فصل 04 - 06

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فصل 04 - 06

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FOUR

A PARLIAMENT OF OWLS

IT IS A VERY FUNNY THING THAT THE sleepier you are, the longer you take about getting to bed; especially if you are lucky enough to have a fire in your room. Jill felt she couldn’t even start undressing unless she sat down in front of the fire for a bit first. And once she had sat down, she didn’t want to get up again. She had already said to herself about five times, “I must go to bed,” when she was startled by a tap on the window.

She got up, pulled the curtain, and at first saw nothing but darkness. Then she jumped and started backward, for something very large had dashed itself against the window, giving a sharp tap on the glass as it did so. A very unpleasant idea came into her head—“Suppose they have giant moths in this country! Ugh!” But then the thing came back, and this time she was almost sure she saw a beak, and that the beak had made the tapping noise. “It’s some huge bird,” thought Jill. “Could it be an eagle?” She didn’t very much want a visit even from an eagle, but she opened the window and looked out. Instantly, with a great whirring noise, the creature alighted on the window-sill and stood there filling up the whole window, so that Jill had to step back to make room for it. It was the Owl.

“Hush, hush! Tu-whoo, tu-whoo,” said the Owl. “Don’t make a noise. Now, are you two really in earnest about what you’ve got to do?”

“About the lost Prince, you mean?” said Jill. “Yes, we’ve got to be.” For now she remembered the Lion’s voice and face, which she had nearly forgotten during the feasting and story-telling in the hall.

“Good!” said the Owl. “Then there’s no time to waste. You must get away from here at once. I’ll go and wake the other human. Then I’ll come back for you. You’d better change those court clothes and put on something you can travel in. I’ll be back in two twos. Tu-whoo!” And without waiting for an answer, he was gone.

If Jill had been more used to adventures, she might have doubted the Owl’s word, but this never occurred to her: and in the exciting idea of a midnight escape she forgot her sleepiness. She changed back into sweater and shorts—there was a guide’s knife on the belt of the shorts which might come in useful—and added a few of the things that had been left in the room for her by the girl with the willowy hair. She chose a short cloak that came down to her knees and had a hood (“just the thing, if it rains,” she thought), a few handkerchiefs and a comb. Then she sat down and waited.

She was getting sleepy again when the Owl returned.

“Now we’re ready,” it said.

“You’d better lead the way,” said Jill. “I don’t know all these passages yet.”

“Tu-whoo!” said the Owl. “We’re not going through the castle. That would never do. You must ride on me. We shall fly.”

“Oh!” said Jill, and stood with her mouth open, not much liking the idea. “Shan’t I be far too heavy for you?”

“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo! Don’t you be a fool. I’ve already carried the other one. Now. But we’ll put out that lamp first.”

As soon as the lamp was out, the bit of night which you saw through the window looked less dark—no longer black, but gray. The Owl stood on the window-sill with his back to the room and raised his wings. Jill had to climb onto his short fat body and get her knees under the wings and grip tight. The feathers felt beautifully warm and soft but there was nothing to hold on by. “I wonder how Scrubb liked his ride!” thought Jill. And just as she was thinking this, with a horrid plunge they had left the window-sill, and the wings were making a flurry round her ears, and the night air, rather cool and damp, was flying in her face.

It was much lighter than she expected, and though the sky was overcast, one patch of watery silver showed where the moon was hiding above the clouds. The fields beneath her looked gray, and the trees black. There was a certain amount of wind—a hushing, ruffling sort of wind which meant that rain was coming soon.

The Owl wheeled round so that the castle was now ahead of them. Very few of the windows showed lights. They flew right over it, northward, crossing the river: the air grew colder, and Jill thought she could see the white reflection of the Owl in the water beneath her. But soon they were on the north bank of the river, flying above wooded country.

The Owl snapped at something which Jill couldn’t see.

“Oh, don’t, please!” said Jill. “Don’t jerk like that. You nearly threw me off.”

“I beg your pardon,” said the Owl. “I was just nabbing a bat. There’s nothing so sustaining, in a small way, as a nice plump little bat. Shall I catch you one?”

“No, thanks,” said Jill with a shudder.

He was flying a little lower now and a large, black-looking object was looming up toward them. Jill had just time to see that it was a tower—a partly ruinous tower, with a lot of ivy on it, she thought—when she found herself ducking to avoid the archway of a window, as the Owl squeezed with her through the ivied cobwebby opening, out of the fresh, gray night into a dark place inside the top of the tower. It was rather fusty inside and, the moment she slipped off the Owl’s back, she knew (as one usually does somehow) that it was quite crowded. And when voices began saying out of the darkness from every direction “Tu-whoo! Tu-whoo!” she knew it was crowded with owls. She was rather relieved when a very different voice said: “Is that you, Pole?”

“Is that you, Scrubb?” said Jill.

“Now,” said Glimfeather, “I think we’re all here. Let us hold a parliament of owls.”

“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo. True for you. That’s the right thing to do,” said several voices.

“Half a moment,” said Scrubb’s voice. “There’s something I want to say first.”

“Do, do, do,” said the owls; and Jill said, “Fire ahead.”

“I suppose all you chaps—owls, I mean,” said Scrubb, “I suppose you all know that King Caspian the Tenth, in his young days, sailed to the eastern end of the world. Well, I was with him on that journey: with him and Reepicheep the Mouse, and the Lord Drinian and all of them. I know it sounds hard to believe, but people don’t grow older in our world at the same speed as they do in yours. And what I want to say is this, that I’m the King’s man; and if this parliament of owls is any sort of plot against the King, I’m having nothing to do with it.” “Tu-whoo, tu-whoo, we’re all the King’s owls too,” said the owls.

“What’s it all about then?” said Scrubb.

“It’s only this,” said Glimfeather. “That if the Lord Regent, the Dwarf Trumpkin, hears you are going to look for the lost Prince, he won’t let you start. He’d keep you under lock and key sooner.”

“Great Scott!” said Scrubb. “You don’t mean that Trumpkin is a traitor? I used to hear a lot about him in the old days, at sea. Caspian—the King, I mean—trusted him absolutely.”

“Oh no,” said a voice. “Trumpkin’s no traitor. But more than thirty champions (knights, centaurs, good giants, and all sorts) have at one time or another set out to look for the lost Prince, and none of them have ever come back. And at last the King said he was not going to have all the bravest Narnians destroyed in the search for his son. And now nobody is allowed to go.” “But surely he’d let us go,” said Scrubb. “When he knew who I was and who had sent me.”

(“Sent both of us,” put in Jill.)

“Yes,” said Glimfeather, “I think, very likely, he would. But the King’s away. And Trumpkin will stick to the rules. He’s as true as steel, but he’s deaf as a post and very peppery. You could never make him see that this might be the time for making an exception to the rule.” “You might think he’d take some notice of us, because we’re owls and everyone knows how wise owls are,” said someone else. “But he’s so old now he’d only say, ‘You’re a mere chick. I remember you when you were an egg. Don’t come trying to teach me, Sir. Crabs and crumpets!’” This owl imitated Trumpkin’s voice rather well, and there were sounds of owlish laughter all round. The children began to see that the Narnians all felt about Trumpkin as people feel at school about some crusty teacher, whom everyone is a little afraid of and everyone makes fun of and nobody really dislikes.

“How long is the King going to be away?” asked Scrubb.

“If only we knew!” said Glimfeather. “You see, there has been a rumor lately that Aslan himself has been seen in the islands—in Terebinthia, I think it was. And the King said he would make one more attempt before he died to see Aslan face to face again, and ask his advice about who is to be King after him. But we’re all afraid that, if he doesn’t meet Aslan in Terebinthia, he’ll go on east, to Seven Isles and Lone Islands—and on and on. He never talks about it, but we all know he has never forgotten that voyage to the world’s end. I’m sure in his heart of hearts he wants to go there again.” “Then there’s no good waiting for him to come back?” said Jill.

“No, no good,” said the Owl. “Oh, what a to-do! If only you two had known and spoken to him at once! He’d have arranged everything—probably given you an army to go with you in search of the Prince.”

Jill kept quiet at this and hoped Scrubb would be sporting enough not to tell all the owls why this hadn’t happened. He was, or very nearly. That is, he only muttered under his breath, “Well, it wasn’t my fault,” before saying out loud: “Very well. We’ll have to manage without it. But there’s just one thing more I want to know. If this owls’ parliament, as you call it, is all fair and above board and means no mischief, why does it have to be so jolly secret—meeting in a ruin in dead of night, and all that?” “Tu-whoo! Tu-whoo!” hooted several owls. “Where should we meet? When would anyone meet except at night?”

“You see,” explained Glimfeather, “most of the creatures in Narnia have such unnatural habits. They do things by day, in broad blazing sunlight (ugh!) when everyone ought to be asleep. And, as a result, at night they’re so blind and stupid that you can’t get a word out of them. So we owls have got into the habit of meeting at sensible hours, on our own, when we want to talk about things.” “I see,” said Scrubb. “Well now, let’s get on. Tell us all about the lost Prince.” Then an old owl, not Glimfeather, related the story.

About ten years ago, it appeared, when Rilian, the son of Caspian, was a very young knight, he rode with the Queen his mother on a May morning in the north parts of Narnia. They had many squires and ladies with them and all wore garlands of fresh leaves on their heads and horns at their sides; but they had no hounds with them, for they were maying, not hunting. In the warm part of the day they came to a pleasant glade where a fountain flowed freshly out of the earth, and there they dismounted and ate and drank and were merry. After a time the Queen felt sleepy, and they spread cloaks for her on the grassy bank, and Prince Rilian with the rest of the party went a little way from her, that their tales and laughter might not wake her. And so, presently, a great serpent came out of the thick wood and stung the Queen in her hand. All heard her cry out and rushed toward her, and Rilian was first at her side. He saw the worm gliding away from her and made after it with his sword drawn. It was great, shining, and as green as poison, so that he could see it well: but it glided away into thick bushes and he could not come at it. So he returned to his mother, and found them all busy about her. But they were busy in vain, for at the first glance of her face Rilian knew that no physic in the world would do her good. As long as the life was in her she seemed to be trying hard to tell him something. But she could not speak clearly and, whatever her message was, she died without delivering it. It was then hardly ten minutes since they had first heard her cry.

They carried the dead Queen back to Cair Paravel, and she was bitterly mourned by Rilian and by the King, and by all Narnia. She had been a great lady, wise and gracious and happy, King Caspian’s bride whom he had brought home from the eastern end of the world. And men said that the blood of the stars flowed in her veins. The Prince took his mother’s death very hardly, as well he might. After that, he was always riding on the northern marches of Narnia, hunting for that venomous worm, to kill it and be avenged. No one remarked much on this, though the Prince came home from these wanderings looking tired and distraught. But about a month after the Queen’s death, some said they could see a change in him. There was a look in his eyes as of a man who has seen visions, and though he would be out all day, his horse did not bear signs of hard riding. His chief friend among the older courtiers was the Lord Drinian, he who had been his father’s captain on that great voyage to the east parts of the world.

One evening Drinian said to the Prince, “Your Highness must soon give over seeking the worm. There is no true vengeance on a witless brute as there might be on a man. You weary yourself in vain.” The Prince answered him, “My Lord, I have almost forgotten the worm these seven days.” Drinian asked him why, if that were so, he rode so continually in the northern woods. “My lord,” said the Prince, “I have seen there the most beautiful thing that was ever made.” “Fair Prince,” said Drinian, “of your courtesy let me ride with you tomorrow, that I also may see this fair thing.” “With a good will,” said Rilian.

Then in good time on the next day they saddled their horses and rode a great gallop into the northern woods and alighted at the same fountain where the Queen got her death. Drinian thought it strange that the Prince should choose that place of all places, to linger in. And there they rested till it came to high noon: and at noon Drinian looked up and saw the most beautiful lady he had ever seen; and she stood at the north side of the fountain and said no word but beckoned to the Prince with her hand as if she bade him come to her. And she was tall and great, shining, and wrapped in a thin garment as green as poison. And the Prince stared at her like a man out of his wits. But suddenly the lady was gone, Drinian knew not where; and they two returned to Cair Paravel. It stuck in Drinian’s mind that this shining green woman was evil.

Drinian doubted very much whether he ought not to tell this adventure to the King, but he had little wish to be a blab and a tale-bearer and so he held his tongue. But afterward he wished he had spoken. For next day Prince Rilian rode out alone. That night he came not back, and from that hour no trace of him was ever found in Narnia nor any neighboring land, and neither his horse nor his hat nor his cloak nor anything else was ever found. Then Drinian in the bitterness of his heart went to Caspian and said, “Lord King, slay me speedily as a great traitor: for by my silence I have destroyed your son.” And he told him the story. Then Caspian caught up a battle-axe and rushed upon the Lord Drinian to kill him, and Drinian stood still as a stock for the death blow. But when the axe was raised, Caspian suddenly threw it away and cried out, “I have lost my queen and my son: shall I lose my friend also?” And he fell upon the Lord Drinian’s neck and embraced him and both wept, and their friendship was not broken.

Such was the story of Rilian. And when it was over, Jill said, “I bet that serpent and that woman were the same person.”

“True, true, we think the same as you,” hooted the owls.

“But we don’t think she killed the Prince,” said Glimfeather, “because no bones—”

“We know she didn’t,” said Scrubb. “Aslan told Pole he was still alive somewhere.”

“That almost makes it worse,” said the oldest owl. “It means she has some use for him, and some deep scheme against Narnia. Long, long ago, at the very beginning, a White Witch came out of the North and bound our land in snow and ice for a hundred years. And we think this may be some of the same crew.” “Very well, then,” said Scrubb. “Pole and I have got to find this Prince. Can you help us?”

“Have you any clue, you two?” asked Glimfeather.

“Yes,” said Scrubb. “We know we’ve got to go north. And we know we’ve got to reach the ruins of a giant city.”

At this there was a greater tu-whooing than ever, and noises of birds shifting their feet and ruffling their feathers, and then all the owls started speaking at once. They all explained how very sorry they were that they themselves could not go with the children on their search for the lost Prince. “You’d want to travel by day, and we’d want to travel by night,” they said. “It wouldn’t do, wouldn’t do.” One or two owls added that even here in the ruined tower it wasn’t nearly so dark as it had been when they began, and that the parliament had been going on quite long enough. In fact, the mere mention of a journey to the ruined city of giants seemed to have damped the spirits of those birds. But Glimfeather said: “If they want to go that way—into Ettinsmoor—we must take them to one of the Marsh-wiggles. They’re the only people who can help them much.”

“True, true. Do,” said the owls.

“Come on, then,” said Glimfeather. “I’ll take one. Who’ll take the other? It must be done tonight.”

“I will: as far as the Marsh-wiggles,” said another owl.

“Are you ready?” said Glimfeather to Jill.

“I think Pole’s asleep,” said Scrubb.

FIVE

PUDDLEGLUM

JILL WAS ASLEEP. EVER SINCE THE OWLS’ parliament began she had been yawning terribly and now she had dropped off. She was not at all pleased at being waked again, and at finding herself lying on bare boards in a dusty belfry sort of place, completely dark, and almost completely full of owls. She was even less pleased when she heard that they had to set off for somewhere else—and not, apparently, for bed—on the Owl’s back.

“Oh, come on, Pole, buck up,” said Scrubb’s voice. “After all, it is an adventure.”

“I’m sick of adventures,” said Jill crossly.

She did, however, consent to climb on to Glimfeather’s back and was thoroughly waked up (for a while) by the unexpected coldness of the air when he flew out with her into the night. The moon had disappeared and there were no stars. Far behind her she could see a single lighted window well above the ground; doubtless, in one of the towers of Cair Paravel. It made her long to be back in that delightful bedroom, snug in bed, watching the firelight on the walls. She put her hands under her cloak and wrapped it tightly round her. It was uncanny to hear two voices in the dark air a little distance away; Scrubb and his owl were talking to one another. “He doesn’t sound tired,” thought Jill. She did not realize that he had been on great adventures in that world before and that the Narnian air was bringing back to him a strength he had won when he sailed the Eastern Seas with King Caspian.

Jill had to pinch herself to keep awake, for she knew that if she dozed on Glimfeather’s back she would probably fall off. When at last the two owls ended their flight, she climbed stiffly off Glimfeather and found herself on flat ground. A chilly wind was blowing and they appeared to be in a place without trees. “Tu-whoo, tu-whoo!” Glimfeather was calling. “Wake up, Puddleglum. Wake up. It is on the Lion’s business.” For a long time there was no reply. Then, a long way off, a dim light appeared and began to come nearer. With it came a voice.

“Owls ahoy!” it said. “What is it? Is the King dead? Has an enemy landed in Narnia? Is it a flood? Or dragons?”

When the light reached them, it turned out to be that of a large lantern. She could see very little of the person who held it. He seemed to be all legs and arms. The owls were talking to him, explaining everything, but she was too tired to listen. She tried to wake herself up a bit when she realized that they were saying goodbye to her. But she could never afterward remember much except that, sooner or later, she and Scrubb were stooping to enter a low doorway and then (oh, thank heavens) were lying down on something soft and warm, and a voice was saying: “There you are. Best we can do. You’ll lie cold and hard. Damp too, I shouldn’t wonder. Won’t sleep a wink, most likely; even if there isn’t a thunderstorm or a flood or a wigwam doesn’t fall down on top of us all, as I’ve known them to do. Must make the best of it—” But she was fast asleep before the voice had ended.

When the children woke late next morning they found that they were lying, very dry and warm, on beds of straw in a dark place. A triangular opening let in the daylight.

“Where on earth are we?” asked Jill.

“In the wigwam of a Marsh-wiggle,” said Eustace.

“A what?”

“A Marsh-wiggle. Don’t ask me what it is. I couldn’t see it last night. I’m getting up. Let’s go and look for it.”

“How beastly one feels after sleeping in one’s clothes,” said Jill, sitting up.

“I was just thinking how nice it was not to have to dress,” said Eustace.

“Or wash either, I suppose,” said Jill scornfully. But Scrubb had already got up, yawned, shaken himself, and crawled out of the wigwam. Jill did the same.

What they found outside was quite unlike the bit of Narnia they had seen on the day before. They were on a great flat plain which was cut into countless little islands by countless channels of water. The islands were covered with coarse grass and bordered with reeds and rushes. Sometimes there were beds of rushes about an acre in extent. Clouds of birds were constantly alighting in them and rising from them again—duck, snipe, bitterns, herons. Many wigwams like that in which they had passed the night could be seen dotted about, but all at a good distance from one another; for Marsh-wiggles are people who like privacy. Except for the fringe of the forest several miles to the south and west of them, there was not a tree in sight. Eastward the flat marsh stretched to low sand-hills on the horizon, and you could tell by the salt tang in the wind which blew from that direction that the sea lay over there. To the North there were low pale-colored hills, in places bastioned with rock. The rest was all flat marsh. It would have been a depressing place on a wet evening. Seen under a morning sun, with a fresh wind blowing, and the air filled with the crying of birds, there was something fine and fresh and clean about its loneliness. The children felt their spirits rise.

“Where has the thingummy got to, I wonder?” said Jill.

“The Marsh-wiggle,” said Scrubb, as if he were rather proud of knowing the word. “I expect—hullo, that must be him.” And then they both saw him, sitting with his back to them, fishing, about fifty yards away. He had been hard to see at first because he was nearly the same color as the marsh and because he sat so still.

“I suppose we’d better go and speak to him,” said Jill. Scrubb nodded. They both felt a little nervous.

As they drew nearer, the figure turned its head and showed them a long thin face with rather sunken cheeks, a tightly shut mouth, a sharp nose, and no beard. He was wearing a high, pointed hat like a steeple, with an enormously wide flat brim. The hair, if it could be called hair, which hung over his large ears was greeny-gray, and each lock was flat rather than round, so that they were like tiny reeds. His expression was solemn, his complexion muddy, and you could see at once that he took a serious view of life.

“Good morning, Guests,” he said. “Though when I say good I don’t mean it won’t probably turn to rain or it might be snow, or fog, or thunder. You didn’t get any sleep, I dare say.”

“Yes we did, though,” said Jill. “We had a lovely night.”

“Ah,” said the Marsh-wiggle, shaking his head. “I see you’re making the best of a bad job. That’s right. You’ve been well brought up, you have. You’ve learned to put a good face on things.”

“Please, we don’t know your name,” said Scrubb.

“Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it’. I can always tell you again.”

The children sat down on each side of him. They now saw that he had very long legs and arms, so that although his body was not much bigger than a dwarf’s, he would be taller than most men when he stood up. The fingers of his hands were webbed like a frog’s, and so were his bare feet which dangled in the muddy water. He was dressed in earth-colored clothes that hung loose about him.

“I’m trying to catch a few eels to make an eel stew for our dinner,” said Puddleglum. “Though I shouldn’t wonder if I didn’t get any. And you won’t like them much if I do.”

“Why not?” asked Scrubb.

“Why, it’s not in reason that you should like our sort of victuals, though I’ve no doubt you’ll put a bold face on it. All the same, while I am a catching them, if you two could try to light the fire—no harm trying—! The wood’s behind the wigwam. It may be wet. You could light it inside the wigwam, and then we’d get all the smoke in our eyes. Or you could light it outside, and then the rain would come and put it out. Here’s my tinderbox. You wouldn’t know how to use it, I expect.” But Scrubb had learned that sort of thing on his last adventure. The children ran back together to the wigwam, found the wood (which was perfectly dry) and succeeded in lighting a fire with rather less than the usual difficulty. Then Scrubb sat and took care of it while Jill went and had some sort of wash—not a very nice one—in the nearest channel. After that she saw to the fire and he had a wash. Both felt a good deal fresher, but very hungry.

Presently the Marsh-wiggle joined them. In spite of his expectation of catching no eels, he had a dozen or so, which he had already skinned and cleaned. He put a big pot on, mended the fire, and lit his pipe. Marsh-wiggles smoke a very strange, heavy sort of tobacco (some people say they mix it with mud) and the children noticed the smoke from Puddleglum’s pipe hardly rose in the air at all. It trickled out of the bowl and downward and drifted along the ground like a mist. It was very black and set Scrubb coughing.

“Now,” said Puddleglum. “Those eels will take a mortal long time to cook, and either of you might faint with hunger before they’re done. I knew a little girl—but I’d better not tell you that story. It might lower your spirits, and that’s a thing I never do. So, to keep your minds off your hunger, we may as well talk about our plans.” “Yes, do, let’s,” said Jill. “Can you help us find Prince Rilian?”

The Marsh-wiggle sucked in his cheeks till they were hollower than you would have thought possible. “Well, I don’t know that you’d call it help,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone can exactly help. It stands to reason we’re not likely to get very far on a journey to the North, not at this time of the year, with the winter coming on soon and all. And an early winter too, by the look of things. But you mustn’t let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather. And if we don’t get far enough to do any good, we may get far enough not to get back in a hurry.” Both children noticed that he said “we,” not “you,” and both exclaimed at the same moment. “Are you coming with us?”

“Oh yes, I’m coming of course. Might as well, you see. I don’t suppose we shall ever see the King back in Narnia, now that he’s once set off for foreign parts; and he had a nasty cough when he left. Then there’s Trumpkin. He’s failing fast. And you’ll find there’ll have been a bad harvest after this terrible dry summer. And I shouldn’t wonder if some enemy attacked us. Mark my words.” “And how shall we start?” said Scrubb.

“Well,” said the Marsh-wiggle very slowly, “all the others who ever went looking for Prince Rilian started from the same fountain where Lord Drinian saw the lady. They went north, mostly. And as none of them ever came back, we can’t exactly say how they got on.” “We’ve got to start by finding a ruined city of giants,” said Jill. “Aslan said so.”

“Got to start by finding it, have we?” answered Puddleglum. “Not allowed to start by looking for it, I suppose?”

“That’s what I meant, of course,” said Jill. “And then, when we’ve found it—”

“Yes, when!” said Puddleglum very drily.

“Doesn’t anyone know where it is?” asked Scrubb.

“I don’t know about Anyone,” said Puddleglum. “And I won’t say I haven’t heard of that Ruined City. You wouldn’t start from the fountain, though. You’d have to go across Ettinsmoor. That’s where the Ruined City is, if it’s anywhere. But I’ve been as far in that direction as most people and I never got to any ruins, so I won’t deceive you.” “Where’s Ettinsmoor?” said Scrubb.

“Look over there northward,” said Puddleglum, pointing with his pipe. “See those hills and bits of cliff? That’s the beginning of Ettinsmoor. But there’s a river between it and us; the river Shribble. No bridges, of course.” “I suppose we can ford it, though,” said Scrubb.

“Well, it has been forded,” admitted the Marsh-wiggle.

“Perhaps we shall meet people on Ettinsmoor who can tell us the way,” said Jill.

“You’re right about meeting people,” said Puddleglum.

“What sort of people live there?” she asked.

“It’s not for me to say they aren’t all right in their own way,” answered Puddleglum. “If you like their way.”

“Yes, but what are they?” pressed Jill. “There are so many queer creatures in this country. I mean, are they animals, or birds, or dwarfs, or what?”

The Marsh-wiggle gave a long whistle. “Phew!” he said. “Don’t you know? I thought the owls had told you. They’re giants.”

Jill winced. She had never liked giants even in books, and she had once met one in a nightmare. Then she saw Scrubb’s face, which had turned rather green, and thought to herself, “I bet he’s in a worse funk than I am.” That made her feel braver.

“The King told me long ago,” said Scrubb, “—that time when I was with him at sea—that he’d jolly well beaten those giants in war and made them pay him tribute.”

“That’s true enough,” said Puddleglum. “They’re at peace with us all right. As long as we stay on our own side of the Shribble, they won’t do us any harm. Over on their side, on the Moor—Still, there’s always a chance. If we don’t get near any of them, and if none of them forget themselves, and if we’re not seen, it’s just possible we might get a long way.” “Look here!” said Scrubb, suddenly losing his temper, as people so easily do when they have been frightened. “I don’t believe the whole thing can be half as bad as you’re making out; any more than the beds in the wigwam were hard or the wood was wet. I don’t think Aslan would ever have sent us if there was so little chance as all that.” He quite expected the Marsh-wiggle to give him an angry reply, but he only said, “That’s the spirit, Scrubb. That’s the way to talk. Put a good face on it. But we all need to be very careful about our tempers, seeing all the hard times we shall have to go through together. Won’t do to quarrel, you know. At any rate, don’t begin it too soon. I know these expeditions usually end that way: knifing one another, I shouldn’t wonder, before all’s done. But the longer we can keep off it—” “Well, if you feel it’s so hopeless,” interrupted Scrubb, “I think you’d better stay behind. Pole and I can go on alone, can’t we, Pole?”

“Shut up and don’t be an ass, Scrubb,” said Jill hastily, terrified lest the Marsh-wiggle should take him at his word.

“Don’t you lose heart, Pole,” said Puddleglum. “I’m coming, sure and certain. I’m not going to lose an opportunity like this. It will do me good. They all say—I mean, the other wiggles all say—that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’ they’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say. Now a job like this—a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen—will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.” And he rubbed his big frog-like hands together as if he were talking of going to a party or a pantomime. “And now,” he added, “let’s see how those eels are getting on.” When the meal came it was delicious and the children had two large helpings each. At first the Marsh-wiggle wouldn’t believe that they really liked it, and when they had eaten so much that he had to believe them, he fell back on saying that it would probably disagree with them horribly. “What’s food for wiggles may be poison for humans, I shouldn’t wonder,” he said. After the meal they had tea, in tins (as you’ve seen men having it who are working on the road), and Puddleglum had a good many sips out of a square black bottle. He offered the children some of it, but they thought it very nasty.

The rest of the day was spent in preparations for an early start tomorrow morning. Puddleglum, being far the biggest, said he would carry three blankets, with a large bit of bacon rolled up inside them. Jill was to carry the remains of the eels, some biscuit, and the tinder-box. Scrubb was to carry both his own cloak and Jill’s when they didn’t want to wear them. Scrubb (who had learned some shooting when he sailed to the East under Caspian) had Puddleglum’s second-best bow, and Puddleglum had his best one; though he said that what with winds, and damp bowstrings, and bad light, and cold fingers, it was a hundred to one against either of them hitting anything. He and Scrubb both had swords—Scrubb had brought the one which had been left out for him in his room at Cair Paravel, but Jill had to be content with her knife. There would have been a quarrel about this, but as soon as they started sparring the wiggle rubbed his hands and said, “Ah, there you are. I thought as much. That’s what usually happens on adventures.” This made them both shut up.

All three went to bed early in the wigwam. This time the children really had a rather bad night. That was because Puddleglum, after saying, “You’d better try for some sleep, you two; not that I suppose any of us will close an eye tonight,” instantly went off into such a loud, continuous snore that, when Jill at last got to sleep, she dreamed all night about road-drills and waterfalls and being in express trains in tunnels.

SIX

THE WILD WASTE LANDS OF THE NORTH

AT ABOUT NINE O’CLOCK NEXT MORNING three lonely figures might have been seen picking their way across the Shribble by the shoals and stepping-stones. It was a shallow, noisy stream, and even Jill was not wet above her knees when they reached the northern bank. About fifty yards ahead, the land rose up to the beginning of the moor, everywhere steeply, and often in cliffs.

“I suppose that’s our way!” said Scrubb, pointing left and west to where a stream flowed down from the moor through a shallow gorge. But the Marsh-wiggle shook his head.

“The giants mainly live along the side of that gorge,” he said. “You might say the gorge was like a street to them. We’ll do better straight ahead, even though it’s a bit steep.”

They found a place where they could scramble up, and in about ten minutes stood panting at the top. They cast a longing look back at the valley-land of Narnia and then turned their faces to the North. The vast, lonely moor stretched on and up as far as they could see. On their left was rockier ground. Jill thought that must be the edge of the giants’ gorge and did not much care about looking in that direction. They set out.

It was good, springy ground for walking, and a day of pale winter sunlight. As they got deeper into the moor, the loneliness increased: one could hear peewits and see an occasional hawk. When they halted in the middle of the morning for a rest and a drink in a little hollow by a stream, Jill was beginning to feel that she might enjoy adventures after all, and said so.

“We haven’t had any yet,” said the Marsh-wiggle.

Walks after the first halt—like school mornings after break or railway journeys after changing trains—never go on as they were before. When they set out again, Jill noticed that the rocky edge of the gorge had drawn nearer. And the rocks were less flat, more upright, than they had been. In fact they were like little towers of rock. And what funny shapes they were!

“I do believe,” thought Jill, “that all the stories about giants might have come from those funny rocks. If you were coming along here when it was half dark, you could easily think those piles of rock were giants. Look at that one, now! You could almost imagine that the lump on top was a head. It would be rather too big for the body, but it would do well enough for an ugly giant. And all that bushy stuff—I suppose it’s heather and birds’ nests, really—would do quite well for hair and beard. And the things sticking out on each side are quite like ears. They’d be horribly big, but then I daresay giants would have big ears, like elephants. And—o-o-o-h!—” Her blood froze. The thing moved. It was a real giant. There was no mistaking it; she had seen it turn its head. She had caught a glimpse of the great, stupid, puff-cheeked face. All the things were giants, not rocks. There were forty or fifty of them, all in a row; obviously standing with their feet on the bottom of the gorge and their elbows resting on the edge of the gorge, just as men might stand leaning on a wall—lazy men, on a fine morning after breakfast.

“Keep straight on,” whispered Puddleglum, who had noticed them too. “Don’t look at them. And whatever you do, don’t run. They’d all be after us in a moment.”

So they kept on, pretending not to have seen the giants. It was like walking past the gate of a house where there is a fierce dog, only far worse. There were dozens and dozens of these giants. They didn’t look angry—or kind—or interested at all. There was no sign that they had seen the travelers.

Then—whizz-whizz-whizz—some heavy object came hurtling through the air, and with a crash a big boulder fell about twenty paces ahead of them. And then—thud!—another fell twenty feet behind.

“Are they aiming at us?” asked Scrubb.

“No,” said Puddleglum. “We’d be a good deal safer if they were. They’re trying to hit that—that cairn over there to the right. They won’t hit it, you know. It’s safe enough; they’re such very bad shots. They play cock-shies most fine mornings. About the only game they’re clever enough to understand.” It was a horrible time. There seemed no end of the line of giants, and they never ceased hurling stones, some of which fell extremely close. Quite apart from the real danger, the very sight and sound of their faces and voices were enough to scare anyone. Jill tried not to look at them.

After about twenty-five minutes the giants apparently had a quarrel. This put an end to the cock-shies, but it is not pleasant to be within a mile of quarreling giants. They stormed and jeered at one another in long, meaningless words of about twenty syllables each. They foamed and jibbered and jumped in their rage, and each jump shook the earth like a bomb. They lammed each other on the head with great, clumsy stone hammers; but their skulls were so hard that the hammers bounced off again, and then the monster who had given the blow would drop his hammer and howl with pain because it had stung his fingers. But he was so stupid that he would do exactly the same thing a minute later. This was a good thing in the long run, for by the end of an hour all the giants were so hurt that they sat down and began to cry. When they sat down, their heads were below the edge of the gorge, so that you saw them no more; but Jill could hear them howling and blubbering and boo-hooing like great babies even after the place was a mile behind.

That night they bivouacked on the bare moor, and Puddleglum showed the children how to make the best of their blankets by sleeping back to back. (The backs keep each other warm and you can then have both blankets on top.) But it was chilly even so, and the ground was hard and lumpy. The Marsh-wiggle told them they would feel more comfortable if only they thought how very much colder it would be later on and farther north; but this didn’t cheer them up at all.

They traveled across Ettinsmoor for many days, saving the bacon and living chiefly on the moor-fowl (they were not, of course, talking birds) which Eustace and the wiggle shot. Jill rather envied Eustace for being able to shoot; he had learned it on his voyage with King Caspian. As there were countless streams on the moor, they were never short of water. Jill thought that when, in books, people live on what they shoot, it never tells you what a long, smelly, messy job it is plucking and cleaning dead birds, and how cold it makes your fingers. But the great thing was that they met hardly any giants. One giant saw them, but he only roared with laughter and stumped away about his own business.

About the tenth day, they reached a place where the country changed. They came to the northern edge of the moor and looked down a long, steep slope into a different, and grimmer, land. At the bottom of the slope were cliffs: beyond these, a country of high mountains, dark precipices, stony valleys, ravines so deep and narrow that one could not see far into them, and rivers that poured out of echoing gorges to plunge sullenly into black depths. Needless to say, it was Puddleglum who pointed out a sprinkling of snow on the more distant slopes.

“But there’ll be more on the north side of them, I shouldn’t wonder,” he added.

It took them some time to reach the foot of the slope and, when they did, they looked down from the top of the cliffs at a river running below them from west to east. It was walled in by precipices on the far side as well as on their own, and it was green and sunless, full of rapids and waterfalls. The roar of it shook the earth even where they stood.

“The bright side of it is,” said Puddleglum, “that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.”

“What about that?” said Scrubb suddenly, pointing upstream to their left. Then they all looked and saw the last thing they were expecting—a bridge. And what a bridge, too! It was a huge, single arch that spanned the gorge from cliff-top to cliff-top; and the crown of that arch was as high above the cliff-tops as the dome of St. Paul’s is above the street.

“Why, it must be a giants’ bridge!” said Jill.

“Or a sorcerer’s, more likely,” said Puddleglum. “We’ve got to look out for enchantments in a place like this. I think it’s a trap. I think it’ll turn into mist and melt away just when we’re out on the middle of it.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake, don’t be such a wet blanket,” said Scrubb. “Why on earth shouldn’t it be a proper bridge?”

“Do you think any of the giants we’ve seen would have sense to build a thing like that?” said Puddleglum.

“But mightn’t it have been built by other giants?” said Jill. “I mean, by giants who lived hundreds of years ago, and were far cleverer than the modern kind. It might have been built by the same ones who built the giant city we’re looking for. And that would mean we were on the right track—the old bridge leading to the old city!” “That’s a real brain-wave, Pole,” said Scrubb. “It must be that. Come on.”

So they turned and went to the bridge. And when they reached it, it certainly seemed solid enough. The single stones were as big as those at Stonehenge and must have been squared by good masons once, though now they were cracked and crumbled. The balustrade had apparently been covered with rich carvings, of which some traces remained; mouldering faces and forms of giants, minotaurs, squids, centipedes, and dreadful gods. Puddleglum still didn’t trust it, but he consented to cross it with the children.

The climb up to the crown of the arch was long and heavy. In many places the great stones had dropped out, leaving horrible gaps through which you looked down on the river foaming thousands of feet below. They saw an eagle fly through under their feet. And the higher they went, the colder it grew, and the wind blew so that they could hardly keep their footing. It seemed to shake the bridge.

When they reached the top and could look down the farther slope of the bridge, they saw what looked like the remains of an ancient giant road stretching away before them into the heart of the mountains. Many stones of its pavement were missing and there were wide patches of grass between those that remained. And riding toward them on that ancient road were two people of normal grown-up human size.

“Keep on. Move toward them,” said Puddleglum. “Anyone you meet in a place like this is as likely as not to be an enemy, but we mustn’t let them think we’re afraid.”

By the time they had stepped off the end of the bridge onto the grass, the two strangers were quite close. One was a knight in complete armor with his visor down. His armor and his horse were black; there was no device on his shield and no banneret on his spear. The other was a lady on a white horse, a horse so lovely that you wanted to kiss its nose and give it a lump of sugar at once. But the lady, who rode side-saddle and wore a long, fluttering dress of dazzling green, was lovelier still.

“Good day, t-r-r-avelers,” she cried out in a voice as sweet as the sweetest bird’s song, trilling her R’s delightfully. “Some of you are young pilgrims to walk this rough waste.”

“That’s as may be, Ma’am,” said Puddleglum very stiffly and on his guard.

“We’re looking for the ruined city of the giants,” said Jill.

“The r-r-ruined city?” said the Lady. “That is a strange place to be seeking. What will you do if you find it?”

“We’ve got to—” began Jill, but Puddleglum interrupted.

“Begging your pardon, Ma’am. But we don’t know you or your friend—a silent chap, isn’t he?—and you don’t know us. And we’d as soon not talk to strangers about our business, if you don’t mind. Shall we have a little rain soon, do you think?” The Lady laughed: the richest, most musical laugh you can imagine. “Well, children,” she said, “you have a wise, solemn old guide with you. I think none the worse of him for keeping his own counsel, but I’ll be free with mine. I have often heard the name of the giantish City Ruinous, but never met any who would tell me the way thither. This road leads to the burgh and castle of Harfang, where dwell the gentle giants. They are as mild, civil, prudent, and courteous as those of Ettinsmoor are foolish, fierce, savage, and given to all beastliness. And in Harfang you may or may not hear tidings of the City Ruinous, but certainly you shall find good lodgings and merry hosts. You would be wise to winter there, or, at the least, to tarry certain days for your ease and refreshment. There you shall have steaming baths, soft beds, and bright hearths; and the roast and the baked and the sweet and the strong will be on the table four times a day.” “I say!” exclaimed Scrubb. “That’s something like! Think of sleeping in a bed again.”

“Yes, and having a hot bath,” said Jill. “Do you think they’ll ask us to stay? We don’t know them, you see.”

“Only tell them,” answered the Lady, “that She of the Green Kirtle salutes them by you, and has sent them two fair Southern children for the Autumn Feast.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you ever so much,” said Jill and Scrubb.

“But have a care,” said the Lady. “On whatever day you reach Harfang, that you come not to the door too late. For they shut their gates a few hours after noon, and it is the custom of the castle that they open to none when once they have drawn the bolt, how hard so ever he knock.” The children thanked her again, with shining eyes, and the Lady waved to them. The Marsh-wiggle took off his steeple-hat and bowed very stiffly. Then the silent Knight and the Lady started walking their horses up the slope of the bridge with a great clatter of hoofs.

“Well!” said Puddleglum. “I’d give a good deal to know where she’s coming from and where she’s going. Not the sort you expect to meet in the wilds of Giantland, is she? Up to no good, I’ll be bound.”

“Oh rot!” said Scrubb. “I thought she was simply super. And think of hot meals and warm rooms. I do hope Harfang isn’t a long way off.”

“Same here,” said Jill. “And hadn’t she a scrumptious dress. And the horse!”

“All the same,” said Puddleglum, “I wish we knew a bit more about her.”

“I was going to ask her all about herself,” said Jill. “But how could I when you wouldn’t tell her anything about us?”

“Yes,” said Scrubb. “And why were you so stiff and unpleasant? Didn’t you like them?”

“Them?” said the wiggle. “Who’s them? I only saw one.”

“Didn’t you see the Knight?” asked Jill.

“I saw a suit of armor,” said Puddleglum. “Why didn’t he speak?”

“I expect he was shy,” said Jill. “Or perhaps he just wants to look at her and listen to her lovely voice. I’m sure I would if I was him.”

“I was wondering,” remarked Puddleglum, “what you’d really see if you lifted up the visor of that helmet and looked inside.”

“Hang it all,” said Scrubb. “Think of the shape of the armor! What could be inside it except a man?”

“How about a skeleton?” asked the Marsh-wiggle with ghastly cheerfulness. “Or perhaps,” he added as an afterthought, “nothing at all. I mean, nothing you could see. Someone invisible.”

“Really, Puddleglum,” said Jill with a shudder, “you do have the most horrible ideas! How do you think of them all?”

“Oh, bother his ideas!” said Scrubb. “He’s always expecting the worst, and he’s always wrong. Let’s think about those Gentle Giants and get on to Harfang as quickly as we can. I wish I knew how far it is.”

And now they nearly had the first of those quarrels which Puddleglum had foretold: not that Jill and Scrubb hadn’t been sparring and snapping at each other a good deal before, but this was the first really serious disagreement. Puddleglum didn’t want them to go to Harfang at all. He said that he didn’t know what a giant’s idea of being “gentle” might be, and that, anyway, Aslan’s signs had said nothing about staying with giants, gentle or otherwise. The children, on the other hand, who were sick of wind and rain, and skinny fowl roasted over campfires, and hard, cold earth to sleep on, were absolutely dead set to visit the Gentle Giants. In the end, Puddleglum agreed to do so, but only on one condition. The others must give an absolute promise that, unless he gave them leave, they would not tell the Gentle Giants that they came from Narnia or that they were looking for Prince Rilian. And they gave him this promise, and went on.

After that talk with the Lady things got worse in two different ways. In the first place the country was much harder. The road led through endless, narrow valleys down which a cruel north wind was always blowing in their faces. There was nothing that could be used for firewood, and there were no nice little hollows to camp in, as there had been on the moor. And the ground was all stony, and made your feet sore by day and every bit of you sore by night.

In the second place, whatever the Lady had intended by telling them about Harfang, the actual effect on the children was a bad one. They could think about nothing but beds and baths and hot meals and how lovely it would be to get indoors. They never talked about Aslan, or even about the lost prince, now. And Jill gave up her habit of repeating the signs over to herself every night and morning. She said to herself, at first, that she was too tired, but she soon forgot all about it. And though you might have expected that the idea of having a good time at Harfang would have made them more cheerful, it really made them more sorry for themselves and more grumpy and snappy with each other and with Puddleglum.

At last they came one afternoon to a place where the gorge in which they were traveling widened out and dark fir woods rose on either side. They looked ahead and saw that they had come through the mountains. Before them lay a desolate, rocky plain: beyond it, further mountains capped with snow. But between them and those further mountains rose a low hill with an irregular flattish top.

“Look! Look!” cried Jill, and pointed across the plain; and there, through the gathering dusk, from beyond the flat hill, everyone saw lights. Lights! Not moonlight, nor fires, but a homely cheering row of lighted windows. If you have never been in the wild wilderness, day and night, for weeks, you will hardly understand how they felt.

“Harfang!” cried Scrubb and Jill in glad, excited voices; and “Harfang,” repeated Puddleglum in a dull, gloomy voice. But he added, “Hullo! Wild geese!” and had the bow off his shoulder in a second. He brought down a good fat goose. It was far too late to think of reaching Harfang that day. But they had a hot meal and a fire, and started the night warmer than they had been for over a week. After the fire had gone out, the night grew bitterly cold, and when they woke next morning, their blankets were stiff with frost.

“Never mind!” said Jill, stamping her feet. “Hot baths tonight!”

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