THE TRIUMPH OF THE WITCH
As soon as the Witch had gone Aslan said, “We must move from this place at once, it will be wanted for other purposes. We shall encamp tonight at the Fords of Beruna.
Of course everyone was dying to ask him how he had arranged matters with the witch; but his face was stern and everyone’s ears were still ringing with the sound of his roar and so nobody dared.
After a meal, which was taken in the open air on the hill-top (for the sun had got strong by now and dried the grass), they were busy for a while taking the pavilion down and packing things up. Before two o’clock they were on the march and set off in a northeasterly direction, walking at an easy pace for they had not far to go.
During the first part of the journey Aslan explained to Peter his plan of campaign. “As soon as she has finished her business in these parts,” he said, “the Witch and her crew will almost certainly fall back to her House and prepare for a siege. You may or may not be able to cut her off and prevent her from reaching it.” He then went on to outline two plans of battle – one for fighting the Witch and her people in the wood and another for assaulting her castle. And all the time he was advising Peter how to conduct the operations, saying things like, “You must put your Centaurs in such and such a place” or “You must post scouts to see that she doesn’t do so-and-so,” till at last Peter said,
“But you will be there yourself, Aslan.”
“I can give you no promise of that,” answered the Lion. And he continued giving Peter his instructions.
For the last part of the journey it was Susan and Lucy who saw most of him. He did not talk very much and seemed to them to be sad.
It was still afternoon when they came down to a place where the river valley had widened out and the river was broad and shallow. This
was the Fords of Beruna and Aslan gave orders to halt on this side of the water. But Peter said,
“Wouldn’t it be better to camp on the far side – for fear she should try a night attack or anything?”
Aslan, who seemed to have been thinking about something else, roused himself with a shake of his magnificent mane and said, “Eh? What’s that?” Peter said it all over again.
“No,” said Aslan in a dull voice, as if it didn’t matter. “No. She will not make an attack to-night.” And then he sighed deeply. But presently he added, “All the same it was well thought of. That is how a soldier ought to think. But it doesn’t really matter.” So they proceeded to pitch their camp.
Aslan’s mood affected everyone that evening. Peter was feeling uncomfortable too at the idea of fighting the battle on his own; the news that Aslan might not be there had come as a great shock to him. Supper that evening was a quiet meal. Everyone felt how different it had been last night or even that morning. It was as if the good times, having just begun, were already drawing to their end.
This feeling affected Susan so much that she couldn’t get to sleep when she went to bed. And after she had lain counting sheep and turning over and over she heard Lucy give a long sigh and turn over just beside her in the darkness.
“Can’t you get to sleep either?” said Susan.
“No,” said Lucy. “I thought you were asleep. I say, Susan!”
“I’ve a most Horrible feeling – as if something were hanging over us.”
“Have you? Because, as a matter of fact, so have I.”
“Something about Aslan,” said Lucy. “Either some dreadful thing is going to happen to him, or something dreadful that he’s going to do.”