It was a rather long drop to the bottom, five whole minutes or more, and I fell clumsily onto the moist earth. Tiny whitish-brown stones raked my arms and legs. Quickly, I arose and checked my new ebony cloak. Nothing was ripped, just a little dirty, and dirt never hurt anyone as my mother always said.
I whipped my head around.
I shrieked in alarm as he materialized before me. "So sorry, m'dear," he murmured apologetically, "I was getting the tea things ready, you know... my, but you did take your time getting here!" He wiggled his eyebrows in stern disapproval. "It doesn't do to be late, doncha know. Why, even the queen wouldn't-"
He paused, eyes narrowed.
"You're not Alice."
I shifted my feet uncomfortably.
"No, I'm Melody Summer, remember? Alice is... not... here."
The Mad Hatter appeared to be in a daze, but soon snapped out of it.
"Oh! Come along then, doesn't do to be late for tea, no, that it doesn't, Miss Melody, the March Hare and the Doormouse are rather impatient creatures..."
He grabbed me roughly by the arm and swept me off to a long mahogany table, with an embroidered white tablecloth. There were four places set for tea and at each place was a real china teacup and plate and saucer (the Doormouse was taking an afternoon snooze in his) and there were three massive trays of every sort of biscuit, cake and sandwich you could think of, cut into triangles and squares and diamonds and, in some cases, mice and rabbits. A vast emerald teapot completed the scene.
As I gazed in wonder at the tea things, the March Hare spoke up.
"That isn't Alice! That isn't Alice at all! Why, this girl's hair is brown and curly!"
The Doormouse opened a sleepy eye.
"Certainly it is Alice. It could only be she. Tell her... tell her the chocolate Napoleon is mine."
"He'll do no such thing," interrupted the Mad Hatter. "She's a guest here in Wonderland and you haven't yet given her a chance to properly introduce herself." He nudged me forward encouragingly.
"Hello," I began, gazing down at the grass, "I'm Melody Summer. I- I'm the granddaughter of Alice Liddell. You know, like, Alice from the book." I blushed stupidly. "Um-"
"See, much time has passed since we had such a lovely tea party with our little girl," explained the Hatter, brushing a tear proudly from his left eye.
"So tell her," grumbled the March Hare, "about the Cheshire Cat's story so that we can have tea. I'm half starved to death."
"Oh! Of course. Al- Melody, you know the Cheshire Cat, I'm afraid something has befallen him..."