We finally reach the titular silver chair!
So the Knight tells his story, which includes an awful lot of gaps in his memory (like, y’know, his entire childhood – little things like that). He explains that he’s under a terrible enchantment where every night, he goes mad for an hour, and unless he’s restrained in a particular silver chair, he transforms into a serpent. And the cure for this enchantment requires him to be crowned king of a country in Overland (according to the Lady). And apparently Operation Disenchantment is nearing its completion, with the Queen preparing an army to break through to said country. Hmm…
“It’s a bit rough luck on them, isn’t it?” said Scrubb.
“Thou art a lad of wondrous, quick-working wit!” exclaimed the Knight. “For, on my honor, I had never thought of it so before. I see your meaning.” He looked slightly, very slightly troubled for a moment or two; but his face soon cleared and he broke out, with another of his loud laughs, “But fie on gravity! Is it not the most comical and ridiculous thing in the world to think of them all going about their business and never dreaming that under their peaceful fields and floors, only a fathom down, there is a great army ready to break out upon them like a fountain! And they never to have suspected! Why, they themselves, when once the first smart of their defeat is over, can hardly choose but laugh at the thought!”
“I don’t think it’s funny at all,” said Jill. “I think you’ll be a wicked tyrant.”
My sentiments exactly, Jill. Also from Jill:
“He’s the silliest, most conceited, selfish pig I’ve met for a long time.”
I’m curious to know where she met that other “selfish pig”, as she has evidently encountered worse cases in her life.
The Knight permits them to stay during his “hour” (since they would probably be thrown in prison otherwise), and they briefly debate whether or not they should watch him during that hour. Puddleglum makes a good argument for it:
“We may pick up some information, and we need all we can get. I am sure that Queen is a witch and an enemy. […] There’s a stronger smell of danger and lies and magic and treason about this land than I’ve ever smelled before. We need to keep our eyes and ears open.”
When the “madness” begins, the Knight claims that it’s actually the only time when he’s sane, and begs them to release him, eventually invoking the name of Aslan – the last sign.
What had been the use promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren’t going to obey them? Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone – even a lunatic – who asked it in his name? Could it be a mere accident? […] But then, supposing this was the real sign?…They had muffed three already; they daren’t muff the fourth.
“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.
“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.
“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.
“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”
Of course it is the real sign after all, meaning that the Knight was really just the Prince under the witch’s enchantment. He takes his sword and smashes the silver chair (evidently the source of said enchantment, or at least a tool for it) in a rather alarming fashion, but soon settles down (and doesn’t turn into a serpent). Certainly makes that Hamlet reference understandable – not only is he really the Prince, but he’s thought to be insane when he’s really not, and also he lost a parent to a scheming usurper.
Next time: The “scheming usurper” arrives…