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Josie held her face into the wind and felt the wild exuberance of it like she had so many nights before.  This time there was something different in the air, she was sure. The faintest trace of mists that had hung over ancient hedgerows, winds that had whistled across heather and down the chimneys of stone cottages, smoke belched from factories and railway engines.

‘I can smell England,’ she told Miss Miles.

‘Don’t be silly,’ said Miss Miles. As usual, Josie could hear in her voice that Miss Miles was nervous about being on deck after dark, though she tried not to show it. ‘England is still hundreds of miles away.’

‘Yes, Miss Miles,’ said Josie and sighed. She did not want to get into an argument with her chaperone, in which Miss Miles would invariably be the sensible one and she would be the self-evidently silly one. At the very least Miss Miles would be upset enough to make her come inside. She was always looking for excuses to make Josie come in out of the wind and the sea spray.

‘Do you think father will remember me?’ said Josie.

‘Of course he will, dear,’ said Miss Miles.

‘It’s been almost ten years,’ said Josie. ‘I would think you could bring just about any girl of about the right age and colouring and say she was Josephine Furness. Do you think he could tell the difference?’

‘Don’t be silly,’ said Miss Miles, and gave Josie’s hand a squeeze. ‘Of course he’ll recognise his own daughter.’ But to Josie Miss Miles sounded more nervous than ever.

Josie had only the vaguest memories of her father, a whiskery thundercloud of tobacco and eau de cologne that would roll into her life from time to time and then roll out again as quickly as it had come, ‘on business’ to Perth or the Eastern Goldfields or some other place, until one day just before her fifth birthday he had gone away ‘on business’ to the other side of the world and never returned. And now Josie’s Mama was gone, and her dear sister Gerry who had always looked after her when Mama had one of her turns was gone, and she was going to England to live with the whiskery thundercloud who had abandoned them so long ago.

It had all been sorted out by post. It was impossible to tell, from the stilted words of her father’s letters, if he really wanted her or not. She had made Miss Miles read and re-read them to her on the voyage until she knew every word by heart. It was possible that her father was stricken with grief for the troubles that had happened to the family he left behind, and was desperate to make what amends he could by welcoming his lost daughter, but just could not find the words to say so. Or, it was possible that he found the whole matter a great bother and distraction from whatever he did ‘on business’ and had long ago put out of his mind that he had left a family in Australia. She sighed again.

‘It’s getting terribly cold,’ said Miss Miles, with a shiver. The wind had shifted somehow so that it seemed to blow full in their faces whichever way they were facing. ‘We should be getting inside.’

‘Can I wait out just a moment longer?’ said Josie.

It was a plea she made every night, and every night Miss Miles made the same reply. Miss Miles had been Gerry’s friend- she had been Narelle to Gerry, and was not so very many years older than Josie herself- and did not have the backbone an older chaperone would have had.

‘Just for a moment, Josie,’ said Miss Miles. ‘I’ll wait for you inside.’

‘Thank you, Miss Miles,’ said Josie, and turned to give her a smile.

‘Just one more minute, then you come inside,’ said Miss Miles. She walked away, but Josie could tell she was hovering in the doorway, watching her.

‘Go on,’ said Josie. ‘I’m not made of cut glass, you know.’

Josie heard Miss Miles mutter something about wilful girls and close the door. She was probably still hovering, just on the other side, but Josie did not care.

Josie could no longer smell England on the wind. It was all sea now, heavy with mermaid’s tears and codfish and cold dark water that had spent a few lifetimes circling the world far below the surface before returning to the air again just now. Josie’s face was bitterly cold and if she had been sensible she would have suggested going inside herself ten minutes ago. She refused to admit that she was cold. She let the spray sting her face, trying to recapture the trace of England that she had smelled before. Probably the wind had shifted, and was coming out of the open ocean now. It was certainly getting stronger, minute by minute.

‘If only I could be sure father would be happy to see me,’ Josie thought. Mama had never said a harsh word about Josie’s father, only looked terribly woeful whenever he was spoken of. Not that he was spoken of much. There had been letters when Josie had been younger, but they were the same sort of stilted letters father had sent after the tragedy, and they had stopped coming a long time ago.

The wind seemed to stop entirely for an instant, and start up again from another direction, a proper gale. This wind had the trace of some flower in it that smelled a bit like vanilla bush – it wasn’t vanilla bush, but it was something like it. Josie did not have time to think about what it could be, because at that moment the ship reared up like some fool of a thoroughbred and tipped her over the railing into the sea.  Josie had no sensation of passing through the air but felt immediately plunged into the water.

‘I suppose I am going to die now so there was no use worrying,’ thought Josie, surprised at how unafraid she seemed to be. There was no question of swimming in the heavy coat and long skirts she had been wearing to keep off the cold on deck. Josie was not sure whether she was upside down or right side up. She tried to compose herself and say a prayer, but all that came into her head was ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ which was not particularly appropriate for being tumbled through the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Josie felt very sorry for Miss Miles, who would surely think it was all her fault that she had been lost overboard.

‘How silly I’ve been worrying about such a lot of silly things,’ thought Josie. She remembered in particular one time she had been beastly to little Ada Plummer over something that now seemed of no consequence whatsoever.

‘I hope it won’t be too horrible drowning,’ she thought. Then she was afraid, and thrashed desperately about without thinking at all.

Suddenly she was not in the water anymore. She did not feel desperately short of breath, and she did not feel particularly cold. For the merest instant she thought she might be in Heaven. She was lying on her back in soft grass, with sun on her face, and the air was filled with the smell of the flower that was something like vanilla bush- and also lemon blossoms, and jasmine, and three or four other pleasant things that she couldn’t identify.

‘But I can’t see,’ Josie thought. ‘Surely in Heaven I would be able to see.’ She put her hand in front of her eyes and felt the flutter of her eyelids to make sure that she did not just have her eyes closed. She was still blind.

‘And I wouldn’t be wearing these clothes’ she told herself. In Heaven she would have expected to be wearing flowing robes – or possibly nothing at all – but she seemed to be wearing the exact clothes she had been wearing on the deck of the Southern Cross, though they were now dry.

Josie sat up. She could hear birds singing, but not of any sort she recognised. She could also hear running water. She seemed to be only a yard or so from the edge of a stream. There were branches moving in the wind, but not right above her; maybe fifty feet away.  The grass had little flowers in it, tufted ones shaped a bit like dandelions, and it was from these that the vanilla bush smell came from. The sun on her face cooled momentarily, then warmed again, and she imagined there must be little clouds scooting across the sky.

‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ she said to herself, because she had to hear the sound of a human voice, and the only thing she had ever heard of before that was remotely similar to what had just happened to her was what happened to Alice when she fell down a rabbit hole.

Josie stood up carefully expecting to be aching all over, but was not really surprised to find that she wasn’t. She felt more cheerful than she had in a long time. It had been of course a very cheering surprise to find herself alive at all. But even if she had been in no danger before, she felt she would have found the place she was in cheering. Somehow she had fallen into spring out of winter. She took a few careful steps and heard the whirr of wings- some of the unfamiliar birds had decided she had come too close. A few steps more, and her outstretched hands brushed against a bush. It had soft fleshy leaves that were not smooth, but covered with down, and it smelled marvellous but strange, like the birds sounded. She brushed her arm up and down, side to side, to get a feel for how big the bush was, and as she did so there was the startled sound of a hoofed animal leaping up and cantering away. It sounded like a sheep-sized animal rather than a horse-sized one. She could smell it too, a little- a warm deserty smell that was not at all like sheep’s wool. The noise of the animal startled Josie in turn, and she laughed like she sometimes did when she had a fright that turned out not to be so bad after all.

‘Excuse me!’ she said.

The cantering slowed to a walk and then stopped. ‘What did you say?’ said a voice. It was a voice that seemed to belong to a girl some years younger than Josie, and one that could have made a good living singing on the stage.

‘I said excuse me,’ said Josie. It had not sounded to Josie as if there had been anyone else there, but she supposed there must have been. ‘I didn’t mean to startle it.’

‘I’ve never heard a Daughter of Helen say ‘excuse me’ before,’ said the voice. It really was a very pretty voice. ‘You have a peculiar way of talking’ it added cautiously.

‘You have a rather peculiar way of talking yourself,’ said Josie.

‘I didn’t mean to be disrespectful,’ said the voice. It sounded nervous and so did the animal, which took a few paces back and forth. Josie wondered if she was riding the animal and if in that case she was about to suddenly bolt off. The voice continued. ‘If you don’t mind me saying so, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but you Daughters of Helen and Sons of Frank are usually too caught up in your own affairs as Ladies and Lords of Creation to care whether you startle gazelles or not.’

Josie hadn’t heard any sound of harness, or of anyone moving about, just the animal. She had been reminded of Alice and the looking glass ever since she arrived in this place, and thinking of the conversation Alice had with a fawn in the wood she asked a question she had never imagined she would ask anyone.

‘Are you a gazelle?’ she asked.

‘Yes’ said the voice. ‘My name is Alabitha. My mother is Falabitha, and my father is Caladru, who is the Prince of all the gazelles in this country.’

‘My name is Josephine Furness,’ said Josie. ‘You can call me Josie instead of Miss Furness if you like. My mother’s name was Annabelle, and my father’s name is Leonard. Pleased to meet you, Alabitha.’

‘I’m so glad you’re pleased to meet me,’ said the gazelle warily. ‘I suppose I’m pleased to meet you as well.’ There was a pause and a shuffling of cloven feet while Josie wondered which of the many questions she had she would ask, but Alabitha spoke again first. ‘Have you come from one of those faraway northern countries where men and animals get along with each other, Lady Josie?’

‘I’m from somewhere a long way off,’ said Josie. ‘It can’t be any of the countries you are thinking of since we don’t have any talking animals. I don’t know how you would get there from here.’

‘Oh’ said Alabitha. ‘Are you lost? Where are you trying to get to? I know all of the ways around here.’

Josie remembered the Red Queen saying that all of the ways were her ways, and for the first time since she arrived in this place felt uneasy. What exactly was she going to do? Where was she, and how was she going to survive in this place?

‘I don’t know,’ said Josie. ‘I expect I must be lost. I don’t know how I got here, or where here is.’

‘That’s too bad’ said the gazelle. She padded a little closer to her. ‘I don’t know how you got here either. I’m sure you weren’t here when I got here, and I’m sure I would have woken up when you got here – unless I’m getting a stuffed ear.’ The gazelle snorted and shook her head three or four times.

‘The last I remember I fell in the ocean’ said Josie. ‘And then I was lying next to the water here.’

‘I’ve never seen the ocean,’ said the gazelle. ‘It’s a frightful long way to the ocean from here. This is Lion’s Pool. See the carved stone where the water comes out of the rock?’

‘I don’t,’ said Josie. ‘I don’t actually see anything. I’m blind.’

‘Oh’ said Alabitha. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s not your fault,’ said Josie. ‘I’m used to it.’

‘I can tell you what the carved stone looks like’ said Alabitha. ‘It’s carved to look like a lion, as large as life. The Sons of Frank and Daughters of Helen made it long ago, to show that it was one of the places where the Lion appeared.’

‘The Lion?’

‘The Lion, you know, Aslan,’ said the gazelle, in the gentle but nervous way you remind someone who has had a bad shock of something that they really ought to know.

At the sound of the name Aslan Josie felt something like she had felt when she could smell England on the wind over the ocean. It was like the first breeze from a far country that was at the same time terrifying and familiar, where everything is larger and brighter and stronger than home, yet at the same time in some strange way more truly ‘home’ than the home she had always known. She felt as if she never wanted to hear the name again, and as if she could listen to it forever. At that moment the first wanting was stronger, so though she was burning to know exactly who this Aslan was and why it was so important, she could not bring herself to say the name.

‘Oh,’ said Josie.

‘It was years and years and years ago,’ said Alabitha. ‘Before anyone who is alive now was alive. Except for some of the trees, probably.’

‘Which direction is it?’ asked Josie. ‘The carving?’

Alabitha told her and she walked up the stream for twenty yards or so on soft springy grass to the place. There was a mass of granite meeting her feet at about a forty five degree angle and she had to clamber up it a few steps and reach forward to touch the carving. The surface was worn and rough but the shape of the Lion’s face was perfectly distinct. She could feel the whorls of the mane worked very clearly, the mouth closed in a calm and serious way and the eyes open wide. It seemed even larger than life to Josie, but she had never been close enough to a lion to touch one. She stepped back down onto the grass.

‘I think it is splendid that you can make such things,’ said Alabitha, who had followed her, and was standing closer to Josie than she had before. ‘It must be wonderful to have hands.’

The strangeness of everything was suddenly overwhelming. Josie could feel tears starting to well up.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ she said.

Alabitha shuffled awkwardly as if she was not used to humans being anything but imperious. ‘You will probably think of it,’ she said. ‘Daughters of Helen always do.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Josie, in a small trembling voice.

Alabitha fidgeted nervously some more.

‘You’re sure to be here for some important reason, or you wouldn’t have turned up at the Lion’s Pool. I’ll tell my father you’re here and he will send someone wise to talk to you, and they will figure out what it is.’

‘That sounds good,’ said Josie in the same small trembling voice, thinking of her own father. ‘Thank you.’  She managed to pull herself together and not cry until Alabitha had trotted off. Then it was all too much.

After a while nothing had changed, but Josie felt better for the crying. She took off her coat- which was much too warm for this place- and her boots and stockings, and lay down in a shady spot where she could feel the deliciously cool grass on her feet. She listened to the tinkling water and the wind in the leaves and the strange birds and listened out for any other creature, but there was nothing.

‘The wise gazelle will be here any minute, so I must be sure to stay awake,’ she thought, and laughed a laugh that was only a little a sob to think she was waiting on a wise gazelle. But she fell asleep anyway.