Idx
Ch. 1
Ch. 2
Ch. 3
Ch. 4
Ch. 5
Ch. 6
Ch. 7
Ch. 8
Ch. 9
Ch. 10
Ch. 11
Ch. 12
Ch. 13
Ch. 14
Ch. 15
Ch. 16
Style: Serif Sans

For His Name’s Sake

Chapter One

"These vegetables are tough," complained the Crown Prince.

"The ground is dry as dust," said the Roptoh. "Nothing will grow at all unless servants carry bucket after bucket of water from the river."

"Couldn’t it come in a pipe?"

"Since when has water flowed upwards?" asked his father.

The Roptoa stopped eating for a while to fan herself. "The meat is good, son," she said. This was some consolation, as their portions of meat were large, and formed at least half of each meal. Outside, the sun beat relentlessly down. Inside the room, rich hangings and soft carpets glowed where the sun’s rays came, but where they sat was sheltered by walls and ceiling of thick stone.

"Where’s Shimei?" asked the Crown Prince.

"Your sister went riding this morning, Feor," said the Roptoa, "up into the woods in the foothills. She took food and drink with her, but did say she would return for the evening meal."

"Oh yes, I’d forgotten," said Feor.

"She is bathing, no doubt," said the Roptoh.

"Would you have her come to our table with the dust of the city on her clothes?" asked the Roptoa.

"I would have her come in time," he said imperiously.

The door opened, and a young woman in rich clothes came in and took her place at the table. A servant hurried to bring her meal.

"It’s dry," she complained. "What tough vegetables!"

"If you were here in time, daughter, your meal would be more to your taste."

"I’m sorry, Father. I realized that it was late - I was cantering home through the upper city - a peasant brat ran out right in front of my berra - I tried to rein her in, but one of her hooves hit the brat’s leg. I saw the blood, remembered what you had said, and threw the mother a coin, but by evil destiny the coin landed on the brat’s leg where it was bleeding. The mother threw it back at me - it spattered blood over my dress. I had to bath and change."

"I see," said the Roptoh sternly.

"Don’t be stern with me, Father. Grandfather would have been on my side. He would have had the mother whipped for not taking better care of her child."

"Times have changed," said the Roptoh. "Since the uprising in Zaqa, the peasants have lost their dread of the monarchy."

"But you said yourself - it will not happen here, because our nobility do not drink that terrible drug."

"Certainly we must not. But be wise in your behaviour, daughter. Ride slowly through the city. Remember to come home sooner."

As he spoke, a man arrived at the hovel where the woman and her child lived. The child’s cut had been bandaged with a rather grey cloth, which was by then dark with blood. The man was clearly expected; the woman rose to greet her husband. He threw a package onto the table; the woman opened it. Only a hunk of bread, reasonably large, but not fresh, and a somewhat mouldy cheese. The woman sighed.

Then, from a pouch hidden under his clothing, the man produced the liver and heart of a large animal, fresh and good. The woman was delighted; she gave him a ‘thank you’ kiss, and set to work to dry-fry them over the fire in a somewhat battered iron pan.

The child got up to see where the lovely smell was coming from, but soon sank down again with a cry. His father sat down and talked with his child. He sat and stared at the dry bread and mouldy cheese in silent, seething anger. There was a call from the doorway. The father invited the visitor inside. In the comparative darkness of his hovel, he took a little of his child’s blood (for the cut had bled afresh after the child had tried to stand) on the end of a thin stick, and made a mark with it on the paper the visitor presented to him. The visitor was pleased; he hugged the child’s father; they both made a quick, reverse movement of the hand across the throat - then the visitor was gone.

There was silence while the Princess ate her meat, but very soon she regained her liveliness.

"It’s cooler in the mountain at midday than it is now in this room," she said. "Why don’t you come with me, Feor? The only unpleasant part is riding through the upper city, and that doesn’t take long."

"It would be more proper if the Princess were accompanied," said the Roptoa.

"I asked Feor to come, but he refused. Said he wanted to practise his trie."

"Why not take a noble lady with you?" asked the Roptoa.

"They’re all so stuffy. Can’t appreciate a joke."

"You mean you have offended them all with your sharp tongue," said the Roptoh.

"They can only talk about gossip and scandal and the latest fashions," said Shimei. There was silence while she ate; the Roptoa fanned herself.

"I can’t listen to the trees and the river," she resumed. She gave up trying to chew her vegetables and pushed her plate aside. "Feor knows when to be silent."

"It’s time you learnt that," said her father pointedly.

"Then where would the wit and merriment of our family gathering be?" she asked gaily. "You are sad sometimes, dear father, and I wish to cheer you."

A sweet and cheese followed, brought in by tired, hot and somewhat morose servants. "They all look morose these days," thought the Roptoh. "I suppose the heat gets them down, just as it does me." He waited till they had brought more drinks, and withdrawn.

"Yes, I am sad - worried about the Representative Assembly. They were complaining today about the lack of vegetables for the poor. What do they expect me to do about it? Can I make it rain? I have not asked for any money in taxes for myself this year; we have kept within our own income. Yet they are not satisfied."

They sat awhile, drinking slowly, savouring their cheese.

Excited voices came closer. Shimei went to the window. "There’s a messenger coming." Her eyes were alight with anticipation. She went to sit down decorously.

A knock. The Roptoh called, "Enter." The messenger came in, and knelt.

"Speak your news."

"A strange flying machine, your Majesty, and strange people in it. It has landed in the Royal Park."

"What sort of people?"

"Like us - some are taller - one has white hair, but he does not look old."

"Have they any weapons?"

"None that I could see. One has some pictures in his hand. They were holding up the pictures for us to see."

"Thank you," said the Roptoh gravely, and gave the messenger a small reward. He bowed and went out.

"Let us go out to meet these strangers," said Shimei.

"I will summon the Palace guard. And Shimei, you stay here."

"But they have no weapons."

"Feor may come if he chooses." Addressing the servant, the Roptoh said,

"Call out the Palace guard. We must see about these strangers."

"Let us go, you and I, Feor. They sound friendly."

Feor shrank back. "How are we to know?"

"Oh come on, don’t be a coward."

"He has some proper caution," said his father. "You do not know what these strangers might do."

Shimei and Feor looked out of the Palace window. The strangers were holding up pictures for the Roptoh to see, but he did not think it wise to go near enough to see them properly.

"I’m going out," said Shimei. "Someone’s got to go near, or we’ll never know what they want to tell us."

"Father told you to stay here."

"But he needs my help. The Palace guard are even more cowardly than you." Shimei put on her hat, and walked determinedly downstairs.

Stung by her taunt, her brother followed her out into the Park. There it was, the flying machine, lying on its side. The strange people did look friendly, yet even Shimei grabbed her brother’s arm. Only the dread of being thought a coward by the Palace Guard, who were approaching slowly with the Roptoh, made Feor go any nearer. Nearer they went, near enough to look at the pictures and try to understand what the strangers were trying to tell them. The pictures were exactly like the spaceship and like the two strangers who were holding them up for Feor and Shimei, and, when he arrived, the Roptoh, to see. They puzzled over them for a while, their brains numbed by fear.

"Oh! There’s something wrong with their flying machine," said Shimei at last. "They have had to land because it is not safe to go on till it is mended."

"How can you be sure?" asked Feor.

"Does it need mending?" Shimei asked the strangers.

The golden-haired stranger looked puzzled. Shimei pointed to the picture of the flying machine which showed the engine inside. She pointed to the broken piece.

"It needs mending," she said. "It is broken."

The golden-haired stranger pointed at the broken piece, and repeated, "It is broken," exactly as she had said it. Then he pointed at the picture of the outside of the flying machine.

"The flying machine," she said, pointing at the picture of its outside, "is broken," pointing at the broken piece.

"The flying machine is broken," he repeated. Then, pointing at the actual machine, he said, "The flying machine."

"Yes, the flying machine," she said.

He pointed at his hand.

"Your hand," she said. She pointed at her hand. "My hand," she said.

He repeated it, pointing at his hand. Then he pointed at her hand. "Your hand."

"Yes," she said.

"Flying machine," he said, pointing at it.

"Yes."

"Flying machine," he said, pointing at his hand.

"No; your hand."

"Ah." He took out a notebook, and wrote. "Flying machine," he said, pointing at it.

"Yes," she said.

"My hand," he said, pointing at it.

"Yes."

"Your hand," he said, pointing at hers.

"Yes."

He wrote busily.

"Father," said Feor, "they want to learn our language."

"They want to mend their machine, and then they will fly away. Seems reasonable enough."

The white-haired stranger opened the door of the flying machine, and bowed and waved his arms.

"He’s inviting us inside," said Shimei. She hesitated, and looked at her brother and father.

"If one of them will stay out of the machine," began the Roptoh cautiously.

"But if it’s broken," said Shimei, "they can’t go on till it’s mended, so they can’t take us away." She took a step towards the ship door. The white-haired stranger smiled and beckoned.

"Don’t, daughter," said the Roptoh.

Shimei straightened her shoulders and went inside. It was cool - there was a cool breeze - ooh, it was good. She sat down, feeling even more comfortable than she had felt under the trees near the river. Her seat was smooth and firm.

"Come in," she called. "It’s cool in here."

Feor followed her, and sat beside her. The strangers smiled. The middle-aged golden-haired one put his notebook on the table in front of him. He looked at his visitors and, pointing to himself, said,

"Chalata."

He looked at the young white-haired stranger, who pointed at himself and said,

"Wysau."

A slightly older white-haired woman stranger pointed at herself:

"Abritis."

They all looked at Shimei.

"Shimei," she said, pointing at herself.

Feor took the hint. The strangers repeated their names. Shimei pointed at Chalata. "Shalata," she said.

He smiled. "Chalata," he corrected.

Shimei tried again. He shook his head and smiled. He pointed at her.

"Shimei," he repeated. He had pronounced her name exactly as she had. "Feor," he said, pointing at him. Again, Chalata got the pronunciation exactly right.

Chalata then showed them the picture of other strangers mending their flying machine. At a word from him, the woman stranger began to draw. Her drawing showed a man and woman coming into the flying machine, but she did not draw their attention to it till after the strangers had worked at learning Remsheth for an hour or more. Then one of the Palace guard called to them. Reluctantly Shimei and Feor rose to leave. Then the woman stranger pointed to the woman in her drawing. "Shimei," she said. She pointed at the man. "Feor," she said. No attempt was made to detain them, but the woman stranger pointed at the picture again.

"Oh, they want us to come back," said Shimei.

"So long," said the Roptoh, "as only those few are sitting there with you, you’ll be safe; but if you see the others sitting down too, then come out quickly."

The next day, Chalata asked,

"Your father - the Roptoh?"

"Yes."

"Your mother?"

"The Roptoa."

"Roptoh - Roptoa," repeated Chalata.

"Yes."

Chalata looked puzzled. "Why?

berrberraberron
fertfertaferton
latolatalaton,

but Roptoh? You have no other "oh" in your language, and this one" he pointed at his middle column "is "a" not "oa". Why?"

"Oh," said Feor. He explained slowly and distinctly:

"The Roptoh and nobles come from a district in the north. They spoke a different language. There in the north the people still speak that language, but the Roptoh and nobles have learnt the language of the capital Remgath. "Roptoh" is a word from the language of the people of the north."

"Ah," said Chalata, and wrote in his notebook. He went on asking questions, pointing at things, writing in his notebook. Then he seemed to run out of things to point at, so he led them outside to the market. Abritis and Wysau followed, constantly on the alert, watching everybody as they walked. Chalata pointed at little children, meat, market stalls, material, clothes, sandals, and wrote down their replies. The market traders looked at them nervously, especially at Abritis and Wysau, who both had white hair and brilliant blue eyes. Little children ran to their mothers at their approach. Chalata and Abritis seemed sad, and led the way back to their flying machine in a rather subdued manner, but Wysau was distressed. Seeing this, Chalata went to walk by him, and they talked briefly in their own language. Then, both cheered, they renewed their efforts to learn Remsheth.

After the noise and bustle, smells and dirt of the market, going back into the cool flying machine was a real pleasure to Feor and Shimei.

As she stood at her window that evening, looking out at the flying machine, glowing silver in the moonlight, she thought,

"What is it about these strangers? They don’t quarrel, they are always ready to smile, yet they have trouble with their machine, and can’t get home, and have to work to mend it. They work, all of them, much harder than we do in the Palace, yet there is rest and peace in that machine, that we do not have."

The next afternoon, Abritis produced a drawing of two people in a double bed; then she went out. A short, dark-haired, dark-skinned woman came to Chalata’s side. Chalata showed them the drawing, and put his arm round the woman. "This is Janita. She is my . . . ?" He looked enquiringly at Feor and Shimei.

"Wife," supplied Feor.

Janita repeated, after her husband, "He is my - ?"

"Husband," supplied Feor.

Abritis brought in a tall golden-haired stranger with dirty hands. They managed somehow to hug each other without him touching her robe with his hands.

"He is my - ?"

"Husband," said Feor.

"She is my - ?" he repeated after Abritis.

"Wife," said Feor.

"What is your name?" asked Shimei.

"His name is Darte," answered Abritis on his behalf.

"Do you have a wife?" asked Chalata, looking at Feor.

"I have no wife," he replied.

"I have no husband," said Shimei.

"I have no wife," said Wysau.

Darte went quickly back to his work, but Janita sat down beside her husband.

"He is my brother," said Shimei, indicating Feor.

"She is my sister," said Feor, indicating Shimei. "Our father and mother are the Roptoh and Roptoa."

"Have you any other brother?" asked Chalata.

"No."

"Have you any other sister?"

Feor said "No" rather too quickly. Shimei looked uneasy, and did not reply.

They went back every day for three days. Then the strangers said,

"Tomorrow is our holy day. We do not work. We will work the next day."

"Oh," said the Roptoh, when this was reported to him, "they have a religion, then. I wonder what it is."

So it went on for three weeks. One morning, in answer to a question from Wysau, Feor said something at which Chalata’s eyes gleamed. He asked other questions, which Feor answered, but not as Chalata wished. Suddenly Shimei interrupted, giving the answers Chalata wanted.

"He wants to know what difference the word order makes in our language," she explained to Feor. Chalata was clearly delighted, and wrote busily. Wysau smiled at Shimei.

She had noticed before that he was handsome, but not how handsome; nor had she seen how a smile could bring his handsome features to life. A smile for her, Shimei, alone, was even more disturbing. But she would not be disturbed. He was a mere passing visitor, here today, gone in a few weeks; she would never see him again.

The next day Chalata began to speak their language a good deal better. He understood, without any trouble, when Feor explained that the following day was a special holy day for his people, and that they must attend services in the temple with their family.

"I don’t see why I need go," said Shimei.

"Father will expect it."

"Would you like me to come and work with you?"

"Yes," said Chalata slowly, "but we do not want to displease your father or your people."

"Then I will come."

"They will be displeased if someone does not go and work with them," she told her father over the evening meal. "Better me than Feor."

"I thought they were gentle, with good manners."

"So they are, Father," said Feor. "But one is very handsome."

"Feor!" cried Shimei indignantly. "I don’t care for him!"

"Then why do you not come to the temple, as you know you should?" demanded the Roptoh.

"I have given my word to the strangers," said Shimei sulkily.

"You should go and explain," said the Roptoh firmly. "If they are gentle, with good manners, as Feor says, then they will understand."

Shimei had to obey.

The ship looked shining and eerie, in the evening sun. Nervously she approached it; reluctantly she knocked on the door.

"Shimei - good to see you. Come in," said Wysau.

"I am sorry," she said, as she stood inside.

"Please sit down."

She obeyed; she felt wanted and cared for.

"I cannot come tomorrow. My father insists that I go to the temple with my family. It is a - well, not a festival - a special day of prayer for a good rait harvest."

"We understand," said Chalata. "Can you stay now?"

She answered question after question; Chalata, then Wysau, then Abritis, repeated what she said. Then other strangers came in, and joined in the repeats. Chalata made some of them repeat words two or three times, but never corrected Wysau, for his repeats were nearly as good as Chalata’s.

Tsie brought drinks, and, while Chalata wrote in his notebook, they chatted to Shimei. Suddenly Wysau said,

"It is late. I will go with Shimei back to the Palace."

"Shimei," he asked as they walked, "does your father’s religion mean anything to you?"

"Nothing at all. We pray to these gods, but they never answer. I do many things the priests say will anger them, but they do not punish me. It means nothing to Feor - he is anxious to please Father, that is all."

"Our God means everything to us," said Wysau. "He does answer when we call, unless we are keeping sin in our hearts."

"Have your friends found the trouble with your machine?"

"Yes. It will take much work and many weeks to repair properly, but we have all we need here with us."

She hadn’t the heart to correct his word order.

"Goodnight," he said at the Palace gates. "See you the day after tomorrow."

"Ah - the Princess!" cried the doorkeeper. He ran upstairs to announce her return.

"It’s all right, Mother, she’s come back," said Feor. Shimei ran in panting.

"Oh daughter, I am so glad to see you! You are all right?"

"Perfectly, Mother."

"Were they displeased about - your not going - tomorrow?"

"No, but they were glad I stayed this evening to work."

"Why did you go alone?"

"I didn’t think of asking Feor - Father told me to go, so I went. But I was perfectly all right. They are good people, Mother. I’m sorry - I didn’t realize you would be anxious about me."

Her mother looked so ill that Shimei’s heart smote her.

"Even if you were quite safe with them," said her father, "you should not have returned in the dark alone. There are many bandits in this city."

"One of them walked me to the Palace."

"The handsome one?"

"Oh, Father, please don’t tease!"

"It was, wasn’t it?"

Shimei turned away silently. Amost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wished he could recall them. Many were the offers of marriage Shimei had rejected - some most eligible - to fall in love with a stranger, a passing visitor, who would leave in a few weeks, never to return.

A more pressing problem reclaimed his attention. "Your mother’s ears hurt terribly. The doctor has been called, and recommended hot stones wrapped in towels. These give a little easing, but the pain continues."

Shimei was glad to be allowed to stay with her mother on the following morning, to comfort her as best she could.

"Hurry with those hot stones!" she called to the servant. "The Roptoa is nearly screaming with the pain!"

"I am coming, Princess," said the servant sulkily.

"I should think so!" cried Shimei. But when she took the stones in her towel, she said, "These are hardly warm. Go and make them hotter, you lazy girl!"

The servant stamped downstairs.

"Don’t shout, please, dear. Fetch a - a - "

Shimei rushed to obey. The bowl only just reached her mother in time.

The Roptoh and Feor were so anxious about the Roptoa that they could hardly eat their special festival meal. The Roptoh was about to summon the doctor again when a woman begged for a short audience. The Roptoh, in his worry, wanted to send her away, but, remembering his people’s dissatisfaction, thought this would not be wise.

The woman came in with her thirteen-year-old son; they both knelt.

"I work in the market, selling meat, your Majesty. Quite early this morning my son was cutting some meat when the knife slipped, and he cut off his first finger."

"Let me see - but it’s perfectly all right!"

"It is now," agreed the woman.

"Truly, your Majesty," said the boy, "I did cut it off. A stranger was there. He told me to hold the finger in its place and hurry to his flying machine. I felt so faint that they had to support me. They took me inside, laid me down in front of a screen, and I fainted. When I came to my senses, my finger was back on my hand, and I was in a lovely cool place. They were kind - they gave me a little to drink, and told me to keep my hand still. I went to sleep. When I woke, they gave me more to drink, and a little to eat. As I could walk, they let me go home, but said I was not to use this hand to lift anything heavy until tomorrow morning."

"Is there anyone else in the market now who saw this boy with his finger cut off?"

A messenger ran out, and soon returned with three more market traders. They too knelt, and confirmed that the boy had cut off his finger and been hurried away by a stranger. They were most interested to see his mended finger.

"That’s wonderful," they said. "And you were not afraid to go into their flying machine?"

"The pain was so bad, I hardly cared," said the boy.

"He did bleed," said one of the traders. "It dripped all the way as he went."

"Were you not afraid," asked the Roptoh of the mother, "to let your son go alone into that flying machine?"

"I sent his elder sister with him. I had to mind my stall."

The Roptoh examined the boy’s hand with more interest. "Is there no pain?"

"None at all. There was very little when I first woke in the flying machine, and saw that my finger was mended."

"Truly, it is wonderful," said the Roptoh, and gave the boy’s mother a small reward. He also gave a little to each of the traders. "Thank you for telling me."

He sat, frowning, drumming his fingers on the arm of his chair. He signed to a servant - and shook his head, to indicate that he had changed his mind. Then another servant came in, looking extremely nervous.

"Excuse me, your Majesty; two of the strangers request an audience with you."

"Show them up," commanded the Roptoh in as firm a voice as he could manage. In came Wysau and Abritis, both carrying small cases. They bowed politely.

"Your Majesty," said Wysau, "we have heard that the Roptoa is ill. We would like to help her if we may."

"Follow me," commanded the Roptoh. He led them down a long corridor to the royal apartments. "Please wait a little while - I will prepare her for your visit."

They spoke so quickly that it was difficult even for Wysau to follow their thoughts. Yet both the strangers could hear the fear in the Roptoa’s intonation, and the gentle persuasion in the Roptoh’s. All they could do was pray. A servant came out, and summoned them into the Roptoa’s apartment. He stood by his wife, holding her hand, as Wysau put a little instrument with a light on the end into one of her ears, and looked down it. He removed it, wiped it, and looked into the other ear. He said something to the woman stranger, who opened his case, selected a bottle, filled a machine from it, and handed it and a swab to Wysau. The Roptoa held her husband’s hand even tighter.

"I must give you medicine like this," Wysau explained, "because the trouble in your ears is very bad. There will be a prick, but if you hold your arm quite still, it won’t hurt much at all."

The Roptoh watched, horrified, as the needle, and the medicine in the machine, went into his wife’s arm. Wysau took out the needle as Shimei came in.

"Have you vomited very recently?" Wysau asked his patient.

"Not in the last hour."

"Have a little drink - just a sip at a time. Are these stones still hot?"

"Warm."

"Shimei," said Wysau, "can you ask the servants to keep one pair of stones warming while the others are in use, and then she’ll always have some hot ones ready. Just for the next twenty-four hours."

"Do the hot stones help?" asked the Roptoh.

"They ease the pain, but they will not cure it. I have some more medicine for the Roptoa. I would like to tell you about it while Shimei is here, and the servant who will look after the Roptoa during the night. Could you send for that servant, please, your Majesty?"

They waited till she arrived.

"You may find that the Roptoa has no more pain tonight, but she will still need this medicine. She should take one tablet at six o’clock, the next at eleven, and another at five, six or seven o’clock in the morning, depending on when she wakes up. She should have another at twelve midday, and the last at ten in the evening. If she should still be in pain by seven o’clock tomorrow evening, then please call me immediately."

The Roptoa whispered to her husband.

"Stranger," he asked, "will the Roptoa need any more medicine through that needle?"

"If she gets better as I expect, then she will not."

Shimei had paper and pen brought, and asked Wysau to remind her of what he had said. While he did so, Abritis gave the Roptoa another sip. The servants came in with hot stones; the Roptoa placed one sore ear on a wrapped stone, and closed her eyes. Abritis covered her drink, and they withdrew.

Shimei came back to her mother at six. At first she thought she was asleep, but she murmured,

"Sip, Shimei." Shimei gave her her tablet with her second sip, and left her to sleep.

Not till three more hours had passed did she wake. Shimei sent for the Roptoh and Feor. "How are you, Mother?" asked Feor.

"Pain’s gone." She smiled. "Tired."

The Roptoh kissed her hand.

"Thank you, my lord," she said, "for making me see the strangers. Another sip, Shimei - I don’t feel sick any more."

"My mother slept all night till seven in the morning," reported Feor to Wysau and Chalata. "She asked for some breakfast. Father is very, very grateful - so we have come."

"Make sure she takes her last two tablets," urged Wysau. "I’ve never seen ears so badly infected. She must have been in great pain."

"Mother is a brave lady," said Feor. Wysau agreed warmly.

"Is there something else we can do for you? Father would like to know."

"How do they make the water come up from the river through that pipe?" asked the mother of the boy who cut off his finger, of his sister.

"And how did they obtain the Roptoh’s permission?"

"I don’t know, Mother, but they want us to find vegetable seeds. Here we are - quick-growing vegetables, they said. We’re to plant them when they’ve finished watering our patch."

An hour of work, and mother and daughter sat resting in the cool of the evening.

"Why did they do this for us?"

"While we were in their flying machine, they took pictures of my inside, and of Kite’s. They wanted to be sure we are made in the same way as they are, before giving anyone any medicine. They made various tests, analysed our food - they said we were just the same."

"Makes you wonder if they knew the Roptoa was ill."

"They’re made just the same as us, Mother. Why are they so clever, and we’re not?"

"I don’t know. When I was your age, I often wondered how it was that our ancestors built that beautiful palace that the Roptoh lives in, and yet we cannot make water come up out of the river as these strangers have done."

"Oh, that’s easy," said the daughter. "The Roptoh and his nobles like to make us work, and keep us poor, so that we cannot rise up against them."

"We have summoned you," said the Roptoh to Darte, Abritis and Wysau two mornings later, "because my son and I wish to know how you made the river water come up through that pipe onto the widow’s land."

"With a pumping machine, your Majesty," replied Wysau.

"Could you do the same for our land?"

"For a small part of it, where you grow vegetables. We have not enough power to water a large part."

"What power drives the pump?" asked Feor.

"Electricity - the power in lightning."

"However do you harness that?" asked Feor in wonder.

"Not from the sky - we make it in a generator. But we have not got much power left. We must return to our world as soon as we have the engines of our flying machine safely mended."

"How long will that take?"

"Not very long - about three more weeks."

"Before you go," said the Roptoh, "can you tell us about your religion?"

"Willingly. We will come this evening to water your land. Tomorrow is our holy day, when we rest. Shall we come to you on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week and tell you about our God?"

"Only one God?"

"One God in Three Persons."

The Roptoh looked perplexed.

"Chalata will explain."

At the evening meal, the Roptoh asked, "What can we give these strangers for their help?"

"They have no meat," said Shimei. "They grow vegetables on their ship, but they have had no meat for three weeks."

"Shall we give them an animal, and offer to kill it for them?"

"Yes, my lord," said the Roptoa.

When the strangers had finished their watering, they were invited into the scullery, where a middle-aged man was preparing the animal for slaughter. He peered at it very short-sightedly; only long experience enabled him to do his job.

"Thank you," said Wysau.

"Wouldn’t you like it cut into joints?"

"Yes, please."

As he did this, a thin, small girl ran into the scullery. A moment later, a woman followed. She clutched the girl’s arm and beckoned urgently. The small girl stuck out her tongue and made gestures of defiance. Looking guilty and embarrassed, the woman grabbed the girl’s arm again, and tried to pull her away.

"May I examine her?" asked Wysau gently. "Perhaps I could help."

"Oh no, no," cried the woman. "I shall lose my position." She redoubled her efforts to get the girl away, but the latter had seen the light of sympathy in Wysau’s eyes, and protested incoherently. The woman saw she would have to allow Wysau to examine her. He looked at her eyes, drawing back the eyelids; he looked at her tongue, and at her hands. Meanwhile the butcher chopped through a bone, with a loud noise, but the girl did not flinch or start as her nurse did. But when Wysau made a high-pitched whistle, even the nurse noticed that the girl looked at him enquiringly.

"Ah," he said. "If you could bring her to the flying machine in three days, I could help her - heal her ears - relieve you of some of the strain and toil in your work."

"I must not," said the woman.

"Ask if you may - remember, in three days. On Tuesday."

The butcher continued his work with the skill born of long practice. Darte and Abritis carried the joints away between them, but Wysau lingered. He pulled out a strange machine.

"May I look at your eyes?" he asked the butcher.

"Oh, could you help me? My sight is poor."

"Let’s have a look - yes - yes. Can you come to the flying machine on Monday?"

"Monday evening - I have to work."

"Monday evening at seven thirty."

On the Monday morning, Chalata began to translate the first chapter of the Gospel of John. As they walked home at midday, Feor said,

"I don’t want to go this afternoon; I want to play my trie. You’ll go, won’t you?"

Shimei was surprised. "But that book Chalata’s translating - it’s wonderful - I can feel in my bones that it is the truth."

"I’m glad you are willing. I don’t want to offend them, because they were so good to Mother. But it’s not for me."

Shimei did not understand why, but there was a different atmosphere in the flying machine that afternoon. Someone was there. Shimei was reaching out to the Presence, trying to find Him, trying to understand what the Book was saying about Him. At first Wysau and Abritis stayed with them, but later they left her with Chalata and Janita, and went to another room in the ship. Chalata explained: "They are preparing for a patient who is coming this evening." They returned to their task.

"These are very simple statements," said Shimei, "but so rich in meaning. They are telling me more than I can understand."

"Then ask the One Who caused them to be written to open the eyes of your mind," said Chalata gravely.

"How?"

"Ask Him quietly, in your heart."

Shimei did just that. Still, it seemed that she could only see dimly. She could see better, she knew that.

"Ask again," said Chalata, as he bid her goodbye. "Ask till you do see clearly."

The next morning at breakfast, Shimei wore one of her newest and most becoming dresses. Her long golden hair had been curled by her maid.

"Shimei," said her mother, "it’s too obvious - wear a more ordinary dress, dear."

"Why shouldn’t I dress up for once?"

"There is no cause."

"There’s no reason why I shouldn’t, either, if I feel like it. I’m not going to do any manual labour, and their flying machine is always spotlessly clean inside."

"Is it not un- - in-, well, not proper, my lord," said the Roptoa, "for her to throw herself at him like that?"

"What’s all this about?" asked the Roptoh wearily. "I can’t see anything very different about her."

"She’s got her best dress on, and has had her hair curled - can’t you see?"

The Roptoh peered at his daughter. "Oh yes. You are overdressed, daughter - I think your mother is right." He put his head in his hands.

"What is it, my lord?" asked the Roptoa, forgetting Shimei in her concern for him.

"My eyes ache."

"May I ask the strangers to help?" suggested Shimei.

"I’m tired - it will pass."

Shimei changed her dress, without another word of protest, for the coolest one she could find.

That morning the strangers did not put their cool air on until eleven o’clock.

"Ooh, that’s better," exclaimed Chalata when cool breezes blew into the hot flying machine.

"Why didn’t you have it on before?" asked Shimei.

"We’re short of electricity," explained Chalata. "That’s why Abritis didn’t join us until half past nine, and Wysau went away and returned at ten."

"Oh? What were they doing?"

"Working the dynamo with a cycling machine."

"May I try?"

"Certainly," said Abritis.

Wysau took her to the cycle, and showed her how to mount it and where to push with her feet.

"This is fun," she said at first, but very soon she was panting hard, and glad to stop. "May I try again later?"

At twelve she worked it for ten minutes, and Wysau for half an hour. Just before she left at one, she worked it for another ten minutes.

"Why are you panting? Have you been running?" asked the Roptoa.

"Nothing so undignified," replied Shimei. "Well, if it was undignified, it was in private. I’ve been working the strangers’ cycling machine. It makes electricity."

Feor’s eyes lit up with interest. "May I come and see it?"

"Come with me this afternoon."

"Daughter," said the Roptoh, "could you ask the strangers to make me see clearly, as they did for the butcher? We will give them another animal."

"Yes, Father," said Shimei obediently. She was more pleased than she dared show.

"Sister," said Feor on the way to the flying machine that afternoon, "your hair’s quite straight now. I don’t know why you bothered."

"Men do care how you look."

"I don’t. It makes no difference to me how a girl is dressed, or how she wears her hair."

"You’ve never cared for a girl in your life."

Feor was not as fit as his sister, and could only work the cycling machine for five minutes at a time. But while he worked it, and while Darte explained how the cycling machine drove the dynamo that made the electricity, Shimei was working on the translation with Chalata. While Feor was helping with the translation, she worked the cycling machine for twelve minutes, and asked Wysau if he would heal her father’s eyes.

"I shall have to look at them first, and find out why he does not see clearly. The reason may not be the same."

"Wysau, I will send two young servants to work this for you, so that you can be cool. If one worked it for half an hour, and the other worked it for the next half hour while the first rested, then the first could work it for another half an hour - "

"No," interrupted Wysau, "we need two hours’ rest between half hours on the machine. It is very hard work."

"They are only servants. What are they for, but to work?"

"Do they have work in the Palace to do already?"

"Of course. But they are lazy."

"Then we will not trouble them, Princess. We have no money of your world to pay people to work the machine for us."

That day Ruha had been as trying as can be. She ran out of her apartment and made her nurse run all around the Palace to catch her. After her evening meal, Ruha seemed very tired. She sat on the floor of her nursery and began to play with her bricks. Her nurse sat down gratefully and watched her. Ruha yawned, and knocked her bricks over fretfully.

"Time for bed," said the nurse. Ruha tried to struggle at first, but her nurse carried her off firmly to bed, where she was soon breathing regularly and deeply in the whiffly way that was habitual with her. The nurse left the door a little ajar and sat down as comfortably as she could. Ruha lay and breathed, waiting . . .

Wysau examined the Roptoh’s eyes very carefully.

"How do your eyes feel?"

"They are tired, and they ache."

"How long has this been going on?"

"For the past three weeks."

"How well can you see?"

"If I shut my right eye, everything is so blurred that I can hardly see at all."

"I can’t correct this in half an hour," said Wysau thoughtfully. "I must discuss it with the other members of our team."

Shimei was waiting outside. "What is the matter with Father’s eyes?"

"A disease - not short sight like the butcher. It’s a nasty disease, and it’s easily passed on from one person to another - that’s why I washed my hands so carefully. Please don’t touch your father’s face, or his hands. If you do, wash your hands before touching your face, or anyone else’s."

"Can you cure it?"

"It will take at least four weeks, and your father won’t exactly enjoy the treatment. But it’s the time - we’re running so short of supplies - we ought to go home in a fortnight."

"What is the worst shortage?"

"Electricity."

"The master of the stables is complaining that I do not give my berra her accustomed exercise. Could she walk round and round and work your dynamo?"

"Ask Darte tomorrow."

"I am sure my father will give you meat."

"Thank you - but we need vegetables too."

A small person in a nightgown darted out into the corridor and tugged pleadingly at Wysau’s robe.

"Ruha, you should be in bed," said Shimei sternly. "Go back to your nurse."

Ruha clung to Wysau.

"She wants me to treat her," said Wysau. "She is ill, and I could make her well. Please, Shimei - look, is there a room here where you and she could wait while I fetch her medicine?"

"My father will be angry when he finds out you have seen her. Go back to your nurse," she repeated angrily to Ruha, but this made not the slightest impression. Ruha tugged again at Wysau’s robe. Shimei tried to drag her away, but Ruha stood her ground, and began a high-pitched wailing.

"Oh goodness!" whispered Shimei, "we can’t have her worrying my mother or father when Father is ill."

"Then let me fetch her medicine."

But Ruha would not let go. "Come with me to the ship, both of you," suggested Wysau.

Shimei yielded to the inevitable. "So long as you walk back with us."

"Certainly."

"Ruha has no shoes on."

"Then I’ll carry her." Ruha offered no resistance. Shimei watched as Wysau made quite sure of his diagnosis, and held Ruha’s arm still as he injected. Ruha put her arms round Wysau’s neck as he lifted her to carry her back to the Palace, and ran quietly and willingly back to bed.

The next day, after she had worked with Chalata till drinks time, Wysau took Shimei aside. "There is something I would like you to do for me."

Shimei’s heart leapt.

"I have medicine for your sister. It must be given to her every day. She trusts me - and you, doesn’t she? The nurse would be willing to let you visit, and leave you alone with your sister?"

"I have not been good to her before."

"Then start now. Not only must you give her her medicine; you must talk to her. As she improves, you must tell her about your country, and about other things she needs to know. Ask her nurse to teach her table manners. Teach her her letters, and to read."

"But - don’t you know? She’s completely deaf - and stupid!"

"You try tomorrow. Talk to her very simply at first; tell her simple stories. She will improve if you give her her medicine every day. Teach her to eat fruit and fresh vegetables. Teach her to be good for her nurse. At first you need only stay for a little time each day. As she improves, she won’t be so trying, and you will not mind staying for longer. You could take her out for walks in the Palace gardens. Please, Shimei - for the sake of the good God Who is so patient with all of us."

Shimei agreed for his sake - and was given a large box full of pills.

"Only one each day, for as long as they last."

Shimei worked with Chalata while the others conferred. Darte took another team member outside with him, and they measured, and talked, and called Shimei, and asked her to bring her berra, a harness, and a long pole. When she returned, she found the cycling machine outside the flying machine, together with the big box which enclosed the dynamo. To accustom her berra to this new work, Shimei had at first to ride her round and round, so that she pushed the pole, which pushed something else - Shimei could not understand their explanations, but she did understand when Darte said,

"Well done, Shimei. You and your berra have made enough electricity for one day, anyway. If we could have four different berron, each working two hours a day for four days, and grooms to lead them at first, and then guide them when they need it, we should have enough electricity for a week."

"You need plenty," said Shimei, "so you can keep your flying machine cool all morning. The berron can work for more days, so long as it’s not in the heat of the day. But you will heal Father’s eyes? Please."

"I must tell him what the treatment will involve."

The Roptoh looked alarmed. "You will have to push that needle into my eye?"

"Yes, but only once for each eye."

The Roptoa put her hand over his. "It’ll be all right. You’ll feel much better - oh - afterwards."

"I’m afraid it won’t work as quickly as your wife’s medicine, your Majesty. At the beginning you may well feel worse. Can you ask your son to take over your business for you for these four weeks? He can read your letters, and you can advise him, but you must not use your eyes for reading or writing."

There was silence for a while.

"Wysau," said Shimei, "what will happen if you do not give Father this treatment?"

"The disease will get worse - it may spread to other members of the family, to the Palace staff."

"What will happen to Father?"

"Eventually he will lose his sight."

The Roptoh swallowed hard. "You have that medicine with you? And the needle?"

"Yes, your Majesty."

"Then begin the treatment straight away."

"I would advise you to lie down on your bed."

The Roptoa sat by him and held his hand. Wysau applied a little pain-killing gel.

"Princess," called a servant, "the strangers are asking for you." Shimei had to go. Wysau’s hand was perfectly steady as he injected, and the Roptoh felt little pain.

"That’s done - the worst is over. Now, your Majesty," said Wysau to the Roptoa, as he wrapped the syringes and replaced them in his bag, "I must wash my hands. Could you ask for two bowls of water?"

A servant went to fetch them.

"One is for you, so that you can wash your hands. Please remember always to wash your hands after caring for your husband. Don’t touch your own face till you have washed your hands. You are the person most at risk - you could easily catch this disease."

"How?"

"If you put his drops in for him, and then rubbed your own eyes, you would almost certainly catch it. This is why I propose to put the drops in myself for the first week. The danger will not be so great after the first week’s treatment. I would like you to watch me putting the drops in, so that you learn how to do it."

Shimei could not wait till the next day. That very evening, after her evening meal, she went to see Ruha. Had Wysau really cured her deafness?

"Ruha," she said - and Ruha turned and looked at her.

Of course, if Ruha had been deaf since birth, she would not understand anything that was said to her, even if she could now hear it.

"Ruha," Shimei repeated, gesturing towards her sister. Then she pointed at herself. "Shimei. Aktel," she said, gesturing towards Ruha’s nurse.

"Ak," said Ruha. "Ak."

"Aktel," repeated Shimei, again gesturing towards the nurse.

"Akel," said Ruha.

"Aktel," said Shimei, gesturing again.

"Akel," said Ruha. "Shim," gesturing towards her sister. "Ru?" pointing at herself.

"Ruha," repeated Shimei.

"Ru?"

"Ruha."

"Ruha," achieved Ruha.

Shimei clapped her hands, and smiled. "Well done. Yes, Ruha."

"Ruha," repeated Ruha. "Ruha." She pointed at herself as she said, "Ruha."

"Yes. Well done," encouraged Shimei.

"Ruha." Ruha clapped her hands with joy - and stopped to look in surprise at her own hands. She clapped again - the noise came again. Aktel gasped.

"Princess," she asked, "how has this happened?"

Shimei explained.

"I’d rather you gave her her medicine, Princess. I must do as the Roptoh has charged me."

"But you will talk to her?"

"Certainly, since she can now hear me."

"And encourage her to eat fruit and fresh vegetables?"

"She won’t - she hasn’t done for years. It is hard to persuade her to eat her meat."

"The medicine may improve her appetite."

"Well, I will try."

Shimei sat by her father’s bed two days later. "Mother got better, didn’t she, Father?"

There was a groan from the bed. "I can’t see anything."

"Do your eyes ache?"

"No," said the Roptoh thoughtfully.

"The butcher’s sight is perfect now - he can see things in the distance too, as clear as clear."

"But I feel rotten all over."

"Wysau did say you would feel worse at first."

The Roptoh sighed. "True."

A servant knocked, and brought in the Roptoh’s midday meal.

"Sit up, Father," encouraged Shimei. "How would you like your pillows?"

"One at the centre of my back - yes, there."

"Shall I feed you?"

"I’m not a baby," he said impatiently, and proceeded to eat perfectly normally. "These vegetables are good," he remarked, sounding rather puzzled.

"The strangers have been watering our land with a long pipe and their special pump. Our berron have been working harder to make enough electricity to work the pump as well as supply the strangers’ needs. But the strangers are very gentle with them, and will not allow our grooms to whip the berron. When they are tired, they are given rest and a drink. That is why our vegetables have been growing so well - which is a good thing, for the strangers eat a lot of vegetables."

"They’re much cheaper than meat."

The Roptoh finished his meal, and took a long drink.

"Feor will come to see you when you have had your dessert."

The Roptoh made a face. A servant knocked, and brought a delicious-looking confection, but his master waved it away. "I have eaten enough."

The servant went out, hiding a smile.

"But I must see Feor. I suppose it’s a good thing for me to teach him how to be Roptoh after me, but he is so lacking in initative - he simply does exactly as I tell him."

"He’s only learning," said Shimei. "When he knows more, and has done your bidding for these four weeks, he will understand far better what should be done. If he had too many of his own ideas now, the consequences could be unfortunate."

"True," said the Roptoh drily. "Ah, here you are, son."

Shimei was busy all that afternoon, and the following morning, helping Chalata with his translation. She had no warning of her father’s sudden relapse till she saw Wysau coming into the flying machine just as she and Chalata were finishing for the day. One look at the expression on his face, and she could understand nothing of Chalata’s next question. Chalata looked at her, and then at Wysau.

"What’s the matter, Wysau?"

"Accused of incompetence. The Roptoh is worse this afternoon. Shimei, do you think he could have been reading or writing?"

"He was rather annoyed with Feor. If there were business he could not trust him with - "

"Ah. He was anxious and annoyed."

"Did he allow you to put in the drops?"

"Yes - well, I insisted."

"Wysau," said Shimei earnestly, "I know my father well. He was annoyed because he was longing to be well and able to conduct the affairs of the realm. He knows he should not have been reading or writing, and a little reflection will remind him that he cannot expect to be well quickly if he does not follow your advice. If he had really lost faith in you, he would have refused your treatment. He will think the more of you because you insisted, and because you remained calm and courteous. Don’t worry about Father. It is Feor who needs help." She was about to rise and go to her brother when Wysau intervened.

"Wait a moment, Shimei."

Shimei stared at Wysau. He sat looking straight ahead, and there was something strange about his eyes. Whatever was he doing? What did she have to wait for?

Chalata rescued her from her perplexity. "He is reading your brother’s thoughts."

Shimei’s mouth fell open. Her lips went dry.

"Your mother is talking to him," reported Wysau. "He is telling her how he feels - discouraged, hurt, annoyed. "If I’m so useless, why not ask Artax to do it?" Who is Artax?"

"The chancellor." Shimei’s voice shook.

"She’s talking him round. They are close."

Chalata looked from Wysau to Shimei. "It is a bit difficult to get used to. I come from Asa, a different world from Wysau’s. I cannot read people’s thoughts, nor could any of my friends or relations. I’m just about used to it now, but Janita never feels at ease with thought-readers, even after all these years of living on Cirian - Wysau’s world - and going on trips like these, when we have to have at least two thought-readers in our team for safety reasons."

"Safety reasons?"

"Not only can they read people’s thoughts; they can hypnotize. They only do it to protect us, or others, or to prevent someone committing suicide."

"What do you mean, hypnotize?"

"Take over someone else’s mind, so that they do what I tell them," replied Wysau. "For instance, if I woke up at midnight tonight, and God directed me to seek your thoughts, and you had woken to find a man pointing a dagger at you, then I could make the man with the dagger put it down and walk out of the Palace. I wouldn’t have to move from my bed."

"And in the morning I would think it was all a nightmare."

"Till you saw the dagger on your bedside cabinet," said Wysau.

Shimei could have been comfortable with hypnotism as an idea, but not as a hard fact. "When are you going to tell us about your religion?"

"When the Roptoh is almost well," replied Chalata. "Let’s just finish this sentence."

When Shimei left the flying machine for her evening meal, the Master of the Stables was standing watching her berra push the pole round and round. "It won’t be for very long, this work, will it?"

"Another three weeks."

"Your berra is bored, Princess."

"They won’t want her on their day of rest. I’ll take her for a ride then."

The next morning Shimei was with her father when Wysau came to put in his drops. The Roptoh offered no objection. While Wysau was washing his hands, the Roptoh said,

"Could you have a look at Artax’s eyes? just to make sure?"

Shimei felt her presence there was justified, for she could conduct Wysau round the Palace.

"No, your Majesty," reported Wysau on their return to the Roptoh’s apartment. "Artax’s eyes are healthy, and so are Feor’s. But one of your wife’s eyes is slightly infected. With your permission - "

"Oh, go ahead, Doctor! You do know your work, and that’s more than can be said of others I could mention."

Wysau smiled, and the Roptoh smiled back. Shimei stood motionless. How could she bear it when Wysau went home?

The next morning, while Wysau was attending to his royal patients, Shimei was saying to Chalata,

"I asked your God for a new heart, but nothing’s happened."

"God’s holy Book says that if I keep sin in my heart, and refuse to confess it or stop doing it, then God will not listen to me when I call to Him. Are you keeping a sin in your heart, Shimei? Or are you not seeking God with all your heart? God promises to be found when we seek Him with all our hearts."

As Shimei made no answer, Chalata continued with his translation work.

"And this is eternal life: to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent."