” said Tipkins and Trotkins together. Which seemed to mean, “That
we will, little mistress; only show us how.”
Alice took a tiny bit of meat in her fingers and let one of the kittens
smell of it; then she said very slowly, “Now, pussy, roll over.” The
kitten liked the smell of the meat very much, so he said, “Meow! meow!”
but he did not know in the least what “roll over” meant, so he did
nothing. “Roll over, kitty,” said his little mistress again, but he
only said, “Meow! meow! meow!” once more. Then Alice made pussy lie
down, and she gently rolled him over with her hand, saying very slowly
as she did so, “Roll over.” After this she gave him the bit of meat.
Then it was the other kitten’s turn. He had no more idea than his
brother what “roll over” meant; but after Alice had said the words two
or three times, she gently rolled his plump little body over, too, and
then gave him the nice bit of meat also. Then she set a big saucer of
milk down in front of her pets, and so ended the first lesson of
Tipkins and Trotkins.
This was only the first of many lessons, however. Alice worked
patiently with the kittens every day for a whole month and, at the end
of that time, both Tipkins and Trotkins knew just what she meant and
would roll over every time she told them to, even though they got not a
scrap of anything good to eat in return.
Tipkins seemed to think it was great fun, and he would sometimes roll
over five or six times without stopping, just as Alice herself often
rolled on the grass when at play. But Trotkins never seemed to like
doing it, and would turn round and round until he was fairly dizzy
before finally lying down. Then, as he rolled over, he would give a
funny meow, as much as to say, “I don’t like to; but, if I must, I
Tipkins learned to ring a small bell by striking it with one of his
front paws. Trotkins could never be coaxed to touch this bell; but he
would sit by while his brother rang it and cry, “Meow! meow! meow!”
Alice thought that this was very funny, and she said that Trot sang
while Tip did the playing.
Both the kittens learned to jump over a stick when their mistress held
one out in her hand, about a foot from the floor; and Alice taught
Tipkins to jump through a small wooden hoop; but she could never
persuade Trotkins even once to try to jump through the hoop.
As Tipkins and Trotkins grew older, their mother, Topsy, taught them to
hunt for mice in the big, dark barn, and to catch moles and
grasshoppers in the field. They had less and less time, as the days
went by, to play with their little mistress; and Alice found them so
sleepy, when they did have time, that at last she gave up trying to
teach them any new antics.
As the months passed by they grew sleek and fat. They were kittens no
longer, but had grown as large and could hunt as well as Mother Topsy;
and although they learned no new tricks now, the old ones, taught them
by their little mistress, were never forgotten by Tipkins and Trotkins.