By Ivy Strader
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The house was falling into disrepair, that was true. Alice would care less about that if it hadn't been her husband's pride and joy. But since Reggie died, it had been too expensive for her to keep up. She could have sold it, their beloved home they'd lived in for so long, where her babies were born and they'd spent their years together, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. He had loved it so much.
Alice knew that something had to be done. She had already sold everything else of value, and the house kept swallowing money. There was only one thing left to sell – the manuscript.
She couldn't help a sigh at the idea; it almost broke her heart. It was the last thing she had that really meant something, although an old woman like her (she was almost 75 years old, after all) shouldn't be so sentimental. With one foot in the grave already, did it really matter if she kept it? And that young man from America had offered her ₤14,000 for it last year. She had refused at the time, but she had no other choice. She needed to keep the house the way Reggie would have wanted it.
She considered selling it at a public auction, but decided it would be too humiliating, so she let the interested parties know it was for sale. It took only a week before she had four men bidding against each other for it. The price quickly grew, and first one, then another, dropped out of the bidding until the young American, a pudgy man with the unpleasant name Eldridge Johnson, was left in triumph at ₤15,400. Alice almost cried when it was over, half in relief and half in shame. She was sure her Uncle Charles was turning over in his grave, but Reggie would have wanted it this way, she told herself.
He came the following month personally to inspect it and pick it up. Before he arrived, she spent a few hours rereading it, turning the faded, cracked pages, gazing at the carefully handwritten words and the ink drawings scattered throughout. Uncle Charles, God bless him, had written the book just for her, his precious handwriting on every page. She was glad, now, that her Reggie was gone and couldn't see the way she cried over an old book. Her servants, too, kept out of the way, and for that she was grateful.
By the time Mr. Johnson arrived in his sleek black automobile, Alice was ready and she received him in queenly dignity. He almost snatched the precious manuscript from her hands.
“Alice's Adventures Under Ground,” Mr. Johnson said in his wheezy voice. “Yes, yes, this will do nicely in my collection. Thank you very much, Mrs. Hargreaves. By Lewis Carroll. All very satisfactory.”
As he walked from the room without a backwards glance, chuckling over his acquisition, Alice merely smiled. She had dried her tears, and there was no looking back now, only ahead. Her adventures in Wonderland were just a childish dream.
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