The rumbling in the forest turns out to be thousands of soldiers and horses that have been sent by the White King. When Alice stumbles upon the White King, he tells her that he is waiting for a messenger. Alice notices a man moving strangely along the road in the distance, and the King attributes his odd movements to his "Anglo-Saxon attitudes."
The man approches, and when Alice and the White King speak to him, they use words starting with the letter H, since that is the letter that begins his name. He tells the king that "they" are at it again, and when Alice inquires about the situation, she finds out the the lion and the unicorn are having a battle. She recalls the relevant rhyme, in which the lion and the unicorn fight for the crown (which is apparently the White King's) while people bring them bread and cake and try to drum them out of town.
The three head into town so they can witness the event. They run into the other messenger, whose name also begins with an H. The King notices the White Queen running in the distance, and when Alice asks why she is running so fast, the King explains that she is probably trying to escape an enemy. Alice wonders aloud why he does not come to her aid, and he explains that she is just too fast for that to be possible.
The unicorn approaches, and it seems that in the most previous round, he emerged the winner. He notices Alice but calls her a monster because he does not know what kind of creature she is. The others tell him that she is a child, and he agrees to believe in her if she will believe in him.
The characters share plum cake, and the lion and unicorn continue to be extremely competitve. All of the sudden, loud drumming interrupts the feasting, and Alice, frightened, jumps over the next brook to escape.
The two messengers in this chapter have counterparts in Alice's Adventures. Hatta is the Mad Hatter and Haigha is the March Hare. The illustrations that accompany the story make this clear. Alice has met them before in her previous adventures, but she does not recognize them as characters she already knows.
In this chapter, Carroll emphasizes an important theme in his book. Throughout the work, he has been stressing the arbitrary nature of language. Alice remarks to the king that she sees nobody on the road, and he responds that she must have good eyesight to be able to see "Nobody."
This observation by the King points to the slippery nature of definitions. It plays with the definition of "nobody" and what it means to physically see something. Carroll is playing with his readers' understanding of language and forcing them to think twice about the way in which they use words in everyday speech. None of the characters in the Looking-Glass world speak normally, and most of them question language in an unusual and at the same time insightful way.
The battle between the lion and the unicorn is an episode from a popular nursery rhyme. Carroll is fond of including nursery rhymes within his works; Humpty Dumpty is another example of this tendency.