Helen noticed a significant change in her youngest daughter after the failed engagement party at the Ascot mansion. Alice habitually forgot to act with the decorum expected of her, in addition to looking out of the window listlessly.
As weeks turned into months, Alice withdrew more and more into herself. This caused Helen to worry so much so that a doctor was sent for. The doctor, who had a kindly face and disposition, came and after asking Alice questions which received little response, turned to Helen Kingsleigh.
“Mrs Kingsleigh, your daughter is physically normal. Has she experienced anything traumatic or exciting recently?” the doctor asked.
“Not that I am aware of.” Mrs Kingsleigh responded, becoming despondent.
“I can only suggest that she is mourning. I often see her symptoms in women who are mourning the loss of their husbands or lovers. Does Alice have someone that she loves?”
“I do not-,” Mrs Kingsleigh said before remembering the single word that Alice had uttered, before continuing, “Yes, I believe she does. Thank you, doctor, for your help.”
The doctor bowed before exiting the house, leaving Helen alone once more.
Helen mused over how to ask her daughter about the mysterious Hatter as she sipped her tea in the drawing room, precisely one half hour after the doctor had left the house. In the end, she decided to simply ask Alice about the Hatter, whoever he may be.
Helen knocked at the door to her daughter’s spacious bedroom, decorated in powder blue. When no was forthcoming, Helen entered, only to find Alice staring out of the window, whilst sitting on the window seat which afforded her a view of the road. The sight caused Helen to smile, however she soon stopped when she saw Alice’s shoulders rising and falling, accompanied by faint sobs. Helen’s heart ached at the sight, causing her to move closer to comfort Alice.
Alice slowly stopped her tears. She looked around and found her mother comforting her. Alice wished it had been the Hatter comforting her instead; such was her level of grief at leaving him behind.
“Who is he?” Helen finally asked, injecting warmth into her voice.
Alice stared at her mother in shock before replying, “He is a milliner and my best friend. I said that I would return to him but I do not know how.”
“Return? Where does he live? Surely you are able to return to him if you care about him.” Helen questioned gently.
“Mother, I cannot. You would think me crazy if you knew the full story.” Alice replied.
“Alice please tell me.” Helen pleaded, her natural curiosity becoming evident.
“Very well. The man that I like is named Tarrant Hightopp and is hatter to the White Queen at Marmoreal. Tarrant lives in Wonderland and I cannot return through the rabbit hole in the Ascot’s garden as I have no reason to be there. I will never see Tarrant again.” Alice said dejectedly, turning her gaze to the busy London streets.
Helen smiled sadly before telling Alice, “You can go back. The Ascots have invited us for tea tomorrow, in order to celebrate Hamish’s engagement and impending marriage.”
Alice started. She could go back to the Hatter! However, her excitement faded as she realised that her absence would somehow feel longer for the Hatter and that he was already quite mad, and it would surely grow in the time that she was away, which amounted to nearly six months.
Underland slowly returned to the joyful and bright place that it had been before the terror of the Red Queen set in. At the heart of it, Marmoreal gleamed, a beacon of peace and hope, with the pure white walls of the palace rising up from the lush emerald green grass. Everything was, in a word, perfect.
That is, all except for the Hatter. In the days following Frabjous Day, Tarrant Hightopp was rarely seen for he was either secreted in his bright workshop working on some project or other, or he was roaming the vast countryside of Underland in search of something, though no one really knew what that was, all except for Mirana. She knew of the Hatter’s pain, as she watched him secretly as she knew if that he was not watched, he would likely do harm to himself or others in his madness which was becoming more and more apparent.
Tarrant’s pain and grief ran very deeply, even to the point where he refused to attend tea parties, no matter what Mallymkin or Thackery said to convince him to join them, that is when anyone could get close enough to speak to him for his eyes remained a deep orange, tinged with gold to reflect the deep sadness that he felt, as well as representing the madness pervading every fibre of his being with no sign of reprieve. The only time anyone could speak to him was when he was working on one of his many creations, all of them featuring the colour blue. It was no secret who they were for- Alice.
Despite his grief, Tarrant noticed the changing scenery of his homeland and rejoiced that it was now thriving as the rule of Mirana thrived, however he could not stop imagining Alice joining in the celebrations as she had almost single-handedly allowed for this to happen.
Through all of the Hatter’s ramblings and rampages, Absolem kept a constant vigil in order to ensure that Tarrant remained somewhat ‘normal’ for Alice’s return. In addition to watching over the Hatter, Absolem regularly consulted the Oraculum and on one particular occasion, it revealed something of extreme importance, therefore he quickly made his way to the palace to alert the White Queen to what he had seen.
Mirana sat at ease in her throne room as she awaited an audience with the local mayor. Absolem flew into the room.
“What news Absolem?” Mirana asked curiously.
“Majesty, Alice is to return, however the threat of the Red Queen has come to fruition as she has broken the bonds of her exile and even now approaches the location of the Rabbit Hole to await Alice’s return. She does not know how soon Alice is to return, however.” Absolem said, as Tarrant unexpectedly entered the room, clearly upset or consumed by his madness as his eyes were glowing a bright orange.
“Tarrant?” Mirana inquired, knowing that despite his madness, Tarrant would not come into the room unless there was something urgent that he wished to inform her of, or to simply chat with her. If she was busy, Tarrant would not enter at all or at least not without being announced by the chess pieces situated outside the doors.
As if to attest to this fact, two chess pieces, both of them Knights entered the room apologising profusely. Tarrant simply watched the scene with interest as his madness faded.
“Forgive me, Mirana. I wished to tell you that I completed your latest order a few moments ago. I do hope that you do not mind the colour blue as I thought it would compliment you...I will leave now.” Tarrant said, bowing before turning to leave the throne room, without fully realising what he had said, with all the haste with which he had entered it.
“Tarrant, please stay.” Mirana said gently, slightly worried that he had slipped up with the colour of her order however she understood what was behind his words- his love for Alice. She invited Tarrant to sit beside her, smiling sadly at him.
Tarrant nodded before seating himself, only allowing himself one anxious glance in Absolem’s direction. That is when the news that Absolem had delivered rushed into his mind.
“Alice is coming back?” he managed to ask, his voice tight with emotion.
“Yes, you infinitely stupid man!” Absolem shouted as Tarrant’s eyes glowed an emerald green that Mirana had missed seeing.
“Alice will return soon Tarrant.” Mirana said kindly, giving Absolem what amounted to a glare, at least according to Mirana.
Tarrant could barely contain his joy at this turn of events, however Absolem’s declaration that the Red Queen had returned had worried him greatly. It had nearly been two years in Underland and Tarrant had hoped for Alice's return sooner, however none of that mattered anymore. Before more could be said on the subject, Tarrant had sped out of the room no doubt to ready himself for the return of the woman who had captured his heart.
Alice sat in her room telling her mother all about Underland and its strange inhabitants, except for the Red Queen and the Jabberwocky that she had single-handedly slain. Helen could not believe that such a place existed, what with its talking flowers and clothed animals, but she could see why Alice wished to return to such a colourful place. A long time ago, Helen recalled Charles telling similar stories about a similar world and now she couldn't help but wonder if it were the same place that Alice was describing in such vivid detail.
Alice stopped mid-sentence, partially describing the beauty of the palace at Marmoreal, when she realised that her mother was not paying attention to her tale.
This was enough to break Helen from her reverie, allowing her to respond, "please continue. Tell me more about Tarrant. Is he as strange as the other people who inhabit...Underland?" Helen asked, allowing some of her natural curiosity to shine through in her voice.
Alice smiled before responding, "He is, but he is fiercely loyal and kind. You would not approve of him as he is quite mad but he makes me laugh and smile. Mother, I do love him, despite his madness," she finished, suddenly afraid that she would be forbidden from returning to Underland.
Helen smiled before reassuringly saying to Alice, "Then you must return to him. You do not need to worry about me accepting him, for I would accept anyone who had captured your heart so completely without hesitation."
Alice sat in her seat, shocked. When her mother's declaration processed in her mind, she rushed to hug Helen. Helen returned the embrace and thus the two Kingsleigh women sat in peace before the storm of the next day.