Continuing Tales

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 13 of 22

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I Love My Love

Slathring Day

"I should like to help," Alice asserted, having heard during teatime of Thackery's plan to bake apple pies with the apples that had just ripened in Marmoreal's orchards.

Not that it was a Plan per se, but when Thackery had begun shouting about pie and tossing rolling pins, everyone else had worked out the Details.

"Thackery does not like to bake with anyone," Hatter said apologetically. "It involves a lot of throwing of pots and pans and spices and flour…well, it can be quite perilous actually."

"Oh, I did not mean to help bake. I would be useless in the kitchen, I'm afraid, but I could help pick apples."

Tarrant frowned, thinking of how to dissuade Alice from attempting such an arrangement. He would rather that Alice not act on her muchness quite so soon after recovering from the grippe. "There are many other pleasant things we might do instead," he offered.

"Like?" she asked, folding her hands in front of her.

"Think up riddles, sing songs, trim hats…"

"We have done all of those things today," she reminded him.

"We can do them again." 'We' sounded so charming: Alice and He, We, doing things—together.

"I would soon grow tired of those things if I spent every day thus employed, I'm afraid."

Hatter drew up short, blinking. Grow tired of hats and songs and riddles? What a Notion. But then, he did not wish her to find Underland or her life here tiresome. There were also any number of games he could teach her that might help occupy her Time.

"I must have some direction, some employment," she continued. "We might be of some use, picking apples for Thackery, and I think it might be amusing. Would you not care to join me, dear Hatter?"

He knew very well that she was manipulating him in the pleasant way that females manipulated men. He would rather she not exert herself so soon after being sick, but he would also rather be with her than anywhere else. Alice was aware of this and was using this knowledge to her advantage, and she had referred to 'we' again: it was intoxicating, as intoxicating as half a pint of his best whiskey.

"You are being very naughty," he said, cocking a brow at her.

"So what if I am. Come, let us fetch a ladder."

He sighed, following at her heels like an obedient puppy. There was no hope for it: he was sunk.

As they walked through the courtyard towards the potting shed, where they hoped to procure a ladder, Alice skipped over the stones, demonstrating how improved she felt.

"Do you not see that I am entirely feeling like myself again," she insisted, twirling once for emphasis.

"Yes, I quite see that. However, after an hour of exertion, you might feel differently." He tried to sound severe, but in his head he heard music when Alice smiled and twirled. Pretty Alice with her Pretty Alice Melody.

"You are as bad as an old maid, Hatter," Alice scolded, pulling open the door to the shed and peering through the darkness.

"There," he said, pointing over her shoulder. "I see it there in the corner."

He shouldered past her and stepped gingerly over abandoned clay pots and metal watering cans until he reached the ladder, which he lifted up and tucked beneath his arm. When he turned around, Alice was picking out a large basket.

"To the orchard," Alice announced gaily, looping her arm through the handle.

"Lead the way, my lady," he said, bending so as to not hit his head on the low door as he exited with the ladder. He hummed to himself: "There were comfits in the cabin and apples in the hold."[1]

"You do see that I must have something useful to do to occupy my time, do you not?" Alice asked, walking nimbly alongside of him so as to avoid being knocked over by the lengthy ladder. "As you have with your hats."

"You intend on becoming an Apple Picker then?" he teased.

"No," she smirked. "No, I hope to begin working on a project that will utilize the skills I developed in Otherland."

He stepped down off the courtyard into the thick turf.

"Will you not ask me what those skills are?" she asked.

"What skills are those?" he dutifully inquired.

But, she returned his question with another question: "Why do you not ask me about Otherland? Why I went back? What I did while I was gone? What the world Above is like? Are you not curious?"

He adjusted his grip on the ladder, attempting to waste some Time. It was not that he was not curious: he had endless curiosity about all things Alice. It was just that he had not been sure whether it was information she wanted to share or information he might actually want to hear.

"I don't ask you," he said, casting a glance her way, "because I spent a good deal of time wanting you to leave Otherland and come back to Underland. I've told you I'm slurvish."

She patted his shoulder. "Then that's the best kind of selfishness, Tarrant: to be missed and wanted can give me no cause to complain."

"But, we can address each of these interesting questions in turn," he said, propping the ladder against a fully laden apple tree, "while we employ ourselves. We can talk of many things: of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—of cabbages—and kings—and why the sea is boiling hot—and whether…"[2]

"Hatter," Alice said gently, as she set her basket on the ground.

"I'm fine. Thank you."

Alice began to reach for the apples that were not too high, biting her lower lip in concentration. He was momentarily distracted by her white teeth dimpling her lip. Alice was atreasure beyond measure. Something he would not mind exploring at his leisure. He giggled: he had made a rhyme!

He sang to himself faintly, climbing the ladder:

"This lass so neat, with smiles so sweet

Has won my right good will

I'd crowns resign to call thee mine

Sweet lass of The Lass of Richmond Hill Hill."[3]

He could see her eyeing him from the ground. He felt content enough that he might be able to broach these subjects that normally left him filled with Fear.

"Why did you go back, Alice?" he lisped, twisting a red apple to free it from the branch to which it clung.

"When I fell through the rabbit hole from Otherland, I was attending my engagement party," she stated evenly, as she deposited several apples from her skirt into the basket.

Tarrant dropped the apple he held in his hands to the ground with a thud, because he had to grip the rung of the ladder tightly so that he did not windmill backward. Alice was engaged. Engaged to whom? Certainly not to him. He was mad. No young lady would ever think to consider him, let alone Alice, who was all things wonderful…

"Hatter?" she called him back. "Ezel," she said proudly at her usage of Outlandish, as she pointed up at a perfect specimen above his head.[4]

He came unfrozen and obliged her by picking the apple. Alice had spoken in his language. She raised her hand to take the apple from him, her fingers brushing his. How he wanted that hand to be his, but apparently some other fellow had been there first. The bread-and-butterflies gave unhappy protest in his stomach.

"Hamish was a terrible bore. Not at all the sort of person I wanted to be married to. And I did not love him."

'Poor Hamish,' Hatter thought, laughing in triumph at the other man's tiresomeness that made him unsuitable for Alice. Alice did not love Hamish—did not!

She looked up at him, her brow creased in confusion at his outburst.

"Excuse me," he mumbled.

She shrugged, as she said, "But, I owed him an answer anyway. So, I went back to refuse Hamish."

Tarrant handed her another apple. Alice did not only go back to say, 'No,' to Hamish, although he was happy beyond measure that, 'no,' had been her answer. He was aware that she had Other Reasons as well. "And for your family," he added.

"I have a mother and sister. I do not talk about them, because," she paused, shining an apple on her skirt before taking a bite. "Oh, Hatter," she said, offering him the same apple, "you must try this."

He took it and indulged in an equally large and juicy bite. It was almost as if they had kissed, sharing this apple, he considered. He took a second bite before handing it back to her, entranced by her lips wrapping around the apple, her pink tongue snaking out to retrieve the stray drop left behind on her full lower lip. Bad Hatter, he chastised himself, blinking in hopes of clearing the blue from his eyes.

Alice was editing herself. Writing out the things that she thought might be unpleasant to him. By his not asking these questions, he may have encouraged her to edit her Life Story.

"You do not speak of them, because I have lost my family," he finished for her, turning back to the task at hand and reaching for another apple to pick.

The Memory of Horunvendush Day was enough to clear his eyes of the blue he knew must have colored them.

Alice nodded in agreement, her face frowning slightly.

"Ye needna be sae pernicketie on ma account," he said, taking a moment to quiet the inner voices before beginning again.[5] "I knew why you had to go back and family is the best reason there is."

Alice nodded, brushing off her skirts and moving around the tree to find other low hanging apples. "True enough: I had more than one reason to return Above."

Hatter tried to imagine Alice's mother and sister. "Do you favor your mother, Alice?" he asked, reaching for another apple.

"Yes, I think so: I after Mother and Margaret after Father. My sister is very beautiful."

"So are you," Tarrant said, his mouth turning up in a broad grin.

She did not respond to his compliment. Alice was so Innocent of her charms. Very charming that Innocence, Hatter thought, giggling quietly.

"My mother was not always so tolerant of my eccentricities, and I was not happy being a useless girl. Killing the Jabberwocky and meeting all of you gave me the courage to say, 'No,' to Hamish and go to work for my Hamish's father's company."

If killing the Jabberwocky had given her the courage to turn down Hamish's proposal of marriage, he would have to send a Battenberg cake as a thank you to Frabjous Day.[6]

"Business?" Hatter asked, climbing down from the ladder and moving it over several feet to access unpicked fruit.

It was getting warm and he shrugged off his jacket, rolling up his sleeves.

"I helped expand trade routes to distant lands." She paused for a moment before saying in a slightly lower register, "And I was rather good at it."

It did not surprise him in the least that Alice would be good at trade. Alice was surely quite good at everything. She was the Alice, after all: Champion of Underland, traveler between Otherland and Underland, and holder of his Heart.

"It is highly irregular in Otherland for women to be involved in such things, but Hamish's father was rather progressive on this point."

While he could hear her voice quite clearly, he could only see her black shoes and blue skirts peeking out from underneath the lower branches of the tree. As he climbed back up the ladder, she disappeared from sight altogether.

"I saw things that were nearly as strange and wonderful as the things one can find here in Underland."

"Talking flowers and animals in waistcoats?" he asked, noting some of the things Alice found odd Below.

"No, but there were temples and palaces and people who looked very different from me and spoke many languages. Things for sale that would dazzle your senses. Many different customs and manners of dress. And beautiful vistas."

Her voice filled with wonderment as she spoke. He wanted to be happy that she had found pleasure in these Things, but his slurvish nature feared that Alice loved these Things more than she loved Underland. So much so that despite her words to the contrary, she would return to Otherland once more. That despite all the care he had been taking, she would never, could never come to love him more than she did the world Above.

"I would have stayed in China longer, but famine came to an end in India, and that drew Lord Ascot's attention back to that region for the time being."[7]

Longer? Alice had been planning on staying away longer? Worrisome, worrisome.

"I think I might employ some of this accumulated knowledge on behalf of the Queen if she will let me."

He had to climb back down the ladder, his arms being laden with apples and not having Alice nearby to hand them to. Depositing them in the basket he walked around the tree to find Alice. She smiled beatifically up at him. She spoke of foreign lands, but she smiled at him, here Below.

"Do you think she might allow me to conduct trade on her behalf?"

The sun shone and reflected in her golden tresses. Hatter took a piece in his hand and intertwined it with his fingers, letting it slip through them like silk.

"Aye, ah think she would be happy tae hiv ye serve her."

Alice held an apple between them, looking down on it intently. "I could be very happy here if I thought I had a purpose and was not just…hiding from the pretensions of Otherland that leave me cold."

He placed his hand on the back of Alice's head and pulled her to his chest. He quivered as she slipped her arms around his waist, where he could feel the apple she clasped pressing into the small of his back.

"A'm wantin' ye tae be happy 'ere, laddie," he said, placing a kiss on the crown of her head.

"I want you to be happy too, Tarrant," she said, leaning her head against his shoulder.

His heart swelled. Kind, gentle Alice. He wanted to tell her that she made him happy, but he felt constrained by the strength of his Feelings.

"Will you tell me about your family?" she asked softly.

He closed his eyes, seeing flames when he wanted to recall friendly faces—the faces of his family, his friends, and his neighbors. He was not strong enough to speak about it: he did not think he could trust himself.

"Na th'day, luve," he said, his voice sounding deep and resonant.

"But someday."

"Aye," he agreed. Someday he wanted to share everything with her, and that was frightening. There were parts of him that he was uncertain were worth sharing.

"Hamish did not understand me," she said, turning her head and speaking into his chest.

Hamish again, he thought, his arms stiffening slightly.

"Not like you do," she teased, rubbing the tip of her nose against the fabric of his waistcoat.

He ran his hand down the length of her back, trying to memorize the feel of her in his arms.

The sudden sound of a throat being cleared caused him to let loose of Alice and she quickly responded by jumping back a decent distance away from him. Another throat was cleared and Hatter straightened his bowtie. Where had the Tweedles come from, he thought irritably?

"Excuse us," Dee said.

"Begging your pardon," Dum added.

"We hate to interrupt."

"Nohow. Interruption was necessary."

"We was sent by the Queen."

"Contrariwise, the Queen sent us."

"But that's saying the same."

"But the saying is different."

"Thank you, boys," Alice interrupted.

"What does the Queen need?" Hatter asked, plastering on a fake smile with the aid of a healthy dose of Pretend. He very much resented having their Moment be interrupted.


"The Queen doesn't need apples," Dum contradicted.

"Does so."

"It's Thackery that's wanting."

"She asks on account of Thackery's wanting."

"He's mad from waiting."

"Nohow. Thackery were already mad."

"Well, we're almost finished," Alice said, gesturing towards the large basket that was now almost full to the brim.

"Didn't seem like you was picking apples," Dum said, pointing at both Alice and Hatter in turn and waddling over to the basket to peer in.

Hatter cleared his throat. Impertinent comments would not be welcome. He tugged on his waistcoat to provide his anxious hands with some useful activity.

"Otherwise occupied you was," Dee agreed, also coming forward to examine the basket.

"You can carry these back for us," Alice offered. "I'm sure the Queen would be very happy that you helped."

The boys eagerly nodded in accord, but immediately fell to fighting over which of them would carry the handle.

"I'll carry it."

"No, I will!"

"Share," Tarrant said, picking up the basket and pushing it towards them. "Share," he insisted again, grinning from ear to ear.

The boys wrinkled their noses, finding sharing disagreeable, but they reluctantly took the basket from Hatter. Turning, they began to waddle back through the orchard with the basket swaying between them.

Tarrant sighed noisily, as he reached for his coat.

"It is hard to have any privacy here," Alice said.

"Privacy," he said, his voice coming out a little high. What could an Innocent young woman like Alice want privacy for, he wondered?

Alice smiled, saying lightly, "We shouldn't be unchaperoned, you know."

He tugged at his bowtie, which suddenly felt very tight and was making it difficult to breathe. "Dae we need a chaperone?" What could they potentially do that would require the preventative services of a chaperone?

Alice slipped her arms through his, smirking, "I don't know, Hatter, but I think we might."

"I am sorry I rushed you this afternoon," the Queen said, as she and Alice strolled through the halls after tea. "Thackery was making a great mess of the kitchen, waiting for his apples."

"We had already finished," Alice assured her.

"I'm glad to hear that, for the Tweedles seemed to be under the impression that they had interrupted you and the Hatter," the Queen explained, maintaining her serene composure.

Alice felt herself begin to blush, and such feminine weakness was not typical for her. Nevertheless, she had begun to feel herself given over to such tendencies once she returned to Underland. It all related to Tarrant and the strange feelings she entertained for him, which she had finally seriously contemplated while she was Above.

"We were discussing things at the time," she began, attempting not to stutter, "about my future in Underland."

"Ah," Mirana said with a bright smile and sidelong glance that could almost be called Conspiratorial. "He has made you an offer?"

Alice's heart skipped a beat. Very intemperate heart—not beating as bidden, she scolded it.

"I…I beg your pardon, Your Majesty?" Alice managed.

The Queen's hands clasped together and she floated to a stop. Alice paused as well, feeling her cheeks ablaze. What had she done to make the Queen suspect such a thing?

"Forgive me, Alice. I only thought…" she trailed off, shrugging delicately as her hands floated back to their usual lofty position.

"Tarrant and I were speaking about how I might make myself of use here," Alice said, smiling thinly.

"Of use?" the Queen asked, beginning to walk noiselessly through the halls once more.

"Yes, some purpose or employment. I wanted his opinion."

"And what did he think?"

"He thought I ought to speak to you about my idea."

"Go ahead, Alice," the Queen responded, floating through a door and waving to Alice to follow her. "I always welcome your suggestions," she said, slowly lowering herself onto a chair.

Alice sat opposite her and spread her hands across her lap, composing herself as she tried to crowd out the thoughts regarding the Queen's monumental Misunderstanding.

"I propose a trading company be formed in Underland to serve your Majesty."

Mirana thoughtfully tilted her head. "A trading company, hmm?"

"I worked for a company in Otherland: a trading company," Alice explained. "I cannot produce any definitive proof of this of course, but I was rather good at what I did, Your Majesty."

"I have no doubt that you were, Alice. What is trade when one has slain the Jabberwocky?"

"Well, it is a rather different sort of endeavor," Alice hedged. Both required muchness to begin, perhaps, but she had never had to raise a sword on her travels Above.

"Certainly," Mirana responded with a dismissive wave, "but this is what you want to do in Underland?" she asked, gesturing airily. "To conduct trade?"

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"I feel I must point out that money is not particularly important in Underland. We have everything we need here," the Queen explained a little apologetically.

"Enough worm fat, horse fly urine, or buttered fingers? Surely there are ingredients, for example, that could be procured more easily elsewhere. I could trade for such things."

Mirana pressed a finger to her bottom lip, thinking for a moment. "One can always obtain wishful thinking and the like, but…buttered fingers are a delicate manner."

Alice could only imagine.

"Of course, they would need to be cruelty-free."

Alice blanched. How could buttered fingers ever be cruelty-free?

"From people who…no longer require their digits," Mirana explained euphemistically with a mindless whirl of her own fingers.

"Oh!" Alice nodded, "Yes, I could see to it that they did not come from live sources."

"You seem to have thought this through," the Queen observed, folding her hands in her lap.

"I have. I spent a good deal of time thinking on it at home."

"Is this why you came back? To establish a trading a company?" the Queen asked, one brow arched delicately. Her tone seemed to indicate that she suspected otherwise.

"Oh…as to that…" Alice could think of nothing to say in response.

In deciding whether or not to return to Underland, the question of what she would do to make herself of use did enter into her consideration, but the reason she wanted to return was something she would rather not say aloud; not yet, and not to the Queen. There was someone else she wanted to tell first.

"No one expects you to do anything, Alice. You can spend your days here however you see fit."

Alice could see that this was meant to be reassuring, but it had quite the opposite effect. "No one expected me to do anything Above either, except to marry. I would rather do other things with my life, thank you. I would never be satisfied to merely sit at home."

Mirana's eyes grew quite rounded. "Well, now. Is this a view you have shared with anyone else, dear Alice? Your being quite against marriage?"

Alice shook her head, "You misunderstand me. I just don't think finding a gentleman to marry and place a roof over one's head should be the sole ambition of life."

"Not if the roof is unwieldy," the Queen agreed with a nod. "But if it is a pleasant type of roof?"

Alice's brows knit together. "If the gentleman is pleasant, do you mean?"

"Yes, perhaps I do," the Queen responded brightly.

"I…I believe we have wandered off topic, Your Majesty."

"Indeed," Mirana said, coming forward to extend her hand to Alice. "Well, my dear, I would be very happy to receive your services in trade. I am sure you will perform the task admirably, as you did as my Champion."

"And that is all?" Alice asked, expecting more discussion, to have to make more of a case for herself, as she had often been forced to do Above.

"Were you expecting something else?" the Queen asked, looking as if she was afraid of disappointing Alice.

"No…"Alice smiled, sincerely this time.

"You had me at buttered fingers, my dear," the Queen confessed.

[1] "I saw a ship a-sailing" appears in The Baby's Bouquet, A Fresh Bunch of Rhymes and Tunes by Walter Crane (1878). A comfit comes from the Middle English word confitmeaning a confection of any kind of fruit, root, or seed preserved with sugar and dried. "There were comfits in the cabin" is an old equivalent of candy or sweets.

[2] "The Walrus and the Carpenter" is a poem that appeared in Through the Looking-Glass. The poem is recited by Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Alice.

[3] The Lass of Richmond Hill was written by James Hook, an English composer, and was published circa 1790. The words are by Leonard McNally. The song was also popular in America during the 1790s. The words were written in honor of Miss Janson of Richmond Hill, Leybourne, Yorkshire, who was engaged to Leonard McNally. They were married January 16, 1787.

[4] ezel - high, go up

[5] pernicketie – fastidious (Sc)

[6] Battenberg cake is a light sponge cake which, when cut in cross section, displays a distinctive two-by-two check pattern alternately colored pink and yellow. The cake is covered in marzipan. It is commonly served at teatime. The origin of the name is not clear, but one theory claims that the cake was created in honor of the marriage in 1884 of Queen Victoria's granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg, with the four squares representing the four Battenberg princes: Louis, Alexander, Henry and Francis Joseph.

[7] The Great Famine of 1876-78 affected southern India for two years and eventually spread north into the Punjab. Just in the British areas 5.25 to 5.5 million people died during the famine. This renewed questions in Britain on how best to provide India with relief and protection.

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 13 of 22

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