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“And if you remain callous and obdurate, I
Shall perish as he did, and you will know why!
Though I probably shall not exCLAIM as I die--”

“On a tree by a river” is from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta The Mikado.

And his knowledge was infinite, it seemed.
An interesting point.

“'That epos on thy hundred plates of gold', I suppose one could say.”
Again from Browning’s “Cleon,” which I must have been studying at the time and truly hated, otherwise it wouldn’t appear so many times. He means the Duchess is the reigning monarch.

“...raging with the white-hot intensity of a thousand flaming suns,”
My brief internet search reveals that this originally came from Cheers, which is weird, because I don’t remember where I heard it. I’ve never watched that show. Maybe it’s a subconscious phrase that runs through us all. Or maybe I heard it in a cartoon or something.

“Well, one day the Queen awoke to find that her husband, the King, who was what you might describe as a...”
“Milquetoast,” she offered.
“A milquetoast, yes, had hit the sky overnight, which left us all gasping fish.”

The little king was so tiny, his crown kept slipping over him. How does a king gain about 5 feet overnight? Weird.

”Anyway, she busted her lip at him, and suddenly he had her over his knee laying into her with a slipper before she knew where she was, bellowing Roshambo.”
More Wodehousian prose.

“They are all the ruling bodies of distant lands; Spades being the one convinced of the celestial bodies being in league against her, Clubs always the first at everything, and Diamonds… manipulative and deceitful, and possibly ordered an assassination to gain more power.”
A bit of card game lore. The game Hearts involves getting rid of as many of that suit as possible while avoiding the dreaded Queen of Spades. An alternative theory is to grab as many Hearts as possible for bonus points, but it’s difficult. If you can do that, you’ve “shot the Moon.” I picture the Queen of Spades standing on the roof of her castle firing off rounds at our dear satellite—maybe it’s a bit of a stretch in terms of a joke, but I thought it was funny. Clubs are trump cards (meaning they come first) in the game of 500, and the image of the Queen of Diamonds was used extensively in the movie The Manchurian Candidate, a story about hypnotic suggestion for an assassin.

“If they changed their names, it would be awfully perplexing, don't you think? We wouldn't know who was the Duchess or who was the Queen—you see, for we know them as only that.”
Well, he is right. I mean, it only makes nonsense.

It would have been much like London, if London were of a quainter, more Continental nature, but the same feeling of greatness lent a brisk importance to the way people moved.
I picture their capital to be just like the Kingdom of Ingary. Bustling and steampunky, but with Tudor buildings and odd people hanging out of every window.

The line of stone-fronted shops across the thoroughfare had stacks of chimneys rising out of them, but were not pouring out the bubbling black coal of home: rather, a thin gray steam that dissipated into lighter and lighter fog.
Everything is steam-powered. How it got that way is a secret.

“World-Famous Libertine Fabrics and Twist,” read one sign oddly. “Faulkner's Letter Emporium—fresh shipment of Qs soon!” another promised.
Liberty Fabrics is a famous cloth and sewing house in London. It’s been around forever. Falkiners Suppliers of Fine Paper is located not far from where I used to live, and they sell lovely marbled papers and vellum on butcher rounds.

“External combustion engine!” cried the Hatter from behind her over the noise, pointing at it wildly. He seemed quite pleased as the thing chugged merrily past…
He has a mechanical flair that is explored later. Steam engines are powered by external combustion, where fuel is literally burned to supply heat and create energy. An internal combustion engine is the major principle behind how cars work.

“Manatees of the sky!—they're zeppelins, full of the Crown's guard. Not that much goes on here, but I imagine it gives the place a secure, official... impression.
I don’t know what the deal is with manatees, to be honest. Apparently one of the park Hatters told a story about a manatee, but I don’t know what it was about. It just took off from there.

They had passed three identical twins in stiff double-breasted coats and a young woman with a very tiny nose conveniently carrying an odiferous Moon Rat that was smacking at something pink in its tiny paws.
A Moon Rat is the colloquial term for a Gymnure, which looks like a hairless rat even though it’s more related to a mole. They wouldn’t make a good pet because they have a peculiar smell that people describe as rancid garlic or onion. Lucky that girl has a small nose and can’t smell her beloved rat.

“I told you—you're what's changed. When you're very short, everything seems terribly large, correct?”
And when you’ve grown up, a world that made no sense when you were little is going to adjust to your new memories and world experiences to try to match up with these new standards. I think the capital has revealed itself to her because she’s visited major cities and has a reference point.

“You sought the Queen's palace as a girl searches for the shoes that will lead her down the right path home.”
Like a pair of ruby slippers.

The Duchess tilted her chin to look at Alice almost wistfully, ten miles away through the mere steps separating them both. “You are as pretty as I would have thought, my dear,” she said at length.
Duchess is very peculiar about her pronouns. Sometimes it’s royal we and sometimes it’s the personal I. I’ll leave that as a hint and nothing else.

“I trust you keep a copy of Burke's at home?”
Burke’s Peerage listed everyone of good stock and breeding in the English aristocracy. The subtle implication is once more that Alice isn’t in that group.

“Mr. Hatter, you return. We recall you once, painting testimonial pictures in our court.”
“PC Thirty-one/says we’ve caught a dirty one/Maxwell stands alone/Painting testimonial pictures oh, oh oh oh”
Very weird foreshadowing.

ladies with cages swinging inside perfect loops of hair housing choruses of tropical birds who talked and sang and told jokes in foreign accents
All the birds sing words and the flowers croon in the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room.

He did not speak as the hammer hit, and hit, and hit.
Does he seem a bit stressed or upset? I would be too after talking to the Duchess.

she hit the fork and pulled it away from her face only to realize she had nearly bitten into a circlet larger than a ring but smaller than a bracelet.
Did she just eat Sonic?

“How are you finding the vichyssoise?” she began, before she realized the chair was actually being occupied by a flamingo hanging off someone else's hat. The large bird glared at her silently, extending its neck to achieve the full vultureous effect, and she wondered perhaps if it was a cousin of her old croquet mallet. She never did seem to get along with the poor creatures, and this one was no exception until its owner produced a yo-yo as a means of well-received distraction.
Must be one of the Snooty Six flamingoes from the “Carnival of the Animals Finale” in Fantasia 2000. Maybe they finally learned to Walk the Dog.

“Quel cul tu as,” was all he managed to get out…
“What a nice ass you have.”

“Veux-tu m'épouser?”
“Will you marry me?”

“I should not consider myself a properly educated young lady if I did not know at least some French…”
Victorians would have considered her a blight on society and severely lacking as a female if she couldn’t speak French. Every child was taught French, no exceptions. Expectations on her would have been even higher given that she was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church College at Oxford.

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Valadilenne

May 2009

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