Continuing Tales

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 18 of 22

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
I Love My Love

Scrumium Day

Alice moved throughout the day wondering whether she had dreamt the previous night. This is what Hatter must often feel like, she thought, always doubting reality. There was no real Proof, so she could not be sure. Only the lingering sense of having been thoroughly kissed, which would not necessarily indicate an Engagement, just naughty behavior. But that is what she seemed to remember. Tarrant had asked her to marry him—in his own particular way—without truly asking. Her heart skipped several beats every time she thought of it. It would have been nice to speak to him about it or at least lay eyes on him, but she had not seen him all day despite her best efforts and now teatime was nigh.

Was she to face all their friends without being sure if what had taken place had been Real? She approached the lengthy outdoor tea table set amongst the palace's ever-blooming cherry trees with Apprehension, her unwelcome companion. She had made sure to be on time, knowing how much Thackery hated late guests, but to her surprise, Hatter was not yet present.

"Good afternoon, Alice," the Queen greeted her, as she took her seat.

"Good afternoon, Your Majesty."

"Rest well, Alice?" the Cheshire Cat purred.

Alice felt color flood her cheeks. "Yes, quite well." Carried asleep to her bedchamber by a Man, proposed to, and kissed, thoroughly.

"No running about the woods at night?" he teased.

Alice took the sugar spoon and half-smiled, "Not last night, no. Not a proper night for night running, I'm afraid."

"Shame, that," Chessur replied, flicking his tail. "I spoke with a flower the other day who was quite entertained by your moonlit discussions the other night. Quite interesting subject matter, so I'm told."

Immediately Alice began to worry about what had been said between herself and Tarrant that neighboring flowers might have overheard and reported back on. One was never really Alone in Underland.

"Would you care to share it with the group?" he asked with a broad grin.

"Not particularly," Alice said, stirring her tea.

"You went running at night so as to have nighttime discussions with flowers, the Alice?" Mally asked, knocking over a teacup as she attempted to get comfortable on the table.

"Something a bit like that," Alice hedged.

"Every once and awhile you have a really good Idea," Mally said approvingly.

"Oh, yes," Chessur purred. "Sounds like a jolly good time was had by all."

"Our Champion is a great font of New and Interesting Ideas," the Queen said with a serene smile before noiselessly sipping from her teacup.

Thackery threw a scone, which sailed past Alice's head and bounced off the edge of the table, leaving a few crumbs behind. Alice wiped them away to tidy up the table. There should be some semblance of order at the court's teatime, she inwardly lectured. But the scone did indeed look tasty. The March Hare's actions were most likely only due to his enthusiasm about the quality of the baked goods.

"Lovely scone," Alice mused, taking a particularly large one from the platter in front of her. "My compliments, Thackery."

Thackery rubbed his paws together quickly, hiccupping, obviously pleased with Alice's praise of his culinary skills.

"If you intend on running into the woods some other night soon, you might wake your friends," Mally advised, as she crumbled a piece of crumpet in her paw. "We would enjoy a share of the fun, you know."

"Oh, I don't imagine Alice will be lacking companionship anytime soon," Chessur drawled.

Chessur seemed to know more than he should, as usual. Tarrant was not here, but perhaps, since the Cat was so well informed, she might ask Chessur if she was really and truly Engaged to the Hatter. At the Thought, she could not help herself: her attention was drawn to the empty chair. The chair in which her fiancé should be sitting; at least, shethought he was her fiancé.

As she was staring at his chair, she noticed the Queen smiling in her direction quite purposefully. "Your Majesty," Alice said, tearing her gaze from the Hatter's chair to give her attention to Mirana.

"Is everything all right, Alice?" the Queen asked sweetly.

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm merely surprised that the Hatter is late."

Nivens pulled his pocket watch from his waistcoat and examined the timepiece. "Infinitely Rude, this business of lateness. A trait I cannot abide in the least."

"Untimeous!" Thackery shouted in agreement, throwing his paw in the air for emphasis. [1]

"Not too late, I hope," a voice sounded behind her. "Are all the scones stale?"

Her heart skipped again. This Engagement might be the death of her, she thought, as she glanced over her shoulder. The Hatter dramatically bowed to the Queen before bestowing a toothy smile on Alice.

"Where have you been all day?" Mally asked, as she buttered a small bit of scone.

Apparently, Alice had not been the only one to notice his absence.

Tarrant pulled out his empty chair and brushed his coattails back as he took his seat. "Errands, Mally, Errands of a most essential nature, seeing as I was rather errant in not having performed them earlier. But then, I have been investigating things that begin with the letter 'E' of late."

'E,' Alice thought. Engagement began with an 'E' the last time she checked.

"Tea!" Thackery shouted.

"As important as tea, you will see," Hatter said with a wink. "Have I made a rhyme?"

Alice wondered whether he was making a reference to their Engagement. If in fact, it had truly happened and she had not dreamt it. She would have to ask him when she had a moment alone with him. It might be a somewhat awkward conversation. But then, Hatter never seemed averse to asking her if what was happening was Real, so perhaps it was best to put such Scruples aside.

"Can you give us a hint?" Mirana inquired.

"Better than a hint, actually. I shall give you a riddle!"

The Queen clapped her hands, eager to partake in a riddle. The Hatter seemed to be looking around the table for more refreshments, however, leaving everyone in suspense, so Alice handed him a plentiful platter of biscuits. With a smile he took it from her with his right hand, as he deftly handed her a colorful silk handkerchief with his left.

"It has no top or bottom but it can hold flesh, bones and blood all at the same time." He leaned in towards her as she took the handkerchief, whispering conspiratorially, as he nodded at the wadded up piece of silk, "To make it Proper."

Alice frowned, looking down at the proffered item. Make what Proper, she wondered?

"Give us another hint," Mally pleaded, scratching the fur at her temple, evidently stumped.

"No, that shall have to do. You shall merely have to think it through," Hatter said, pouring himself some tea. "I doubt very much I need to point out that most excellent rhyme," he added with a devilish grin.

He certainly seemed to be in an exceptional mood, Alice considered as she fingered the handkerchief. Rhyming, riddling, selecting teatime treats with gusto, and this elevation of mood might be related to their Engagement. She unfolded the handkerchief, and as she did, something fell into her lap.

"A crumpet, perhaps?" Tarrant asked cheerfully, extending a hand across the table with a flourish and nearly knocking over a teapot in the process.

Alice peered down into her lap. Blinking, she attempted to clear her vision so as to be sure it was Real. Everything was beginning to take on the quality of a dream, as it once had when she had returned to Underland. The blinking did not clear her vision, however: a ring, a silver ring lay in her lap. [2] Tarrant had just given her a ring. Alice grabbed the ring, clasping it in her hand tightly and peeking around the table. No one seemed to have noticed the gift. She tucked her hands beneath the tablecloth and turned the ring around in her fingers. It was an Engagement. He had given her a ring. She slipped it on her left ring finger. It fit perfectly, but of course it would. The dresses, the hats, everything he had ever given her fit perfectly, even though he had never taken a single measurement.

She pressed her unringed hand to her middle, feeling a fluttering in her stomach.

"Delicious crumpets," Hatter exclaimed, chewing with delight. He looked over her shoulder. "You have them too?" Tarrant asked her casually.

"Have what?"

"Bread-and-butterflies? They're exhilarating, aren't they?"

"Is that what they're called?" Alice mused quietly.

Alice gave a slight start, when she felt Tarrant's hand join hers under the tablecloth and fumble about her lap, blindly groping. He stopped when he found her left hand. She smiled to herself as he ran his finger over the ring. There under the table, where no one could see, was the Proof she had been seeking all day. They were Engaged; it was Real.

Tarrant and Alice lingered behind the group, which was returning to the palace.

"I was not sure it was Real," Alice admitted, as she raised her finger and wiggled it, letting the sunshine glint off of the silver of her new ring.

"It is genuine silver," he assured her. "I would not give you something false."

Alice smiled, "No, I thought perhaps that I had dreamt your proposal. I spent the day looking for you, so that I might confirm it."

"Unless we both dreamt it, it is Real, for I remember it as well."

"Good. I never doubted the ring," she added.

He took her hand, "It is a fede ring. We give them as a symbol of the tryste." [3]


"Betrothal, engagement, tryste," he explained, as he brought the ring to his lips and kissed it.

"We give rings as well. That is how I knew the Engagement was Real," Alice said, wetting her lips as she watched him withdraw her hand from his mouth. Was it very wrong to want him to kiss her lips instead?

"It's still a perplexing riddle," he mused.

"What is, Tarrant?"

"Ravens and writing desks," he clarified.

"Oh, yes. Quite," Alice agreed.

"But, I don't think I require an answer anymore."

That seemed unlikely. "Why is that?"

"You have given me the answer to the greatest riddle in the world," he informed her, as he traced the ring on her finger with his thumb. "I don't need to ask you the other in its place anymore."

It was rather mad logic, but it made Alice smile. How long had that riddle meant something else altogether, she wondered bemusedly?

"I had the Royal Jeweler engrave it for you, lass," he confessed, lisping as he nodded at the ring.

He let go of her hand so that she could read the inscription. She slid the ring from her finger and tilted it to see what was written: I love my love with an A. [4]

"It's perfect, Tarrant," Alice said affectionately.

"Dearest Alice," he said, smiling broadly. "It would not all fit despite the Jeweler's infinite skill. There was to be more. It should say: I love my love with an A, because she is Astounding. I hate her with an A, because she sometimes went Away. She took me to the sign of the Apron, and treated me to Apples and Afternoon Tea. Her name is Alice, and she comes from Above."

Alice turned the ring round in her hand, able to properly inspect it for the first time. The simple silver band was made of two hands clasping each other. It suited her perfectly.

"I am quite good at that game as well, you know. I love my love with an H, because he is Honorable. I hate him with an H," she said, reaching out to press her hand to his chest, "because he is Honorable." As she recalled, he had left her bedchamber and stopped with the thorough kissing before she would have liked last night, excusing himself in that delightfully maddening burr.

The Hatter inhaled through his teeth as her hand slipped down his chest, trailing her index finger over his waistcoat before rejoining the other hand in examination of her ring.

"He took me to the sign of the Hat, and treated me to Heavy Cream and Honey. His name is Hightopp, and he comes from Here," she said as she looked up to see a contented smile grace his features and just the barest hint of blue rimming his eyes. "Shall I try again with 'T'?"

"Not necessary," he assured her. "Perhaps another time," he amended, conceivably thinking better of turning down an offer to continue at play. His smile faded, however, as a small cloud fell across his visage. "It is still not entirely Proper, however," he said, gesturing towards her ring.

"How is it not?" Alice asked, slipping the ring back on her finger, where she wished it to stay.

"After proposing I should perform the Speerin'," he said with a frown. [5] "You're too precious to just take without a proper asking for."

Alice could make no sense of his words. His eyes were perfectly green, so she imagined the misunderstanding was due to Outlandish and not madness. "Pardon?"

"There's no Faither for me to ask," he explained, sounding apologetic, as if this was a situation that he should somehow know how to reverse.

Alice bit her bottom lip, "No, there isn't."

"No Brither, no Mither…"

Alice reached up to touch his cheek, "You have my permission, which is enough, I wager."

Hatter thought for a moment, the colors in his eyes slowly shifting. "Aye, you are the Champion," he finally acknowledged. "Although, Champion or not, you look as if you are sick," he said with a mischievous twinkle.

Alice pulled herself up straight, letting her hand drop. She was not sick. She was perfectly improved. "I am not," she insisted, confused by the merriment that seemed to have seized him.

"Indeed, you are. A very queer illness, Alice, dear. You look quite tired, in fact."

"Beside it being rather Rude to comment on other people's appearances, I must object that I do not feel tired in the least," Alice lectured.

Hatter reached up to press his hand to her forehead. "Not the feverish sort of illness. Not the tired to bed sort of illness," he continued. "But tired in the face."

"Well, that is even worse!" Alice exclaimed in mortification. Tarrant's observations on her appearance were usually much more pleasing.

"It is still a very pretty sort of nose, my love, but it looks so very tired," he said, moving his hand from her forehead to stroke the bridge of her nose. He shook his head, "No, that is not right. Perhaps it is your hair."

Alice raised a hand to her hair just as he did the same.

"Lovely blonde hair should not be made to play the pianoforte, Alice," he said with a mock frown. "You have tired it out terribly."

"I have done no such thing, Hatter."

"Then perhaps the tiredness is more about your chin. Have you been walking on your chin of late?" he asked, as his hand slipped from her hair and his thumb settled on her chin as his fingers tilted her face up slightly.

The tip of his thumb brushed her lips, leaving her incapable of the vehement denial of chin-walking that she had intended on expressing.

"I believe I have found the source of your exhaustion, wee laddie," he said, shaking his head gravely. "It is your lips." His thumb pulled slightly at her bottom lip. "You must have been giving too many kisses."

Alice drew upon her muchness, so as to ask, "Is there a cure?" with her voice only wavering somewhat.

Tarrant leaned in closer, so that she could feel his breath against her lips. "You must not give any more kisses until your lips are quite rested."

She meant to say, 'Oh,' but her lips only formed the sound without making any. This cure was a great disappointment. No kisses. How drab, dull, dreary, dismal.

"So what am I to do?" Hatter asked with increasing gravity. "For, I intend on kissing you many times more." [6]

"I shall have to remain tired," Alice said, smiling against his thumb, as he drew it across her lips.

"Tired, indeed," he agreed, before making room for his lips against hers.

[1] untimeous - unseasonably or inconveniently late (Sc)

[2] This of course, is the answer to Hatter's riddle.

[3] In the Middle Ages, the Scots began the wedding tradition of giving a silver fede (or faith) ring as a pledge. They were the precursor to the Claddagh rings, which became popular in the seventeenth century. The common feature of these rings is the clasped hands; only the Claddagh clasps the heart and is sometimes topped by a crown. The hands represent trust, faith, or pledged love.

[4] I Love My Love was a popular Victorian parlor game. The description of the game from The Girls Own Book by Mrs. Child is as follows: "This game may be played by any number, each taking a letter as it comes to her turn. Any mistake or hesitation incurs the penalty of a forfeit. She that begins may say: A. I love my love with an A because he is Artless. I hate him with and A, because he is Avaricious. He took me to the sign of the Anchor, and treated me to Apples and Almonds. His name is Abraham, and he comes from Alnwick."

Alice plays this game with the White King in Through the Looking Glass, using the letter 'H.'

[5] There was often a ritual attached to the prospective groom seeking the girl's hand. 'The Speerin' or 'The Beukin' involved the bride's father feigning displeasure, making the suitor work hard for his approval, and throwing hurdles in his way.

[6] This exchange is directly inspired by a letter written by Lewis Carroll dated October 28, 1876 from Christ Church, Oxford. The content of the letter is as follows:

"My Dearest Gertrude:

You will be sorry, and surprised, and puzzled, to hear what a queer illness I have had ever since you went. I sent for the doctor, and said, "Give me some medicine, for I'm tired." He said, "Nonsense and stuff! You don't want medicine: go to bed!"

I said, "No; it isn't the sort of tiredness that wants bed. I'm tired in the face." He looked a little grave, and said, "Oh, it's your nose that's tired: a person often talks too much when he thinks he knows a
great deal." I said, "No, it isn't the nose. Perhaps it's the hair." Then he looked rather grave, and said, "Now I understand: you've been playing too many hairs on the pianoforte."

"No, indeed I haven't!" I said, "and it isn't exactly the hair: it's more about the nose and chin." Then he looked a good deal graver, and said, "Have you been walking much on your chin lately?" I said, "No." "Well!" he said, "it puzzles me very much.

Do you think it's in the lips?" "Of course!" I said. "That's exactly what it is!"

Then he looked very grave indeed, and said, "I think you must have been giving too many kisses." "Well," I said, "I did give one kiss to a baby child, a little friend of mine."

"Think again," he said; "are you sure it was only one?" I thought again, and said, "Perhaps it was eleven times." Then the doctor said, "You must not give her any more till your lips are quite rested
again." "But what am I to do?" I said, "because you see, I owe her a hundred and eighty-two more." Then he looked so grave that tears ran down his cheeks, and he said, "You may send them to her in a box."

Then I remembered a little box that I once bought at Dover, and thought I would someday give it to some little girl or other. So I have packed them all in it very carefully. Tell me if they come safe or if any are lost on the way."

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 18 of 22

<< Previous     Home     Next >>