The whole party found themselves sinking into darkness. Strawberry neighed; Uncle Andrew whimpered. Digory said, “That was a bit of luck.”
There was a short pause. Then Polly said, “Oughtn’t we to be nearly there now?”
“We do seem to be somewhere,” said Digory. “At least I’m standing on something solid.”
“Why, so am I, now that I come to think of it,” said Polly. “But why’s it so dark? I say, do you think we got into the wrong pool?”
“Perhaps this is Charn,” said Digory. “Only we’ve got back in the middle of the night.”
“This is not Charn,” came the Witch’s voice. “This is an empty world. This is Nothing.”
And really it was uncommonly like Nothing. There were no stars. It was so dark that they couldn’t see one another at all and it made no difference whether you kept your eyes shut or opened. Under their feet there was a cool, flat something which might have been earth, and was certainly not grass or wood. The air was cold and dry and there was no wind.
“My doom has come upon me,” said the Witch in a voice of horrible calmness.
“Oh don’t say that,” babbled Uncle Andrew. “My dear young lady, pray don’t say such things. It can’t be as bad as that. Ah - Cabman - my good man - you don’t happen to have a flask about you? A drop of spirits is just what I need.”
“Now then, now then,” came the Cabby’s voice, a good firm, hardy voice. “Keep cool everyone, that’s what I say. No bones broken, anyone? Good. Well there’s something to be thankful for straight away, and more than anyone could expect after falling all that way. Now, if we’ve fallen down some diggings—as it might be for a new station on the Underground—someone will come and get us out presently, see! And if we’re dead—which I don’t deny it might be—well, you got to -remember that worse things ‘appen at sea and a chap’s got to die sometime. And there ain’t nothing to be afraid of if a chap’s led a decent life. And if you ask me, I think the best thing we could do to pass the time would be sing a ‘ymn.”
And he did. He struck up at once a harvest thanksgiving hymn, all about crops being “safely gathered in.” It was not very suitable to a place which felt as if nothing had ever grown there since the beginning of time, but it was the one he could remember best. He had a fine voice and the children joined in; it was very cheering. Uncle Andrew and the Witch did not join in.
In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. The horse seemed to like it too; he gave the sort of whinney a horse would give if, after years of being a cab-horse, it found itself back in the old field where it had played as a foal, and saw someone whom it remembered and loved coming across the field to bring it a lump of sugar.
“Gawd!” said the Cabby. “Ain’t it lovely?”
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Clive Staples Lewis (1898 – 1963) held academic positions at both Oxford University, 1925–54, and Cambridge University, 1954–63. He was a British scholar who specialized as a medievalist and literary critic. From 1941 to 1943 Lewis spoke on religious programs broadcast by the BBC from London while the city was under periodic air raids. These broadcasts were appreciated by civilians and servicemen, and they were anthologized in Mere Christianity. Through he was a first rate literary scholar, Lewis is best known today for his fictional and theological works.