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Chapter VIII, ‘It’s My Own Invention’. Part III
His accents mild took up the tale:
He said “I go my ways,
And when I find a mountainrill,
I set it in a blaze;
And thence they make a stuff they call
Rolands’ Macassar Oil –
Yet twopencehalfpenny is all
They give me for my toil.”
But I was thinking of a way
To feed oneself on batter,
And so go on from day to day
Getting a little fatter.
I shook him well from side to side,
Until his face was blue:
“Come, tell me how you live,” I cried,
“And what it is you do!”
He said “I hunt for haddocks’ eyes
Among the heather bright,
And work them into waistcoatbuttons
In the silent night.
And these I do not sell for gold
Or coin of silvery shine,
But for a copper halfpenny,
And that will purchase nine.
“I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,
Or set limed twigs for crabs:
I sometimes search the grassy knolls
For wheels of Hansom-cabs.
And that’s the way” (he gave a wink)
“By which I get my wealth –
And very gladly will I drink
Your Honour’s noble health.”
I heard him then, for I had just
Completed my design
To keep the Menai bridge from rust
By boiling it in wine.
I thanked much for telling me
The way he got his wealth,
But chiefly for his wish that he
Might drink my noble health.
And now, if e’er by chance I put
My fingers into glue,
Or madly squeeze a righthand foot
Into a lefthand shoe,
Or if I drop upon my toe
A very heavy weight,
I weep, for it reminds me so
Of that old man I used to know –
Whose look was mild, whose speech was slow,
Whose hair was whiter than the snow,
Whose face was very like a crow,
With eyes, like cinders, all aglow,
Who seemed distracted with his woe,
Who rocked his body to and fro,
And muttered mumblingly and low,
As if his mouth were full of dough,
Who snorted like a buffalo –
That summer evening long ago,
A-sitting on a gate.’
As the Knight sang the last words of the ballad, he gathered up the reins, and turned his horse’s head along the road by which they had come. ‘You’ve only a few yards to go,’ he said,’ down the hill and over that little brook, and then you’ll be a Queen – But you’ll stay and see me off first?’ he added as Alice turned with an eager look in the direction to which he pointed. ‘I shan’t be long. You’ll wait and wave your handkerchief when I get to that turn in the road! I think it’ll encourage me, you see.’
‘Of course I’ll wait,’ said Alice: ‘and thank you very much for coming so far – and for the song – I liked it very much.’
‘I hope so,’ the Knight said doubtfully: ‘but you didn’t cry so much as I thought you would.’
So they shook hands, and then the Knight rode slowly away into the forest. ‘It won’t take long to see him off, I expect,’ Alice said to herself, as she stood watching him. ‘There he goes! Right on his head as usual! However, he gets on again pretty easily – that comes of having so many things hung round the horse –’ So she went on talking to herself, as she watched the horse walking leisurely along the road, and the Knight tumbling off, first on one side and then on the other. After the fourth or fifth tumble he reached the turn, and then she waved her handkerchief to him, and waited till he was out of sight.
‘I hope it encouraged him,’ she said, as he turned to run down the hill: ‘and now for the last brook, and to be a Queen! How grand it sounds!’ A very few steps brought her to the edge of the brook. ‘The Eighth Square at last!’ she cried as she bounded across,
and threw herself down to rest on a lawn as soft as moss, with little flowerbeds dotted about it here and there. ‘Oh, how glad I am to get here! And what is this on my head?’ she exclaimed in a tone of dismay, as she put her hands up to something very heavy, that fitted tight all round her head.
‘But how can it have got there without my knowing it?’ she said to herself, as she lifted it off, and set it on her lap to make out what it could possibly be.
It was a golden crown.
Chapter IX, Queen Alice. Part I
‘Well, this is grand!’ said Alice. ‘I never expected I should be a Queen so soon – and I’ll tell you what it is, your Majesty,’ she went on in a severe tone (she was always rather fond of scolding herself), ‘it’ll never do for you to be lolling about on the grass like that! Queens have to be dignified, you know!’
So she got up and walked about – rather stiffly just at first, as she was afraid that the crown might come off: but she comforted herself with the thought that there was nobody to see her, ‘and if I really am a Queen,’ she said as she sat down again, ‘I shall be able to manage it quite well in time.’
Everything was happening so oddly that she didn’t feel a bit surprised at finding the Red Queen and the White Queen sitting close to her, one on each side: she would have liked very much to ask them how they came there, but she feared it would not be quite civil. However, there would be no harm, she thought, in asking if the game was over. ‘Please, would you tell me –’ she began, looking timidly at the Red Queen.
‘Speak when you’re spoken to!’ The Queen sharply interrupted her.
‘But if everybody obeyed that rule,’ said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, ‘and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for you to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything, so that –’
‘Ridiculous!’ cried the Queen. ‘Why, don’t you see, child –’ here she broke off with a frown, and, after thinking for a minute, suddenly changed the subject of the conversation. ‘What do you mean by “If you really are a Queen”? What right have you to call yourself so? You can’t be a Queen, you know, till you’ve passed the proper examination. And the sooner we begin it, the better.’
‘I only said “if”!’ poor Alice pleaded in a piteous tone.
The two Queens looked at each other, and the Red Queen remarked, with a little shudder, ‘She says she only said “if” –’
‘But she said a great deal more than that!’ the White Queen moaned, wringing her hands. ‘Oh, ever so much more than that!’
‘So you did, you know,’ the Red Queen said to Alice. ‘Always speak the truth – think before you speak – and write it down afterwards.’
‘I’m sure I didn’t mean –’ Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen interrupted her impatiently.
‘That’s just what I complain of! You should have meant! What do you suppose is the use of child without any meaning? Even a joke should have some meaning – and a child’s more important than a joke, I hope. You couldn’t deny that, even if you tried with both hands.’
‘I don’t deny things with my hands,’ Alice objected.
‘Nobody said you did,’ said the Red Queen. ‘I said you couldn’t if you tried.’
‘She’s in that state of mind,’ said the White Queen, ‘that she wants to deny something – only she doesn’t know what to deny!’
‘A nasty, vicious temper,’ the Red Queen remarked; and then there was an uncomfortable silence for a minute or two.
The Red Queen broke the silence by saying to the White Queen, ‘I invite you to Alice’s dinnerparty this afternoon.’
The White Queen smiled feebly, and said ‘And I invite you.’
‘I didn’t know I was to have a party at all,’ said Alice; ‘but if there is to be one, I think I ought to invite the guests.’
‘We gave you the opportunity of doing it,’ the Red Queen remarked: ‘but I daresay you’ve not had many lessons in manners yet?’
‘Manners are not taught in lessons,’ said Alice. ‘Lessons teach you to do sums, and things of that sort.’
‘And you do Addition?’ the White Queen asked. ‘What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Alice. ‘I lost count.’
‘She can’t do Addition,’ the Red Queen interrupted. ‘Can you do Subtraction? Take nine from eight.’
‘Nine from eight I can’t, you know,’ Alice replied very readily: ‘but –’
‘She can’t do Subtraction,’ said the White Queen. ‘Can you do Division? Divide a loaf by a knife – what’s the answer to that?’
‘I suppose –’ Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen answered for her. ‘Breadandbutter, of course. Try another Subtraction sum. Take a bone from a dog: what remains?’
Alice considered. ‘The bone wouldn’t remain, of course, if I took it – and the dog wouldn’t remain; it would come to bite me – and I’m sure I shouldn’t remain!’
‘Then you think nothing would remain?’ said the Red Queen.
‘I think that’s the answer.’
‘Wrong, as usual,’ said the Red Queen: ‘the dog’s temper would remain.’
‘But I don’t see how –’
‘Why, look here!’ the Red Queen cried. ‘The dog would lose its temper, wouldn’t it?’
‘Perhaps it would,’ Alice replied cautiously.
‘Then if the dog went away, its temper would remain!’ the Queen exclaimed triumphantly.
Alice said, as gravely as she could, ‘They might go different ways.’ But she couldn’t help thinking to herself ‘What dreadful nonsense we are talking!’
‘She can’t do sums a bit!’ the Queens said together, with great emphasis.
‘Can you do sums?’ Alice said, turning suddenly on the White Queen, for she didn’t like being found fault with so much.
The Queen gasped and shut her eyes. ‘I can do Addition,’ she said, ‘if you give me time – but I can do Subtraction, under any circumstances!’
‘Of course you know your ABC?’ said the Red Queen.
‘To be sure I do.’ said Alice.
‘So do I,’ the White Queen whispered: ‘we’ll often say it over together, dear. And I’ll tell you a secret – I can read words of one letter! Isn’t that grand! However, don’t be discouraged. You’ll come to it in time.’
Here the Red Queen began again. ‘Can you answer useful questions?’ she said. ‘How is bread made?’
‘I know that!’ Alice cried eagerly. ‘You take some flour –’
‘Where do you pick the flower?’ the White Queen asked. ‘In a garden, or in the hedges?’
‘Well, it isn’t picked at all,’ Alice explained: ‘it’s ground –’
‘How many acres of ground?’ said the White Queen. ‘You mustn’t leave out so many things.’
‘Fan her head!’ the Red Queen anxiously interrupted. ‘She’ll be feverish after so much thinking.’ So they set to work and fanned her with bunches of leaves, till she had to beg them to leave off, it blew her hair about so.
‘She’s all right again now,’ said the Red Queen. ‘Do you know Languages? What’s the French for fiddle-de-dee?’
‘Fiddle-de-dee’s not English,’ Alice replied gravely.
‘Who ever said it was?’ said the Red Queen.
Alice thought she saw a way out of the difficulty this time. ‘If you’ll tell me what language “fiddle-de-dee” is, I’ll tell you the French for it!’ she exclaimed triumphantly.
But the Red Queen drew herself up rather stiffly, and said ‘Queens never make bargains.’
‘I wish Queens never asked questions,’ Alice thought to herself.
‘Don’t let us quarrel,’ the White Queen said in an anxious tone. ‘What is the cause of lightning?’
‘The cause of lightning,’ Alice said very decidedly, for she felt quite certain about this, ‘is the thunder – no, no!’ she hastily corrected herself. ‘I meant the other way.’
‘It’s too late to correct it,’ said the Red Queen: ‘when you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.’
‘Which reminds me –’ the White Queen said, looking down and nervously clasping and unclasping her hands, ‘we had such a thunderstorm last Tuesday – I mean one of the last set of Tuesdays, you know.’
Alice was puzzled. ‘In our country,’ she remarked, ‘there’s only one day at a time.’
The Red Queen said, ‘That’s a poor thin way of doing things. Now here, we mostly have days and nights two or three at a time, and sometimes in the winter we take as many as five nights together – for warmth, you know.’