Sunday, December 11, 2011

Splendour Hyaline - again

Ad ostendendam quandam veritatem ...

She remembered that event, a bright Indian Summers day a few weeks before the train accident. She was living in Oxford for a while back then. Another of these young men - not the one who envied the Dresden bomber, but another one - not quite the soldier he claimed to have been, or maybe that was precisely what he was, was saying he wanted to celebrate a battle memory.

Sure, she agreed.

They talked about this, they talked about that. They talked about an outing, and as he had wine and food and as she had a boat - a whitehall rowboat, actually, a gift by Lucy, who had called it Mary in the last minute - painted all white except the seats, oars and railing that were dark oak, three seats, a back seat, two oars, a painted name "Mary", which Lucy put there the day she gave it as a gift to her sister - they stepped in, took an oar each, rowed along the Cherwell upriver (it is better to row upriver while one is still fresh and downriver when one is tired), found an island.

So they landed on a lonely island. They started doing a fire on the ground. Potato salad was ripe for eating already, but they preferred waiting till they had sausages ready too. They put them on branches as boy scouts and girl guides do, and held the branches over the fire.

Some apples were ripe too. "Shall we take some roasted apple?"

"No thanks. I have tried them without sugar, that is not very good" - but she had never done that in England. The only memory that was there of it was Narnia, at that return to Cair Paravel, when they found the courtyard in ruins.

She had no time to think of it, because he was telling her a wonderful story from the war - made up or not, but it was great.

She got surprised when he claimed to have, on another occasion received the capitulation of some German soldiers walking up the fog.

Hey, wait a minute! That is what C S Lewis did back in WW-I!

- "I have been told that story by someone else, whom I know better and trust more."

- "Oh? Things like that do occur. Even if it is not often."

- "Shall we open the second bottle of wine?"

- "Do you really want to? I mean, the mood is so rich, we are so nice together, we can do without wine, for now!"

- "No, lemonade is finished."

- "So we can watch the sunset. We can watch the new moon rising."

- "Let's."

She had a funny feeling about standing close to him, and was beginning to suspect his motives. But she did not want to hurt him. He put his arm around her waist, she pushed it off.

- "Hey, everybody loves me baby! What is the matter with you?"

He said it as a joke, but it reminded her of a man in a turban who had tried to stop her return from Tashbaan.

- "I do not."

He looked at her.

- "Well, I am feeling lonely - darling!"

She heard a snarl in the R of darling.

- "And I am feeling in too much company."

Somehow this made him mad. She might have had a reputation of being loser than she was. Back then. Or he might have been periodically loosing his mind. Or he might have been without a girl for a time and getting impatient.

He lunged at her to pull her down. She drew out her whistle of the pocket and blew it loud. He was surprised, let her go to look around, and ... this was the chance she needed. She pushed her long nails onto his eyes, to make him recoil further, then slid out from under him, then kicked him where it hurts as well as cools down, and on top of that took an oar and hit him on the head.

She jumped, frightened at last as a stag, into the boat with the oar, it glode out of land, he was cursing as he rose, she took both oars, never mind the boat was rocking, and rowed away, while he staggered and fell.

She was so relieved she felt like crying.

- "Dear old splendour hyaline," she said as she felt like caressing the boat. It was to her that wonderful ship which had taken her out of Rabadash's clutches - found again. When she took land, far enough off the island, she did caress it.. She lay down in it and cried. And when she had cried enough, she rose out of the boat and looked again and really saw the name Mary. She felt like a bit of a joke and said in thankfulness but not without humour a verse she made up on the spot:

Hail thee Mary, full of grace:
was Aslan ever with thee?

And, as she was no Catholic, she did not quite know what a tremendous prayer she had touched on, but as she looked and remembered calling her (sailors always call boats "she") Splendour Hyaline, and as she remembered that Hyaline means "of glass", she recalled a comment between a Jew and a Christian in which the former said he did not believe the Virgin Birth, at least childbirth would have made Her no longer a virgin while the latter replied: Light doeth not break the Glass. Splendour Hyaline indeed!

Lucy had bought home a Madonna which she had on the wall. Wonder if she would have time to tell her this before the voyage? The trouble of being adults and having work is you have less time seing friends and family.

Yes, the Lion was once "with thee" - but what about calling Child Jesus a lion cub?

Someone had heard the whistle, he came blustering about: "can I help you Miss?"

- "Indeed, do keep me some company while that man over on that island is not too far away!"

- "Will do. Was he being rude?"

- "The least you could say was rude, yes."

- "Come in for a tea, will you?" His cheeks were ruddy, his face was roundish, he was not very tall, in his early fifties. As she looked around she saw they were standing next to a College. It was in fact Magdalen College.

And that is how she met Clive Staples Lewis. If she had had any kind of misgiving about his intentions, they vanished as she saw they were not alone. Tea was plentyful, so were scones and butter. Later the evening she found out that this was the man that had taken German's captive while they were just capitulating coming out of a fog. He had told Edmund and Lucy the story while they were talking to him (about their Voyage to the Sunrise of Narnia, though he did not dare tell Susan that).