Alice finally found a little narrow path after what seemed to her was hours of wandering around. "I wonder where this path goes," she thought. "Should I follow it? Maybe there are lions, or tigers, or bears! Oh no! Well, whatever there may be, it must be better than wandering around in the dark," Alice finally decided, and she hurried along the path.
As she made her way up the path, she began to hear what sounded like hundreds of tiny voices. "Does this path lead to school," she thought to herself. The path ended right in front of a low wall with a single gate. Alice ran up to the gate and peered through. There, in the middle of a great big yard, stood a giant boot.
"That is very odd," said Alice out loud. "It most certainly does not look like a school." But the voices were coming from inside the boot. As she looked more closely, she saw that the boot had a little door in the side with three steps, windows with curtains, and a tall chimney with smoke coming out.
Alice was unsure if she should walk through the gate and up to the boot, but then she was a very brave girl. It really did not take her long to make up her mind, and through the gate she skipped.
The door of the boot had a great brass knocker, which Alice grasped and banged as hard as she could. She really didn't know if she would be heard over the loud voices inside.
"WHO'S THERE?" came a shout.
"My name is Alice!" she replied bravely.
"QUIET DOWN, RIGHT NOW, OR I WILL TELL THE PARITYMAN ON YOU," the voice from inside shouted. Alice thought that it meant her and was about to run off, but the noise from the inside subsided, and the voice added, "What's that? An Alice? What's an Alice?"
"Alice is my name. I'm a girl."
"Well, I'll be. This I got to see!" And with that the door cracked open and a kindly but quite rumpled looking woman peered out. "Hmmm, interesting, I must say," she said. With that the noise from the inside increased once more, the door was jerked open, and hundreds (it seemed to Alice) of tiny beings all came rushing out.
"NO, STOP, YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED!!" the woman tried to yell and close the door, but it was useless. Alice was knocked off her feet and landed in a heap at the foot of the steps. "Oh well," continued the woman. "I dare say that they wouldn't be done soon anyway. My, my, let me help you get sorted out. Are you hurt?" she asked Alice as she helped her to her feet.
"No, I don't think so," quickly replied Alice as she brushed the dust off her clothes. "Thank you."
"Come on in, don't mind the mess," invited the woman as she swung the door wide with a sweep of her arm.
Alice stepped into the house—for now she could clearly see that the boot was really a house. "What were all of those?" she asked as politely as she could.
"Not what, but who," answered the woman. "They are my children. I am their mother!"
"But they don't look like you.... I mean...." Alice said. "You are a woman, and they don't look like children."
"Where have you been girl?" the mother replied with a frown. "Those are my chips!"
"The only chips I know of are made of chocolate, and I like them in cookies." Alice blurted out before realizing quite what she said, but the mother did not seem to catch on.
"I am glad you like them. I like them too. But what is a cookie?"
Alice quickly changed the subject. "Do you and all the chips live here?"
"Of course, although I must say that I get awfully bored around here with just the chips to talk to. I am so glad you came by. My, my, where are my manners? May I get you some lemonade?" the mother asked.
"Oh, yes, please," replied Alice as she sat down in the closest chair.
The mother left the room, and Alice could hear her gathering things together in the kitchen. All Alice could think of was a nursery rhyme that she had learned once:
There was an old woman who lived in a boot.
She had so many chips she didn't give a hoot.
Somehow, it did not seem quite right to Alice, but before she could ponder the question long, the mother came back into the room carrying a tray with a pitcher and two glasses.
"Here you go, dearie," she said as she put it down on the table in front of Alice and poured her a glass. "I hope that it is all right. It has been such a long time, and I'm afraid I might have forgotten the algorithm. In any case, I couldn't find a spade."
"It is just fine," replied Alice, after carefully tasting the lemonade. "How many, er, chips, do you have?"
"Well, I don't rightly know," the mother replied after a long pause. "The younger mothers have a lot fewer than I do, but they have a hard time keeping track too. In fact," and at this the mother leaned over close to Alice and continued in a low tone, "a friend of mine, Bo-pip left the gate open and many of her chips all ran away. The other bored mothers teased her:
Little Bo-pip has lost her chips
And doesn't know where to find them.
Leave them alone, and they'll come home
Wagging their leads behind them.
Alice thought for a long time, and finally said, "I learned that a long time ago, but it doesn't go quite like that."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed the mother. "How else could it go? Anything else wouldn't make any sense. Anyway, it's from the book of 'Mother's Obtuse Nursery Rhymes.'"
Again, Alice thought it prudent to change the subject, so she asked, "What do the chips do when they grow up?"
At this the mother beamed a great big smile and answered, "I am so glad you asked me that! Why, some grow up to be doctors, and lawyers, and CPA's! My eldest son is working on his CPA. He wrote me just the other day and told me that he had only twenty letters to go."
"Twenty letters?" asked Alice, I have never heard of 'Letters to go'."
"Well, what he really said is that he is presently a CPU, but I know that it won't be long until he passes a T, then an S, and finally gets to an A. He'll make his old mother so proud."
"I have never heard of a school like that," said Alice.
"Well, you haven't heard of very much then!" replied the mother. "It is sometimes called the school of hard clocks—or something like that."
Alice was feeling quite uncomfortable, when suddenly the door was opened with a bang and a number of the little chips came running in shouting something about a parityman and a poor lost bit, but because they were all shouting at the same time, Alice really couldn't tell.
The mother was busy hugging and scolding her chips and was completely ignoring Alice, so she quietly put her glass on the table and quickly ran out the door, through the gate (which she made certain she fastened tightly after her), and down the path.