Alice in Wonderland in Words of One Syllable/Chapter 9

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CHAPTER IX.

THE MOCK TUR-TLE.

"You can't think how glad I am to see you once more, you dear old thing!" said the Duch-ess as she took Al-ice's arm, and they walked off side by side.

Al-ice was glad to see her in such a fine mood, and thought to her-self that the Duch-ess might not be so bad as she had seemed to be when they first met.

Then Al-ice fell in-to a long train of thought as to what she would do if she were a Duch-ess.

She quite lost sight of the Duch-ess by her side, and was star-tled when she heard her voice close to her ear.

"You have some-thing on your mind, my dear, and that makes you for-get to talk. I can't tell you just now what the mor-al of that is, but I shall think of it in a bit."

"Are you sure it has one?" asked Al-ice.

"Tut, tut, child!" said the Duch-ess; "all things have a mor-al if you can but find it." And she squeezed up close to Al-ice's side as she spoke.

Al-ice did not much like to have the Duch-ess keep so close, but she didn't like to be rude, so she bore it as well as she could.

"The game is not so bad now," Al-ice said, think-ing she ought to fill in the time with talk of some kind.

"'Tis so," said the Duch-ess, "and the mor-al of that is—'Oh, 'tis love, 'tis love, that makes the world go round!'"

"Some one said, it's done by each one mind-ing his own work," said Al-ice.

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"Ah! well, it means much the same thing," said the Duch-ess, then add-ed, "and the mor-al of that is—'Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves.'"

"How she likes to find mor-als in things," said Al-ice.

"Why don't you talk more and not think so long?" asked the Duch-ess.

"I've a right to think," said Al-ice in a sharp tone, for she was tired and vexed.

"Just as much right," said the Duch-ess, "as pigs have to fly; and the mor—"

But here the voice of the Duch-ess died out in the midst of her pet word, "mor-al," and Al-ice felt the arm that was linked in hers shake as if with fright. Al-ice looked up and there stood the Queen in front of them with her arms fold-ed, and a dark frown up-on her face.

"A fine day, your ma-jes-ty!" the Duch-ess be-gan in a weak voice.

"Now, I warn you in time," shout-ed the Queen, with a stamp on the ground as she spoke; "ei-ther you or your head must be off, and that in a-bout half no time! Take your choice!"

The Duch-ess took her choice and was gone in a mo-ment.

"Let's go on with the game," the Queen said to Al-ice; and Al-ice was in too great a fright to speak, but went with her, back to the cro-quet ground.

The guests had all sat down in the shade to rest while the Queen was a-way, but as soon as they saw her they rushed back to the game; while the Queen said if they were not in their pla-ces at once, it would cost them their lives.

All the time the game went on the Queen kept shout-ing, "Off with his head!" or "Off with her head!" so that by the end of half an hour there was no one left on the grounds but the King, the Queen, and Al-ice.

Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Al-ice, "Have you seen the Mock Tur-tle yet?"

"No," said Al-ice, "I don't know what a Mock-tur-tle is."

"It is a thing Mock Tur-tle Soup is made from," the Queen said.

"I've nev-er seen or heard of one," Alice said.

"Come on then, and he shall tell you his sto-ry," said the Queen.

As they walked off, Al-ice heard the King say in a low tone to those whom the Queen had doomed to death, "You may all go free!" "Come, that's a good thing," thought Al-ice, for she felt ver-y sad that all those men must have their heads cut off.

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They soon came to where a Gry-phon lay fast a-sleep in the sun. (If you don't know what it is like, look at the pic-ture.) "Up, dull thing!" said the Queen, "and take this young la-dy to see the Mock Tur-tle. I must go back now;" and she walked a-way and left Al-ice with the Gry-phon. Al-ice was by no means pleased with its looks, but she thought she would be quite as safe with it as she would be with the Queen; so she wait-ed.

The Gry-phon sat up and rubbed its eyes; then watched the Queen till she was out of sight; then it laughed. "What fun!" it said, half to it-self, half to Alice.

"What is the fun?" she asked.

"Why, she," it said. "It's all a whim of hers; they nev-er cut off those heads, you know. Come on."

Soon they saw the Mock Tur-tle sitting sad and lone on a ledge of rock, and as they came near, Al-ice could hear him sigh as if his heart would break. "What makes him so sad?" Al-ice asked.

"It's all a whim of his," said the Gry-phon; "he hasn't got no grief, you know. Come on!"

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So they went up to the Mock Tur-tle, who looked at them with large eyes full of tears, but did not speak.

"This here young la-dy," said the Gry-phon, "she wants for to know a-bout your past life, she do."

"I'll tell it to her," said the Mock Tur-tle in a deep, sad tone: "sit down both of you and don't speak a word till I get through."

So they sat down, and no one spoke for some time.

"Once," said the Mock Tur-tle at last, with a deep sigh, "I was a re-al Tur-tle. When we were young we went to school in the sea. We were taught by an old Tur-tle—we used to call him Tor-toise——"

"Why did you call him Tor-toise, if he wasn't one?" Al-ice asked.

"He taught us, that's why," said the Mock Tur-tle: "you are quite dull not to know that!"

"Shame on you to ask such a sim-ple thing," add-ed the Gry-phon; then they both sat and looked at poor Al-ice, who felt as if she could sink into the earth.

At last the Gry-phon said to the Mock Tur-tle, "Drive on, old fellow! Don't be all day a-bout it!" and he went on in these words:

"Yes, we went to school in the sea, though you mayn't think it's true——"

"I didn't say I did not!" said Al-ice.

"You did," said the Mock Tur-tle.

"Hold your tongue," add-ed the Gry-phon.

The Mock Tur-tle went on:

"We were well taught—in fact we went to school each day——"

"I've been to a day school too," said Alice; "you needn't be so proud as all that."

"Were you taught wash-ing?" asked the Mock Tur-tle.

"Of course not," said Al-ice.

"Ah! then yours wasn't a good school," said the Mock Tur-tle. "Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, 'French, mu-sic, and wash-ing—ex-tra.'"

"You couldn't have need-ed it much in the sea," said Al-ice.

"I didn't learn it," said the Mock Tur-tle, with a sigh. "I just took the first course."

"What was that?" asked Al-ice.

"Reel-ing and Writh-ing, of course, at first," the Mock Tur-tle said. "An old eel used to come once a week. He taught us to drawl, to stretch and to faint in coils."

"What was that like?" Al-ice asked.

"Well, I can't show you, my-self," he said: "I'm too stiff. And the Gry-phon didn't learn it."

"How man-y hours a day did you do les-sons?" asked Al-ice.

"Ten hours the first day," said the Mock Tur-tle; "nine the next and so on."

"What a strange plan!" said Al-ice.

"That's why they're called les-sons," said the Gry-phon: "they les-sen from day to day."

This was such a new thing to Al-ice that she sat still a good while and didn't speak. "Then there would be a day when you would have no school," she said.

"Of course there would," said the Mock Tur-tle.

"What did you do then?" asked Al-ice.

"I'm tired of this," said the Gry-phon: "tell her now of the games we played."