The wind whirled through the forest canopy, causing a rippling of treetops, like a green, leafy ocean sprinkled with flashes of bright blue sky. Along the wind's path, it came upon a clearing in the forest, meek and humble, sturdy and strong, just like the homey cabin standing in its center. The wind snatched at the smoke from the cabin's chimney and threw it up into the sky in intricate patterns. The clouds, the trees, the sky, they all danced together in the breeze; and Alice watched it all.
Alice smiled appreciatively at the show, then bent forward and continued to pull up the carrots from the rich brown earth of the garden, kneeling on the grass-covered ground in her homespun dress, the rough fabric dyed a whimsical blue as a special treat. The work was not overly easy, but Alice had been doing it for a long time, and she loved the smell of rain and forest that wrapped around her as she gathered from the garden. She loved the wet feel of the dirt and the roughness of the carrots that she pulled as she placed them into the basket at her side. It wasn't as if she needed very many, only enough for three.
Finally, when she estimated she had enough at least for tonight's meal, she stood up, brushed the stray clods of dirt from her knees, and picked up her wicker basket full of carrots and some of the other vegetables she had picked earlier. Smiling whimsically and humming a stray tune, Alice walked calmly across the clearing with dainty steps, and as she reached the cabin, opened the rough wooden door with the hand not holding the basket. She took one last glance at the sky, then smiled and turned into the interior of the
Inside the cabin was much like the outside, with a rough, homey feel drapped over the home-made chairs and tables, with a flickering warmth in the hearth lending the entire room an amber glow. A rocking chair by the corner of the hearth squeaked pleasantly as, of all things, what appeared to be a large tabby she-cat in a homely frock and apron rocked and knitted something in between a large sock or a small coat. Alice stifled a giggle. Grandmother Dinah was a wonderful grandmother, but she would never admit that her knitting always left something to be desired. She always got carried away with the yarn. Alice stepped demurely forward to place her basket on the table, trailing her fingers over its warm oak surface, until a sound rather like a 'harrumph' got her attention. She smiled a secret smile and turned to face the comfy armchair across from Grandmother Dinah.
Grandfather Rabbit was, as the name said, a rather large and jovially grumpy white rabbit who was inordinately fond of the large and elegant pocket watch he always kept in his waistcoat pocket. His place was in the comfy armchair on the other side of the fire from Grandmother Dinah's rocking chair, and the animals were as matched as their chairs, fitting together like two pieces of a puzzle. Alice smiled as Grandfather watched her with impatient eyes, gesturing toward the three-legged stool that sat just between the two bigger chairs, backlit by the warmth of the fire.
"Well, come on, girl," the old rabbit grumbled, "Do you want the story or not?" Alice nodded very solemnly, though inside she was smiling, and walked over to place herself very primly on the low stool, before abandoning decorum and propping her elbows on her knees and resting her chin in her hands, watching Grandfather and Grandmother avidly as she waited for them to begin the nightly ritual of storytelling. It was a tradition they all loved, as Grandmother told the story, Grandfather huffily corrected her, the two bickering as each tried amiably to convince the other of the truth (that no one was quite sure of), and Alice listened with wide-eyed fascination to all of it. Tonight was to be no different.
"Well, then, Alice, love," Grandmother Dinah said in a kind, motherly way, much like she did everything, "What kind of story would you like tonight?" Alice kept her face very open and blank, though inside she laughed at the old traditional opening.
"Oh, I don't know, Grandmother. Why don't you ask Grandfather what he'd like to hear tonight?" she said innocently, turning to look at Grandfather, who was comfortably fingering his pocket watch through his waistcoat and smoking a pipe. Grandfather 'harrumphed' in a cloud of aromatic pipesmoke.
"Dinah, tell the girl the one about the princess. I'm too old for stories," he grumbled, seeming very cross indeed at the very thought. But he always listened anyway.
"Of course, dear," Grandmother Dinah said diplomatically, glancing down at her knitting for moment, to hide a smile, Alice thought. There was a comfortable silence for a moment, then Grandmother Dinah looked up and began the story. Alice leaned forward slightly, ready to listen to the words the story would say.
"Well, now, Alice, once long ago, there was a very happy family, and in that family was a little girl, very much like you. She loved her family very much and she was happy all the time." Grandfather grumbled at that, mumbling something about an 'air-headed little child.' Alice smiled but didn't move from her concentration, as if trying to absorb the story into her mind. "Now, that family may have been very very happy together, but bad things can happen to even good people. One day, there was a terrible storm, and the girl was blown into a terribly strange place, with not the least bit idea where to go. Now the girl wasn't so happy at all." Alice shivered. She never liked this sort of part. It made her feel so strange and sad inside. Grandmother noticed.
"Oh, don't you fret, my love. It all ends up happy! You see, one day, in the strange place, the girl came across a wonderful thing; a cloak, made all of white silk. And the girl, who loved beautiful things, was very taken with it and decided to put it on. At once, a little rabbit popped up and asked her 'Now where does the young miss want to go?'" Alice giggled at the high squeaky voice Grandmother Dinah made for the rabbit, and she was Grandfather Rabbit chuckled a little. Grandmother laughed herself, then continued on. "The girl had no idea what the rabbit meant, as she told him so, too. So the rabbit told her 'I can take you anywhere you please, young miss. Simply tell me, and we'll be there in a jiffy.' So the girl thought very hard about where she would want to go, and eventually she told the rabbit 'I want to be somewhere that I can be happy.' The rabbit said 'Then we're away!' and he grew so very large that he could scoop up the girl onto his saddle with a paw. The girl was careful to hold on very tight, as the rabbit leaped in one magnificent bound and dove down right into his rabbit hole!" Grandmother laughed. "Can you just imagine?"
Alice was very careful to reply, "Oh, no, Grandmother, I can't!" Grandfather Rabbit behind them chuckled and leaned forward to pat Alice's long golden hair, saying in a slightly less grumbling tone of voice, "Oh, get on with it, Dinah, before the child burst of waiting." Grandmother laughed and nodded, picking up her knitting again from when she had dropped it in her story-telling delight. "Oh, where was I; ah, yes, the rabbit hole. Now, see, the girl was holding very very tightly to the rabbit's saddle, and it was a good thing, for they must have tumbled forever, it seemed. Then there was a brightness and the girl aboard the rabbit appeared in a beautiful land, full of creatures and people and beautiful white castles. And the people and the creatures all, they took that girl and they made her a beautiful queen in a lovely castle and she is there to this day, very happy indeed."
Grandmother Dinah sighed happily, wiping away a tear of happiness or two, before leaning back to continue her knitting, frowning slightly as she had to untangle a knot in the string. Alice watched her curiously for a moment, then turned to Grandfather Rabbit. "Is that all, Grandfather?" she asked, curious, "Is that all that happened?" Grandfather puffed at his pipe for a moment, watching her with a paternal eye.
"Of course, my dear girl. 'And she lived in a castle, happily always.' Isn't that what always happens at the end of stories? What else did you expect?" Grandfather harrumphed, blowing out a stream of swirling pipe smoke. Alice let her eyes drift to the twisting cloud, becoming mesmerized by the coils and turns of the smoke, lit through by the fire, before answering Grandfather rather dreamily.
"Oh, I don't know, Grandfather. I just felt like the story wasn't over yet, or like something was missing." Grandfather Rabbit didn't deign to give this answer, only snorted dismissively and tilted back to watch the play of firelight on the rough oaken beams of the ceiling. Alice craned her head to watch the smoke curls, lost in their entrancing dance as the cabin descended into a rather comfortable silence. Alice couldn't forget Grandmother's story, though, as she usually did. She simply couldn't shake the feeling that Grandfather was leaving something out. It didn't feel like the story's ending, not at all. In fact, she thought to herself, slipping away into dream,I rather feel like it is, perhaps, only the beginning...