The Cheshire Cat looked on as the Dormouse and the Hatter continued to practice on the piano. The sound of the instrument stifled the “rumbling” coming from a distance. The Cat, however, could hear the noise and motioned to stop “playing”. The Hatter rapped on the piano and the Dormouse stopped.
Looking at the Cat quizzically, “What is it Cat? Did we hit a wrong note?”
“No, no… it was nothing the two of you did. Listen carefully… do you hear that noise coming from outside?”
The Hatter turned towards the door, “I hear something, but can’t make out what it is.”
The Dormouse stuck his head out of the piano, “I know what that is. It’s the Queen’s guard. And it sounds like they are heading this way.”
The Hatter began to shake, “Oh dear, what do we do? What ever will we do?”
Always smiling, the Cheshire Cat responded, “Relax… I’ll take care of everything. You two keep practicing and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
“Where are you going? You can’t leave now.” The Hatter was starting to sweat and turn red in the face.
The Cat began to vanish, “I’m going to delay them along the path. That will give you enough time to prepare if the Queen is indeed headed this way.”
“Fine, go… my life is over anyway. This will never work.” The Hatter was now in tears.
“It will work. Everything will be fine.” The Cat’s arm appeared out of nowhere and he threw a bottle towards the Dormouse, “Drink this Dormouse. It will make you disappear, kind of like me.” The Cat smiled that big smile again.
The Dormouse looked at the bottle which was labeled “Elixir”. “Ok… ok, I’ll drink it if you think it will work. But if I fall asleep, good luck finding me in here.”
The Cat let out a chuckle, “It’s only temporary. Don’t use it unless you hear the Queen at the door. It should last about an hour once ingested.” The Cheshire Cat disappeared, then his smile reappeared for a moment, “Trust me… because I’m all you’ve got at this point.”
And with that, the Cheshire Cat vanished.
Led by the guards, the Queen and her Court marched down the beaten path towards the Hatter’s house. They passed a murder of crows along the way. They were shouting, “Go get him Queen. He’s the worst. The Hatter has had his last chance. Put his head on a stake.” There was obviously no love lost between the crows and the Hatter.
As they passed by a giant oak tree, a voice spoke, “Hello Queenie… Are you enjoying this lovely afternoon?” The voice belonged to none other than the Cheshire Cat.
“What do you want Cat? Im in a hurry if you couldn’t tell.” The Queen seemed perturbed by the Cat’s presence.
“I’m just being friendly, your Majesty.” The Cat was grinning from ear to ear which irritated the Queen.
“Well don’t bother me now. I’m going to the Hatter’s house. He’s had enough time and I want this ordeal over and done with.” The Queen said matter-of-factly.
The Cheshire Cat responded, “I’ve heard him practicing all day for you. He has become quite proficient in a short period of time. I believe you will be impressed.”
The Queen snarled at the Cat, “I WILL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT!!”
“Alright Queenie, go enjoy the performance. I’m going to stay right here.” The Cat smiled and became preoccupied with something in another tree.
The Ace of Spades approached the door, banging on it as hard as he could, “Open up Hatter. The Queen would like to speak with you.”
The Hatter quickly jumped from the bench and made sure the Dormouse was hidden in the piano. He motioned for the Dormouse to drink the elixir once inside the piano and closed the top. He then straightened his jacket and approached the door.
Upon opening the door, the Hatter was met with a large spike situated across the doorway. He backed away upon seeing this and vowed to the Queen.
As she approached the door, the Queen spoke, “Your time is up Hatter. Disregard what that smarmy Cat told you about having several more days to prepare. Enough of my time has been wasted. I want to hear some music NOW!”
The Hatter responded hastily, “Yes… yes, Your Majesty. Right away, Your Majesty. Please, follow me.”
The Queen barreled her way past the guards and made herself at home near the piano. “Guards, quickly, inspect everything. I want to make sure there is no trickery here. I know that Cat hangs around here a lot and I don’t trust him for a second.”
Hesitantly, the Hatter said, “My Queen, I assure you that the Cheshire Cat has not helped me in any way. He is more of a nuisance than a help.”
“For once, I actually agree with you on something Hatter. That Cat is always sticking his nose in everyone’s business.” The Queen said gleefully. “Now, play something for me and make it good. Otherwise, you know what will happen.”
“Right away, Your Majesty. I’m going to play “Moonlight” Sonata for you.” The Hatter said as he took his seat at the piano.
The Queen dismissed this, “Fine, whatever… just make sure it sounds like music. I’m not in the mood to hear horrible music. And I’m ALWAYS in the mood to cut someone’s head off.”
The Hatter tapped the specified keys on the piano to alert the Dormouse they would begin. The Dormouse adjusted himself inside the piano and started to play. The Hatter moved his fingers across the keys as if he were actually playing the song.
As the music played, the Queen seemed somewhat surprised. Remember, just a little while back, the Dodo told her that the Hatter was a horrible piano player. The Queen nodded and bobbed her head in tune to the music. She looked as tho she were enjoying herself for once.
During the song, the Hatter glanced back to see the Queen’s reaction. The sight of the Queen enjoying herself brought a huge sigh of relief to the Hatter. He continued to play until the song was finished. The Queen then nodded and asked for another song to be played.
With a tap of two piano keys, the Dormouse began to play a second song. The Hatter “played” along to the delight of the Queen and her Court.
At some point, the Cheshire Cat had arrived to observe the performance. He was elated to see that the Queen approved, altho, he was sure that she would have many questions later.
Several songs later, the Queen held up her hand to stop the Hatter. She had heard enough to make her decision. “Hatter, despite my earlier concerns, you have performed admirably and to my liking. It seems as though you will live to see another day.”
The Hatter was overcome with joy, “Thank you, Your Majesty. That is wonderful news. I’m glad I had the opportunity to entertain you.”
“I applaud your ability to learn the piano so quickly and hereby cancel all of the charges against you from your past discrepancies.”
“Again, I thank you, Your Majesty. It was my pleasure to perform for you.” The Hatter felt a huge weight lifted off of his shoulders.
The Cheshire Cat laid on top of the piano, grinning as only he could, “You see, My Queen, I knew the Hatter could do as you asked. He is quite resourceful when it comes down to it.”
The Queen glanced towards the Cat, “Yes, quite resourceful. Now, I must be going. There are other appointments I must get to.” And with that, the Queen exited the house and made her way back down the dusty path.
The Cheshire Cat watched out the window as the Queen and her Court made their way down the path and away from the house. Once she was far enough away he said to the Hatter, “I told you to let me handle things. The Queen is happy, you are happy, everyone is happy.”
The Hatter knocked on the top of the piano, but did not hear any movement. He raised the top and saw the Dormouse curled up and sleeping at the bottom of the compartment. “We will leave him asleep for now. The poor fellow must be exhausted from playing in that stressful situation.”
The Cheshire Cat responded, “Yes, while he sleeps, let’s go out back and get set for a celebration with some tea.”
“Wonderful idea! I’ll invite some of the others to stop by and we can make a party of it.” The Hatter said excitedly.
An hour later, the Hatter had the table set with tea and crumpets. There were plenty of places for everyone.
That evening, the seats began to fill with the likes of the Dodo, the Dormouse, the Hare, the Tortoise and many of the other peculiar inhabitants of Wonderland.
Everything was back to “normal” for at least one more day.