Alice found herself in a room full of tables.
She was pleased to see the Mad Hatter, Dormouse and March Hare sitting at one. They had stopped trying to stuff the Dormouse into the teapot. They were sitting in a row chanting something she couldn't quite hear. Or, if she could hear it, she couldn't quite understand it. That was because people at the other tables were chanting too.
At another table, the Playing Cards who had once been painting the roses, were now sitting and chanting; and there was Humpty Dumpty and the Caterpillar at another table...
And over there, at another table, were the Walrus and the Carpenter. They had stopped crying over eating oysters...but wait a minute, thought Alice, where are the Oysters?
They were on another table, all in a row, chanting too.
Alice sensed that the Blue Queen and the Gibblet were coming up behind her. They were beaming.
'What do you think?' said the Blue Queen.
'I don't know what to think,' said Alice, 'what's going on? Why are they all here? Why are they sitting at tables? Is this a cafe?'
'No,' snapped the Gibblet, 'of course it isn't. These are Times Tables.'
'I see,' said Alice, though in truth she didn't.
'Everyone sits at Times Tables now,' said the Blue Queen proudly, checking with the Gibblet that this was the right thing to say.
'This one,' said the Gibblet, pointing at the one with the Walrus and the Carpenter, 'is the top Times Table.'
'And this one,' said the Blue Queen proud as ever, and pointing to the Oysters, 'is the bottom Times Table.'
'We're the bottom Times Table,' echoed the Oysters, 'because we're no good at Times Tables. Listen!'
Alice listened as they chanted: 'once one is one, two ones are two, three ones are three...'
She was puzzled.
'They sound alright to me,' she said.
'Too slow,' said the Gibblet.
'Too slow,' said the Blue Queen.
'How slow is slow?' said Alice.
'This slow,' hissed the Gibblet, showing her a complicated-looking machine he was carrying. He pulled a lever, there was a whirring and clicking and out came a ticket. He handed it to Alice. On the ticket, it said, 'Slow is 12 mph, fast is 3 times as fast as slow, which is 36 mph.'
'Thank you,' said Alice. 'That's a very handy machine.'
'Yes,' said the Gibblet proudly, 'it's my Times Tables machine.'
'I think we can be just as proud of the Walrus and the Carpenter', said the Blue Queen, 'listen to how they chant.'
And sure enough, they whizzed through their Times Tables faster than the March Hare could run.
'You're very fast,' said Alice, 'if slow is 12 mph and fast is 3 times as fast, do you think you're going that fast?'
'I don't understand you,' said the Walrus, who was beginning to get a bit hungry.
'Well,' said one of the Oysters, 'I think you're 3 times as fast as us, aren't you? We're very, very slow. You're very, very fast. You're much better than us, aren't you?'
'I don't know,' said the Walrus, 'that's not what we're doing today.'
'Exactly!' said the Gibblet who was beginning to get a little worried about the way Alice was asking all these questions.
'I'm hungry,' said the Walrus.
'Me too,' said the Carpenter.
The Blue Queen and the Gibblet took up a position of policemen directing traffic. They pointed towards the slowest Times Table where the Oysters sat.
Alice watched while the Walrus and the Carpenter went over to the Oysters and started to eat them.
The Gibblet and the Blue Queen watched too, nodding and smiling. Alice thought that they were very pleased with the way things were working out.