Chapter 2: In the Workshop

Tarrant Hightopp sat in his workshop, brushing a felt burgundy hat he had been working on. Earlier that morning, he had ironed and cut the brim. Being pleased with his handiwork, he set it on the counter. Then he sat down by his little desk and took out a piece of paper and a piece of charcoal. He was supposed to create another hat for a lady of the court, and he decided he needed to start designing the shape.

After several minutes, the hatter, bleary-eyed, got up from his desk and stood on the threshold of his cottage. As he had before, the White Queen had given him a small cottage on the palace grounds with a workshop attached, as befits the official hatter to the queen. He rubbed this hand over his eyes and yawned. He had not been sleeping much and was haunted by bad dreams.

He walked out into his front porch and stood staring off into the distance. He sighed and leaned against the doorframe. If only…

"What's the matter, Tarrant? You just look so ... glum..." said Chessur, floating upside down with only his head peering at the hatter. He sported that perpetual, slightly unsettlingly smile.

The hatter was startled. He turned around and gave the cat a tempered look.

"Nothing, nothing at all. Why would something be the matter?" said the hatter. Really, wouldn't that feline just leave him alone and play with some string or something?

The cat suddenly reappeared to his right. "Oh come now, Tarrant, you seem positively un-frabjous. There must be something...hmmm?"

The hatter rolled his eyes. His feline friend could be awfully annoying sometimes. "Nothing. I'm perfectly fine," he said.

"Well, I certainly haven't seen you futterwacken since Frabjous day. In fact, I have barely seen you smile, either," said Chessur. He learned closer to the hatter with a knowing look. "That wouldn't have anything to do with a certain lady Jabberwocky slayer, would it? Hmmm???"

The hatter stood straight up. "Right, that's it – off you go. I have plenty of hats to make and I'm extremely busy. Isn't there a fish or a bird for you to catch?"

"The cat hovered to his left. "I already ate, thank you." He smiled and learned closer to Tarrant. "You know, you really are not as secret as you think yourself to be. In fact, my dear hatter, you rather wear your heart on your sleeve." The cat disappeared all altogether, but the hatter still heard him say "see you later" gently on the breeze.

Tarrant sat down on a chair outside his cottage. He rubbed his eyes. He was very tired, and yet he was very flabbergasted. Was he really that transparent? Couldn't he even grieve in peace?