Chapter 7 - A Mad Tea-Party
Under a tree in front of the house, Alice finds a table set for tea. At the table are the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, resting their elbows on a Dormouse sitting between them, who is asleep. (Tea is a light meal which English people eat in the late afternoon -- traditionally it includes tea and bread with jam and butter, and in Lewis Carroll's time people ate it around six P.M. A Hatter is someone who makes hats. A March Hare is just a hare, or rabbit-like animal, which was thought to go mad (that is, crazy) in March, its mating season. A Dormouse is a squirrel-like English rodent, which was known for becoming very sleepy in cold weather.)
Although there is plenty of room at the tea table, all three are crowded together at one end of it. When Alice approaches, they yell "No room!", but Alice points out that there's lots of room, and sits down.
The Mad Hatter and the March Hare engage Alice in some very strange conversation. They contradict everything she says, and all their actions are a little bit off. They offer her wine that isn't there, ask riddles they don't know the answers to, and say peculiar things about Time. When the Mad Hatter accuses the March Hare of having broken his watch by putting butter into the gears, the Hare simply replies meekly, "It was the best butter."
It turns out that the Hatter's watch only displays the day of the month, not the time of day. The reason, it seems, is that time stands still at the Tea-Party -- it's six o'clock forever! This is why the table is covered with dirty dishes: it's always time for tea, so they never have time to wash the dishes, and just keep moving around the table. All of this is because the Mad Hatter is on very bad terms with Time. It seems that the Hatter has offended him: while singing a song at the Queen of Hearts' last concert, he sang so badly that the Queen screamed that he was "murdering the time." (This is a pun on an expression which used to mean "killing time," and it also means that the Hatter was singing off-tempo.) Since then, Time won't do anything the Hatter asks him to.
The Hatter's song, which he sings for Alice, was a strange version of "Twinkle, twinkle, little star," which instead starts "Twinkle, twinkle, little bat." When the Dormouse -- who has been joining in the conversation by talking in its sleep -- hears the Hatter singing, it picks up on the song and won't stop until the Hare and Hatter pinch it.
Soon, however, they decide to wake it all the way up and make it tell a story. The Dormouse obligingly begins a story about three sisters who live at the bottom of a treacle-well (that is, a well full of molasses), and are learning how to draw things that begin with "M." The story keep being stopped, however, by Alice's objections to the impossible things the Dormouse describes, as well as by the Dormouse's dozing off. Moreover, when the Hatter decides that he wants a clean cup, everyone moves one seat over, and Alice winds up with the March Hare's dirty dishes. This is all becoming intolerable, and the next time the Hatter says something rude to her, Alice gets fed up and leaves the table. The last thing she sees, looking back over her shoulder, is the Hatter and Hare trying to stuff the now-sleeping Dormouse into the teapot.
Back in the wood, Alice is surprised to find a tree with a door leading into the trunk. She goes in, and discovers she's back in the hallway with the glass table and tiny door. Unlocking the door with the key -- which she's now big enough to reach -- she shrinks herself down using the chunks of mushroom he still has in her pocket, and walks through the fifteen-inch-high door to find herself in the beautiful garden at last.
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