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.
"Safe?" said Mr Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
"I'm longing to see him," said Peter, "even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point."
"That's right, Son of Adam," said Mr Beaver, bringing his paw down on the table with a crash that made all the cups and saucers rattle. "And so you shall. Word has been sent that you are to meet him, tomorrow if you can, at the Stone Table.'
"Where's that?" said Lucy.
"I'll show you," said Mr Beaver. "It's down the river, a good step from here. I'll take you to it!"
"But meanwhile what about poor Mr Tumnus?" said Lucy.
"The quickest way you can help him is by going to meet Aslan," said Mr Beaver, "once he's with us, then we can begin doing things. Not that we don't need you too. For that's another of the old rhymes:
When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone
Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done.
So things must be drawing near their end now he's come and you've come. We've heard of Aslan coming into these parts before - long ago, nobody can say when. But there's never been any of your race here before."
"That's what I don't understand, Mr Beaver," said Peter, "I mean isn't the Witch herself human?"
"She'd like us to believe it," said Mr Beaver, "and it's on that that she bases her claim to be Queen. But she's no Daughter of Eve. She comes of your father Adam's" - (here Mr Beaver bowed) "your father Adam's first wife, her they called Lilith. And she was one of the Jinn. That's what she comes from on one side. And on the other she comes of the giants. No, no, there isn't a drop of real human blood in the Witch."
"That's why she's bad all through, Mr Beaver," said Mrs Beaver.
"True enough, Mrs Beaver," replied he, "there may be two views about humans (meaning no offence to the present company). But there's no two views about things that look like humans and aren't."
"I've known good Dwarfs," said Mrs Beaver.
"So've I, now you come to speak of it," said her husband, "but precious few, and they were the ones least like men. But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that's going to be human and isn't yet, or used to be human once and isn't now, or ought to be human and isn't, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet. And that's why the Witch is always on the lookout for any humans in Narnia. She's been watching for you this many a year, and if she knew there were four of you she'd be more dangerous still."
"What's that to do with it?" asked Peter.
"Because of another prophecy," said Mr Beaver. "Down at Cair Paravel - that's the castle on the sea coast down at the mouth of this river which ought to be the capital of the whole country if all was as it should be - down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones and it's a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit in those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch's reign but of her life, and that is why we had to be so cautious as we came along, for if she knew about you four, your lives wouldn't be worth a shake of my whiskers!"
All the children had been attending so hard to what Mr Beaver was telling them that they had noticed nothing else for a long time. Then during the moment of silence that followed his last remark, Lucy suddenly said:
"I say-where's Edmund?"
There was a dreadful pause, and then everyone began asking "Who saw him last? How long has he been missing? Is he outside? and then all rushed to the door and looked out. The snow was falling thickly and steadily, the green ice of the pool had vanished under a thick white blanket, and from where the little house stood in the centre of the dam you could hardly see either bank. Out they went, plunging well over their ankles into the soft new snow, and went round the house in every direction. "Edmund! Edmund!" they called till they were hoarse. But the silently falling snow seemed to muffle their voices and there was not even an echo in answer.
"How perfectly dreadful!" said Susan as they at last came back in despair. "Oh, how I wish we'd never come."
"What on earth are we to do, Mr Beaver?" said Peter.
"Do?" said Mr Beaver, who was already putting on his snow-boots, "do? We must be off at once. We haven't a moment to spare!"
"We'd better divide into four search parties," said Peter, "and all go in different directions. Whoever finds him must come back here at once and-"
"Search parties, Son of Adam?" said Mr Beaver; "what for?"
"Why, to look for Edmund, of course!"
"There's no point in looking for him," said Mr Beaver.
"What do you mean?" said Susan. "He can't be far away yet. And we've got to find him. What do you mean when you say there's no use looking for him?"
"The reason there's no use looking," said Mr Beaver, "is that we know already where he's gone!" Everyone stared in amazement. "Don't you understand?" said Mr Beaver. "He's gone to her, to the White Witch. He has betrayed us all."
"Oh, surely-oh, really!" said Susan, "he can't have done that."
"Can't he?" said Mr Beaver, looking very hard at the three children, and everything they wanted to say died on their lips, for each felt suddenly quite certain inside that this was exactly what Edmund had done.
"But will he know the way?" said Peter.
"Has he been in this country before?" asked Mr Beaver. "Has he ever been here alone?"
"Yes," said Lucy, almost in a whisper. "I'm afraid he has."
"And did he tell you what he'd done or who he'd met?"
"Well, no, he didn't," said Lucy.
"Then mark my words," said Mr Beaver, "he has already met the White Witch and joined her side, and been told where she lives. I didn't like to mention it before (he being your brother and all) but the moment I set eyes on that brother of yours I said to myself `Treacherous'. He had the look of one who has been with the Witch and eaten her food. You can always tell them if you've lived long in Narnia; something about their eyes."
"All the same," said Peter in a rather choking sort of voice, "we'll still have to go and look for him. He is our brother after all, even if he is rather a little beast. And he's only a kid."
"Go to the Witch's House?" said Mrs Beaver. "Don't you see that the only chance of saving either him or yourselves is to keep away from her?"
"How do you mean?" said Lucy.
"Why, all she wants is to get all four of you (she's thinking all the time of those four thrones at Cair Paravel). Once you were all four inside her House her job would be done - and there'd be four new statues in her collection before you'd had time to speak. But she'll keep him alive as long as he's the only one she's got, because she'll want to use him as a decoy; as bait to catch the rest of you with."
"Oh, can no one help us?" wailed Lucy.
"Only Aslan," said Mr Beaver, "we must go on and meet him. That's our only chance now."
"It seems to me, my dears," said Mrs Beaver, "that it is very important to know just when he slipped away. How much he can tell her depends on how much he heard. For instance, had we started talking of Aslan before he left? If not, then we may do very well, for she won't know that Aslan has come to Narnia, or that we are meeting him, and will be quite off her guard as far as that is concerned."
"I don't remember his being here when we were talking about Aslan - " began Peter, but Lucy interrupted him.
"Oh yes, he was," she said miserably; "don't you remember, it was he who asked whether the Witch couldn't turn Aslan into stone too?"
"So he did, by Jove," said Peter; "just the sort of thing he would say, too!"
"Worse and worse," said Mr Beaver, "and the next thing is this. Was he still here when I told you that the place for meeting Aslan was the Stone Table?"
And of course no one knew the answer to this question.
"Because, if he was," continued Mr Beaver, "then she'll simply sledge down in that direction and get between us and the Stone Table and catch us on our way down. In fact we shall be cut off from Aslan. "
"But that isn't what she'll do first," said Mrs Beaver, "not if I know her. The moment that Edmund tells her that we're all here she'll set out to catch us this very night, and if he's been gone about half an hour, she'll be here in about another twenty minutes."
"You're right, Mrs Beaver," said her husband, "we must all get away from here. There's not a moment to lose."