“This young lady loves you with an H,” the King said, introducing Alice in the hope of turning off the Messenger’s attention from himself — but It was no use — the Anglo-Saxon attitudes only got more extraordinary every moment, while the great eyes rolled wildly from side to side.
“You alarm me!” said the King. “I feel faint — give me a ham sandwich!”
On which the Messenger, to Alice’s great amusement, opened a bag that hung round his neck, and handed a sandwich to the King, who devoured it greedily.
“Another sandwich!” said the King.
“There’s nothing but hay left now,” the Messenger said, peeping into the bag.
“Hay, then,” the King faintly murmured.
Alice was glad to see that it revived him a good deal. “There’s nothing like eating hay when you’re faint,” he remarked to her, as he munched away.
“I should think throwing cold water over you would be better,” Alice suggested : ” — -or some sal-volatile.”
“I didn’t say there was nothing better,” the King replied. “I said there was nothing like it.” Which Alice did not venture to deny.
“Who did you pass on the road?” the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some more hay.
“Nobody,” said the Messenger.
“Quite right,” said the King: “this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you.
“I do my best,” the Messenger said in a sullen tone. “I’m sure nobody walks much faster than I do!”
“He can’t do that,” said the King, “or else he’d have been here first. However, now you’ve got your breath, you may tell us what’s happened in the town.”
“I’ll whisper it,” said the Messenger, putting his hands to his mouth in the shape of a trumpet and stooping so as to get close to the King’s ear. Alice was sorry for this, as she wanted to hear the news too. However, instead of whispering, he simply shouted at the top of his voice. “They’re at it again!”
“Do you call that a whisper!” cried the poor King, jumping up and shaking himself. “If you do such a thing again I’ll have you buttered! It went through and through my head like an earthquake!”
“It would have to be a very tiny earthquake!” thought Alice. “Who are at it again?” she ventured to ask.
“Why the Lion and the Unicorn of course,”
“Fighting for the crown?
“Yes, to be sure,” said the King; “and the best of the joke is, that it’s my crown all the while! Let’s run and see them.” And they trotted off, Alice repeating to herself, as she ran, the words of the old song: —
“The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the crown.’
The Lion beat the Unicorn all round the town.
Some gave them white bread and some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum-cake and drummed them out of town.”
“Does — the one — that wins — get the crown?” she asked, as well as she could, for the long run was putting her quite out of breath.
“Dear me, no!” said the King. “What an idea!”
“Would you — be good enough — -” Alice panted out, after running a little further, “to stop a minute — just to get — one’s breath again?”
“I’m good enough,” the King said, “only I’m not strong enough. You see, a minute goes by so fearfully quick. You might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch!”
Alice had no more breath for talking, so they trotted on in silence, till they came in sight of a great crowd, in the middle of which the Lion and Unicorn were fighting. They were in such a cloud of dust, that at first Alice could not make out which was which: but she soon managed to distinguish the Unicorn by his horn.
They placed themselves close to where Hatta, the other Messenger, was standing watching the fight, with a cup of tea in one hand and a piece of bread and butter in the other.
“He’s only just out of prison, and he hadn’t finished his tea when he was sent in,” Haigha whispered to Alice: “and they only give them oyster-shells in there — so you see he’s very hungry and thirsty. How are you, dear child?” he went on, putting his arm affectionately round Hatta’s neck.