CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE HEALING OF HARMS
WHEN Jill woke next morning and found herself in a cave, she thought for one horrid moment that she was back in the Underworld. But when she noticed that she was lying on a bed of heather with a furry mantle over her, and saw a cheery fire crackling (as if newly lit) on a stone hearth and, farther off, morning sunlight coming in through the cave’s mouth, she remembered all the happy truth. They had had a delightful supper, all crowded into that cave, in spite of being so sleepy before it was properly over. She had a vague impression of Dwarfs crowding round the fire with frying-pans rather bigger than themselves, and the hissing, and delicious smell of sausages, and more, and more, and more sausages. And not wretched sausages half full of bread and soya bean either, but real meaty, spicy ones, fat and piping hot and burst and just the tiniest bit burnt. And great mugs of frothy chocolate, and roast potatoes and roast chestnuts, and baked apples with raisins stuck in where the cores had been, and then ices just to freshen you up after all the hot things.
Jill sat up and looked around. Puddleglum and Eustace were lying not far away, both fast asleep.
“Hi, you two!” shouted Jill in a loud voice. “Aren’t you ever going to get up?”
“Shoo, shoo!” said a sleepy voice somewhere above her. “Time to be settling down. Have a good snooze, do, do. Don’t make a to-do. Tu-whoo!”
“Why, I do believe,” said Jill, glancing up at a white bundle of fluffy feathers which was perched on top of a grandfather clock in one corner of the cave, “I do believe it’s Glimfeather!”
“True, true,” whirred the Owl, lifting its head out from under its wing and opening one eye. “I came up with a message for the Prince at about two. The squirrels brought us the good news. Message for the Prince. He’s gone. You’re to follow too. Good-day -” and the head disappeared again.
As there seemed no further hope of getting any information from the Owl, Jill got up and began looking round for any chance of a wash and some breakfast. But almost at once a little Faun came trotting into the cave with a sharp click-clack of his goaty hoofs on the stone floor.
“Ah! You’ve woken up at last, Daughter of Eve,” he said. “Perhaps you’d better wake the Son of Adam. You’ve got to be off in a few minutes and two Centaurs have very kindly offered to let you ride on their backs down to Cair Paravel.” He added in a lower voice. “Of course, you realize it is a most special and unheard-of honour to be allowed to ride a Centaur. I don’t know that I ever heard of anyone doing it before. It wouldn’t do to keep them waiting.”
“Where’s the Prince?” was the first question of Eustace and Puddleglum as soon as they had been wakened.
“He’s gone down to meet the King, his father, at Cair Paravel,” answered the Faun, whose name was Orruns. “His Majesty’s ship is expected in harbour any moment. It seems that the King met Aslan – I don’t know whether it was in a vision or face to face – before he had sailed far, and Aslan turned him back and told him he would find his long-lost son awaiting him when he reached Narnia.”
Eustace was now up and he and Jill set about helping Orruns to get the breakfast. Puddleglum was told to stay in bed. A Centaur called Cloudbirth, a famous healer, or (as Orruns called it) a ‘leech’, was coming to see to his burnt foot.
“Ah!” said Puddleglum in a tone almost of contentment, “he’ll want to have the leg off at the knee, I shouldn’t wonder. You see if he doesn’t.” But he was quite glad to stay in bed.
Breakfast was scrambled eggs and toast and Eustace tackled it just as if he had not had a very large supper in the middle of the night.
“I say, Son of Adam,” said the Faun, looking with a certain awe at Eustace’s mouthfuls. “There’s no need to hurry quite so dreadfully as that. I don’t think the Centaurs have quite finished their breakfasts yet.”
“Then they must have got up very late,” said Eustace. “I bet it’s after ten o’clock.”
“Oh no,” said Orruns. “They got up before it was light.”
“Then they must have waited the dickens of a time for breakfast,” said Eustace.
“No, they didn’t,” said Orruns. “They began eating the minute they awoke.”
“Golly!” said Eustace. “Do they eat a very big breakfast?”
“Why, Son of Adam, don’t you understand? A Centaur has a man-stomach and a horse-stomach. And of course both want breakfast. So first of all he has porridge and pavenders and kidneys and bacon and omelette and cold ham and toast and marmalade and coffee and beer. And after that he attends to the horse part of himself by grazing for an hour or so and finishing up with a hot mash, some oats, and a bag of sugar. That’s why it’s such a serious thing to ask a Centaur to stay for the week-end. A very serious thing indeed.”
At that moment there was a sound of horse-hoofs tapping on rock from the mouth of the cave, and the children looked up. The two Centaurs, one with a black and one with a golden beard flowing over their magnificent bare chests, stood waiting for them, bending their heads a little so as to look into the cave. Then the children became very polite and finished their breakfast very quickly. No one thinks a Centaur funny when he sees it. They are solemn, majestic people, full of ancient wisdom which they learn from the stars, not easily made either merry or angry; but their anger is terrible as a tidal wave when it comes.
“Good-bye, dear Puddleglum,” said Jill, going over to the Marsh-wiggle’s bed. “I’m sorry we called you a wet blanket.”
“So’m I,” said Eustace. “You’ve been the best friend in the world.”
“And I do hope we’ll meet again,” added Jill.
“Not much chance of that, I should say,” replied Puddleglum. “1 don’t reckon I’m very likely to see my old wigwam again either. And that Prince – he’s a nice chap – but do you think he’s very strong? Constitution ruined with living underground, I shouldn’t wonder. Looks the sort that might go off any day.”
“Puddleglum!” said Jill. “You’re a regular old humbug. You sound as doleful as a funeral and I believe you’re perfectly happy. And you talk as if you were afraid of everything, when you’re really as brave as-as a lion.”
“Now, speaking of funerals,” began Puddleglum, but Jill, who heard the Centaurs tapping with their hoofs behind her, surprised him very much by flinging her arms round his thin neck and kissing his muddy-looking face, while Eustace wrung his hand. Then they both rushed away to the Centaurs, and the Marsh-wiggle, sinking back on his bed, remarked to himself, “Well, I wouldn’t have dreamt of her doing that. Even though I am a good-looking chap.”
To ride on a Centaur is, no doubt, a great honour (and except Jill and Eustace there is probably no one alive in the world today who has had it) but it is very uncomfortable. For no one who valued his life would suggest putting a saddle on a Centaur, and riding bare-back is no fun; especially if, like Eustace, you have never learned to ride at all. The Centaurs were very polite in a grave, gracious, grown-up kind of way, and as they cantered through the Narnian woods they spoke, without turning their heads, telling the children about the properties of herbs and roots, the influences of the planets, the nine names of Aslan with their meanings, and things of that sort. But however sore and jolted the two humans were, they would now give anything to have that journey over again: to see those glades and slopes sparkling with last night’s snow, to be met by rabbits and squirrels and birds that wished you good morning, to breathe again the air of Narnia and hear the voices of the Narnian trees.
They came down to the river, flowing bright and blue in winter sunshine, far below the last bridge (which is at the snug, red-roofed little town of Beruna) and were ferried across in a flat barge by the ferryman; or rather, by the ferry-wiggle, for it is Marsh-wiggles who do most of the watery and fishy kinds of work in Narnia. And when they had crossed they rode along the south bank of the river and presently came to Cair Paravel itself. And at the very moment of their arrival they saw that same bright ship which they had seen when they first set foot in Narnia, gliding up the river like a huge bird. All the court were once more assembled on the green between the castle and the quay to welcome King Caspian home again. Rilian, who had changed his black clothes and was now dressed in a scarlet cloak over silver mail, stood close to the water’s edge, bare-headed, to receive his father; and the Dwarf Trumpkin sat beside him in his little donkey-chair. The children saw there would be no chance of reaching the Prince through all that crowd, and, anyway, they now felt rather shy. So they asked the Centaurs if they might go on sitting on their backs a little longer and thus see everything over the heads of the courtiers. And the Centaurs said they might.
A flourish of silver trumpets came over the water from the ship’s deck: the sailors threw a rope; rats (Talking Rats, of course) and Marsh-wiggles made it fast ashore; and the ship was warped in. Musicians, hidden somewhere in the crowd, began to play solemn, triumphal music. And soon the King’s galleon was alongside and the Rats ran the gangway on board her.
Jill expected to see the old King come down it. But there appeared to be some hitch. A Lord with a pale face came ashore and knelt to the Prince and to Trumpkin. The three were talking with their heads close together for a few minutes, but no one could hear what they said. The music played on, but you could feel that everyone was becoming uneasy. Then four Knights, carrying something and going very slowly, appeared on deck. When they started to come down the gangway you could see what they were carrying: it was the old King on a bed, very pale and still. They set him down. The Prince knelt beside him and embraced him. They could see King Caspian raising his hand to bless his son. And everyone cheered, but it was a half-hearted cheer, for they all felt that something was going wrong. Then suddenly the King’s head fell back upon his pillows, the musicians stopped and there was a dead silence. The Prince, kneeling by the King’s bed, laid down his head upon it and wept.
There were whisperings and goings to and fro. Then Jill noticed that all who wore hats, bonnets, helmets, or hoods were taking them off – Eustace included. Then she heard a rustling and flapping noise up above the castle; when she looked she saw that the great banner with the golden Lion on it was being brought down to half-mast. And after that, slowly, mercilessly, with wailing strings and disconsolate blowing of horns, the music began again: this time, a tune to break your heart.
They both slipped off their Centaurs (who took no notice of them).
“I wish I was at home,” said Jill.
Eustace nodded, saying nothing, and bit his lip.
“I have come,” said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began at once to look pale and shadowy compared with him. And in less time than it takes to breathe Jill forgot about the dead King of Narnia and remembered only how she had made Eustace fall over the cliff, and how she had helped to muff nearly all the signs, and about all the snappings and quarrellings. And she wanted to say “I’m sorry” but she could not speak. Then the Lion drew them towards him with his eyes, and bent down and touched their pale faces with his tongue, and said:
“Think of that no more. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia.”
“Please, Aslan,” said Jill, “may we go home now?”
“Yes. I have come to bring you Home,” said Aslan. Then he opened his mouth wide and blew. But this time they had no sense of flying through the air: instead, it seemed that they remained still, and the wild breath of Aslan blew away the ship and the dead King and the castle and the snow and the winter sky. For all these things floated off into the air like wreaths of smoke, and suddenly they were standing in a great brightness of mid-summer sunshine, on smooth turf, among mighty trees, and beside a fair, fresh stream.
Then they saw that they were once more on the Mountain of Aslan, high up above and beyond the end of that world in which Narnia lies. But the strange thing was that the funeral music for King Caspian still went on, though no one could tell where it came from. They were walking beside the stream and the Lion went before them: and he became so beautiful, and the music so despairing, that Jill did not know which of them it was that filled her eyes with tears.
Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream. And there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long white beard swayed in it like water-weed. And all three stood and wept. Even the Lion wept: great Lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Earth would be if it was a single solid diamond. And Jill noticed that Eustace looked neither like a child crying, nor like a boy crying and wanting to hide it, but like a grownup crying. At least, that is the nearest she could get to it; but really, as she said, people don’t seem to have any particular ages on that mountain.
“Son of Adam,” said Aslan, “go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there, and bring it to me.”
Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier.
“Drive it into my paw, Son of Adam,” said Aslan, holding up his right fore-paw and spreading out the great pad towards Eustace.
“Must I?” said Eustace.
“Yes,” said Aslan.
Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion’s pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined.
And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King. At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to grey, and from grey to yellow, and got shorter and vanished altogether; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them – a very young man, or a boy. (But Jill couldn’t say which, because of people having no particular ages in Aslan’s country. Even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are most childish and the stupidest grown-ups who are most grownup.) And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a Lion.
At last Caspian turned to the others. He gave a great laugh of astonished joy.
“Why! Eustace!” he said. “Eustace! So you did reach the end of the world after all. What about my second-best sword that you broke on the sea-serpent?”
Eustace made a step towards him with both hands held out, but then drew back with a somewhat startled expression.
“Look here! I say,” he stammered. “It’s all very well. But aren’t you? – I mean didn’t you -?”
“Oh, don’t be such an ass,” said Caspian.
“But,” said Eustace, looking at Aslan. “Hasn’t he – er died?”
“Yes,” said the Lion in a very quiet voice, almost (Jill thought) as if he were laughing. “He has died. Most people have, you know. Even I have. There are very few who haven’t.”
“Oh,” said Caspian. “I see what’s bothering you. You think I’m a ghost, or some nonsense. But don’t you see? I would be that if I appeared in Narnia now: because I don’t belong there any more. But one can’t be a ghost in one’s own country. I might be a ghost if I got into your world. I don’t know. But I suppose it isn’t yours either, now you’re here.”
A great hope rose in the children’s hearts. But Aslan shook his shaggy head. “No, my dears,” he said. “When you meet me here again, you will have come to stay. But not now. You must go back to your own world for a while.”
“Sir,” said Caspian, “I’ve always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?”
“You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son,” said Aslan. “And you shall see their world – for five minutes of their time. It will take no longer for you to set things right there.” Then Aslan explained to Caspian what Jill and Eustace were going back to and all about Experiment House: he seemed to know it quite as well as they did.
“Daughter,” said Aslan to Jill, “pluck a switch off that bush.” She did; and as soon as it was in her hand it turned into a fine new riding crop.
“Now, Sons of Adam, draw your swords,” said Aslan. “But use only the flat, for it is cowards and children, not warriors, against whom 1 send you.”
“Are you coming with us, Aslan?” said Jill.
“They shall see only my back,” said Aslan.
He led them rapidly through the wood, and before they had gone many paces, the wall of Experiment House appcared before them. Then Aslan roared so that the sun shook in the sky and thirty feet of the wall fell down before them. They looked through the gap, down into the school shrubbery and on to the roof of the gym, all under the same dull autumn sky which they had seen before their adventures began. Aslan turned to Jill and Eustace and breathed upon them and touched their foreheads with his tongue. Then he lay down amid the gap he had made in the wall and turned his golden back to England, and his lordly face towards his own lands. At the same moment Jill saw figures whom she knew only too well running up through the laurels towards them. Most of the gang were there Adela Pennyfather and Cholmondely Major, Edith Winterblott, `Spotty’ Sorrier, big Bannister, and the two loathsome Garrett twins. But suddenly they stopped. Their faces changed, and all the meanness, conceit, cruelty, and sneakishness almost disappeared in one single expression of terror. For they saw the wall fallen down, and a lion as large as a young elephant lying in the gap, and three figures in glittering clothes with weapons in their hands rushing down upon them. For, with the strength of Aslan in them, Jill plied her crop on the girls and Caspian and Eustace plied the flats of their swords on the boys so well that in two minutes all the bullies were running like mad, crying out, `Murder! Fascists! Lions! It isn’t fair.’ And then the Head (who was, by the way, a woman) came running out to see what was happening. And when she saw the lion and the broken wall and Caspian and Jill and Eustace (whom she quite failed to recognize) she had hysterics and went back to the house and began ringing up the police with stories about a lion escaped from a circus, and escaped convicts who broke down walls and carried drawn swords. In the midst of all this fuss Jill and Eustace slipped quietly indoors and changed out of their bright clothes into ordinary things, and Caspian went back into his own world. And the wall, at Aslan’s word, was made whole again. When the police arrived and found no lion, no broken wall, and no convicts, and the Head behaving like a lunatic, there was an inquiry into the whole thing. And in the inquiry all sorts of things about Experiment House came out, and about ten people got expelled. After that, the Head’s friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn’t much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.
Eustace buried his fine clothes secretly one night in the school grounds, but Jill smuggled hers home and wore them at a fancy-dress ball next holidays. And from that day forth things changed for the better at Experiment House, and it became quite a good school. And Jill and Eustace were always friends.
But far off in Narnia, King Rilian buried his father, Caspian the Navigator, Tenth of that name, and mourned for him. He himself ruled Narnia well and the land was happy in his days, though Puddleglum (whose foot was as good as new in three weeks) often pointed out that bright mornings brought on wet afternoons, and that you couldn’t expect good times to last. The opening into the hillside was left open, and often in hot summer days the Narnians go in there with ships and lanterns and down to the water and sail to and fro, singing, on the cool, dark underground sea, telling each other stories of the cities that lie fathoms deep below. If ever you have the luck to go to Narnia yourself, do not forget to have a look at those caves.