“If you knew Time as well as I do,” said the Hatter, “you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Alice.
“Of course you don’t!” the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. “I daresay you never even spoke to Time!”
“Perhaps not,” Alice cautiously replied: “but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.”
“Ah! that accounts for it,” said the Hatter. “He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o’clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!”
(“I only wish it was,” the March Hare said to itself in a whisper.)
“That would be grand, certainly,” said Alice thoughtfully: “but then–I shouldn’t be hungry for it, you know.”
“Not at first, perhaps,” said the Hatter: “but you could keep it to half-past one as long as you liked.”
“Is that the way you manage?” Alice asked.
The Hatter shook his head mournfully. “Not I!” he replied. “We quarrelled last March–just before he went mad, you know–” (pointing with his teaspoon at the March Hare) “–it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing.
‘Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
how I wonder what you’re at!’
You know the song, perhaps?”
“I’ve heard something like it,” said Alice.
“It goes on, you know,” the Hatter continued, “in this way:–
‘Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky.
Here the Dormouse shook itself, and began singing in its sleep, “Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle twinkle —” and went on so long that they had to pinch it to make it stop.
“Well, I’d hardly finished the first verse,” said the Hatter, “when the Queen bawled out, ‘He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!’”
“How dreadfully savage!” exclaimed Alice.
“And ever since that,” the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, “he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now.”
A bright idea came into Alice’s head. “Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s it,” said the Hatter with a sigh: “it’s always tea-time, and we’ve no time to wash the things between whiles.”
“Then you keep moving round, I suppose?” said Alice.
“Exactly so,” said the Hatter: “as the things get used up.”
“But what happens when you come to the beginning again?” Alice ventured to ask.
“Suppose we change the subject,” the March Hare interrupted, yawning. “I’m getting tired of this. I vote the young lady tells us a story.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know one,” said Alice, rather alarmed at the proposal.
“Then the Dormouse shall!” they both cried. “Wake up, Dormouse!” And they pinched it on both sides at once.
The Dormouse slowly opened his eyes. “I wasn’t asleep,” he said in a hoarse, feeble voice: “I heard every word you fellows were saying.”
“Tell us a story!” said the March Hare.
“Yes, please do!” pleaded Alice.
“And be quick about it,” added the Hatter, “or you’ll be asleep again before it’s done.”
“Once upon a time there were three little sisters,” the Dormouse began in a great hurry; “and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well—”
“What did they live on?” said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.
“They lived on treacle,” said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.
“They couldn’t have done that, you know,” Alice gently remarked; “they’d have been ill.”
“So they were,” said the Dormouse; “very ill.”
Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary way of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: “But why did they live at the bottom of a well?”
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”