“Oh, I beg your pardon!” she exclaimed in a tone of great dismay, and began picking them up again as quickly as she could, for the accident of the goldfish kept running in her head, and she had a vague sort of idea that they must be 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 all the jurymen are back in their proper places–all,” he repeated with great emphasis, looking hard at Alice as he said so.
Alice looked at the jury-box, and saw that, in her haste, she had put the Lizard in head downwards, and the poor little thing was waving its tail about in 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 should think it would be quite as much use in the trial on way up as the other.”
As soon as the jury had a little recovered fro the shock of being upset, and their slates and pencils had been found and handed back to them, they set to work very diligently to write out a history of the accident, all except the Lizard, who seemed to much overcome to do anything but sit with its mouth open, 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 just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: “Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,” he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.
“Unimportant, of course, I meant,” the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, “important–unimportant–important—” as if he were trying which word sounded best.
Some of the jury wrote it down “important,” an some “unimportant.” Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; “but doesn’t matter a bit,” she thought to herself.
At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-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 regular rule: 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 White Rabbit, 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 a letter, 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 nothing written on the outside.” He unfolded the paper as he spoke, and added, It isn’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 about it.” (The jury all looked puzzled.)
“He must have imitated somebody else’s hand,” aid the King. (The jury all brightened up again.)
“Please your Majesty,” said the Knave, “I didn’t write it, and they can’t prove 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. You must have meant some mischief, or else you’d have signed your name like an honest man.”