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|The Magician's Nephew(Chronicles of Narnia #6) by C.S.Lewis|
"Of course," said Uncle Andrew with his hateful smile.
"Very well. I'll go. But there's one thing I jolly well mean to say first. I didn't believe in Magic till today. I see now it's real. Well if it is, I suppose all the old fairy tales are more or less true. And you're simply a wicked, cruel magician like the ones in the stories. Well, I've never read a story in which people of that sort weren't paid out in the end, and I bet you will be. And serve you right."
Of all the things Digory had said this was the first that really went home. Uncle Andrew started and there came over his face a look of such horror that, beast though he was, you could almost feel sorry for him. But a second later he smoothed it all away and said with a rather forced laugh, "Well, well, I suppose that is a natural thing for a child to think - brought up among women, as you have been. Old wives' tales, eh? I don't think you need worry about my danger, Digory. Wouldn't it be better to worry about the danger of your little friend? She's been gone some time. If there are any dangers Over There - well, it would be a pity to arrive a moment too late."
"A lot you care," said Digory fiercely. "But I'm sick of this jaw. What have I got to do?"
"You really must learn to control that temper of yours, my boy," said Uncle Andrew coolly. "Otherwise you'll grow up like your Aunt Letty. Now. Attend to me."
He got up, put on a pair of gloves, and walked over to the tray that contained the rings.
"They only work," he said, "if they're actually touching your skin. Wearing gloves, I can pick them up - like this - and nothing happens. If you carried one in your pocket nothing would happen: but of course you'd have to be careful not to put your hand in your pocket and touch it by accident. The moment you touch a yellow ring, you vanish out of this world. When you are in the Other Place I expect - of course this hasn't been tested yet, but I expect - that the moment you touch a green ring you vanish out of that world and - I expect - reappear in this. Now. I take these two greens and drop them into your right-hand pocket. Remember very carefully which pocket the greens are in. G for green and R for right. G.R. you see: which are the first two letters of green. One for you and one for the little girl. And now you pick up a yellow one for yourself. I should put it on on your finger - if I were you. There'll be less chance of dropping it."
Digory had almost picked up the yellow ring when he suddenly checked himself.
"Look here," he said. "What about Mother? Supposing she asks where I am?"
"The sooner you go, the sooner you'll be back," said Uncle Andrew cheerfully.
"But you don't really know whether I can get back."
Uncle Andrew shrugged his shoulders, walked across to the door, unlocked it, threw it open, and said:
"Oh very' well then. Just as you please. Go down and have your dinner. Leave the little girl to be eaten by wild animals or drowned or starved in Otherworld or lost there for good, if that's what you prefer. It's all one to me. Perhaps before tea time you'd better drop in on Mrs Plummer and explain that she'll never see her daughter again; because you were afraid to put on a ring."
"By gum," said Digory, "don't I just wish I was big enough to punch your head!"
Then he buttoned up his coat, took a deep breath, and picked up the ring. And he thought then, as he always thought afterwards too, that he could not decently have done anything else.
THE WOOD BETWEEN THE WORLDS
UNCLE ANDREW and his study vanished instantly. Then, for a moment, everything became muddled. The next thing Digory knew was that there was a soft green light coming down on him from above, and darkness below. He didn't seem to be standing on anything, or sitting, or lying. Nothing appeared to be touching him. "I believe I'm in water," said Digory. "Or under water." This frightened him for a second, but almost at once he could feel that he was rushing upwards. Then his head suddenly came out into the air and, he found himself scrambling ashore, out on to smooth grassy ground at the edge of a pool.
As he rose to his feet he noticed that he was neither dripping nor panting for breath as anyone would expect after being under water. His clothes were perfectly dry. He was standing by the edge of a small pool - not more than ten feet from side to side in a wood. The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others - a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach. You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive. When he tried to describe it afterwards
Digory always said, "It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake."
The strangest thing was that, almost before he had looked about him, Digory had half forgotten how he had come there. At any rate, he was certainly not thinking about Polly, or Uncle Andrew, or even his Mother. He was not in the least frightened, or excited, or curious. If anyone had asked him "Where did you come from?" he would probably have said, "I've always been here." That was what it felt like - as if one had always been in that place and never been bored although nothing had ever happened. As he said long afterwards, "It's not the sort of place where things happen. The trees go on growing, that's all."
After Digory had looked at the wood for a long time he noticed that there was a girl lying on her back at the foot of a tree a few yards away. Her eyes were nearly shut but not quite, as if she were just between sleeping and waking. So he looked at her for a long time and said nothing. And at last she opened her eyes and looked at him for a long time and she also said nothing. Then she spoke, in a dreamy, contented sort of voice.
"I think I've seen you before," she said.
"I rather think so too," said Digory. "Have you been here long?"
"Oh, always," said the girl. "At least - I don't know a very long time."
"So have I," said Digory.
"No you haven't, said she. "I've just seen you come up out of that pool."
"Yes, I suppose I did," said Digory with a puzzled air, "I'd forgotten."
Then for quite a long time neither said any more.
"Look here," said the girl presently, "I wonder did we ever really meet before? I had a sort of idea - a sort of picture in my head - of a boy and a girl, like us - living somewhere quite different - and doing all sorts of things. Perhaps it was only a dream."
"I've had that same dream, I think," said Digory. "About a boy and a girl, living next door - and something about crawling among rafters. I remember the girl had a dirty face."
"Aren't you getting it mixed? In my dream it was the boy who had the dirty face."
"I can't remember the boy's face," said Digory: and then added, "Hullo! What's that?"
"Why! it's a guinea-pig," said the girl. And it was - a fat guinea-pig, nosing about in the grass. But round the middle of the guinea-pig there ran a tape, and, tied on to it by the tape, was a bright yellow ring.
"Look! look," cried Digory, "The ring! And look! You've got one on your finger. And so have I."
The girl now sat up, really interested at last. They stared very hard at one another, trying to remember. And then, at exactly the same moment, she shouted out "Mr Ketterley" and he shouted out "Uncle Andrew", and they knew who they were and began to remember the whole story. After a few minutes hard talking they had got it straight. Digory explained how beastly Uncle Andrew had been.
"What do we do now?" said Polly. "Take the guineapig and go home?"
"There's no hurry," said Digory with a huge yawn.
"I think there is," said Polly. "This place is too quiet. It's so - so dreamy. You're almost asleep. If we once give in to it we shall just lie down and drowse for ever and ever."
"It's very nice here," said Digory.
"Yes, it is," said Polly.
"But we've got to get back." She stood up and began to go cautiously towards the guinea-pig. But then she changed her mind.
"We might as well leave the guinea-pig," she said. "It's perfectly happy here, and your uncle will only do something horrid to it if we take it home."
"I bet he would," answered Digory. "Look at the way he's treated us. By the way, how do we get home?"
"Go back into the pool, I expect."
They came and stood together at the edge looking down into the smooth water. It was full of the reflection of the green, leafy branches; they made it look very deep.
"We haven't any bathing things," said Polly.
"We shan't need them, silly," said Digory. "We're going in with our clothes on. Don't you remember it didn't wet us on the way up?"
"Can you swim?"
"A bit. Can you?"
"Well - not much."
"I don't think we shall need to swim," said Digory "We want to go down, don't we?"
Neither of them much liked the idea of jumping into that pool, but neither said so to the other. They took hands and said "One - Two - Three - Go" and jumped. There was a great splash and of course they closed their eyes. But when they opened them again they found they were still standing, hand in hand, in the green wood, and hardly up to their ankles in water. The pool was apparently only a couple of inches deep. They splashed back on to the dry ground.
"What on earth's gone wrong?" said Polly in a frightened voice; but not quite so frightened as you might expect, because it is hard to feel really frightened in that wood. The place is too peaceful.
"Oh! I know," said Digory, "Of course it won't work. We're still wearing our yellow rings. They're for the outward journey, you know. The green ones take you home. We must change rings. Have you got pockets? Good. Put your yellow ring in your left. I've got two greens. Here's one for you."
They put on their green rings and came back to the pool. But before they tried another jump Digory gave a long "O-ooh!"
"What's the matter?" said Polly.
"I've just had a really wonderful idea," said Digory. "What are all the other pools?"
"How do you mean?"
"Why, if awe can get back to our own world by jumping into this pool, mightn't we get somewhere else by jumping into one of the others? Supposing there was a world at the bottom of every pool."
"But I thought we were already in your Uncle Andrew's Other World or Other Place or whatever he called it. Didn't you say - "
"Oh bother Uncle Andrew," interrupted Digory. "I don't believe he knows anything about it. He never had the pluck to come here himself. He only talked of one Other World. But suppose there were dozens?"
"You mean, this wood might be only one of them?"
"No, I don't believe this wood is a world at all. I think it's just a sort of in-between place."
Polly looked puzzled. "Don't you see?" said Digory. "No, do listen. Think of our tunnel under the slates at home. It isn't a room in any of the houses. In a way, it isn't really part of any of the houses. But once you're in the tunnel you can go along it and come into any of the houses in the row. Mightn't this wood be the same? - a place that isn't in any of the worlds, but once you've found that place you can get into them all."
"Well, even if you can - " began Polly, but Digory went on as if he hadn't heard her.
"And of course that explains everything," he said. "That's why it is so quiet and sleepy here. Nothing ever happens here. Like at home. It's in the houses that people talk, and do things, and have meals. Nothing goes on in the inbetween places, behind the walls and above the ceilings and under the floor, or in our own tunnel. But when you come out of our tunnel you may find yourself in any house. I think we can get out of this place into jolly well Anywhere! We don't need to jump back into the same pool we came up by. Or not just yet."
"The Wood between the Worlds," said Polly dreamily. "It sounds rather nice."
"Come on," said Digory. "Which pool shall we try?"
"Look here," said Polly, "I'm not going to try any new pool till we've made sure that we can get back by the old one. We're not even sure if it'll work yet."
"Yes," said Digory. "And get caught by Uncle Andrew and have our rings taken away before we've had any fun. No thanks."
"Couldn't we just go part of the way down into our own pool," said Polly. "Just to see if it works. Then if it does, we'll change rings and come up again before we're really back in Mr Ketterley's study."
"Can we go part of the way down?"
"Well, it took time coming up. I suppose it'll take a little time going back."
Digory made rather a fuss about agreeing to this, but he had to in the end because Polly absolutely refused to do any exploring in new worlds until she had made sure about getting back to the old one. She was quite as brave as he about some dangers (wasps, for instance) but she was not so interested in finding out things nobody had ever heard of before; for Digory was the sort of person who wants to know everything, and when he grew up he became the famous Professor Kirke who comes into other books.