without a single green leaf among them, and half of them burst and decayed, with toad-stools growing out of them. Those which were left began crying to Tom, in half a dozen different languages at once, and all of them badly spoken, “I can’t learn my lesson; do come and help me!” And one cried, “Can you show me how to extract this square root?”
And another, “Can you tell me the distance between α Lyrae and β Camelopardis?”
And another, “What is the latitude and longitude of Snooksville, in Noman’s County, Oregon, U.S.?”
And another, “What was the name of Mutius Scaevola’s thirteenth cousin’s grandmother’s maid’s cat?”
And another, “How long would it take a school-inspector of average activity to tumble head over heels from London to York?”
And another, “Can you tell me the name of a place that nobody ever heard of, where nothing ever happened, in a country which has not been discovered yet?”
And another, “Can you show me how to correct this hopelessly corrupt passage of Graidiocolosyrtus Tabenniticus, on the cause why crocodiles have no tongues?”
And so on, and so on, and so on, till one would have thought they were all trying for tide-waiters’ places, or cornetcies in the heavy dragoons.
“And what good on earth will it do you if I did tell you?” quoth Tom.
Well, they didn’t know that: all they knew was the examiner was coming.
Then Tom stumbled on the hugest and softest nimblecomequick turnip you ever saw filling a hole in a crop of swedes, and it cried to him, “Can you tell me anything at all about anything you like?”
“About what?” says Tom.
“About anything you like; for as fast as I learn things I forget them again. So my mamma says that my intellect is not adapted for methodic science, and says that I must go in for general information.”
Tom told him that he did not know general information, nor any officers in the army; only he had a friend once that went for a drummer: but he could tell him a great many strange things which he had seen in his travels.
So he told him prettily enough, while the poor turnip listened very carefully; and the more he listened, the more he forgot, and the more water ran out of him.
Tom thought he was crying: but it was only his poor brains running away, from being worked so hard; and as Tom talked, the unhappy turnip streamed down all over with juice, and split and shrank till nothing was left of him but rind and water; whereat Tom ran away in a fright, for he thought he might be taken up for killing the turnip.