One afternoon in Wonderland, Alice came upon a table set out under a tree, very close to a smart-looking house. The table was long, and laid out for a tea party. At the table sat the March Hare wearing a fine suit and a very showy tie.- Lewis Carroll, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
Alice observed how the Hare's very furry ears stretched up to the sky giving him the apparent longitude of a Hare twice his size. “He's probably a very good listener,” thought Alice.
Alongside the March Hare sat a man in a quirky suit wearing a hat that was both tall and fat and entirely haphazard in the way it kinked and twisted its way up into the air above him. Alice knew at once must be the Mad Hatter of whom she had heard.
Squashed between the March Hare and the Mad Hatter was a Dormouse.
The March Hare saw Alice approach. “Have some wine,” he said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all around the table but saw nothing but tea pots, cups and cakes. “I don't see any wine,” she replied.
"There isn't any,” snapped the Hare.
“Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it,” said Alice, angrily.
“It wasn't civil of you to sit down without being invited,” retorted the March Hare.
He examined Alice's hair and squirmed. Alice felt a little embarrassed.
“I'm sure I brushed it,” she thought, “And even if I didn't, it's very rude to squirm like that!”
Suddenly the Mad Hatter woke up with a snort. “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” he asked.
Alice was pleased. She liked riddles. “I believe I can guess that,”she said.“
Do you mean...?” said the March Hare,“ that you think you can find out the answer?”
“Exactly so,” said Alice.
“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.
“I do,” said Alice, “at least, I mean what I say: that's the same thing you know.”
“It's not the same thing at all!” said the Hatter. “You might as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same as 'I eat what I see.'‛
Alice was trying hard to follow the debate but things were moving fast.
“You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that I like what I get is the same as I get what I like.”
Then, it was the turn of the Doomouse who appeared to be talking even in his sleep. “You might just as well say, that I breathe when I sleep is the same as I sleep when I breathe.”
Alice fell mute. “This is all very confusing,” she thought.
The Mad Hatter was the first to break the silence. “What day of the month is it?” he said, turning to Alice and checking his watch.
Alice considered it a little and said, “the fourth.”
“I knew it” cried the Hatter, banging his watch on the table. “Two days wrong.”
“What a funny watch,”Alice remarked, examining the watch face. “It tells the day of the month but not what o'clock it is!”
“Why should it?” said the Hatter. “Does your watch tell you what year it is?”
It was then that the Mad Hatter returned to the subject of his opening retort. “Have you guessed the riddle yet?” he asked.
“What riddle?” said Alice.
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
“No. I give up,” Alice replied. “What's the answer?”
“I haven't the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
Alice sighed wearily. “I think you might do something better with time than wasting it in asking silly riddles.”
“If you knew Time like I know time you wouldn't talk about wasting it. Time is not an ‘it’. It's a ‘him’. So there!”
The Dormouse suddenly woke up, much to the excitement of the March Hare. “Tell us a story,” said the March Hare.
“Yes do,”said Alice clapping her hands.
The Dormouse yawned and rubbed his eyes and then set off on his story in such a great hurry it was very hard for Alice to keep up. “Once upon a time there were three sisters. Their names were Elsie, Lacie and Tillie and they lived at the bottom of a well.”
“And what did they live on?”asked Alice.
“They lived on treacle,” said the Dormouse.
“That's impossible,” Alice exclaimed, “They would have been very ill.”
“And so they were,” said the Dormouse, “very ill.”
“But why did they eat only treacle?” asked Alice.
“It was a treacle well,” replied the Dormouse.
“There's no such thing,” said Alice, “and even if there was such a thing, what were they doing there?”
“Learning to draw,” replied the Dormouse.
Alice was getting crosser by the minute. “But how can you draw treacle?” she demanded.
“You can draw water out of a water-well,” said the Hatter, “so I think you could draw treacle out of a treacle well. You really are very stupid, Alice.”
Alice didn't stay for tea. She left as the March Hare and the Mad Hatter tried their best to push the poor Dormouse into a tea pot.
The Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse are stuck at the tea table, because they have fallen out with Time, who now won't let them move the clocks past 6 o'clock. They are stuck at the tea table, constantly moving round to find clean cups and saucers. This is an exploration, apparently, of William Rowan Hamilton's work on 'quaternions'. Where, after years working with three terms but could only make them rotate in a plane, when he added a fourth term (which he called Time) he got the three-dimensional rotation he was looking for.