'It began with blotting paper,' the Knight answered with a groan.
'That wouldn't be very nice, I'm afraid--'
'Not very nice ALONE,' he interrupted, quite eagerly: 'but you've no idea what a difference it makes mixing it with other things--such as gunpowder and sealing-wax. And here I must leave you.' They had just come to the end of the wood.
Alice could only look puzzled: she was thinking of the pudding.
'You are sad,' the Knight said in an anxious tone: 'let me sing you a song to comfort you.'
'Is it very long?' Alice asked, for she had heard a good deal of poetry that day.
'It's long,' said the Knight, 'but very, VERY beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it--either it brings the TEARS into their eyes, or else--'
'Or else what?' said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.
'Or else it doesn't, you know. The name of the song is called "HADDOCKS' EYES."'
'Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?' Alice said, trying to feel interested.
'No, you don't understand,' the Knight said, looking a little vexed. 'That's what the name is CALLED. The name really IS "THE AGED AGED MAN."'
'Then I ought to have said "That's what the SONG is called"?' Alice corrected herself.
'No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The SONG is called "WAYS AND MEANS": but that's only what it's CALLED, you know!'
'Well, what IS the song, then?' said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.
'I was coming to that,' the Knight said. 'The song really IS "A-SITTING ON A GATE": and the tune's my own invention.'
So saying, he stopped his horse and let the reins fall on its neck: then, slowly beating time with one hand, and with a faint smile lighting up his gentle foolish face, as if he enjoyed the music of his song, he began.
Of all the strange things that Alice saw in her journey Through The Looking-Glass, this was the one that she always remembered most clearly. Years afterwards she could bring the whole scene back again, as if it had been only yesterday--the mild blue eyes and kindly smile of the Knight--the setting sun gleaming through his hair, and shining on his armour in a blaze of light that quite dazzled her--the horse quietly moving about, with the reins hanging loose on his neck, cropping the grass at her feet--and the black shadows of the forest behind--all this she took in like a picture, as, with one hand shading her eyes, she leant against a tree, watching the strange pair, and listening, in a half dream, to the melancholy music of the song.
'But the tune ISN'T his own invention,' she said to herself: 'it's "I GIVE THEE ALL, I CAN NO MORE."' She stood and listened very attentively, but no tears came into her eyes.
'I'll tell thee everything I can; There's little to relate. I saw an aged aged man, A-sitting on a gate. "Who are you, aged man?" I said, "and how is it you live?" And his answer trickled through my head Like water through a sieve.
He said "I look for butterflies That sleep among the wheat: I make them into mutton-pies, And sell them in the street. I sell them unto men," he said, "Who sail on stormy seas; And that's the way I get my bread-- A trifle, if you please."
But I was thinking of a plan To dye one's whiskers green, And always use so large a fan That they could not be seen. So, having no reply to give To what the old man said, I cried, "Come, tell me how you live!" And thumped him on the head.
His accents mild took up the tale: He said "I go my ways, And when I find a mountain-rill, I set it in a blaze; And thence they make a stuff they call Rolands' Macassar Oil-- Yet twopence-halfpenny is all They give me for my toil."
But I was thinking of a way To feed oneself on batter, And so go on from day to day Getting a little fatter. I shook him well from side to side, Until his face was blue: "Come, tell me how you live," I cried, "And what it is you do!"
He said "I hunt for haddocks' eyes Among the heather bright, And work them into waistcoat-buttons In the silent night. And these I do not sell for gold Or coin of silvery shine But for a copper halfpenny, And that will purchase nine.