Some of the jury wrote it down `important,’ and some `unimportant.’ Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; `but it 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, cackled 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 shan’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,’ said 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.’
There was a general clapping of hands at this: it was the first really clever thing the King had said that day.
`That proves his guilt,’ said the Queen.
`It proves nothing of the sort!’ said Alice. `Why, you don’t even know what they’re about!’
`Read them,’ said the King.
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. `Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.
`Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’
These were the verses the White Rabbit read:—