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.