THE HUNTING OF THE WHITE STAG
THE battle was all over a few minutes after their arrival. Most of the enemy had been killed in the first charge of Aslan and his – companions; and when those who were still living saw that the Witch was dead they either gave themselves up or took to flight. The next thing that Lucy knew was that Peter and Aslan were shaking hands. It was strange to her to see Peter looking as he looked now – his face was so pale and stern and he seemed so much older.
“It was all Edmund’s doing, Aslan,” Peter was saying. “We’d have been beaten if it hadn’t been for him. The Witch was turning our troops into stone right and left. But nothing would stop him. He fought his way through three ogres to where she was just turning one of your leopards into a statue. And when he reached her he had sense to bring his sword smashing down on her wand instead of trying to go for her directly and simply getting made a statue himself for his pains. That was the mistake all the rest were making. Once her wand was broken we began to have some chance – if we hadn’t lost so many already. He was terribly wounded. We must go and see him.”
They found Edmund in charge of Mrs Beaver a little way back from the fighting line. He was covered with blood, his mouth was open, and his face a nasty green colour.
“Quick, Lucy,” said Aslan.
And then, almost for the first time, Lucy remembered the precious cordial that had been given her for a Christmas present. Her hands trembled so much that she could hardly undo the stopper, but she managed it in the end and poured a few drops into her brother’s mouth.
“There are other people wounded,” said Aslan while she was still looking eagerly into Edmund’s pale face and wondering if the cordial would have any result.
“Yes, I know,” said Lucy crossly. “Wait a minute.”
“Daughter of Eve,” said Aslan in a graver voice, “others also are at the point of death. Must more people die for Edmund?”
“I’m sorry, Aslan,” said Lucy, getting up and going with him. And for the next half-hour they were busy – she attending to the wounded while he restored those who had been turned into stone. When at last she was free to come back to Edmund she found him standing on his feet and not only healed of his wounds but looking better than she had seen him look – oh, for ages; in fact ever since his first term at that horrid school which was where he had begun to go wrong. He had become his real old self again and could look you in the face. And there on the field of battle Aslan made him a knight.
“Does he know,” whispered Lucy to Susan, “what Aslan did for him? Does he know what the arrangement with the Witch really was?”
“Hush! No. Of course not,” said Susan.
“Oughtn’t he to be told?” said Lucy.
“Oh, surely not,” said Susan. “It would be too awful for him. Think how you’d feel if you were he.”
“All the same I think he ought to know,” said Lucy. But at that moment they were interrupted.
That night they slept where they were. How Aslan provided food for them all I don’t know; but somehow or other they found themselves all sitting down on the grass to a fine high tea at about eight o’clock. Next day they began marching eastward down the side of the great river. And the next day after that, at about teatime, they actually reached the mouth. The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of bluish-green waves breaking for ever and ever on the beach.