"What's all this about, Ed?" said Peter.
And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story. Up to that moment Edmund had been feeling sick, and sulky, and annoyed with Lucy for being right, but he hadn't made up his mind what to do. When Peter suddenly asked him the question he decided all at once to do the meanest and most spiteful thing he could think of. He decided to let Lucy down.
"Tell us, Ed," said Susan.
And Edmund gave a very superior look as if he were far older than Lucy (there was really only a year's difference) and then a little snigger and said, "Oh, yes, Lucy and I have been playing - pretending that all her story about a country in the wardrobe is true. just for fun, of course. There's nothing there really."
Poor Lucy gave Edmund one look and rushed out of the room.
Edmund, who was becoming a nastier person every minute, thought that he had scored a great success, and went on at once to say, "There she goes again. What's the matter with her? That's the worst of young kids, they always -"
"Look here," said Peter, turning on him savagely, "shut up! You've been perfectly beastly to Lu ever since she started this nonsense about the wardrobe, and now you go playing games with her about it and setting her off again. I believe you did it simply out of spite."
"But it's all nonsense," said Edmund, very taken aback.
"Of course it's all nonsense," said Peter, "that's just the point. Lu was perfectly all right when we left home, but since we've been down here she seems to be either going queer in the head or else turning into a most frightful liar. But whichever it is, what good do you think you'll do by jeering and nagging at her one day and encouraging her the next?"
"I thought - I thought," said Edmund, but he couldn't think of anything to say.
"You didn't think anything at all," said Peter, "it's just spite. You've always liked being beastly to anyone smaller than yourself, we've seen that at school before now."
"Do stop it," said Susan, "it won't make things any better having a row between you two. Let's go and find Lucy."
It was not surprising that when they found Lucy, a good deal later, everyone could see that she had been crying. Nothing they could say to her made any difference. She stuck to her story and said:
"I don't care what you think, and I don't care what you say. You can tell the Professor or you can write to Mother or you can do anything you like. I know I've met a Faun in there and - I wish I'd stayed there and you are all beasts, beasts."
It was an unpleasant evening. Lucy was miserable and Edmund was beginning to feel that his plan wasn't working as well as he had expected. The two older ones were really beginning to think that Lucy was out of her mind. They stood in the passage talking about it in whispers long after she had gone to bed.
The result was the next morning they decided that they really would go and tell the whole thing to the Professor.
"He'll write to Father if he thinks there is really something wrong with Lu," said Peter, "it's getting beyond us."
So they went and knocked at the study door, and the Professor said "Come in," and got up and found chairs for them and said he was quite at their disposal. Then he sat listening to them with the tips of his fingers pressed together and never interrupting, till they had finished the whole story. After that he said nothing for quite a long time. Then he cleared his throat and said the last thing either of them expected:"How do you know," he asked, "that your sister's story is not true?"
"Oh, but -" began Susan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man's face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, "But Edmund said they had only been pretending."
"That is a point," said the Professor, "which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance - if you will excuse me for asking the question - does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?"
"That's just the funny thing about it, sir," said Peter. "Up till now, I'd have said Lucy every time."
"And what do you think, my dear?" said the Professor, turning to Susan.
"Well," said Susan, "in general, I'd say the same as Peter, but this couldn't be true - all this about the wood and the Faun."
"That is more than I know," said the Professor, "and a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed."
"We were afraid it mightn't even be lying," said Susan, "we thought there might be something wrong with Lucy."
"Madness, you mean?" said the Professor quite coolly. "Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad."
"But then," said Susan, and stopped. She had never dreamed that a grown-up would talk like the Professor and didn't know what to think.
"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth."
Susan looked at him very hard and was quite sure from the expression on his face that he was no making fun of them.
"But how could it be true, sir?" said Peter.
"Why do you say that?" asked the Professor.
"Well, for one thing," said Peter, "if it was true why doesn't everyone find this country every time they go to the wardrobe? I mean, there was nothing there when we looked; even Lucy didn't pretend the was."
"What has that to do with it?" said the Professor.
"Well, sir, if things are real, they're there all the time."
"Are they?" said the Professor, and Peter did'nt know quite what to say.
"But there was no time," said Susan. "Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours."
"That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true," said the Professor. "If there really a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know very little about it) - if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at a surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stay there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don't think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story."
"But do you really mean, sir," said Peter, "that there could be other worlds - all over the place, just round the corner - like that?"
"Nothing is more probable," said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, "I wonder what they do teach them at these schools."
"But what are we to do?" said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.
"My dear young lady," said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, "there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying."
"What's that?" said Susan.
"We might all try minding our own business," said he. And that was the end of that conversation.
After this things were a good deal better for Lucy. Peter saw to it that Edmund stopped jeering at her, and neither she nor anyone else felt inclined to talk about the wardrobe at all. It had become a rather alarming subject. And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to an end; but that was not to be.
This house of the Professor's - which even he knew so little about - was so old and famous that people from all over England used to come and ask permission to see over it. It was the sort of house that is mentioned in guide books and even in histories; and well it might be, for all manner of stories were told about it, some of them even stranger than the one I am telling you now. And when parties of sightseers arrived and asked to see the house, the Professor always gave them permission, and Mrs Macready, the housekeeper, showed them round, telling them about the pictures and the armour, and the rare books in the library. Mrs Macready was not fond of children, and did not like to be interrupted when she was telling visitors all the things she knew. She had said to Susan and Peter almost on the first morning (along with a good many other instructions), "And please remember you're to keep out of the way whenever I'm taking a party over the house."
"Just as if any of us would want to waste half the morning trailing round with a crowd of strange grown-ups!" said Edmund, and the other three thought the same. That was how the adventures began for the second time.
A few mornings later Peter and Edmund were looking at the suit of armour and wondering if they could take it to bits when the two girls rushed into the room and said, "Look out! Here comes the Macready and a whole gang with her."
"Sharp's the word," said Peter, and all four made off through the door at the far end of the room. But when they had got out into the Green Room and beyond it, into the Library, they suddenly heard voices ahead of them, and realized that Mrs Macready must be bringing her party of sightseers up the back stairs - instead of up the front stairs as they had expected. And after that - whether it was that they lost their heads, or that Mrs Macready was trying to catch them, or that some magic in the house had come to life and was chasing them into Narnia they seemed to find themselves being followed everywhere, until at last Susan said, "Oh bother those trippers! Here - let's get into the Wardrobe Room till they've passed. No one will follow us in there." But the moment they were inside they heard the voices in the passage - and then someone fumbling at the door - and then they saw the handle turning.
"Quick!" said Peter, "there's nowhere else," and flung open the wardrobe. All four of them bundled inside it and sat there, panting, in the dark. Peter held the door closed but did not shut it; for, of course, he remembered, as every sensible person does, that you should never never shut yourself up in a wardrobe.
INTO THE FOREST
"I wish the Macready would hurry up and take all these people away," said Susan presently, "I'm getting horribly cramped."
"And what a filthy smell of camphor!" said Edmund.
"I expect the pockets of these coats are full of it," said Susan, "to keep away the moths."
"There's something sticking into my back," said Peter.
"And isn't it cold?" said Susan.
"Now that you mention it, it is cold," said Peter, "and hang it all, it's wet too. What's the matter with this place? I'm sitting on something wet. It's getting wetter every minute." He struggled to his feet.
"Let's get out," said Edmund, "they've gone."
"O-o-oh!" said Susan suddenly, and everyone asked her what was the matter.
"I'm sitting against a tree," said Susan, "and look! It's getting light - over there."
"By Jove, you're right," said Peter, "and look there - and there. It's trees all round. And this wet stuff is snow. Why, I do believe we've got into Lucy's wood after all."
And now there was no mistaking it and all four children stood blinking in the daylight of a winter day. Behind them were coats hanging on pegs, in front of them were snow-covered trees.
Peter turned at once to Lucy."I apologize for not believing you," he said, "I'm sorry. Will you shake hands?"
"Of course," said Lucy, and did.
"And now," said Susan, "what do we do next?"
"Do?" said Peter, "why, go and explore the wood, of course."
"Ugh!" said Susan, stamping her feet, "it's pretty cold. What about putting on some of these coats?"
"They're not ours," said Peter doubtfully.
"I am sure nobody would mind," said Susan, "it isn't as if we wanted to take them out of the house; we shan't take them even out of the wardrobe."
"I never thought of that, Su," said Peter. "Of course, now you put it that way, I see. No one could say you had bagged a coat as long as you leave it in the wardrobe where you found it. And I suppose this whole country is in the wardrobe."
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.
"And what about Mr Tumnus," said Lucy, "where is he?"
"S-s-s-sh," said the Beaver, "not here. I must bring you where we can have a real talk and also dinner."
No one except Edmund felt any difficulty about trusting the beaver now, and everyone, including Edmund, was very glad to hear the word "dinner".
They therefore all hurried along behind their new friend who led them at a surprisingly quick pace, and always in the thickest parts of the forest, for over an hour. Everyone was feeling very tired and very hungry when suddenly the trees began to get thinner in front of them and the ground to fall steeply downhill. A minute later they came out under the open sky (the sun was still shining) and found themselves looking down on a fine sight.
They were standing on the edge of a steep, narrow valley at the bottom of which ran - at least it would have been running if it hadn't been frozen - a fairly large river. Just below them a dam had been built across this river, and when they saw it everyone suddenly remembered that of course beavers are always making dams and felt quite sure that Mr Beaver had made this one. They also noticed that he now had a sort of modest expression on his, face - the sort of look people have when you are visiting a garden they've made or reading a story they've written. So it was only common politeness when Susan said, "What a lovely dam!" And Mr Beaver didn't say "Hush" this time but "Merely a trifle! Merely a trifle! And it isn't really finished!"
Above the dam there was what ought to have been a deep pool but was now, of course, a level floor of dark green ice. And below the dam, much lower down, was more ice, but instead of being smooth this was all frozen into the foamy and wavy shapes in which the water had been rushing along at the very moment when the frost came. And where the water had been trickling over and spurting through the dam there was now a glittering wall of icicles, as if the side of the dam had been covered all over with flowers and wreaths and festoons of the purest sugar. And out in the middle, and partly on top of the dam was a funny little house shaped rather like an enormous beehive and from a hole in the roof smoke was going up, so that when you saw it (especially if you were hungry) you at once thought of cooking and became hungrier than you were before.
That was what the others chiefly noticed, but Edmund noticed something else. A little lower down the river there was another small river which came down another small valley to join it. And looking up that valley, Edmund could see two small hills, and he was almost sure they were the two hills which the White Witch had pointed out to him when he parted from her at the lamp-post that other day. And then between them, he thought, must be her palace, only a mile off or less. And he thought about Turkish Delight and about being a King ("And I wonder how Peter will like that?" he asked himself) and horrible ideas came into his head.
"Here we are," said Mr Beaver, "and it looks as if Mrs Beaver is expecting us. I'll lead the way. But be careful and don't slip."
The top of the dam was wide enough to walk on, though not (for humans) a very nice place to walk because it was covered with ice, and though the frozen pool was level with it on one side, there was a nasty drop to the lower river on the other. Along this route Mr Beaver led them in single file right out to the middle where they could look a long way up the river and a long way down it. And when they had reached the middle they were at the door of the house.
"Here we are, Mrs Beaver," said Mr Beaver, "I've found them. Here are the Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve - and they all went in."
The first thing Lucy noticed as she went in was a burring sound, and the first thing she saw was a kindlooking old she-beaver sitting in the corner with a thread in her mouth working busily at her sewing machine, and it was from it that the sound came. She stopped her work and got up as soon as the children came in.
"So you've come at last!" she said, holding out both her wrinkled old paws. "At last! To think that ever I should live to see this day! The potatoes are on boiling and the kettle's singing and I daresay, Mr Beaver, you'll get us some fish."
"That I will," said Mr Beaver, and he went out of the house (Peter went with him), and across the ice of the deep pool to where he had a little hole in the ice which he kept open every day with his hatchet. They took a pail with them. Mr Beaver sat down quietly at the edge of the hole (he didn't seem to mind it being so chilly), looked hard into it, then suddenly shot in his paw, and before you could say Jack Robinson had whisked out a beautiful trout. Then he did it all over again until they had a fine catch of fish.
Meanwhile the girls were helping Mrs Beaver to fill the kettle and lay the table and cut the bread and put the plates in the oven to heat and draw a huge jug of beer for Mr Beaver from a barrel which stood in one corner of the house, and to put on the frying-pan and get the dripping hot. Lucy thought the Beavers had a very snug little home though it was not at all like Mr Tumnus's cave. There were no books or pictures, and instead of beds there were bunks, like on board ship, built into the wall. And there were hams and strings of onions hanging from the roof, and against the walls were gum boots and oilskins and hatchets and pairs of shears and spades and trowels and things for carrying mortar in and fishing-rods and fishing-nets and sacks. And the cloth on the table, though very clean, was very rough.
Just as the frying-pan was nicely hissing Peter and Mr Beaver came in with the fish which Mr Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mr Beaver said, "Now we're nearly ready." Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back in the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the Beavers' house except for Mrs Beaver's own special rockingchair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought - and I agree with them - that there's nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle on to the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.
"And now," said Mr Beaver, pushing away his empty beer mug and pulling his cup of tea towards him, "if you'll just wait till I've got my pipe lit up and going nicely - why, now we can get to business. It's snowing again," he added, cocking his eye at the window. "That's all the better, because it means we shan't have any visitors; and if anyone should have been trying to follow you, why he won't find any tracks."
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER DINNER
"AND now," said Lucy, "do please tell us what's happened to Mr Tumnus."
"Ah, that's bad," said Mr Beaver, shaking his head. "That's a very, very bad business. There's no doubt he was taken off by the police. I got that from a bird who saw it done."
"But where's he been taken to?" asked Lucy.
"Well, they were heading northwards when they were last seen and we all know what that means."
"No, we don't," said Susan.
Mr Beaver shook his head in a very gloomy fashion."I'm afraid it means they were taking him to her House," he said.
"But what'll they do to him, Mr Beaver?" gasped Lucy.
"Well," said Mr Beaver, "you can't exactly say for sure. But there's not many taken in there that ever comes out again. Statues. All full of statues they say it is - in the courtyard and up the stairs and in the hall. People she's turned" - (he paused and shuddered) - "turned into stone."
"But, Mr Beaver," said Lucy, "can't we - I mean we must do something to save him. It's too dreadful and it's all on my account."
"I don't doubt you'd save him if you could, dearie," said Mrs Beaver, "but you've no chance of getting into that House against her will and ever coming out alive."
"Couldn't we have some stratagem?" said Peter. "I mean couldn't we dress up as something, or pretend to be - oh, pedlars or anything - or watch till she was gone out - or- oh, hang it all, there must be some way. This Faun saved my sister at his own risk, Mr Beaver. We can't just leave him to be - to be - to have that done to him."
"It's no good, Son of Adam," said Mr Beaver, "no good your trying, of all people. But now that Aslan is on the move-"
"Oh, yes! Tell us about Aslan!" said several voices at once; for once again that strange feeling - like the first signs of spring, like good news, had come over them.
"Who is Aslan?" asked Susan.
"Aslan?" said Mr Beaver. "Why, don't you know? He's the King. He's the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father's time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment. He'll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, that will save Mr Tumnus."
"She won't turn him into stone too?" said Edmund.
"Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!" answered Mr Beaver with a great laugh. "Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it'll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her. No, no. He'll put all to rights as it says in an old rhyme in these parts:
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
You'll understand when you see him."
"But shall we see him?" asked Susan.
"Why, Daughter of Eve, that's what I brought you here for. I'm to lead you where you shall meet him," said Mr Beaver.
"Is-is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.