CHAPTER TEN: THE MAGICIAN’S BOOK
THE invisible people feasted their guests royally. It was very funny to see the plates and dishes coming to the table and not to see anyone carrying them. It would have been funny even if they had moved along level with the floor, as you would expect things to do in invisible hands. But they didn’t. They progressed up the long dining-hall in a series of bounds or jumps. At the highest point of each jump a dish would be about fifteen feet up in the air; then it would come down and stop quite suddenly about three feet from the floor. When the dish contained anything like soup or stew the result was rather disastrous.
“I’m beginning to feel very inquisitive about these people,” whispered Eustace to Edmund. “Do you think they’re human at all? More like huge grasshoppers or giant frogs, I should say.”
“It does look like it,” said Edmund. “But don’t put the idea of the grasshoppers into Lucy’s head. She’s not too keen on insects; especially big ones.”
The meal would have been pleasanter if it had not been so exceedingly messy, and also if the conversation had not consisted entirely of agreements. The invisible people agreed about everything. Indeed most of their remarks were the sort it would not be easy to disagree with: “What I always say is, when a chap’s hungry, he likes some victuals,” or “Getting dark now; always does at night,” or even “Ah, you’ve come over the water. Powerful wet stuff, ain’t it?” And Lucy could not help looking at the dark yawning entrance to the foot of the staircase – she could see it from where she sat – and wondering what she would find when she went up those stairs next morning. But it was a good meal otherwise, with mushroom soup and boiled chickens and hot boiled ham and gooseberries, redcurrants, curds, cream, milk, and mead. The others liked the mead but Eustace was sorry afterwards that he had drunk any.
When Lucy woke up next morning it was like waking up on the day of an examination or a day when you are going to the dentist. It was a lovely morning with bees buzzing in and out of her open window and the lawn outside looking very like somewhere in England. She got up and dressed and tried to talk and eat ordinarily at breakfast. Then, after being instructed by the Chief Voice about what she was to do upstairs, she bid goodbye to the others, said nothing, walked to the bottom of the stairs, and began going up them without once looking back.
It was quite light, that was one good thing. There was, indeed, a window straight ahead of her at the top of the first flight. As long as she was 9n that flight she could hear the tick-tock-tick-tock of a grandfather clock in the hall below. Then she came to the landing and had to turn to her left up the next flight; after that she couldn’t hear the clock any more.
Now she had come to the top of the stairs. Lucy looked and saw a long, wide passage with a large window at the far end. Apparently the passage ran the whole length of the house. It was carved and panelled and carpeted and very many doors opened off it on each side. She stood still and couldn’t hear the squeak of a mouse, or the buzzing of a fly, or the swaying of a curtain, or anything – except the beating of her own heart.
“The last doorway on the left,” she said to herself. It did seem a bit hard that it should be the last. To reach it she would have to walk
past room after room. And in any room there might be the magician – asleep, or awake, or invisible, or even dead. But it wouldn’t do to think about that. She set out on her journey. The carpet was so thick that her feet made no noise.
“There’s nothing whatever to be afraid of yet,” Lucy told herself. And certainly it was a quiet, sunlit passage; perhaps a bit too quiet. It would have been nicer if there had not been strange signs painted in scarlet on the doors twisty, complicated things which obviously had a meaning and it mightn’t be a very nice meaning either. It would have been nicer still if there weren’t those masks hanging on the wall. Not that they were exactly ugly – or not so very ugly – but the empty eye-holes did look queer, and if you let yourself you would soon start imagining that the masks were doing things as soon as your back was turned to them.
After about the sixth door she got her first real fright. For one second she felt almost certain that a wicked little bearded face had popped out of the wall and made a grimace at her. She forced herself to stop and look at it. And it was not a face at all. It was a little mirror just the size and shape of her own face, with hair on the top of it and a beard hanging down from it, so that when you looked in the mirror your own face fitted into the hair and beard and it looked as if they belonged to you. “I just caught my own reflection with the tail of my eye as I went past,” said Lucy to herself. “That was all it was. It’s quite harmless.” But she didn’t like the look of her own face with that hair and beard, and went on. (I don’t know what the Bearded Glass was for because I am not a magician.)
Before she reached the last door on the left, Lucy was beginning to wonder whether the corridor had grown longer since she began her journey and whether this was part of the magic of the house. But she got to it at last. And the door was open.
It was a large room with three big windows and it was lined from floor to ceiling with books; more books than Lucy had ever seen before, tiny little books, fat and dumpy books, and books bigger than any church Bible you have ever seen, all bound in leather and smelling old and learned and magical. But she knew from her instructions that she need not bother about any of these. For the Book, the Magic Book, was lying on a reading-desk in the very middle of the room. She saw she would have to read it standing (and anyway there were no chairs) and also that she would have to stand with her back to the door while she read it. So at once she turned to shut the door.
It wouldn’t shut.
Some people may disagree with Lucy about this, but I think she was quite right. She said she wouldn’t have minded if she could have shut the door, but that it was unpleasant to have to stand in a place like that with an open doorway right behind your back. I should have felt just the same. But there was nothing else to be done.
One thing that worried her a good deal was the size of the Book. The Chief Voice had not been able to give her any idea whereabouts in the Book the spell for making things visible came. He even seemed rather surprised at her asking. He expected her to begin at the beginning and go on till she came to it; obviously he had never thought that there was any other way of finding a place in a book. “But it might take me days and weeks!” said Lucy, looking at the huge volume, “and I feel already as if I’d been in this place for hours.”
She went up to the desk and laid her hand on the book; her fingers tingled when she touched it as if it were full of electricity. She tried to open it but couldn’t at first; this, however, was only because it was fastened by two leaden clasps, and when she had undone these it opened easily enough. And what a book it was!
It was written, not printed; written in a clear, even hand, with thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes, very large, easier than print, and so beautiful that Lucy stared at it for a whole minute and forgot about reading it. The paper was crisp and smooth and a nice smell came from it; and in the margins, and round the big coloured capital letters at the beginning of each spell, there were pictures.
There was no title page or title; the spells began straight away, and at first there was nothing very important in them. They were cures for warts (by washing your hands in moonlight in a silver basin) and toothache and cramp, and a spell for taking a swarm of bees. The picture of the man with toothache was so lifelike that it would have set your own teeth aching if you looked at it too long, and the golden bees which were dotted all round the fourth spell looked for a moment as if they were really flying.
Lucy could hardly tear herself away from that first page, but when she turned over, the next was just as interesting. “But I must get on,” she told herself. And on she went for about thirty pages which, if she could have remembered them, would have taught her how to find buried treasure, how to remember things forgotten, how to forget things you wanted to forget, how to tell whether anyone was speaking the truth, how to call up (or prevent) wind, fog, snow, sleet or rain, how to produce enchanted sleeps and how to give a man an ass’s head (as they did to poor Bottom). And the longer she read the more wonderful and more real the pictures became.
Then she came to a page which was such a blaze of pictures that one hardly noticed the writing. Hardly – but she did notice the first words. They were, An infallible spell to make beautiful her that uttereth it beyond the lot of mortals. Lucy peered at the pictures with her face close to the page, and though they had seemed crowded and muddlesome before, she found she could now see them quite clearly. The first was a picture of a girl standing at a reading-desk reading in a huge book. And the girl was dressed exactly like Lucy. In the next picture Lucy (for the girl in the picture was Lucy herself) was standing up with her mouth open and a rather terrible expression on her face, chanting or reciting something. In the third picture the beauty beyond the lot of mortals had come to her. It was strange, considering how small the pictures had looked at first, that the Lucy in the picture now seemed quite as big as the real Lucy; and they looked into each other’s eyes and the real Lucy looked away after a few minutes because she was dazzled by the beauty of the other Lucy; though she could still see a sort of likeness to herself in that beautiful face. And now the pictures came crowding on her thick and fast. She saw herself throned on high at a great tournament in Calormen and all the Kings of the world fought because of her beauty. After that it turned from tournaments to real wars, and all Narnia and Archenland, Telmar and Calormen, Galma and Terebinthia, were laid waste with the fury of the kings and dukes and great lords who fought for her favour. Then it changed and Lucy, still beautiful beyond the lot of mortals, was back in England. And Susan (who had always been the beauty of the family) came home from America. The Susan in the picture looked exactly like the real Susan only plainer and with a nasty expression. And Susan was jealous of the dazzling beauty of Lucy, but that didn’t matter a bit because no one cared anything about Susan now.
“I will say the spell,” said Lucy. “I don’t care. I will.”
She said I don’t care because she had a strong feeling that she mustn’t.
But when she looked back at the opening words of the spell, there in the middle of the writing, where she felt quite sure there had been no picture before, she found the great face of a lion, of The Lion, Aslan himself, staring into hers. It was painted such a bright gold that it seemed to be coming towards her out of the page; and indeed she never was quite sure afterwards that it hadn’t really moved a little. At any rate she knew the expression on his face quite well. He was growling and you could see most of his teeth. She became horribly afraid and turned over the page at once.
A little later she came to a spell which would let you know what your friends thought about you. Now Lucy had wanted very badly to try the other spell, the one that made you beautiful beyond the lot of mortals. So she felt that to make up for not having said it, she really would say this one. And all in a hurry, for fear her mind would change, she said the words (nothing will induce me to tell you what they were). Then she waited for something to happen.
As nothing happened she began looking at the pictures. And all at once she saw the very last thing she expected – a picture of a third-class carriage in a train, with two schoolgirls sitting in it. She knew them at once. They were Marjorie Preston and Anne Featherstone. Only now it was much more than a picture. It was alive. She could see the telegraph posts flicking past outside the window. Then gradually (like when the radio is “coming on”) she could hear what they were saying.
“Shall I see anything of you this term?” said Anne, “or are you still going to be all taken up with Lucy Pevensie. “
“Don’t know what you mean by taken up,” said Marjorie.
“Oh yes, you do,” said Anne. “You were crazy about her last term.”
“No, I wasn’t,” said Marjorie. “I’ve got more sense than that. Not a bad little kid in her way. But I was getting pretty tired of her before the end of term.”
“Well, you jolly well won’t have the chance any other term!” shouted Lucy. “Two-faced little beast.” But the sound of her own voice at once reminded her that she was talking to a picture and that the real Marjorie was far away in another world.
“Well,” said Lucy to herself, “I did think better of her than that. And I did all sorts of things for her last term, and I stuck to her when not many other girls would. And she knows it too. And to Anne Featherstone of all people! I wonder are all my friends the same? There are lots of other pictures. No. I won’t look at any more. I won’t, I won’t’ and with a great effort she turned over the page, but not before a large, angry tear had splashed on it.
On the next page she came to a spell “for the refreshment of the spirit’. The pictures were fewer here but very beautiful. And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. It went on for three pages and before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all. She was living in the story as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too. When she had got to the third page and come to the end, she said, “That is the loveliest story I’ve ever read or ever shall read in my whole life. Oh, I wish I could have gone on reading it for ten years. At least I’ll read it over again.”
But here part of the magic of the Book came into play. You couldn’t turn back. The right-hand pages, the ones ahead, could be turned; the left-hand pages could not.
“Oh, what a shame!” said Lucy. “I did so want to read it again. Well, at least I must remember it. Let’s see . . . it was about . . . about . . . oh dear, it’s all fading away again.
And even this last page is going blank. This is a very queer book. How can I have forgotten? It was about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill, I know that much. But I can’t remember and what shall I do?”
And she never could remember; and ever since that day what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.
She turned on and found to her surprise a page with no pictures at all; but the first words were A Spell to make hidden things visible. She read it through to make sure of all the hard words and then said it out loud. And she knew at once that it was working because as she spoke the colours came into the capital letters at the top of the page and the pictures began appearing in the margins. It was like when you hold to the fire something written in Invisible Ink and the writing gradually shows up; only instead of the dingy colour of lemon juice (which is the easiest Invisible Ink) this was all gold and blue and scarlet. They were odd pictures and contained many figures that Lucy did not much like the look of. And then she thought, “I suppose I’ve made everything visible, and not only the Thumpers. There might be lots of other invisible things hanging about a place like this. I’m not sure that I want to see them all.”
At that moment she heard soft, heavy footfalls coming along the corridor behind her; and of course she remembered what she had been told about the Magician walking in his bare feet and making no more noise than a cat. It is always better to turn round than to have anything creeping up behind your back. Lucy did so.
Then her face lit up till, for a moment (but of course she didn’t know it), she looked almost as beautiful as that other Lucy in the picture, and she ran forward with a little cry of delight and with her arms stretched out. For what stood in the doorway was Aslan himself, The Lion, the highest of all High Kings. And he was solid and real and warm and he let her kiss him and bury herself in his shining mane. And from the low, earthquake-like sound that came from inside him, Lucy even dared to think that he was purring.
“Oh, Aslan,” said she, “it was kind of you to come.”
“I have been here all the time,” said he, “but you have just made me visible.”
“Aslan!” said Lucy almost a little reproachfully. “Don’t make fun of me. As if anything 1 could do would make you visible!”
“It did,” said Aslan. “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?”
After a little pause he spoke again.
“Child,” he said, “I think you have been eavesdropping.”
“You listened to what your two schoolfellows were saying about you.”
“Oh that? I never thought that was eavesdropping, Aslan. Wasn’t it magic?”
“Spying on people by magic is the same as spying on them in any other way. And you have misjudged your friend. She is weak, but she loves you. She was afraid of the older girl and said what she does not mean.”
“I don’t think I’d ever be able to forget what I heard her say.”
“No, you won’t.”
“Oh dear,” said Lucy. “Have I spoiled everything? Do you mean we would have gone on being friends if it hadn’t been for this – and been really great friends – all our lives perhaps- and now we never shall.”
“Child,” said Aslan, “did I not explain to you once before that no one is ever told what would have happened?”
“Yes, Aslan, you did,” said Lucy. “I’m sorry. But please -“
“Speak on, dear heart.”
“Shall I ever be able to, read that story again; the one I couldn’t remember? Will you tell it to me, Aslan? Oh do, do, do.”
“Indeed, yes, I will tell it to you for years and years. But now, come. We must meet the master of this house.”