Nothing really happens this chapter (not even character development) – but that’s the point. When everything else up to this point has been so tightly plotted, seeing Shasta just waiting for 24 hours is a sure sign that something went wrong with Aravis and the Horses, too.
Lewis is great at capturing uncomfortable feelings, from the awkwardness of making up with someone close to you who hurt you (knowingly or not) to the anxiety of waiting without even knowing if what you’re waiting for is ever going to come.
It was very quiet here out on the edge of the desert; and now the sun had really set.
[…] “Either they’re shut up in Tashbaan for the night,” thought Shasta, “or else they’ve gone on without me. It’s just the sort of thing Aravis would do. But Bree wouldn’t. Oh, he wouldn’t – now, would he?”
In this idea about Aravis Shasta was once more quite wrong. She was proud and could be hard enough but she was as true as steel and would never have deserted a companion, whether she liked him or not.
Methinks Shasta is projecting his own feelings onto Aravis – last chapter he was ready to abandon them all (not to mention condemning Prince Corin to roaming Tashbaan by himself, at best) in favor of a quick and easy transport by sea, and he justified it to himself by saying that Aravis wouldn’t care if he left the party. Honestly, she just came across as a little cold; whenever she snapped at him, she was clearly upset about something that had nothing to do with him, and he was just the easiest one to find fault with. He’s just angry at her for stealing his best friend (or “raiding”, as Bree himself might prefer to phrase it).
Shasta isn’t quite alone, as it turns out – he encounters a cat that can evidently understand what he says, even if it isn’t in a talkative mood.
It led him right through the tombs and out on the desert side of them. There it sat down bolt upright with its tail curled round its feet and its face set toward the desert and toward Narnia and the North, as still as if it were watching for some enemy. Shasta lay down beside it with his back against the cat and his face toward the Tombs, because if one is nervous there’s nothing like having your face toward the danger and having something warm and solid at your back.
He’s threatened by a pack of jackals during the night, but something scares them off *cough*the cat turns into a lion*cough* Ahem. Clearly nothing important going on here…
Like most days when you are alone and waiting for something this day seemed about a hundred hours long. He had plenty to think of, of course, but sitting alone, just thinking, is pretty slow. He thought a good deal about the Narnians and especially about Corin. He wondered what had happened when they discovered the boy who had been lying on the sofa and hearing all their plans wasn’t really Corin at all. It was very unpleasant to think of all those nice people imagining him a traitor.
Just when Shasta starts seriously contemplating continuing the journey alone, Bree and Hwin appear, saddled and bridled and led by a man, with no Aravis in sight.
Next time: Aravis in Tashbaan…