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.”