Harold the White Rabbit was dreaming. This was, no doubt, due to all the things he had to do today. There were summons to issue to the Hatter and the Duchess’s cook. And the croquet game, to say nothing of the actual Trial of the Knave of Hearts. And what of this summons for Alice? He was to issue a summons to an Alice, but he had no idea what an Alice was. He was dreaming of the court room, when suddenly all the cards burst up in a flurry in his face. He awoke to find his wife Ruthie brushing some leaves away that had blown in the window of their “neat little house.”
“Time to get up, dear” said Ruthie “you know you have a lot to do today and I shall be off to my mother’s for Un-Mother’s day. Remember Mary Ann has the day off.”
Harold dressed quickly. He put on the waistcoat that his mother had given him last Christmas. And put the pocket-watch his father had carried every day of his adult life into the pocket. He didn’t care for the watch, but his mother would expect him to have it. He preferred his own wristwatch.
“No time for breakfast” he said. “I hope Mum will have prepared tea.” As he left the bedroom, he paused for a moment, tapping his paw as he thought. The first decision of the day was an important one but he had no time to ponder. To get to his mother’s, he must get across the river and that meant either heading the long way round toward Holland and taking the tunnel. Or going up his rabbit hole, across the drawbridge, and then down the other rabbit hole leading to the hall of many doors. Going the shorter way was fraught with danger, as he would be above ground and who knew what might happen, while exposed up there? But it was getting late, and he felt that he had no choice, and so quick as his old paws would carry him he started toward the hole.
Once above ground, he bounded as fast as he could toward the bridge. Drat, it was up. This would cause a further delay, and he hid timidly in the bushes beside the bank. He could retrace his steps and go the other way but that would just make even him later, and so he waited. There was little activity along the river and once the bridge went back down he was on it in an instant. Suddenly there was a burst of traffic in both directions and Harold had to jump from side to side to dodge the oncoming vehicles and those coming from behind him. Finally he reached the opposite side and he ran along the bank toward the other hole.
Along the way he passed by two girls sitting on the bank, one was reading and the other seemed to be dozing, and they looked, to him very much like sisters. As he passed them, he said out loud, “Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be late!” and took his pocket-watch out of his waistcoat pocket, checked the time and carefully put it back in his pocket so as not to lose it and ran to the rabbit hole at top speed. He looked over his shoulder and noticed that one of the girls, the smaller one, was following him. Oh, dear, oh no, he thought, not a good sign, no not at all, I hope she won’t follow me down the hole. Oh my, I shouldn’t have come this way.
To make matters worse, Harold noticed that he had started to change. At the top of each hop, he felt a tingling sensation and looking down he realized that his clothes were changing and probably his appearance also. This often happened when he was above ground. “Who knows what I will look like when I get back down,” he thought. “I hope I don’t end up in some outrageous costume or with an appearance that will scare mother!”
He scurried under the hedge and stood at the entrance of the hole. He continued into the tunnel, and as he approached the dip he took a deep breath and jumped nervously into the well-like opening. He had always hated this fall, it seemed so long. But there was no shorter way to his mother’s.
At first Harold stiffly held his arms close to his side and as he got used to the fall he relaxed a little. Then he started to tap his toes. He often did this when waiting or thinking, it helped to pass the time. But as he was falling through the air, his toes had nothing to tap against, and it was quite unsatisfying simply having them wiggle about. As the fall seemed to never end, he tried a back flip, then a front flip. Finally he pantomimed three full body twists, as if he were a diver heading for the pool. At last he straightened out again, feeling as young as a bunny.
As he fell, he noticed a map of the southern hemisphere on the wall. “That wasn’t here the last time I came down,” he thought, “it must have been put there by cousin George.” George had been to New Zealand, and whenever Harold talked to him, he always thought that it was Tomorrow! And that Harold was living in Yesterday. “I prefer to live in Today,” thought Harold but he decided that he would have to consult with the Hatter, who always seemed to be in good standing with Time, to see if he knew when it was when.
He wondered how long he had been falling. He had meant to time this fall sometime so that he could anticipate the landing and then reaching the bottom wouldn’t be so startling. However, unlike his wristwatch, his father’s pocket watch did not have a stopwatch and anyway he did not want to be holding the watch when he landed. Were he to break it he would be forever after so embarrassed when his mother asked about it. So he would just have to land whenever it was that he landed, and be startled as usual.
Just then he noticed a bottle labeled “DRINK ME in one of the cupboards along the wall. He snatched it, thinking it could be useful later, especially if the girl really was following him. Likewise, when he saw a glass box with a cake decorated by the words “EAT ME” written in currents pressed into the icing, he took that along as well.
He felt that he was nearing the bottom and so he peered up the well, but it was complete darkness overhead. Besides he wouldn’t have seen much even in the light without his spectacles. However he thought he heard a faint voice above speaking about cats and bats or something like that. Not good, he thought, not good at all.
At last, the White Rabbit landed softly on the pile of leaves at the bottom of the well, checked his pocket watch again nervously and quickly bounded down the long passage mumbling to himself, “Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it is getting.” Suddenly he realized that the girl was still following him and he scurried into the long, dark, low hall and hid from her behind the curtain. The girl entered the hall without noticing him and he thought silently to himself, “Oh this is going to be trouble, what shall I do?” While she was busy trying the doors, he snuck quietly back into the long passage and luckily she was too preoccupied to notice him. He observed her as she discovered the golden key and then the location of his previous hiding place behind the curtain. He thought, oh my, I can see I moved back to the passage just in the nick of time. She is awfully tall, isn’t she? I shall place this little bottle on the table and maybe she will drink it, shrink to a reasonable size and then perhaps she won’t be quite so frightening.
As the girl was engaged in opening the little door, he bounded to the three-legged table. Jumping up, he held on its edge as it wobbled but it did not fall. He hoisted himself to the surface and left the bottle on the top, jumping carefully down so that the table would not move. He hid again in the entry corridor, peeping out in the direction of the hall from time to time. He noticed that she had left the little door unlocked and open. “That won’t do!” he said to himself (He always closed and locked doors behind him.) “The mouse, or some other unsavory creature will get in if it’s left open like that.” Timidly he watched her return to the table and consider whether or not she should drink from the bottle labeled “DRINK ME.“ As he had hoped she would, she does follow the “DRINK ME” instructions. Quickly, while she was drinking, he returned to the little door and closed and locked it (he had his own key), and then stealthily he scampered back to the corridor without being seen. He witnessed the girl growing smaller and smaller. Then after a time, she went back to try the door. “Oh my she forgot the key, not very clever is she? Luckily I brought the cake too,” he says to himself. With this, apprehensively he made as mad a dash as his age would allow for the table and left the little glass box with the cake inside beneath it. Cautiously he returned to the long passage to wait for the right moment to sneak out by way of the little door behind the curtain.
As he waited he thought, “I am late, terribly, terribly late. And there are very few things in this world that make a fussy rabbit such as myself, more upset than being late. Except, of course, being chased by a wild and not very clever little girl.” Finally, the moment he had been waiting for arrived. By the sound of sobs, he was certain that little girl was so busy drowning in her own tears or was that “crying me a river?” that she would never notice him. He raced to the little door, opened it and bounded through, carefully closing and locking it behind him.
Finally he thought he was rid of this annoying intruder, and he happily continued in the direction of his mother’s house. But not too happily, as he was already late and his mother would be sure to remind him of this, and with the many things he had to do today it did not seem to him that things were going very well at all.
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