As Alice climbed out of the hole that she had fallen into earlier, she noticed that her dress had made an appearance. She could not account for this as she had been certain that she had just been wearing armour, evidenced in the weight she still felt on her body.
Once she was fully out of the hole, she found that she could not remember all that much of what had transpired in the last few moments, except for bright green eyes that slowly faded to ice blue, as well a very beautiful woman dressed in white, including her hair.
Alice smiled at these fragmented memories as they made her happy for an inexplicable reason.
She stood up and realised that she was in the Ascot’s garden and decided to return to the party, however she was aware that she had left Hamish without an answer to his proposal. Alice realised that she could not accept Hamish as the eyes in her memory obviously belonged to a man who made her happy.
Alice carefully followed the trail and eventually found her way to the gazebo where friends and family had gathered in order to hear Alice accept Hamish’s hand in matrimony. As Alice walked out of the rose garden, the assembled crowd turned to look at her, including Hamish.
Slowly Alice ascended the gazebo stairs to stand in front of Hamish. Hamish swallowed, his Adam’s apple rising and falling with the action, hope radiating in his hazel eyes.
“Hamish, may we speak more privately?” Alice asked, as if refusing him privately would alleviate his pain and embarrassment.
“Of course, however we shall still require a chaperone.” Hamish replied, adhering to the social values convened upon gentlemen. He gestured to his father, Lord Ascot, who nodded.
Hamish then turned to the crowd and announced that Alice had requested a private audience with him. Lord Ascot moved to go into the house with them, however he kept his distance behind the couple.
As any gentleman would, Hamish offered Alice his arm which she accepted before leading her through the crowd, in the direction of the Ascot mansion. As they walked, Hamish felt hopeful however deep down he realised that Alice would not become his wife. In a way, he was glad that she would refuse him, as he was not sure that she would be the best choice of wife for him- she was too spirited and defied social convention, whereas he liked to keep within the boundaries society set up. He wondered what had possessed his mother to go ahead and accept this union, as he had been as ill-prepared for the event as Alice herself had been.
At that moment, Alice happened to glance at Hamish as she could see that he appeared uneasy which made itself known in his rapid breathing. She wondered why he appeared so uneasy, however she dismissed it as simply anxiety due to their impending meeting. Before long, the Ascot mansion loomed above them like a fortress as they entered the house and then the hall leading to Hamish’s private study, along with his father. Lord Ascot took up a post in the corner of the room so as to not draw attention to himself, as well as to give the couple the needed privacy whilst maintaining acceptable social standards.
Hamish’s private study was elegantly furnished, with lightly textured gold wallpaper decorating the walls, with a rich mahogany writing desk situated in the middle of the room, with a book-case filled with leather-bound volumes behind it. Alice gazed about the room, taking in every detail. Hamish sat at the desk and invited Alice to do the same. She sank gracefully into the chain, the folds of her pale blue skirt floating around her feet.
“Hamish, I am sorry...” Alice began uncertainly, attempting to avoid wounding his pride further.
Before she could finish, Hamish interrupted, “I understand, Alice. It would never have worked out,” smiling sadly at Alice.
“Really? Hamish, our parents hoped for this union to align our families’ fortunes. We will disappoint them and who will announce this turn of events to the crowd assembled for our engagement, which they were so certain of?” Alice asked, concerned that all would be ruined by her refusal.
Lord Ascot spoke up and told her, “Alice, your father would have wanted you to be yourself and do what you felt was right. I believe that he was against the uniting of our families out of concern for you.”
Alice smiled at this as she remembered her father’s calmness in the face of her mother’s intensity in her feelings about this particular subject.
Hamish nodded before replying, “Alice, you and I are too different. You seek adventure whereas I am happy to remain within the confines of the world that I am familiar with. When you came back from your...stroll, you seemed different, somehow more confident. I also noticed love in your eyes however I knew that this was not love for me. As for dealing with the guests, I will notify them. I wish you the best in life and hope that we can at least be friends.” Hamish said as he came to stand before Alice, smiling kindly at her.
Alice smiled in response, suddenly overcome by her desire to be with the man with the brilliant emerald eyes.
“Thank you Hamish. I wish you the same.” Alice said as she stood to exit the room.
Extending his arm, Hamish led Alice back towards the crowd, who were by now quite restless with anticipation as to Alice’s response to Hamish’s proposal.
With a smile, Hamish released Alice who went to stand by her family, whilst he once more ascended the gazebo stairs.
“Friends and family, I regret to inform you that Miss Kingsleigh has refused my proposal.” Hamish stated calmly, as he watched his mother glare at Mrs Kingsleigh whilst everyone else began to murmur. Only Alice could be calm, as her thoughts drifted to her strange adventure which was slowly becoming blurry and distant.
The ride home proved to be more painful than anything else she had endured, Alice decided, except for the dragon creature that she distinctly remembered battling.
“Alice, our name is ruined because of your actions, you selfish child. It will be in the papers that Miss Alice Kingsleigh refused the hand of Lord Hamish Ascot.” Mrs Kinglseigh fumed, reminding Alice of a monarch dressed in red who had the propensity to lose her temper at a whim.
Alice felt slightly guilty; however she could never love Hamish. Her thoughts turned to her adventures as her mother droned on about her selfishness. The man with the emerald eyes caused her the most joy and slowly he became clearer and clearer in her memory.
“Hatter.” Alice stated, interrupting her mother’s lecture.
“Excuse me?” Mrs Kingsleigh asked, hating to be interrupted.
“Nothing, mama. I was merely thinking that I should purchase a new hat as my old one is becoming worn.” Alice replied, however false the lie sounded to her.
“You do not wear hats, Alice.” Mrs Kingsleigh reminded, becoming suspicious.
Alice made no reply, as her thoughts were occupied by the Hatter.