The sharp squeak of the gate-hinge was what drew her attention away from her embroidery, her eyes venturing to the footpath and her visitor. Unsurprisingly, her gaze fell on an outrageously tall hat and too-bright morning coat, the bold colors clashing against the pale beauty of the weeping cherry in her garden.
Meeting her eyes, Reginald smiled broadly at her, "Good morning, Alice!"
She sighed, returning to her task. "Good morning, Reginald."
He paused at the top of the steps, watching her needle fly through the thin fabric. "What are you making, dearest?"
"I'm monogramming my handkerchiefs."
He approached her, then, leaning over her to get a better look at her work.
"You're blocking my light, Reginald."
"Beg pardon—" He stepped aside, still admiring the looping APL forming at her fingertips.
Alice made quick work of the piece, unbinding it and putting it aside, then taking up another and tightening the hoop around the cotton. She looked up at him. "Is there something I can do for you?"
He looked down at her, her face and gown a-glow in the morning light, and bit his tongue. He'd intended to ask her to go walking with him (to inevitably end at taking tea and arguing over something of no consequence), but hadn't the heart to interrupt her. Not this morning. She was too comfortable, too rested—too lovely—to be bothered.
Reginald declined to consider the why behind that—after all, he was well past considering and fairly far along certainty.
She was still looking at him, her brow now quirked in curiosity at his lack of response.
"Oh, nothing, dearest Alice. Nothing at all. Though—" he fished through his pocket, an assortment of tea-related paraphernalia balanced on the porch railing before he finally produced an enormous handkerchief. "Would you do me the honor?"
Alice pursed her lips, brows pulled together. She looked unhappy. "What do you want me to do?"
He motioned at her hands—the hoop, floss, and needle—and struggled for the correct words. "That—the stitching—"
Alice's face relaxed in understanding. "You want me to monogram your handkerchief for you?"
She frowned at him, thinking him acting far too normal for her comfort, and loosened the wooden band again, dropping the white square into her lap and reaching for his—"It is clean?"—and securing it tightly when he nodded. She pulled the pale blue floss from the needle, threading it instead with a bright hue of green, then took up the hoop. The handkerchief trailed over her knees, and he watched with great interest as she formed the first letter of his name in an elegant, blocked script.
The "R" complete, she paused.
Reginald watched her mouth twist in dissatisfaction, then a smile pull at one corner. She resumed her stitching with enthusiasm.
After a few minutes, she snipped the thread free and released his handkerchief from its prison, folding it into a neat square before presenting it to him.
It read RTIII.
He looked at her strangely.
Alice smiled. "You're so terribly insistent on reminding me that you're 'the Third'—I thought it might be appropriate."
His face lit up. "Dearest Alice, my darling of darlings! You are the most charming girl in all the world." He looked again at the tiny, neat stitches. "Thank you."
"You're quite welcome, Reginald." She lifted her own discarded handkerchief from her lap and fastened it back in the hoop. "Was there anything else?"
"No—" he stepped off the porch. "Enjoy your day, pet." He strode away, her eyes on his back, the handkerchief clutched tightly in his gloved hand and pressed, once, to his lips.