Chapter 2: Unusual Company
Once Alice’s face had passed through the looking glass, a small room came into view. Two chairs were lying on their sides while a small table located in the center of the room had its legs sticking up towards the ceiling to face an assortment of paintings. How the paintings remained on the ceiling, Alice had no clue. As the rest of her body began to pass through to the unusual room, more curious features began to become apparent. Doors of different sizes hung along the walls as though they were on display for all to see. Alice guessed these were the doors that had once been placed throughout the house in between rooms. The clocks on the mantel piece (the only furniture that was right side up) all contained a different time.
It did not take Alice very long to conclude that she had been transported to the Hatter’s household despite the fact it had changed slightly since the last time she ended up passing through his looking glass. Transporting to Wonderland was always an unpredictable affair. Since she simply could not afford to travel down the rabbit hole each time she wished to visit Wonderland (especially in winter), Alice would have to use the looking glass. However, there were looking glasses scattered about all over Wonderland therefore each time she entered the mystical world, there was no way of determining which looking glass she would be passing through. Alice could never recall an instance in which she arrived through the same looking glass twice in a row. Of course, the only way to get back to her own world was through a looking glass (for it was silly to think she could go up a rabbit hole). Luckily for her, she usually returned to the looking glass she had just utilized to arrive in Wonderland though there was one instance in which she had ultimately found herself in her parent’s bedroom. But that is for another time.
Upon entering the Hatter’s household, Alice’s eyes traveled down to notice her clothes had transformed from her white nightgown to a blue dress with a white pinafore. She took the time to notice she had also gained a pair of white stockings as well as small black shoes. Her hair contained a blue ribbon tucked neatly under her hair. The dress rested just a bit passed her knees and for a moment, it reminded her of the outfits she used to wear as a child.
“Rather ironic if I do say so myself,” Alice murmured to herself. She took a moment to briefly glance down at the little rabbit she had brought before setting it down upon the ground. Silently, Alice walked over towards the chairs and turned them right side up. “It simply won’t do to have chairs on their sides when company is over,” she reasoned. “How does he expect people to sit comfortably sideways?” Once the chairs had been set in order, Alice turned the table over so that it was once again right side up. She stepped back a few steps to marvel her handy work. “Much better,” she stated confidently though her expression changed when she noticed the paintings and doors hanging everywhere. “This is the best I can do,” she reasoned to herself.
Alice gently picked up her small little friend and began to make her way to the garden where it was no doubt tea time: as it always seemed to be for Hatter. The hall that led to the backdoor (probably the only door that was still in its proper place) was just as curious as the room she had entered. Teapots and cups were nailed to the walls by using the enclosed area the handles provided. Of course, whoever had nailed these trinkets to the wall (no doubt Hatter himself) did not do a very decent job for cups and teapots had clearly fallen from their position. This was most likely do to the fact the Hatter failed to hammer the nails in properly. Either way, broken china was all over the floor.
“Someone could quite easily get injured,” Alice spoke aloud as she avoided the glass. Why the Hatter would want to nail such items to a wall Alice had no clue. Then again, who would attach doors to the wall as well? “He really is truly mad I do declare.” Alice reached the end of the hall and twisted the doorknob, slightly hesitant. There was no telling what was in store for her.
Upon opening the door, a warm sunlight tickled Alice’s face. Looking out, she could see the weather was absolutely beautiful. The sky was as clear as could be; the grass grew tall: the greenest grass she had ever laid her eyes on (clearly, winter was no where near approaching in Wonderland). In order to make this a perfect scene, birds would have to be fluttering by, singing a lovely tune. However, there were no birds fluttering by at this particular incident. They were intelligent enough to know not to fly near the tea party or the unusually long table that lay a few yards in front of Alice.
The three usual guests were too busy partaking in various activities to notice Alice right away. The Dormouse was fast asleep; his head resting on a plate that was most likely dirty with some sort of sweet. He appeared to be sleeping rather comfortably on the side of the table away from Alice, closer to the head of the table which lay on Alice’s left. The March Hare was spreading some jam on a piece of toast. He sat in the seat directly next to the head of the table. Alice took a moment to wonder if both her world and Wonderland still shared the same month even though they clearly did not share the same season for she would feel rather uncomfortable (not to mention unprepared) if it was March in Wonderland. She concluded that it could not possibly be March due to the March Hare’s calm behavior. Since normally a hare would be sleeping for the winter (or in the Hare’s case, acting calm and civilized), the month must still be the same (or so Alice told herself).
Hatter sat at the head of the table. He was gazing confusingly at his pocket watch and Alice guessed he must have either been wondering why his watch possessed the wrong time or double checking to make sure he had not murdered Time again. No matter how many times Alice told him, Hatter was still convinced he had murdered Time even though he could not explain how Time was revived. After so many conversations on the subject, Alice ultimately decided never to bring it up again.
The Hatter must have seen Alice out of the corner of his eye for in a few moments his gaze was shifting towards her direction. A wide grin immediately began to spread across his face: nearly as large as the Cheshire Cat’s grin.
“Alice!” Hatter exclaimed as he nearly tumbled over his chair as he attempted to rise from his seat. Alice couldn’t help but to giggle slightly at this. Of course, she covered such a slip up rather quickly, not wanting to hurt Hatter’s feelings. The March Hare’s eyes shifted towards the Hatter’s direction then transferred towards Alice.
“Just in time for tea!” the March Hare exclaimed, his hand swooshing through the air with the knife still in his hand to complete the spreading of his jam. The Dormouse awoke for a brief moment to wonder what the entire hubbub was about. His eyes barely open, the Dormouse groggily looked towards Alice.
“When is she never on time for tea?” he remarked. The March Hare glared slightly towards the Dormouse though the Dormouse was already fast asleep again, unable to see the cold stare. It wasn’t like he cared anyway.
As Alice attempted to curtsey towards the March Hare and the Dormouse, Hatter threw his arms around her, nearly knocking her to the ground. Alice was slightly startled by this gesture: although it was not uncommon for Hatter to act unusual (which included hugs here and there), she did not know him to hug her so tightly.
“Alice, I am very glad to see you! I thought you might have permanently ended your soul and that would be most dreadful. I hope you’ve learned your lesson to keep your soul where it belongs,” he said as he squeezed her tighter.
“‘Thought’? He wouldn’t shut up about it!” the March Hare exclaimed, recalling the rather annoying day of having to hear Hatter over and over about the incident (for he was not present during this particular episode).
“That’s very kind of you to worry about me but I’m perfectly fine...including my soul,” Alice replied, wishing the Hatter would let go of his tight grip. She gently placed her hands on his arms to signal that if he squeezed her any tighter she would be unable to breathe.
“Oh,” Hatter remarked as he came to the realization. Instantly, he loosened his grip around Alice, setting her free. Alice gave a small nod, thanking him. It was then that she was able to scrutinize him to the fullest. His slightly short, black hair was a tad messy though this did not particularly bother Alice seeing as it was most likely due to the enormous top hat he wore. He wore a dark blue frock coat in order to match his hat along with black pants. His shirt was a shade of lilac with an unusual swirl pattern in a lavender color surrounding it. This particular design matched the brim of his hat (along with the lilac color). As always, a card reading “In this style 10/6” was tucked behind the brim. After wearing it for so long, Hatter simply refused to part with it and kept this hat for himself. Of course, he had clearly forgotten to take the card out.
“Your clothes barely match,” Alice remarked as she continued to scrutinize his clothes. Sometimes she wondered what went through his head. Then again, perhaps it was best not to know at times.
“I said the same thing,” the March Hare insisted. However, he was no better dressed than the Hatter. His frock coat was a bright orange with green pants. On the top of his head stood a straw hat (or, at the very least, what looked to be a straw hat for by now there were only a few pieces of straw left on the top of his head).
“You are all dressed rather oddly,” the Dormouse announced in his sleep who was wearing not clothes at all.
“Who asked you?” the March Hare replied bitterly as he merely wished to be a part of the conversation.
Hatter became slightly embarrassed upon hearing Alice’s remark. However, before he had the chance to defend himself, Alice noticed something else rather odd about the way he was dressed.
“Your buttons are not in their proper slits,” Alice stated as she realized one button was missing a slit and another slit was missing a button. Before Hatter could protest, Alice began to undo his frock coat, placing the buttons in their rightful place (having her rabbit nestled under her arm). As she did this, Hatter reminded Alice of a child who clearly had no proper understanding of the world. And Lorina had called her a child! She only wished Lorina could see the Hatter now and then perhaps she would think otherwise of Alice. “Well, she will think otherwise once I get back,” Alice thought as she just finished placing the last button in its proper slit. “You’re as mad as ever,” Alice commented to Hatter.
“But I am getting better, aren’t I?” Hatter inquired hopefully.
“Well, it’s certainly better than saying ‘your hair wants cutting’,” Alice teased as she recalled the very first thing Hatter had said to her. He had been most definitely mad then. Now, he was mad in a different way. Over the years she had managed to teach him a few manners along with the March Hare (who was now a complete lunatic in March only) and the Dormouse (though the Dormouse never really put these manners into practice, seeing as how he was almost always asleep). Hatter’s face turned a shade of red at her comment.
“You... remember that?” he said, laughing nervously as he scratched the side of his head.
“It’s a little hard to forget...” Alice responded frankly.
The March Hare began to chuckle from his seat. He tried to cover this by taking a sip of tea though that obviously did not go very well and instead he nearly sent the tea all over the table. The Dormouse was once again sleeping though a small smile curled from his lips. Hatter quickly regained himself once he heard the March Hare’s commentary on the conversation and bowed politely as he motioned towards the table.
“Would you be so kind as to join us for some tea?” Hatter inquired. Alice beamed at the formality and politely returned the favor with a curtsey.
“I would love to,” she responded. Hatter led her towards the table, pulling a chair out that was directly to the right of the head of the table. Alice graciously sat down as the Hatter once again sat in his own seat. Alice was sitting in a basic, wooden chair that most likely came from the kitchen. There were four other chairs like this situated neatly next to one another. Across from her, the March Hare and the Dormouse sat in chairs that resembled the ones she had spotted in the looking glass room. Hatter sat in a comfortable mahogany-colored cushioned arm chair. Alice looked down at the table, which was covered with a pink tablecloth, to find an extravagant assortment of porcelain. “I assume these are all clean?” Alice remarked as she recalled a time when the three would move around the table, leaving the dirty china, until they had come full circle. Once they had come full circle, they would simply throw the china away and start anew the next morning. That was a time when Alice never joined the tea parties for very long.
“Are you mad?” Hatter inquired immediately upon Alice’s remark. “These have been washed thoroughly.” Alice chuckled slightly at this response. It was rather silly of her to ask such a question when she already knew the answer.
“I guess I am.”
However, Hatter did not hear Alice’s response. He stared curiously at the stuffed rabbit that was now lying in her lap.
“Oh, how terribly rude of me! I didn’t know you had brought a guest with you Alice!” Hatter exclaimed. Alice presented a confused expression before she finally understood what he was referring to.
“Offer the man a seat, confound it! What sort of host are you?” the March Hare intervened. A rabbit deserved his own seat-the March Hare would know such a thing.
“He seems rather comfortable in Alice’s lap,” the Dormouse said with his eyes still closed. A small pile of drool was beginning to form on the plate he was resting on.
“Oh but he isn’t--” Alice began as she attempted to explain that the stuffed rabbit was not among the living.
“Of course, allow me!” Hatter exclaimed as he reached over towards the rabbit, picked him up, and placed him gently in the seat next to Alice as a hint of jealously (thanks to the Dormouse’s comment) crept over him.
The rabbit sat silently, staring forward towards the Dormouse.
“Well, a simple ‘thank-you’ would do,” Hatter remarked as he sat calmly in his seat once more. Alice was about to comment on how it was very rude to reach over someone but ultimately decided against it as she noticed everyone was staring intently at her “guest”.
“Perhaps he’s the shy type,” the March Hare offered.
“May I get you anything...” Hatter began, only to fumble towards the end of his speech, “oh dear, how very rude of me. I don’t believe I know your name.”
Once again, there was utter silence from the stuffed rabbit with button eyes.
“He clearly doesn’t like you,” the March Hare stated as-a-matter-of-factly. “Come now lad, don’t be shy!” Alice placed a hand on her forehead as she shook her head at the pitiful site she was now witnessing. “There! See, his name is Milo.”
“How do you know?” Hatter demanded.
“It’s a leporids thing, you couldn’t possibly understand,” the March Hare insisted. “Don’t just sit there, pour this poor creature some tea!”
As the Hatter was about to do as instructed so rudely by the March Hare, Alice placed a hand up, indicating Hatter to cease his current action.
“I’ll take care of it,” Alice remarked, not wanting him to reach over her again. Gracefully, Alice acquired one of the teapots and proceeded to pour Milo’s cup. “Hatter, why are all your doors hanging on the walls of your retiring room?” Alice inquired as she continued to pour the tea.
“Well...you see, my keys are currently at the Queen of Heart’s so I had no choice but to take off the doors,” Hatter explained.
“But why are your keys at the palace...Have you no skeleton key?” Alice inquired.
“I cannot believe you would even suggest I have skeletons in my home!” Hatter exclaimed, slightly offended by her remark. Alice did not even bother to explain what she had meant but merely bestowed an apologetic look. “Either way, until I am able to locate my missing keys, I have chosen to hang the doors on the wall for safe keeping.”
“And why do you have tea cups and teapots hanging on your wall?” Alice further questioned.
“Why, for display of course! Some of those happen to be very rare pieces I have collected.”
“Perhaps you should think about putting them in a more stable position...” Alice suggested, her voice trailing off as she recalled most of the rare items had met their end at the bottom of the floor.
“Perhaps,” was all Hatter said though Alice knew very well that judging from his tone, he was planning no such thing.
“So Alice, what have you been up to lately? We haven’t seen you in nearly two days,” the March Hare suddenly inquired.
“Well, I was busy studying,” Alice answered. It was then that she remembered why she had visited Wonderland in the first place. How she could easily be distracted in a place like this! This was just proof that she was becoming much too attached to Wonderland.
“What sort of things did you study?” Hatter continued to inquire.
“Hmm?” was all Alice said to the question as her mind was traveling elsewhere. She would have to break it to the three rather gently that she was leaving Wonderland forever. After all, she simply could not depart Wonderland without telling them, could she? Not to mention, she would rather have Hatter help her find a way to leave Wonderland forever instead of one of the queens even though they would be her best choice since the Cheshire Cat always appeared at random and she had no clue as to where the Caterpillar was.
“He asked about your studies. What sort of things are you taught?” the March Hare stated, now wanting to know the answer to Hatter’s question.
“Oh well...my sister teaches me math and literature and science and... all sorts of topics for when I grow up,” she said, weaving to the topic of her choice.
“When will you grow up?” the March Hare asked, falling for Alice’s little trap.
“What happens if you grow down?” Hatter inquired.
“You can’t possibly grow down you silly twit,” the March Hare snapped.
“Of course you can! Have you not eaten a mushroom?” Hatter retorted rather viciously, nearly scaring the Dormouse awake.
“I’m growing up quite soon,” Alice interjected, speaking rather loudly so the two would hear. The two immediately ceased their bickering and turned towards her.
“Oh...well what happens when you’ve grown up?” the March Hare asked.
“Well...lots of things.”
“What sort of things?” Hatter pressed.
“You’re not being very specific,” the Dormouse managed to say, his eyes fluttering open only to close once more.
“Why, so many things will happen, it would take much too long to explain it all,” Alice lied. This was going to be much harder than she had originally thought.
“Can you at least explain one thing? When I grew up, I was forced to leave the nest along with my other brothers and sisters,” the March Hare explained, recalling the days of his young adulthood. Such fond memories he had of being in the nest where he would snuggle with his brothers and sisters as they felt the warmth of their mother’s fur (what she had left behind for them at least).
“You won’t be forced out of your home?” Hatter asked, becoming worried by the March Hare’s remark.
“No, Hatter, not until I’m married,” Alice replied in order to reassure him. “But...I may have to cut back on some visits to Wonderland. I shall be very busy once I am older...”
“Less visits! That’s absurd!” the March Hare exclaimed. “You must simply find Time Alice. He will surely help you. He’ll let you visit us as much as you want for hours on end. I can imagine he would adore you.”
While the March Hare continued to prattle about Time, Alice could not help but to shift her gaze towards the others. The Dormouse was now wide awake (at least, he appeared to be) though he did not say anything. This was mostly due to the fact he knew he would receive scolding if he interrupted the March Hare’s talk. The Dormouse at one point opened his mouth to say something once he thought the March Hare had finished his speech but quickly closed it as the hare continued. Hatter, on the other hand, was staring at Alice. Their eyes met and Alice could not help but to feel a pang of guilt as she looked deep into Hatter’s dark, sad eyes.
“I simply can’t do it,” Alice told herself. She only wished that she had left Wonderland sooner and was no longer attached to the world she loved so much. However, she knew her little remark was futile: it simply had to be done. Yet, still feeling guilty, Alice turned her gaze away from Hatter. There was no way she could possibly tell him the complete truth: that she planned on leaving Wonderland forever. She would simply have to find the answer to her question on her own.
“Well, look at the bright side, at least Alice will still visit, right Alice?” she heard Hatter say after some time. Alice turned her attention once more towards Hatter who was giving a hopeful smile. Of course, this smile simply could not cover the sad expression that was still upon his face. It was then and there that Alice made the bold decision not to tell Hatter about her plan.
“But then, would that not make matters worse?” Alice questioned herself. She imagined leaving Wonderland this time with Hatter awaiting her next return. Yet, no matter how long he waited, she would never come. Her seat at his overly large table would remain empty forever. This thought saddened her to such a great extent; she found her throat tightening as a lump began to form.
Rather suddenly, Alice arose from her seat.
“Of course I’ll return,” Alice remarked, attempting to sound as cheerful as possible. However, she was still forced to fight off the lump in her throat. “I’m terribly sorry but I really must be going,” Alice said as she curtsied.
“Oh, alright then,” the March Hare replied though he was clearly disappointed in her sudden departure. He and the Dormouse looked over towards Hatter as though waiting for him to say something.
“Do you know how long you will be where ever it is you are going?” Hatter finally asked. Alice bit her lip at his remark. With the lump still climbing up her throat and what felt to be a few tears creeping to the front of her eyes, a part of Alice was afraid to come back to see Hatter.
“I do not know though I think it will take some time,” Alice lied again as she began to take a few steps towards the edge of the garden.
“Oh...” was all Hatter said at first. “Well then...I guess this is goodbye for now.”
“Goodbye,” Alice said as politely as possible and before anyone could protest her leaving further, she was out of the garden.
“Alice, wait!” she heard Hatter call from behind. But Alice did not dare to go back.
What a mess of things she had made. No matter what she did, she would be hurting her best friend in all of Wonderland and that was absolutely dreadful. Alice quickly rubbed her eyes, breathing easily in hopes of calming herself. When she was a safe distance away from his house, she stopped, pondering whether or not to go back. However, she quickly dismissed this.
“If there is no way to leave Wonderland forever, then it would be rather silly of me to confront him now,” she reasoned. Besides, she simply dreaded having to see that hurt look on his face. Instead, Alice chose to press forward with her plan as she began to walk as far away from Hatter’s house as she could. “Now, I suppose the next thing to do is determine where to go next.” For, she really wished to avoid the queens as much as possible. Not to mention, there was no guarantee if they could even help her.
“Having a bit a trouble?” a voice that appeared to be everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time remarked. Alice stopped dead in her tracks upon hearing the voice, thankful that the two had run into each other. Gradually, the mouth of the Cheshire Cat came into view along with the rest of his body to reveal a body that resembled a calico cat. He was sitting on a nearby tree branch, looking down upon her.
“Actually, I am,” Alice replied. “You wouldn’t by any chance know how to leave Wonderland forever?”
“Forever and ever?” the Cheshire Cat inquired, grinning, his large, golden eyes fixed intently on her.
“Why would you think a cat like me would know a thing like that?” the Cheshire Cat asked, his grin larger than ever.
“Well, perhaps you might know someone who would know a thing like that?” Alice inquired. The Cheshire Cat paused for a moment as if pondering her question when Alice had a hunch he was merely faking it.
“If anyone knows such a thing like that, it would be the Caterpillar. But no one really knows where he is these days,” the Cheshire Cat finally replied. “Though, I encourage you to take my advice and go to the Queen of Hearts.”
“Why her?” Alice asked, rather distasting the idea.
“She’s the most powerful queen in Wonderland of course,” the Cheshire Cat answered though he chuckled afterwards causing Alice to believe that he was not completely being honest with his answer as though he were hiding something. Still, she knew it was best to follow the Cheshire Cat’s advice since she had no other leads.
“Thank you very much,” Alice responded with a curtsy. “I shall go to the Queen of Hearts right away.”
Without saying goodbye, the Cheshire Cat’s body began to disappear once more until only his grin remained and eventually that too disappeared.
“He really is rather rude sometimes,” Alice remarked. With that, Alice began her journey to visit the Queen of Hearts in hopes of being able to leave Wonderland forever.