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Aslan is Nearer

EDMUND meanwhile had been having a most disappointing time. When the dwarf had gone to get the sledge ready he expected that the Witch would start being nice to him, as she had been at their last meeting. But she said nothing at all. And when at last Edmund plucked up his courage to say, "Please, your Majesty, could I have some Turkish Delight? You - you - said -" she answered, "Silence, fool!" Then she appeared to change her mind and said, as if to herself, a "And yet it will not do to have the brat fainting on the way," and once more clapped her hands. Another, dwarf appeared.

"Bring the human creature food and drink," she said.

The dwarf went away and presently returned bringing an iron bowl with some water in it and an iron plate with a hunk of dry bread on it. He grinned in a repulsive manner as he set them down on the floor beside Edmund and said:

"Turkish Delight for the little Prince. Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"Take it away," said Edmund sulkily. "I don't want dry bread." But the Witch suddenly turned on him with such a terrible expression on her face that he, apologized and began to nibble at the bread, though, it was so stale he could hardly get it down.

"You may be glad enough of it before you taste bread again," said the Witch.

While he was still chewing away the first dwarf came back and announced that the sledge was ready. The White Witch rose and went out, ordering Edmund to go with her. The snow was again falling as they came into the courtyard, but she took no notice of that and made Edmund sit beside her on the sledge. But before they drove off she called Maugrim and he came bounding like an enormous dog to the side of the sledge.

"Take with you the swiftest of your wolves and go at once to the house of the Beavers," said the Witch, "and kill whatever you find there. If they are already gone, then make all speed to the Stone Table, but do not be seen. Wait for me there in hiding. I meanwhile must go many miles to the West before I find a place where I can drive across the river. You may overtake these humans before they reach the Stone Table. You will know what to do if you find them!"

"I hear and obey, O Queen," growled the Wolf, and immediately he shot away into the snow and darkness, as quickly as a horse can gallop. In a few minutes he had called another wolf and was with him down on the dam sniffing at the Beavers' house. But of course they found it empty. It would have been a dreadful thing for the Beavers and the children if the night had remained fine, for the wolves would then have been able to follow their trail - and ten to one would have overtaken them before they had got to the cave. But now that the snow had begun again the scent was cold and even the footprints were covered up.

Meanwhile the dwarf whipped up the reindeer, and the Witch and Edmund drove out under the archway and on and away into the darkness and the cold. This was a terrible journey for Edmund, who had no coat. Before they had been going quarter of an hour all the front of him was covered with snow - he soon stopped trying to shake it off because, as quickly as he did that, a new lot gathered, and he was so tired. Soon he was wet to the skin. And oh, how miserable he was! It didn't look now as if the Witch intended to make him a King. All the things he had said to make himself believe that she was good and kind and that her side was really the right side sounded to him silly now. He would have given anything to meet the others at this moment - even Peter! The only way to comfort himself now was to try to believe that the whole thing was a dream and that he might wake up at any moment. And as they went on, hour after hour, it did come to seem like a dream.

This lasted longer than I could describe even if I wrote pages and pages about it. But I will skip on to the time when the snow had stopped and the morning had come and they were racing along in the daylight. And still they went on and on, with no sound but the everlasting swish of the snow and the creaking of the reindeer's harness. And then at last the Witch said, "What have we here? Stop!" and they did.

How Edmund hoped she was going to say something about breakfast! But she had stopped for quite a different reason. A little way off at the foot of a tree sat a merry party, a squirrel and his wife with their children and two satyrs and a dwarf and an old dogfox, all on stools round a table. Edmund couldn't quite see what they were eating, but it smelled lovely and there seemed to be decorations of holly and he wasn't at all sure that he didn't see something like a plum pudding. At the moment when the sledge stopped, the Fox, who was obviously the oldest person present, had just risen to its feet, holding a glass in its right paw as if it was going to say something. But when the whole party saw the sledge stopping and who was in it, all the gaiety went out of their faces. The father squirrel stopped eating with his fork half-way to his mouth and one of the satyrs stopped with its fork actually in its mouth, and the baby squirrels squeaked with terror.

"What is the meaning of this?" asked the Witch Queen. Nobody answered.

"Speak, vermin!" she said again. "Or do you want my dwarf to find you a tongue with his whip? What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this selfindulgence? Where did you get all these things?"

"Please, your Majesty," said the Fox, "we were given them. And if I might make so bold as to drink your Majesty's very good health - "

"Who gave them to you?" said the Witch.

"F-F-F-Father Christmas," stammered the Fox.

"What?" roared the Witch, springing from the sledge and taking a few strides nearer to the terrified animals. "He has not been here! He cannot have been here! How dare you - but no. Say you have been lying and you shall even now be forgiven."

At that moment one of the young squirrels lost its head completely.

"He has - he has - he has!" it squeaked, beating its little spoon on the table. Edmund saw the Witch bite her lips so that a drop of blood appeared on her white cheek. Then she raised her wand. "Oh, don't, don't, please don't," shouted Edmund, but even while he was shouting she had waved her wand and instantly where the merry party had been there were only statues of creatures (one with its stone fork fixed forever half-way to its stone mouth) seated round a stone table on which there were stone plates and a stone plum pudding.

"As for you," said the Witch, giving Edmund a stunning blow on the face as she re-mounted the sledge, "let that teach you to ask favour for spies and traitors. Drive on!" And Edmund for the first time in this story felt sorry for someone besides himself. It seemed so pitiful to think of those little stone figures sitting there all the silent days and all the dark nights, year after year, till the moss grew on them and at last even their faces crumbled away.

Now they were steadily racing on again. And soon Edmund noticed that the snow which splashed against them as they rushed through it was much wetter than it had been all last night. At the same time he noticed that he was feeling much less cold. It was also becoming foggy. In fact every minute it grew foggier and warmer. And the sledge was not running nearly as well as it had been running up till now. At first he thought this was because the reindeer were tired, but soon he saw that that couldn't be the real reason. The sledge jerked, and skidded and kept on jolting as if it had struck against stones. And however the dwarf whipped the poor reindeer the sledge went slower and slower. There also seemed to be a curious noise all round them, but the noise of their driving and jolting and the dwarf's shouting at the reindeer prevented Edmund from hearing what it was, until suddenly the sledge stuck so fast that it wouldn't go on at all. When that happened there was a moment's silence. And in that silence Edmund could at last listen to the other noise properly. A strange, sweet, rustling, chattering noise - and yet not so strange, for he'd heard it before - if only he could remember where! Then all at once he did remember. It was the noise of running water. All round them though out of sight, there were streams, chattering, murmuring, bubbling, splashing and even (in the distance) roaring. And his heart gave a great leap (though he hardly knew why) when he realized that the frost was over. And much nearer there was a drip-drip-drip from the branches of all the trees. And then, as he looked at one tree he saw a great load of snow slide off it and for the first time since he had entered Narnia he saw the dark green of a fir tree. But he hadn't time to listen or watch any longer, for the Witch said:

"Don't sit staring, fool! Get out and help."

And of course Edmund had to obey. He stepped out into the snow - but it was really only slush by now - and began helping the dwarf to get the sledge out of the muddy hole it had got into. They got it out in the end, and by being very cruel to the reindeer the dwarf managed to get it on the move again, and they drove a little further. And now the snow was really melting in earnest and patches of green grass were beginning to appear in every direction. Unless you have looked at a world of snow as long as Edmund had been looking at it, you will hardly be able to imagine what a relief those green patches were after the endless white. Then the sledge stopped again.

"It's no good, your Majesty," said the dwarf. "We can't sledge in this thaw."

"Then we must walk," said the Witch.

"We shall never overtake them walking," growled the dwarf. "Not with the start they've got."

"Are you my councillor or my slave?" said the Witch. "Do as you're told. Tie the hands of the human creature behind it and keep hold of the end of the rope. And take your whip. And cut the harness of the reindeer; they'll find their own way home."

The dwarf obeyed, and in a few minutes Edmund found himself being forced to walk as fast as he could with his hands tied behind him. He kept on slipping in the slush and mud and wet grass, and every time he slipped the dwarf gave him a curse and sometimes a flick with the whip. The Witch walked behind the dwarf and kept on saying, "Faster! Faster!"

Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of spow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away altogether. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down on to the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the tree tops.

Soon there were more wonderful things happening. Coming suddenly round a corner into a glade of silver birch trees Edmund saw the ground covered in all directions with little yellow flowers - celandines. The noise of water grew louder. Presently they actually crossed a stream. Beyond it they found snowdrops growing.

"Mind your own business!" said the dwarf when he saw that Edmund had turned his head to look at them; and he gave the rope a vicious jerk.

But of course this didn't prevent Edmund from seeing. Only five minutes later he noticed a dozen crocuses growing round the foot of an old tree - gold and purple and white. Then came a sound even more delicious than the sound of the water. Close beside the path they were following a bird suddenly chirped from the branch of a tree. It was answered by the chuckle of another bird a little further off. And then, as if that had been a signal, there was chattering and chirruping in every direction, and then a moment of full song, and within five minutes the whole wood was ringing with birds' music, and wherever Edmund's eyes turned he saw birds alighting on branches, or sailing overhead or chasing one another or having their little quarrels or tidying up their feathers with their beaks.

"Faster! Faster!" said the Witch.

There was no trace of the fog now. The sky became bluer and bluer, and now there were white clouds hurrying across it from time to time. In the wide glades there were primroses. A light breeze sprang up which scattered drops of moisture from the swaying branches and carried cool, delicious scents against the faces of the travellers. The trees began to come fully alive. The larches and birches were covered with green, the laburnums with gold. Soon the beech trees had put forth their delicate, transparent leaves. As the travellers walked under them the light also became green. A bee buzzed across their path.

"This is no thaw," said the dwarf, suddenly stopping. "This is Spring. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan's doing."

"If either of you mention that name again," said the Witch, "he shall instantly be killed."

第十一章 阿斯兰快到了

爱德蒙在这段时间里却过得大失所望。小矮人去准备雪橇时,他本来希望妖婆会好好款待他,就像他们上次见面时那样。谁知她什么也没说。最后当爱德蒙鼓起勇气说,“请别见怪,陛下,能给我一些土耳其软糖吗?你——你——

说——”她回答说,“安静,笨蛋!”后来她又像改变主意了,仿佛自言自语地说,“让这个小崽子昏倒在路上总是不行的。”说着她又一次拍拍手,又来了一个小矮人。

“给这个人拿点吃喝的东西来。”她说。

小矮人走开了,不一会儿就拿来一只铁碗,里面盛了点水,还有一只铁盘子,上面放了一大块干面包。他把东西放在爱德蒙身边的地板上,还咧嘴一笑,那副神情实在令人厌恶,他说:

“小王子的土耳其软糖来了。哈!哈!哈!”

“把它拿走,”爱德蒙生气地说,“我不要吃干面包。”不料妖婆突然向他扑来,脸上的神情那么可怕,他只好赔个不是,一点点啃起那块面包来,可是面包太干,他简直咽不下

“在你再吃到面包之前,有这个吃你该高兴。”妖婆说。他还在那儿咬啊嚼啊,第一个小矮人已回来报告雪橇准备好了。白妖婆站起来就走,同时命令爱德蒙跟她一块儿去。他们走到院子里时,雪又下起来了,但她对此并不在意,还叫爱德蒙到雪橇上坐在她身边。临出发前她又招呼芬瑞斯·乌尔夫,它就像条大狗似的跳到雪橇旁边。

“你带上跑得最快的狼,马上到海狸家里去。”妖婆说,“你们在那儿不管找到什么,统统都杀掉。如果他们已经走了,那就全速赶到石桌去,但别给人看见。你们躲在那儿等着我。我得向西走好多英里,才找得到一个能驾雪橇过河的地方。你可以趁那些人没到达石桌前先赶上他们。要是找到了他们,你总知道该怎么干!”

“遵命,女王。”那只狼吼道,说着立刻飞奔到黑暗的雪地里,就像骏马腾空那么快。转眼工夫它又叫来一只狼,一起奔向堤坝,在海狸夫妇的房子里四处嗅闻。不过房子当然是空的。要是那天晚上天气一直很好,对海狸夫妇和孩子们倒是祸害了,因为狼会跟踪他们的足迹——十之八九在他们进洞以前就会赶上他们。但这会儿又开始下雪了,气味也淡了,连脚印也都给淹没了。

同时小矮人赶着驯鹿,跟妖婆和爱德蒙出了拱门,然后一路向黑暗的冰天雪地里驶去。对爱德蒙来说这可真是一次可怕的旅程,因为他没有大衣。他们走了还不到一刻钟,他面前就积满了雪—一会儿他就不再掸雪花了,因为尽管他掸得快,刚掸掉就又积起一堆来,而且他很累。不一会儿他就浑身湿透了。哦,他多惨啊。目前看来妖婆并不打算给他当国王了啊!他为了让自己相信她是好人,善心人,她这一边才是真正正义的一边,而对自己说过的种种话,如今听起来都是些蠢话了。他愿意放弃一切,这会儿就去找大家——甚至彼得!如今惟一能安慰他自己的办法就是尽量相信这整个事件是场梦,他随时会醒过来。他们走啊走啊,过了一个小时又一个小时,似乎真成为一场梦了。

这一路上花的时间长得很,哪怕我再写上多少页也写不完。不过我就跳过这一段,先说说这时雪停了,天亮了,他们在阳光下飞驶着。他们还在继续赶路,除了雪地上不断的嗖嗖声,驯鹿挽具的嘎吱声,什么声音也没有。最后,妖婆终于说:“我们看看这儿有什么?停下!”他们这才停下了。

爱德蒙多么希望她开口说说吃早饭的事!可是她停下来的理由却完全不同。离雪橇不远的一棵树下坐着快快乐乐的一伙:松鼠夫妇和孩子,还有两个森林神,一个小矮人.一只老雄狐,全都围着桌子坐在矮凳上。爱德蒙看不清他们在吃什么,不过味道闻起来真香,而且似乎还用了冬青做装饰,他简直不敢相信自己看见了葡萄干布丁之类的东西。雪橇停下时,那只狐狸,显然是在场年纪最老的,刚刚站起身来,右爪举起一只杯子,似乎要说些什么。但等这一伙看到雪橇停下,是谁乘在上头时,大家脸上的欢乐神情就全部消失了。松鼠爸爸的叉子举到嘴边,半途就停下不吃了。还有一个森林神嘴里含着叉子就停下了,松鼠娃娃都吓得吱吱叫。

“这是什么意思?”妖婆女王问道。没人回答。

“说呀,坏蛋,”她又说,“难道你们想要我的小矮人用鞭子叫你们开口吗?你们大吃大喝,铺张浪费,纵情欢乐,是什么意思?这一切东西你们究竟从哪儿弄来的?”

“你别见怪,陛下,”狐理说,“这些都是给我们的。请恕我冒昧,让我为陛下的健康干杯——”

“这些东西是谁给你们的?”妖婆问。

“圣诞老——老——老人。”狐狸结结巴巴地说。

“什么?”妖婆吼道,从雪橇上一跃而起,向那些受惊的动物走近几大步。“他没到这儿来过,他决不会到这儿来!你们竟敢——可是不。说你们是在说谎,那么就可以宽恕你们。”

这时一只小松鼠竟然完全昏了头。

“他来过了——他来过了——他来过了!”一面吱吱叫着,一面用小匙敲桌子。

爱德蒙看见妖婆咬咬嘴唇,雪白的脸蛋上沁出一滴血。接着她举起了魔杖。

“哦,别,别,请不要。”爱德蒙叫道,但就在他大声喊叫时,她已经挥动了魔杖,刚才一群动物欢宴的地方,立刻出现了一个个动物的石像(其中一只就永远举着石叉凝固在离嘴一半的地方),围坐在一张石桌前,桌上是石盘和石头的葡萄干布丁。

“至于你,”妖婆说,重新坐上雪橇时给了他一下耳光,打得他昏头昏脑,“这就是你替奸细和叛徒求情的教训。上路!”在这个故事中爱德蒙还是第一次为别人感到难过呢。想到那些小小的石像就此坐在那儿度过寂静的白天、黑暗的夜晚,日复一日,年复一年,直到身上长满苔藓,最后甚至脸部也会分解,这似乎太可怜了。

这会儿他们又稳稳地飞驶向前。不久爱德蒙就注意到他们冲过去时溅起的雪比昨晚湿多了。同时他也注意到自己已经不大觉得冷了。天变得雾蒙蒙的。事实上,雾气越来越浓,天也越来越暖和。雪橇也远远没有原来行驶得那么快了。开头,他以为这是因为拉雪橇的驯鹿累了,但不久他就看出这不是真正的原因。雪橇猛地一动,朝边上滑去,还不断颠簸,就像撞上了石头。尽管小矮人鞭打可怜的驯鹿,雪橇还是越来越慢。他们周围似乎还有种怪异的声音,但雪橇行驶和颠簸的声音,加上小矮人吆喝驯鹿的声音,响得爱德蒙没法听清楚,直到后来雪橇突然困住了,寸步不能动弹。出了这事以后,一时四下寂静。爱德蒙总算能好好听一听那声音了。原来那是一种又奇特又可爱的沙沙声、潺潺声——

但毕竟也不算太奇特,因为他知道自己以前听见过这种声音——要是他想得起在哪儿听见的就好了!接着他突然想起来了。那是流水声。虽然看不见,但就在他们周围,那是小溪潺潺欢唱,水流淙淙,噗噗冒泡,水花四溅,甚至(远处)激流咆哮。等他明白严冬已过,他心头也猛地一跳(虽然他压根不知道为什么)。离他们更近的树木的枝干上都在滴滴答答地滴水。随后,当他看着一棵树时,他看见一大块积雪从树上滑落下来,这是他进入纳尼亚以来第一次看见一棵冷杉树的深绿色。但他没时间多听多看,因为妖婆说话了。

“别坐在那儿干瞪眼,笨蛋!来帮个忙。”

爱德蒙当然只好服从。他踩到雪地里——不过目前这儿都是成雪水了——开始帮小矮人把雪橇从陷进去的泥潭里拉出来。他们终于把雪橇拉了出来,小矮人对驯鹿十分凶狠,雪橇总算又动了,他们又走了一小段路。这会儿雪真的完全融化了,四面八方都出现了一小块一小块的绿草地。除非你也像爱德蒙那样长时间看着一片冰雪世界,否则很难想象看了无穷无尽的白雪之后,看到那一片片绿地,心情有多么欣慰。此时雪橇又停下了。

“不行啊,陛下,”小矮人说,“我们在融雪中没法驾雪橇。”

“那我们就得走。”妖婆说。

“走着去我们永远也赶不上他们,”小矮人咕哝道,“他们先走一步。”

“你是我的顾问还是我的奴隶啊!”妖婆说,“照我说的办。把这个人的手绑在身后,拉住绳子一头。再带上你的鞭子。把驯鹿的挽具割断,它们自己会找到路回家。”

小矮人服从命令,不一会儿爱德蒙就被反绑着双手,被迫尽快赶路。他不断滑倒在雪水中、泥浆里和湿草地上,每次他一滑倒,小矮人就骂他,有时还给他一鞭子。妖婆走在小矮人后面,嘴里不停地说:“快点!快点!”

块块绿地随时随刻都在变大,块块雪地都在缩小。随时随刻都有更多的树木脱下雪袍。不久,你无论朝哪儿看,白色都不见了,只见深绿的冷杉树,光秃秃的橡树那黑色多刺的树枝,以及山毛榉和榆树。接着薄雾由白色转为金色,一会儿就完全消失了。道道美妙的阳光射向森林的地面,从当头的树梢之间可以看到一片蓝天。

不久发生了更奇妙的事情。他们突然绕过一个拐角,来到一片银白色的白桦树林中的空地,爱德蒙看见空地上四面八方都开满了黄色的小花——白苣菜。水声更响了。不一会儿他们果真穿过了一条小河。他们还发现河边长出了雪莲花。

“少管闲事!”小矮人说,他看见爱德蒙扭头看花,就恶毒地用力拉拉绳子。

不过这当然阻止不了爱德蒙观看。只过了五分钟他就注意到一棵老树脚下长着十几朵藏红花——有金色的、紫色的和白色的。接着又传来了一种比水声更美妙的声音。在他们走的那条小路附近,一只鸟突然在树枝上吱吱叫了起来。不远处另一只鸟儿喳喳叫着回答。此后,仿佛听到信号似的,四面八方都唧唧喳喳叫个不停。一时间满耳都是鸟鸣声。不到五分钟,鸟的音乐响彻了整个树林,爱德蒙不论往哪儿看,都看得见一只只鸟儿或落在树枝上,或在空中飞翔,或喧闹不休。

“快点!快点!”妖婆说。

这会儿雾已经消失得无影无踪,天空变得越来越蓝,不时还有几片白云匆匆掠过。宽阔的林间空地上开着朵朵樱草花。一阵微风吹过,摇曳的树枝上露珠纷纷洒落,拂来清凉、美妙的香味。树木都开始活过来了。落叶松和白桦树披上了绿装,金莲花金光灿灿。不久山毛榉就长出了娇嫩、透明的叶子。行人在树下走过,光线也变成绿色的了。一只蜜蜂嗡嗡叫着穿过他们走的那条小径。

“这不是融雪,”小矮人说着突然停下,“这是春天。我们怎么办?说真的,你的冬天已经给赶跑了。这是阿斯兰干的。”

“如果你们有谁再提起那个名字,”妖婆说,“就叫他立刻送命。”