... the key in each pocket then I wouldn’t have to go through all of my pockets whenever I wanted to find it.’
Eventually, the Rabbit found the key and he unlocked the door.
‘Come into my parlour,’ he said, ushering Alice into the house.
He closed the door behind them and then bolted it from the inside.
‘Now,’ said the Rabbit, pointing to a comfortable chair, ‘sit you down here and we will make a start.’
‘Make a start on what?’ thought Alice.
‘I will just get some paper and a pen,’ said the Rabbit, busying himself off to one side of the room.
Alice could hear him rummaging through boxes and opening and shutting draws in a desk.
He returned presently with a large quill pen, an even larger jar of ink and a huge sheet of paper which he proceeded to fold over on itself several times until it sat comfortably on his lap.
‘Now,’ he said scribbling Alice’s name on the paper. ‘Tell me again about your adventures.’
‘Could I have a cup of tea?’ asked Alice, looking hopefully at her host.
‘Yes, of course,’ said the Rabbit, setting down his pen. ‘Where are my manners?’ and he scurried off to the kitchen, leaving her alone.
Alice looked around the room.
The desk was littered with papers and there were several piles of notes stacked up on the floor.
Near the door, an overfull waste paper basket groaned under the weight of its contents.
‘I am writing a book, you know,’ said the Rabbit, returning with the tea.
‘Really?’ said Alice, trying to sound interested.
‘Yes,’ replied the Rabbit. ‘It is all about a little girl who falls down a hole one day and can’t get out.’
‘That doesn’t sound very exciting,’ said Alice.
‘Oh, you would be surprised,’ said the Rabbit. ‘My publisher thinks that the idea has great potential.’
He placed the tea on the table and offered a cup to Alice.
‘So far, everyone who has read my manuscript speaks very highly of it,’ he added.
‘How many people have read it?’ asked Alice.
‘Just me,’ replied the Rabbit.
Alice took a sip of her tea.
‘Now,’ said the Rabbit, sitting down again, ‘I want you to start at the beginning and I will write down everything that you say, as we go along.’
‘But,’ said Alice, ‘I don’t really know where to begin.’
‘Start with your earliest memory,’ said the Rabbit, helpfully.
‘Well,’ said Alice, ‘I would do that if I could, but I can’t really be sure that my memories are actually mine, any more. Sometimes I feel as if I am part of someone else’s dream.’
‘Oh, my!’ said the Rabbit, in alarm. ‘I hadn’t thought of that.’
‘Maybe we are all part of somebody else’s dream and none of this is real, at all,’ Alice continued. ‘Wouldn’t that be awful?’
The Rabbit gave a shudder.
‘I wouldn’t like to be part of someone else’s dream,’ he said. ‘Very unsettling.’
He looked at Alice.
‘I don’t mind being part of your dream, of course,’ he added, hastily. ‘But the Queen’s dream? No, now that would be quite disturbing.’
‘Why would that be any more disturbing?’ asked Alice.
‘Oh my!’ said the Rabbit. ‘All sorts of horrible things would happen. People would get their heads cut off and nothing would make any sense.’
‘Does it make sense now?’ asked Alice, out of curiosity.
‘Well, no, it doesn’t actually, now that you come to mention it,’ replied the Rabbit, ‘and people do get their heads cut off, as a matter of course, I suppose.’
There was a pause in the conversation and then the Rabbit continued, ‘So, now that I think about it, you may be right about this being a dream and it may just very well be the Queen’s dream that we are both appearing in.’
He shook his head. ‘That is very depressing,’ he added. ‘So much for self-determination!’
‘But maybe part of her dream is that we get to make our own choices?’ suggested Alice, hopefully. ‘That way we are still responsible for the things that we do.’
‘But how would you know if that was the case?’ asked the Rabbit, forlornly. ‘No, I am sorry, I can’t believe what you are trying to tell me,’ and with that he tucked his legs under his body and started to shake all over.
‘Come now,’ said Alice, feeling responsible for the Rabbit’s despondency, but she couldn’t think of anything further to say.
After a while the Rabbit stopped shaking and he looked at Alice.
‘You need to see the Queen,’ he said. ‘She will know what to do with you.’
‘Thank you,’ said Alice, gratefully. ‘It is comforting to know that someone can help me.’
‘Oh, I didn’t say that she could help you,’ corrected the Rabbit. ‘Only that she would know what to do with you. The two aren’t necessarily the same thing at all, you know.’
‘Oh,’ said Alice. ‘That is slightly less comforting but I don’t suppose that I have much of a choice.’
‘No, none really,’ agreed the Rabbit. ‘Not when it comes to the Queen.’
‘So how will I find her?’ asked Alice.
‘Probably in a foul temper,’ replied the Rabbit, with just a hint of sourness in his voice. ‘That is quite usual for her and it is usually what everyone else is on the receiving end of.’
‘I mean, where will I find her?’ corrected Alice.
‘Oh, I see,’ said the Rabbit, sitting back in his chair and folding his paws across his chest. ‘You need to take the train. Follow the path to the crossroads. There is a rat living there. Turn right and the next stop is the train station.’
He reached into his waistcoat pocket and drew out some coins.
‘Take these,’ he said, handing them to Alice. ‘The train fare won’t be too expensive and you can spend anything left over on something nice for yourself.’
‘Thank you,’ said ...