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"What sort of insects do you rejoice in?"

Anne Dalke's picture

[more from Through the Looking Glass:]

   "What sort of insects do you rejoice in, where you come from?" the Gnat inquired.

   "I don't rejoice in insects at all," Alice explained, "because I'm rather afraid of them -- at least the large kinds. But I can tell you the names of some of them."

   "Of course they answer to their names?" the Gnat remarked carelessly.

   "I never knew them to do it."

   "What's the use of their having names," the Gnat said, "if they won't answer to them?"

   "No use to them," said Alice; "but it's useful to the people that name them, I suppose. If not, why do things have names at all?"

   "I can't say," said the Gnat. "In the wood down there, they've got no names -- however, go on with your list of insects." 

   "Well, there's the Horse-fly," Alice began, counting off the names on her fingers.

   "All right," said the Gnat: "half-way up that bush, you'll see a Rocking-horse-fly, if you look. It's made entirely of wood, and gets about by swinging itself from branch to branch."

   "What does it live on?" Alice asked, with great curiosity.

   "Sap and sawdust," said the Gnat. "Go on with the list."

   Alice looked at the Rocking-horse-fly with great interest, and made up her mind that it must have been just repainted, it looked so bright and sticky ; and then she went on.

    "And there's the Dragon-fly."

   "Look on the branch above your head," said the Gnat, "and there you'll find a Snap-dragon-fly. Its body is made of plum-pudding, its wings of holly-leaves, and its head is a raisin burning in brandy."

   "And what does it live on?" Allce asked, as before.

   "Frumenty and mince-pie," the Gnat replied; "and it makes its nest in a Christmas-box."

   "And then there's the Butterfly," Alice went on, after she had taken a good look at the insect with its head on fire, and had thought to herself, "I wonder if that's the reason insects are so fond of flying into candles -- because they want to turn into Snap-dragon-flies!"

   "Crawling at your feet," said the Gnat (Alice drew her feet back in some alarm), "you may observe a Bread-and-butter-fly. Its wings are thin slices of bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar."

   "And what does it live on?"

   "wWeak tea with cream in it."

   A new difficulty came into Alice's head. "Supposing it couldn't find any?" she suggested.

   "Then it would die, of course."

   "But that must happen very often," Alice remarked thoughtfully. "It always happens," said the Gnat.

   After this, Alice was silent for a minute or two, pondering. The Gnat amused itself meanwhile by humming round and round her head: at last it settled again and remarked, "I suppose you don't want to lose your name?

   "No, indeed," Alice said, a little anxious.

   "And yet I don't know," the Gnat went on in a careless tone: "only think how convenient it would be if you could manage to go home without it. For instance, if the governess wanted to call you to your lesson, she would call out , 'Come here -- ,' and there she would have to leave off, because there wouldn't be any name for her to call and of course you wouldn't have to go, you know."

   "That would never do, I'm sure," said Alice: "the governess would never think of excusing me lessons for that. If she couldn't. remember my name, she'd call me 'Miss!' as the servants do."

   "Well, if she said "Miss,' and didn't say anything more," the Gnat remarked, "of course you'd miss your lessons. That's a joke. I wish you had made it."

   Why do you wish I had made it?" Alice asked.

   "It's a very bad one."

   But the Gnat only sighed deeply, while two large tears came rolling down its cheeks.