Humpty Dumpty, cont.
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 1000 words.
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 enough name!' 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 good-natured 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 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 -- WITH HIS VERY OWN MOUTH -- to -- to -- '
'To send all his horses and all his men,' Alice interrupted, rather unwisely.
'Now I declare that's too bad!' Humpty Dumpty cried, breaking into a sudden passion. 'You've been listening at doors -- and behind trees -- and down chimneys -- or you couldn't have known it!'
'I haven't, indeed!' Alice said very gently. 'It's in a book.'
'Ah, well! They may write such things in a BOOK,' Humpty Dumpty said in a calmer tone. 'That's what you call a History of England, that is. Now, take a good look at me! I'm one that has spoken to a King, I am: mayhap you'll never see such another: and to show you I'm not proud, you may shake hands with me!'
And he grinned almost from ear to ear, as he leant forwards (and as nearly as possible fell of the wall in doing so) and offered Alice his hand. She watched him a little anxiously as she took it. 'If he smiled much more, the ends of his mouth might meet behind,' she thought: 'and then I don't know what would happen to his head! I'm afraid it would come off!'
'Yes, all his horses and all his men,' Humpty Dumpty went on. 'They'd pick me up again in a minute, THEY would! However, this conversation is going on a little too fast: let's go back to the last remark but one.'
'I'm afraid I can't quite remember it,' Alice said very politely.
'In that case we start fresh,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'and it's my turn to choose a subject -- ' ('He talks about it just as if it was a game!' thought Alice.) 'So here's a question for you. How old did you say you were?'
Alice made a short calculation, and said 'Seven years and six months.'
'Wrong!' Humpty Dumpty exclaimed triumphantly. 'You never said a word like it!'
'I though you meant "How old ARE you?"' Alice explained.
'If I'd meant that, I'd have said it,' said Humpty Dumpty.
Alice didn't want to begin another argument, so she said nothing.
'Seven years and six months!' Humpty Dumpty repeated thoughtfully. 'An uncomfortable sort of age. Now if you'd asked MY advice, I'd have said "Leave off at seven" -- but it's too late now.'
'I never ask advice about growing,' Alice said indignantly.
'Too proud?' the other inquired.
Alice felt even more indignant at this suggestion. 'I mean,' she said, 'that one can't help growing older.'
'ONE can't, perhaps,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'but TWO can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven.'
'What a beautiful belt you've got on!' Alice suddenly remarked.
(They had had quite enough of the subject of age, she thought: and if they really were to take turns in choosing subjects, it was her turn now.) 'At least,' she corrected herself on second thoughts, 'a beautiful cravat, I should have said -- no, a belt, I mean -- I beg your pardon!' she added in dismay, for Humpty Dumpty looked thoroughly offended, and she began to wish she hadn't chosen that subject. 'If I only knew,' the thought to herself, 'which was neck and which was waist!'
Evidently Humpty Dumpty was very angry, though he said nothing for a minute or two. When he DID speak again, it was in a deep growl.
'It is a -- MOST -- PROVOKING -- thing,' he said at last, 'when a person doesn't know a cravat from a belt!'
'I know it's very ignorant of me,' Alice said, in so humble a tone that Humpty Dumpty relented.
'It's a cravat, child, and a beautiful one, as you say. It's a present from the White King and Queen. There now!'
'Is it really?' said Alice, quite pleased to find that she HAD chosen a good subject, after all.
'They gave it me,' Humpty Dumpty continued thoughtfully, as he crossed one knee over the other and clasped his hands round it, 'they gave it me -- for an un-birthday present.'
'I beg your pardon?' Alice said with a puzzled air.
'I'm not offended,' said Humpty Dumpty.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Through The Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). 1871. Website: Project Gutenberg.
MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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