INTO THE FOREST
“I wish the Macready would hurry up and take all these people away,” said Susan presently, “I’m getting horribly cramped.”
“And what a filthy smell of camphor!” said Edmund.
“I expect the pockets of these coats are full of it,” said Susan, “to keep away the moths.”
“There’s something sticking into my back,” said Peter.
“And isn’t it cold?” said Susan.
“Now that you mention it, it is cold,” said Peter, “and hang it all, it’s wet too. What’s the matter with this place? I’m sitting on something wet. It’s getting wetter every minute.” He struggled to his feet.
“Let’s get out,” said Edmund, “they’ve gone.”
“O-o-oh!” said Susan suddenly, and everyone asked her what was the matter.
“I’m sitting against a tree,” said Susan, “and look! It’s getting light – over there.”
“By Jove, you’re right,” said Peter, “and look there – and there. It’s trees all round. And this wet stuff is snow. Why, I do believe we’ve got into Lucy’s wood after all.”
And now there was no mistaking it and all four children stood blinking in the daylight of a winter day. Behind them were coats hanging on pegs, in front of them were snow-covered trees.
Peter turned at once to Lucy.
“I apologize for not believing you,” he said, “I’m sorry. Will you shake hands?”
“Of course,” said Lucy, and did.
“And now,” said Susan, “what do we do next?”
“Do?” said Peter, “why, go and explore the wood, of course.”
“Ugh!” said Susan, stamping her feet, “it’s pretty cold. What about putting
on some of these coats?”
“They’re not ours,” said Peter doubtfully.
“I am sure nobody would mind,” said Susan; “it isn’t as if we wanted to take them out of the house; we shan’t take them even out of the wardrobe.”
“I never thought of that, Su,” said Peter. “Of course, now you put it that way, I see. No one could say you had bagged a coat as long as you leave it in the wardrobe where you found it. And I suppose this whole country is in the wardrobe.”
They immediately carried out Susan’s very sensible plan. The coats were rather too big for them so that they came down to their heels and looked more like royal robes than coats when they had put them on. But they all felt a good deal warmer and each thought the others looked better in their new get-up and more suitable to the landscape.
“We can pretend we are Arctic explorers,” said Lucy.
“This is going to be exciting enough without pretending,” said Peter, as he began leading the way forward into the forest. There were heavy darkish clouds overhead and it looked as if there might be more snow before night.
“I say,” began Edmund presently, “oughtn’t we to be bearing a bit more to the left, that is, if we are aiming for the lamp-post?” He had forgotten for the moment that he must pretend never to have been in the wood before. The moment the words were out of his mouth he realized that he had given himself away. Everyone stopped; everyone stared at him. Peter whistled.
“So you really were here,” he said, “that time Lu said she’d met you in here – and you made out she was telling lies.”
There was a dead silence. “Well, of all the poisonous little beasts – ” said Peter, and shrugged his shoulders and said no more. There seemed, indeed, no more to say, and presently the four resumed their journey; but Edmund was saying to himself, “I’ll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, selfsatisfied prigs.”
“Where are we going anyway?” said Susan, chiefly for the sake of changing the subject.
“I think Lu ought to be the leader,” said Peter; “goodness knows she deserves it. Where will you take us, Lu?