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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."

 

第七章 在海狸家里的一天

 

正当两个男孩在后面低声谈话的时候,两个女孩突然“啊”地一声停住了脚步。“知更鸟,”茜喊道,“知更鸟飞走啦!”它真的飞走了,一点踪影也看不见了。

“现在我们怎么办?”爱德蒙说,他看了彼得一眼,意思是说:“我是怎么警告你的?我说得不错吧!”

“嘘,你们看!”苏珊说。

“什么?”彼得问。

“那儿靠左边点儿,树林中有什么东西在动。”

他们拼命睁大眼睛搜索,看得眼睛都感到有点难受。

过了一会儿,苏珊说:“瞧,它又动起来了。”

“这次我也看到了,”彼得说,“它还在那儿,这会儿跑到那棵大树后面去了。”

“那是什么东西呀?”露茜问道,她竭力装出不害怕的样子。

“谁知道它是什么?”彼得说,“它老是躲着我们,就怕被人看见。”

“我们回去吧。”苏珊说。这时,虽然谁也没有大声说出来,但每个人都突然意识到刚才爱德蒙低声对彼得讲起的困难,他们迷路了。

“它像什么样子呀?”露茜问。

“它是,它是一种动物。”苏珊说。过了一会儿,她又喊道:“你们快来看,快!它又出来啦!”

这一次他们都看清楚了,一张长满了络腮胡子的毛茸茸的脸,从一棵树后面探出来看着他们。但这一回它并没有立即缩回去,却用它的爪子对着嘴巴,就好像人们把手指头放在嘴唇上,示意别人安静下来的样子。然后它又消失了。孩子们都屏住呼吸,站在那儿。

过了一会儿,这个奇怪的动物又从那棵树后面出来。它向四周看了一下,好像害怕有人注意似的,向他们“嘘”了一声,并打着手势,招呼他们到它所在的那块密林中去,接着它又消失了。

“我知道它是什么。”彼得说,“它是海狸,我已看见了它的尾巴。”

“它要我们到那里去,”苏珊说,“它叫我们别做声。”

“这我知道。”彼得说,“问题是我们去还是不去?璐,你看怎么样?”

“我看这只海狸很老实。”露茜说。

“真的吗,我们是怎么知道的呢?”爱德蒙问。

“我们得冒一次险。”苏珊说,“我是说,老站在这儿没有用。我肚子饿了。”

这时,海狸又突然从树后探出头来,向他们诚恳地点头示意。

“来吧,”彼得说,“让我们试它一试。我们都靠紧点儿,如果海狸是敌人,我们就跟它干一仗。”

于是,孩子们紧靠在一起,朝着那棵树走过去,一直走到树后面海狸原先站的地方,但海狸却从那里又继续朝后退去了。它压低了嗓门用一种嘶哑的声音对他们说:“往里,再往里,到我这儿来,在外面有危险。”它把他们一直引到一个非常幽暗的地方。那里有四棵树紧挨在一起,树枝与树枝连成一片,雪落不到下面来,因而地上可以看见褐色的泥土和松针。他们到了这儿以后,海狸才开始和他们说话。

“你们是亚当的儿子和夏娃的女儿吗?”它问。

“是的。”彼得答道。

“嘘——”海狸说,“声音不要太大,即使在这儿,我们还是不够安全。”

“哎呀,你怕谁?”彼得说,“这里除了我们以外,再也没旁的人了。”

“这里有树。”海狸说,“它们老把耳朵竖着。它们当中绝大多数站在我们一边,但也有背叛我们倒向她那一边的,你们知道我说的是倒向谁吗?”它接连点了好几下头。

“要是说到两边的话,”爱德蒙说,“我们怎们知道你是朋友而不是敌人?”

“请你别见怪,海狸先生,”彼得解释说,“你看,我们彼此之间还不熟悉呢。”

“对,对,”海狸说,“我这里有一样纪念品。”说着,它就拿出一件白色的小东西。孩子们都惊讶地注视着。突然,露茜说道:“哦,这是我的手帕,是我送给可怜的图姆纳斯先生的。”

“不错,”海狸说,“我可怜的伙伴,他在被捕以前听到了风声,就把这手帕交给我,说如果他有什么意外,我就必须在这个地方与你们会面,并领你们到……”说到这里,海狸的声音低得听不见了。它非常神秘的向孩子们点点头,又向他们做了一下手势,叫他们尽量靠近它站着,以致孩子们的脸都碰到了它的胡子,感到痒痒的。它低声地补充说:

“据说阿斯兰正在活动,也许已经登陆了。”

现在,一种非常奇怪的现象发生了。这些孩子们和你一样,一点也不知道阿兰斯是谁。但海狸一提起阿兰斯,他们每个人身上就有一种异样的感觉。也许有时你在梦中碰到过类似的情况。往往你在白天听到一样新鲜事情,到了梦中,它的意义就大得非常出奇——不是导致一场可怕的噩梦,就是美好的无法用语言表达,使你终身难忘,巴不得能不断重温这个美梦。现在的情况就是这样。一听到阿兰斯的名字,每个孩子都感到心里有一样东西在跃动。爱德蒙感到有一种莫名其妙的恐惧,彼得感到突然变得无所畏惧了,苏珊感到有一种芬芳的气息和一首美妙动听的乐曲在她身旁荡漾,露茜呢,感到特别兴奋和喜悦,就像你在某一个早上醒来想到假期或夏季就要从今天开始时的心情一样。

“你谈谈图姆纳斯先生的情况吧。”露茜说,“他在哪儿?”

“嘘——”海狸说,“这儿还不是说话的地方,我必须带你们到一个可以交谈和吃饭的去处。”

现在除了爱德蒙以外,谁也不怀疑海狸了,每个人包括爱德蒙在内都很高兴听到“吃饭”这个词儿。所以,他们全都跟在这位新朋友后面急急忙忙地朝前走去了。海狸的速度快的令人吃惊,领着他们在森林里最浓密的地方走了一个多小时。正当大家感到疲惫不堪、饥饿难忍的时候,前面的树木变得稀疏了,地面的坡度也变陡了。向下没走几步,他们就走出了树林。头顶上是晴朗蔚蓝的天空,太阳依旧照耀着,举目四望,冰清玉洁,风光如画。

他们现在站在一个又陡又狭的山谷边上,要不是封冻,谷底准会是一条汹涌澎湃的大河。就在他们脚下,有一条水坝穿河而过。他们一看见水坝,就猛地想到海狸很会筑坝,而且他们几乎可以肯定,脚下的这条水坝就是这位海狸先生筑的。他们也注意到,它的脸上露出一种特别谦虚的表情,就像你去参观人家的一个园地或阅读人家写的一本书时,你所看到的园丁或作者本人常有的那种表情一样。苏珊说:“这条水坝筑的多好啊!”海狸先生这一次没有说“别做声”,却连声说:“只不过是个小玩意儿!只不过是个小玩意儿!它还没有全部完成呢!”当然,海狸这样说只是出于惯常的礼貌。

在坝的上游一侧,原来是个很深的水池,而现在一眼看去却是一片平坦的暗绿色的冰池。坝的下游一侧要低得多,结的冰更多,但不像上游那样平滑,全部冻成了泡沫的形状,现出波浪起伏的样子,原来,在河流结冰以前,河水过坝以后就是这样飞奔而下,溅起无数的浪花。坝的一侧在原先漫水和过水的地方现在成了一堵闪闪发光的冰墙,上面好像挂满了许多晶莹洁白的鲜花、花环和花冠。在大坝的中间,有一间十分有趣的小屋,样子就像一个巨大的蜂箱,这时从屋顶的一个洞中正冒出炊烟。所以你一看到它,特别是在肚子饿得咕咕叫的时候,你就会立刻想到已经有什么东西煮在锅里了,肚子就会饿得更慌。

这些是其他三个孩子看到的主要情景,而爱德蒙却注意到了别的东西。顺着这条河流往下不远的地方,还有一条小河,它是从另外一个小山谷里流出来和这条大河汇合的。爱德蒙抬头向那个山谷望去,看见有两座小山,他几乎能肯定,它们就是那天白女巫与他在灯柱那儿分别时指给他看的那两座小山。他想,那两座小山之间一定就是她的宫殿,离他大约只有一英里远,甚至还不到。他想起了土耳其软糖,想起了当国王(“我不知道彼得将会怎样喜欢这些东西呢?”他暗暗问自己),一个可怕的念头在他的头脑里产生了。

“我们马上就要到家啦,”海狸说,“看来我的太太正等着我们呢。好,我来带路,但是请大家小心点儿,不要滑倒。”

坝顶相当宽,上面完全可以走路,但是对人类来说,终究有些不便,因为上面覆盖着冰雪,另外,朝下看看,虽然结满了冰的水池是平坦的,但在另一侧,落差还很大,有些怕人。海狸先生领着他们成单行走到坝的中间。站在这里他们可以看到。沿着那条河流向上有一条很长的路,沿着河流向下也有一条很长的路。他们一到坝的中间,就到了那间小屋的门口了。

“我们回来啦,太太,”海狸先生说,“我找到他们了。他们就是亚当和夏娃的儿女。”说着,把他们全让进了屋。

露茜走进屋,立刻听到一种“咔嚓”“咔嚓”的声音,看到一个面容慈祥的海狸老妈妈。她嘴里咬着一根线,坐在角落里,正忙着踏缝纫机,那种“咔嚓”“咔嚓”的声音就是从缝纫机上发出来的。孩子们一进屋,她随即就把手中的活儿停了下来,起身迎接。

“终于把你们盼来啦!”她伸出两只满是皱纹的苍老的爪子说,“你们终于来啦!我做梦也没有想到我还能看到这一天!土豆煮在锅里,水壶已经响了,哎,海狸先生,你替我搞些鲜鱼回来才好哩!”

“行,我就去。”海狸先生说着,提了一个桶,就走出了屋子,彼得也跟着一起走了。他们越过结满冰的深池,来到一个地方,这里冰上有一个小窟窿,这是海狸每天用斧子凿开的。

海狸先生静悄悄地往洞边一坐(天这么冷,他似乎也不在乎),目不转睛地注视着洞里的河水,突然,他把爪子伸进水中,说时迟,那时快,它一下子就逮住了一条漂亮的鳟鱼①。就这样,他一连逮到了许多好鱼。

在海狸和彼得出去捕鱼的时候,两个女孩子帮助海狸太太把水壶灌满,收拾吃饭桌子,切面包,热菜,又从屋角的一个桶中替海狸先生舀出一大杯啤酒。最后,他们把煎鱼的锅子放到炉子上,倒进油烧热。露茜认为,海狸夫妇的家虽然完全不像图姆纳斯先生的窑洞,却也非常小巧舒适。室内没有书,没有画,两个墙洞便是他们的床,看上去就像轮船上倚壁而设的地铺一样。屋顶下面挂着火腿和一串串的洋葱,靠墙放着胶靴、油布、斧子、羊毛剪、铲、泥刀、和其他运灰泥的工具,还有钓鱼竿、鱼网和鱼篓。桌上的台布虽然粗糙,却很干净。

正当油锅嘶嘶响的时候,彼得和海狸先生拎着鱼回来了,这些鱼海狸先生已经在外面用刀剖开洗净。你们一定能想象到现捕的鱼放在锅中煎的时候味道有多美,肚子饿得咕噜咕噜叫的孩子们又是多么希望它们早点煎好,而在海狸太太说“我们马上就开饭”以前,他们已是饿得十分厉害了。苏珊把土豆滤干后又把它们放回炉口的空锅里去烤,露茜帮海狸太太把鳟鱼盛进盘中。这样,不到几分钟,大家就把凳子摆好,准备吃饭了(海狸家里除了放在灶边供海狸太太坐的特制的摇椅以外,都是三条腿的凳子)。有一罐子牛奶专门给孩子们喝(海狸先生只喝啤酒),桌子中间放着一大块深黄色的奶油,吃土豆的时候,奶油由各人随意自取。孩子们都认为——我也同意他们的看法——当你吃着半小时以前还活着,半分钟以前从锅里盛出来的鱼时,是没有任何食品能够和它比美的。鱼吃完以后,海狸太太出乎大家意外地从炉子里拿出热气腾腾的黏糊糊的果酱卷儿。同时,把水壶移到炉子上。所以孩子们吃好果酱卷以后,茶就已经准备好了。孩子们喝了茶,又把凳子往后移动了一下,靠墙倚着,心满意足地舒了一口气。

“现在,”海狸先生把空啤酒杯往旁边一推,把茶杯拿到面前说:“请你们等我抽袋烟,好吗?不用说,我们现在可以着手干我们的事了。天又下起雪来啦,”他抬头望了望窗外继续说道,”这就更好了,雪一下,就不会有人来找我们了;另外,如果有人想跟踪你们的话,他也发现不了你们的任何足迹。”

①鳟鱼:背部淡青略带褐色,侧线下部银白色,全身有黑点。