Alice folded her hands, and began:
`You are old, Father William,' the young man said,
`And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
Do you think, at your age, it is right?'
`In my youth,' Father William replied to his son,
`I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.'
`You are old,' said the youth, `as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door--
Pray, what is the reason of that?'
`In my youth,' said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
`I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment--one shilling the box--
Allow me to sell you a couple?'
`You are old,' said the youth, `and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
Pray how did you manage to do it?'
`In my youth,' said his father, `I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.'
`You are old,' said the youth, `one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose--
What made you so awfully clever?'
`I have answered three questions, and that is enough,'
Said his father; `don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!'
`Yes,' said Alice, `I've often seen them at dinn--' she checked herself hastily.
`I don't know where Dinn may be,' said the Mock Turtle, `but if you've seen them so often, of course you know what they're like.'
`I believe so,' Alice replied thoughtfully. `They have their tails in their mouths--and they're all over crumbs.'
`You're wrong about the crumbs,' said the Mock Turtle: `crumbs would all wash off in the sea. But they HAVE their tails in their mouths; and the reason is--' here the Mock Turtle yawned and shut his eyes.--`Tell her about the reason and all that,' he said to the Gryphon.
`The reason is,' said the Gryphon, `that they WOULD go with the lobsters to the dance. So they got thrown out to sea. So they had to fall a long way. So they got their tails fast in their mouths. So they couldn't get them out again. That's all.'
`Thank you,' said Alice, `it's very interesting. I never knew so much about a whiting before.'
`I can tell you more than that, if you like,' said the Gryphon. `Do you know why it's called a whiting?'
`I never thought about it,' said Alice. `Why?'
`IT DOES THE BOOTS AND SHOES.' the Gryphon replied very solemnly.
Alice was thoroughly puzzled. `Does the boots and shoes!' she repeated in a wondering tone.
`Why, what are YOUR shoes done with?' said the Gryphon. `I mean, what makes them so shiny?'
Alice looked down at them, and considered a little before she gave her answer. `They're done with blacking, I believe.'
`Boots and shoes under the sea,' the Gryphon went on in a deep voice, `are done with a whiting. Now you know.'
`And what are they made of?' Alice asked in a tone of great curiosity.
`Soles and eels, of course,' the Gryphon replied rather impatiently: `any shrimp could have told you that.'
`If I'd been the whiting,' said Alice, whose thoughts were still running on the song, `I'd have said to the porpoise, "Keep back, please: we don't want YOU with us!"'
`They were obliged to have him with them,' the Mock Turtle said: `no wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.'
`Wouldn't it really?' said Alice in a tone of great surprise.
`Of course not,' said the Mock Turtle: `why, if a fish came to ME, and told me he was going a journey, I should say "With what porpoise?"'
`I see nobody on the road,' said Alice.
`I only wish I had such eyes,' the King remarked in a fretful tone. `To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too! Why, it's as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!'
All this was lost on Alice, who was still looking intently along the road, shading her eyes with one hand. `I see somebody now!' she exclaimed at last. `But he's coming very slowly -- and what curious attitudes he goes into!' (For the messenger kept skipping up and down, and wriggling like an eel, as he came along, with his great hands spread out like fans on each side.)
`Not at all,' said the King. `He's an Anglo-Saxon Messenger -- and those are Anglo-Saxon attitudes. He only does them when he's happy. His name is Haigha.' (He pronounced it so as to rhyme with `mayor.'