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Alice sees soldiers and horses running through the forest
as she walks into the wood. She comes across the White King, who
is jotting notes down in his memorandum book. He delightedly tells Alice
that he has sent out all of his horses and men, with the exception
of two horses needed for “the game,” and his messengers, Haigha
and Hatta, who are in town on errands. The White King asks Alice
if she passed Haigha or Hatta on the road, but she declares that
she has seen nobody. The White King expresses amazement that she
can see “Nobody” at all, admitting that he has difficulty seeing
real people. Confused, Alice looks around, and finally catches sight
of Haigha wriggling toward them. When Haigha (the March Hare) arrives,
the White King asks him for a hand sandwich. After devouring the
sandwich, the White King munches on hay given to him by Haigha and
asks his messenger if he passed anyone on the road. Haigha says
he passed “nobody,” prompting the White King to declare that Alice
saw Nobody too, and that Nobody must be a slow walker. Haigha asserts
that he is sure that nobody walks faster than he does. The White
King disagrees, explaining that Nobody would be with them now if
Nobody did indeed walk faster.
Haigha informs the White King that the Lion and the Unicorn
are fighting in town. As they run to town to watch, Alice repeats
a nursery rhyme about the Lion and the Unicorn. In the rhyme, the
Lion and the Unicorn fight for a crown, stop to eat bread and cake,
and are then drummed out of town. When they arrive in town, Alice
and her companions stand with Hatta (the Mad Hatter). Hatta informs them
of the events of the fight thus far. The Lion and the Unicorn stop
their fighting for a moment. The White King calls for a refreshment
break, so Hatta and Haigha pass bread around. Alice notices the
White Queen dart through, observing that someone seems to be chasing
her. The White King realizes that Alice has caught sight of the
White Queen and points out that she runs so quickly that following
her would be fruitless.
The Unicorn approaches Alice, staring at her in disgust
as it asks her what she is. Alice states that she is a child, but
the Unicorn decides that she is a Monster. The Unicorn strikes up
a bargain with Alice that they will believe in each other now that
they have seen each other. The Unicorn calls for cake, which Haigha
produces. The Lion joins them, and orders Alice to cut the cake.
Despite her repeated slicing, the cake persists in coming back together.
The Unicorn explains that Alice must pass the cake around first
and cut afterward. Alice begins passing the cake, and it splits
into three pieces, leaving her with nothing to cut. Just then, she
hears a deafening drumbeat that scares her and causes her to run
off in terror. She crouches on the other side of a brook, imagining
that the noise also caused the Lion and the Unicorn to flee.
Alice again sees the power language has to dictate outcomes,
for the events described in her nursery rhymes come true both for
Humpty Dumpty and the Lion and the Unicorn. The crash that begins
the chapter is the fall that Alice described in her nursery rhyme,
an assumption reinforced by the fact that the White King sends (almost)
all of his horses and men, presumably to put Humpty Dumpty back
together again. Similarly, the battle between the Lion and the Unicorn
unfolds in the same way as the nursery rhyme. The White King’s literalist
tendencies reinforce the idea that language dictates outcomes. He
mistakes Alice and Haigha’s unspecific “nobody” for a real person
named “Nobody.” The White King portrays Nobody as a character who
takes words at their face value, which reaffirms the inversion motif.
For the White King, things and events are not explained through
words, but words themselves become literal things and events.