فصل 07

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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

The Lion and the Unicorn

The next moment soldiers came running through the wood, at first in twos and threes, then ten or twenty together, and at last in great crowds that seemed to fill the forest. Alice got behind a tree and watched them go past.

They were very strange soldiers, she thought. They were always falling over something or other, and when one soldier went down, several more always fell over him. Soon the ground was covered with fallen men.

Then came the horses. With four feet, they managed better than the foot-soldiers, but even they fell more often than not. And when a horse fell, the rider always fell off at once. It was almost like a battle in itself, and Alice decided it would be safer to move on. Soon she came to an open place, where she found the White King sitting on the ground, busily writing in his notebook.

‘I’ve sent them all!’ the King cried happily when he saw Alice. ‘Did you happen to meet any soldiers, my dear, as you came through the wood?’

‘Yes, I did,’ said Alice. ‘Several thousand, I think.’

‘Four thousand two hundred and seven,’ the King said, looking at his book. ‘I couldn’t send all the horses, because two of them are wanted in the game. And I haven’t sent the Messengers, Haig and Hatta. I need them myself, of course-to come and go. One to come, and one to go.’

‘I don’t think I understand,’ said Alice. ‘Why one to come and one to go?’

‘I’ve told you,’ the King said crossly. ‘I must have two - to fetch and carry. One to fetch, and one to carry.’

At that moment Haigha, one of the Messengers, arrived. He had very large hands and great eyes, which were always moving wildly from side to side.

‘What’s the news from town?’ said the King.

‘I’ll whisper it,’ said Haigha, putting his mouth close to the King’s ear.

Alice was sorry about this, because she wanted to hear the news too. But, instead of whispering, Haigha 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. ‘Don’t do that again!’

‘Who are at it again?’ Alice asked.

‘The Lion and the Unicorn, of course,’ said the King.

‘Fighting for the crown?’

‘Yes, and it’s my crown that they’re fighting about!’ said the King. ‘Amusing, isn’t it? Let’s run and see them.’

They began to run, and as they went, Alice repeated to herself 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.

Soon they saw a great crowd in front of them, and in the middle the Lion and the Unicorn were fighting. Hatta, the other Messenger, was standing at the edge of the crowd, with a cup of tea in one hand and a piece of bread and butter in the other. He looked very unhappy.

‘He’s only just come out of prison,’ Haigha whispered in Alice’s ear, ‘so he’s very hungry and thirsty, you see. How are you, dear child?’ he said to Hatta, in a friendly voice.

Hatta looked round, but went on eating his bread and butter and drinking his tea.

‘Come, tell us the news!’ cried the King. ‘How are they getting on with the fight?’

‘They’re getting on very well, ‘Hatta said through a mouthful of bread and butter. ‘Each of them has been down about eighty-seven times.’

‘Then I suppose they’ll soon bring the white bread and the brown,’ Alice said.

‘It’s waiting for them now,’ said Hatta. ‘I’m eating a bit of it myself.’

The fight stopped just then, and the Lion and the Unicorn sat down, looking tired.

The King called out, ‘Ten minutes for tea!’, and Haigh a and Hatta began to carry round plates of white and brown bread. Alice took a piece to taste, but it was very dry.

‘I don’t think they’ll fight any more today,’ the King said to Hatta. ‘Go and order the drums to begin.’

As Alice watched him go, she suddenly saw somebody running out of the wood.

‘Look!’ she cried excitedly. ‘There’s the White Queen! She came flying out of the wood. How fast those Queens can run!’

‘There’s probably an enemy after her,’ said the King, not looking round. ‘That wood’s full of them.’

‘But aren’t you going to help her?’ asked Alice, very surprised.

‘No use, no use!’ said the King. ‘She runs so terribly quickly. You can’t catch a Queen when she’s running.’

At that moment the Unicorn came past, with his hands in his pockets. When he saw Alice, he stopped and looked at her for some minutes. He did not seem to like what he saw.

‘What - is - this?’ he said at last.

‘This is a child!’ Haigha said helpfully, coming forward to introduce Alice. ‘We only found it today. It’s as large as life, and twice as natural!’

‘I always thought they were fantastic monsters,’ said the Unicorn. ‘Is it alive?’

‘It can talk,’ said Haigha.

The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice. ‘Talk, child.’

Alice smiled. ‘I always thought that Unicorns were fantastic monsters, too! I never saw one alive before.’

‘Well, we have now met and spoken, so we can believe in each other, yes?’ The Unicorn turned to the King. ‘Fetch out the plum-cake, old man. I’m tried of brown bread!’

‘Certainly, certainly,’ said the King, sounding a little frightened. ‘Quick, Haigha, open the bag.’

Haigha was carrying a big bag round his neck, and now he took out it a very large cake, a plate and a knife. He gave them to Alice to hold.

The Lion had joined them while this was going on. He looked very tired and sleepy, and his eyes were half shut. ‘What’s this?’ he said, looking at Alice.

‘An, what is it, then?’ the Unicorn cried. ‘You’ll never guess! I couldn’t.’

The Lion looked at Alice without interest. ‘Are you a vegetable or an animal?’ he asked tiredly.

‘It’s a fantastic monster!’ the Unicorn cried, before Alice could reply.

‘Then pass round the plum cake, Monster,’ the Lion said, lying down on the ground.’ And you two sit down,’ he said to the King and the Unicorn.

The King looked very uncomfortable when he had to sit be-tween the Lion and the Unicorn, but there was no other place for him. His crown nearly fell off because he was shaking so much. The Unicorn looked amused, and then tried to argue with the Lion about who was winning the fight.

‘I beat you all round the town,’ said the Lion angrily.’ And why is the Monster taking so long to cut up the cake?’

‘It’s very difficult,’ said Alice. ‘I’ve cut off several pieces already, but then they join up again immediately!’

‘You don’t know how to manage looking-glass cakes,’ said the Unicorn. ‘Pass it round first, and cut it up afterwards.’

This sounded nonsense, but Alice got up and carried the plate round. At once the cake cut itself into three pieces, and then Alice returned to her place with the empty plate.

‘Look at my piece of cake!’ cried the Unicorn. ‘The Monster has given the Lion twice as much as me!’

‘She hasn’t kept any for herself,’ said the Lion. ‘Do you like plum-cake, Monster?’

But before Alice could answer, the drums began. The air seemed full of the noise, and it rang and rang through her head. Frightened, Alice began to run and jumped over the brook.

Then she fell to the ground and put her hands over her ears, trying to shut out the terrible noise.

‘If that doesn’t drum the Lion and the Unicorn out of town,’ she thought to herself, ‘nothing ever will!’

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