Sunday, December 11, 2011

Susan reads her story again

About a year after the rail way accident, rather less than more, Susan had a shock.

In the letterbox, there was a letter from the Kilns. I will quote only extracts from his letter and her letter back.

I have a problem. I have just been reading through some papers that Professor Kirke left behind. Among them, he seems to have noted down what you told him back in 1940. That is Peter, you, Edmund and Lucy. To me it seems very strange, as if you had been taken to another world or time, to a place called Narnia - unless you were making it up together. And he seems to have believed you did not. Now there is only one survivor among you, and that is you. Do you mind if I publish the story?

She took a breath. Professor Kirke's attitude was always one of the things she tried to forget, one of the things that made it harder than usual to say "it was just a game" - so, although he had been very gentle, reminding her of him was not so gentle.

We played a game. He might have been going dotty by then, or ... I don't know: anyway, if you want to publish it, I see no real problem. None of them can be taken to madhouses anymore, since, you know, since Professor Kirke was one of them, they died last year. In fact I see some real beauties in what we made up, so, if you like, it may be a reminder of my brother and sisters.

You may think I am going dotty because I speak of being taken to madhouses, but the fact is my brothers and sister came to believe it was real - as Professor Kirke did that once. But that must have been to humour them. Anyway, I am not afraid for myself, and the others have no longer any fears to face. If you are not afraid, it is not for me to stop your taking risks.

As a favour, would you mind giving the art work to Pauline Baynes? Edmund and Lucy so loved Farmer Giles of Ham, by your friend Tolkien, and her illustrations.

16 October she was at the line for books, and there it was, everyone reading. She had got an example herself in advance, but not opened it yet, just enjoyed the grey dustcover with a faun and an umbrella - Tumnus - on the spine, herself and Lucy riding on Aslan's back on the front, illustrations slightly coloured from black and whites, cream coloured backgrounds standing out as white from the grey, and two fauns clinging on to trees waving in the wind as Aslan flew by. Pauline Baynes hadn't disappointed her, but she hadn't dared actually open the book yet. She was watching the buyers. She was watching those who read with no little dread. Would they laugh out loud? That about not being afraid for herself was a lie. Would she go off a hook again and holler about "I won two battles at Beruna" and get into real trouble?

No. No-one she saw laughed as if reading a farce. Noone set out to call the author mad. And noone - thank God or Aslan or whatever there was to thank - had been speaking a word about searching for her or anyone else in the books. They seemed to think it was all a children's book, made up stuff. Now she would go home and see if she liked it as much as she had when she had been into it.

She went home to her apartment, having asked her boss for a day off. Kettle of tea? Done. Bread? Up from the bag, just cut it into perfect slices, rather thick than thin. Honey? She had been sent some from the country. Cake with icing? She made it yesterday. She had always been good at baking, but the time of grief had perfected her in it. Something different? Tumnus had not made pancakes, so she made those too yesterday. Now there would be pancakes and jam. How many times had Lucy been asking for the tea party of Tumnus, and how many times had they done it with one thing more or less or otherwise different. Back in those days.

Well, she had recommended it to the writer for beauty. Now she would see if it was beautiful. A sip of steaming hot, strong tea. Grammophone on for music. Open the book. She started, and she could not stop reading. Tea was cold in the cup - though she had taken a few sips while reading - before she could stop enough from reading to finish it in a very long draught. By then she was where she had accepted Narnia. She had passed through the wardrobe. She was reading how she upbraided Edmund. And it struck her, that after leaving Narnia, she had been doing a bit of the same thing that back then she accused Edmund of doing.

"Even a traitor may mend, I know one who did."

No, that is not in the book she was reading, that is in another book, which had not yet been written and published. But she could not help but recall the occasion. Archenland. Edmund talking about Rabadash. She made a decision: if among the papers of the late Professor Kirke that Clive Staples Lewis found a coherent account of the Calormene adventure, she would believe. Oh, no. That is not a test. Because it was I who told him. Well, if I told him, was it because I had seen it? Well, just push it off. Make it a better test: if there is any hint about her own Narnian dreams, she will believe again. But actually she was no longer in doubt.

I guess you know what happened in less than three years. We will have a peep forward to that date:

September 7th, 1953, she was a lot calmer before the bookshop. But she was not calm at all about opening the book. From the moment she set eyes on the jade coloured dust jacket with Puddleglum on the spine and the chair empty on the front, as Rilian would have seen it while being led there, and the black and white made some etching-like scratches on the chair making it look like the metal it was. It was the first story she knew nothing about. And yet she knew it. Yes, Rilian was exactly that prince she had seen in the dream. The one she had prayed for, if there was a God, anywhere able to hear it.

She cried loads of handkerchiefs wet. She did not touch the chocolate, nor eat, until the book was finished.

"So you heard my prayers, after all? You do exist?"

But whether she had concluded so before or not after trying to forget about the grace of Narni, is a more immediate matter. So let us get back to 1950.


Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Chronicle of Susan Pevensie
Click link for getting to conspectus of extant chapters.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

PS: The Kilns is the place in Heathington where Jack and Warnie were living.

If anyone is missing Joy and David and Douglas, they were not there yet.