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Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 09
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Chapter 9
THE MOCK TURTLE'S STORY

"You can't think how glad I am to see you again, you dear
old thing!" said the Duchess, as she tucked her arm affectionately
into Alice's, and they walked off together.

Alice was very glad to find her in such a pleasant temper,
and thought to herself that perhaps it was only the pepper that
had made her so savage when they met in the kitchen.

"When I'M a Duchess," she said to herself, (not in a very
hopeful tone though), "I won't have any pepper in my kitchen
AT ALL. Soup does very well without--Maybe it's always pepper
that makes people hot-tempered," she went on, very much
pleased at having found out a new kind of rule, "and vinegar
that makes them sour--and camomile that makes them bitter--
and--and barley-sugar and such things that make children
sweet-tempered. I only wish people knew that: then they
wouldn't be so stingy about it, you know--"

She had quite forgotten the Duchess by this time, and was
a little startled when she heard her voice close to her ear.
"You're thinking about something, my dear, and that makes you
forget to talk. I can't tell you just now what the moral of that is,
but I shall remember it in a bit."

"Perhaps it hasn't one," Alice ventured to remark.

"Tut, tut, child!" said the Duchess. "Everything's got a
moral, if only you can find it." And she squeezed herself up
closer to Alice's side as she spoke.

Alice did not much like her keeping so close to her: first, because
the Duchess was VERY ugly; and secondly, because she was
exactly the right height to rest her chin on Alice's shoulder,
and it was an uncomfortably sharp chin. However, she did not like
to be rude, so she bore it as well as she could.

"The game's going on rather better now," she said, by way of
keeping up the conversation a little.

"'Tis so," said the Duchess: "and the moral of that is--'Oh, 'tis
love, 'tis love, that makes the world go round!"'

"Somebody said," Alice whispered, "that it's done by
everybody minding their own business!"

"Ah, well! It means much the same thing," said the Duchess,
digging her sharp little chin into Alice's shoulder as she added,
"and the moral of THAT is-- 'Take care of the sense, and the
sounds will take care of themselves."'

"How fond she is of finding morals in things!" Alice thought
to herself.

"I dare say you're wondering why I don't put my arm around
your waist," the Duchess said after a pause: "the reason is,
that I'm doubtful about the temper of your flamingo. Shall I try
the experiment?"

"HE might bite," Alice cautiously replied, not feeling at all
anxious to have the experiment tried.

"Very true," said the Duchess: "flamingoes and mustard
both bite. And the moral of that is--'Birds of a feather flock
together."'

"Only mustard isn't a bird," Alice remarked.

"Right, as usual," said the Duchess: "what a clear way
you have of putting things!"

"It's a mineral, I THINK," said Alice.

"Of course it is," said the Duchess, who seemed ready
to agree to everything that Alice said; "there's a large
mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is-- 'The more
there is of mine, the less there is of yours."'

"Oh, I know!" exclaimed Alice, who had not attended to this
last remark, "it's a vegetable. It doesn't look like one, but it is."

"I quite agree with you," said the Duchess; "and the moral
of that is-- 'Be what you would seem to be'-- or if you'd like it put
more simply-- 'Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than
what it might appear to others that what you were or might have
been was not otherwise than what you had been would have
appeared to them to be otherwise."'

"I think I should understand that better," Alice said very
politely, "if I had it written down: but I can't quite follow it as
you say it."

"That's nothing to what I could say if I chose," the Duchess
replied, in a pleased tone.

"Pray don't trouble yourself to say it any longer than that,"
said Alice.

"Oh, don't talk about trouble!" said the Duchess. "I make
you a present of everything I've said as yet."

"A cheap sort of present!" thought Alice. "I'm glad they
don't give birthday presents like that!" But she did not venture
to say it out loud.

"Thinking again?" the Duchess asked, with another dig of
her sharp little chin.

"I've a right to think," said Alice sharply, for she was
beginning to feel a little worried.

"Just about as much right," said the Duchess, "as pigs have
to fly; and the m--"

But here, to Alice's great surprise, the Duchess's voice died
away, even in the middle of her favourite word `moral,' and the
arm that was linked into hers began to tremble. Alice looked up,
and there stood the Queen in front of them, with her arms
folded, frowning like a thunderstorm.

"A fine day, your Majesty!" the Duchess began in a low,
weak voice.

"Now, I give you fair warning," shouted the Queen,
stamping on the ground as she spoke; "either you or your head
must be off, and that in about half no time! Take your choice!"

The Duchess took her choice, and was gone in a moment.

"Let's go on with the game," the Queen said to Alice; and
Alice was too much frightened to say a word, but slowly
followed her back to the croquet-ground.

The other guests had taken advantage of the Queen's
absence, and were resting in the shade: however, the moment
they saw her, they hurried back to the game, the Queen merely
remarking that a moment's delay would cost them their lives.

All the time they were playing the Queen never left off
quarrelling with the other players, and shouting "Off with his head!"
or "Off with her head!" Those whom she sentenced were taken
into custody by the soldiers, who of course had to leave off being
arches to do this, so that by the end of half an hour or so there
were no arches left, and all the players, except the King, the Queen,
and Alice, were in custody and under sentence of execution.

Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice,
"Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?"

"No," said Alice. "I don't even know what a Mock Turtle is."

"It's the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from," said the Queen.

"I never saw one, or heard of one," said Alice.

"Come on, then," said the Queen, "and he shall tell you his
history."

As they walked off together, Alice heard the King say in a low
voice, to the company generally, "You are all pardoned." "Come,
THAT'S a good thing!" she said to herself, for she had felt quite
unhappy at the number of executions the Queen had ordered.

They very soon came upon a Gryphon, lying fast asleep in the
sun. (IF you don't know what a Gryphon is, look at the picture.)
"Up, lazy thing!" said the Queen, "and take this young lady to see
the Mock Turtle, and to hear his history. I must go back and see
after some executions I have ordered"; and she walked off,
leaving Alice alone with the Gryphon. Alice did not quite like the
look of the creature, but on the whole she thought it would be
quite as safe to stay with it as to go after that savage Queen: so
she waited.

The Gryphon sat up and rubbed its eyes: then it watched the
Queen till she was out of sight: then it chuckled. "What fun!" said
the Gryphon, half to itself, half to Alice.

"What IS the fun?" said Alice.

"Why, SHE," said the Gryphon. "It's all her fancy, that: they
never execute nobody, you know. Come on!"

"Everybody says 'come on!' here," thought Alice, as she went
slowly after it: "I never was so ordered about before in all my life, never!"

They had not gone far before they saw the Mock Turtle in the
distance, sitting sad and lonely on a little ledge of rock, and, as
they came nearer, Alice could hear him sighing as if his heart would
break. She pitied him deeply. "What is his sorrow?" she asked the
Gryphon, and the Gryphon answered, very nearly in the same words
as before, "It's all his fancy, that: he hasn't got no sorrow, you know.
Come on!"

So they went up to the Mock Turtle, who looked at them with
large eyes full of tears, but said nothing.

"This here young lady," said the Gryphon, "she wants for to know
your history, she do."

"I'll tell it her," said the Mock Turtle in a deep, hollow tone: "sit
down, both of you, and don't speak a word till I've finished."

So they sat down, and nobody spoke for some minutes. Alice
thought to herself, "I don't see how he can EVER finish, if he doesn't
begin." But she waited patiently.

"Once," said the Mock Turtle at last, with a deep sigh, "I was
a real Turtle."

These words were followed by a very long silence, broken only
by an occasional exclamation of "Hjckrrh!" from the Gryphon, and
the constant heavy sobbing of the Mock Turtle. Alice was very nearly
getting up and saying, "Thank you, sir, for your interesting story,"
but she could not help thinking there MUST be more to come, so
she sat still and said nothing.

"When we were little," the Mock Turtle went on at last, more
calmly, though still sobbing a little now and then, "we went to
school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle--we used to call
him Tortoise--"

"Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn't one?" Alice asked.

"We called him Tortoise because he taught us," said the Mock
Turtle angrily: "really you are very dull!"

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for asking such a simple
question," added the Gryphon; and then they both sat silent and
looked at poor Alice, who felt ready to sink into the earth. At last
the Gryphon said to the Mock Turtle, "Drive on, old fellow! Don't
be all day about it!" and he went on in these words:

"Yes, we went to school in the sea, though you mayn't
believe it--"

"I never said I didn't!" interrupted Alice.

"You did," said the Mock Turtle.

"Hold your tongue!" added the Gryphon, before Alice could
speak again. The Mock Turtle went on.

"We had the best of educations--in fact, we went to school
every day--"

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

"With extras?" asked the Mock Turtle a little anxiously.

"Yes," said Alice, "we learned French and music."

"And washing?" said the Mock Turtle.

"Certainly not!" said Alice indignantly.

"Ah! then yours wasn't a really good school," said the Mock
Turtle in a tone of great relief. "Now at OURS they had at the end
of the bill, 'French, music, AND WASHING--extra."'

"You couldn't have wanted it much," said Alice; "living at the
bottom of the sea."

"I couldn't afford to learn it," said the Mock Turtle with a sigh.
"I only took the regular course."

"What was that?" inquired Alice.

"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the Mock
Turtle replied; "and then the different branches of Arithmetic--
Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."

"I never heard of 'Uglification,'" Alice ventured to say. "What
is it?"

The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. "Never
heard of uglifying!" it exclaimed. "You know what to beautify is,
I suppose?"

"Yes," said Alice doubtfully: "it means--to--make--anything--
prettier."

"Well, then," the Gryphon went on, "if you don't know what
to uglify is, you ARE a simpleton."

Alice did not feel encouraged to ask any more questions about
it, so she turned to the Mock Turtle, and said "What else had you
to learn?"

"Well, there was Mystery," the Mock Turtle replied, counting
off the subjects on his flappers, "--Mystery, ancient and modern,
with Seaography: then Drawling--the Drawling-master was an old
conger-eel, that used to come once a week: HE taught us Drawling,
Stretching, and Fainting in Coils."

"What was THAT like?" said Alice.

"Well, I can't show it you myself," the Mock Turtle said: "I'm too
stiff. And the Gryphon never learnt it."

"Hadn't time," said the Gryphon: "I went to the Classical master,
though. He was an old crab, HE was."

"I never went to him," the Mock Turtle said with a sigh: "he
taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say."

"So he did, so he did," said the Gryphon, sighing in its turn;
and both creatures hid their faces in their paws.

"And how many hours a day did you do lessons?" said Alice,
in a hurry to change the subject.

"Ten hours the first day," said the Mock Turtle: "nine the
next, and so on."

"What a curious plan!" exclaimed Alice.

"That's the reason they're called lessons," the Gryphon
remarked: "because they lessen from day to day."

This was quite a new idea to Alice, and she thought it over
a little before she made her next remark. "Then the eleventh day
must have been a holiday?"

"Of course it was," said the Mock Turtle.

"And how did you manage on the twelfth?" Alice went on
eagerly.

"That's enough about lessons," the Gryphon interrupted in a
very decided tone: "tell her something about the games now."

(from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" - 1865)

Duchess: Charlotte Baskin-Gerwitz
Narrator: Adam Frank
Alice: Ellie Wen
Queen: Allison Karic
King: Adam Frank
Gryphon: Alexandra Keyes
Mock Turtle: Phil Burns

Click above to listen to this quote!
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Read by: Charlotte Baskin-Gerwitz, Phil Burns, Adam Frank, Allison Karic, Alexandra Keyes
 

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