Categories > Books > Chronicles of Narnia

Polly and Digory Return

by Glenstorm63 0 reviews

Polly comes down to Dorset when she gets a strong feeling about Narnia. Her telegram about her impending arrival arrives only three days after the four Pevensie children come back out of the wardro...

Category: Chronicles of Narnia - Rating: G - Genres: Drama,Humor - Published: 2017-11-11 - 22050 words

0Unrated
I am eternally grateful to C.S.Lewis for creating such an inspiring and crisp vision of Narnia, with his erudite pen. Really, this intellectual property belongs to him and I'm just riding on his shoulders. Off we go!

Polly and Digory Return
Chapter 1: The Telegram



Ivy
There was a knock on the oaken door.

"Yes... Come in!".

Ivy's dark bob poked round the study door, her sharp white collar standing out against the simple black of her dress.

The Professor was behind his desk holding forth with two of the children.
Susan was sitting on the chaise sipping a hot drink of Bushell’s Coffee and Chicory from a jade glass mug.

Her hand was still raised in an expressive gesture and her chin tilted in a way that made Ivy think she was putting on airs. And her hair! Her raven hair was out of its staid plaits. Susan had a braid arranged around her head like a coronet and her long dark ringlets bundled fetchingly. It reminded Ivy of something she had seen on Ancient Greece in the house library. But on a twelve year old? Her brother Peter had just been using the poker on the fire. He stood up and inclined his head to Ivy and smiled like a debonair gentleman but he held the poker like a sword!

These children had been like insecure, blundering frightened chickens one day and the next they were well mannered, helpful and charming, but poised and well... alarming. They suddenly behaved like they had gone to finishing school for Shakespearean actors. They projected their voices, and used measured tones. They also used fancy archaic language. Sometimes Betty and Ivy couldn't quite understand them. Their speech was scattered with expressions such as "prithee", "fair sister", "mayhap" and "methinks". They made Ivy nervous.

"S-s-s-s-cuse me sir, but there's a wire arrived from London. The telegram boy just arrived".

"It's from your old friend Miss Plummer" she added coyly, her eyes rolling a little with innuendo.

Ivy noticed meaningful glances between Peter and Susan and the Professor. Was that a brief look of triumph on Susan's face and glee on Peter's, quickly masked?
Without being asked, Peter strode forward with a blank expression took the telegraph from Ivy's surprised hands, and smartly handed it to the Professor.

The professor said: "Thank you Ivy, that will be all. Ah, one moment. If you could possibly locate the younger Miss and Master Pevensie and ask them to attend on us in here as soon as may be, we would be very grateful. And perhaps another pot of the Coffee and Chicory and another of Cocoa, enough for another round for us all. I think we'll be at this for some time".

"Alright sir, anything else sir?"

It was Peter who spoke this time.

"Please provide our compliments to Margaret on those delicious ginger snaps she kindly provided earlier. I'm afraid we really have polished the others off. Now we are growing children again it's to be expected I suppose. But they are so reminiscent of the flavours of the South we indulged in years ago and are helping us remember a lot of things we need to talk about. Could we prevail upon the kitchen to bring us another plateful? We really shall be deeply in your debt".

Ivy's eyes boggled with questions about those particular cryptic statements.

When she fumbled for words, the Professor said "Just do your best Ivy".

"Alright sir. Just something I wanted to ask. The telegram boy has pedalled all the way out here and he's rather tired. We wondered if we might give him a hot drink and a biscuit too. He says he's one of the last with pedals. Next time he hopes it might be a Bantam Motorbike!", she added with some excitement.

"Of course Ivy. Is that all now?"

"Yes sir"

"Thank you!"

Ivy turned and fled.


Digory

Miss Plummer? They had just been composing a telegram to Polly Plummer at the very moment Ivy popped her head in the door!

Susan and Peter waited patiently for the Professor to gather himself and read the telegram. He read it out loud.

"Digs coming down blitz continues StJames a mess need break stop George & Elizabeth out meeting people just like Frank and Helen stop Strong feeling about you know where stop Wonderful and sad something happening sure of it stop Friday train three fifteen Polly stop"

Susan and Peter both gasped and went down on bended knee in unison facing the fire silently staring into the flames. No need for their telegram now.

Polly's yellow telegram was held in Professor Kirke's trembling hand whilst he considered recent events.

It was Thursday, three days since the children had tumbled back out of the wardrobe and nearly three weeks since they had first arrived.

First there had been the concern about young Lucy talking about a snowy forest in the Narnian Applewood wardrobe, then suddenly the lot of them were claiming they had all stayed there and actually RULED Narnia for years and years, become grown up and then returned an instant after they left, back in children's bodies. It was all logical really. The evidence was in front of his eyes. Now this!

Polly was already on her way. Usually the practical one, her intuition was clearly in full swing these days. Aslan was on the move.

Digory had almost wired Polly when the wild stories about the snowy wood surfaced. He had needed her advice then. Logic told him it could only be true, but he had held back to see what happened next. Well, no doubt about it, she would certainly learn a thing or two when she arrived now. Things had developed far beyond what he could have dreamed was possible. That Wardrobe was clearly an unmeasurable treasure.

In Professor Kirke's humble opinion, the four children were almost unrecognizable, at least in demeanour. The sense of loss and dislocation they had radiated upon arrival from London was similar, but they no longer were four vulnerable children teetering in the unknown, clutching at each other uncertainly. Their manners of speech were now extraordinary. They genuinely relied upon and trusted one another. They indeed seemed like an adult royal family in exile, albeit one from a bygone era!

They were clearly handling their recent losses with grace, although Peter's gaffe a moment ago about being growing children again, showed that they still needed help to make it all fall into place. He couldn't imagine what it must be like.

The three younger ones all confidently treated their elder brother with a mixture of respect, reverence and teasing familiarity. In turn, he was observably more mature in tone and manner, with an easy friendliness and charm. And he had a gift for inspiration and leadership. They all did in fact. But the others actively asked his opinion and he asked theirs in return, even when he made his own decisions. His directness of manner was disarming. He looked everyone in the eye with utter confidence.

The eldest girl had left behind the slightly churlish, strident manner of the child-mother towards her younger siblings and rival of the elder. She had relaxed into the role of equal and ally of all and with the two youngest so changed, the tone was of supporter, encourager and challenger.

Digory Kirke found to his delight that Susan's ability to apply both practical and philosophical logic almost rivalled his own and he longed for more discussions with her. It seemed that between herself and Edmund, they had dispensed justice on a monthly basis for fifteen years and had presided over cases as diverse as rape, burglary, theft, black-magic, abduction, forced servitude, dwarf unionisation, talking animal emancipation, vampirism, murder and embezzlement. Narnia had clearly not remained the land of hope and blissful peace he and Polly remembered, but it seemed that these four children had done much to restore it.

His own work was at an utter standstill. Almost as soon as the children had returned and broken their story, the rain stopped and the sun came out. He had taken to going on long rambles with them with his stick. He anticipated with awe every conversation.

As for the younger boy, the transformation was astounding. Instead of a stormy, grief-stricken, resentful and vengeful child, he had come back from Narnia full of grace, consideration and gravity. He seemed as if daily he was grateful to be alive and wanted to show it.

Of all the children he was the one who really seemed the most reconciled to being back. The love, concern and respect he showed his siblings as they faced the challenges of dislocation from Narnia and difficulties of being children again was inspiring. Indeed anyone who crossed his path was liable to get a dose of something, whether it was empathy, analysis or moral judgement.

Only this morning at breakfast, he had elucidated on the possible character flaws in the Deutsche leadership and people that they had come to behave so badly towards their own people and their neighbours. He sounded like a lawyer, a psychiatrist or a priest!

Betty had nearly dropped the plates and then he had asked if she needed any assistance.

And the little girl. Well... it would not be an exaggeration to say that she shone.
Digory knew that Mrs Macready had never been a lover of children and had seen her brace herself anxiously for the children's visit.

Only a tenday ago, when Lucy had fallen to pieces over not being believed about the wardrobe, Mrs. Macready had been rather overwhelmed by the shenanigans and found her worst fears about having children in the house were being confirmed. She had come and complained to him more than once and suggested they be billetted elsewhere.

But now the Professor knew that whenever Mrs Macready saw Lucy she would break into a smile and say how delightful it was to have her in the house. Even when Lucy skipped about, clattering up the stairs and bumping into historical artefacts, Mrs. Macready was completely unruffled. Lucy remained the most childlike of the four.

And astoundingly, all of the four were utterly able to shed tears of sorrow about their losses without a shred of embarassment and did so with uncomplicated naturalness. For the tears were like clearing showers and only served to highlight the general sunniness and nobility of the four. It was particularly noticeable in the boys because of the unusual dignity with which they handled it. There was no shame. They were all processing their grief and loss steadily, efficiently and without inhibition. Mrs. Macready was pleasantly surprised with their maturity. Professor Kirke was awed.


Ivy

Ivy, Margaret and Betty were confused.

"What's come over them four kids?" asked Betty. "Seems like just last week they was doin' their level best to be miserable and that little boy so mean and all!"

"Yes" said Margaret, "and now, they all four are so suave and pretty with their words and all-so-concerned for everyone. Sorry, but it fair sticks in me craw. S'all very nice and everything, but it's not normal".

"Wonder what they gointa say and do next? I come across that young boy in the stable s brushin down a horse, cryin' his 'eart out. He sees me and next minute he's laughing through his tears and saying it's all for the best!" added Betty.

"That young lady, look at 'er! Way she does 'er 'air. A fair slapper she's showin' 'erself to be, I reckon" said Ivy.

"Oooh, slap you! Yes fair sister, methinks the day will come when a sticky end to that one will come! Shouldn't bleedin' wonder!" chortled Margaret.

They went about their tasks and shared many a sly glance as they encountered the children over the days but they held their tongues and listened guilefully at breakfast and the evening meals.


Polly

Polly alighted onto the Maiden Newton Station platform and looked about expecting to see the dour housekeeper in the station yard, impatiently waiting for her to get herself and her things into the automobile. But there she was, smiling and waving and walking towards her as if they were best of friends, which they never had been. When Polly had come down to Dorset to stay with Digory, Mrs. Macready had been Miss Judith Sloane, the gamekeeper's daughter. They had tried to "get on" but Judith had never really trusted Polly, the girl from the big city. They had learned to tolerate each other.

Next to Mrs. Macready were two extraordinary girls. One looked only about 7 years old. She was the most brilliantly-grinned golden-child Polly had ever seen, positively brimming with enthusiasm and joy to see her. With her was a gracious taller girl of about 12 with unbound raven locks and the poise and queenly smile of a lady more than twice her age. It was she who spoke.

"Oh, Miss Plummer, it really is such a delight to meet you at last. My dear brothers and gentle sister and I have all been waiting with bated breath since we heard of your impending arrival yesterday! I'm Susan". It was not the speech of a 12 year old. She held out her hand, took Polly's hand gracefully and then actually curtseyed, with practiced grace and skill. It looked distinctly medieval.

It was a far cry from Polly's stolid tweed and sensible shoes approach to life, but she couldn't help smiling.

The other one skipped forward, bobbed her head slightly and grasped her hand, eyes twinkling with suppressed conspiracy. "I'm Lucy. To have finally met you after all this time!"

That was a little odd , but Polly couldn't help smiling back at her too. She said
"Well it is very good to be here. I decided I simply must come down to see the Professor. I just had a feeling about something and needed to talk to him. Time does fly. And I haven't seen either him or Mrs. Macready here for nearly three years."

Looking sharply and wonderingly at Mrs. Macready, she added, "So you did take some children from London then Judith. I am glad. Do this tired old museum and its staff the world of good I shouldn't wonder".

Mrs. Macready just shrugged smiled and winked broadly and gave her a warm hug and said, "So lovely to see you again Polly".

What had got into that woman?

The younger girl took Polly's enormous portmanteau, staggering under its weight. She looked nonplussed for a moment, laughed a little and said cryptically, "I am sorry, I keep forgetting I'm not as strong as I was Miss Plummer. Could you assist me dear sister?"

From Polly's point of view this one looked as strong and vigorous as any growing child she had ever seen, but she was obviously far too small and light for the big suitcase. Whatever could she be talking about?

Susan stepped in and between her and Lucy, they wrestled the suitcase down the platform ramp and up into the trunk of the black Vauxhall.

When they were all on their way, Polly in the front passenger seat, the younger child leaned forward and spoke in an undertone into Polly's left ear.

"You should know something Miss Plummer. The Professor has shared with us some extraordinary tales about his time living next door to you in London".

"Oh really, did he now?" Polly wondered what Digory could have been referring to. "Did it involve jumping into puddles and me getting into trouble and being sent to my room?"

"Indeed yes, and more besides. Mayhap I am being a little presumptuous to speak of this before we return to our fair accommodations, but I believe it also involved: some rings, a wood, a bell, a very tall lady and a journey to get an apple.

Polly stared forward thunderstruck. What was coming next?

She glanced warily at Judith Macready, but she was concentrating on avoiding potholes, her eyes fixed on the road and didn't seem to have heard a thing.

Susan leaned in from the other side. "We now have some extraordinary tales of our own you see Miss Plummer. Your unexpected arrival has come only days after our own... return, shall we say? We believe Aslan must have sent you to visit us for some purpose."

Polly swallowed a lump which arose in her throat at the sound of that name. The sea of tossing gold washed over and through her. She remembered once again the joy and reassurance that had sustained her through all the moments of doubt in her long life.

"Or for us to give you and the Professor a message of some kind" came in Lucy in her left ear again. "You may be pleased to know that the London Lamp Post is still burning".

Polly twisted around, looking through tears first at Susan, then Lucy. Their eyes also brimmed and their lips trembled.
Polly reached back and offered a hand and they hung on tightly. She now had some inkling of why she was here.



Polly and Dory Return
Chapter 2 - The Liniment


...
Polly

Polly should have been tired from the journey but she was alive with emotion.
It took three quarters of an hour to drive back to the estate along the rutted and pot-holed roads but she hardly noticed.

After the shared quiet tears, they fell into a brief respectful silence but after Polly was sufficiently recovered she decided to make small talk with Judith. It was good to see each other again. It was true... and a delight to see her face falling into unaccustomed smiles and brightness.

They laughed about some old memories and talked about the house tours which Judith obviously loved conducting. These brought in a little money, and helped pay the bills but with the war on and everyone rationing, there was less spare money about. Judith told her, as an aside, about how they were able to keep the third servant Betty for the time being because the children had arrived and Mr and Mrs Pevensie were paying a generous allowance. It meant there were another pair of hands to dust and polish the house exhibits and to plant or hoe an occasional row of vegetables in the Dig for Victory campaign, not to mention the extra laundry and cooking. Judith also remarked that Professor Kirke had begun to sell a few of the less spectacular but nevertheless valuable heirlooms to help fortify the household economy.

Bring on the end of this war, she thought grimly.

But then she reminded herself that she was here in the company of old friends and children again and had much to be thankful for. Children with whom she now knew she had more in common than visits to Dorset and the Kirke Family home.

Like Judith, she had never had children. Not because she had lost a first husband to the Great War and never remarried like Judith. It was simply that she was not the marrying kind. For Polly had found she preferred the social company of her own sex and a career that kept her mind active and engaged with the greater goings on in the world. There was rarely time for children in her life even though she adored their company. As for the fripperies of weddings and christenings, operatics and theatre concerts, costumery and the silly posturing at society season balls; she had a very low tolerance for them all.
As they drove through the gate and swept along the leafy drive, Polly's memories of those wonderful summer holidays flooded back.

The first time she had come to Dorset, was only a few months after Digory had first arrived himself. They had immediately dressed in old clothes and wellingtons and deliberately jumped in as many puddles as they could. There had been no Mrs Plummer to discipline her precious girl for getting wet and filthy. Far from being disappointed at the hard gravel or sticky mud a few inches down instead of deep shafts of light and shadows to other worlds, they had found the splashing and laughter and being immersed in the country released their imaginations, which flew them to many places with ease. Their wonder and joy had been in each other's vivid enjoyment of the world and the senses and the adventures they could create together.

Narnia's birth and Charn's implosion, were of a far greater order of wonder, but the connection their witnessing had forged between herself and Digory was a lifelong one, and sacred.

Polly had a wave of nostalgia as she recalled Digory's mother Mabel and even his father Alexander joining them in some of their singalongs, nature walks and mad explorations. At the time, Polly had found herself embraced by a small family which was so utterly unlike her own and so utterly satisfying that she came to realise that her smuggler's cave retreat in the attic was as much a place of escape from a stultifying childhood as a way to focus her imagination. She had come to realise after spending time in Dorset that she was a lonely child.

As told in The Magician's Nephew, Polly had indeed learned to swim and ride a horse here.
As they had become a little older, they had gone cross-country-riding to all sorts of places. Judith had sometimes joined them along with some other local young people.
That was where Judith Sloane had met Malcolm Macready, a dashing Scotsman who had come visiting family friends for the summer holidays. He was training to be an air pilot. They were married two years later up in Ayrshire and a few of the cross country riding crew had gone to for the event. Tragically, only a few years later, Malcolm was shot down over France in his Bristol Scout early in the Great War. Grief-stricken, Judith had returned to Dorset and gone to work in the great House for Mabel and Alexander Kirke. About 15 years ago, only a few years before their deaths, she had become its housekeeper.

Polly had initially become a nurse, but during the Great War had seen too much blood and gore and heard too many screams for a lifetime, so after the war, she had retrained in communications, first in telephony and later in Morse and other codes. It was quieter. She had recently helped break some German codes and had got herself a well earned break. Getting away from the sounds of sirens, planes and bombs was a blessed relief.

But here there was a new sensory alertness, a frisson of anticipation. It was quite different for instance, to the moment when she realised she had broken one of the Nazi's codes. That had been a kind of fierce joy tempered by grimness and great grief. This feeling was as if she could or was about to see, smell, hear, taste and touch just a little more clearly, more strongly than Polly had felt… for… well, a long time… since she was a child... since she had been in Narnia... and here on holidays.

And here she was. Polly had come home.

Judith Macready drove the car right up to the grand front steps and dropped them off.
"Polly, I've got you in your old room in the East Wing. I thought you'd like that" she said, leaning out the window a little. "I'm sure you can find your own way there. And you've got the girls to help you with your things, if you don't mind Susan and Lucy?"
She gave them all a wink and a tired smile. "I've got to oversee dinner. See you a bit later. It'll be in the back dining room at half past six on the dot. I'll try to send Betty up presently, to see if you need any help".

She clearly ran a tight ship. She disappeared with the Vauxhall off round the back to one of the converted stables.

Between the three, they managed to get Polly's suitcase up the front steps, through the hall and up the staircase and the top corridor. Turning left they deposited it in the third room in the East wing. There was the dear old floral counterpane and the lacy pillows. There was the same view out to the wooded hill, behind the house as always, side-lit by late afternoon sun. Then she noticed her old blue riding habit from when she was seventeen, hung from the brass clothes rack. It had been a gift from Digory. She doubted it would fit now. She had a tear in her eye which she dabbed with a handkerchief.

"Just a moment" Polly said. She walked to the door and closed it gently. Then, becoming quite business-like, she turned, then went and sat on the edge of the bed. She turned to Susan and Lucy and said in a low voice, "Now, from what you both said in the car earlier, you've both clearly been to Narnia too. Am I right in assuming that your two brothers also got there with you? I just want to be sure what we can and cannot talk about when we go in to see Digory, if your brothers are about."

"Indeed they did Miss Plummer." said Susan. "We have all four of us been talking with the Professor at nearly every spare moment in one combination or another. I'm sure he would appreciate some respite from our demands, for some private reflection now that you are here. We all need your advice I deem."

Polly wondered what advice she could give. But if the emotional exchange in the car was anything to go by, just some older womanly comfort might go a long way.

Lucy beamed tremulously at her. She said "Oh Miss Plummer, I'm so glad that you're here. Even if our own Mother was here we could not possibly tell her what has happened to us. Or if we did, she would think we were all going mad! We are so changed. I will love and adore Aslan forever, but ... this is so very hard."

She paused, her eyes now brimming with tears. Looking grave Polly held out her left arm. Lucy threw herself down and clinging to Polly, began to sob as if her heart would break.
Polly put her arm around her and just let her cry. She offered the other to Susan. Susan sat down gently and laid her head on Polly's right shoulder. Lucy's tears had quietened somewhat.

Susan said quietly, "It is very hard. The Professor has been wonderful and is doing all he can, but the servants here look at us like we've stepped out of an H.G. Wells novel. Also, Lucy and I have not had another woman to speak to about this. We know we can trust you. After all, Aslan sent you didn't he".

Sitting there pondering this impossible situation, Polly supposed he must have.
After a pause and a few sniffles and a dab of a handkerchief, they gathered themselves and went into the East Wing bathroom and freshened up using a little soap and cold water and a dab of Polly's Eau-de-Cologne.

Fortified by that, they found their way back to the front of the house and turned along the corridor until they found the Professor's study, which occupied one of the large bright South facing rooms over the front entrance.

They knocked and then entered. There was a mess of papers and books, and a plate with a few un-eaten sandwiches but no one in. Lucy picked up a sardine sandwich and sniffed. It reminded her of something, but what? She chewed on it thoughtfully. They heard the echo of voices coming through the adjoining door into the Library. It was ajar.

They walked quietly across looked into the magnificent Library, lined with books on three sides. Peter was far up the rolling ladder, retrieving books for the Professor from the top shelf. He stood at the base with a mahogany tray-mobile piled with books, keeping the ladder steady with Edmund.

"You said the vellum bound book with the silver lettering on the spine Tumn… ? Ahem, sorry Professor, I forgot where I was for a moment. I see it now, just a bit further to the right. It has a red silk marker?"

"Yes, that's the one".

"Perchance the ladder could be shifted another foot? My arms are so short these days. It is somewhat beyond my reach."

With some effort Edmund and the Professor rolled the ladder a little to the right and Peter triumphantly grasped the large book with one hand and came back down.
Polly and the girls waited patiently till Peter was down and the book on the tray-mobile, before they came forward.

"Allow us to introduce our Royal brothers. High King Peter, Lord of Cair Paravel and King Edmund, Duke of Lantern Waste", announced Lucy grandly. Edmund and Peter bowed.

Polly wavered slightly at all this ceremony and tried to not laugh. But Peter came forward, embraced Polly and standing on tiptoe, kissed her on the brow, saying "The Lion's breath be upon you". It was not Aslan himself, but to be kissed so sweetly, so welcomingly by another who had also met Aslan and held him in reverence meant a great deal.

Polly teared up again, realising there might be rather a lot of this kind of thing in coming days.

...
Betty
Just at that moment Betty popped her head in the main Library door, to see if her help was still needed. She blanched when she saw a 14 year old boy kiss a 60 year old woman on the forehead, as if in benediction, like a priest might kiss a supplicant.
She stepped backwards to escape from the scene but crashed into a bamboo what-not just inside the door. It held a potted Aspidistra and it couldn't help but wobble and begin to topple.

This provoked a terrified squawk from Betty who almost overbalanced herself, flailing ineffectually to prevent disaster.

She was not calmed when Susan leapt forwards, and with a graceful sliding lunge caught the heavy pot just in time. With her momentum Susan spun like a ballet dancer, plant held high, before depositing the whole plant gently back where it belonged, steadying the what-not deftly with her left foot.

Betty was gasping. Everyone else broke out into a round of clapping. Susan curtseyed briefly with good humour and took Betty's shaking hand, thanking her for preventing the stand falling too, saying, "It really could have happened to anyone Betty. I'm just glad I was close by and could help you out".

Betty's eyes bulged, awestruck. She knew Susan had been at least fifteen feet away and she had just done what? It had been accomplished faster than the eye could see.

...
Polly
"Oh, Bravo!" Polly knew a sportswoman when she saw one.
Suddenly Susan almost toppled herself, gasped and clung back on to Betty. The others gathered around concerned.

Peter stepped in and Susan lurched to lean on Peter, propped up by Edmund on her other side.

"Ooh my childish sinews are so unaccustomed to such trials" she groaned to all and sundry. "I haven't made a move like that since the hunt for the great boar, when young Orruns nearly got tusked."

She paused, her eyes glazing before laughing shakily, realising where she was. "Well, never mind when... Things cannot be helped now".

Lucy immediately began asking Betty what medicinal herbs were in the house and if there were any chance of fetching her some. "An unguent of Arnica, Calendula, and Narnian Freznie? Or perhaps a warm compress of Calormene Turmeric and Terebinthian Turpentine?" she said authoritatively, looking at both Betty and the Professor. Then her face crumpled in distress when she realised what she'd said.

The Professor coughed. "Just get the Rice's Liniment for Pain, Betty, if you would", he said. "In the medicine chest in the pantry from memory".

"Very good sir", said Betty, her voice quavering, before escaping the uncomfortable silence, her footsteps echoing away down the stairs.

"Nicely saved Digory" commented Polly quietly, who'd been taking it all in. "Beautiful piece of athletics there Susan, but it seems like you overstepped a limit of some kind? And what was that about childish sinews just now?"

"Well, I'm back in a child's body. We all are."

"It fair knocks the stuffing out of you to find the out the world around you has changed" said Edmund, "But to find that the very body you occupy has... lost all it… had..."
His voice trailed off as he looked at Polly anxiously.

Polly's eyes widened. It was finally going in. She marched over to the Library door and slammed it shut. The Aspidistra quivered. She turned around.

"Liniment be damned! She exclaimed. “You mean to tell me that you all went to Narnia and you grew up there?! And you ruled the place, for what… years?" she demanded.

They nodded glumly.

"How many?"

"At least f-f-f-fifteen. M-m-m-maybe more, we're not really sure... are we?" stammered Lucy.

"And now you're back and you're not adults anymore?! But that's horrible! What can Aslan have meant by it?... oh this really does bear some thinking. His purpose, his purpose!"
She paced about and stamped her foot.

Then she spun around. "And I suppose you're going to say it's all logical are you Digory?" Polly glared at him, eyes blazing.

The Professor just looked on, mild-mannered as ever. He smiled gently, looking at the children to see who might respond first.

"Why didn't you tell me this earlier Lucy and Susan!" she pleaded. They were both trembling. Someone was finally confronting the issue.

"Oh, never mind! So do you still feel like grown-ups? Or are you feeling like children again? You know, inside yourselves?"

"It comes in fits and starts Miss Plummer", said Susan, grimacing, as Peter and Edmund helped her to a seat back in the Professor's study. "On the way back in the automobile, I was really feeling like a twelve-year-old again. You know, a bit vulnerable, glad to have your older woman's protection and understanding and a little bit half-grown, feeling self-conscious and unsure of myself, a bit like a new house without a roof yet. But at other moments I feel exactly like I did a week ago. I was a knowledgeable, skilled, athletic, strong and privileged woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it. I was at least eight and twenty years old and I was one of the rulers of the most tantalisingly beautiful and blessed places in the universe. And we worked so hard to return it to that state.”
“It was a Golden Age! And now it's gone", she finished mournfully.

Her siblings looked on sympathetically.

"It's like that for all of us" added Peter. "We've all noticed the changes. The Professor has been madly taking notes whilst one or other of us talk, but at times the thoughts will not flow, the stories get stuck and float away into vague phantasms, with no structure or meaning, like dreams do after you wake up".

Susan spoke again. "When I am feeling like I was when I saved that plant just now, I know I can do virtually anything. In the air of Narnia I was taught to dance by dryads, to shoot by centaurs, spar and grapple by minotaurs; to ride, stand and somersault on a running horse's back by the Maenads. I led the Narnian Archers in our wars of defence. Often in rough country too. You saw what I accomplished a moment ago. In Narnia that would have been a mere trifle. But the strain on this child-body was too much". She grimaced and rubbed her sore leg.

Polly looked at Susan with proprietary concern and pity. "You really do need taking under someone's wing. It's a pity Aslan didn't take away your memories of being there at all".
There was a chorus of protest.

"Oh no!" exclaimed Edmund. "We are sure there is a purpose for all of it. I have returned a new boy and I am better for it by far. Aslan always told us, 'Once a King or Queen of Narnia, Always a King or Queen of Narnia. Bear it well Son of Adam. Bear it well Daughter of Eve'. We intend to."

...
Betty
Back downstairs, Betty finally found the Rice's Liniment for Pain. Before she went back up, Betty breathlessly told the story of what she'd seen to Margaret who was whipping up batter for Friday fish.

"No wonder she pulled a ruddy muscle, she was like lightning!", she said. "But then there was this rubbish about saving someone with a silly name in a boar hunt? Of all the nerve! We 'aven't had wild boar in England for centuries ‘ave we! And who's she tryin' to fool? She's just a kid from ruddy London."

"Exactly! But there's something funny goin' on" said Margaret. She pointed her chin at the large pile of white meat that was glistening on her chopping board. "We'll be eatin' well tonight. This 'ere Pike was wrestled out of the bleedin' river by the eldest boy early this afternoon. Kid you not. Twenty pound it were".



Polly and Digory Return
Chapter 3: The Pike


...
Digory

"Now that Polly is appraised more fully of the situation, I am hoping we might take thought about how we manage some of what I am sure the house servants are experiencing as moments of great eccentricity and oddness," said Digory.

"I've seen some glances. Judith Macready seems to be taking it all in her stride without much explanation. She certainly finds it odd, but also pleasing. But we still need to make the changes in the four young ones here seem quite logical to those not in the know, including her. I think for her it is just a relief to have children about who know how behave and who are so helpful."

"Well, you are!" he protested when he saw some slightly guarded and cynical looks. "Er… well, at least you weren't! Well… n-n-not exactly, just being n-n-ormal children really."

He stuttered slightly, feeling himself getting a little pink before clearing his throat. "It was obvious from the start that you were very well brought up children, just having a difficult time of it really; under the circumstances. And since you've been back there has been no arguing. Both Edmund and Lucy are embraced by you all and Lucy's natural sunniness shines through… whenever she isn't having a little cry. Edmund is now the paragon of respect and intelligence and emotional maturity, which includes having a discreet little cry. Oh, yes, don't think I haven't noticed. I cried a lot when I was a little older than you Edmund and it did me the world of good, but you all know about that sort of thing. And yesterday morning, Susan happily helped Judith and Betty take down the curtains and beat the dust out of them and knew just the tricks to help hide some of the moth eaten and threadbare parts when they went back up."

"Oh, yes," he said feeling pleased, waggling his finger, "Mrs Macready is beginning to find that she appreciates you a great deal. I daresay when the time comes for you all to return to London, that she will be trying to find ways to keep you here.”

“And I believe we might be eating well tonight… and the next,” he continued.

“Polly, let me tell you! This morning some of the children went walking in the woods and returned with extraordinarily good forage. Those chanterelles Lucy! Expertly gathered. You certainly know how to handle a small knife! Between them they found red currants, wild mint and tiny, sweet, wild strawberries. And I am told that Susan brought down a brace of fat pheasant using a bolas! I believe you've strung them up discretely in the barn until tomorrow Susan; no point in overwhelming the servants all in one day. And after lunch today, Peter and I went on a ramble down to the river's edge. We took a line down and some bait. We came back with a huge pike! Peter caught a smallish perch within seconds and then knew exactly how to use it to get a pike. And then how to haul it all in by himself! It took fully fifteen minutes once it bit. It was enormous! I thought it was touch and go for a bit and would bite the hook and line off, but he looked like he'd been at it for twenty years, a seasoned old salt! Most impressive…”

“Oh, well yes, I'm forgetting myself now," he said with chagrin, when he saw Peter and Edmund and Susan exchange glances and hold their hands up silently, as if to say "well, what do you expect Professor?"

"But that's just the rub!" said Edmund. "There's our moments of forgetfulness, when we are still very much children, but then there are the things we can do or that we know how to do… or know about! We might have been kings and queens, but we were in a small country and our subjects respected us more if we knew how to fend for ourselves."

"Exactly!" cried Susan, "and don't forget we all grew up. We were courted and paid court ourselves... and more besides," she added, under her breath.

Digory decided it would be better to leave that line of discussion alone.

"I quite agree" muttered Peter. "That stumble of mine yesterday when I was asking for more ginger snaps, to help bring back memories, now, that certainly would have sounded odd. And Susan made mention just now of the great boar hunt, when she rescued Orruns the young faun child. It's just that each of us are having moments in which we childishly or naïvely don't seem able to consider who is listening, even when we do remember we are back. We have just now been looking through the Library and trying to find some information on how people can be helped through great change, but we are not finding much to go on. I suppose that last book we just got down might have something in it," he said doubtfully.

He flicked it open irritably and stared blankly at one of the illustrations. It was of a Regency Period operetta recital. It gave him no ideas. "but really I am sure…" his voice trailed into silence."

"Look here, I've been thinking about this for days" said Edmund quietly. "Ever since we returned it has seemed to me vitally important to not deny what we have been given. But it strikes me that more than a little subterfuge could go a long way in keeping things simple."

"What do you mean Ed?" asked Lucy curiously.

"Well, I'm not sure, it's just that as the Professor says, there needs to be some explanation. No matter how much we try to cover up, there will always be moments and no doubt much will fade in time; it is already starting to. But right now we need something convincing."

"Like deliberate play-acting you mean?" Susan continued.

"A little, like a story that can account for it all, that is more believable. So yes, I think I do," Edmund replied.

Peter looked up. "Funny, that's exactly what this book fell open to." He held up the vellum book and showed them the regency period engraving, a feather bedecked bosomy matron in full operatic regalia, with a parrot on her shoulder, her audience sitting rapt in a pillared hall.

Polly stepped in and looked over his shoulder. "Oh dear, not a costume drama… I really don't think…"

"Oh no, I don't mean that", interrupted Edmund, "Well, I don't think so, anyway. I think I had in mind us telling stories about our time in Narnia as if we are performing a piece of theatre we learned back in London, or about a series of events we read in a book. But as children."

"And we are all of us pretending that this house is really like a great castle?" asked Susan, "And that's why we are speaking as if we are learned kings and queens, who have fought battles and saved fauns, because it feels like that is what we should do here in the mysterious country house with suits of armour, far from London! Oh, I really think that might work."

Peter was puzzled. "But isn't that what we are already doing? We are play-acting at being children, when we know we are not."

"Sorry Peter, just the opposite actually", said Polly. "I think I am catching on. I'm not quite sure, but I think that what Edmund and Susan mean is that you all have to accept that you are children again. Aslan has made it that way and you all have to make the best of it. But Edmund says, quite rightly I think, that it is important to not deny where you have been and how you are changed. So I think he is saying that instead of you trying to hide it away, you might all need to intensify it by play-acting at being experienced grown-up rulers, when you know you are now not. Am I right?" she asked.

Susan and Edmund, glancing at each other, nodded.

"Yes" Susan said, it would aim come across as a child's game, something we have adopted to survive our dislocation, basing it on past acting and gymnastics classes and the fact we are staying in a great big house that to us is like a castle."

Peter looked glumly down at the engraving in front of him. "We are children again, whether we like it or not."

"I think it is a good idea Peter." said Lucy. "I feel like I want to tell everyone I meet about some of the wonderful things I have done and seen, but I just can't. And I am a child again Peter. I can feel that I am losing a lot of the adult grace that I had developed. I'm bumping into things again. Even the way I speak is less… cultured and educated. Although I still have my moments fair consorts!" she giggled. "And today when I climbed a path in the woods, I fell over and skun my knee." She twitched up her skirt and showed a red mark that would surely become a good scab in a day or so. "I haven't done that for at least twelve years, since I was 10. I'm not looking forward to being that age again, I can tell you."

"Oh, that sounds too strange!" she exclaimed. "Well, you're about to become a man again soon Peter, I know. But it will never be the same now for any of us. It is already fading as you said, but I'm sure if we put the time in we could come up with something. If I could stand in front of Betty and Margaret and the others and just let fly about meeting Mr Tumnus, or using my cordial, or fighting against Rabadash at Anvard, or leading the courtly dances in Narrowhaven, or dancing with dryads and fauns on Dancing Lawn, even if it sounds to them like a fanciful made up story, I know it isn't. And I would feel so much better. I wouldn't feel afterwards like I always had to watch everything I say. There will be an explanation for our oddnesses." Lucy finished.

"What do you think royal brother?" asked Susan. "You're the High King, we always turn to you to make the final decision. Do you see any reason why it is not a good idea?
And so it was decided. Digory came to realise that Peter would not pass a good idea by when it came to him in such a way.

Then he glanced at the engraving and saw that looking around one of the pillars was a lion.


It was nearly time for dinner, so it was agreed that after dinner tonight and over the course of the next day, the four would plan a recital to be performed just before a late dinner on the following day. If Mrs Macready would agree.

"And I must beg your pardon" said Digory, "but I think for the sake of form, Polly and I must spend time after dinner tonight with Mrs Macready. The adults in the drawing room after the children go to bed as it were. We haven't had a really good catch up for a long time. And this war is not going to stop any time soon I suspect. We really don't know how long we have or if Polly will get bombed. It will also give us time to find out more about Judith's perceptions and one of us can speak about it with you in the morning."

So on that sombre note, the four children who were not children, were gently reminded that they were not necessarily the most important people in the world after all and that they had work to do on their own behalf.


Margaret

For dinner, Margaret had put on a rustic experience. Usually at dinner everything was in measured serves but tonight there was an enormous pile of battered fish pieces, on a hot plate in the middle of the table.

There was a cone of newspaper lined with grease-proof next to everyone's plate holding a steaming cluster of delectable hot chips with the skins still on, just the way they all liked them.

There was pepper and salt and a small bottle of vinegar to pass around.
She had also concocted a wonderful dipping sauce from eggs, cream, chopped gherkins, vinegar and a little salt, mustard and sugar.

"Me uncle runs a chip shop on the Brighton Pier… well until the war come and they had to close it down. He's somewhere in Belgium now, drivin' ambliances," she said, with a tear in her eye. "He taught me this one. It's real Tartar food they say. I thought you might like it Miss Plummer, coming from London and all, with all them foreigners about. I've 'eard Fish and Chips in London with all the 'cumpniments, is quite the gourmét experience. Don't know if the children will 'preciate it."

Margaret needn't have worried. The children fell to. Everyone ate with their fingers without ceremony and Edmund in particular went back to the dipping sauce again and again.
"Oh, this so reminds me of Terebi… oh, never mind," he said catching himself. "I once sat on a beach and had fresh fish with a sauce a lot like this one. Thank you Margaret… and Peter."

Margaret felt quite chuffed when he asked her for the recipe and told her that if they ever went to Brighton after the war that they would make a point of visiting her uncle's chip shop, to which there was a chorus of agreement.

"And did you really fish the pike all by yourself Peter?" asked Mrs Macready?

"Well, to tell you the truth, the Professor did give me guidance all the way through," Peter responded, not entirely untruthfully.

"He showed me to a big isolated bend, with lots of reeds and some water lilies, up past the pumping house. I must say, I did feel jolly lucky to haul it in. There was a big risk of snags. They do have rather sharp teeth and he was a big one. But we had some nice thick line and the Professor reminded me to use two hooks in my bait fish. It all worked rather splendidly."

Having been the main cook for the night, Margaret was able to stay at the table whilst Betty and Ivy cleared things away. It felt wonderful and a little daring, but really, as she knew, the days of lords and ladies upstairs and servants downstairs were nearly over. She knew that once upon a time, the house would have had a butler and that he and the housekeeper would have presided over the servants' mealtimes. But with only five of them normally in the house, it was quite silly to keep up the pretence. The wars were flattening things out, that was certain.


Polly

Then Betty brought in Mrs Macready's Apple and Pear Charlotte to welcome Polly. Betty said, "Mrs Macready says that it was always your favourite Ms Plummer, when you come down here on holidays when you was a young thing. We hope you like it."

So, it was that Polly found she had the floor. Of course she said how wonderful it was to be back and how thankful she was to be amongst old friends and to have such delicious food when everyone was rationing so tightly back in London.

Then she turned to everyone and said, "I have two pieces of news. One about the war, something I'm very proud about and one about the children here. Firstly, I can say that I have had some success recently in breaking some of the enemy's communication codes. The team I work with, worked day and night for months on it and we finally managed to get somewhere. To tell you the truth, it was a little bit like Peter's trick with the Perch and the Pike. It was a case of using one code to break another. Very complicated. But I can't say any more. We hope it helps our boys to haul in a big fish very soon!"

There was much applause and "Jolly old Britannia!" from Margaret and Ivy. Polly inclined her head very slightly. Then she said, "And the second thing I would like to announce, is that I have been told that Digory and the children have been cooking up a little something by themselves over the last few days. They've asked me to help. The children tell me that staying here in this big country house has been quite an experience for them and that it has captured their imaginations about lords and ladies of the past and the realms of faerie. So they are moved to put on a little performance tomorrow evening after dinner. They have all done acting classes before and even a little gymnastics back in London, I believe, so I think we are in for treat. Everyone is invited, aren't they Digory?"

"Yes indeed. And if you care to invite any of the land girls you know along who are working across the estate, please feel free. That is suitable is it not?" he asked Peter and the others.

They nodded graciously, clearly taking it in their stride rather well. Polly wondered how many people this would mean in the end.

The performance had better be good.


Polly and Digory Return
Chapter 4: The Drawing Room



Polly

Peter and the rest went upstairs to talk in their rooms and Polly joined Digory and Mrs Macready in the Drawing Room which was on the Upper floor of the East Wing.

It was one of those lovely balmy spring evenings and they were able to open the window and hear the blackbirds whistling their merry tunes into the dusk whilst they sipped a dry sherry. Polly sat on the window seat gazing out at the full moon, which was flooding its gentle white-gold light over the garden, the fields and the hill behind the house. Streamers of cloud scudded high, a slight rainbow halo surrounding the moon.

From Polly's point of view, the evening went smoothly enough. She firstly asked about the estate and the professor's private work but conversation eventually turned to the children.

On that subject, Judith said several things of interest.
"They were a handful when they first came here, make no mistake. The little girl was bursting into fits of distraught tears every second time I saw her. I couldn't seem to offer her any comfort. And the youngest boy was spiteful as a wasp. Ooh, you should have seen him!” She paused considering recent memory.

Then she continued.
“I'm sure they are all missing their parents, but the efforts of the two elder ones seemed to be making it worse. And the dratted rain was keeping them indoors. Digory did his best too but we were really at a loss. If it had been me when I was a child, I would have been spanked and sent to my bed with a dry crust, but it never did me any good so I got Margaret to make them some Turkish Delight. That's not an easy task if you've ever tried, but she is very good at it. I presented it to the youngest boy Edmund, hoping it would encourage him to share and make up with his siblings, but it was a disaster. He just ran off with it and I don't think he let even young Lucy have any. He certainly looked very ill for a few days. Well, serve him right I thought.” She sighed. “Anyway, I decided not to make a scene."

"And then, do you know, only last week I was taking a National Trust party around the house. I’ve only just thought of it again. It was the strangest thing! I could hear the children ahead of me. Always ahead of me! It didn't seem to matter where I went to get away from them; they always seemed to be in the next room. 'The rotten tykes', I thought. 'They're teasing me.'"

"Eventually out of the corner of my eye, I saw them all disappearing into the room we store the fur coats in. 'Good riddance', I thought. There is only that wardrobe in there. The one Digory had made from the tree that blew down in the storm the same night Mrs Kirke died, Polly. It's a sweet thing, but nothing particularly interesting, so I wasn't planning to take the party in there, but I have no idea what made them all go in, apart from to hide from me."

Polly glanced at Digory. They could both feel the paws of Aslan at work in this story.
Judith misinterpreting their glances, laughed a little self-deprecatingly, "Oh-oh, I expect I must have seemed like an old witch in their eyes, especially the little ones, despite my efforts. But since that day they seem to have settled down very nicely."

She added, "You know I seriously do wonder if they hid right in the wardrobe itself in case I brought the party in and whether long exposure to all those mothballs had done something to them. I know when I saw them next they did look rather dazed. I felt a little awful." She laughed again. "But they must have talked things over in there because they seem to be taking everything quite differently now."

"I agree, we think they have decided to just make the best of things Polly," said Digory, going along with the ruse.

He continued, "Their wish to put on a performance and show us some of the skills they learned in London will be quite charming, don't you think Judith? They must have been itching for it the last few days; all the odd phrases and snatches of tales they've been teasing us with!"

"I hope it will be charming," said Mrs Macready. "It will certainly be interesting. Let's hope they live up to expectations. But in the long term, they are here for the next few months, so as long as they help earn their keep and don't get underfoot when we have house visitors, I'm not so fussed now. They have become quite a pleasure really."

That out the way, Judith and Digory were interested in hearing about what was happening in London and whether there was much hope of the war ending anytime soon. Polly shrugged. "I really think we are in for the long haul, I'm afraid", she said. "The German's don't want this war to go on forever and neither do we, but we are only just beginning to understand more of what they are planning," she said with a shudder.

"Antwerp, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Switzerland and London and all the coasts are flooding with people who have escaped from unspeakable horrors. They are climbing on whatever lorries and ships they can find now. Many of them fear for the lives of their closest friends and relatives. Many have been 'disappeared'. What is going on in Germany, Yugoslavia, Latvia and Poland doesn't bear thinking about, but it's beginning to happen elsewhere too, including parts of Russia."

"Whatever do you mean?" asked Mrs Macready.

"Oh, so you don't know? Well… I'm not sure you'll want to hear it then. Shall I keep going?" she asked, seeing Judith's face shaded with horror, but who nodded mutely.
She went on. "Families and children being forced from their villages... Prisons of the worst sort..."

Digory's eyes were very grave.

"…the sort of cold bare windswept prisons that most people never get out of alive. In fact we now have good reason to believe that hundreds of thousands of civilians are not even being put in the prisons. They are just being rounded up and transported like cattle and then executed in the most abominable ways out of sight; Jews particularly. They are considered to be not 'Real Germans'. Others are just being starved and worked to death, the Ladies of the Night, the Trade Unionists, the Gypsies, Poles who look like Poles… and the Homo-genists … and women like me. It's abominable… and it's been going on quietly behind the scenes for several years before now," Polly finished matter-of-factly.

"Oh! Polly, this is too horrible! Is that really what we are fighting against? I thought we were just defending ourselves and Western Europe from German expansion. Oh, no, don't tell me, I don't think I want to know any more," exclaimed Mrs Macready.

Then she suddenly half-shrieked, hand over her mouth, "But what if they win, would they really do it here too?"

"We are very much afraid that it is exactly what they intend to do," added Digory with a heavy sigh. "They have not forgiven the indignity of losing the Great War and are out to prove themselves once and for all."

"And there are plenty of people of the 'Rule Britannia' persuasion who wouldn't really stand in their way either; at least not with social policy about minorities," added Polly crisply.

"The Nazi Party's version of Law and Order is not a far cry from what we've heard some of our own politicians spout and even a few of our church leaders, quite frankly. I stopped attending the newsreels. It was too depressing."

"Indeed, now I hear Polly speak," Digory added, "I suspect that beyond just protecting the children from bombs and collapsing buildings, it would be at the back of the authorities' minds that sending children away to the country may be one of the best ways of shielding them from seeing atrocities and being victimised directly, if we did get invaded... at least for a while. If the Germans win the war we may find ourselves in the position of last defence of the vulnerable, Judith."

Polly had visions of troops of hard men in dark uniforms and jackboots marching with dogs through the tame hedgerows, burning sheds, breaking doors and stalking about, shooting up chimneys and dragging terrified children out of wardrobes. It wasn't the first time these visions had haunted her.

"Oh, those poor people!" exclaimed Mrs Macready. "And most of our local men have gone off to fight it. It's going to be like last time isn't it!? Millions sprayed down like so many flies. And all because some stupid violent men in charge can't accept that they have to share the world with everybody else and just get along. Oh, this makes me so cross. Well I'm jolly glad we are going to have a little event tomorrow night then. All that hard thankless work of the Land Girls and the estate families needs some relief. Should we maybe invite the local Home Guard as well?

"Nice idea Judith, but I'm sure we don't have enough time for inviting them all," said Digory, "and I imagine you'll be wanting to give them refreshments…?" his voice trailed off.

"Oh, of course, there I am getting carried away. And it is normally me who is trying to keep this house so tidy and clean without any disturbance," Judith said, with a grim laugh. "That news from Polly really has upset me so."

Polly responded with, "I'm sorry to take the wind out your sails Judith, but I agree with Digory. Maybe we just keep it fairly small tomorrow night? Have a few people in and see how it goes? They are only children after all," she said, winking discreetly at Digory. "Perhaps in a week or two, if everyone is willing you could have a larger concert with some local singers to take the larger load. If it is good tomorrow night, I'm sure word will get around. By then, you could arrange a few extra helpers."


Digory

The Professor got up and closed the window as the evening chill came in. He turned and stood looking at both women for a moment. Polly with her curly mop of silvered Titian hair and sturdy tweed, just showing a little stoutness. She looked tired but glad to be here. He was more than glad she was here, despite her grim news. Then Judith. Taut and severe, with her dark grey and white housekeeping uniform, 30 years out of date and a severe bun; pince-nez, hanging from her right breast pocket. She also looked tired and little emotional.

"I suggest we use the ballroom for the recital tomorrow night Judith. I may be the owner but you are the housekeeper, so I must ask," he said, not wanting to over-ride her.

She shrugged non-committally,"Well, you're the Laird here Digory. It's your decision. But it's probably the best place, given we are not sure about numbers."

He continued, "Good. I did consider the Irish room with the harp, but it is upstairs and out the way and a little too intimate. Let's stay on the ground floor. But we will want to bring the harp down. Susan has noticed it and has asked to play it."

When he saw Mrs Macready's rather guarded expression he exclaimed, "Oh, she assures me she knows how to handle one and has had plenty of practice! Anyway it hasn't been played in years, not since Mother played it only a few months before she died. It is about time it got a bit of exercise."

He could see Judith considering and was pleased when she said, "I think it would be delightful, but can a girl of twelve play a harp?"

She sighed. "Well, what harm can it do? Good luck to her if she can. She does seem rather accomplished with a number of things. Can't think how she found the time and places to master them. But she's likely the only one here who can play it. I might be of Irish stock but I never really learned properly," she said regretfully, "I have a strum and a pluck every now and again when I pass through the room, but it never goes very far."

Digory himself often went in there for contemplation, and listened to the odd chord, so he knew its value. Digory knew Judith had been fond of his mother Mabel and she had always been fiercely protective of her harp in the room hung with green, since Mabel's death. It was almost a shrine. So this concession on her part was generous.

As they talked further, Polly mentioned she had seen her old riding habit hanging up in her room. "Did you really get out that old thing Judith?" said Digory. "I thought you would have given that away years ago. Bit small now, don't you think?"

"Oh, I don't know Digory. It has always been kept here for Polly. It wasn't mine, or yours to give away for that matter, remember? You gave it to Polly when she was seventeenfrom memory. I just wanted Polly to feel welcome, help her remember things from old times again. After all, we're none of us getting any younger." Mrs Macready had a tear in her eye.

Her eyes brightened momentarily.
"Oh, the great outdoors was such a fine thing! You know, I did get to go up in a plane with Malcolm more than once before the Great War. It was thrilling. I could tell why he was so attracted to it all. The views were astounding. But I always preferred the horses… They were grand times. The places we went and the things we talked about. Do you remember the time we went on a fox hunt and it turned out to be a hyena escaped from some menagerie? Oh, the winds of change were beginning to sweep the cobwebs of that stuffy old Victorian era away. We were full of such hope! And then that blasted war had to come along and wreck it all. And now there's another one! And look at me," she said, brushing down her staid old housekeeper's uniform, "I might as well be living in the Victorian era myself."

Judith took a good gulp of the sherry, gazing into the dusk and when she had cleared her throat she turned and said, "Oh, Polly, I know we weren't best of friends back then, but you and Digory and this house are really all I have now."

She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief and sat on the sofa. "I really don't know how much more of this war I can take. I feel so glad I can be here and almost pretend it isn't happening, but it's not going to go away is it. These children being here has brought it all back. There were so many orphans last time and.. and…" She took in a shaky breath and gulped back some more tears.

Digory got up from his chair and sat on her left, Polly on the other side. They gently patted her knee and put their hands on her shoulders. They sat this way for a little whilst Polly poured another small sherry for them all and they drank each other's health again before retiring.


Ivy & Betty

As they prepared for bed, Ivy and Betty went about their rooms, laying out their clothes for the following day, having a little wash and plumping pillows. Betty looked out her window and noticing the moon, she went to twitch the curtains so the light couldn't come in. She knew that in a little while it would shine directly on her face if she was in the right position and she didn't want to get moonstruck. But just as she did so she noticed some movement. She frowned and pressing her face to the window, she looked across the garden beds to the lawn.

Betty gasped and with an excited suppressed shriek, raced to Ivy's room. "Ivy, Ivy! You've got to see this! Quick, look out your window!" Ivy had just been settling in for the night and wasn't pleased, but Betty's demands could not be ignored. Betty raced to Ivy's window and flung the curtains back and they both gazed out intently.

There, clear to those who looked, were three, no, all four of the children. They were holding hands and dancing and capering in the moonlight in a circle! At least three of them were. The fourth stood in the centre. It was Susan, stretching her arms skyward, head tilted back and looking directly at the moon. The other three were doing complicated twirls and pirouettes, but always coming back together to hold hands again. This continued for a full three minutes whilst Ivy and Betty giggled and gasped before beginning to huff with outrage.

The three finally stopped and gathering around Susan, also lifted up their arms gazing at the moon. A bright cloud slid over the moon and its halo pulsed visibly. Next moment, the children were gone and a few seconds later, all four strode past the house, right past Betty and Ivy's offended noses. Susan had strode! There was no hint of a limp.



Polly and Digory Return
Chapter 5: The Performance



Susan

Whilst discussing Narnian battle philosophy with the Professor two days before, Susan had told him that in Narnia, whilst learning to master archery, she had also learned to make and use a bolas. She had then deftly made one in his study from the inner bark of willow, a piece of chamois and some large smooth pebbles she had found in the brook that ran through the garden down towards the river. He had listened intently whilst he wrote down in his book what she said, with half an awed eye watching her nimble fingers.

She had told how it was the centaurs who had taught her. They had used this ancient weapon to catch grouse, bustard, ptarmigan, hare and rabbits over the years of their long refuges in Archenland and the Western Wild. Queen Susan the Gentle had become such a dab hand, that her speciality had become discombobulating ground birds, especially when she and her siblings were entertaining foreign dignitaries out on rambles… and providing for the table.

But she also said that a bolas or two thrown from her hand whilst on horseback had been used to greater effect more than a few times on hunts, particularly in hobbling boar to stop them turning and charging. Once this was witnessed, any tendency to treat her femininity, youthfulness and beauty with oily patronage or sly sarcasm usually dissipated quickly.

She had described how the battle philosophy of Narnia was disarmament and peaceful negotiation where possible. Thus, she had also used a bolas in battle several times to trip enemy banner bearers, heralds and princes so as to take them captive and to rescue fauns and dwarves from the sword; but the less spoken about that the better. There was gentle and then there was Gentle.

Queen Susan the Gentle’s walked into the kitchen with the two pheasants and only a slight limp just after breakfast at seven o’clock in the morning. She told Mrs Macready and Margaret that she’d seen them strung up bleeding freshly in the woods yesterday and had gone on her early morning ramble to see if they were still there. She asked if they could consider them for the evening meal. She had long ago secreted the bolas. No point in letting too many secrets out.


Margaret

Mrs Macready and Margaret looked them over suspiciously.

But Mrs Macready being the former gamekeeper’s daughter confirmed them quite fresh, though they were stiff of course. She wondered out loud who would have done such a deed. Not that she was bothered by a bit of poaching. There were plenty of pheasant about.

But as she said, “This is rather odd. There are no bullet wounds. It’s a simple case of their necks being broken and a small cut to help them bleed. What a mystery! I’m wondering whether someone is stringing nets up somewhere. If that’s the case, we’ll need to send someone out to look. Nets catch too many other birds that need looking after. When I was a child my Dad found Kingfishers and Bitterns and Peregrines and once a Hoopoe was caught in nets left by poachers. It was a very sorry sight.”

Mrs Macready tutted several times and looked most upset. “If you could show me where you found them in the next few days, Susan that would be useful. I know you’re busy today.”

To Margaret’s eyes, Susan looked a little guilty, but she offered to pluck and gut them with Margaret. Margaret was a little surprised a girl of twelve would do such a thing, but they set to, out behind the stables, Margaret bringing almost simmering water to plunge them in, then making short work of the feathers. The tail feathers of the cock bird, Susan had already removed and set aside. The rather more messy part of removing the innards, Margaret noticed Susan accomplished with minimal discomfort. She was certainly deft with the gizzard pulling and knife cutting around the vent. That was certain. For Margaret, it nearly always put her off eating poultry, at least for a few days, but with Susan’s assured assistance it was all done quickly with minimum fuss. They kept the kidneys and the livers aside for the stuffing. The bundle of damp smelly feathers and mess was buried on the edge of the kitchen garden. They washed the carcasses in cold water one last time before the birds were taken inside by Margaret, ready to be jointed.

Margaret plonked them on the kitchen table with a satisfied sigh and said to Ivy,
“You know that girl Susan; she was so ‘elpful just now. I’m normally gaggin’ fit to bust, the smell of wet feathers and guts an’ all, but she just threw ‘erself into it like she was polish’n the furniture an’ it were all done and dusted before I could say boo to a goose!”

“Well, whatchoo expect Margaret?” retorted Ivy, who was at the sink drying up the breakfast dishes. “These kids are passing strange, sure, but they do know ‘ow to make themselves useful. Next week, they’ll probably come ‘ome carryin’ a stag over their shoulders, shouldn’t wonder! But you need to watchya step Margaret, you’ll be mixin’ metaphors so hard you’ll whip yourself into a literary soufflé.”

That comment was lost on Margaret, who just shrugged and said “Don’t know whatchoo talkin’ about,” before looking up a recipe for pheasant pie in Mrs Beeton’s. She thought she’d make up a brown sauce base using the kidneys and liver and some onions and maybe the large bowl of chanterelles that Lucy had collected and do a slow cook all day and make individual pies but she wanted to make sure she got the balance right… and choose the right herbs.

After a few moments, Ivy looked over her shoulder and said, “Maybe I’m not sure neither Margaret. Never guess what we saw last night, me and Betty. Three o’ them kids was out dancing in the bloomin’ moonlight around the older girl. Out there on the lawn. Caperin’ in moonbeams they was! Moonstruck I reckon. And know what else was funny? After they done it all that Susan wasn’t limping hardly at all. Whatchoo think about that!? Was she limping this morning?”

Margaret looked back at Ivy thoughtfully. “You right about the limp. ‘Ardly noticeable. That ol’ liniment must a done its job then. But they was probably just rehearsing for something they plan to do tonight Ivy. Funny place to do it. But then why not? It were a lovely night. I kept my winder open a crack all last night and I swear I ‘eard a nightingale. You be careful now, you’ll be the one bein’ called moonstruck now. Mark my words Ivy.”

Ivy was most put out and showed it. She fairly clattered the last plates and bowls she was drying and flung the tea towels back over the handles of the range with bad grace.

“What about them funny mushrooms them kids brought in yesterday Margaret. You sure they safe?”

Margaret had collected and cooked chanterelles several times before but she glanced over at the bowl and decided a second check of the contents might not be a bad idea.

“Well if you can go through them please and make sure they’re all the same sort and no bad bits, that would be very fine. Mind you, I think there’s not quite enough of them. I’m wondering if you’d be able to go off on a ramble and find a few more this morning?

Ivy didn’t need any encouragement. She grabbed a small knife and a bowl and skipped out the back door.


Polly

Easing out of the four-poster at a late half-past-eight and stretching her aging limbs, Polly awoke having made the most of her rest. That old four poster certainly offered something special: deep horsehair mattress, lovely sheets, tall carven posts and handsome drapery. After her long journey, the emotional upheaval and the long evening with Digory and Judith, she was pleased to note that she was waking with a sense of excited expectation. The sun light slanted in directly, filtering through the cherry trees with their small green fruit just beginning to swell.

After washing and dressing, she playfully tried on her old riding habit. She had never been a wisp of a girl, but it was certainly too tight round the middle. She found that if she didn’t try to get it all the way up at the back, she was at least able to look at herself in the full length mirror and pretend. “Hmm”, she said to herself appraisingly, twirling slightly this way and that. “Oh, the waistline of the aging woman!”


Susan

Mrs Macready had already put the word out and the land girls who were working the wider estate and staying with local families - whilst most of the able-bodied men were off fighting the war - were all invited to come to the big house after an early supper. There was a buzz of excitement in the air.

Susan went and washed her hands, limping only slightly as she went up the stairs to the upper bathroom and gritting her teeth just a little. She was wishing she had let that silly plant fall. That moon dance had certainly worked wonders and she had slept better for it, but well… this wasn’t Narnia and she knew she would have to heal herself in the usual way. Aslan had always told them that the magic will not work the same way twice. She rubbed some more of the liniment into her thigh and calf muscles.

By nine o’clock she was curled on a big leather armchair in the Library, with a red India-Rubber hot water bottle wrapped in a cloth on her leg, holding a note-pad and several sharpened pencils. Edmund and Lucy sat studiously at a table, each already writing furiously, pencil shavings scattered about. Lucy’s tongue was sticking out to the left. Edmund was playing with a golden curl endlessly with one finger. Peter was pacing about, muttering quietly to himself, gesticulating. It so reminded her of Cair Paravel. It could have been Peter preparing himself to welcome a delegation from Calormen, Edmund writing out a judgement to be read out at court, or Lucy writing honours to be sent to the corners of the land by the messenger birds. It brought a tear to her eye. It could have been only a week ago; except they were all less than half the age they had been.

She wondered what her piece might be about and whether she would be able to keep her emotions under control with all that she had lost. So she let multiple memories slide through her mind until she settled on one story that was less about her and more about a mysterious visitor who had appeared on their shores about eight years ago. With a secret smile on her face, she sucked the pencil point and set herself to writing a title.


Peter

Peter the Magnificent took a rest from his composition and rehearsal and looked out of the Library window down the long park to the river, the sun filtering through the early summer haze, listening to his siblings sharpening pencils and scribbling. Susan had just come in. The family was all together much as they had been in Narnia at times. He was beginning to realise that being back had its benefits. He may have grown into the tall deep chested warrior-king-of-the-castle, but he had had the weight of his siblings and an entire nation on his shoulders. Indeed, with Narnia being the premier state amongst the cluster of Narnia, Galma, Terebinthia, The Lone Islands and Archenland, he had also been High King of those places too.

That title had not been easy for the house of Helen and Frank to swallow in these other countries and it had taken more than a little diplomacy and downplay on his part to smooth the relationships. Clearly the four had somehow managed to eject Jadis and the winter with Aslan’s blessing and assistance. And as Jadis had never been known to step outside of Narnia and no Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve from other nations had ever been able to get in during her reign, there was nothing much for these other sovereigns to do except embrace the new regime and welcome what it offered.

Peter could now feel a vast magnificent space where an enormous weight had once been and he wondered what might come along to fill it. He was coming to realise that every challenge they had faced in Narnia just might be the mirror of something they had been prepared for here in England. It was whilst he pondered this that the troublesome northern border giants entered his mind but this time they had the faces of the school masters and bullies, the rugger coaches and burly opponents. And then he realised there were the Germans, the Italians and beyond them the Russians and Japanese.

Oh no, being High King had maybe not been so bad. He had been able to take action and make a difference. In this world, he was far from being even an adult. He considered his words for the evening’s performance. Diplomacy. But he also couldn’t keep Rhindon out of this mind. Action. That was when he went searching through the house. He had an idea.


Digory

It had been decided belatedly that the household would have their supper after the performance to celebrate the end of the event, so it was a slightly hungry cast who sat quietly in the front row. They were fiddling with bits of paper, but otherwise looking quite confident and prepared. Susan was already out the front sitting on a low backed upholstered chair. The harp from the room hung with green had been brought into the ballroom for the occasion and Susan was holding it lovingly in her expert hands and leaning it on her good knee. She had been tuning it for the last hour. It was ready. A gong sat next to Lucy.

The women from the nearby estates were coming into the ballroom in threes and fours, murmuring. As they were beginning to file into their seats Susan began to pick a slow melody on the harp.



Ivy and Betty were hard put to find enough chairs in the house. A rug had been spread upon the floor with pillows and a few of the little ones sat. In all, about 16 young women and 5 older mothers and 2 grandmothers and 1 grandfather and 11 children of various ages. Some were still in their overalls and more than a few women had dark grease in their fingernails or a little straw in their hair. With the whole household present as well, it amounted to about 40 people.

Digory wore a bowtie. Polly had reluctantly consented to wear the pheasant plumes in her hair at Susan’s request. Judith, Margaret, Ivy and Betty took their seats on the ends of the rows.

As Susan finished the piece, Digory walked forward and said in his husky smoker’s voice,

“Welcome indeed to the House of Kirke. My family has been in this house for time out of mind but I am the last. The estate has been supported these many years by the four families who run the farms so capably and so lovingly. The women who have come from near and far to support our farms are most welcome here as you so enthusiastically fill the gap whilst the men bravely fight far away.”

“It has now been many years since the house itself has been graced by children. But during these times of trouble, we are very lucky to have these four staying here with us. They are the Pevensie children; Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. They have found their time staying in this house has stirred their imaginations about many things from the far past and distant places. They have even come to consider what it might have been like for kings and queens living in big houses and fighting wars and as they have all been trained in music and other kinds of performance, I am sure you will find their efforts tonight most entertaining. To begin, I give you King Peter the Magnificent!”

Digory bowed slightly and took his seat. The audience clapped politely.

...

Now Peter stood and said in a low but clear voice,

"And now I bid you settle and listen,
your tongues be stilled, your eyes just glisten.

For Edmund King shall tell the tale,
a part thereof, of dread betrayal,
of treason and imprisonment,
of sacrifice, of life redeemed.

The Just Duke of Lantern Waste he is,
a man of honour, and judgement bold,
a heart of clemency and gold.

You may not know what he intends,
but believe him now, there’s no pretence.”


Edmund now rose and pulling his cardigan about himself, walked slowly to the centre of the light looking slightly forlorn. He bowed low. His golden curls shone and the frown on his forehead deepened. He held a feathered goose quill which he stuck behind his ear.

There was a silence. A muffled giggle and shuffling came from some of the audience. He held up his left hand and a strong boyish voice came out. It was half chant, half song.

"Know this, gentle friends.

Upon a time deep snow did fall,
In lands far hence beyond this hall,
And there did misery abound,
As cold that seeped out of the ground.

Whilst here the loneliest of all,
A fearful child’s heart did call,
For aid from whatever might respond,
No care, no sorrow, no word of bond.

A jealous plea to fill the void,
To crush the ones who so annoyed,
And a pain that clawed the soul,
of one who felt... outlawed.

By fate this angry, jealous, lonely one,
Did leave this land of rain and sun,
To journey thence into the snow,
And there to make his power grow.

But what he was soon to discover
Was that the cold was not his lover.
Instead it sought to make him dread
And send him to his mortal bed.”


At this moment, Edmund took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his eyes. A chorus of sympathetic sounds came from the audience and a scattered bit of clapping with a hushed “poor little lad.” But Edmund was only getting started and he began again.

Susan began to play softly in the background.

“Whereupon a glowing power deep,
Erupting though mysterious portal,
Came down to save him from this sleep,
Of permanence and cold immortal.

It tossed its mane from far above,
And embraced his soul with committed love.

Now, by taking on a path most grim
And almost without any falter.
It sacrificed itself for him,
And took his place upon the altar.

For on that dreadful beastly night
The monsters crept to poke and grope,
Under torch and candle light,
To bind it tightly with long rope.

The knife was long, the knife was keen,
To cleave the velvet skin apart,
It flash’d redly and was seen,
To plunge into the Lion's Heart.”

There was a gasp from the audience. “It’s a Lion!”

Edmund now turned toward Lucy and Susan who were seen to have tears in their eyes.

“Sisters did witness this awful tale,
And after when the rabble gone,
Did caress the bloody carcass stale,
when early dawn was cold and wan.

But the path was laid for great renewal,
So with the sun, the rock did crack,
Reversing murder hard and cruel,
And death itself went working back.

Until the golden thing did stand.
Once more upon the blessed land,
Where it did romp and roll and play,
In joyousness, beneath the day.

It further shortly used its breath,
On graceful hardened lumps of lime,
To give the life renewed, not death,
To many frozen cold in time.

So with living army on its tail,
It raced into the battle bold,
And made a leap that could not fail,
Onto the source of deadly cold.

It roared and clawed, then bit and wrenched.
Blood immortal of ancient fable,
Onto the natural ground was drenched,
Instead of on the grisly table.

So from the field of death,
Many corpses sadly did they bring,
But all now could take a deep breath,
From the haze of glorious new-come spring.

Later, onward down the valley, all did sally,
Towards the foaming river mouth,
And a pillared castle behind its bailey,
facing t'ward both east and south.

Now there, on thrones all in a row,
With cheering ringing to their vows,
Four youthful queens and kings did glow,
As crowns were lowered onto their brows.”


… Edmund paused for a moment

“And so the golden age began,
But midst the cavorting and the gladness,
The gift of faith from great Aslan,
There was a thread of profound sadness,.

For whilst the voices rose in hymn,
That pure spirit gently glowing,
Departed, and both hide and limb ,
Wandered off, no word of going.”


Susan made a few closing plucks and strums in a minor key on the harp and Edmund bowed low again.

...

The audience clapped and then settled before Peter stepped forward again and turning to Edmund he called loudly in a mock commanding voice,


“Now brother mine!
Fast friends we now shall ever be!
Between the mountains and the sea!
Defend each other’s lives we shall!
Until what end we know not well!

But I bet you couldn’t swing a bat!
To save the life of your dear cat!
So now the time has come along!
To lose the bet, or prove me wrong!”


With that, Peter leapt up onto a chair and expertly unhooked two sabres that had been displayed in a cross over the mantle. He tossed one to Edmund who caught it neatly, followed by a leather gardening glove.

There was a gasp. There were no shields or helmets.

Peter paused on the chair, getting his own glove on and watched Edmund advance. With a balletic leap, Peter left the chair and with a twist in the air to the left, skidded along the floor with his sword held high until he reached the far wall. He threw himself from there and advanced immediately to meet Edmund. With fiercely grinning faces they threw themselves into the fray.

With a clatter and a clash, they kept well clear of their audience and danced about up and down the length of the ballroom with no pause. Children were standing on mother’s knees and people were craning their heads to watch Edmund and Peter stabbing, ducking, almost slashing at each other’s legs and arms and necks with the blades. Edmund deflecting a parry from Peter, and lunging back at him, Peter riposting back and then jumping as Edmund’s blade threatening to slash his ankles. There was a terrified “whooh!” from the audience and a “Steady on boys, someone will have an ear off in a minute”.

Without stopping, Edmund pulled off his cardigan in one fluid movement and began to use it as a baffle and to tangle in Peter’s feet. The crowd gave some shrill shrieks as Peter appeared to be in trouble but he flicked the cardigan away expertly where it landed in the audience and their blades clashed, as they gave parry after opposition parry and worked their way up the room again, blades flashing in the lamplight.

It was Edmund who leapt up high and using a peculiar double twist, forced Peter to release his sword, which clattered on the floor and Edmund stamped upon it neatly. They both stood panting and grinning, Peter rubbing his main sword arm a little ruefully.

The audience was agog. Some of the little children were rather wide eyed and needed comforting. But it had all been very exciting and there was a huge applause.

Lucy now stood and kissed both her brothers looking a little relieved herself. Edmund sat down next to her and held her hand.

Peter took a few moments to gain his breath and then said.

“I will but give you a short tale,
Lest this night become quickly stale,
Of the day we battled giants tall,
Upon the nation’s northern wall.

For they were huge and they were mean,
And we were young and still quite green,
We really found that we were frettin’,
I bet you’ve never met an Ettin!

We quailed in front of this ogrish horde,
They stamped and roared,
They belched and farted,
The smell choked us before we’d started.”


There was a “Well I never!” and a “Really!” and a few suppressed titters.

The children on the floor giggled with glee at the naughty word. Digory’s eyes sparkled. Polly looked prim. Mrs Macready put her head in her hands.

“But when the battle did begin,
We found we came up to their shin,
Arrows flew and boulders thudded,
And thus the ground was sorely blooded.

So quickly now we got some distance,
And called for extra strong assistance,
Gryphons dove and raked their claws,
Big cats leapt up and applied their jaws.

Into the fray the centaurs sprinted,
Shooting arrows freshly minted,
Unicorns stabbed their horns towards,
Whilst soldiers wielded sharpened swords.

The fauns they ran both to and fro,
Their spears they jabbed but didn’t throw,
Into the ogrish toes and thighs,
And stones slungshot into their eyes.

But Gentle Susan Narnian Queen,
Threw many a bolas into the scene,
Her followers flung jute strongly netted,
Our giantish enemies were thusly fettered.

And when the ugly king hit ground,
We all were deafened by the sound,
Of thunder breaking all around,
And pelting rain began to pound.

Suffice to say, we won the day,
And we survived to surely say,
That Giants do not like the rain,
It gives them the worst kind of pain.

For as the raining skies did pelter,
The giants ran home helter skelter,
To hide inside their giant castle,
No more to plan to make us vassal.

So fair folk, ere my tale ends,
If dearest Susan still intends,
To lend her tongue to your enjoyment,
You may well learn of her employment.

As chatelaine of a great castle,
Resisting ploys to make her vassal,
By foreign kings and princes dashing,
My only hope as I now sit is to avoid a pillow bashing.”


There was much laughter as he flicked his eyes mock-fearfully towards his sister. The audience clapped and cheered Peter as he took his bow.



“I now present Queen Susan the Gentle”, announced Peter clearly, before Susan then rose and kissed her brother fondly and they swapped places, this time Peter at the harp.

Susan limped only a little and the smell of liniment was in the air. She was dressed in night-gown, slippers and dressing gown. She managed to swirl slightly but could not manage the full curtsey she had performed at the station. Her hair was now plaited and out the way, but she had wound a garland of spring leaves around her head.

“Fair damsels and squires fine. I shall not tonight tell you tales of my former life. Instead my tale is about a brave young man whom I once knew. Cast out from his family and home to find his fate, he found himself upon the shore of a blessed land. In some small part I tell the tale of ‘The Cast Out Son of the Seven Isles’ or ‘The Mysterious Fate of Daimyo Ichiro’”

Lucy struck the gong once, twice and three times. Peter began on the harp.

"Know this,"
Susan said, tilting her chin and looking them steadily in the eye one by one, her eyes sombre.

“Upon a time a lonely prince
from Seven Isles did shrink and wince,
For since he was a little child,
he found that he was meek and mild,
Without an interest in the sword,
its shining length did make him bored.

The wrestling mat did he demur,
An artists brush did he prefer,
Or telling tales,
To garden snails
Yet destined king he was to be,
A role he dreaded like the sea.

Oh what a problem this became,
his father shouting hot as flame,
‘The sea, the sword, the wrestling ring
Must all be domains of the king!
King of the Isles must travel often
Or else the realm's ed-ges will soften!’

‘Get thee to the port today!
And get on board Atakebune!
Or even to a worn out Junk,
I care not which, you useless klunk,
Upon no cushion will you settle,
From now on in you'll prove your mettle!’

So to the noisy port was driven,
This lonely lad, his heart not given,
To any who would miss him much,
Except his rabbits in their hutch,
His brushes black and paper white,
And the winds on which he flew his kite.

As well of course his queenly mother,
Wrapped in kimonos to smother,
Her white limbs and her great sadness,
To see her son sent off in madness,
His fate to be she knew not what,
She hoped he’d find a cosy cot.

But his fate that day was something worse,
He felt that he lived in a curse,
For so t'was on a great big Junk,
His stomach lurching in a funk,
Our reluctant prince did leave his shore,
Anxiety oozing from every pore.

It was not long till storms arose,
The cabin door now firmly closed,
Our prince was in a piteous plight,
The storms went on for day and night,
His heaving stomach wrenched and sore,
His vomit spread upon the floor”


At this point there were some screeching titters from the audience. Susan smiled and waggled her eyebrows and widened her eyes.

“His fears came true, it must be said,
Loud to the ocean gods he pled.
Too soon they answered to his call,
The ship struck reefs out in this squall,
It lurched and tipped, possessions spread,
His bed was now above his head!

He thought his fate was to be crushed,
But into his cabin water rushed,
Its coldness moving to his core,
But it bore him up and out the door,
Before the surface our prince did break,
He fought for air, his lungs did ache.

There midst the crushing crack and boom,
A rugged face of rock did loom,
A desperate bid for life he thought,
It would likely all just come to nought,
But on and on and on he fought,
Till in strong arms found he was caught.

His head was held up by the scruff!
But gently and quite high enough
To breathe and cough and splutter well
And float upon the cold dark swell,
How long he was carried on this way,
Nobody knows until this day.

Then a low voice spoke in his ear,
A voice that helped him calm his fear,
"If you can hold on but a little,
I'll get you to a good hospital,"
The prince could not believe his ears,
And thought his mind had lost its gears.

So assuming he was hallucinating,
He began the task of ruminating,
On whether he was even dead,
And on the ocean floor instead,
Of floating in the arms of one,
Who swam him out into the sun.

With waters warm and and aqua lighted
Far away from ship benighted
Daimyo Ichiro thanked his stars that day
Whilst in those muscular arms did lay
Propelled towards a sandy beach
T’ward helping hands which did then reach.

They wrapped him then in blankets warm,
And told him to forget the storm,
Whilst plying him with warming drink,
That was real enough he now did think,
Its healing liquid through him rushing,
Banning chill and causing blushing.

So prince turned round to thank his saviour,
To find that rolling on the wave there,
Was a merman or ningyo wild,
Who gave a wink and smile mild,
Before blowing on a huge conch shell,
And diving back into the swell.

His fishes tail the last part seen
He disappeared into the green

Our prince now looked about him more,
And found to his surprise were four,
Queens and Kings in robes resplendent,
With many a curious royal attendant.
Thus came he to Cair Paravel,
And there he did live very well.

With joy and love and peace and lore,
That now he knew he'd missed before,
Within his father's fortress strong,
And so it was that before long,
He came to call the castle home,
Cair Paravel, no more to roam.”


And so Susan finished and Peter plucked the last chords on the harp. There was a silence before a smattering of clapping. This time, with Peter’s support, Susan managed a semblance of her graceful curtsey whilst he completed the movement with a martial click of his heels.

The sounds of the harp for this piece had sounded a little alien to English ears, but the pathos of the story about a young man in exile, and estranged from his loving but passive mother by a bullying father had not been lost on the audience. The plight of the refugees of Europe were on more than a few minds. There were a few tears.

Once the audience had settled again, Peter spoke again.

“But now that we four have departed,
Perhaps from Narnia ever parted,
Daimyo must wonder what to do,
How did he get into this stew?
And whether he should regent be?
Or back to Seven Isles flee?

And we know not what the Lion intends,
For left behind are many friends,
We trust as close as life itself,
So hope we have, the nation’s health,
Will be in hands both strong and trusty,
The seats of power not cold and musty.

But exiled here we worry so,
Else Peridan and Daimyo,
Or offspring of the Galman Duke,
May find occasion to rebuke,
Each other or far worse to slaughter,
The heroic Terebinthian daughter.

So many came to grace those shores,
To assist the re-establishment of laws,
That freed the dryads and sylvan trees,
The fauns from schools and tithes and fees,
The Talking Beasts from evil drudgery,
And Dwarves from self-inflicted injury.

But when empty seats of power sit,
And none can then be found to fit,
The roles of Diplomat or Warrior,
Celebrant, Scold or Battle Doctor,
Counsellor, Clerk or Host engraced,
We pray Aslan ‘Please act with haste.’”


There was a polite spate of clapping, but some of the words and most of the meaning had been unknown to the audience and it wasn’t very interesting to most, although the idea of fauns not having to go to school caused some mirth, with some imagining the young of fallow deer capering out of classrooms, scattering slates, chalk, nibs and ink wells in their wake.

"Now last but not least, allow me to introduce my royal sister Queen Lucy the Valiant!" cried Peter in ringing tones.

"She it was who put faith and friendship first and showed us the path to loving forgiveness, a higher power and a new day.”

Lucy was dressed in a simple pleated wool skirt down past her knees with thick flannel socks and buckled shoes. Her buttons shone like pearls, her hair clips like a silver crown in the candle light. Nothing like her gowns and crowns of the recent past. She stood up and walked to the corner of the room and curtseyed deeply. She also wore a red woollen scarf and carried a handful of darts.

She walked to the right side of the room and removed a cloth which covered an easel. Upon the easel was a large sisal dartboard.

"Oh fair and loyal subjects all!" Lucy cried. “Before I tell the hopeful tale about the end to this war of woe that knocks about our head and brings us feelings of greatest dread, I shall demonstrate the little skill that I learned to help save the lives of those in dire straits.” she finished, her seven year old features slightly troubled.

Lucy then walked to the far left of the ballroom in front of her audience with her back to the dartboard which was now about twenty five feet away. Peter wrapped the red woollen scarf about her eyes and oriented her, before in rapid succession Lucy flung seven darts hand over hand straight at the dartboard. Not only did they all hit the board, all but three hit the central disk. The audience huffed with approval and more than a little fright.

She took the scarf off and gave them all a cheeky grin and said in her little-girl voice,
“I hope my humble demonstration shows that with a bit of practice, faith and devotion that one can achieve many things that might be thought impossible. I never aimed to kill, but only wound and I was nearly always accurate”, she explained sweetly and innocently.

A shiver went through the audience and most of the farm children who could understand gulped and stared wide eyed at her.

“But what I really want to do is help you to imagine that this horrible war is over and that it has been your valiant efforts on this soil that have helped bring it about. I call it the Day of Hope and Rejoicing. And afterwards I want you to help me sing a song. If you could all stand and hold hands please.”

The audience rose and obeyed her request.

Queen Lucy the Valiant closed her eyes, clasped her hands in front of her heart and breathed silently for a moment. Then she opened her eyes and looked upon her audience with a look of golden joy. She needed no harp.

"May these days that come,
Be the gladdest days of your lives!
For you took great thought and you have striven,
Yea, you have fought and you have given.

Shelter to the many weary,
The lost and blamed, their lives so teary,
From far off lands, their lives invaded,
Destroyed by hate and fear blockaded.

We long for a world where all are free,
To be as God made us to be,
All differences a wondrous thing,
Distinction a great gift we bring.

But closely has this war been won,
With loss to all, no heart not wrung,
So many passed from this fair land,
It is for them we now here stand!

Still not your tears,
For, know this dears,
In battle, glory is rarely found,
But there is another truth profound.

We are like to find it on this ground,
Amongst our friends who gather round,
For it is only with our tears and friends,
That we can hope to make amends.

For what then lies before us, yes,
Is the long road to blessedness,
Forgiveness, and Love and Faith combine,
I’ll finish now, the pleasure mine.”


Lucy looked upon the groups of children and mothers and then the old farmer man. He was smiling through tears and his daughter was mopping her own face whilst she clutched his hand. farmer

The old man stood up with some effort and held out his hand. Lucy came forward and took it gently and he let it be known that he wanted to sing. Everyone listened intently and he began in a quavery light baritone:

“Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye
Cheerio, here I go, on my way
Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye
Not a tear, but a cheer, make it gay”


Despite his words, there were plenty of tears, but he sang through them and this gave courage to everyone else to join him. Those who knew the words sang with him and in a moment the whole room was in song. Susan took up the harp and Lucy a wooden pipe. The entire song was sung until its very end.

"Give me a smile I can keep all the while
In my heart while I'm away

Till we meet once again, you and I
Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye
Cheerio, here I go on my way
Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye
Not a tear, but a cheer, make it gay
Give me a smile I can keep all the while
In my heart while I'm away
Goodbye everybody, I'll do my best for ye"


There was not a dry eye in the house and next moment one of the land girls came forward and asked Susan if she could play the harp. She took up the instrument and began a few bars and then everyone except the youngest children knew what she intended. It was Dannyboy. Again the voices rang out but there was some sobbing also and some hugs all round.

“Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling,
From glen to glen and down the mountain side,
The summer's gone and all the roses falling,
It's you, it's you, must go and I must bide,

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.
Etc.



Polly

After a pause and a lot of blowing of noses, it was high time for a bit of jollity and light hearted fun again, so Polly stepped forward, pheasant feathers jaunty, and thinking of the incident the day before she began:

“For years we had an aspidistra in a flower pot,
On the whatnot, near the 'atstand in the 'all”


This was a well-known favourite and in a moment nearly every person was belting it out as if there was no tomorrow.

It didn't seem to grow 'til one day our brother Joe,
Had a notion that he'd make it strong and tall,
So he's crossed it with an acorn from an oak tree ,
And he's planted it against the garden wall,
It shot up like a rocket, 'til it's nearly reached the sky,
It's the biggest aspidistra in the world,
We couldn't see the top of it, it got so bloomin' high,
It's the biggest aspidistra in the world…”


They kept going with that one and there were a few more tunes, but everyone was getting tired and some had a walk ahead of them. So in a while, the land girls and the farming people took their leave and gave their thanks. Then going out the doors, the sound of singing drifted on through the early moonlight dusk, until they were all out of earshot.

It was only after this was over that Polly realised she had probably looked a little like the engraving of the bosomy matron in the pillared hall singing to the Regency Period audience, except there was no parrot.

Finally, it was time for supper.




Polly and Digory Return
Chapter 6: The Riding Habit



Margaret

With all the visitors now gone, the household converged hungrily on the dining room. The pack up of the ballroom could wait until tomorrow.

Margaret, Betty and Ivy marched off to the kitchen and brought in large flat bowls, each with a mash of potato, a pile of fresh peas and a small individually made pie. There being nine people to eat and only eight small joints of pheasant, Margaret had opted to make pies to make the meat and flavour go round. She had fashioned a beautiful little Irish shamrock leaf on each pie for the occasion, as a nod to the harp music.

“Capital!” exclaimed Digory, when he saw them presented. Mrs Macready was a little emotional and covered it with a cough into her hand.

However, when the time came to eat, with everyone else tucking in and saying how nice it all was, Ivy and Betty only ate their potatoes and peas and said they weren’t very hungry. To fill up they nibbled on a little bread and butter, watching the rest with a wary eye. Margaret wondered what had got into them and decided Ivy must still be put out over not being taken seriously about the moon capering and that Betty was joining her protest.

This meant there was more to go round, and in due course, their pies were cut in halves and redistributed to Digory who said he had always loved pheasant, Polly who declared a passion for chanterelles and Peter and Edmund, simply because they were growing boys with bottomless stomachs.


Digory

The food was delicious, although Digory noted a slightly stronger fungal note in the pie he and Polly shared. When everyone was finished, everyone helped clear the table and then Ivy, Margaret and Betty went off to the kitchen to clean up.

This provided a moment that had been missed in the ballroom and Peter stood up.
“Dear friends of Narnia” he declared quietly. “The time has come, for some honours to be bestowed upon those who have long waited for recognition. Please be upstanding.”

Lucy clapped her hands in delight whilst Edmund and Susan exchanged indulgent glances. They all stood; Digory and Polly a little uncertainly.

“Edmund? Susan?” Peter asked.

They stood up and walked to the end of the table and shifted three of the dining chairs. The carver was placed against the wall and two others about five feet opposite. Peter sat on the carver and Edmund handed him one of the sabres, which he placed across his knees.

“We want to thank you both for being such stalwart supporters of us since we returned. Aslan clearly has sent Miss Plummer in the nick of time. We believe Aslan means for us to get your help to live back here in the best way we can. In honour of that and in honour of your own history, we wish to give some formal recognition to you both in relation to your efforts as children to return Jadis to her home world and when that failed, to help protect Narnia from her influence, which was successful for many hundreds of years. We have talked it over and we are sure that Aslan sent us to this house so that we might go to Narnia and finish your task and for that we were rewarded with many years of adventure, leadership and bliss.”

“So it is, that I, Peter the Magnificent, High King of Narnia, Emperor of the Lone Islands and King over all other Kings of Narnia, do solemnly declare that two long-time friends of Narnia are long overdue the recognition they deserve. I bid Professor Digory Kirke and Miss Polly Plummer take their seats before us and bid that this event be duly witnessed by Queen Susan the Gentle, King Edmund the Just and Queen Lucy the Valiant.”

He waited patiently until everyone took their places. Digory felt rather nervous; Polly looked slightly horrified. He knew she was a republican, after all.

“Be it known that according to the just laws of Narnia, and the undoubted wishes of Aslan the Great Lion, that henceforth, thou shalt be known as Lord Digory of the Apple and Lady Polly of the Rings, Peers of the Realm, Guardians of the Lantern, Counsellors of the Narnian Privy Chamber.”

Peter extended the sabre and touched each on the right shoulder then the left shoulder in turn. Then he kissed them each on the forehead once.

“Arise, Lord Digory of the Apple! Arise Lady Polly of the Rings!”

Polly rose unsteadily to her feet, Digory was more emotional and stayed where he was, a tear on his cheek, not sure where to look. Polly tugged at his arm and bent down, “Oh, get up, we’ve got to get this over with!” she hissed in his ear.

Digory struggled up. Susan came forward smiling and handed each of them a scroll of thick paper and embraced and kissed them twice, once on each cheek.

Peter laid the sword down and said, “We thank the Lord Digory and Lady Polly! May your faithful service to the realm and to Aslan continue for many years to come!”

The rest cheered. Then they all the rest got down on bended knee in front of Digory and Polly.

“Oh stop it!” exclaimed Polly. “We can’t have that going on around the place here! Stand up! If you must call me something, just call me Aunt Polly.”

And so it was, that they all went to bed by 10 o'clock feeling replete. The children certainly felt much more settled than they had, but Polly and Digory were feeling just the opposite.


Polly

By the time Polly finally staggered into her room she was feeling decidedly peculiar; quite nauseous in fact. So she sat on her bed holding her stomach and sipped some water, breathing unsteadily.

“Of all the stunts for those children to pull” she said to herself out loud. She doubted she would sleep now.

She flopped onto her bed, closed her eyes and tried to relax. But the churning and nausea continued.

It had brought back many memories. The vibrations of the bell. The crumbling city and the tremors under that dying red sun. The heel of Jadis kicking Digory in the teeth and her own desperate efforts to hang on and get her hand on the yellow ring. The confusion in the Wood Between the Worlds and then finding themselves in the darkness before a New World’s Dawn, waiting for they knew not what.

Then, after about fifteen minutes, just as she thought she might vomit, the sensation passed. In its place she felt strangely uplifted, as if she were floating. Then she realised she was feeling rather adventurous. All that versage in the ballroom came to mind and she realised she wanted to do daring things.

The thought of going for a ride on a horse in the moonlight rather tickled her.

She giggled a little and slipped off her clothes and wriggled into her old riding habit, rather amazed at herself. “No matter,” she said to herself “But what now? Digory…”

With everyone gone to bed, she thought she might go and interrupt Digory and have a laugh at his discomfiture when she flounced in with her old riding habit on and not done up at the back. He had become a staid and slightly introspective fellow in his old age and she thought it might be fun to stir him up a bit.

So she dug around in the wardrobe and found her old riding boots and holding them in her hands, slipped down the passage in her socked feet toward Digory's room.

Uncharacteristically, she barged in without knocking. Astoundingly, Digory was sitting on the edge of his bed, in his underclothes, rocking to and fro, giggling to himself. He didn’t even look up when Polly entered. She bent close and stared at him. His eyes were very dark; almost no iris to be seen.

“I feel like I could climb the air in front of me” He clawed at the space between them. "Polly, what's happening to me? Teeheeheehee!” he giggled some more.

"I don't know! Whatever do you mean by that? But Digory, listen. Do you remember the day you gave me this riding habit? She twirled about slightly stumpily, the back open, revealing her chemise.

Digory burst out laughing some more.

"Well I never remember seeing your underclothing before! Oh Polly, I hate to say it, but that habit doesn’t really fit. Bahahaha!” He rolled onto the bed laughing.

Polly swore at him, “Speak for yourself! You’re not a pretty picture in your nickers and singlet either! Get off that bed you useless lump!”

She began to twirl a coil of her hair round and round, round and round, round and round, whilst making mooing noises and opening and closing her mouth to make it sound a little like a siren.

Digory abruptly said, “Let’s get warm in front of the fire!” and promptly went over to the stone cold fireplace and sat down cross legged, holding out his hands as if there was a roaring blaze. Polly joined him and in a moment they were pretending to toast marshmallows on invisible sticks. It was fun because they knew it was not real but they really felt for a little that there were real flames and coals.

But Polly pretty quickly became bored with that.

“Look Digs, put something on, would you? We are going on an adventure!”

“Sounds fun, but where?”

“Doesn’t matter. Just get some clothes on. Where's your riding gear Digs? We’re going riding anyway.”

She crawled over to his chest of drawers and pulled a drawer open.

“Come on Digs, we need a shirt and a good solid jacket for you. Hurry up, we haven’t got all night!”

Digory got up creakily and shuffled over. He got out a pair of jodhpurs and a shirt from the drawers and a long thick tweed jacket from the rack and some riding boots from the bottom of the wardrobe.

Polly had to help him get the jodhpurs on. They were a squeeze but they got on in the end. Digory had been a slim young man.

“Lucky thing, they still fit you! Don’t put your boots on! We don’t want anyone else to know what we are doing!”

Whilst he got dressed, Polly made clopping sounds “tloh-tloh-tloh!” with her tongue and pranced about as if she was a child on a hobby horse, holding the train of her riding habit up with a loop attached to her wrist.

He giggled helplessly.

Polly made a characteristically sober statement. “Digs, there was something in that last pie we ate...”

“Really? Oh...” Then after a pause he said, “Yes, certainly. Liberty Caps grow hereabouts. Maybe someone slipped a few into that last pie we ate. It tasted pretty strange.”

“Ivy!” said Digory. “Betty!” said Polly, both at the same time

They drew in breaths, then laughed, staring wide eyed into each other’s faces. They knew they were right.

“They refused to eat any pie, remember?”

“The horrors! Come on! Let’s go and teach them a lesson!”

Polly thwacked her riding crop against the door jamb on the way out.


Digory

They crept along, carrying their boots and trying hopelessly to walk quietly along the corridor, nearly bumping into suits of armour and marble busts on pillars, bursting into fits of giggling, which they suppressed unsuccessfully.

At the end of the upstairs passage was a small bright window and for a moment Polly was transfixed staring at the moon. It had never seemed so big to her. She could see into its craters. If she could only get just a little bit closer.

Digory’s voice intruded with a hiss, “Polly, stop looking at that! Be sensible, I know where we are going! Follow me. We’re going to punish those girls remember. Naughty Ivy…”
“Naughty Betty!” added Polly hurriedly and with no little enthusiasm again.

Digory grabbed Polly's free hand before she became distracted again and went down a stair and then up a stair, into another passage. But try as they might, they became increasingly disoriented and couldn’t seem to find the main stairs to get down to the servant’s quarters. Digory couldn’t work it out. He had lived here on and off for fifty years!

“Here we are” said Digory at last. They waited at the door for a moment, chests heaving with exertion and adrenalin, crops at the ready to strike Ivy into a frenzy and then Digory quietly opened the door. It creaked slightly and they crept into her room. Moonlight slanted down. Ivy’s bed was not to be seen.

There was only a wardrobe.

“Where’s her bed gone?”

Then they suddenly realised where they were.

“Oooh Digory!” Polly breathed. This was much more interesting.

“Shall we? Come on, let’s get our boots on” he said, not waiting for an answer.

Digory undid the latch of the wardrobe, heart beating hard. Mothballs rolled out, dropping onto the floor, rolling like marbles before knocking into the skirting.

He sat on the window sill and pulled his riding boots on. Then he helped Polly do the same, although using the tool for the eyes and hooks in the moonlight was a bother. But they got there in the end… more or less; enough to keep her boots on at least.

Digory then gave Polly his hand and helped her step in, the train of her riding habit quite an encumbrance. For himself, he simply crawled in, leaving the door ajar behind
him.


Polly

Pushing through fur coats made progress rather cumbersome.

“Digory, why did your family collect so many fur coats? And why is this wardrobe so deep?” But there was no answer.

Polly panicked and tried to turn around. She was caught in the fur coats and then found herself tumbling down… onto a body and snowy ground.

There was a muffled curse and a young man’s winded voice was heard to say “Oh, for crying out loud Polly, why did you have to fall on me.”

Polly scrambled up, fur coats falling around her, wondering who had said that.

She finally disencumbered herself and stood breathing in fresh cold air. Someone got athletically up and they stood staring at each other in wonder and amazement.

It was Digory, but as he had looked when he was about seventeen years old!

“Polly, I had forgotten how beautiful you were when you were young!”

She thwacked him with her riding crop for such a backhanded compliment.
But his eyes crinkled and his smile said it all. They were back in Narnia. And her riding habit fitted like a glove.

Digory helped button her up.



Notes:
1. This is only the first six chapters. I think they stand on their own okay. But there are six more already written. Please leave a critique if you want more of this story.

2."Psilocybe semilanceata, commonly known as the liberty cap, is a psilocybin or "magic" mushroom that contains the psychoactive compounds psilocybin, psilocin and baeocystin. It is both one of the most widely distributed psilocybin mushrooms in nature, and one of the most potent." (accessed from Wikipedia 4th December 2016)

3. Naughty Ivy deliberately picked a few Liberty Caps and slipped them into one of the pies, no doubt intending for Susan or one of the other children to eat it; to teach them a lesson about getting moonstruck. But in the event, both she and Betty (who was in on the game) lost track of which pie was which, so they chose not to eat any pie at all. As it turns out it was Ivy's pie that had the Liberty Caps in, and no doubt if she had partaken, it would have been herself having an unusual experience. But as is usual in children's stories and morality tales, wicked people end up buying into the bigger designs of the guiding spirits. Thus it was, that Polly and Digory began to have a "trip" which propelled them into the Wardrobe and so on to the real beginning of this adventure.
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