[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Looking-Glass unit. Story source: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll (1871).
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 a 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 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 off the wall in doing so) and offered Alice his hand.
Next: Humpty Dumpty (cont.)