فصل 06 - 09

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فصل 06 - 09

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Six

INTO THE FOREST

“I WISH THE MACREADY WOULD HURRY up and take all these people away,” said Susan presently, “I’m getting horribly cramped.”

“And what a filthy smell of camphor!” said Edmund.

“I expect the pockets of these coats are full of it,” said Susan, “to keep away moths.”

“There’s something sticking into my back,” said Peter.

“And isn’t it cold?” said Susan.

“Now that you mention it, it is cold,” said Peter, “and hang it all, it’s wet too. What’s the matter with this place? I’m sitting on something wet. It’s getting wetter every minute.” He struggled to his feet.

“Let’s get out,” said Edmund, “they’ve gone.”

“O-o-oh!” said Susan suddenly, and everyone asked her what was the matter.

“I’m sitting against a tree,” said Susan, “and look! It’s getting light—over there.”

“By jove, you’re right,” said Peter, “and look there—and there. It’s trees all round. And this wet stuff is snow. Why, I do believe we’ve got into Lucy’s wood after all.” And now there was no mistaking it, and all four children stood blinking in the daylight of a winter day. Behind them were coats hanging on pegs, in front of them were snow-covered trees.

Peter turned at once to Lucy.

“I apologize for not believing you,” he said, “I’m sorry. Will you shake hands?”

“Of course,” said Lucy, and did.

“And now,” said Susan, “what do we do next?”

“Do?” said Peter, “why, go and explore the wood, of course.”

“Ugh!” said Susan, stamping her feet, “it’s pretty cold. What about putting on some of these coats?”

“They’re not ours,” said Peter doubtfully.

“I am sure nobody would mind,” said Susan; “it isn’t as if we wanted to take them out of the house; we shan’t take them even out of the wardrobe.”

“I never thought of that, Su,” said Peter. “Of course, now you put it that way, I see. No one could say you had bagged a coat as long as you leave it in the wardrobe where you found it. And I suppose this whole country is in the wardrobe.” They immediately carried out Susan’s very sensible plan. The coats were rather too big for them so that they came down to their heels and looked more like royal robes than coats when they had put them on. But they all felt a good deal warmer and each thought the others looked better in their new getups and more suitable to the landscape.

“We can pretend we are Arctic explorers,” said Lucy.

“This is going to be exciting enough without pretending,” said Peter, as he began leading the way forward into the forest. There were heavy darkish clouds overhead and it looked as if there might be more snow before night.

“I say,” began Edmund presently, “oughtn’t we to be bearing a bit more to the left, that is, if we are aiming for the lamp-post?” He had forgotten for the moment that he must pretend never to have been in the wood before. The moment the words were out of his mouth he realized that he had given himself away. Everyone stopped; everyone stared at him. Peter whistled.

“So you really were here,” he said, “that time Lu said she’d met you in here—and you made out she was telling lies.”

There was a dead silence. “Well, of all the poisonous little beasts—” said Peter, and shrugged his shoulders and said no more. There seemed, indeed, no more to say, and presently the four resumed their journey; but Edmund was saying to himself, “I’ll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, self-satisfied prigs.” “Where are we going anyway?” said Susan, chiefly for the sake of changing the subject.

“I think Lu ought to be the leader,” said Peter; “goodness knows she deserves it. Where will you take us, Lu?”

“What about going to see Mr. Tumnus?” said Lucy. “He’s the nice Faun I told you about.”

Everyone agreed to this and off they went walking briskly and stamping their feet. Lucy proved a good leader. At first she wondered whether she would be able to find the way, but she recognized an odd-looking tree on one place and a stump in another and brought them on to where the ground became uneven and into the little valley and at last to the very door of Mr. Tumnus’s cave. But there a terrible surprise awaited them.

The door had been wrenched off its hinges and broken to bits. Inside, the cave was dark and cold and had the damp feel and smell of a place that had not been lived in for several days. Snow had drifted in from the doorway and was heaped on the floor, mixed with something black, which turned out to be the charred sticks and ashes from the fire. Someone had apparently flung it about the room and then stamped it out. The crockery lay smashed on the floor and the picture of the Faun’s father had been slashed into shreds with a knife.

“This is a pretty good washout,” said Edmund; “not much good coming here.”

“What is this?” said Peter, stooping down. He had just noticed a piece of paper which had been nailed through the carpet to the floor.

“Is there anything written on it?” asked Susan.

“Yes, I think there is,” answered Peter, “but I can’t read it in this light. Let’s get out into the open air.”

They all went out in the daylight and crowded round Peter as he read out the following words:

The former occupant of these premises, the Faun Tumnus, is under arrest and awaiting his trial on a charge of High Treason against her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands, etc., also of comforting her said Majesty’s enemies, harboring spies and fraternizing with Humans.

signed MAUGRIM, Captain of the Secret Police,

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!

The children stared at each other.

“I don’t know that I’m going to like this place after all,” said Susan.

“Who is this Queen, Lu?” said Peter. “Do you know anything about her?”

“She isn’t a real queen at all,” answered Lucy; “she’s a horrible witch, the White Witch. Everyone—all the wood people—hate her. She has made an enchantment over the whole country so that it is always winter here and never Christmas.” “I—I wonder if there’s any point in going on,” said Susan. “I mean, it doesn’t seem particularly safe here and it looks as if it won’t be much fun either. And it’s getting colder every minute, and we’ve brought nothing to eat. What about just going home?” “Oh, but we can’t, we can’t,” said Lucy suddenly; “don’t you see? We can’t just go home, not after this. It is all on my account that the poor Faun has got into this trouble. He hid me from the Witch and showed me the way back. That’s what it means by comforting the Queen’s enemies and fraternizing with Humans. We simply must try to rescue him.” “A lot we could do!” said Edmund, “when we haven’t even got anything to eat!”

“Shut up—you!” said Peter, who was still very angry with Edmund. “What do you think, Susan?”

“I’ve a horrid feeling that Lu is right,” said Susan. “I don’t want to go a step further and I wish we’d never come. But I think we must try to do something for Mr. Whatever-his-name-is—I mean the Faun.” “That’s what I feel too,” said Peter. “I’m worried about having no food with us. I’d vote for going back and getting something from the larder, only there doesn’t seem to be any certainty of getting into this country again when once you’ve got out of it. I think we’ll have to go on.” “So do I,” said both the girls.

“If only we knew where the poor chap was imprisoned!” said Peter.

They were all still wondering what to do next, when Lucy said, “Look! There’s a robin, with such a red breast. It’s the first bird I’ve seen here. I say!—I wonder can birds talk in Narnia? It almost looks as if it wanted to say something to us.” Then she turned to the Robin and said, “Please, can you tell us where Tumnus the Faun has been taken to?” As she said this she took a step toward the bird. It at once flew away but only as far as to the next tree. There it perched and looked at them very hard as if it understood all they had been saying. Almost without noticing that they had done so, the four children went a step or two nearer to it. At this the Robin flew away again to the next tree and once more looked at them very hard. (You couldn’t have found a robin with a redder chest or a brighter eye.) “Do you know,” said Lucy, “I really believe he means us to follow him.”

“I’ve an idea he does,” said Susan. “What do you think, Peter?”

“Well, we might as well try it,” answered Peter.

The Robin appeared to understand the matter thoroughly. It kept going from tree to tree, always a few yards ahead of them, but always so near that they could easily follow it. In this way it led them on, slightly downhill. Wherever the Robin alighted a little shower of snow would fall off the branch. Presently the clouds parted overhead and the winter sun came out and the snow all around them grew dazzlingly bright. They had been traveling in this way for about half an hour, with the two girls in front, when Edmund said to Peter, “if you’re not still too high and mighty to talk to me, I’ve something to say which you’d better listen to.” “What is it?” asked Peter.

“Hush! Not so loud,” said Edmund; “there’s no good frightening the girls. But have you realized what we’re doing?”

“What?” said Peter, lowering his voice to a whisper.

“We’re following a guide we know nothing about. How do we know which side that bird is on? Why shouldn’t it be leading us into a trap?”

“That’s a nasty idea. Still—a robin, you know. They’re good birds in all the stories I’ve ever read. I’m sure a robin wouldn’t be on the wrong side.”

“If it comes to that, which is the right side? How do we know that the Fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I know we’ve been told she’s a witch) is in the wrong? We don’t really know anything about either.” “The Faun saved Lucy.”

“He said he did. But how do we know? And there’s another thing too. Has anyone the least idea of the way home from here?”

“Great Scott!” said Peter, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“And no chance of dinner either,” said Edmund.

Seven

A DAY WITH THE BEAVERS

WHILE THE TWO BOYS WERE WHISPERING behind, both the girls suddenly cried “Oh!” and stopped.

“The robin!” cried Lucy, “the robin. It’s flown away.” And so it had—right out of sight.

“And now what are we to do?” said Edmund, giving Peter a look which was as much as to say “What did I tell you?”

“Sh! Look!” said Susan.

“What?” said Peter.

“There’s something moving among the trees over there to the left.”

They all stared as hard as they could, and no one felt very comfortable.

“There it goes again,” said Susan presently.

“I saw it that time too,” said Peter. “It’s still there. It’s just gone behind that big tree.”

“What is it?” asked Lucy, trying very hard not to sound nervous.

“Whatever it is,” said Peter, “it’s dodging us. It’s something that doesn’t want to be seen.”

“Let’s go home,” said Susan. And then, though nobody said it out loud, everyone suddenly realized the same fact that Edmund had whispered to Peter at the end of the last chapter. They were lost.

“What’s it like?” said Lucy.

“It’s—it’s a kind of animal,” said Susan; and then, “Look! Look! Quick! There it is.”

They all saw it this time, a whiskered furry face which had looked out at them from behind a tree. But this time it didn’t immediately draw back. Instead, the animal put its paw against its mouth just as humans put their finger on their lips when they are signaling to you to be quiet. Then it disappeared again. The children all stood holding their breath.

A moment later the stranger came out from behind the tree, glanced all round as if it were afraid someone was watching, said “Hush,” made signs to them to join it in the thicker bit of wood where it was standing, and then once more disappeared.

“I know what it is,” said Peter; “it’s a beaver. I saw the tail.”

“It wants us to go to it,” said Susan, “and it is warning us not to make a noise.”

“I know,” said Peter. “The question is, are we to go to it or not? What do you think, Lu?”

“I think it’s a nice beaver,” said Lucy.

“Yes, but how do we know?” said Edmund.

“Shan’t we have to risk it?” said Susan. “I mean, it’s no good just standing here and I feel I want some dinner.”

At this moment the Beaver again popped its head out from behind the tree and beckoned earnestly to them.

“Come on,” said Peter, “let’s give it a try. All keep close together. We ought to be a match for one beaver if it turns out to be an enemy.”

So the children all got close together and walked up to the tree and in behind it, and there, sure enough, they found the Beaver; but it still drew back, saying to them in a hoarse throaty whisper, “Further in, come further in. Right in here. We’re not safe in the open!” Only when it had led them into a dark spot where four trees grew so close together that their boughs met and the brown earth and pine needles could be seen underfoot because no snow had been able to fall there, did it begin to talk to them.

“Are you the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve?” it said.

“We’re some of them,” said Peter.

“S-s-s-sh!” said the Beaver, “not so loud please. We’re not safe even here.”

“Why, who are you afraid of?” said Peter. “There’s no one here but ourselves.”

“There are the trees,” said the Beaver. “They’re always listening. Most of them are on our side, but there are trees that would betray us to her; you know who I mean,” and it nodded its head several times.

“If it comes to talking about sides,” said Edmund, “how do we know you’re a friend?”

“Not meaning to be rude, Mr. Beaver,” added Peter, “but you see, we’re strangers.”

“Quite right, quite right,” said the Beaver. “Here is my token.” With these words it held up to them a little white object. They all looked at it in surprise, till suddenly Lucy said, “Oh, of course. It’s my handkerchief—the one I gave to poor Mr. Tumnus.” “That’s right,” said the Beaver. “Poor fellow, he got wind of the arrest before it actually happened and handed this over to me. He said that if anything happened to him I must meet you here and take you on to—” Here the Beaver’s voice sank into silence and it gave one or two very mysterious nods. Then signaling to the children to stand as close around it as they possibly could, so that their faces were actually tickled by its whiskers, it added in a low whisper— “They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.”

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

“And what about Mr. Tumnus?” said Lucy; “where is he?”

“S-s-s-sh,” said the Beaver, “not here. I must bring you where we can have a real talk and also dinner.”

No one except Edmund felt any difficulty about trusting the beaver now, and everyone, including Edmund, was very glad to hear the word “dinner.” They therefore all hurried along behind their new friend who led them at a surprisingly quick pace, and always in the thickest parts of the forest, for over an hour. Everyone was feeling very tired and very hungry when suddenly the trees began to get thinner in front of them and the ground to fall steeply downhill. A minute later they came out under the open sky (the sun was still shining) and found themselves looking down on a fine sight.

They were standing on the edge of a steep, narrow valley at the bottom of which ran—at least it would have been running if it hadn’t been frozen—a fairly large river. Just below them a dam had been built across this river, and when they saw it everyone suddenly remembered that of course beavers are always making dams and felt quite sure that Mr. Beaver had made this one. They also noticed that he now had a sort of modest expression on his face—the sort of look people have when you are visiting a garden they’ve made or reading a story they’ve written. So it was only common politeness when Susan said, “What a lovely dam!” And Mr. Beaver didn’t say “Hush” this time but “Merely a trifle! Merely a trifle! And it isn’t really finished!” Above the dam there was what ought to have been a deep pool but was now, of course, a level floor of dark green ice. And below the dam, much lower down, was more ice, but instead of being smooth this was all frozen into the foamy and wavy shapes in which the water had been rushing along at the very moment when the frost came. And where the water had been trickling over and spurting through the dam there was now a glittering wall of icicles, as if the side of the dam had been covered all over with flowers and wreaths and festoons of the purest sugar. And out in the middle, and partly on top of the dam was a funny little house shaped rather like an enormous beehive and from a hole in the roof smoke was going up, so that when you saw it (especially if you were hungry) you at once thought of cooking and became hungrier than you were before.

That was what the others chiefly noticed, but Edmund noticed something else. A little lower down the river there was another small river which came down another small valley to join it. And looking up that valley, Edmund could see two small hills, and he was almost sure they were the two hills which the White Witch had pointed out to him when he parted from her at the lamp-post that other day. And then between them, he thought, must be her palace, only a mile off or less. And he thought about Turkish Delight and about being a King (“And I wonder how Peter will like that?” he asked himself) and horrible ideas came into his head.

“Here we are,” said Mr. Beaver, “and it looks as if Mrs. Beaver is expecting us. I’ll lead the way. But be careful and don’t slip.”

The top of the dam was wide enough to walk on, though not (for humans) a very nice place to walk because it was covered with ice, and though the frozen pool was level with it on one side, there was a nasty drop to the lower river on the other. Along this route Mr. Beaver led them in single file right out to the middle where they could look a long way up the river and a long way down it. And when they had reached the middle they were at the door of the house.

“Here we are, Mrs. Beaver,” said Mr. Beaver, “I’ve found them. Here are the Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve”—and they all went in.

The first thing Lucy noticed as she went in was a burring sound, and the first thing she saw was a kind-looking old she-beaver sitting in the corner with a thread in her mouth working busily at her sewing machine, and it was from it that the sound came. She stopped her work and got up as soon as the children came in.

“So you’ve come at last!” she said, holding out both her wrinkled old paws. “At last! To think that ever I should live to see this day! The potatoes are on boiling and the kettle’s singing and I daresay, Mr. Beaver, you’ll get us some fish.”

“That I will,” said Mr. Beaver, and he went out of the house (Peter went with him), and across the ice of the deep pool to where he had a little hole in the ice which he kept open every day with his hatchet. They took a pail with them. Mr. Beaver sat down quietly at the edge of the hole (he didn’t seem to mind it being so chilly), looked hard into it, then suddenly shot in his paw, and before you could say Jack Robinson had whisked out a beautiful trout. Then he did it all over again until they had a fine catch of fish.

Meanwhile the girls were helping Mrs. Beaver to fill the kettle and lay the table and cut the bread and put the plates in the oven to heat and draw a huge jug of beer for Mr. Beaver from a barrel which stood in one corner of the house, and to put on the frying-pan and get the dripping hot. Lucy thought the Beavers had a very snug little home though it was not at all like Mr. Tumnus’s cave. There were no books or pictures, and instead of beds there were bunks, like on board ship, built into the wall. And there were hams and strings of onions hanging from the roof, and against the walls were gum boots and oilskins and hatchets and pairs of shears and spades and trowels and things for carrying mortar in and fishing-rods and fishing-nets and sacks. And the cloth on the table, though very clean, was very rough.

Just as the frying-pan was nicely hissing Peter and Mr. Beaver came in with the fish which Mr. Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mr. Beaver said, “Now we’re nearly ready.” Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back in the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs. Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the Beavers’ house except for Mrs. Beaver’s own special rocking chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr. Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought—and I agree with them—that there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs. Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.

“And now,” said Mr. Beaver, pushing away his empty beer mug and pulling his cup of tea toward him, “if you’ll just wait till I’ve got my pipe lit up and going nicely—why, now we can get to business. It’s snowing again,” he added, cocking his eye at the window. “That’s all the better, because it means we shan’t have any visitors; and if anyone should have been trying to follow you, why he won’t find any tracks.” Eight

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER DINNER

“AND NOW,” SAID LUCY, “DO PLEASE TELL us what’s happened to Mr. Tumnus.”

“Ah, that’s bad,” said Mr. Beaver, shaking his head. “That’s a very, very bad business. There’s no doubt he was taken off by the police. I got that from a bird who saw it done.” “But where’s he been taken to?” asked Lucy.

“Well, they were heading northward when they were last seen and we all know what that means.”

“No, we don’t,” said Susan. Mr. Beaver shook his head in a very gloomy fashion.

“I’m afraid it means they were taking him to her House,” he said.

“But what’ll they do to him, Mr. Beaver?” gasped Lucy.

“Well,” said Mr. Beaver, “you can’t exactly say for sure. But there’s not many taken in there that ever comes out again. Statues. All full of statues they say it is—in the courtyard and up the stairs and in the hall. People she’s turned”—(he paused and shuddered) “turned into stone.” “But, Mr. Beaver,” said Lucy, “can’t we—I mean we must do something to save him. It’s too dreadful and it’s all on my account.”

“I don’t doubt you’d save him if you could, dearie,” said Mrs. Beaver, “but you’ve no chance of getting into that House against her will and ever coming out alive.” “Couldn’t we have some stratagem?” said Peter. “I mean couldn’t we dress up as something, or pretend to be—oh, peddlers or anything—or watch till she was gone out—or—oh, hang it all, there must be some way. This Faun saved my sister at his own risk, Mr. Beaver. We can’t just leave him to be—to be—to have that done to him.” “It’s no good, Son of Adam,” said Mr. Beaver, “no good your trying, of all people. But now that Aslan is on the move—”

“Oh, yes! Tell us about Aslan!” said several voices at once; for once again that strange feeling—like the first signs of spring, like good news, had come over them.

“Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.

“Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment He’ll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus.” “She won’t turn him into stone too?” said Edmund.

“Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!” answered Mr, Beaver with a great laugh. “Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it’ll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her. No, no. He’ll put all to rights as it says in an old rhyme in these parts: Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,

At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,

When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,

And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

You’ll understand when you see him.”

“But shall we see him?” asked Susan.

“Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for. I’m to lead you where you shall meet him,” said Mr. Beaver.

“Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” “I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”

“That’s right, Son of Adam,” said Mr. Beaver, bringing his paw down on the table with a crash that made all the cups and saucers rattle. “And so you shall. Word has been sent that you are to meet him, tomorrow if you can, at the Stone Table.” “Where’s that?” said Lucy.

“I’ll show you,” said Mr. Beaver. “It’s down the river, a good step from here. I’ll take you to it!”

“But meanwhile what about poor Mr. Tumnus?” said Lucy.

“The quickest way you can help him is by going to meet Aslan,” said Mr. Beaver, “once he’s with us, then we can begin doing things. Not that we don’t need you too. For that’s another of the old rhymes: When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone

Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,

The evil time will be over and done.

So things must be drawing near their end now he’s come and you’ve come. We’ve heard of Aslan coming into these parts before—long ago, nobody can say when. But there’s never been any of your race here before.” “That’s what I don’t understand, Mr. Beaver,” said Peter, “I mean isn’t the Witch herself human?”

“She’d like us to believe it,” said Mr. Beaver, “and it’s on that that she bases her claim to be Queen. But she’s no Daughter of Eve. She comes of your father Adam’s”—(here Mr. Beaver bowed) “your father Adam’s first wife, her they called Lilith. And she was one of the Jinn. That’s what she comes from on one side. And on the other she comes of the giants. No, no, there isn’t a drop of real human blood in the Witch.” “That’s why she’s bad all through, Mr. Beaver,” said Mrs. Beaver.

“True enough, Mrs. Beaver,” replied he, “there may be two views about humans (meaning no offense to the present company). But there’s no two views about things that look like humans and aren’t.” “I’ve known good Dwarfs,” said Mrs. Beaver.

“So’ve I, now you come to speak of it,” said her husband, “but precious few, and they were the ones least like men. But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that’s going to be human and isn’t yet, or used to be human once and isn’t now, or ought to be human and isn’t, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet. And that’s why the Witch is always on the lookout for any humans in Narnia. She’s been watching for you this many a year, and if she knew there were four of you she’d be more dangerous still.” “What’s that to do with it?” asked Peter.

“Because of another prophecy,” said Mr. Beaver. “Down at Cair Paravel—that’s the castle on the sea-coast down at the mouth of this river which ought to be the capital of the whole country if all was as it should be—down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones and it’s a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit in those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch’s reign but of her life, and that is why we had to be so cautious as we came along, for if she knew about you four, your lives wouldn’t be worth a shake of my whiskers!” All the children had been attending so hard to what Mr. Beaver was telling them that they had noticed nothing else for a long time. Then during the moment of silence that followed his last remark, Lucy suddenly said: “I say—where’s Edmund?”

There was a dreadful pause, and then everyone began asking “Who saw him last? How long has he been missing? Is he outside?” and then all rushed to the door and looked out. The snow was falling thickly and steadily, the green ice of the pool had vanished under a thick white blanket, and from where the little house stood in the center of the dam you could hardly see either bank. Out they went, plunging well over their ankles into the soft new snow, and went round the house in every direction. “Edmund! Edmund!” they called till they were hoarse. But the silently falling snow seemed to muffle their voices and there was not even an echo in answer.

“How perfectly dreadful!” said Susan as they at last came back in despair. “Oh, how I wish we’d never come.”

“What on earth are we to do, Mr. Beaver?” said Peter.

“Do?” said Mr. Beaver, who was already putting on his snow-boots, “do? We must be off at once. We haven’t a moment to spare!”

“We’d better divide into four search parties,” said Peter, “and all go in different directions. Whoever finds him must come back here at once and—”

“Search parties, Son of Adam?” said Mr. Beaver; “what for?”

“Why, to look for Edmund, of course!”

“There’s no point in looking for him,” said Mr. Beaver.

“What do you mean?” said Susan. “He can’t be far away yet. And we’ve got to find him. What do you mean when you say there’s no use looking for him?”

“The reason there’s no use looking,” said Mr. Beaver, “is that we know already where he’s gone!” Everyone stared in amazement. “Don’t you understand?” said Mr. Beaver. “He’s gone to her, to the White Witch. He has betrayed us all.” “Oh, surely—oh, really!” said Susan; “he can’t have done that.”

“Can’t he?” said Mr. Beaver, looking very hard at the three children, and everything they wanted to say died on their lips, for each felt suddenly quite certain inside that this was exactly what Edmund had done.

“But will he know the way?” said Peter.

“Has he been in this country before?” asked Mr. Beaver. “Has he ever been here alone?”

“Yes,” said Lucy, almost in a whisper. “I’m afraid he has.”

“And did he tell you what he’d done or who he’d met?”

“Well, no, he didn’t,” said Lucy.

“Then mark my words,” said Mr. Beaver, “he has already met the White Witch and joined her side, and been told where she lives. I didn’t like to mention it before (he being your brother and all) but the moment I set eyes on that brother of yours I said to myself ‘Treacherous.’ He had the look of one who has been with the Witch and eaten her food. You can always tell them if you’ve lived long in Narnia; something about their eyes.” “All the same,” said Peter in a rather choking sort of voice, “we’ll still have to go and look for him. He is our brother after all, even if he is rather a little beast. And he’s only a kid.” “Go to the Witch’s House?” said Mrs. Beaver. “Don’t you see that the only chance of saving either him or yourselves is to keep away from her?”

“How do you mean?” said Lucy.

“Why, all she wants is to get all four of you (she’s thinking all the time of those four thrones at Cair Paravel). Once you were all four inside her House her job would be done—and there’d be four new statues in her collection before you’d had time to speak. But she’ll keep him alive as long as he’s the only one she’s got, because she’ll want to use him as a decoy; as bait to catch the rest of you with.” “Oh, can no one help us?” wailed Lucy.

“Only Aslan,” said Mr. Beaver, “we must go on and meet him. That’s our only chance now.”

“It seems to me, my dears,” said Mrs. Beaver, “that it is very important to know just when he slipped away. How much he can tell her depends on how much he heard. For instance, had we started talking of Aslan before he left? If not, then we may do very well, for she won’t know that Aslan has come to Narnia, or that we are meeting him, and will be quite off her guard as far as that is concerned.” “I don’t remember his being here when we were talking about Aslan—” began Peter, but Lucy interrupted him.

“Oh yes, he was,” she said miserably; “don’t you remember, it was he who asked whether the Witch couldn’t turn Aslan into stone too?”

“So he did, by Jove,” said Peter; “just the sort of thing he would say, too!”

“Worse and worse,” said Mr. Beaver, “and the next thing is this. Was he still here when I told you that the place for meeting Aslan was the Stone Table?”

And of course no one knew the answer to this question.

“Because, if he was,” continued Mr. Beaver, “then she’ll simply sledge down in that direction and get between us and the Stone Table and catch us on our way down. In fact we shall be cut off from Aslan.” “But that isn’t what she’ll do first,” said Mrs. Beaver, “not if I know her. The moment that Edmund tells her that we’re all here she’ll set out to catch us this very night, and if he’s been gone about half an hour, she’ll be here in about another twenty minutes.” “You’re right, Mrs. Beaver,” said her husband, “we must all get away from here. There’s not a moment to lose.”

Nine

IN THE WITCH’S HOUSE

AND NOW OF COURSE YOU WANT TO know what had happened to Edmund. He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight—and there’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food. And he had heard the conversation, and hadn’t enjoyed it much either, because he kept on thinking that the others were taking no notice of him and trying to give him the cold shoulder. They weren’t, but he imagined it. And then he had listened until Mr. Beaver told them about Aslan and until he had heard the whole arrangement for meeting Aslan at the Stone Table. It was then that he began very quietly to edge himself under the curtain which hung over the door. For the mention of Aslan gave him a mysterious and horrible feeling just as it gave the others a mysterious and lovely feeling.

Just as Mr. Beaver had been repeating the rhyme about Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone Edmund had been very quietly turning the door-handle; and just before Mr. Beaver had begun telling them that the White Witch wasn’t really human at all but half a Jinn and half a giantess, Edmund had got outside into the snow and cautiously closed the door behind him.

You mustn’t think that even now Edmund was quite so bad that he actually wanted his brother and sisters to be turned into stone. He did want Turkish Delight and to be a Prince (and later a King) and to pay Peter out for calling him a beast. As for what the Witch would do with the others, he didn’t want her to be particularly nice to them—certainly not to put them on the same level as himself; but he managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that she wouldn’t do anything very bad to them, “Because,” he said to himself, “all these people who say nasty things about her are her enemies and probably half of it isn’t true. She was jolly nice to me, anyway, much nicer than they are. I expect she is the rightful Queen really. Anyway, she’ll be better than that awful Aslan!” At least, that was the excuse he made in his own mind for what he was doing. It wasn’t a very good excuse, however, for deep down inside him he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.

The first thing he realized when he got outside and found the snow falling all round him, was that he had left his coat behind in the Beavers’ house. And of course there was no chance of going back to get it now. The next thing he realized was that the daylight was almost gone, for it had been nearly three o’clock when they sat down to dinner and the winter days were short. He hadn’t reckoned on this; but he had to make the best of it. So he turned up his collar and shuffled across the top of the dam (luckily it wasn’t so slippery since the snow had fallen) to the far side of the river.

It was pretty bad when he reached the far side. It was growing darker every minute and what with that and the snowflakes swirling all round him he could hardly see three feet ahead. And then too there was no road. He kept slipping into deep drifts of snow, and skidding on frozen puddles, and tripping over fallen tree-trunks, and sliding down steep banks, and barking his shins against rocks, till he was wet and cold and bruised all over. The silence and the loneliness were dreadful. In fact I really think he might have given up the whole plan and gone back and owned up and made friends with the others, if he hadn’t happened to say to himself, “When I’m King of Narnia the first thing I shall do will be to make some decent roads.” And of course that set him off thinking about being a King and all the other things he would do and this cheered him up a good deal. He had just settled in his mind what sort of palace he would have and how many cars and all about his private cinema and where the principal railways would run and what laws he would make against beavers and dams and was putting the finishing touches to some schemes for keeping Peter in his place, when the weather changed. First the snow stopped. Then a wind sprang up and it became freezing cold. Finally, the clouds rolled away and the moon came out. It was a full moon and, shining on all that snow, it made everything almost as bright as day—only the shadows were rather confusing.

He would never have found his way if the moon hadn’t come out by the time he got to the other river—you remember he had seen (when they first arrived at the Beavers’) a smaller river flowing into the great one lower down. He now reached this and turned to follow it up. But the little valley down which it came was much steeper and rockier than the one he had just left and much overgrown with bushes, so that he could not have managed it at all in the dark. Even as it was, he got wet through for he had to stoop under branches and great loads of snow came sliding off onto his back. And every time this happened he thought more and more how he hated Peter—just as if all this had been Peter’s fault.

But at last he came to a part where it was more level and the valley opened out. And there, on the other side of the river, quite close to him, in the middle of a little plain between two hills, he saw what must be the White Witch’s House. And the moon was shining brighter than ever. The House was really a small castle. It seemed to be all towers; little towers with long pointed spires on them, sharp as needles. They looked like huge dunce’s caps or sorcerer’s caps. And they shone in the moonlight and their long shadows looked strange on the snow. Edmund began to be afraid of the House.

But it was too late to think of turning back now. He crossed the river on the ice and walked up to the House. There was nothing stirring; not the slightest sound anywhere. Even his own feet made no noise on the deep newly fallen snow. He walked on and on, past corner after corner of the House, and past turret after turret to find the door. He had to go right round to the far side before he found it. It was a huge arch but the great iron gates stood wide open.

Edmund crept up to the arch and looked inside into the courtyard, and there he saw a sight that nearly made his heart stop beating. Just inside the gate, with the moonlight shining on it, stood an enormous lion crouched as if it was ready to spring. And Edmund stood in the shadow of the arch, afraid to go on and afraid to go back, with his knees knocking together. He stood there so long that his teeth would have been chattering with cold even if they had not been chattering with fear. How long this really lasted I don’t know, but it seemed to Edmund to last for hours.

Then at last he began to wonder why the lion was standing so still—for it hadn’t moved one inch since he first set eyes on it. Edmund now ventured a little nearer, still keeping in the shadow of the arch as much as he could. He now saw from the way the lion was standing that it couldn’t have been looking at him at all. (“But supposing it turns its head?” thought Edmund.) In fact it was staring at something else—namely a little dwarf who stood with his back to it about four feet away. “Aha!” thought Edmund. “When it springs at the dwarf then will be my chance to escape.” But still the lion never moved, nor did the dwarf. And now at last Edmund remembered what the others had said about the White Witch turning people into stone. Perhaps this was only a stone lion. And as soon as he had thought of that he noticed that the lion’s back and the top of its head were covered with snow. Of course it must be only a statue! No living animal would have let itself get covered with snow. Then very slowly and with his heart beating as if it would burst, Edmund ventured to go up to the lion. Even now he hardly dared to touch it, but at last he put out his hand, very quickly, and did. It was cold stone. He had been frightened of a mere statue!

The relief which Edmund felt was so great that in spite of the cold he suddenly got warm all over right down to his toes, and at the same time there came into his head what seemed a perfectly lovely idea. “Probably,” he thought, “this is the great Lion Aslan that they were all talking about. She’s caught him already and turned him into stone. So that’s the end of all their fine ideas about him! Pooh! Who’s afraid of Aslan?” And he stood there gloating over the stone lion, and presently he did something very silly and childish. He took a stump of lead pencil out of his pocket and scribbled a moustache on the lion’s upper lip and then a pair of spectacles on its eyes. Then he said, “Yah! Silly old Aslan! How do you like being a stone? You thought yourself mighty fine, didn’t you?” But in spite of the scribbles on it the face of the great stone beast still looked so terrible, and sad, and noble, staring up in the moonlight, that Edmund didn’t really get any fun out of jeering at it. He turned away and began to cross the courtyard.

As he got into the middle of it he saw that there were dozens of statues all about—standing here and there rather as the pieces stand on a chessboard when it is halfway through the game. There were stone satyrs, and stone wolves, and bears and foxes and cat-a-mountains of stone. There were lovely stone shapes that looked like women but who were really the spirits of trees. There was the great shape of a centaur and a winged horse and a long lithe creature that Edmund took to be a dragon. They all looked so strange standing there perfectly life-like and also perfectly still, in the bright cold moonlight, that it was eerie work crossing the courtyard. Right in the very middle stood a huge shape like a man, but as tall as a tree, with a fierce face and a shaggy beard and a great club in its right hand. Even though he knew that it was only a stone giant and not a live one, Edmund did not like going past it.

He now saw that there was a dim light showing from a doorway on the far side of the courtyard. He went to it, there was a flight of stone steps going up to an open door. Edmund went up them. Across the threshold lay a great wolf.

“It’s all right, it’s all right,” he kept saying to himself; “it’s only a stone wolf. It can’t hurt me,” and he raised his leg to step over it. Instantly the huge creature rose, with all the hair bristling along its back, opened a great, red mouth and said in a growling voice: “Who’s there? Who’s there? Stand still, stranger, and tell me who you are.”

“If you please, sir,” said Edmund, trembling so that he could hardly speak, “my name is Edmund, and I’m the Son of Adam that Her Majesty met in the wood the other day and I’ve come to bring her the news that my brother and sisters are now in Narnia—quite close, in the Beavers’ house. She—she wanted to see them.” “I will tell Her Majesty,” said the Wolf. “Meanwhile, stand still on the threshold, as you value your life.” Then it vanished into the house.

Edmund stood and waited, his fingers aching with cold and his heart pounding in his chest, and presently the gray wolf, Maugrim, the Chief of the Witch’s Secret Police, came bounding back and said, “Come in! Come in! Fortunate favorite of the Queen—or else not so fortunate.” And Edmund went in, taking great care not to tread on the Wolf’s paws.

He found himself in a long gloomy hall with many pillars, full, as the courtyard had been, of statues. The one nearest the door was a little faun with a very sad expression on its face, and Edmund couldn’t help wondering if this might be Lucy’s friend. The only light came from a single lamp and close beside this sat the White Witch.

“I’m come, your Majesty,” said Edmund, rushing eagerly forward.

“How dare you come alone?” said the Witch in a terrible voice. “Did I not tell you to bring the others with you?”

“Please, your Majesty,” said Edmund, “I’ve done the best I can. I’ve brought them quite close. They’re in the little house on top of the dam just up the river—with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver.” A slow cruel smile came over the Witch’s face.

“Is this all your news?” she asked.

“No, your Majesty,” said Edmund, and proceeded to tell her all he had heard before leaving the Beavers’ house.

“What! Aslan?” cried the Queen, “Aslan! Is this true? If I find you have lied to me—”

“Please, I’m only repeating what they said,” stammered Edmund.

But the Queen, who was no longer attending to him, clapped her hands. Instantly the same dwarf whom Edmund had seen with her before appeared.

“Make ready our sledge,” ordered the Witch, “and use the harness without bells.”

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