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Chapter V, Wool and Water. Part II
‘I don’t quite know yet,’ Alice said, very gently. ‘I should like to look all round me first, if I might.’
‘You may look in front of you, and on both sides, if you like,’ said the Sheep; ‘but you can’t look all round you – unless you’ve got eyes at the back of your head.’
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 workbox, 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 knittingneedles 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 riverbanks 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 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.
‘I only hope the boat won’t tipple over!’ she said to herself. ‘Oh, what a lovely one! Only I couldn’t quite reach it.’ And it certainly did seem a little provoking (‘almost as if it happened on purpose,’ she thought) that, though she managed to pick plenty of beautiful rushes as the boat glided by, there was always a more lovely one that she couldn’t reach.
‘The prettiest are always further!’ she said at last, with a sigh at the obstinacy of the rushes in growing so far off, as, with flushed cheeks and dripping hair and hands, she scrambled back into her place, and began to arrange her newfound treasures.
What mattered it to her just then that the rushes had begun to fade, and to lose all their scent and beauty, from the very moment that she picked them? Even real scented rushes, you know, last only a very little while – and these, being dream-rushes, melted away almost like snow, as they lay in heaps at her feet – but Alice hardly noticed this, there were so many other curious things to think about.
They hadn’t gone much farther before the blade of one of the oars got fast in the water and wouldn’t come out again (so Alice explained it afterwards), and the consequence was that the handle of it caught her under the chin, and, in spite of a series of little shrieks of ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ from poor Alice, it swept her straight off the seat, and down among the heap of rushes.
However, she wasn’t a bit hurt, and was soon up again: the Sheep went on with her knitting all the while, just as if nothing had happened. ‘That was a nice crab you caught!’ she remarked, as Alice got back into her place, very much relieved to find herself still in the boat.
‘Was it? I didn’t see it,’ said Alice, peeping cautiously over the side of the boat into the dark water. ‘I wish it hadn’t let go – I should so like a little crab to take home with me!’ But the Sheep only laughed scornfully, and went on with her knitting.
‘Are there many crabs here?’ said Alice.
‘Crabs, and all sorts of things,’ said the Sheep: ‘plenty of choice, only make up your mind. Now, what do you want to buy?’
‘To buy!’ Alice echoed in a tone that was half astonished and half frightened – for the oars, and the boat, and the river, had vanished all in a moment, and she was back again in the little dark shop.
‘I should like to buy an egg, please,’ she said timidly. ‘How do you sell them?’
‘Fivepence farthing for one – twopence for two,’ the Sheep replied.
‘Then two are cheaper than one?’ Alice said in a surprised tone, taking out her purse.
‘Only you must eat them both, if you buy two,’ said the Sheep.
‘Then I’ll have one, please,’ said Alice, as she put the money down on the counter. For she thought to herself, ‘They mightn’t be at all nice, you know.’
The Sheep took the money, and put it away in a box: then she said ‘I never put things into people’s hands – that would never do – you must get it for yourself.’ And so saying, she went off to the other end of the shop, and set the egg upright on a shelf.
‘I wonder why it wouldn’t do?’ thought Alice, as she groped her way among the tables and chairs, for the shop was very dark towards the end. ‘The egg seems to get further away the more I walk towards it. Let me see, is this a chair? Why, it’s got branches, I declare! How very odd to find trees growing here! And actually here’s a little brook! Well, this is the very queerest shop I ever saw!’
So she went on, wondering more and more at every step, as everything turned into a tree the moment she came up to it, and she quite expected the egg to do the same.
Chapter VI, Humpty Dumpty. Part I
However, the egg only got larger and larger, and more and more human: when she had come within a few yards of it, she saw that it had eyes and a nose and mouth; and when she had come close to it, she saw clearly that it was HUMPTY DUMPTY himself. ‘It can’t be anybody else!’ she said to herself. ‘I’m as certain of it, as if his name were written all over his face.’
It might have been written a hundred times, easily, on that enormous face. Humpty Dumpty was sitting, with his legs crossed like a Turk, on the top of a high wall – such a narrow one that Alice quite wondered how he could keep his balance – and, as his eyes were steadily fixed in the opposite direction, and he didn’t take the least notice of her, she thought he must be a stuffed figure after all.
‘And how exactly like an egg he is!’ she said aloud, standing with her hands ready to catch him, for she was every moment expecting him to fall.
‘It’s very provoking,’ Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence, looking away from Alice as he spoke, ‘to be called an egg – very!’
‘I said you looked like an egg, Sir,’ Alice gently explained. ‘And some eggs are very pretty, you know,’ she added, hoping to turn her remark into a sort of compliment.
‘Some people,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking away from her as usual, ‘have no more sense than a baby!’
Alice didn’t know what to say to this: it wasn’t at all like conversation, she thought, as he never said anything to her; in fact, his last remark was evidently addressed to a tree – so she stood and softly repeated to herself: –
‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty in his place again.’
‘That last line is much too long for the poetry,’ she added, almost out loud, forgetting that Humpty Dumpty would hear her.
‘Don’t stand there chattering to yourself like that,’ Humpty Dumpty said, looking at her for the first time, ‘but tell me your name and your business.’
‘My name is Alice, but –’
‘It’s a stupid name enough!’ Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. ‘What does it mean?’
‘Must a name mean something?’ Alice asked doubtfully.
‘Of course it must,’ Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: ‘my name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.’
‘Why do you sit out here all alone?’ said Alice, not wishing to begin an argument.
‘Why, because there’s nobody with me!’ cried Humpty Dumpty. ‘Did you think I didn’t know the answer to that? Ask another.’
‘Don’t you think you’d be safer down on the ground?’ Alice went on, not with any idea of making another riddle, but simply in her goodnatured anxiety for the queer creature. ‘That wall is so very narrow!’
‘What tremendously easy riddles you ask!’ Humpty Dumpty growled out. ‘Of course I don’t think so! Why, if ever I did fall off – which there’s no chance of – but if I did –’ Here he pursed up his lips, and looked so solemn and grand that Alice could hardly help laughing. ‘If I did fall,’ he went on, ‘The King has promised me – ah, you may turn pale, if you like! You didn’t think I was going to say that, did you? The King has promised me – with his very own mouth – to – to –’