For thirty-five straight days and nights, Binny and her increasingly-large group of supporters followed a similar pattern. After dinner they would sneak down to the locked room with a copy of Alice in Wonderland and occupy the Mad Hatter’s house typing until the wee hours in the morning when they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
Binny didn’t enjoy the process of writing. In fact, she found it a chore. But she knew everyone was depending on her. So she wrote. And wrote more. The sting of humiliation if she failed was greater than the pain of writing.
Each night a new chapter was produced. And each night they would exit Alice in Wonderland, remove the book from the lectern, carefully put the scroll back where it had been, and lock the room.
But it became quickly clear on multiple fronts that Binny couldn’t do it alone. At first Arya and Katniss would read the pages as they came off the typewriter providing feedback, noting continuity issues, and pointing out over-exposition or awkward constructions.
Binny would then need to retype the pages with the new edits. It usually took at least two rounds for each chapter to be in good enough shape that Binny thought it was done. But eventually, they would need more than one copy of the book. Binny hadn’t considered that when they’d embarked on their project.
By the end of the first week, Binny had gone to her own book a dozen more times to fetch a dozen additional teal typewriters set up on every flat surface in the Hatter’s cottage. A dozen additional typists were brought in to start reproducing Binny’s pages as she finished them. The clacking sound of the typewriters was so loud, Binny eventually had to move to the attic so she could write in relative peace.
Periodically Katniss would arrive with tea and crumpets acquired surreptitiously from the tea party that was continuously going on just outside the house. Its attendees never deigned to get up from their seats, but they also never failed to offer an obnoxious salutation to passersby. Binny and the others got used to it.
Binny didn’t get used to the periodic revelation that she would accidentally drop on the group. Chapter 21 in particular threw everyone for a loop.
“You actually met your author?” Arya demanded. “And you told Katniss but not me?”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I promise.” Binny explained.
Arya didn’t stay mad for long. Instead she spent most of that night composing a list of questions she had for her author. Chief among them was, “When are you gonna finish the next book?” followed closely by “Are you gonna kill me too?”
It was late on the thirty-fifth night when something happened. Binny was just putting the finishing touches on the thirty-fifth chapter when someone sounded the signal. A loud whistle. Someone was coming.
Binny shimmied down the ladder from the attic and instructed everyone to stay put. If someone was coming, there was no way they’d be able to get over a dozen people out of the book, out of the room, and to safety without being noticed. For the moment, everyone would have to sit tight.
Binny burst out of the house to see Lancelot running towards her at top speed past the tea party.
“Someone’s coming.” Lancelot panted.
“Is it Two?” Binny asked.
“No. It’s not one of the Keepers. It’s someone I don’t recognize.”
This wasn’t the emergency Binny was expecting. She and Lancelot exited the book, reset the room, and locked the door. They started walking down the stone hallway when they heard the footsteps coming down the circular stairwell. Binny braced herself. Lancelot pulled out a sword, ready to act.
And then, he was there. Michel. Binny hadn’t seen him in weeks.
“Jeez. You scared the hell out of me.” Binny said angrily.
“I’m so sorry. Very sorry.” Michel had his hands raised in the air at the sight of the sword, but then looked up to see its owner. “Lancelot Du Lac! Such a pleasure to meet you.”
Lancelot remained suspicious.
“He’s okay. He’s one of us. Don’t skewer him.” Binny assured.
Lancelot lowered his sword.
Michel uttered a grateful “Thank you.” And then as an aside to Binny, “He was created by a Frenchman you know.”
“What are you doing here? You could have gotten hurt.” Binny admonished.
“My my. You’re running quite an operation.” Michel smiled.
“How do you know what we’ve been doing. I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“I was worried that if I came to visit, it would draw unwanted attention. And I knew you would come up with something. I’ve been watching your secret efforts from afar.”
“And how do you know your secret efforts to watch our secret efforts stayed secret themselves?” Binny asked.
“I was very careful. I promise. You know I would never do anything to hurt you.”
“Yeah, I thought we were being careful too.” Binny ruminated for a moment on their security procedures and then changed subjects. “We could have used your help.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I did what I thought was best to help. But I’ve come to you now. And I think I have some information that may interest you.”
Binny thought for a moment. “Come with me. We can’t talk here. And anyway, I want to show you something.”
Michel was astonished to see the operation that Binny and Katniss were overseeing. When Binny was done explaining their progress, she asked, “So what did you come to tell us?”
Katniss and Binny were talking to Michel. The others looked at him suspiciously, but ultimately trusted Binny and Katniss’ judgment on who could and could not be trusted.
“First of all, let me say how impressive this all is. I can’t wait to read your book.”
“Thanks.” Binny said politely, but it was clear she was waiting to hear what news Michel brought.
“Ah yes. Well, have you decided on the best place and time to distribute your book as widely as possible?”
Binny and Katniss exchanged a knowing look.
Katniss answered. “Well, we’re not sure yet. When Binny wrote her poem for you, she only had about 15-20 minutes before the Keepers caught up with her.”
“You’re certainly writing that new chapter now.” Michel winked at Binny.
Katniss continued, “So that means we have to take all the copies of the book, and get them out of here, through the library, and to somewhere big and public in less time than it will take for them to stop us.”
“As you know, the most interesting news among the residents of the Stacks is always what might be on the menu for our nightly dinner.”
Katniss smirked. “Yeah, everyone here always has their priorities in order. But what does that have to do with distributing Binny’s book?”
“The gossiping hordes, while inaccurate on many fronts, are relatively reliable when it comes to this issue in my experience. And they are saying that in two nights, we will be having Dinner with Trimalchio.” Michel said the last three words almost triumphantly.
Binny stared at Michel blankly.
“Really?” Katniss sounded excited. “That could be perfect.”
“What are you two talking about? Who is Trimalchio?” Binny did her best not to trip on the name.
“You want to explain?” Katniss looked at Michel.
Michel smiled. “It’s almost like a holiday here in the Stacks. It comes from a book called The Satyricon, a piece of Latin fiction written, most likely, by Gaius Petronius in the first century. Nobody’s sure exactly when.”
“In the book, Encolpius, the narrator and main character, and his companions are invited to the most extravagant and obnoxiously ostentatious dinner you could imagine. Everyone in the Stacks loves the spectacle of it. They hold it in enormous areas, so instead of the usual hundreds of characters at dinner, you’ll have thousands.”
“It’s perfect.” Katniss said.
“Two nights?” Binny asked.
“That means we have to finish the book tomorrow night. Luckily, I’ve only got one more chapter to write.”
Binny and Katniss disseminated the plan to the others as they wrapped up for the night. On the way out, Binny pulled Michel aside.
“What is it Binny?” Michel said.
“I have a favor to ask.”
“Have you ever heard of a play called Tiroas, by someone named Cicero?”
“The names ring a bell, but I can’t remember exactly.”
“Do me a favor and see what you can find on him. I have a hunch he’s connected somehow to all this.”
“It would be my pleasure.” Michel smiled, glad he could be of assistance.
By the time everyone got back to Misselthwaite Manor, everyone knew they had only one more night to finish not only writing the book, but making copies of the pages so that the hundred or so copies they were making would be complete and ready for distribution.
Binny and her friends were all fast asleep, but the Mad Tea Party had not abated in their absence. The Hatter and the March Hare were busy arguing when they heard a sound from the house.
“Ge-min-ee-o? I’ve heard of Geronimo, but not Geminio.” The Hatter said angrily.
“Jiminy?” The Dormous said, his eyes still closed.
“Criminy?” The March Hare said.
“Chrysanthemum?” The Hatter asked nobody in particular.
“You know I prefer my tea with no chrysanthemum. The crumpets on the other hand are another matter altogether.” The Hare said.
“I hate eating crumpets with my other hand. I find it awkward.” The Hatter replied.
The conversation devolved from there.