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|The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe(Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S.Lewis|
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 get-up 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, selfsatisfied 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 oddlooking 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 wash-out," 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, harbouring 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 towards 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 travelling 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."
"It if 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.
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 signalling 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 signalling 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.