Mad Love

Chapter 4

The next day in London dawned sunny and clear. Alice awoke with a sense of dread that she could not exactly explain. As she dressed in her customary blue, the feeling of unease grew which filled Alice with extreme anxiety about the day ahead. This was despite the fact that she would be returning to her beloved Underland and that she would be seeing Hamish, whom she counted among her few friends from Above, in spite of the failed engagement that their parents had such high hopes for.

Helen was awaiting Alice’s presence in the small dining parlour, sipping her tea as she tried to wait patiently for her youngest daughter to appear. At last, Helen saw Alice enter the parlour, albeit a little too pale in comparison to her usually pale porcelain skin.

“Alice, dear, are you well? You seem a bit out of sorts.” Helen asked, concerned that her daughter was ill.

“I am well. I do not feel eager to meet the woman that Hamish has selected to be his wife, however. I just wish to return to Underland, which I consider to be my true home.” Alice said, smiling faintly, despite her unease.

Helen nodded before taking another sip from her tea cup. The rest of the morning was a quiet affair; however Alice’s sense of anxiety rose as the appointed time to meet the Ascots approached.

As usual, the short carriage journey was relatively quiet as Alice relived her adventures Below and thought of the man with emerald eyes that she was hoping to return to. Helen smiled sadly at her daughter as she knew this would be the last carriage ride she would take with Alice, as she would be far away by the end of tea.

Lady Ascot was waiting at the door to greet the Kingsleigh women with a cold façade that caused Alice to be pleased that she did not marry Hamish, and standing alongside her was a well-bred young lady who was presumably Hamish’s fiancée.

Alice and Helen were both introduced to the young lady in question, a Miss Josephine Whitely whose father was a Lord, declared Lady Ascot with great pride. The young lady had the good grace to blush at this declaration, causing Alice to sympathise with young Josephine.

The group slowly walked to the pavilion in which the tea was to be served. They were soon joined by Lord Ascot and Hamish Ascot under the shelter of the pavilion.

“Alice, how nice to see you. You look well, you are, I hope?” Hamish enquired cheerfully.

Alice smiled before replying, “It appears that I should congratulate you on your engagement. Your fiancée seems like a nice young lady. I sincerely hope you are very happy together.”

Hamish nodded his thanks whilst Josephine looped her arm into Hamish’s, looking rather smug all the while which caused Alice to mentally recoil in disgust.

Lady Ascot gestured for her guests to be seated and tea began. Lord Ascot began a tale about the men and their antics aboard ship as he had made strides in his company which had been purchased from Helen shortly after Charles’ death.

Alice smiled at the story for she enjoyed adventures of any sort and ships provided an avenue for one to see the world.

Suddenly, a snide voice interrupted, “Alice, have you a man in your life? I should dearly like to meet him.”

Alice grinned before replying, “Thank you, I do have a gentleman. He is a milliner to his queen.”

Everyone stared at Alice agog and in that moment, Helen could not be prouder of her daughter.

“Excuse me, I could not be more delighted for you Hamish, however I desire a walk in the gardens if you wouldn’t mind.” Alice declared, turning to her mother in silent communication that it was time for her to return to the Hatter. Helen nodded sadly, bidding Alice to go.

Hamish however was confused and offered to escort Alice. She refused gracefully and turned on her heel. In a few moments, Alice was completely gone. Once she entered the shade of the garden, Alice ran to where she was sure the rabbit hole was.

Mirana beamed as preparations for Alice’s return were completed. She had personally overseen the arrangement of a room for Alice which was decorated with her signature blue, providing a stark contrast to the white of the rest of the room and the entire palace.

Preparations extended throughout the palace to the grand ballroom in which Mirana would hold a magnificent party to welcome her friend and Champion.

In contrast to these chaotic preparations, Tarrant was still. His excitement buzzed beneath the surface but it was confined by fear. The fear that Alice was not returning and that he was dreaming.

As he sat in his workshop, he contemplated his latest creation and gift to Alice. It was a dress of midnight blue which seemed to glow in certain lights. The bodice would hug Alice’s slight frame and flare out from her hips, pooling at her feet. As with all of Tarrant’s creations, it was hemmed in silver thread which offered faint highlights and enhanced the overall picture. Tarrant decided he liked it and stood up from his stool and left the room, locking the door before he walked down the hall.

As he walked the halls of the palace, he marvelled at the blue decorations littering the small ledges that lined the halls. He smiled as he imagined Alice’s face when she saw what had been done in her honour.

McTwisp on the other hand was busy leading their Champion to Underland. As he led Alice once more to the rabbit hole, he wondered what he had observed between his Champion and the noblewoman. He wondered if it was true, that Alice was returning to Underland because she loved the Hatter or because the noblewoman had insulted her. McTwisp paused to ensure that Alice was still following before continuing down the path. Still hidden by small shrubs, the rabbit hole stood beneath a tree, allowing McTwisp to await Alice’s arrival.

Alice eventually caught up to McTwisp, albeit slightly out of breath from the corset that she had been forced into. She spotted McTwisp and grinned. She was one step closer to home. McTwisp gestured to Alice that she should follow him, which Alice did despite being unsure as to what McTwisp was asking of her.

“Alice, we need to go a different way.” McTwisp suddenly said, as if being able to read Alice’s mind.

“Why? Why can’t I go down the rabbit hole like last time?” Alice enquired curiously.

“The Red Queen has broken her exile and it is likely that she wishes to find you so that you can suffer the same fate as her Jabberwocky. Mirana has found a way for you to return undetected to the palace at Marmoreal, as the Red Queen’s guards that she found in the Outlands are guarding the entrance to the rabbit hole.” McTwisp informed her, whilst handing her a vial of silver liquid.

With a shrug, Alice opened the vial and emptied its contents into her mouth. Nothing happened for a few moments, before she slowly disappeared. Alice marvelled at Mirana’s abilities to concoct such potions and liquids before she felt herself start to fall...

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