My Own Invention (cont. again)
(for audio, see previous page)
(for audio, see previous page)
'None to speak of,' the Knight said, as if he didn't mind breaking two or three of them. 'The great art of riding, as I was saying, is — to keep your balance properly. Like this, you know — '
He let go the bridle and stretched out both his arms to show Alice what he meant, and this time he fell flat on his back, right under the horse's feet.
'Plenty of practice!' he went on repeating, all the time that Alice was getting him on his feet again. 'Plenty of practice!'
'It's too ridiculous!' cried Alice, losing all her patience this time. 'You ought to have a wooden horse on wheels, that you ought!'
'Does that kind go smoothly?' the Knight asked in a tone of great interest, clasping his arms round the horse's neck as he spoke, just in time to save himself from tumbling off again.
'Much more smoothly than a live horse,' Alice said, with a little scream of laughter, in spite of all she could do to prevent it.
'I'll get one,' the Knight said thoughtfully to himself. 'One or two — several.'
There was a short silence after this, and then the Knight went on again. 'I'm a great hand at inventing things. Now, I daresay you noticed, that last time you picked me up, that I was looking rather thoughtful?'
'You WERE a little grave,' said Alice.
'Well, just then I was inventing a new way of getting over a gate — would you like to hear it?'
'Very much indeed,' Alice said politely.
'I'll tell you how I came to think of it,' said the Knight. 'You see, I said to myself, "The only difficulty is with the feet: the HEAD is high enough already." Now, first I put my head on the top of the gate — then I stand on my head — then the feet are high enough, you see — then I'm over, you see.'
'Yes, I suppose you'd be over when that was done,' Alice said thoughtfully, 'but don't you think it would be rather hard?'
'I haven't tried it yet,' the Knight said, gravely, 'so I can't tell for certain — but I'm afraid it WOULD be a little hard.'
He looked so vexed at the idea that Alice changed the subject hastily. 'What a curious helmet you've got!' she said cheerfully. 'Is that your invention too?'
The Knight looked down proudly at his helmet, which hung from the saddle. 'Yes,' he said, 'but I've invented a better one than that — like a sugar loaf. When I used to wear it, if I fell off the horse, it always touched the ground directly. So I had a VERY little way to fall, you see. But there WAS the danger of falling INTO it, to be sure. That happened to me once — and the worst of it was, before I could get out again, the other White Knight came and put it on. He thought it was his own helmet.'
The knight looked so solemn about it that Alice did not dare to laugh. 'I'm afraid you must have hurt him,' she said in a trembling voice, 'being on the top of his head.'
'I had to kick him, of course,' the Knight said, very seriously. 'And then he took the helmet off again — but it took hours and hours to get me out. I was as fast as — as lightning, you know.'
'But that's a different kind of fastness,' Alice objected.
The Knight shook his head. 'It was all kinds of fastness with me, I can assure you!' he said. He raised his hands in some excitement as he said this, and instantly rolled out of the saddle, and fell headlong into a deep ditch.
'All kinds of fastness,' he repeated, 'but it was careless of him to put another man's helmet on — with the man in it, too.'
'How CAN you go on talking so quietly, head downwards?' Alice asked as she dragged him out by the feet and laid him in a heap on the bank.
Next: My Own Invention (end)