Continuing Tales

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 9 of 22

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I Love My Love

Furbish Day

Hatter thought he heard someone whisper in his ear, but that could not be the case, so he continued furiously plying his needle. The voices sometimes played tricks on him: the secret was to ignore them and focus on making his hats. The hats always helped.

"Ow!" he yelped, grabbing his ear.

Something had stabbed him in the ear. The voices, while sometimes urging violence, were not usually so violent themselves.

"Hatter!" a voice squealed.

Pulling his head back, he realized that Mallymkun was standing on his shoulder, wielding a hatpin sword.

"Did ye stick me?" he demanded.

"I had no choice," Mally said, climbing atop his hat.

He looked down at his work table: it was more of a wreck than usual. The hat he was making would never do. He picked it up and heaved it across the room, so that it landed in a pile of other discarded chapeaux.

"You were in your own world," Mally explained.

"Mad, you mean?" the Hatter asked, pushing aside more fabric until he found the remaining scraps of the Alice fabric.

"Yes," Mally admitted. "Can't you open a window, Hatter? It's positively frumious in here!"[1]

"No time for cleaning," the Hatter replied, picking up several loose pins and sticking them in a large purple tomato shaped pin cushion. "Too much to do, you see!"

"That's just it: we don't see you, ever. Thackery is worried. I'm worried."

"About Alice?" the Hatter asked, rubbing the fabric slowly between his rough fingers.

"I could not care less about her," Mally began, but the Hatter caught her off balance when he stood quickly and strode away from his work table, effectively cutting her off. "Take care!" she called from atop the brim of his hat, where she had fallen.

"Always old, sometimes new, never sad, sometimes blue. Never empty, sometimes full, never pushes, always pulls," the Hatter said, moving towards a shelf where he kept a bundle of trim that might work for the hat he was imagining.

Mally scampered around his brim and leaned down so that he could see her whiskered face.

"The moon?" she asked.

"Yes, the moon," he said, lighting on the trim that he was looking for and dropping the rest of the bundle on the ground before moving quickly back towards the work table. The blue fabric caught his eye once more. "Alice and I looked at the moon."

Mally groaned, "Must you always talk about the Alice, Hatter?"

"Whit would ye have me blether aboot, Mally?" he demanded, crumpling the trim in his fist.[2]

"Tea?" she suggested, her nose twitching. "You have not come to Hare House for tea in weeks. I must do all Thackery's dodging and it is wearing me out." Her face disappeared and her legs appeared in his line of sight, dangling down from the brim of his hat. "We used to have such good times, Hatter."

"Did we?"

He remembered any number of not good things. The Jabberwocky; his family dying; his land burning; the Red Queen; Stayne; having to pretend to be more gallymoggers than one actually was; Alice nearly being killed; Alice leaving; Alice leaving again.

Alice had gone home: two months ago, eight and one half weeks ago, sixty days ago…

Those bloody voices!

"Dae ye mind when Alice was bit a bairn?" he asked Mally, trying to remember happier things, as he smoothed out with a trembling hand the delicate trim he had mindlessly crushed.[3]

Hatter ignored the frustrated sound that Mally made in response.

"Course I do, Hatter. The Alice was young and then the Alice was older and now the Alice is older yet."

"Alice is not old."

"Well, whatever she is, I liked her best as a child," Mally grumbled, "and even then she did not say what she meant or know any stories."

"I liked her always," the Hatter lisped softly.

"Once upon a time you merely liked to tease her," Mally tried. "But the Alice is gone, Hatter. You cannot continue to wait on her endlessly. Come to tea!" she concluded in exasperation.

His Thoughts did not want to turn to tea, they were full of Alice. Perhaps Mally would care to hear a rhyme he was fond of reciting?

"Twas on a merry time,

When Jenny Wren was young,

So neatly as she danced,

And so sweetly as she sang,

Robin Redbreast lost his heart,

He was a gallant bird

He doffed his cap to Jenny Wren,

Requesting to be heard."[4]

"Hatter!" she squealed, scampering back down onto his shoulder. "If you will not presently come to tea, I will take drastic steps."

His eyes settled on the top hat made in the blue Alice fabric. Alice would look so lovely in her hat. His Alice: he had taken to thinking of her as such, even though one voice warned him against it most vehemently. His Alice would look so very lovely, so very Alice in her hat that he had made for her. It brought to mind a rhyme: why had he stopped reciting his charming rhyme?

""My dearest Jenny Wren,

If you will but be mine,

You shall dine on cherry pie,

And drink nice currant wine;

I'll dress you like a goldfinch

Or like a peacock gay,

So if you'll have me, Jenny dear,

Let us appoint the day.""

"I warned you!" a voice squealed, seemingly very close to his ear.

But the Hatter knew that could not be right. No matter how real the voices sounded, they were only in his head, and the only way to drown them out was to apply himself to his haberdashery and sing—loudly.

This hat would not do either, he admitted dejectedly. The color was all wrong, he thought, irritably throwing the hat in a high arc across the room. As he watched the hat sail through the air, he imagined that he heard knocking. He looked down at the table: was the table making that noise, he wondered? It did not seem to be, but one could never be too sure about these things. He placed his ear to the table: nothingness. Ah, to be silent, he wistfully thought.

"Tarrant Hightopp!" a voice called.

He lifted his ear from the table and knit his ginger brows together in confusion, for the voices did not usually call him by his proper name. They were more often Rude than not.


A brief rush of Anxiety cut through his thick fog of madness. The Voice sounded just like…

"Hatter?" the Voice said once more, as it pushed open the door and peeked around the corner with large dark eyes.

The Voice belonged to a Someone not a Something. The Queen's white wavy hair and black eyes, brows, and lips, appeared blinking before him.

"Your Majesty," he said, struggling to stand and nearly falling backward over himself. "Are you the drastic step?" he lisped.

The Queen rounded the door, hands floating aloft. "Drastic step, my dear Hatter?"

He giggled. It was possible that he was not making much sense. Almost anything was possible; even impossible things were possible. The Queen was always good enough to ignore such outbursts of Nonsense, however. It occurred to him that Mally had thought the room frumious, so he hurried to a window, throwing it open with as much gusto as he could muster in his current state. It would not do to have the Queen overcome by mercury fumes.

"Sit, Hatter. You look fatigued."

He strode back to and collapsed into his chair, suddenly feeling that fatigue wash over him like a wave. He wondered how long it had been since he had slept anywhere except on his stool slumped with his head pressed against the wood of the table. There might be a wavy wood grain imprint on his forehead. The thought made him giggle again. Ridiculous Notion, he chastised himself.

He cleared his throat: "I…I am sorry, Your Majesty. I did not think…did not know to expect…" he stuttered and fumbled, trying to excuse himself from whatever discourtesy he was displaying towards the Queen whom he had worked so hard to place back on the throne. She had not been to his house since Before and now it was in quite a State and so was he.

Mirana glided towards him and set one delicate hand on his tense shoulder, speaking kindly, "You did not expect me, so do not trouble yourself."

The Queen looked around before seemingly resigning herself to standing next to her subject, since there were no other chairs or stools to be had. The Hatter would have stood and offered his stool, but he felt as if his legs might not support him.

"I…I have been considering things that begin with the letter 'M,'" he advised her, hoping she would understand why he could not stand.

"Have you now?"

"Morose, miserable, melancholic, manic, muddled, mournful…"

"Hatter," she interrupted.

"I'm fine," he swallowed. "Thank you."

"I have received some troubling news," she said delicately.

"Alice?" he asked, struggling to stand.

He could see by the slight break in her serene composure that something in his eyes had momentarily alarmed her. It would only be worse if she failed to answer him quickly. What was wrong with Alice? What could he do to help her? His Alice, his dear, dear Alice, he inwardly whimpered, wringing his hands.

"No, not Alice. I heard that you were not quite yourself."

He giggled, as he slipped back into his chair. The queen was quite the dissembler. Not himself. What was himself anymore? Who was he?

"You do not see your friends? Have not taken tea?" she prodded, tilting her head.

"I am busy," he answered brusquely.

She looked about the room, "I can see that. But, you have not sent any hats to Marmoreal…for months, and you are the Royal Hatter," she explained, sounding just slightly as if she was scolding him.

"Forgive me, Your Majesty," he lisped. "Would you…would you like to hear a riddle?"

"Yes, of course. I should," she said nodding gracefully.

"When I'm used, I'm useless, once offered, soon rejected. In desperation oft expressed, the intended not protected. What am I?"

"Hmm…"the Queen pondered. "I do not know. I give up."

"A poor excuse."

"Ah," she said, her hands, pressing together in a silent clap of approval.

"That is what I have: a poor excuse for being negligent about my Duties," he explained, drifting into a soft lisp.

"My, but you have been busy," she said, floating away from him towards the corner of his work room.

He watched as she approached Alice's dress draped on the dress form. He did not want her to touch it. If she did, he was not sure he could prevent himself from reacting. He clenched his hands beneath the table, just in case.

"Who is this for?" she asked, stopping just short of touching the gown.

He had done his best to remove the stains from the hem without removing the Aliceness from it entirely—no small feat. Her essence was so fleeting and so fragile without her muchness there to give it substance and weight. The weight of her in his arms…

"Ah dinna mak' it. 'twas Alice's."

The Queen turned her back on the gown, sighing. "This is all about Alice. Is it not, Hatter?"

Of course it was about Alice! The Whole of his life was now about Alice.

"Is she comin' back?" he demanded.

"Are you asking about the details of the Oraculum?"

He swept a bolt of fabric from his table. "Ye knaw A'm," he said, as the bolt crashed to the ground.

She shook her head disapprovingly.

"Daes Alice knaw?" he asked, choking back a laugh that threatened to angrily spill forth. "Did ye tell Alice?" Everything was kept from him, because he was a madman. No one would trust a madman with information. Even the kind of information that was vital for his happiness, he inwardly cursed.

She fluttered towards him. "Would you have me tell her the future, Hatter? Would you be happy knowing she made her decision believing that it had already been made for her?"

Was the Queen mad as well? She was speaking Nonsense.

"Yes, Alice inquired after the Oraculum, and no, I did not show it to her. If I had looked at the Oraculum and told her that she would be coming back, do you not think this would have unduly shaped her decision whether or not to come back to Underland?" she asked, speaking to him as if he was a troubled child.

"Whatever brings her back tae me," he mumbled.

"You do not mean that," she said, touching his cheek. "You have lost your spark with Alice gone," she said sadly. "But, if she came back and you could not be sure that she did so entirely of her own accord, that knowledge would drive you mad as well."

It was true: he wanted Alice to want to come home, to him, always.

"Leave her alone and she'll come home," he forcefully whispered, trying to control the anger that was boiling beneath the surface of his skin, threatening to break through.[5]

The Hatter smashed his bandaged hand down on the table. There was a small cracking sound, and he discovered that he had broken a bone button neatly in half with his fist. Curious: one minute, one button, the next, two pieces of uselessness.

His attention drifted back to the Queen, who stood silently waiting for him to speak. He hated the Queen sometimes. Hated her damnable white hair, her black lips, her white skin, her black brows, and the fact that she was here and Alice was not. He hated that she was so often right, when all he wanted to do was make perfectly perfect hats of perfection for Alice to admire and wear so that she might come home. Home to him. Always with him. At whatever cost.

"What will cheer you, dear friend?"

"Naught for usal," he groused.[6]

"Surely there is something. Can I not tempt you to come with me to Marmoreal? Thackery has made some very tasty cherry pies…"

A Whim inspired Hatter to begin to hum and then recite his lovely rhyme:

"Jenny blushed behind her fan
And thus declared her mind -
"So let it be to-morrow, Rob,
I'll take your offer kind;
Cherry pie is very good,
And so is currant wine,
But I will wear my plain brown gown,
And never dress too fine."

Robin Redbreast got up early,
All at the break of day,
He flew to Jenny Wren's house,
And sang a roundelay;
He sang of Robin Redbreast,
And pretty Jenny Wren,
And when he came unto the end,
He then began again."

The Hatter felt the cool touch of Mirana's hand once more as he finished his rhyme, but this time he jerked slightly at the sensation. No woman had touched him in many years before Alice came along. No one had wanted to, he supposed, but Alice was not afraid. Alice understood.

He tried to focus his bleary eyes on the Queen. The Queen could have stopped Alice. She could have told her to stay. Or, at very least the Queen might now read the Oraculum for him and put him out of his Misery—one way or the other.

If Alice was not coming home, he had a plan for the Hat House, he thought, his right hand twitching on the tabletop. He knew Misery; they were well acquainted. He had thought there was nothing left in Underland that could happen to him that would drag him out of his familiar set of emotions—for good or for bad. Then Alice had done both: bringing him joy with her arrival and despair with her exit. The loss of Alice would be the final straw, the last thing taken from him before he would break entirely.

"I have already asked so much of you and you have given so much without my ever having to ask," the Queen said with regret without acknowledging his rhyming outburst.

He hoped that his eyes had not betrayed him. Had she read his mind? Read his hateful, horrible, horrendous thoughts about his Queen? Or had he mistakenly spoken aloud? He did not want to feel this way. It was just that up was down and down was up ever since Alice had gone away. He had spent the morning walking on the ceiling, thinking it was the floor. What a sight that would have made for the Alice Homecoming he had planned for in his mind. A madman gone quite mad, indeed.

"She would ne'er hiv me, Ah think. 'n' why should she?" he moaned.

It was a lovely rhyme about two lovely little loving birds, but Alice would not be lured by cherry pies and the promise of gay gowns. Or even hats, even particularly pretty hats in Alice Blue. No, why should she be? He was an Old Mad Hatter.

"Anyone would be lucky to receive such meritorious service," the Queen said appreciatively. "The invitation remains, Hatter. You are always welcome at court. And you must promise me to try to eat more regularly and get some rest. You are quite important to me."

Normally these words of praise would have warmed him, but he could not generate any warmth.

She continued, "I cannot have the Hero of Underland wasting away. Do you understand me, Hatter?"

The Hatter swallowed back a bitter laugh and roughly nodded his head.

"Very well then. I bid you a good day."

He attempted to stand and bow as she floated from the room, but he only managed to knock half the items off the table and nearly lose his hat, slipping as he did on a silky piece of fabric underfoot. Alice Blue fabric, he realized with a start. Bending down, he scooped the fabric up and tidily folded it. It would not do to have Alice Blue creased and crumpled and crushed. Of all fabrics, this one deserved the most care, he rebuked himself.

He would make her embroidered handkerchiefs! Alice Blue embroidered handkerchiefs!

[1] frumious - filthy with a very bad smell

[2] blether – to talk, babble

[3] mind — remember; bairn — a child of any age

[4] The story of the wedding of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren was commissioned in 1806 by publisher John Harris to precede the already-popular "The Death and Burial of Cock Robin." It appeared in the collection as "The Happy Courtship, Merry Marriage and Picnic Dinner, of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren."

[5] The Hatter misquotes from "Lilttle Bo Peep." The earliest record of this rhyme is from a manuscript dated around 1805, which contains only the first verse:

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,

And can't tell where to find them;

Leave them alone, And they'll come home,

Wagging their tails behind them.

[6] naught for usal - it's no use trying

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 9 of 22

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