Work Header

Clipsie the Mariner

Work Text:

Sometimes Clipsie thought she might be the only really sensible person on the whole island.

At first she liked the Magician because he was nice to her and made a pet of her and taught her to read. But he never seemed to understand when her Papa and the other Duffers were joking, and for some reason a lot of their jokes made the Magician very cranky. Then he would start complaining to Clipsie about how awful his life was and saying that he didn’t deserve to be exiled to this island just for running into Alambil by mistake and pushing her off course, which meant that she wouldn’t be able to meet Tarva next time around. He said it was an accident that could have happened to anybody, and it wasn’t the end of the world, and besides it was really Alambil's fault, but of course Aslan didn't punish her because she was his favorite. And then he’d say that Aslan was a big old meanie (which was what “hypercritical and capricious” turned out to mean when Clipsie looked it up). So as time went on Clipsie liked the Magician less and less, especially when he started drinking so much wine.

Of course, Papa could easily have explained to the Magician that he was joking when he suggested things like doing the washing up before dinner to save time afterwards, but he refused to do it because (he said) explaining the joke would ruin it. But if the Magician didn’t realize it was a joke, then it was already ruined, wasn’t it? And besides, it made the Magician think all the Duffers were stupid, which they weren't.

Clipsie thought that Papa and the Magician were both being very silly.

And then one day the Duffers tried and tried to explain to the Magician why it was much better to get their water from the spring up on the hill instead of getting it from the stream that ran by the garden, which was what the Magician wanted them to do. It was worth going all the way up the hill to get water because the spring water was nice and clean and the stream was all silty and muddy and full of sheep dung besides. But the Magician just wouldn't listen and flew into a rage and turned them all into Monopods.

Clipsie’s Papa had had very nice-looking legs before the change, and all the lady Duffers used to swoon and admire him and try to catch his eye. Mama didn't like that very much, but Papa enjoyed it and said it was harmless and not to be jealous. So maybe that was why he wailed up and down that he’d been uglified (and everybody else, too, but mostly him). He was very stubborn and wouldn’t listen if anybody told him to look on the bright side, so Clipsie didn’t tell him that she much preferred boing-boing-boing to toddle-toddle-toddle. It was a lot faster and a lot more fun.

Still, at this point she didn't like the old Magician at all any more, because it wasn’t right to suddenly magic other people into a new form, even if some of them liked the new form better. It just wasn’t the kind of thing you should do to people without asking first!

Then her Papa had the idea of trying to undo the spell, and one afternoon he and Clipsie went Upstairs to look in the Magician’s book. She wasn’t afraid to go Upstairs because she’d been up there lots of times when the Magician was teaching her to read, and she’d looked in the book before, too, when the Magician wasn't watching. Besides, she knew that the Magician had started drinking so much wine in the morning that he usually fell asleep by noon. It would have been better if Papa hadn’t insisted on going with her, because for some reason Upstairs scared him dreadfully. And so he got nervous while they were looking for the spell to turn them back into Duffers, and when they found the spell for invisibility he said “let’s try that, then.” Clipsie didn’t very much like the idea of being invisible, but her Papa insisted, and she was an obedient girl. Besides, she was angry at the Magician and thought it would serve him right if everybody went invisible all of a sudden.

And then (of course) her Papa soon decided he was tired of being invisible (which they all were by that time), so Clipsie offered to go Upstairs again and say the reversal spell, but Papa wouldn’t let her go. Clipsie supposed she could have gone Upstairs by herself (she was invisible, after all, so who could stop her?), but she was an obedient girl and didn’t like to defy her Papa. Besides, at this point she really was a little scared of what the Magician might do if he caught her reading from his book again. A man who was so hypercritical and capricious that he would turn a whole island full of Duffers into Monopods (without even asking first!) might do anything. Especially if he happened to be drunk, which he usually was these days.

When the strangers came, Clipsie didn’t like most of them, especially at first. The Lucy was all right, but the Caspian had an angry look, like he might explode at any moment. Clipsie could tell he was the sort of person who had to have his own way, like the Magician. And the Edmund and the Eustace weren’t much better: so impatient with her Papa, who was just trying to explain the situation to them. But Clipsie liked the Mouse very much. He was lovely and furry, and he was obviously smarter than any of the other strangers, and he was a good size to sit and talk to, and he was very polite. Clipsie had the feeling that he understood what it was like to have people not take you seriously just because you were small or funny-looking. She couldn't say his name properly, but he said that was all right, that it was an honor to be a Mouse and he didn't mind being called that instead of his name.

After the Lucy went Upstairs and said the spell and they all turned visible again, Clipsie liked the strangers a little better, even though they were like the Magician and didn’t seem to get any of the Monopods' jokes. (Like the one about renaming themselves “Dufflepuds,” for instance. That was just silly.) And they were still awfully snooty, acting like they were better than everybody else and thinking that Clipsie and her Papa and the others didn’t understand that they were being laughed at. But at least they weren’t so angry-looking any more, and the Lucy really had helped the Monopods out, so Clipsie tried to think well of them. Of course, the Mouse never laughed at them. Clipsie wanted the others to leave now, but she wished the Mouse would stay behind, because the way he treated her made her feel like a real person, like maybe one day she could do something useful or brave or important.

And then the best thing of all happened. The Mouse had a little boat shaped like a pie dish, and he had it lowered into the water and started paddling around. Clipsie knew at once that she wanted a boat like that more than anything she had ever wanted in her life! So when the Mouse suggested that each of the Monopods could use their own foot as a boat, Clipsie was one of the first ones to bound out into the water to try it. It was the most fun she had ever had! Ever! It was even better after the Mouse showed her and the others how to make paddles. Then they had some races, which was fun, and Clipsie won several of them. (She didn’t like the wine the sailors gave them for prizes, so she gave it to her Papa.) And then later on the strangers went Upstairs to have dinner with the Magician (but of course none of the Monopods were invited Upstairs, not even Clipsie, who had been the Magician's pet). Before they went Upstairs the Mouse (who said he didn’t want to go up there, but that it would be impolite to refuse the invitation) lent his paddle to her so she could make a really good copy of it. She got out her Papa's tools and worked on it half the night and when she showed her new paddle to the Mouse in the morning he said it was very well-made indeed. And she knew he meant it, because the Mouse never said anything he didn't mean.

When the ship left, Clipsie paddled out into the harbor with the other Monopods to say goodbye to the Mouse (and to the Lucy; she was all right). The Mouse stood on the back part of the ship that was shaped like a dragon's tail and saluted them all with his sword as they sailed out of the harbor. Clipsie cried, but only a little bit.

Once they were gone, Clipsie did some hard thinking. She wondered if perhaps her Papa was wrong about some things. For example, Obedience might not be the most important virtue for a girl. The Mouse had said a lot about other virtues like Courage and Adventurousness, and those seemed much more fun and worthwhile to Clipsie. Obedience just meant letting other people tell you want to do, and what was the point of that if the things they were telling you to do were wrong things, like getting water from a dirty stream, or turning people invisible?

Clipsie resolved never ever ever again to let anybody push her around or tell her she was stupid.

Her Papa was getting old, and the Magician was asleep a lot of the time, and so she thought she could do pretty much what she wanted to without much fuss. She could go Upstairs when the Magician was sleeping and read his books. (The Mouse would probably think this was all right as long as she didn't take anything, which of course she wouldn't.) That would be interesting. There were a lot of books Upstairs, not just books about magic but all kinds. Maybe she could bring along some of the other Monopods (the ones that weren't too scared to go Upstairs) and teach them to read, too.

But what she wanted most of all was to see more of the world and have Adventures. She decided to paddle all the way around the island and explore the rest of it. Maybe she could discover other islands, too, but probably she would need to build a real boat if she wanted to do that because her foot wasn't what you would call seaworthy. Maybe there were books on boatbuilding Upstairs, and maybe some of the other Monopods would help her build a real ship. Maybe she would discover some new people who were more sensible (and more fun!) than the Magician and her Papa. Maybe she would find a place where she and some of the other Monopods could start a new town of their own, so the Magician couldn't tell them what to do all the time. Maybe she would be their Chief, because really, she thought she could do at least as good a job as Papa.

But being Chief might mean she would have to stop having Adventures, so she thought she would rather be an explorer to the end of her days. She would go out and see as much of the world as she could. And one day she would be called Clipsie the Mariner!