“Here!” cried Alice, quite forgetting in the flurry of the moment how larg_he had grown in the last few minutes, and she jumped up in such a hurry tha_he tipped over the jury-box with the edge of her skirt, upsetting all th_urymen on to the heads of the crowd below, and there they lay sprawlin_bout, reminding her very much of a globe of gold-fish she had accidentall_pset the week before.
“Oh, I beg your pardon!” she exclaimed in a tone of great dismay, and bega_icking them up again as quickly as she could, for the accident of the gold- fish kept running in her head, and she had a vague sort of idea that they mus_e collected at once and put back into the jury-box, or they would die.
“The trial cannot proceed,” said the King, in a very grave voice, “until al_he jurymen are back in their proper places—all,” he repeated with grea_mphasis, looking hard at Alice as he said so.
Alice looked at the jury-box, and saw that, in her haste, she had put th_izard in head downwards, and the poor little thing was waving its tail abou_n a melancholy way, being quite unable to move. She soon got it out again, and put it right; “not that it signifies much,” she said to herself; “I shoul_hink it would be quite as much use in the trial one way up as the other.”
As soon as the jury had a little recovered from the shock of being upset, an_heir slates and pencils had been found and handed back to them, they set t_ork very diligently to write out a history of the accident, all except th_izard, who seemed too much overcome to do anything but sit with its mout_pen, gazing up into the roof of the court.
“What do you know about this business?” the King said to Alice.
“Nothing,” said Alice.
“Nothing whatever?” persisted the King.
“Nothing whatever,” said Alice.
“That’s very important,” the King said, turning to the jury. They were jus_eginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbi_nterrupted: “Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,” he said, in a ver_espectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.
“Unimportant, of course, I meant,” the King hastily said, and went on t_imself in an under-tone, “important—unimportant—unimportant—important——” a_f he were trying which word sounded best.
Some of the jury wrote it down “important,” and some “unimportant.” Alic_ould see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; “but i_oesn’t matter a bit,” she thought to herself.
At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in hi_ote-book, called out “Silence!”, and read out from his book, “Rule Forty-two.
All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”
Everybody looked at Alice.
“I’m not a mile high,” said Alice.
“You are,” said the King.
“Nearly two miles high,” added the Queen.
“Well, I sha’n’t go, at any rate,” said Alice: “besides, that’s not a regula_ule: you invented it just now.”
“It’s the oldest rule in the book,” said the King.
“Then it ought to be Number One,” said Alice.
The King turned pale, and shut his note-book hastily. “Consider your verdict,” he said to the jury, in a low trembling voice.
“There’s more evidence to come yet, please your Majesty,” said the Whit_abbit, jumping up in a great hurry: “this paper has just been picked up.”
“What’s in it?” said the Queen.
“I haven’t opened it yet,” said the White Rabbit; “but it seems to be _etter, written by the prisoner to—to somebody.”
“It must have been that,” said the King, “unless it was written to nobody, which isn’t usual, you know.”
“Who is it directed to?” said one of the jurymen.
“It isn’t directed at all,” said the White Rabbit: “in fact, there’s nothin_ritten on the outside.” He unfolded the paper as he spoke, and added “I_sn’t a letter, after all: it’s a set of verses.”
“Are they in the prisoner’s handwriting?” asked another of the jurymen.
“No, they’re not,” said the White Rabbit, “and that’s the queerest thing abou_t.” (The jury all looked puzzled.)
“He must have imitated somebody else’s hand,” said the King. (The jury al_rightened up again.)
“Please your Majesty,” said the Knave, “I didn’t write it, and they ca’n’_rove that I did: there’s no name signed at the end.”
“If you didn’t sign it,” said the King, “that only makes the matter worse. Yo_ust have meant some mischief, or else you’d have signed your name like a_onest man.”
There was a general clapping of hands at this: it was the first really cleve_hing the King had said that day.
“That proves his guilt, of course,” said the Queen: “so, off with——.”
“It doesn’t prove anything of the sort!” said Alice. “Why, you don’t even kno_hat they’re about!”
“Read them,” said the King.
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please you_ajesty?” he asked.
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till yo_ome to the end: then stop.”
There was dead silence in the court, whilst the White Rabbit read out thes_erses:—
“They told me you had been to her,
And mentioned me to him:
She gave me a good character,
But said I could not swim.
He sent them word I had not gone
(We know it to be true):
If she should push the matter on,
What would become of you?
I gave her one, they gave him two,
You gave us three or more;
They all returned from him to you,
Though they were mine before.
If I or she should chance to be
Involved in this affair,
He trusts to you to set them free,
Exactly as we were.
My notion was that you had been
(Before she had this fit)
An obstacle that came between
Him, and ourselves, and it.
Don’t let him know she liked them best,
For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.”
“That’s the most important piece of evidence we’ve heard yet,” said the King, rubbing his hands; “so now let the jury——”
“If any one of them can explain it,” said Alice, (she had grown so large i_he last few minutes that she wasn't a bit afraid of interrupting him,) “I’l_ive him sixpence. I don't believe there’s an atom of meaning in it.”
The jury all wrote down, on their slates, “She doesn’t believe there’s an ato_f meaning in it,” but none of them attempted to explain the paper.
“If there’s no meaning in it,” said the King, “that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn’t try to find any. And yet I don’t know,” he went on, spreading out the verses on his knee, and looking at them with one eye; “_eem to see some meaning in them, after all. ‘—said I could not swim—’ yo_a’n’t swim, can you?” he added, turning to the Knave.
The Knave shook his head sadly. “Do I look like it?” he said. (Which h_ertainly did not, being made entirely of cardboard.)
“All right, so far,” said the King; and he went on muttering over the verse_o himself: “‘We know it to be true’—that’s the jury, of course—‘If she shoul_ush the matter on’—that must be the Queen—‘What would become of you?’—What, indeed!—‘I gave her one, they gave him two’—why, that must be what he did wit_he tarts, you know——”
“But it goes on ‘they all returned from him to you,’” said Alice.
“Why, there they are!” said the King triumphantly, pointing to the tarts o_he table. “Nothing can be clearer than that. Then again—‘before she had thi_it’—you never had fits, my dear, I think?” he said to the Queen.
“Never!” said the Queen, furiously, throwing an inkstand at the Lizard as sh_poke. (The unfortunate little Bill had left off writing on his slate with on_inger, as he found it made no mark; but he now hastily began again, using th_nk, that was trickling down his face, as long as it lasted.)
“Then the words don’t fit you,” said the King, looking round the court with _mile. There was a dead silence.
“It’s a pun!” the King added in an angry tone, and everybody laughed. “Let th_ury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time tha_ay.
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentenc_irst!”
“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.
“I wo’n’t!” said Alice.
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
“Who cares for you?” said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time).
“You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”
At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her; she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to bea_hem off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of he_ister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered dow_rom the trees upon her face.
“Wake up, Alice dear!” said her sister; “Why, what a long sleep you’ve had!”
“Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!” said Alice. And she told her sister, a_ell as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that yo_ave just been reading about; and, when she had finished, her sister kisse_er, and said, “It was a curious dream, dear, certainly; but now run in t_our tea: it’s getting late.” So Alice got up and ran off, thinking while sh_an, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been.
But her sister sat still just as she left her, leaning her head on her hand, watching the setting sun, and thinking of little Alice and all her wonderfu_dventures, till she too began dreaming after a fashion, and this was he_ream:—
First, she dreamed about little Alice herself: once again the tiny hands wer_lasped upon her knee, and the bright eager eyes were looking up into hers—sh_ould hear the very tones of her voice, and see that queer little toss of he_ead to keep back the wandering hair that would always get into her eyes—an_till as she listened, or seemed to listen, the whole place around her becam_live the strange creatures of her little sister’s dream.
The long grass rustled at her feet as the White Rabbit hurried by—th_rightened Mouse splashed his way through the neighbouring pool—she could hea_he rattle of the teacups as the March Hare and his friends shared thei_ever-ending meal, and the shrill voice of the Queen ordering off he_nfortunate guests to execution—once more the pig-baby was sneezing on th_uchess’s knee, while plates and dishes crashed around it—once more the shrie_f the Gryphon, the squeaking of the Lizard’s slate-pencil, and the choking o_he suppressed guinea-pigs, filled the air, mixed up with the distant sob o_he miserable Mock Turtle.
So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dul_eality—the grass would be only rustling in the wind, and the pool rippling t_he waving of the reeds—the rattling teacups would change to tinkling sheep- bells, and the Queen’s shrill cries to the voice of the shepherd boy—and th_neeze of the baby, the shriek of the Gryphon, and all the other queer noises, would change (she knew) to the confused clamour of the busy farm-yard—whil_he lowing of the cattle in the distance would take the place of the Moc_urtle’s heavy sobs.
Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, i_he after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through al_er riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how sh_ould gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright an_ager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland o_ong ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find _leasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and th_appy summer days.