Grace had been said, and Mamma was busy carving for the large party of youngsters who sat around the comfortable dinner-table, when a little voice from among them called out,
“Mamma, do you think a giant could see a carraway seed?”
Now there was no sweet loaf on the table, nor even on the sideboard—neither had there been any plum cake in the house for some time—nor were there any carraway seeds in the biscuits just then. —In short, there was nothing which could be supposed to have suggested the idea of carraway seeds to the little boy who made the enquiry. Still he did make it, and though he went on quietly with his dinner, he expected to receive an answer.
Had the good Lady at the head of the table not been the mother of a large family, she might possibly have dropt the carving knife and fork, in sheer astonishment at the unaccountableness of the question, but as it was, she had heard so many other odd ones before, that she did not by outward sign demonstrate the amusement she felt at this, but simply said,—“Perhaps he could”—for she knew that it was out of her power to speak positively as to whether a Giant could see a carraway seed or not.
Now dear little readers, what do you think about this very important affair? Do you think a Giant could see a carraway seed or not?—“Oh yes,” you all cry,—“of course he could!”
Nay, my dears, there is no “of course” at all in the matter! Can any of you, for example, see the creatures that float about and fight in a drop of water from the Serpentine River? No, certainly not! except through a microscope. Well, but why not?—you do not know. That I can easily believe! But then you must never again say that “of course” a Giant could see a carraway seed.
It is entirely a question of relative proportion: so now you feel quite small, and admit your total ignorance, I hope. Yes! it all depends upon whether the giant is as much bigger than the carraway seed, as you are bigger than the curious little insects that float about and fight in the drop of water from the Serpentine river—for if he is, we may conclude from analogy that a giant could not see a carraway seed except through a microscope. You see it is a sort of rule of three sum, but as I cannot work it out, I tell you honestly that neither do I know whether a giant could see so small an object or not, and I advise you all to be as modest as I am myself, and never speak positively on so difficult a point.
But enough of this! Turn we now to another point, about which I can speak positively—namely, that in one sense the world is full of Giants who cannot see Carraway seeds.
“It must be in the sense of Nonsense I should think then!” observes somewhat scornfully the young lady who is reading this story aloud—“as if we could believe in there being giants now!”
Very wittily remarked! my dear young lady, for your age.—I take you to be about seventeen, and I see by the compression of your pretty mouth that you consider yourself quite a judge and an authority. Only take care you don’t grow up into one of those Giants yourself! There is something very suspicious to me in the glance of your eye. “Ridiculous!” murmurs the fair damsel in question.