Alice's Adventures in Cambridge/II

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Alice's Adventures in Cambridge by Richard Conover Evarts
II: Humpty Dumpty of Manter Hall
Illustrated by E. L. Barron

CHAPTER II

Humpty Dumpty of Manter Hall

AFTER carefully stepping over all the mud-puddles, Alice at last reached the sidewalk, and to her astonishment saw a large cat bowing and smiling before her.

"Good morning, sir," said the cat, "anything for Max to-day?"

"I didn't know cats could talk!" cried Alice in surprise.

"I'm a Keezer Cat. All Keezer cats can talk," replied the cat, grinning more than ever; "anything for Max to-day?"

"Who is Max, and what does he want?" Alice asked.

"This is Max," said the cat, and disappeared with a bow.

Alice walked on another block, and was about to turn down a side street, when she was startled by a voice saying, "Anything for Max to-day?" and, turning round, saw the Keezer Cat at her elbow.

"Goodness!" cried Alice, "I wish you
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wouldn't frighten one so. You almost made me jump out of my skin."

"I wish you would jump out of your skin," the Keezer Cat replied, "then I'd buy it from you. After you had jumped out you wouldn't need it any more, you know."

"But I don't want to sell my skin," said Alice. "It's too useful."

"I'll give you fifty cents for it," the cat said, "and be robbing myself at that."

Alice paid no attention to this remark. She thought it sounded bloodthirsty, and, feeling a little afraid of being skinned alive, she hurried on. When she came to the next corner, there was the cat again, grinning as much as ever.

"Come, I'II match you whether I pay you a dollar or nothing," said the cat, edging up very close.

"How do you happen to be on every corner?" Alice asked, hoping to change the subject.

"I live on street comers," replied the cat, "and I'll give you seventy-five cents for your skin, on the spot. It would ruin me to go any higher."

The insistence of the animal frightened Alice so much that she began to run. After she had run what seemed at least three miles, and jumped over about a thousand puddles, and overtaken and passed eighteen
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street-cars, she came to a stop in front of one of the strangest looking objects she had ever seen. It looked very much like an egg, and yet it certainly was a person, for it had eyes, nose, and mouth, and even a mous­tache. It was seated on a high board fence on which was a sign with "NO PASSING THROUGH" on it in large letters.

"You can't pass," cried the creature as Alice approached; "that is, unless I allow you to. Nobody can pass without my help."

"Whom have I the honor of addressing?" asked Alice.

"Humpty Dumpty of Manter Hall," said the creature, extending his hand. "How do you do?"

Alice could not help repeating to herself the old nursery rhyme:

"Humpty Dumpty of Manter Hall,
If it weren't for you we'd go to the wall,
All the Dean's office and all the Dean's men
Would be forced to double their business then."

"Are you coming to my Seminar?" asked Humpty Dumpty after a pause. "A Semi­nar is a place where you can learn in three hours what it takes a Professor three months to teach."

"How very convenient," Alice said. "Could you explain something now for me?"

"I already know what you are going to ask," said Humpty Dumpty. "From long practice in foretelling examination questions I have become a regular clairvoyant. You were about to ask me why I am a Widow. Because men may come, and men may go, but I go on forever, of course. That's too easy. Ask another."

"But that isn't my question at all," said Alice. "I just wanted you to explain some poetry I read this morning. This is how it went:

" 'T was taussig, and the bushnell hart
 Did byron hurlbut in the rand,
All barrett was the wendell (Bart.)
 And the charles t. cope-land."
"Nothing is easier," Humpty Dumpty replied. "Taussig means gusty, showery weather. A bushnell hart is an animal—a cross between a Bull Moose and a walrus. It has a bushy hair, and lives on its reputa­tion. To byron hurlbut is to pounce on people and worry them unreasonably. A rand is a classical place, unknown to many,
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and situated somewhere in the Sabbatical. Barrett is an adjective used to denote any member of the Royal Family of England. A wendell is a comparatively literary rarity indigenous to the English court. Bart. is English for Baronet. A charles t. is a kind of cherub which lives on cheap cigarettes and strange customs. It can be brought to bay in its lair any time during the morning. Copeland is the past participle of a verb meaning to fly about in eccentric circles. Is there anything else I can tell you?"

"No, thank you," said Alice, "you are very kind, I am sure."

"Now you owe me thirty dollars," Humpty Dumpty said. "You had better make out a check."

"Dear me," said Alice to herself, "I never saw such mercenary creatures in my life."

Then a bright idea came into her head.

"Would you mind making out an itemized bill?" she asked.

"Certainly not," Humpty Dumpty re­plied, and taking out a large fountain-pen, began to write. While he busied himself thus, Alice slipped away, and was soon lost to sight among the red oak saplings.