Continuing Tales

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 14 of 22

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I Love My Love

Devonshorum Day

Alice knocked at the door to Hatter's workroom in the palace.

"Come in," a voice called out.

She peeked around the door and saw Hatter employed at his trade. His eyes flashed green and a smile dawned on his face as she entered the room. She could not remember anyone else ever seeming so happy to see her when she walked into a room. It was extremely flattering, and to her surprise, she found herself feeling the same way about him each time he entered a room—very novel, she mused.

"Hello, Alice," he lisped, holding up a needle and looking through its eye at her.

"Hello, Tarrant," she said, approaching his worktable.

"I have a riddle for you," he announced, plying his needle.

"Go ahead," she said, resting her hands on the other side of the table.

"I have but one eye, and that without sight,
Yet it helps me, whatever I do;
I am sharp without wits, without senses I'm bright,
The fortune of some, and of some the delight,
And I doubt not I'm useful to you."[1]

"You've given the answer away," she said, lifting a pincushion up and turning it before her.

"I believe you are right," he said happily, as he knotted his thread and bit it off.

Alice pulled a decorative hatpin from the pincushion and threaded it through her gown's neckline.

"A needle," she answered the undoubtedly solved riddle.

"Careful with that pin, love," he said, pushing a finished hat her way. "You don't have any thimbles to save your fingers from its wayward prick."

"I can always borrow one of yours," she said, chasing his hand with hers as he sat back in his chair.

He allowed her to catch his hand, and she lingered over the thimble on his middle finger before straightening up.

"Will you come join us, Hatter?" she asked.

"Is it teatime?" he asked, pulling his pocket watch from his waistcoat to examine the Time.

"No, but I thought I might pry you away from your work nonetheless. We're playing a game outside."

"A game, hmm?" he considered, crossing his arms across his chest.

She picked up the hat he had finished and examined it. "Who is this for?" she asked, stroking the blue veil.

Hatter placed his thimbled index finger to his lips, as if he was thinking. "A young lady of impeccable taste and muchness. Who do you think I had in mind?" he responded.

Alice gave a nervous little laugh, lifting the hat to her head. "I don't know, but how does it suit me?" she teased.

His eyes grew slightly darker and he paused. "Very pretty, as always."

She held out her hand to him and he took it. "Come, Hatter. It is too beautiful a day to be spent in here. I insist that you join us."

He stood, sighing dramatically, "If you insist, my lady."

Alice led Tarrant down to the garden where a spirited game of Blind Man's Bluff was being played.[2] They happily joined the chaotic throng. Thackery was currently blindfolded and having very little luck locating anyone due to his madness. Alice watched with interest as Hatter circled closer and closer to his friend without much effort to evade the Hare's wild gyrations. In fact, as Thackery whirled past Hatter, he reached out to let Thackery brush his jacket with his paw.

"Ho, ho!" Thackery shouted in triumph.

"You must guess who," Dee breathlessly reminded Thackery.

"Guess you must," Dum called out in agreement.

Thackery patted the Hatter, and he crouched down to assist in the Hare's blind perusal of his person. Alice smiled to herself, when she realized that Hatter wanted Thackery to catch him and successfully identify who he was.

"Hat!" Thackery announced, when he felt the Hatter's tall top hat.

"Well done," Hatter announced, grabbing the edge of the royal purple satin sash that was tied around Thackery's eyes and pinning down one ear and giving it a tug.

"Wait!" Mallymkun protested. "He said, 'Hat,' not 'Hatter.'"

"No, I distinctly heard 'Hatter,'" Alice said, jumping into the debate.

"No one asked you," Mally grumbled.

But, Thackery had already run off amongst the hedgerows, so it seemed a moot point to all involved. Hatter held out the sash before his face, waggling his brows. Hatter was to be it.

"You all better scatter fast," he urged the group, as he tied the sash behind his head.

Alice, however, did not run as instructed: she stayed close by as Tarrant began to wander, hands extended in front of him like a sleepwalker groping the air.

"Over here," she called softly to him, and he turned, orienting on her.

She laughed, running past him to his left. He turned again, following the sound of her laughter.

"Here!" she said, laughing as she ducked between the hedgerows. "Don't trip," she instructed, running backwards as he followed her, his arms brushing the branches of the hedges.

"Hatter," she teased, slowing down so he could catch up somewhat. "I'm right in front of you. Can't you find me?"

"You best run, Alice," Hatter purred, swinging his arms within a foot of her.

"You would never catch me then," she laughed, crouching down so that his arms swept over her head harmlessly.

"Do you want to be caught?" he inquired, looking blindly towards the ground, upon hearing her laugh.

"What will you do with me if I am caught, Blind Mouse? Cut off my tail?" she asked, dragging her hands noisily through the leaves of the hedgerows.[3]

"I'm the cat, you're the mouse," Tarrant corrected in a voice verging on a growl.

Alice would have responded to his assertion, but she stumbled backwards, falling unceremoniously on her rear end. Tarrant, hearing the thump, raised his blindfold above one eye and bent over to lift her from the grass. Hauling her upright, he set her on her feet.

"Cheat," she whispered, pulling the sash up off his eyes as he held her about her waist.

He looked her up and down, his eyes changing between green and blue quickly. His head tilted as he noticed something; he moved a trembling hand to dust off her lower arm, which had some loose grass affixed to it.

"Are ye a'richt?" he asked, his one hand still clinging to her waist.

She rose up to press a kiss to his cheek with the palms of her hands flat against his chest. His hand instantly tightened on her waist, making her suck in her breath.

"You let Thackery catch you," she whispered in his ear, gripping his lapels to steady herself.

"'twas na fair: he didna hiv a chance at sic a sport," he answered, his voice thick and deep.

She ran a thumb over his cheek and watched his eyes settled into a dark blue. "You're always the first to offer help," Alice said, letting her index finger sweep over his lower lip, "no matter the cost."

"Th' cost wisna sae dear," he said, his lips moving beneath her light touch.

Brave, generous, playful, kind, and attentive, Alice thought, silently cataloguing some of Tarrant's amiable qualities. His exceedingly lovable qualities, she amended.

"Tarrant," she said, her hand drifting back to his chest.

He followed her movements intently, seemingly lost to the world around them and oblivious to her words.

"Tarrant, I…"

His blue eyes finally drifted back to focus on hers.

"I love you," she said firmly.

Hatter closed his eyes as her hands slipped from his chest. Alice took two steps back and then turned, skipping away through the hedgerows.

"Alice! Come back 'ere!" he shouted after her.

Continuing to hurry away, Alice called back over her shoulder: "Cheat!"

Tarrant did not catch her. No, he made a dash for one of the Tweedles after emerging blindfolded from the hedgerows, where he and Alice had been…

Alice shook her head. What had she been thinking? She had not been thinking, surely. Never before in her life had she teased and flirted and acted in such a Questionable manner. There had never been anyone with whom she desired to do these things. Desire—the word alone sounded foreign to Alice, and she was certain she was not supposed to have any. Her mother would be shocked. If she had been present, she would have pulled Alice right from the garden by her ear if necessary. Standing in his embrace, whispering in his ear, kissing his cheek, teasing, suggesting…

He had avoided her throughout the rest of the game. It had become so painfully obvious that he was keeping away from her that Alice had excused herself, claiming to be fatigued.

Of course he was avoiding her: she was playing at games. Not just garden games, but Romantic games. Having never before entertained the sort of feelings she had for Tarrant and which he professed for her, Alice was playing with him as if he was a shiny new toy, trying out her feminine wiles and powers of persuasion. Or at very least, she feared that must be how it looked to Tarrant.

It struck her, as she hurried back to the castle that she was a Grown Woman and Tarrant was a Grown Man. Why had this not occurred to her before? Sitting at her looking glass in England, considering her decision and investigating herself, Alice had concluded that she loved Hatter. Alice had not considered what loving a man truly meant, however. Somehow she had imagined they would forever sit at tea, think of riddles and rhymes, and play games in the afternoon, as always, as if they would stand still, unchanging.

I am such a child.

Her stomach flipped and flopped, and for once she knew for certain that this sensation had nothing to do with hunger or bubblefrothal or anything but the Hatter and her terribly naughty behavior. Tarrant was not a toy and not to be toyed with. He deserved much more than that.

She felt ashamed of herself, and she felt heat steal over her chest and face when Tarrant entered the dining room. He did not come to sit beside her at the table in his usual place. He bowed to the Queen and nodded at Alice without meeting her eye, and afterward he sat across the table from her and busied himself with napkin fluffing, water glass inspection, cutlery adjustments, and candle gazing. She both feared and longed for him to look up. Look up, dearest HatterLook at me!

The twisting in her stomach, flushing of her skin, hammering of her heart, and wanton wish for his hands to clasp her about the waist once more left her confused. Was this what it felt like to be a Woman? She could not be sure, because no one had ever sat her down to tell her what to expect. Alice's innocence had been carefully preserved even while she was travelling abroad. Her ignorance of all things Male compounded her innocence of what it was to be Female or what it was to be Man and Woman. The only desires her mother had instilled in her were to be affectionate to her family and to one day desire motherhood.

Man and Woman and Motherhood—these things were all related, but it made her flush crimson to ponder, as she stared into her soup, how these things actually worked. No one had ever told her, and she had never asked. Perhaps she could have asked her mother or Margaret, but there had never been any Interest. Now they were beyond her asking. She silently worried that since she had failed to learn to adhere to Propriety or demonstrate proper submission to Authority, that she might also be a failure in the other mysterious things required of a Woman.

Some of the lessons her mother had attempted to instill in her flooded her memory.

Remember that, valuable as is the gift of speech, silence is often more valuable.

Learn to speak in a gentle tone of voice.

Learn to say kind and pleasant things when opportunity offers.

Learn to govern yourself and to be patient.

Learn to deny yourself and prefer others'.

Do not be in haste to seat yourself; one appears fully as well and talks better, standing for a few moments.

Do not meddle with, or stare at the articles in the room.

Do not tell long stories, argue, talk scandal or rumors.[4]

There were as many things to remember not to do as do. She was frequently a failure on all counts. Those failures had never counted for much with her, despite her mother's displeasure, but the thought that she was both Ignorant of how to be a Woman with a Man and could also ultimately prove to be a Failure at it was too much to bear.

A troubling line about unhappy wives from Mrs. Ellis' handbook, which had been pressed into Alice's hands at the age of twelve, floated through her mind: Her highest duty is so often to suffer and be still.[5] Suffer and be still—Alice was certain she was not good at either of these things. And Hatter may not even want what Otherland men wanted. How was she to ever find out what a Man wanted; what He wanted? Good heavens! She was considering what he wanted.

"Alice?" a voice squeaked.

Alice blinked looking to her right.

"Down here!" the voice demanded, and Alice directed her gaze downwards. Mally stood on the chair next to her, looking up inquisitively. "You did not touch your soup."

Alice looked down. Soup? Her soup was gone; cleared away by a servant whom she did not even observe. "I am not hungry," Alice explained. Not the Truth, but an explanation that made some Sense, she hoped.

Mally climbed atop the table, using the tablecloth to haul herself up. She moved over to Alice's bread plate. Bread should be cut in thin slices, and laid on the napkin on the left of each plate. Alice smiled to herself: she was as mad as the Hatter.

"Are you unwell, the Alice?" Mally asked quietly.

Alice bent her head to better hear the Dormouse.

"You are not eating and we all need you to be well…for him to be happy."

"Him?" Alice muttered. "Oh!" she exclaimed, when she realized that Mally was inclining one white ear in the direction of the Hatter. "I'm quite well," Alice assured the Dormouse, as she reached for her fork.

Tarrant worried about her health. She must try to eat something even if she did not feel up to the task. He worried about her, and yet he was avoiding her. She had done everything wrong.

"You come and you go and you are well and you are sick," Mally griped. "You don't know what it does."

Alice thought perhaps she did.


[1] This riddle is taken from taken from 'The Girls Own Book' by Mrs. Child, 1864.

[2] This game also appears in 'The Girls Own Book' by Mrs. Child with the following instructions on game play: "This ancient game is so well known, that it needs but a brief notice. One of the company is blindfolded, and runs round to catch the others, who all try to keep out of his grasp, at the same time that they go as near him as they can. If he catches one, and cannot tell who it is, he must let her go, and try again." There is evidence of the game being played as far back as the 16th c. at Henry VIII's court.

[3] Alice muddles the "Three Blind Mice" nursery rhyme. This rhyme originated with the publication of Deuteromelia or The Seconde part of Musicks melodie in 1609. The editor of the book, and possible author of the rhyme, was Thomas Ravenscroft. The original lyrics are:

"Three Blinde Mice,

Three Blinde Mice,

Dame Iulian,

Dame Iulian,

the Miller and his merry olde Wife,

shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife."

The rhyme entered the nursery rhyme corpus in its modern form in 1842 with its inclusion in a collection published by James Orchard Halliwell.

[4] Etiquette manuals from the second half of the nineteenth century, such as The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, contained such advice on proper social deportment.

[5] Mrs. Ellis was a popular nineteenth century English writer of handbooks, such as The Women of England: Their Social Duties and Domestic Habits and Guide to Social Happiness. This quote is taken from one of her books and demonstrates the expected non-sexuality of women, which was considered desirable and in many cases resulted in unsatisfying sex lives for both sexual partners after marriage.

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 14 of 22

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