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  • Home > C.S.Lewis > Chronicles of Narnia > The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Page 19)     
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader(Chronicles of Narnia #3) by C.S.Lewis
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    Then at last everyone understood.

    "Let me have a bucket, Rynelf," said Drinian.

    It was handed him and he lowered it and up it came again. The water shone in it like glass.

    "Perhaps your Majesty would like to taste it first," said Drinian to Caspian.

    The King took the bucket in both hands, raised it to his lips, sipped, then drank deeply and raised his head. His face was changed. Not only his eyes but everything about him seemed to be brighter.

    "Yes," he said, "it is sweet. That's real water, that. I'm not sure that it isn't going to kill me. But it is the death I would have chosen - if I'd known about it till now."

    "What do you mean?" asked Edmund.

    "It - it's like light more than anything else," said Caspian.

    "That is what it is," said Reepicheep. "Drinkable light. We must be very near the end of the world now."

    There was a moment's silence and then Lucy knelt down on the deck and drank from the bucket.

    "It's the loveliest thing I have ever tasted," she said with a kind of gasp. "But oh - it's strong. We shan't need to eat anything now."

    And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it; and presently they began to notice another result. As I have said before, there had been too much light ever since they left the island of Ramandu - the sun too large (though not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now, the light grew no less - if anything, it increased - but they could bear it. They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before. And the deck and the sail and their own faces and bodies became brighter and brighter and every rope shone. And next morning, when the sun rose, now five or six times its old size, they stared hard into it and could see the very feathers of the birds that came flying from it.

    Hardly a word was spoken on board all that day, till about dinner-time (no one wanted any dinner, the water was enough for them) Drinian said:

    "I can't understand this. There is not a breath of wind. The sail hangs dead. The sea is as flat as a pond. And yet we drive on as fast as if there were a gale behind us."

    "I've been thinking that, too," said Caspian. "We must be caught in some strong current."

    "H'm," said Edmund. "That's not so nice if the World really has an edge and we're getting near it."

    "You mean," said Caspian, "that we might be just well, poured over it?"

    "Yes, yes," cried Reepicheep, clapping his paws together. "That's how I've always imagined it - the World like a great round table and the waters of all the oceans endlessly pouring over the edge. The ship will tip up stand on her head - for one moment we shall see over the edge - and then, down, down, the rush, the speed - "

    "And what do you think will be waiting for us at the bottom, eh?" said Drinian.

    "Aslan's country perhaps," said the Mouse, its eyes shining. "Or perhaps there isn't any bottom. Perhaps it goes down for ever and ever. But whatever it is, won't it be worth anything just to have looked for one moment beyond the edge of the world."

    "But look - here," said Eustace, "this is all rot. The world's round - I mean, round like a ball, not like a table."

    "Our world is," said Edmund. "But is this?"

    "Do you mean to say," asked Caspian, "that you three come from a round world (round like a ball) and you've never told me! It's really too bad of you. Because we have fairy-tales in which there are round worlds and I always loved them. I never believed there were any real ones. But I've always wished there were and I've always longed to live in one. Oh, I'd give anything - I wonder why you can get into our world and we never get into yours? If only I had the chance! It must be exciting to live on a thing like a ball. Have you ever been to the parts where people walk about upside-down?"

    Edmund shook his head. "And it isn't like that," he added. "There's nothing particularly exciting about a round world when you're there.

    CHAPTER SIXTEEN

    THE VERY END OF THE WORLD

    REEPICHEEP was the only person on board besides Drinian and the two Pevensies who had noticed the Sea People. He had dived in at once when he saw the Sea King shaking his spear, for he regarded this as a sort of threat or challenge and wanted to have the matter out there and then. The excitement of discovering that the water was now fresh had distracted his attention, and before he remembered the Sea People again Lucy and Drinian had taken him aside and warned him not to mention what he had seen.

    As things turned out they need hardly have bothered, for by this time the Dawn Treader was gliding over a part of the sea which seemed to be uninhabited. No one except Lucy saw anything more of the People, and even she had only one short glimpse. All morning on the following day they sailed in fairly shallow water and the bottom was weedy. Just before midday Lucy saw a large shoal of fishes grazing on the weed. They were all eating steadily and all moving in the same direction. "Just like a flock of sheep," thought Lucy. Suddenly she saw a little Sea Girl of about her own age in the middle of them - a quiet, lonely-looking girl with a sort of crook in her hand. Lucy felt sure that this girl must be a shepherdess - or perhaps a fish-herdess and that the shoal was really a flock at pasture. Both the fishes and the girl were quite close to the surface. And just as the girl, gliding in the shallow water, and Lucy, leaning over the bulwark, came opposite to one another, the girl looked up and stared straight into Lucy's face. Neither could speak to the other and in a moment the Sea Girl dropped astern. But Lucy will never forget her face. It did not look frightened or angry like those of the other Sea People. Lucy had liked that girl and she felt certain the girl had liked her. In that one moment they had somehow become friends. There does not seem to be much chance of their meeting again in that world or any other. But if ever they do they will rush together with their hands held out.

    After that for many days, without wind in her shrouds or foam at her bows, across a waveless sea, the Dawn Treader glided smoothly east. Every day and every hour the light became more brilliant and still they could bear it. No one ate or slept and no one wanted to, but they drew buckets of dazzling water from the sea, stronger than wine and somehow wetter, more liquid, than ordinary water, and pledged one another silently in deep draughts of it. And one or two of the sailors who had been oldish men when the voyage began now grew younger every day. Everyone on board was filled with joy and excitement, but not an excitement that made one talk. The further they sailed the less they spoke, and then almost in a whisper. The stillness of that last sea laid hold on them.

    "My Lord," said Caspian to Drinian one day, "what do you see ahead?"

    "Sire," said Drinian, "I see whiteness. All along the horizon from north to south, as far as my eyes can reach."

    "That is what I see too," said Caspian, "and I cannot imagine what it is."

    "If we were in higher latitudes, your Majesty," said Drinian, "I would say it was ice. But it can't be that; not here. All the same, we'd better get men to the oars and hold the ship back against the current. Whatever the stuff is, we don't want to crash into it at this speed!"

    They did as Drinian said, and so continued to go slower and slower. The whiteness did not get any less mysterious as they - approached it. If it was land it must be a very strange land, for it seemed just as smooth as the water and on the same level with it. When they got very close to it Drinian put the helm hard over and turned the Dawn Treader south so that she was broadside on to the current and rowed a little way southward along the edge of the whiteness. In so doing they accidentally made the important discovery that the current was only about forty feet wide and the rest of the sea as still as a pond. This was good news for the crew, who had already begun to think that the return journey to Ramandu's land, rowing against stream all the way, would be pretty poor sport. (It also explained why the shepherd girl had dropped so quickly astern. She was not in the current. If she had been she would have been moving east at the same speed as the ship.)

    And still no one could make out what the white stuff was. Then the boat was lowered and it put off to investigate. Those who remained on the Dawn Treader could see that the boat pushed right in amidst the whiteness. Then they could hear the voices of the party in the boat clear across the still water) talking in a shrill and surprised way. Then there was a pause while Rynelf in the bows of the boat took a sounding; and when, after that, the boat came rowing back there seemed to be plenty of the white stuff inside her. Everyone crowded to the side to hear the news.

    "Lilies, your Majesty!" shouted Rynelf, standing up in the bows.

    "What did you say?" asked Caspian.

    "Blooming lilies, your Majesty," said Rynelf. "Same as in a pool or in a garden at home."

    "Look!" said Lucy, who was in the stern of the boat. She held up her wet arms full of white petals and broad flat leaves.

    "What's the depth, Rynelf?" asked Drinian.

    "That's the funny thing, Captain," said Rynelf. "It's still deep. Three and a half fathoms clear."

    "They can't be real lilies - not what we call lilies," said Eustace.

    Probably they were not, but they were very like them. And when, after some consultation, the Dawn Treader turned back into the current and began to glide eastward through the Lily Lake or the Silver Sea (they tried both these names but it was the Silver Sea that stuck and is now on Caspian's map) the strangest part of their travels began. Very soon the open sea which they were leaving was only a thin rim of blue on the western horizon. Whiteness, shot with faintest colour of gold, spread round them on every side, except just astern where their passage had thrust the lilies apart and left an open lane of water that shone like dark green glass. To look at, this last sea was very like the Arctic; and if their eyes had not by now grown as strong as eagles' the sun on all that whiteness - especially at early morning when the sun was hugest would have been unbearable. And every evening the same whiteness made the daylight last longer. There seemed no end to the lilies. Day after day from all those miles and leagues of flowers there rose a smell which Lucy found it very hard to describe; sweet - yes, but not at all sleepy or overpowering, a fresh, wild, lonely smell that seemed to get into your brain and make you feel that you could go up mountains at a run or wrestle with an elephant. She and Caspian said to one another, "I feel that I can't stand much more of this, yet I don't want it to stop."

    They took soundings very often but it was only several days later that the water became shallower. After that it went on getting shallower. There came a day when they had to row out of the current and feel their way forward at a snail's pace, rowing. And soon it was clear that the Dawn Treader could sail no further east. Indeed it was only by very clever handling that they saved her from grounding.

    "Lower the boat," cried Caspian, "and then call the men aft. I must speak to them."

    "What's he going to do?" whispered Eustace to Edmund. "There's a queer look in his eyes."

    "I think we probably all look the same," said Edmund.

    They joined Caspian on the poop and soon all the men were crowded together at the foot of the ladder to hear the King's speech. "Friends," said Caspian, "we have now fulfilled the quest on which you embarked. The seven lords are all accounted for and as Sir Reepicheep has sworn never to return, when you reach Ramandu's Land you will doubtless find the Lords Revilian and Argoz and Mavramorn awake. To you, my Lord Drinian, I entrust this ship, bidding you sail to Narnia with all the speed you may, and above all not to land on the Island of Deathwater. And instruct my regent, the Dwarf Trumpkin, to give to all these, my shipmates, the rewards I promised them. They have been earned well. And if I come not again it is my will that the Regent, and Master Cornelius, and Trufflehunter the Badger, and the Lord Drinian choose a King of Narnia with the consent - "

    "But, Sire," interrupted Drinian, "are you abdicating?"

    "I am going with Reepicheep to see the World's End," said Caspian.

    A low murmur of dismay ran through the sailors.

    "We will take the boat," said Caspian. "You will have no need of it in these gentle seas and you must build a new one in Ramandu's island. And now - "

    "Caspian," said Edmund suddenly and sternly, "you can't do this."

    "Most certainly," said Reepicheep, "his Majesty cannot."

    "No indeed," said Drinian.

    "Can't?" said Caspian sharply, looking for a moment not unlike his uncle Miraz.

    "Begging your Majesty's pardon," said Rynelf from the deck below, "but if one of us did the same it would be called deserting."

    "You presume too much on your long service, Rynelf," said Caspian.

    "No, Sire! He's perfectly right," said Drinian.

    "By the Mane of Aslan," said Caspian, "I had thought you were all my subjects here, not my schoolmasters."

    "I'm not," said Edmund, "and I say you can not do this."

    "Can't again," said Caspian. "What do you mean?"

    "If it please your Majesty, we mean shall not," said Reepicheep with a very low bow. "You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all your subjects, and especially with Trumpkin, if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person. And if your Majesty will not hear reason it will be the truest loyalty of every man on board to follow me in disarming and binding you till you come to your senses."

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