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|The Magician's Nephew(Chronicles of Narnia #6) by C.S.Lewis|
"What was it?" said Digory.
"That was the secret of secrets," said the Queen Jadis. "It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it. But the ancient kings were weak and softhearted and bound themselves and all who should come after them with great oaths never even to seek after the knowledge of that word. But I learned it in a secret place and paid a terrible price to learn it. I did not use it until she forced me to it. I fought to overcome her by every other means. I poured out the blood of my armies like water - "
"Beast!" muttered Polly.
"The last great battle," said the Queen, "raged for three days here in Charn itself. For three days I looked down upon it from this very spot. I did not use my power till the last of my soldiers had fallen, and the accursed woman, my sister, at the head of her rebels was halfway up those great stairs that lead up from the city to the terrace. Then I waited till we were so close that we could see one another's faces. She flashed her horrible, wicked eyes upon me and said, "Victory." "Yes," said I, "Victory, but not yours." Then I spoke the Deplorable Word. A moment later I was the only living thing beneath the sun.",
"But the people?" gasped Digory.
"What people, boy?" asked the Queen.
"All the ordinary people," said Polly, "who'd never done you any harm. And the women, and the children, and the animals."
"Don't you understand?" said the Queen (still speaking to Digory). "I was the Queen. They were all my people. What else were they there for but to do my will?"
"It was rather hard luck on them, all the same," said he.
"I had forgotten that you are only a common boy. How should you understand reasons of State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny."
Digory suddenly remembered that Uncle Andrew had used exactly the same words. But they sounded much grander when Queen Jadis said them; perhaps because Uncle Andrew was not seven feet tall and dazzlingly beautiful.
"And what did you do then?" said Digory.
"I had already cast strong spells on the hall where the images of my ancestors sit. And the force of those spells was that I should sleep among them, like an image myself, and need neither food nor fire, though it were a thousand years, till one came and struck the bell and awoke me."
"Was it the Deplorable Word that made the sun like that?" asked Digory.
"Like what?" said Jadis
"So big, so red, and so cold."
"It has always been so," said Jadis. "At least, for hundreds of thousands of years. Have you a different sort of sun in your world?"
"Yes, it's smaller and yellower. And it gives a good deal more heat."
The Queen gave a long drawn "A-a-ah!" And Digory saw on her face that same hungry and greedy look which he had lately seen on Uncle Andrew's. "So," she said, "yours is a younger world."
She paused for a moment to look once more at the deserted city - and if she was sorry for all the evil she had done there, she certainly didn't show it - and then said: "Now, let us be going. It is cold here at the end of all a the ages."
"Going where?" asked both the children.
"Where?" repeated Jadis in surprise. "To your world, of course."
Polly and Digory looked at each other, aghast. Polly had disliked the Queen from the first; and even Digory, now that he had heard the story, felt that he had seen quite as much of her as he wanted. Certainly, she was not at all the sort of person one would like to take home. And if they did like, they didn't know how they could. What they wanted was to get away themselves: but Polly couldn't get at her ring and of course Digory couldn't go without her. Digory got very red in the face and stammered.
"Oh - oh - our world. I d-didn't know you wanted to go there."
"What else were you sent here for if not to fetch me?" asked Jadis.
"I'm sure you wouldn't like our world at all," said Digory. "It's not her sort of place, is it Polly? It's very dull; not worth seeing, really."
"It will soon be worth seeing when I rule it," answered the Queen.
"Oh, but you can't," said Digory. "It's not like that. They wouldn't let you, you know."
The Queen gave a contemptuous smile. "Many great kings," she said, "thought they could stand against the House of Charn. But they all fell, and their very names are forgotten. Foolish boy! Do you think that I, with my beauty and my Magic, will not have your whole world at my feet before a year has passed? Prepare your incantations and take me there at once."
"This is perfectly frightful," said Digory to Polly.
"Perhaps you fear for this Uncle of yours," said Jadis. "But if he honours me duly, he shall keep his life and his throne. I am not coming to fight against him. He must be a very great Magician, if he has found how to send you here. Is he King of your whole world or only of part?"
"He isn't King of anywhere," said Digory.
"You are lying," said the Queen. "Does not Magic always go with the royal blood? Who ever heard of common people being Magicians? I can see the truth whether you speak it or not. Your Uncle is the great King and the great Enchanter of your world. And by his art he has seen the shadow of my face, in some magic mirror or some enchanted pool; and for the love of my beauty he has made a potent spell which shook your world to its foundations and sent you across the vast gulf between world and world to ask my favour and to bring me to him. Answer me: is that not how it was?"
"Well, not exactly," said Digory.
"Not exactly," shouted Polly. "Why, it's absolute bosh from beginning to end."
"Minions!" cried the Queen, turning in rage upon Polly and seizing her hair, at the very top of her head where it hurts most. But in so doing she let go of both the children's hands. "Now," shouted Digory; and "Quick! shouted Polly. They plunged their left hands into their pockets. They did not even need to put the rings on. The moment they touched them, the whole of that dreary, world vanished from their eyes. They were rushing upward and a warm green light was growing nearer over head.
THE BEGINNING OF UNCLE ANDREW'S TROUBLES
"LET go! Let go!" screamed Polly.
"I'm not touching you!" said Digory.
Then their heads came out of the pool and, once more, the sunny quietness of the Wood between the Worlds was all about them, and it seemed richer and warmer and more peaceful than ever after the staleness and ruin of the place they had just left. I think that, if they had been given the chance, they would again have forgotten who they were and where they came from and would have lain down and enjoyed themselves, half asleep, listening to the growing of the trees. But this time there was something that kept them as wide-awake as possible: for as soon as they had got out on to the grass, they found that they were not alone. The Queen, or the Witch (whichever you like to call her) had come up with them, holding on fast by Polly's hair. That was why Polly had been shouting out "Let go!"
This proved, by the way, another thing about the rings which Uncle Andrew hadn't told Digory because he didn't know it himself. In order to jump from world to world by one of those rings you don't need to be wearing or touching it yourself; it is enough if you are touching someone who is touching it. In that way they work like a magnet; and everyone knows that if you pick up a pin with a magnet, any other pin which is touching the first pin will come too.
Now that you saw her in the wood, Queen Jadis looked different. She was much paler than she had been; so pale that hardly any of her beauty was left. And she was stooped and seemed to be finding it hard to breathe, as if the air of that place stifled her. Neither of the children felt in the least afraid of her now.
"Let go! Let go of my hair," said Polly. "What do you mean by it?"
"Here! Let go of her hair. At once," said Digory.
They both turned and struggled with her. They were stronger than she and in a few seconds they had forced her to let go. She reeled back, panting, and there was a look of terror in her eyes.
"Quick, Digory!" said Polly. "Change rings and into' the home pool."
"Help! Help! Mercy!" cried the Witch in a faint voice, staggering after them. "Take me with you. You cannot. mean to leave me in this horrible place. It is killing me."
"It's a reason of State," said Polly spitefully. "Like when you killed all those people in your own world. Do be quick, Digory." They had put on their green rings, but Digory said:
"Oh bother! What are we to do?" He couldn't help feeling a little sorry for the Queen.
"Oh don't be such an ass," said Polly. "Ten to one she's only shamming. Do come on." And then both children plunged into the home pool. "It's a good thing we made that mark," thought Polly. But as they jumped Digory felt that a large cold finger and thumb had caught him by the ear. And as they sank down and the confused shapes of our own world began to appear, the grip of that finger and thumb grew stronger. The Witch was apparently recovering her strength. Digory struggled and kicked, but it was not of the least use. In a moment they found themselves in Uncle Andrew's study; and there was Uncle Andrew himself, staring at the wonderful creature that Digory had brought back from beyond the world.
And well he might stare. Digory and Polly stared too. There was no doubt that the Witch had got over her faintness; and now that one saw her in our own world, with ordinary things around her, she fairly took one's breath away. In Charn she had been alarming enough: in London, she was terrifying. For one thing, they had not realized till now how very big she was. "Hardly human" was what Digory thought when he looked at her; and he may have been right, for some say there is giantish blood in the royal family of Charn. But even her height was nothing compared with her beauty, her fierceness, and her wildness. She looked ten times more alive than most of the people one meets in London. Uncle Andrew was bowing and rubbing his hands and looking, to tell the truth, extremely frightened. He seemed a little shrimp of a creature beside the Witch. And yet, as Polly said after
wards, there was a sort of likeness between her face and his, something in the expression. It was the look that all wicked Magicians have, the "Mark" which Jadis had said she could not find in Digory's face. One good thing about seeing the two together was that you would never again be afraid of Uncle Andrew, any more than you'd be afraid of a worm after you had met a rattlesnake or afraid of a cow after you had met a mad bull.
"Pooh!" thought Digory to himself. "Him a Magician!
Not much. Now she's the real thing."
Uncle Andrew kept on rubbing his hands and bowing. He was trying to say something very polite, but his mouth had gone all dry so that he could not speak. His "experiment" with the rings, as he called it, was turning out more successful than he liked: for though he had dabbled in Magic for years he had always left all the dangers (as far as one can) to other people. Nothing at all like this had ever happened to him before.
Then Jadis spoke; not very loud, but there was something in her voice that made the whole room quiver.
"Where is the Magician who has called me into this world?"
"Ah - ah - Madam," gasped Uncle Andrew, "I am most honoured - highly gratified - a most unexpected, pleasure - if only I had had the opportunity of making any preparations - I - I - "
"Where is the Magician, Fool?" said Jadis.
"I - I am, Madam. I hope you will excuse any - er - . liberty these naughty children may have taken. I assure you, there was no intention - "
"You?" said the Queen in a still more terrible voice. Then, in one stride, she crossed the room, seized a great handful of Uncle Andrew's grey hair and pulled his head back so that his face looked up into hers. Then she studied his face as she had studied Digory's face in the palace of Charn. He blinked and licked his lips nervously all the time. At last she let him go: so suddenly that he reeled back against the wall.
"I see," she said scornfully, "you are a Magician - of a sort. Stand up, dog, and don't sprawl there as if you were speaking to your equals. How do you come to know Magic? You are not of royal blood, I'll swear."
"Well - ah - not perhaps in the strict sense," stammered Uncle Andrew. "Not exactly royal, Ma'am. The Ketterleys are, however, a very old family. An old Dorsetshire family, Ma'am."
"Peace," said the Witch. "I see what you are. You are a little, peddling Magician who works by rules and books. There is no real Magic in your blood and heart. Your kind was made an end of in my world a thousand years ago. But here I shall allow you to be my servant."
"I should be most happy - delighted to be of any service - a p-pleasure, I assure you."
"Peace! You talk far too much. Listen to your first task. I see we are in a large city. Procure for me at once a chariot or a flying carpet or a well-trained dragon, or whatever is usual for royal and noble persons in your land. Then bring me to places where I can get clothes and jewels and slaves fit for my rank. Tomorrow I will begin the conquest of the world."
"I - I - I'll go and order a cab at once," gasped Uncle Andrew.
"Stop," said the Witch, just as he reached the door. "Do not dream of treachery. My eyes can see through walls and into the minds of men. They will be on you wherever you go. At the first sign of disobedience I will lay such spells on you that anything you sit down on will feel like red hot iron and whenever you lie in a bed there will be invisible blocks of ice at your feet. Now go."