Chapter 5: Mad as a Hatter
Alice took a deep breath before opening the door to the throne room. She knew she would have to make this meeting as brief as possible for although Hatter and the others agreed to wait outside for her, Alice knew Hatter would burst through the doors if he had the chance. Even if he did not have the chance, he would think of a very good excuse (at least one that was logical in his eyes) to enter.
Alice was rather grateful to finally witness the Queen of Hearts sitting in her throne. However, even from so far away, she could see the Queen of Hearts yawn. Alice knew she would have to be cautious since the queen was no doubt cranky at the moment and wished nothing more than to retire for the evening. As the queen's cold, hard stare followed Alice as she walked forward, Alice began to wonder if she should have waited until morning.
As Alice was moving closer and closer to the Queen of Hearts, the queen's features were becoming ever more apparent. Her dress was a deep scarlet that stretched down to her waist. Once reaching her waist, the color of the dress changed to that of a black but hearts (also red) covered this part of the dress all around. A crown situated at the very top of her head, resting firmly on her fiery hair. Her hair matched perfectly with the fierce stare she now gave. The woman seated before Alice looked so deadly that even the White Rabbit shivered as he attempted to stand firmly next to the throne.
"I am terribly sorry to disturb you at such an hour Your Highness," Alice said as politely as possible, her lips quivering slightly as she curtsied.
"There is no point in apologizing if you have already decided to bother me at such an hour," the Queen of Hearts retorted sharply. Alice felt her heart jump at the queen's response. She was clearly in a foul mood: a dangerous mood.
"Yes...of course," Alice replied as kindly as possible. "I guess I better get right to the point then."
"You guess? You should get straight to the point!" the queen barked back, sending the White Rabbit a few feet in the air. He quickly regained his composure for fear of disrespecting the queen in any way. She hadn't sentenced anyone to death at all today after all except for the near execution of the White Knight.
"The Cheshire Cat sent me here..." Alice began, once again attempting to maintain her calm composure. However, this was quickly failing as utter fear was consuming her. The queen could snap at any given moment it seemed.
"I don't care who sent you. Just state what you want."
"I was hoping you knew of a way to leave Wonderland forever," Alice inquired as quickly as possible, flinching slightly before the Queen of Hearts provided an answer.
"Why would I know such a thing like that?" the Queen of Hearts fumed, possibly offended by such a question when there really was no need to be. The White Rabbit was now cowering behind a nearby pedestal, afraid to even take a glimpse at the Queen.
"Well...the Cheshire Cat..." Alice began once more rather timidly. A part of her was now hoping Hatter would show up and draw all attention to himself instead of her. At least he had a chance of lifting up the queen's poor mood due to his recent performance. Then again, who knew with the Queen of Hearts?
"Forget the Cheshire Cat! He is no concern of mine at the moment. You are my concern and I wish you would hurry it up already."
Alice didn't say anything for a moment. She really wasn't getting very far with the Queen of Hearts like she hoped. Perhaps a compliment would bring forth a better mood from the queen.
"I'm sure you must be very tired from the match especially after such a splendid victory," Alice said cautiously. The Queen of Hearts could not help but to allow a small smile curl from her lips.
"A marvelous victory indeed!" the White Rabbit added from his hiding place. The Queen of Hearts was much too engulfed in pride to notice the White Rabbit still hiding as she soaked in his compliment.
"It was a rather impressive victory, wasn't it?" the queen stated. Both Alice and the White Rabbit nodded to her rhetorical question. "I should play chess more often."
"Indeed you should," the White Rabbit remarked.
"Enough of this chit-chat," the Queen of Hearts added sternly followed by a yawn which she covered with her hand. "Now, is there anything else I may assist you with before I depart?"
"Perhaps you know someone who may help me then?" Alice suggested, relieved that the queen seemed to be in a better mood.
The Queen of Hearts did not say anything for a moment as she sincerely attempted to answer Alice's question. Her fingers strummed against the handle of her throne as she thought. The queen's gaze stared elsewhere as she searched deep in her knowledge of Wonderland. The White Rabbit cautiously came out of his hiding place and was beginning to make his way next to the throne once more. Alice merely stood where she was, her heart pounding all the while.
"The only one who would know such a thing…" the queen began as she was coming out of her daze. "…is the Caterpillar."
"But, no one knows where he is," Alice could not help but to point out.
"I know," the Queen of Hearts replied sternly but there was no longer anger in her voice. "There is, however, a way to find him. For, you see, the Caterpillar is not the same as he once was." Alice simply nodded even though she already knew that bit of information. She even attempted to explain the Caterpillar's situation to Lorina just a little while ago but of course, Lorina cut her off before she could finish. "I would suggest making yourself taller until you spot him then shrinking again before you meet with him. It may result in a bit of a goose chase but that's the best advice I can offer."
"Thank you very much Your Excellency," Alice replied as she curtsied once more. She was now one step closer to her goal. "I shall search for the Caterpillar straight away."
"You won't be able to find him at such an hour," the queen replied. "You must wait until morning, I'm afraid." Alice could not help but to frown at this little comment. She wished to see the Caterpillar now as time was of the essence. The more Alice remained in Wonderland, the harder it was to let go. Especially after meeting the White Knight and witnessing Hatter's performance. Still, it could not be helped.
"I shall follow your advice and I thank you once more," Alice said.
"Now, be gone before my mood changes," the Queen of Hearts remarked sternly. Alice instantaneously took the queen's advice and departed the throne room.
Alice was a bit surprised to find Hatter standing by the door waiting for her considering she expected him to burst through the throne room once he arrived. She was even more surprised to find that the March Hare and the Dormouse were not present.
"Where are the others?" Alice inquired as she walked towards Hatter.
"Dormy fell asleep, I'm afraid, so the March Hare brought him home," Hatter explained.
"Oh," was all Alice offered. There was a brief moment of silence. Alice felt unusually awkward standing near Hatter. She guessed this was because she was now alone with him: a perfect opportunity to reveal the reason of her coming here in the first place. Yet, she could not bring herself to tell him. Not yet.
"Will you be going home now?" Hatter inquired.
"Actually, I've got to stay in Wonderland longer than I thought. Being lost in the castle threw my whole schedule off I'm afraid," Alice replied. "And I'm absolutely terrified of going back to the Queen and asking her if I could stay here."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Hatter remarked. "You are welcomed to spend the evening at my home." Alice found her face turn red at this suggestion. Although she had been to Hatter's many times, she had never slept over. That was not a very proper thing even in Wonderland society. It did not take long before Hatter's face was also transforming into a crimson color once he realized what he had suggested. "Or I could walk you to the March Hare's house if that would make you more comfortable."
"Your place would be fine. I wouldn't want to disturb the March Hare when we arrive," Alice replied though her face was still red.
"All right, if that's what you want," Hatter stated as he began to lead Alice out of the Queen of Heart's Palace.
The short walk out of the palace was an awkward one. Both were still a bit embarrassed from the previous conversation. At the very least, Hatter was. Alice was somewhat preoccupied with breaking the news to Hatter. She knew she needed to do this as gently as possible without upsetting Hatter. While Alice continued to ponder her predicament, Hatter was sure Alice was not speaking due to the prior uncomfortable and brief conversation.
By now, everyone had left the palace. The halls were quiet, tranquil even with the only sound being Hatter and Alice's footsteps as they came into contact with the marble floor. While Alice thought about her small (by now it was a large problem though Alice did not think such) predicament, her gaze shifted to the various tapestries once more. Hatter followed her gaze, hoping to break the silence. However, he simply could not think of an interesting conversation that began with the tapestries that hung on the wall. Instead, he focused on Alice all the while speculating whether or not she was going to be visiting Wonderland less. If this were really the case, he wished to spend every moment he could with her (at least, his subconscious mind thought).
Before long, the two were now walking down the marble steps and out into the cool Wonderland night. The stars sparkled brightly with a crescent moon that remarkably resembled the Cheshire Cat's grin. Alice paused to take a deep breath of fresh air as the wind blew lightly. Hatter walked a few paces of head of her before turning to face her. A small pit began to form in the bottom of her stomach as he gazed at her.
"Hatter I-," Alice began.
"Say no more," Hatter replied as he took hold of her wrist. A small grin crawled up his face as he tugged her playfully forward. "You shan't have to worry dear Alice! We're going to have the most wonderful midnight tea party-sleepover in all of Wonderland!" Alice did not know what to say to this as Hatter's mood suddenly changed. Then again, she was grateful for this transformation: she wished nothing more than to have fun when being with Hatter. With this in mind, she giggled in utter delight.
Hatter clearly enjoyed this response as he pulled her further down the path, now excited to arrive home once more. Alice attempted to keep up with Hatter but she was losing energy rapidly to the point where Hatter practically had to drag her onward. Hatter promptly slowed his pace as the two gradually shifted to a steady walk by which time Hatter had let go of Alice's wrist. Alice breathed heavily for a few minutes before yawning.
"Tired?" Hatter offered.
"Very," Alice replied. Yet, although she was tired, Alice could not help but to feel uneasy as the two were once again walking silently together. "You've simply got to tell him now, you may not have another chance," Alice thought.
"But I should hate to ruin the excellent mood he is in," Alice argued with herself. "Not to mention, we are both rather tired and it really is not good to discuss such matters when both parties are tired."
"Enough of these nonsense excuses Alice. Remember what Mary Ann said: no regrets," Alice (though which Alice it was, I have no clue) retorted.
Meanwhile, Hatter was rather uncomfortable once again walking in silence as Alice argued with herself deep inside her mind. Still, Hatter could see from the expression on her face that she was concentrating deeply. He only yearned for Alice to share her thoughts with him in hopes of beginning a conversation of some sort. Cautiously, Hatter took Alice's hand and squeezed lightly as he attempted to bring her back to reality (at least, what was considered reality in Wonderland).
Alice felt the small squeeze and immediately came out of her daze. Her eyes focused on Hatter who gave her a small smile as though to welcome her back to Wonderland. Alice guiltily turned away, dreading to bring up the subject she had just been brooding over. Yet, at the same time, she could not help but to peek out of the corner of her eye towards him.
"Your hair is up," Alice remarked as she noticed this tiny detail. And indeed it was. Hatter's hair was tied in a small ponytail with a lilac-colored ribbon. This observation caused Hatter to become quite puzzled. It took him an instant to comprehend what Alice was talking about. Once he came to this realization, Hatter placed a hand on his ponytail as though he did not know it was there to begin with.
"It's been up this whole time," Hatter finally replied as his hand was once again resting at his side. Alice felt her face turn a shade of red.
"Oh, I hadn't noticed before..." Alice stated as she focused her attention away from him once more. After such scrutiny before in the palace, how could should have missed such a detail?
"Alice..." Hatter began. He waited patiently for her to look in his direction. "I have been thinking about you growing up." Alice became rather nervous upon hearing Hatter's subject of conversation. Her heart began to race and she could feel her body heating up. She concentrated as hard as she could in order to maintain a calm posture as he spoke. "Well, I must confess, I was very upset when you mentioned less visits to Wonderland. But, all the same, as long as you are able to visit Wonderland sometimes, then although it saddens me to imagine such a scenario, your happiness is far more important." Alice desperately fought back the lump in her throat that once again was taking form. "Now, when I say that, I mean it since you are a very good friend of mine," Hatter quickly added, not wanting Alice to get the wrong idea about his statement. However, Alice was far too busy fighting back the tears that were beginning to fog her view. Of course, Hatter was much too engrossed in the conversation
(if it could even be called a conversation) to notice this little detail. "What I'm saying is, it is important for you to grow up and you must do whatever is necessary to achieve this." Alice simply nodded in agreement, afraid to say anything. For, if she were to speak, her voice would be muffled and the tears would be given a perfect opportunity to flow freely.
Alice wrapped her arms around Hatter's arm as they continued to walk forward. Oh, how she wished she could tell him the truth! Guiltily, Alice held onto his arm tighter, resting her head against him. Hatter tensed at these gestures and nearly fell over himself since he had not the slightest idea what was going on although he knew something must be amiss.
"Alice?" Hatter inquired gently. However, there was no response from Alice other than a small tug at his arm. He glimpsed down upon her and, though her eyes were covered by his sleeve, he could see a tear falling down her cheek. "Alice!" Hatter exclaimed, afraid he might have upset her in some way, "what is the matter?"
"It's just..." Alice attempted to begin as she looked up at him, her voice muffled as she suspected. Yet, still, even though the two were alone, she could not bring it upon herself to tell him. "I'm going to miss you so much Hatter," was all she managed to say before she hid her face once more. "Oh, please forgive me for not being able to tell you!" she thought as sadness filled her.
"Don't worry Alice," Hatter replied lightly. "We'll still be able to see one another. And, you can always send me messages through the looking glass. Though, I'm afraid some of them might get lost on the way." Hatter managed a small chuckle at his last comment. He then pulled a handkerchief from his pocket with his free hand and stopped to offer it to her. "Here, wipe your eyes Alice. I hate to see you cry."
Alice obediently wiped her eyes with his handkerchief. It took her a few minutes before she was able to compose herself. Hesitantly, Alice handed the handkerchief back to Hatter before the two continued to walk on. Her now dry eyes were slowly beginning to fall as she yawned. Unhappiness was still filling her as Hatter was still oblivious to everything despite the kindness he had showed her. Yet, Alice was much too tired to continue pondering. Her crying had caused her to become more fatigued than before. Alice rested her head on Hatter's shoulder (at least, as close as she could reach to his shoulder for he was very tall) while they walked. This time Hatter did not seem to mind this gesture as he said nothing.
Alice must have closed her eyes for only a moment (at least, it felt as though only a moment in time had passed) before she felt Hatter gently nudge her.
"We're here," Hatter remarked. Alice opened her eyes to see Hatter's house standing before her. Due to the darkness, the house appeared to be completely normal from the outside. However, Alice very well knew what the inside contained. Normally, Alice would laugh at the thought of such ridiculous decorations Hatter's house possessed. Unfortunately, even such thoughts would not shake the melancholy feelings Alice still encompassed.
Hatter led the way to the front door which was still in its proper position unlike the other doors of the house. Alice was surprised to see lights radiating from the windows. For a moment, she was unable to define why his house was lighting up in such a way. She only hoped Hatter had not left candles lit for that was very dangerous. However, these lights seemed different somehow but she could not pinpoint what that difference was.
It was not until they stepped into the house that she was able to answer her question: the rooms contained a few lights each from electrical currents! Alice had never been able to witness such a thing for electricity in the home was still under development (not that she was aware of such development: she was never particularly interested in science). She curiously walked over towards the light source. It was brighter than candlelight but not radiant enough to fill the entire room with luminosity.
While Alice was fascinated over the light, Hatter was removing his gloves, placing the gloves in a pocket on his frock. He then removed the frock and hung it on a nearby coat rack leaving only his vest and shirt apparent. Hatter was about to remove his hat but ultimately decided against such an action. At first, Hatter did not know where Alice had gone off to however he was quickly able to locate her.
"Do you like it?" Hatter inquired gently as he approached Alice. It was only then did Alice turn away from the light in order to look at Hatter.
"How were you able to obtain such a thing?" Alice asked as politely as possible since she did not want to embarrass herself with the little knowledge she possessed.
"I made it," Hatter replied.
"You made it?"
"Not intentionally of course. It was while I was in the work shop…You see I was working with the thingamajig..." Hatter began to explain though he fumbled with his explanation. He stopped when he saw Alice provide a puzzled expression and he realized she probably had no clue as to what a thingamajig was. "You know what? I'll show you. Follow me."
Hatter excitedly traveled across the room to a hall. Alice was forced to walk briskly at first for she was not expecting Hatter to leave so suddenly. It was not a long journey as they soon reached a doorway where no door was present that led down a flight of stairs. Alice was forced to move slowly as she descended the stairs due to the darkness but she could hear Hatter practically rushing down the steps.
There was not enough time for Alice to adjust her eyes to the darkness as a bright light soon filled the cellar she was in the process of entering. Strange gizmos, gadgets, and other machinery filled the room. A large assortment of hats ranging from all sizes and colors decorated the cellar. Hatter moved about these various devices and products with an amount of energy Alice had never seen before.
"As I was attempting to explain earlier, I was working with the thingamajig…" Hatter explained as he pointed to the thingamajig. Cogs, pin-levers, springs, and other mechanisms created what Hatter named "thingamajig". "…and all of a sudden, a piece of it began to light. So, naturally curious, I began to play with the thingamajig until I figured out why it lit," Hatter continued as Alice slowly descended the stairs in awe. She could even see the small glass piece of the thingamajig that must have lit up. "Once I discovered this, I've been using the same pieces to light the rest of the house during the evening."
"Why is it that I have never noticed such devices before?" Alice wondered aloud to herself.
"It's most likely due to the fact I only keep them on during the late hours of the evening usually. I knew I would arrive late tonight so I turned them on as a sort of guide," Hatter answered. By now, Alice had reached the edge of the workshop. She cautiously (for she was unaware of how dangerous some of this equipment may be) examined bits of the machinery curiously. Alice noticed most of the machinery in the cellar resembled clock work.
"How do these contraptions work?" Alice inquired once she was unable to determine this on her own.
Without another word, Hatter began to turn on the various devices one by one before standing next to Alice. In a few minutes, the entire room was being consumed by whistles, banging, roaring, and any other sound one could think of. The cellar was now teeming with life as Alice watched hats being produced one by one.
"How long have you had these machines?" Alice inquired in amazement as the machines went about their work creating different types of hats.
"My first one was most definitely before I met you," Hatter remarked, attempting to figure the appropriate year. "Otherwise, I would not be able to have tea as often as I do."
"This must be why Hatter's hands are so smooth," Alice thought. "And no wonder he has time to enjoy tea and learn the piano." Still, Alice could not help but to feel slightly glum. She was so sure she knew Hatter and yet she was discovering there were so many aspects to him that she did not know. Was there more to be learned of him?
Despite the excitement and fascination that had filled the atmosphere, Alice could not help but to let out another small yawn. Hatter could not help but to smile at this.
"Well, that's a bit of enough excitement for one evening, don't you agree?" Hatter remarked as he once more traveled to the machines. Alice waited patiently for a few moments as he turned off the various devices. It wasn't until he ceased the light source that the two were ascending the stairs. Now more calmly, Hatter led Alice through the rest of his home until he came to a stop in front of another doorway with no door. "You may stay here for the night. We're lucky I have two guest bedrooms."
Alice was unsure what Hatter had meant by his last comment but none the less stepped into her room. Too tired to analyze the entire layout of the room, Alice merely checked to see if the bed was in proper order. She was pleased to find that it was.
"Thank you," Alice replied as she turned to face Hatter.
"The pleasure is all mine," Hatter responded. "Oh, I almost forgot, there are extra clothes in the drawers. I imagine it to be rather uncomfortable for you if you were to sleep in your current attire." As if commanded, Alice walked to the dresser. Clocks and teacups decorated the top of the dresser as well as a small light source. Alice carefully opened one of the draws to find a ray of hats resting in it. "It's the very last drawer," Hatter said, feeling rather embarrassed for Alice gave a look that clearly demonstrated it was not proper to place hats in drawers as he had done. Obediently, Alice leaned down to the very last drawer, opening it to find a few loose shirts. She carefully took a light blue out so as not to disrupt the other shirts that lay neatly in the drawer before rising from her position. "If you would feel more comfortable, I can re-attach a door for you though you will be locked in I'm afraid."
"It's all right. I'll manage," Alice said, smiling.
"If you need anything, I'll be just down the hall," Hatter remarked as he began to take his leave. Alice simply nodded before Hatter departed. Alice waited a few moments to hear Hatter's footsteps gradually die down. She began to remove her pinafore as Hatter suddenly poked his head in the doorway, nearly knocking his hat off. The action occurred so quickly, Alice jumped as she clasped her pinafore close to her. "I almost forgot," Hatter said sheepishly, giving an apologetic look. "Goodnight Alice."
"Goodnight Hatter," Alice replied as her body released the tension that was currently present. Once again, Hatter strode down the hall leaving Alice alone in her room.
Alice waited a little longer in case Hatter should return. When he did not, Alice changed into the overly large shirt she had been given. At least, it was overly large for a girl of her size. She had no doubt that the shirt belonged to Hatter. As Alice wore his shirt, she felt Hatter must be taller than he looked for the shirt ended halfway below her knee. It was not the most comfortable thing she had ever worn to bed but, as Hatter had said, it was more comfortable than wearing her dress.
Quietly, Alice crawled into bed and curled up in a ball. She closed her eyes as she smelled Hatter's scent on the sleeve of her shirt. It smelt like tea and cakes and for a moment she could not help but to smile at this. However, that smile soon faded away.
"Hatter has been so kind to me and yet I can not bring myself to tell him about my leaving Wonderland," Alice thought. Her thoughts were no longer frantic but rather calm with a tone of melancholy as she was beginning to fall asleep. "I could always tell him in the morning I suppose...no, I simply cannot keep putting this off. I must tell him now. Oh, but I am awfully tired..."
Before the sleepy, procrastinating Alice could drift into sleep, Alice forced the other side of herself out of bed. Her bare feet did not feel the least bit cold as the air was warm in the room. Calmly, Alice walked out of her room, the floor creaking beneath her as she proceeded to Hatter's room in the dark. She did not have to walk more than a minute before she reached his doorway.
"Hatter," Alice called softly, not wanting to intrude. It did not take Hatter very long to appear in the doorway with a candle lit. He was wearing his own nightgown with a small hat at the top that quite ironically also contained a small tag on it. Although it was fairly hard to see, Alice could clearly distinguish a sudden change in Hatter's expression as his face turned bright red. For a moment, Alice was not entirely sure why such an expression was necessary. It wasn't until Hatter forced his eyes to travel away from her that it dawned on her.
"Oh dear me!" Alice thought as she felt her own face turning red. "I have forgotten I am not in my proper sleeping attire!" Poor Alice became so embarrassed she had forgotten the whole reason why she had walked to Hatter's room in the first place. The two stood in the doorway awkwardly for a few minutes, neither brave enough to say a word.
"You called?" Hatter finally managed to say, still not daring to look in her direction.
"Oh...well yes actually," Alice began, her words fumbling greatly, "I...I..." But she was much too embarrassed to even think of that now! "I will tell him in the morning, most definitely morning," Alice reassured herself. "I...didn't know how to turn the light off in my room," Alice lied as she pushed her hair back behind her ear.
"I will go and turn it off for you," Hatter said awkwardly, still not looking at her. He shielded his eyes with a hand as he walked passed Alice. Once Alice was behind him, he removed the hand from his eyes and went to her room. Alice quietly followed behind. When they reached her room, Hatter quickly turned off the light, most likely afraid of seeing Alice again in such attire.
"Thank you," Alice said in the darkness.
"You're very welcome," Hatter managed to say. Alice could see from his silhouette that he was still terrified to look in her direction. "Well...goodnight."
"Goodnight," Alice replied, still equally embarrassed. Not another word was spoken as the two departed. Alice once again found herself crawling in bed. This time, she quickly placed the covers over herself. She took a small amount of time to hug herself, embarrassed and disappointed. Hatter's scent encompassed her as she drifted off to sleep, still holding herself.