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Style: Serif Sans

For His Name’s Sake

Chapter Ten

“Here’s your sandwiches, you two,” said Tsie.  “Have a good day.”

“I do appreciate it, Chalata,” said Wysau, putting a still frozen box of sandwiches into his backpack, “having my day off on a Saturday, when Shimei can share it with me.”

“It’s not interplanetary attraction, but you still need to be together.”

They went to the Palace stables to collect their berron, and were riding through the streets towards the foothills, when they noticed a group of women looking at something at the side of the road, and looking towards the ancient building which could be seen from that street.  Wysau dismounted, gave his reins to Shimei, and went to investigate.

“Ashes,” he reported to Shimei; “a pair of good boots, hardly scorched, but old.  He wore fairly good clothes, but the other three had old rags on.  All of them were carrying flint and steel - the tinder would have burnt.  They wouldn’t have set fire to themselves, surely?  People who quarrel here usually fight, not set fire to each other.”

“Ask if anyone heard noises of quarrelling in the night,” suggested Shimei.  She patted and quieted the berron as he went.

“No,” he reported, “and it’s the truth.  No-one heard a thing- they all slept soundly.”

“Odder and odder,” she said.

He stood quiet for a moment or two.  “Anyway, let’s go.”

“It’s such a relief,” she said as she lay on the green turf after their picnic.  “I don’t mind teaching the school, but having to train new teachers at the same time, and be answerable for their mistakes - it is a strain.”

“I know,” he said.  “I have the same problem trying to train their doctors - and one of my best trainees gave up and went to work for you as a teacher!”

“He’s all right,” said Shimei, “and so is Obek - I never have any problems with them.”

“Obek’s really working hard to earn the money to buy that shop building he’s renting - and they’re both coming faithfully to the services.”

“Chalata was right to agree to marry them.”

“If only we had a date fixed for our wedding.”

“I still can’t believe you want to marry me.”

“What about you, and those nasty rumours?”

“I know you,” she said.  “Praise the Lord that they’ve died down.  Something must have happened to that woman’s husband.  She serves in the shop these days, and looks better for it, so one of my new teachers tells me.  She’s a good one, too.  Teaches needlework - she knows her subject thoroughly, and how to put it across.  The mothers are very keen for their daughters to learn it, too.”

“Is it the young teachers who are a problem?”

“Yes - the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds.  They haven’t the authority the mothers have, nor the patience - except for one, who’s a born teacher.  I wouldn’t have encouraged the other younger ones, had it not been for Celina.”

“Let’s pray that the other younger ones may either improve drastically, or give up of their own free will.”

“Ditto your trainees.”

They also prayed for patience and love.

Shimei opened her eyes to the loveliness of the mountains in the autumn, when it is cool enough to be comfortable, green enough to be fresh, but not cold enough to wish to be indoors.

“Well!”

She looked at him, startled.

“Human ashes.  Abritis thinks they died by spontaneous combustion.”

“What?”

“Their bodies just burst into flames for no apparent reason.”

“God must have His reasons.”

“They were all carrying tinder boxes, they were within sight of the ancient building, and it happened in the middle of the night.”

“I think you have your Heavenly Father to thank that the ancient building’s still standing.”

They came down from the mountain refreshed and encouraged, and sat down cheerfully to eat with their colleagues.

“Rumours in the city, I’m afraid,” said Ciecet.

Wysau stiffened.

“No, not any one of us specifically,” he continued, “and not due to anything we have done.  Rumours accusing us of witchcraft, because of those burnt bodies.  The owner of the boots has been identified.  He was Tiaaz the pimp.  His three henchmen, unsavoury characters who are usually engaged in whatever crime promises to be most lucrative, have disappeared.”

“Some say,” added Thilish, “that it was a judgement on them for wishing to destroy the books containing details of the inheritances - and for other things they’ve been doing.”

“Cholek came for a quick word at lunchtime,” said Shurzi.  “He wanted to thank us for dealing with Tiaaz.  When I said we could do no such thing, and that God only had the right to judge summarily like that, he was awed, and, I think, understood when I said we must leave vengeance to God.”

“Anyway,” said Abritis, “they’re all scared of us.”

“In some ways that might be a help,” said Thilish.  “It would be nice to have a quiet and attentive hearing at the clinic tomorrow, without the usual complaining and arguing.”

“Shimei, shall we go and see Helen and Feor?”

“Will it be convenient - I mean, have they had their two hours?”

“Not yet - they’re still eating.  I don’t mean to stay long - I just want to make a couple of suggestions to him.”

They excused themselves and went.

“Hello - would you like some tea?” asked Helen hospitably.

“Please,” said Shimei.  A servant brought two more cups and more hot water.

“How are things, Feor?” asked Wysau.

“Going fine.  Something strange happened this afternoon.  A married woman came and confessed that she had pretended to be a widow, to claim another inheritance.  She seemed thoroughly frightened.”

“She was afraid she’d be burnt alive,” said Helen, handing Shimei her tea.  “I couldn’t persuade her to tell me why.”

They explained what had happened.

“Can you really do this?” cried Helen.

“No, no, of course we can’t, and we wouldn’t if we could,” Wysau hastened to assure her.  “Thank you.”

“I wouldn’t let that get abroad,” said Shimei.  “Seems to me that these people - some of them, at least - need a healthy fear of you and of our God.”

“Let them fear our God,” said Feor, “for truly it must have been His doing.” They were all silent for a moment, and Helen thanked God for her husband.

“That wasn’t the purpose of our visit,” said Wysau.  “You mentioned that there were bound to be more people than inheritances?”

“Yes - and those without will be aggrieved.”

“Well, there’s more of that metal in the foothills, so there’s mining rights; some of the foothills and valleys could be used for grazing animals, especially the more sure-footed varieties; and on some sites in the hills windmills could be built, to generate electricity from wind power.”

“Abritis suggested quotas of fish from the sea,” said Feor.  “I’ll need all these ideas, and more - and details, Wysau, please.”

“No, my love,” said Wysau on their way through the Palace gardens.  “Let us not be accused of murder.  Tell people plainly that we cannot do any such thing.”

“I am sorry, Wysau - I understood as soon as Feor spoke.”

“Oh, my darling, don’t look like that - I understood how you meant it, and that you were glad the people had become afraid of attempting to deceive us or Feor.  It’s just that, as God’s ambassadors, we have to be most careful to give Him the glory, always.”

Suddenly he put his arm into hers, and, though his eyes were far away, he walked on slowly.  Then she heard a sound of weeping.  They walked on towards the ancient building where a priest knelt, weeping.

“Tell him about Jesus, and His death for sinners,” said Wysau.  “I must fetch a Bible.”

“They are still burning, burning in Hell,” sobbed the priest, “and soon I will too.”

“You need not,” said Shimei.  “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took all His people’s sins upon Himself, and bore the full weight of His Father’s righteous anger against their sin.  If you repent of your sin, and believe on the Son of God, and that He was raised from the dead, you can be one of His people, and go to Heaven to live with Him forever.”

“Have you assurance of this, lady?”

“Here comes my betrothed, with a copy of God’s word - one of the Bibles which were in the ancient building when it was unearthed.”

The priest could read the ancient script with ease.  Somehow it conveyed assurance to him; his sobbing ceased.

“Will you burn me up,” he asked Wysau, “if I take this to the other priests in the temple?”

“Try to bring it out again in one piece,” said Wysau.  “If they throw you out, tell us - we will try to arrange somewhere for you to sleep.”

“I’m sorry, love - I’ll have to watch for him.”

“Why did you let him go back to the temple, if you’re sure they’ll beat him up?”

“He feels he ought to - it may be one or two of them will listen to him.  He will be in danger, so I must concentrate.”

Shimei sighed.  It would always be like this, simply because Wysau was Wysau.  They would never have enough time to be together, unless they were actually on holiday.  But would she change him?  One thing she was thankful for - his team-mates did their best to ensure he had days off he could share with her.  She looked at him - it was difficult to tell what was going on from his expression.  Then she sensed hypnotism.  It went on and on.  It didn’t look as if Wysau was doing anything other than sitting on the steps of the ancient building with her - but she had a horrid feeling that Naii would never have got out of the temple unharmed, and certainly not with an intact Bible, without her fiance’s aid.

“He’s going to Obek’s for the night.”

“Have they got room for him?”

“Just a tiny room, where they are planning to put their first child.”

“Why didn’t you ask Naii onto the flying machine?”

“Because he’s terrified of us - he wouldn’t have been at all comfortable.  That’s why I asked you to stay with him and talk to him.  It was bad enough for him when I told him in his thoughts where to go for the night.”

They prayed for Naii, and for Obek and Rowesh.

They opened their eyes and looked at each other.  One in heart, one in purpose, one in love for their Lord - suddenly Shimei admired Wysau tremendously.  Not only had he been used to save a man’s life, but, under God, to save his soul.

“Darling, you did something for Naii tonight that I could never have done.”

She raised puzzled eyes to his.

“He heard the Gospel first from a woman.  Just think what that would mean to a priest, who has been in an atmosphere of woman-despising for most of his life.  Tonight he saw you as the messenger of the God Who is there - His angel, sent to Naii with the word of life and peace - you, a woman of his own people.  You know this is not just supposition, don’t you -that I learnt it from thought-reading?”

Their leisurely walk to the Palace was full of wonder for Shimei.  She sat on her bed, amazed - not only that she was about to marry this godly stranger, but that the Lord of the universe had done so much in herself, and with her puny efforts!

Shimei found herself teaching on her wedding morning, for Obek was busy in his bakery, and she could not leave Helen to run the school by herself.  She only had half an hour to prepare herself for the wedding, which would be followed by a proper meal for those invited, as the Roptoh and Roptoa were leaving that day for their northern kingdom.  No-one had had the time or money to order her a wedding dress.  Wysau had said, “White.  The nearest you have to a plain white dress.” So Shimei and her mother had found a dress Shimei had worn on her twentieth birthday, all wrapped up carefully, simply because it was completely white.  Shimei had wondered if it would still fit, but it was loosely cut, and she had lost weight since she had started teaching.  A quick shower, and Helen came in to help her dress.

“You need something colourful.”

But there was no time to look for anything; the Roptoa was knocking on her door.  She put on her cloak and went with her parents to the flying machine.

“Poor Shimei,” thought Helen.

As she went, more slowly, to the flying machine - she could not arrive too early because she must not see Feor before one o’clock - she picked some autumn blooms to make Shimei a bouquet.  But how could Shimei carry it?  Helen had nothing to wrap the wet stalks in.

It was Tsie who let Helen in.  “Oh, Helen, how lovely!”

“For Shimei.”

Quickly Tsie took some papery stuff from a roll in the kitchen, wetted it, wrapped it round the stems, and enclosed them and the wet soft papery stuff inside one of the smallest of the strong, clear, waterproof bags she used in the cold and very cold cupboards.  Suddenly Helen had a proper bouquet to offer to Shimei; one she could hold without staining her hands or her dress.

Nobody ever knew how the word got round.  The Roptoa said the servants must have heard the Roptoh and herself discussing the wedding.  Before the ceremony in front of the screen, with Wysau’s parents, relations and friends gathered on Cirian to watch, was half over, a great crowd had assembled outside.  It soon became clear that the newly wedded couple would have to go out to greet them.  Quickly Ytazu and Shurzi took the loudspeakers outside, and Chalata addressed the crowd briefly.

Out came bride and bridegroom, both in white - and the crowd cheered and cheered.  Wysau himself had to take the speaking machine in his hand before they hushed to listen.

Wysau had only just finished the meat course of his wedding banquet when a messenger came from Lord Alavar, saying that his ankle hurt really badly.

“Oh, Wysau,” said Ciecet, “let me go.”

But Wysau was out of the door already, following the messenger across the square.  Shimei sighed.  Yet she had prayed earlier for a little time to draw closer to her father before he left Remgath for ever.

“I will be looked after, Father,” she reassured him.  “I’m a citizen of Wysau’s world now.”

“Tell him not to trust the people,” said the Roptoh.  “They can be fickle.”

“He knows that.” And suddenly Shimei realized that everyone in that crowd must by then have been convinced that the charge against Wysau had been false.  “We can trust God to protect us all.”

“Mother,” Feor was saying to her, “I wish we could come with you, but we need to be near the strangers.  They will look after us.”

“You must have our flocks and herds.”

“But where will I graze them?”

“Ask the King for permission - or you could give him some animals in exchange for rights over some of his pasture land.”

“Are you sure, Father?”

“We have no servants to look after the animals on our long journey.  They will be happier with you.”

In the kitchen, Tsie and Ytazu were talking earnestly.  Thilish came in.

“She’s just given birth, and they have to travel a hundred and eighty miles; first, across the mountains - ”

“Wysau,” said Shurzi in his mind, “where are you?  The Roptoh wants to say farewell.”

“One of the lords has broken his ankle - he can’t travel today.”

“Not more nights of thought-reading!” groaned Shurzi.  “Oh - do you think we could - ?”

“Please,” begged Wysau.

Shurzi and Thilish found Chalata in the kitchen.

“It’ll cost us in fuel,” he said, “and working time.”

“It’ll cost us in sleeping time if we don’t, because one of the lords is having an ankle treated right now.”

“One of the ladies has just given birth.”

“Won’t the people see it as our giving favours to the rich?”

Darte and Abritis came in.  “See what?” he asked.

“If we take the nobility to their own land in the large flying machine.”

Darte looked thoughtful; Abritis and Shurzi stared into space.

“I think - ” Darte began.

“The people can’t wait to be rid of them,” said his wife.

“Their servants want them to go, but they also think they should be given some reward for faithful service,” added Shurzi.

“We can’t take their animals,” said Ytazu.  “They’d be terrified - it would be cruel.”

“They’d make an awful mess,” said Tsie.

“And it would stink,” said Thilish.  She smiled at Chalata.

“Mm,” said Chalata.  “Let’s pray.”

“Could you contact Mosu, Shurzi, and tell him we would like to take the nobility who will in the larger flying machine, and ask if they are happy about it?”

“I’ll have to go too,” said Thilish.  “That lady hasn’t the faintest idea of how to look after her baby, and her maid’s staying here.”

“Oh good,” said Tsie.  “We need you anyway, Thilish - someone’s got to tell them what’s going on while we take off and land, and keep them calm and lying down.”

“I don’t want Mother and Father to go at all,” prayed Shimei, “but if they have to go, Lord, please may they go!  The waiting’s agony!”

Then suddenly - “All aboard!” cried Ytazu.

The Roptoh and Roptoa looked startled.

“They’re taking you in the flying machine!” cried Shimei.  “Oh, how marvellous!  You’ll be there in a few hours!  Come on, Father, it’s up to you to lead the way.  Let’s help you put things in.”

The animals they had been going to travel on were led close to the flying machine, their burdens lifted from them and packed inside.  Wysau, Abritis and Shurzi had at first to hypnotize the able-bodied nobility to bring their own things, but, once they had started, they carried on, and the strangers were able to organize the cargo.

“No, sorry, we can’t take animals,” said Ytazu firmly.

“They’d be so frightened, they’d make a terrible mess,” explained Thilish.  “The whole flying machine would stink.”

Suddenly the ladies were all on her side.  “Oh, bless you, Thilish,” murmured Tsie.

The servants, too, smiled as their lords gave away their animals to those who had looked after them.

The next day, Wysau and Abritis made a rather late lunch on the smaller flying machine; Shimei helped set the table and bring in the food.  Just as Abritis was setting meals aside for the other four, the larger flying machine landed alongside them.  In five minutes, they were all sitting down together.

“They were so scared, they couldn’t get off quickly enough,” said Shurzi.  “But they’re getting over it already.”

“Good thing you warned the Palace servants before we set off,” said Tsie.  “There’s as many staying in the Palace as it can hold.  Your parents were marvellous, Shimei - I never realized they had such qualities of patience and leadership.”

“I must say a big “Thank you" to all four of you,” said Shimei.  “You saved my parents a long, wearisome, dangerous journey.”

“They thanked us,” said Tsie.

“And so did the lady Treil,” said Thilish, “over and over again.  She actually learned to feed and change her baby.”

“And did Lord Alavar rest his ankle?” asked Wysau.

“Yes, doctor,” said Thilish gladly.  “He thanked me, too.”

A lively argument had been going on for some ten minutes in one corner of the House of Representatives, as the representatives assembled, most in a rather damp condition.  The time for the meeting had arrived; the Leader was standing, waiting to begin, and still the protagonists continued, in the expectant hush, to voice their opinions.

“And I say,” continued one, “that they knew what was in the ancient building before they dug it up - otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered.”

“How could they have known?” demanded his opponent scornfully.

“They have a machine that takes pictures of the rock underneath soil and grass.  It showed them the cross - the Bibles - and the books in the underground room.  And they have a similar system of inheritances on their own world.”

“Then why don’t we ask them to - oh - my apologies, Mr. Leader - members of the House.”

“Would the member for Aqais like to make that a serious proposal?” asked the Leader.

“What?”

“We are met here today to hear and consider the report of our Committee for the distribution of inheritances.  One of the important matters we have to decide is who should be asked to lead the team of inheritance distributors.  Would the member for Aqais like to make the asking of the strangers a serious proposal?”

“No, Mr. Leader.  Let us hear the report first.”

“Thank you,” said the Leader with emphasis.  “Quai, could you please present your report?”

Quai rose to address the House.

“We went to the ancient building to examine the books.  Immediately we encountered a problem.  The books are written in an ancient script that we are unable to read.  We called on the strangers, and found that none of them are able to read it with any fluency.  Feor, our ex-Crown Prince, reads it easily.  Only the nobility, tutors to the nobility, a few shopkeepers and a few stewards are able to read that script at all.  It is a difficult script that takes a long time to learn, and our people are impatient to receive their inheritances.  There are maps, many small scale maps showing the extent of each inheritance, but the family names of the then owners are all written in that script.  We have brought one of the books for Members to see, but it is very old and must be treated with great care.  This book covers Remgath and its surroundings.”

“How do you know?”

“Feor told us.”

“How do we know if he is speaking the truth?”

“There is a man here, in the public gallery, who is able to read that script.”

Slowly the elderly delegate from Yumi walked down to the front, tapping his stick on the steps as he went.  He sat down and took up the book.

“Inheritances in Remgath and its suburbs,” he read.  “From Abarit - ” “It’s in alphabetical order,” he explained.

“So Feor did speak the truth,” said a Member quietly.

“Could we not ask this gentleman from Yumi to lead our team of inheritance distributors?” asked a Member.

“Hear, hear,” said others.

“Honourable Members,” said the old man, “I am seventy-five on Monday.  I am too old to attempt such a great work.  I must go home and rest.  Someone young and vigorous must do it.  But there is one way you can check on his veracity.  Every man who received an inheritance was given a long parchment on which to keep a record of his family tree.  The original family names were all written in this script.  If every claimant has to bring his family tree, it will prove who he is, and the member of the team dealing with his claim will be able to check the name in the book, whether he can read that script or not.”

“So will we need anyone who can read the script?”

“Yes, of course.  The script tells exactly how much land should belong to each inheritor.  Someone must be able to read it, to settle disputes between one inheritor and another.  Someone who will not take bribes.”

“A stranger?”

“But none of the strangers can read that script.”

“They are very clever.  It would not take one of them long to learn it.”

“Which one?”

“None of the doctors.  We need them to heal us, and to train our doctors.”

“Nor Thilish.  She is our midwife, and she teaches the young mothers how to look after their babies.”

“Not Abritis - or who will make our medicines?”

“Not Shurzi - or who will train our sons to put electricity into our new houses, to keep us warm in winter?”

“Not Darte - we need him to build our houses.”

“Mosu and Yujip are also working on the new houses.”

“What about Chalata?  He can read that script a little already.”

“But Chalata is translating medical textbooks, for the strangers to use to teach our doctors.”

“What about the priests?” suggested a man in the public gallery.  “Some of them can read that ancient script.”

“The priests!” said a Member.  “If you asked one of them to do this work, he would not start till a year had passed.”

“Our great-grandchildren would be lucky if they received their inheritances!”

“It is not good to speak of them with disrespect!” protested the man from the public gallery.

“Let us put this suggestion to the vote,” said the Leader.  A quick show of hands decided the issue.  Very few Members supported the suggestion.

“Shall we ask the strangers who they would recommend?”

“That’s easy,” said Quai.  “They would recommend Feor.  Chalata was doing so while we were there.  He said some of them could see inside his mind, and they know they can trust him.”

“He has no relatives who would make him want to give them larger inheritances than they should have.”

“He will not have any inheritance of his own.”

“He can read the script.”

“Do you mean to say,” burst out a Member, “that you’re going to ask the descendant of a family who have oppressed our people for centuries?”

Shouts rang out in his support from all over the House, including the public gallery.

“Members - honourable Members!” cried the Leader.  “I am sure many of our people will agree with you.  Can any of you suggest someone else?”

“Lord Algachthi’s steward has served his lord’s workers well.  He has paid them regularly and generously, and run the estates well since his hated lord left.”

“He used to be horrid.”

“Not now.  It was his lord who made him do horrid things.”

“Can he read that old script?”

“I don’t know.  His father could.”

“His father is an old man - too old to work.”

“But we need him to run that great estate till it is shared out.”

“Some of the other stewards can read that script.”

“But we need them.  Almost all of them are working well, and paying the workers more than they used to receive.”

“The ones who were really nasty have gone with their lords.  All the tutors have gone.”

“Is there anyone still in Remgath,” asked the Leader, “who is young and strong enough to do this work, who can read that ancient script with ease?”

He looked all round the House; no-one lifted a finger.  He looked at the public gallery; the people there shook their heads.

“Could Feor teach someone to read it?” suggested a Member.

“It would take too long,” said Quai.  “It is a difficult script, and a few words have changed their meanings since that time.  Our people are longing to receive their inheritances.”

There was a quiet “Hear, hear!” from almost everyone in the House.  The Leader held out his hands in a gesture of despair.  Then a representative raised his hand.

“Speak on,” said the Leader, only too glad to sit down.

“Some of our Members,” he began, “have brought several facts to our notice today, that, a few months ago, none of us would have believed.  They have reported that those of our ex-lords’ stewards who have remained in Remgath have been serving our people well.  We recognize now that they were unable to do this in the past because their lords would not allow it.  Is that not so, honourable Members?”

He paused, and looked round the House.  Some shifted uncomfortably; some nodded.

“I put it to you - Feor’s lord, his father, has gone.  And the other lords his relatives, who may have influenced him.  Who is there now, to influence Feor?”

“His wife - the teacher.”

“Agreed.  He loves her to distraction.  What influence will she have on him?”

“She is gentle with our children,” said a Member.

“She has always encouraged him to treat the Palace servants well,” reported someone from the public gallery.  “She has never asked for punishment for any servant.  She has spoken for them to the Roptoh and Roptoa many times.  She paid for my Hadkil’s scar to be healed.”

“Thank you,” he said gravely.  “What other influences are there on Feor?”

“The strangers,” said a Member.

“What influence are they likely to have?”

“They will teach him to work well,” said Tauq.

“They will prevent his taking bribes,” said Han.

“He is clay in the strangers’ hands,” said a Member.  Some laughed, and many smiled.

“There is truth in that,” said the Leader, smiling himself.

“I agree,” said the speaker seriously.  “But will it make him a better servant for us?” And he sat down.

The Leader was not relishing his position.  He looked round hopefully for other Members’ hands.  But no-one moved.  No-one in the public gallery asked to speak.  He sighed.  He heartily wished he had not accepted the position of Leader of the House.  But he had - so he must do his duty.

“Honourable Members,” he said, “we are all agreed that the business of distributing the inheritances requires haste.  None of us has been able to propose any name on which we are all agreed.  However, we are agreed about our elected team - Quai, Tauq, Han and Trad.  If they are content to ask Feor to help them - ”

Fury broke out.

“We cannot have this oppressor doing this work!”

The Leader tried to calm them.  “Did you not hear that it was the Roptoh and Feor who persuaded the nobles to leave peacefully, and restore our lands to us?”

But he was shouted down.

“Who else can we ask to assist our team?”

Then a Member rose - and the Leader gratefully asked for silence for him.

“Honourable Members,” he said, “may I make a suggestion?  Yesterday our hated oppressors left us.  Our land has been restored to us. This calls for celebration.  Should we not command a day of celebration?  We cannot work on our land, or on the building, until the land has dried.  Let the people arrange parties for themselves - we can hold them in the great halls in the lords’ mansions.  Which day would you choose?  Next Saturday?”

The motion was put to the vote, and passed overwhelmingly.  All was peaceful.  The Leader took a deep breath.

“Let us put another motion to the vote.  Does this House wish to appoint Feor as assistant to our team for the distribution of inheritances?  Or does this House wish to wait for - ” he looked at Quai “four months?”

Quai nodded.  “At least,” he said.

“For Feor to teach that script to members of the team?”

Again there was uproar.

“We cannot appoint this oppressor!”

“The people would never accept him!”

“But the people do not wish to wait.”

“Our people have already waited too long.”

The Leader sighed.  “Let us ask our people what they wish to do,” he suggested.  “Let us have a referendum on the issue.”

“Who will run it?”

“Let’s ask the strangers.”

And so it was that Chalata accepted this task, “provided,” he said, “that you do not object to my using the Royal secretaries, the records at the Civil Marriages Centre, and the help of Feor.”

“Very well,” they agreed.  “As soon as possible, please.”

“And also,” said Chalata, “this system of inheritances demands a different economic system if it is going to work well. May we also ask the people if they wish to have it implemented?”

“You’ll have to come and explain it to the House first.”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“Yes.”

The Roptoh’s administrator, knowing himself to be extremely unpopular, had gone with his master to Ishboh.  The job of administering the Roptoh’s estate had fallen on Artax’s shoulders.  Although he could read the ancient script, he was sixty-four, and had no intention of taking on a job like the administration of inheritances.  He had a nice little nest-egg of savings that he was not going to mention to anyone except his wife.  Feor had gone to see him about the flocks and herds his parents had left behind.

“I’ll have to treat them as part of the estate, I’m afraid,” he said.  “Orders from the House of Representatives.  But, as you and your wife are both doing useful work, and I don’t believe anyone is paying you for it, you both, and the strangers, are on my payroll.  This estate also owes the strangers I don’t know how much for the marvellous cold and very cold cupboards they have installed in the Palace.  Because of them, all the Palace servants have elected to have their meals in the Palace rather than be paid more.  The suggestion that their immediate families and any elderly dependants should also have their meals in the Palace with them was gratefully welcomed.  So we are going to continue to supply meat and some vegetables to the strangers, as well as their regular pay.”

“What about the jewellery . . ?"

“Hush!  I’ve no orders about that.  I don’t want to know about it.  If Helen donates a suitable piece to the Queen, I’m sure no-one will object to her keeping the rest.”

Feor decided that silence about his own savings would be the most helpful thing as far as Artax was concerned.  He told Artax about the Royal secretaries.

“Ah, yes, they should be paid for as long as they are doing work for the House.  Thank you, Feor.”

The strangers had met in the first flying machine for a Prayer Meeting.

“They’ve announced a day of rejoicing,” said Shurzi.  “This Saturday.  They’re having parties in all the lords’ great halls, and in the great hall in the Palace.”

“Oh,” said Feor.  “How will we be able to sleep?  I don’t want to attend a party.  I don’t feel like rejoicing in the least.”

“There is cause for rejoicing,” said Chalata.  “They have allowed your parents and the nobility to leave without anyone being executed, or injured, or beaten; no-one has damaged the lords’ mansions, or the Palace, or looted any shops.  Truly, Feor, when you compare this with what happened in Zaqa, or Traitan, it is very wonderful.  Only our God could have done it.”

“Once I’ve taught the tinies,” said Helen, “helped with more cooking, and with the vegetable platters on Saturday morning, I shall just want to go to bed and sleep.”

“I think it would make for good relations if some of us went to the parties for a short time,” said Chalata.  “You ought to, Wysau.”

“Will you come, Shimei?”

“I suppose so,” she agreed reluctantly.  “So long as we don’t have to stay too long.”

“You’ll find some children to talk to, I expect.”

“That’s a point.”

“We could go,” said Darte to Abritis.

“So long as we get to bed by ten thirty,” said Abritis.  “That’s a must.”

“I feel the same,” said Shurzi.  “I move that I go up to the generating plant with our batteries, and make sure they’re chock full, so that we can shut all our windows and have the air conditioning on at its lowest setting all night in both flying machines.”

“Now, that is an idea,” said Abritis.

“I second that,” said Thilish.  “Or third it.”

“What effect will that have?” asked Helen.

“The sealing round the windows and doors will keep out all the noise,” explained Shurzi.

“Ooh,” said Helen longingly.

“Couldn’t we fit Wysau and Shimei, and Feor and Helen, into one or other of our flying machines, just for Saturday night?” asked Shurzi.

“And Sunday night, please,” said Wysau.  “This day of rejoicing is really necessary.  The people need to let off steam.  You’ll find they’ll get up late, and dance till midnight on Sunday night as well.”

“Let’s hold a special Thanksgiving Service on Sunday evening,” suggested Chalata.

“Good thinking,” said Wysau.

“We’re going to need our rest, too, Tsie and I,” said Janita.  “All this cooking and food preparation will wear us out.”

“We’ll be very glad we did it,” prophesied Tsie.

“I can’t.  I don’t think they’d want us to.  Certainly not me.”

Helen sighed.  Yet she had to remember what a difficult position Feor found himself in.  She didn’t want to go down.  She felt she ought to, but if she went on her own, it would underline the fact that Feor was not with her.

Sounds of jollity came from the hall downstairs.  She heard small feet running along the corridor - then silence.

Half an hour later, as she was walking along the corridor, she saw a small group of little children looking lost.  The smallest was crying.

“I’m tired.  I want Mum.”

“You didn’t have to come,” snapped the eldest.

“Are you lost?” asked Helen.  “There’s lots of passages and rooms - I nearly got lost when I first came here.”

“Oh, Mrs. Teacher!” said a middle-sized girl, “we’re playing hide and seek, and we can’t find them.” The eldest looked cross.

“Would you like to come back to Mum?” asked Helen of the smallest.  He took his thumb out and nodded.  Helen offered her hand, but he held out his arms.  He was podgy, and looked heavy.

“Feor!” she called - and he came.

“Oh, there you are!”

“This young man wants to be carried downstairs.” The child did not know Feor, but he was so tired that he made no protest when Feor picked him up.

“Anyone else who wants to come downstairs can come with us,” called Helen loudly.  Feor was surprised; he did not know his gentle Helen could speak as loudly as that.  Out from an empty apartment came four other small children, with a tearful, tiny girl in tow.  This one was light enough for Helen to carry.

When they reached the hall, mothers turned to look - and two took their offspring from Helen and Feor.  “Thank you,” they said.

“We got lost,” said the middle-sized child.

“It was a splendid game,” said the eldest.  “The littlest ones were too small for it, that was all.  Can us older ones go and play it some more?”

“I said you could come to the party if you played with the littlest ones,” said a mother.  “Find a game you can all play together without getting lost.”

The eldest ones went off to sulk.  Helen thought of a game they had played in school, and organized the small ones into playing it.  The littlest ones came and joined in.  Other eight, nine and ten year olds came and joined in.  Then the children asked for a game that needed music.  Feor went to fetch his trie, and played for them, stopping suddenly as the game required.  Some of the adults stopped talking to listen.

Then the mothers brought food for the children.  One of the older men asked Feor and Helen to stay and eat with them.

“Oh please!” cried the children.  “We want some more games after supper.”

“If you would, please,” begged a mother, and others seconded her request.  The older man complimented Feor on his playing.  “I haven’t heard a trie played so well in years.”

A group of middle-aged men and women were talking earnestly in a corner.  Feor wondered if one would come and ask him to leave.  One did come - obviously as an ambassador for the rest - but he said,

“We would like to dance later.  We have heard that you, Mrs. Teacher, can play this instrument here.  Could you both play for us?  Music to dance to?  For a while, after supper?  We should be very grateful.”

“When we have played two or three more games with the children,” said Helen.  “We did promise them we would.”

Reluctantly Shimei allowed Wysau to lead her into the Algachthi’s mansion; into the great hall, where Shimei had often been with her parents and Feor to dinners and balls.  She had seen it beautifully decked with flowers, tables covered with snow-white cloths, fine china, silver and gold; the floors spotless, footmen in immaculate livery, maids in smart uniforms, succulent roasts, exquisite dainties -

And then, the men brought mud in on their boots; the women and children ate with their fingers. People had put hot dishes directly onto the polished wood of the tables, without realizing what damage they were doing.  She had never particularly enjoyed her evenings at the Algachthis; she often gained the impression that Lord Algachthi was trying to say that his mansion was grander than the Palace, and his dinners more sumptuous than any the Roptoh could give.  All the same, it seemed a desecration.  And, in her father’s palace, his fine old tables were no doubt being damaged in the same thoughtless way.  She wished she could go to the flying machine.  Nobody wanted her here.

“And here’s the Princess Shimei,” said a voice at her elbow.

The deformed speaker somehow contrived a mocking bow.  “Come to celebrate the loss of her lands?”

Shimei was so angry that she could not trust herself to speak.

“Where’s your family loyalty?” he continued roughly.  “You should have gone with your parents.”

She had tried hard to ignore the bad manners, the dirt, the smell of unwashed people.  This man, so close to her, offended her nostrils even more.  She had put up with so much without so much as a complaint.  How could she keep her temper, not answer rudeness with rudeness?  Walk straight out.  She was about to turn and go -

“No, my love,” said a familiar voice in her mind.  Her anger had weakened her; she could not fight even that short surge of hypnotic power that kept her silent and standing where she was.

“I have promised the House of Representatives to train your doctors,” intervened Wysau gently.

The deformed revolutionary rounded on Wysau.

“What business have you, stranger, to marry this daughter of our oppressors?”

“Because I love her,” he replied simply.  “I asked her to come with me tonight.  I am not asking you to accept her as a princess, but as a teacher.”

One of the bystanders, who was becoming anxious about the confrontation, saw his opportunity.  “She does teach our children well,” he said mildly.

But the revolutionary would not be appeased.  “It’s not really work till you get your hands dirty.  I’d like to see you do a day’s work on the land.”

“Each of us should do what he can do best, for the good of all,” said Wysau.

The bystander invited Shimei and Wysau to come to the table and choose more food.  Shimei opened her mouth to say she had better be going, but Wysau would not allow this.  He answered courteously, gratefully accepting the offer, obliging her to select more than she wanted at the time, talking in a friendly way to anyone who would talk to him, remembering their concerns, asking after members of their families.  One mother, whose children were yawning, took them to her house, showed them why it was so damp, told her children to lie down in their hammocks, and came outside with Shimei and Wysau to discuss the matter.

“Yes, of course that makes sense,” agreed Wysau.  “I’ll tell Darte about it.” And his eyes went far away.

The mother went on talking - then realized he was not listening.  She looked to the hitherto silent Shimei for an explanation.

“Wysau is telling Darte about your house now.  The strangers are all very busy.  Wysau finds that if he does not do something important like this immediately, he forgets about it.  Darte has already drawn up plans for the new houses, and they will start building as soon as the ground is dry - maybe on Monday.  It is better to make a change in the plans now, than to build houses that are not as good as they should be.”

Suddenly Shimei started - listened - and explained to the mother, “Darte is coming to see your house.  He says houses in certain parts of the city may need a higher floor, because of the damp.  He wants to see where your house is situated.  And please, are there others living near you who have the same problem?”

Shimei and Wysau were introduced to other homeowners. Abritis and Darte arrived, a little hot but full of professional interest, to examine five or six houses.

“Yes,” he said.  “At least a foot of cavity under the floor - a damp course - and then the floor.  Thank you, all of you, very much.  You’ve saved us time and money, frustration and delay.  Now I must find out over how large an area houses with these foot-deep cavities should be built.”

“But it will make the houses more expensive.”

“Yes,” said Darte, “you’re right; but what’s the good of a house that doesn’t stay dry in the rainy season?  How can a mother keep the beds dry, or get any washing dry, in a perpetually damp house?  Because the damp remains for at least six weeks after the rains finish.”

“Most unhealthy,” agreed Wysau.

The women murmured to each other.  “You are a lucky woman,” they said to Abritis, “to have a husband who fully understands a woman’s concerns.”

Abritis smiled; a little sadly, Shimei thought.

Darte and Abritis went round identifying the damp area; Shimei and Wysau moved on to a different party, where Shimei found another teacher, and a group of mothers, who wanted a second school started in their area of the city, which was quite a distance from the original school.  Wysau was approached by an anxious mother, whose baby had suddenly become ill.  He went back to the flying machine for the appropriate medicine, treated the baby, and advised another family about nutrition (with many others listening), before Shimei was ready to come back to the flying machine for the night.  On the way home, her mind was so full of plans for the new school that all anger and resentment were forgotten.

At half past eleven, Helen and Feor, happy but exhausted, crawled into their bed in the large flying machine and fell asleep immediately.

“I can’t believe it now,” Feor said to Helen that afternoon.  “There I was, sitting next to Chalata in the public gallery in the House of Representatives.  There I sat, listening to Chalata reading the draft I had written, which explains our adjusted administration plan for Remshethgath.  Chalata even asked me to answer a question from a Member.  They let me speak!  I was not shouted down!  And they agreed to explain it to their voters!”

Helen gave him a delighted hug.

“And we’re to include two questions on it in our referendum.  One is, `Do you wish to have this system put into place?’ The second is, `Do you wish Feor to administer it?’" And he hugged her in return.

“First of all,” he continued, “they asked Chalata if he would.  He said he must do a great deal more translating work, first for the doctors’ training courses, and then for those for nurses and electricians.  “This House has asked us to build a hospital and train the doctors.  We have built the hospital, but we need to give future doctors, and nurses, a great deal more training before we can leave them to run the hospital by themselves.”

“You wish to do this?” asked the Leader, surprised.

“That is our goal.”

A Member put up his hand.  “You don’t wish to stay and rule us?”

“No,” said Chalata.  “We want you to rule yourselves justly and efficiently.  On our world, we rule ourselves.  We think that each nation should rule itself.  But there must be justice and fairness for all its people.  We felt you needed help, because, when we came, so many of you were poor, hungry and ill.  We want to show you how to rule yourselves and leave you doing it.”

“But, now our oppressors have left, we don’t need your help.”

“The people of Traitan have got rid of their oppressors,” said Chalata, “but we know that many of them are still as poor, hungry and ill as they were before.”

“Then why don’t you go and help them?”

Chalata explained why there was hunger in Traitan, what they had done, and were doing, and what was going to be done about it. He continued, “If you no longer wish us to train your doctors, and would prefer us to go home, then we will. But we would warn you that much of the money you voted us to build the hospital would then be wasted.”

For a whole minute there was silence.  Then five hands went up.  The Leader chose a Member who had not yet spoken.

“We do not need the strangers to rule us,” he said, “but we did ask them to train our doctors.  Not one of our voters has ever asked us to ask them not to do this.  Is that not so, honourable Members?” He looked round.  Heads nodded in agreement.  “I think many of our people would be sorry if we asked the strangers to stop training our doctors and nurses.  And so would I.  Thank you, strangers.”

The Leader selected another hand.

“We need the strangers to train our people to build good houses, and use the power in lightning to heat our houses in the winter.  This House has never asked them to do this.  Could this motion be put to the vote, honourable Leader?”

The Leader selected one of the hands that then went up.

“I would second the motion.  Widows and the elderly find it hard to climb up to the foothills, cut wood, and then have to carry it home.”

“Any other seconders?” asked the Leader.  “Please raise your hands.”

Satisfied, he proceeded to put the motion to the vote.  It was carried by a comfortable majority.

Then one hand went up.  The Leader said, “You may speak.”

“I have a motion to propose, most honourable Leader.  I received a letter from my voters.  They do not want to wait for a referendum.  They are content that this House should appoint a team to distribute inheritances.  They want to receive their inheritances as soon as possible.”

“Did they mention Feor?”

“They wrote that if he is the only young man available who can read the ancient script, then they are content that he should be a helper for the team appointed by the House.”

“Has any other Member received similar representations from his voters?”

Hands went up; the Leader chose one.

“Many of my voters have expressed impatience,” said the Member.

“How many others’ voters are impatient to receive their inheritances?  Raise your hands.”

Many hands went up from all over the House.

“Have Members’ voters expressed any wishes regarding the choice of Feor?”

Only two hands went up.

“Three of my voters expressed disapproval, but the majority are indifferent - they are simply impatient to receive their inheritances.”

“Only one of mine expressed disapproval.  Most expressed impatience.”

“So.  The Member for Yalita has proposed a motion.  Do any other Members wish to second it?”

“Could the Member please repeat his motion?”

The Leader nodded to him.

“I move that this House appoint Feor as assistant to the team who will distribute inheritances.  I move that the four original team members appointed by the House be empowered to co-opt others onto their team, as they have need.  I move that, as soon as the team is ready, it should begin the work of distributing inheritances according to the books in the ancient building.”

“Hear, hear!” echoed from all sides of the House.

“Seconders?” asked the Leader.

Hands went up from all over the House.  The motion was put to the vote, and carried by an even more comfortable majority than the previous motion.

“Offices,” whispered Feor to Chalata.

“Was that a suggestion?” asked the Leader.

Quai rose.  The Leader said, “You may speak.”

“We shall need offices in which to work - to which people may come with their family trees.  Each member of the team should have a room where he may interview each claimant in private.  Feor can go wherever he is needed to read the inheritance boundaries.  There must also be a room, with seats, where claimants may wait to be interviewed.”

The Leader looked at the Members.  They nodded.  One raised a hand.  “The House of Lords is empty and unused.”

“Members of this House, are you in agreement that the House of Lords should be used for this purpose?  If so, please raise your hands.”

Almost every hand went up.

“Members of our distribution team,” asked the Leader, “do you have any other urgent needs?”

Han rose.  “Please may a proclamation be made throughout our land, that, from next Monday, people should come to this city with their family trees to claim their inheritances?”

The Members cheered.

“When we’ve organized the referendum, Feor,” said Chalata, “we must do some transcribing.  If a few of the inheritance boundaries are already transcribed and printed onto slips of paper that claimants may take away with them, it will help when the queues get long, and your services are needed in four places at once.”

So, at the beginning, while people were looking for their family trees and having them brought up to date, Feor worked in the waiting area in the mornings, transcribing.

They had gathered for a Prayer Meeting in the smaller flying machine.

“Tsie, Janita, Helen - our grateful thanks to you particularly,” said Chalata, “for all your hard work with the mothers and children on Friday, and for arranging all those platters on Saturday morning.  Everything was eaten - people were surprised at how enjoyable the vegetable pieces were.  And I want to say a special “Thank you" to Shimei for teaching physics to the boys.  They really needed to learn that particular lesson.”

“Without Shurzi’s help, I couldn’t have done it,” said Shimei.

“You had to manage without him on the day,” said Darte.  “It must have been difficult to keep their attention on the same subject all morning.”

“I kept referring to the roasting of joints that was being done,” said Shimei, “and the baking of bites - they made useful illustrations - especially when we heard noises from the kitchens.  The preparation of food, the cooking of meat - that’s something the boys understand is useful.”

“Everybody does,” said Lintis.  “They really appreciated our contributions of food to their parties.  And the most wonderful thing, for me, was being able to take a big glass of blue fruit juice to an elderly woman with a vitamin deficiency disease, and what’s more, watching her drink the lot!  She’s always been an ardent supporter of the priests - would never come to the surgery, even if you carried her - but she might now.”

“She woke up this morning, feeling so much better,” said Ciecet, “that she could hardly believe it.”

“It’s wonderful how that’s worked out,” said Wysau.  “Scores of people all over the city have woken up without indigestion for the first time in their lives.”

“But the people who worked the hardest on Saturday night were Feor and Helen,” said Chalata.  “They played, with short breaks, for over an hour, playing music that they did not particularly enjoy - and, for Feor, going to the party at all was very hard.  Feor, you and I saw the dividends that work paid at the House of Representatives.  When we win a personal victory over Satan, God can use it most marvellously.”

Helen and Shimei were finishing clearing up after school.

“I must admit, I felt a bit jealous, too,” confessed Shimei, “hearing that great crowd cheering my bridegroom to the echo!”

“The hush came when you spoke,” said Helen.  “That hush that means God’s Spirit is taking your words and applying them to many hearts.  There were many in that crowd who had never attended a service, because they have only just moved into the city.  They heard God’s good news for the first time.  And isn’t it marvellous to think how many of the Christians have been sent out of the city to their inheritances!  Some of them have had to travel quite a distance, taking the good news with them to spread in their new neighbourhoods.”

“I’m sorry Chalata’s language helper has gone,” said Shimei.  “He is becoming a marvellous preacher.”

“He’ll be preaching in an area where God’s Word has not been heard for three hundred years.  And God will raise up other preachers here.  Why, Naii expounded that passage very well on Tuesday at the Bible Study.  And others who have come into the city will have the opportunity to hear.”

“Doesn’t Feor mind dreadfully - having to welcome the new King into his father’s palace?”

“He’s been so busy teaching the stewards and new sub-administrators the strangers’ admin. plan, that he has hardly had time to think about it.  He has to teach the King how to behave at public functions, as well as the new admin.  The poor man has had to learn to read and write, too.  He has picked it up quickly, but his wife has difficulty.  She’s not too keen on official functions, but she is grateful for clean hot water and electric light.  She lost her first child through the dirty water in her village, and she’s delighted at the prospect of keeping the one she’s expecting.”

“Yes,” said Shimei.  “She’s so pleased to have Wysau in the Palace - she won’t hear of our moving out.”

“They want us, too,” said Helen happily.  “Every night, Astar says, Kat’ prays that the people may vote to have Feor as Administrator.”

“So do we,” said Shimei.  “Well, we’d better go up - Feor will be wanting his half-hour with you.”

“Don’t be envious of me, Shimei,” said Helen, dragging herself up.  “Sometimes this interplanetary attraction business seems an awful bind.”

“I do see that.  I’ve been married to Wysau for weeks now, but I don’t really know him.  His goodness and his walk with God go very deep.  When you or I would have had enough, and with good reason, Wysau is still patient and gentle.  He makes me feel ashamed of myself day after day.”

Helen climbed on up the stairs.  “Concentrate on pleasing God, and He will keep Wysau’s heart for you.”

Helen went into their apartment.  Shimei heard her brother’s cry of delight.  Wysau would not be back till just in time for the midday meal on the flying machine.  He had decided it would be better for them to eat on the flying machine at lunchtime, especially when he was working, because he was late so often, or could not stay long.  What time he had, he wanted to be able to give to Shimei without fear of offending others.

That lunchtime, she had almost finished her fruit before he appeared.  She could not wait with him for long; there were books to mark and lessons to prepare.  But every evening he did try hard to be in time for the evening meal they shared with the King and Queen, Helen and Feor.  One thing had consoled her: the new King was pleased to keep the Royal stables going, and to allow her and Wysau to ride their berron whenever they wished.  And Wysau was pleased, too.  When her work was done, she thought she ought to prepare herself for that evening meal.  She went to the bathroom and heard water running.

“Hello,” she called.

“Shimei, is that you?”

“Yes.”

“Can you bring me some dry clothes, please?  I’ve a towel, but I didn’t think beyond that - I’m sorry.”

By the time Shimei had selected and brought, Wysau was drying himself.

“I was sticky, and wet through.  Thank you, my love.  You do have good colour sense.  There - I hope I’ll be nicer to be with.”

“What about me?”

“There’s a mark on your cheek - just there.  Something to do with teaching writing?”

“Oh yes - thanks.” He put on his robe as she rubbed at her cheek.  “Am I presentable now?”

“Perfectly.” He hardly had time to kiss her before the bell rang for dinner.  He hung up his towel, she put his wet clothes to be washed, and they went downstairs together.

Trak waved goodbye to Avend, his metalworker friend, and Mela, his wife, and watched them set off for the capital city with the plans for the drill and pump in their bag.  He picked up his hoe and hoed industriously between his rows of vegetables.  Yes, they were growing and thriving; the water from his deepened well was making all the difference.  By the time his wife had taken all those vitamin pills, there should be vegetables enough to give her the vitamins she and little Treika needed.  But there was no happiness in his heart.

“Trak.”

Trak started.  Who had spoken in his thoughts?  It wasn’t Vielev - he always said, “Trak, this is Vielev,” straight away.

“I’m Ciecet.  Why are you feeling guilty?  You should be at home for your wife and baby.”

“I feel that I’m afraid to go back to the capital - or perhaps I haven’t truly forgiven - oh.”

“You forgave so thoroughly that you never told us what happened - not even when we read your thoughts.”

“God forgives and forgets.”

“That’s right.  But, Trak, you must realize it is right for Avend and Mela to go.  It is best for two to go together.  Mela knows the speech of the capital; she knows her way round, and Avend is a good metalworker with many years’ experience.  They have no children, and no elderly parents to care for.  And besides, Vielev told Chalata you are a good translator.  He wants to go on working with you.  You cannot do the translation work AND go to the capital.”

“Oh.  Yes, God did tell me to do the translation work.”

“Then that is what you must do.”

Trak’s tears watered his vegetables still more.

One afternoon at four, Feor sat transcribing in that waiting area while Helen was making a large, up-to-date map of Remgath, so that people could compare her enlarged copy of the map of inheritances with her map of present-day Remgath.  The other members of the team had packed up and gone home, for only a few people had come to claim their inheritances that day.  So when a man with deformed, crooked legs came in, Feor greeted him politely, and asked for his family tree.

“It was burnt - my father burnt it in our fire some twenty years ago.”

“I am sorry,” said Feor gently, “I cannot proceed with your claim till all those with family trees have been given their inheritances.  This decision was made by the team elected by the House of Representatives.  I am their servant - I must abide by their decisions.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” cried the man angrily.  “How can I work, with legs like these?”

“Go to the hospital,” encouraged Feor.  “They may well be able to straighten your legs and make them strong again.”

The man vented his frustration in a torrent of abuse, and flung out of the door.

Two weeks later, Abritis came on a rare visit to Helen, as she was preparing her lessons in the waiting area beside Feor.

“I thought Quai and Han were meant to be here,” said Abritis in English.

“They left to work their inheritances,” responded Helen in her native tongue, “and co-opted two others.  They said they’d showed them how to do the work, but, on their first day, Feor had to show them all over again.  When they have free time, they hunt through the books for their own inheritances.  It won’t be long before they co-opt others in their turn.”

“How do they ensure that the right people receive the right inheritances?”

“They simply rely on the family trees.”

Abritis’ eyes went far away.  “Not very far, probably,” thought Helen, and proceeded with her lesson preparation.

“Feor, he’s lying.” Feor knew this could only be one of the stranger thought-readers.  “He stole that family tree from his cousin, Niata - the son of his grandfather’s eldest surviving son.”

“He told me Niata was dead.”

“The family tree does not say so.  They usually do.  Look in other places - there - you see?”

“I have reason to believe,” said Feor calmly to the claimant who sat in front of him, “that this is not correct - that your cousin Niata, whose father was the eldest surviving son of Tiel, here, is the rightful inheritor; and that, if he were dead, it would be marked on your family tree.”

“But he runs a shop!  I’ve no job or land.”

“What will happen to Niata when someone inherits the land his shop is built on?”

“Then how am I supposed to live?”

“People who have no inheritances will be considered when inheritances have been distributed to all who have family trees.  It may be that some families have died out altogether.  In the meantime, would your cousin employ you to serve customers or deliver orders?”

When the other strangers heard Abritis’ report, they agreed that the thought-readers should drop in on Feor’s office when they had a spare moment, and do spot checks to prevent fraud.  So it was that Shurzi arrived late one morning, sat down and thought-read.  A legitimate claimant left; another arrived whom Shurzi knew well.  He brought his cousin with him.  He was the one who had sorted out the hospital wiring when Obek had had a try at being an electrician.  He had worked with Shurzi and Darte over many months.  His problem was that his wife came from Traitan seven years previously, with not only her parents but her aunt and uncle, too.  At first her relatives had been able to work and support themselves, but, since then, three of the four had succumbed to illness, and age had weakened his wife’s father.  His wife’s whole family were faithful supporters of the priests, and refused even to consider coming to the hospital.  Shurzi had every sympathy with him.  He had made him a supervisor, and had increased his pay as much as he could while being fair to others; but still the man came to work in rags, looking distinctly undernourished.  Wysau gave him vitamin pills on a regular basis; but, quite simply, he needed more food.  Shurzi suspected that he had not tasted meat for the past three years.  His family tree had been buried with his grandfather, and he had brought his cousin to testify to the fact.  He, the electrician, was the inheritor, and his cousin wished to rent his inheritance.

“I am sorry,” said Feor.  “I can’t distribute inheritances to people who have no family trees until everyone who has one has received his inheritance.”

The electrician’s face fell.  His cousin pleaded for him.  Feor could not help sympathizing with the man in his plight.  If only he could be sure that he was telling the truth!

“He is,” said Shurzi in Feor’s mind.  “He’s worked with me almost since we began to train electricians.  He told a few little lies at the beginning, like most of them, but he is perfectly honest with me now, and has been for months.”

“You must keep this quiet, both of you,” insisted Feor, “or I shall get into trouble.  Do you promise?”

They promised eagerly, and Shurzi assured the still-doubtful Feor that both fully intended to keep their promise.  But they all reckoned without the inevitable questions that would arise when the electrician’s cousin began to build his business premises on the electrician’s inheritance - which, unfortunately, was on the outskirts of Remgath.

In the weeks that followed, Feor was obliged to explain his action, first, to the rest of his team (which was not so very dreadful), but later, to other claimants without family trees, who had heard what he had done.  One of these, when refused, complained to his representative.  The representative spoke to Tauq.  Tauq said that in general Feor did very well; and that he’d had so many complaints from other claimants without family trees that he wouldn’t make that mistake again.  He really didn’t know how much of a special case this particular claimant was; but he could give his name and address.

So the representative investigated.

“I am sorry to see you in so much pain and trouble,” he said sympathetically to the wife’s elderly mother, “especially as, if you called one of the stranger doctors, he could make you well again.  One of my relatives suffered from this disease - the same disease as you; he is now perfectly well, and can walk with no pain at all.  Let me call one of them to you.  I pass the surgery on my way.”

“Mother would prefer to see a lady,” said the daughter.

“I shall ask for her.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

The representative explained the situation to his complaining voters, and, reluctantly, they had to accept that very few in their city were in such dire straits.  But one from someone else’s constituency complained to the Leader of the House.

The Leader brought the matter before the House.  Tauq repeated what he had said to the Representative, and the latter was called upon to make a report, which he was able to do immediately.  He added,

“Since then, there has been some improvement in this situation.  The three sick ones among their elderly dependants have all been treated by the stranger doctors, and, although they will not be able, by reason of their age, to take up gainful employment, they are now able to attend to their own personal care, and the wife herself is no longer in danger of a breakdown.  Because of Feor’s action, the electrician’s cousin is able to start up his business, and pay rent to the electrician on his inheritance.”

“But how could Feor have known all this at the time?”

“The stranger electrician vouched for his employee’s truthfulness.  He knew all about it.”

“He is a thought-reader?”

“Yes.”

“So Feor had good reason to believe that the claimant was telling the truth.  Well, honourable Members, what do you think? Shall we vote in secret on the motion that Feor be retained in our employ?  Or will a quick show of hands settle the matter?”

A hand went up.

“You may speak.”

“I wish to support the motion proposed by our Leader, because of the report of our elected colleague, Quai.  If this isolated incident was a mistake, it was a most excusable one - but one incident, one decision, is not really the point.  His good day-to-day handling of this work is the important thing.  I particularly wish to commend the honourable Member’s conscientious and sympathetic handling of this matter.”

“Hear, hear,” said many.  The motion was carried on a show of hands, and the House proceeded to deal with other business.

“Was it a mistake, Shurzi?”

“It was, Feor.  I’m sorry for my part in it.”

“But it’s turned out so well for the family.  If the representative hadn’t gone to see them, and spoken as he did, they would never have come to be treated.”

“I know.  God can use our mistakes.  He often does bring good out of evil.  But we must not do evil that good may come.  You stick to your agreed policy - it’s by far the best.  If the policy is wrong, you can speak against it to those who have made it - but you must keep to it once it has been agreed.”

Darte was supervising the digging of foundations for the new houses when one of the partners in a new firm of brickmakers came angrily up to him.

“You’ve been at it again - poaching our best workers!”

“Yes, we did engage two new workers this Monday, but we don’t make them come.  We pay them twenty zloty a day, with bonuses for good work, and we give them their Sundays off.  If you did the same, they’d stay with you.”

“How much extra do you pay for good work?”

“For consistently good work over the whole week, up to ten more zloty a day.  And we congratulate and encourage them.”

“We couldn’t afford that.”

“We find it’s well worth it.  We have to make our books balance, too.”

“You don’t have to pay rent on half the land you use!” shouted the partner, and went away feeling he had won the argument.

“We must order more bricks,” said Darte.

“Remember that chap who came to shout at you?  He’s been giving his workmen their Sundays off.”

“Really?”

“But their bricks are still inferior.  They can’t afford the best coal.”

“Oh dear,” sighed Darte.  “I would love to order from a Sabbath-keeping firm, but we can’t use inferior bricks.  The houses wouldn’t last - we’d not be keeping faith with the new owners.”

“Just order the minimum for the moment, from the better firm.  We prayed about that plant additive, remember?  Maybe God will show us - or the firm - what it was.”

“I’ve never appreciated time to myself before,” said Shimei.  “I used to have all the time in the world, and mostly I wasted it.  Now I’ve so much to do.”

“And you’re far happier,” said Helen.  “I must say, I’ve been glad of the break - and glad that the harvest is so plentiful that most of the mothers and children have had to help get it in.”

“They just managed to spare our teachers for their morning training sessions for this week.”

“And did they need them!”

“They’ve been an answer to prayer.  Two young ones have given up; the other four have understood how to prepare lessons properly.”

“And the mums have given better advice on how to manage the children than I could have done,” admitted Helen.  “But just having one week completely free was marvellous.”

“I needed it,” said Shimei.  “One needs time to adjust even to normal marriage.  And I woke up at three this morning to discover my husband wasn’t there.”

“You must have realized he’d be out on an emergency call.”

“I did - but I was still worried.  I couldn’t sleep till he was back in bed; which, mercifully, was only twenty minutes later, though it seemed like hours.  He had, in fact, already been gone two hours, and had to cut the mother’s womb open to take her baby out.  The baby is fine, but the mother is seriously ill, and is in hospital with a drip in her arm.”

“I hope she’ll recover.”

“She is improving, Wysau said at breakfast.  She feels better now she’s had someone else’s blood.  Wysau said if she’d come to Thilish’s clinic, she’d have been given iron pills, and might have been able to have her baby normally.  But she and her husband have only recently come to the capital to possess their inheritance.”

“There, that’s everything tidy.  Now we’ll lock the doors.”

“Better lock the windows too, and leave a heavy cupboard against the outside door.”

“Why?” asked Helen.

“They’ve just got the harvest in, remember?  There’s a weed that usually grows with it, called zook.  Give them a day or two to make their zook smoke, and there’ll be drugged revellers carousing round the city.  I’d better warn the strangers.”

“The blessing of God that makes one rich, and brings no sorrow with it.” That had been Chalata’s text for the relatively few who attended the morning service in the ancient building.  But, after prayer, the strangers felt it right to allow Naii to preach in the evening to a congregation almost up to its usual strength.

After a prayer of worship and thanks, and a hymn of praise, Naii read, slowly and clearly,

“Now the practices of the flesh are obvious: they are immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, divisions, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like.  I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

“Ah,” you say, “we only do these things for one night in the year.  Surely God doesn’t grudge us a good time for one night a year.” But let me remind you of some of the things that happened last night.

The parents of a six-year-old boy put him to bed before they sat down round their burning zook.  But late that evening the boy came down looking for his mother.  She and his father were lying on the kitchen floor dozing.  When the boy tried to rouse his mother, she simply pulled him close and went on dozing; so the boy inhaled some of the zook that was still burning in the room.  About an hour later, she finally realized he ought to go back to bed, and sent him; but his mind was so fuddled that, instead of walking into his room, he walked out of the first floor window and lay, badly injured, in the road.  A neighbour found him and called one of the stranger doctors.  He came, picked up the boy and was carrying him to the hospital for urgent treatment, when a group of revellers surrounded him and began taunting him.  He sat down with the boy on his knee and made them go away.  He was then obliged to wake one of the other strangers and ask her to keep watch for him while he carried the boy to the hospital.  He also had to wake another stranger and ask her to prepare the ray machine for him, when, without that delay, he could have done these things by himself without danger to the boy’s life.

The strangers gave the boy the best treatment they could.  The stranger doctor who was called out sat by his bedside watching him, as blood dripped into his vein.  The boy stopped breathing.  The stranger doctor blew into his mouth with his special air machine, and he began to breathe again.  This happened four times.  Not until three this morning could the boy be safely left to sleep and recover.

The stranger who watched for her team-mate could not get back to sleep.  A group of young virgins came upon a zook smoke party - the adults were asleep or dreaming.  They sat round and breathed the smoke in.  They began to giggle.  The zook gave out.  They went out onto the street to find other groups of girls who were giggling too.  Nearly thirty of them went swaying down the road to a certain place of ill repute.  They were sitting on male knees, being caressed, when suddenly they all got up and said they must go home.  They would not hear any persuasion to the contrary; home they went, to bed and to sleep.  Only after that did the stranger go to sleep.

There was a noisy quarrel in the square in front of the Palace.  A stranger and his wife were woken by the noise.  As the stranger came to the window, four of the quarrellers ran up with their swords unsheathed - when those four sheathed them and walked home.  Five minutes later, the other quarrellers walked home, and they all went to bed and to sleep.  Your King and his pregnant Queen also went back to sleep.

“Ah,” you say, “all these stories have happy endings.  No real harm was done.  But the strangers cannot be everywhere.  Three young wives in this city are inconsolable this morning.  They were so fuddled with zook that they did not put their babies - their firstborn baby boys - back into their cradles after their feeds last night.  This morning, there are three little dead bodies of suffocated babies whose mothers lay on them in the night.  Five little children walked out of windows - no-one saw them go - no-one heard their cries.  Nobody realized till this morning, when it was too late.  One little body had been trampled - and I’m quite sure those who did it had no idea what they were doing.

“Do not be deceived; God will not allow Himself to be mocked (by mere pretensions of conversion, or by His precepts being set aside).  For whatever a man sows, that and that only is what he will reap.”

Now I must admit that I used to wallow in that sort of thing; I was worse than any of you.  But once we become Christians, it’s got to stop - not just for most of the time, but all of the time.  God won’t have it.  And if we keep on wanting to do the things He loathes, can we possibly be His children?  “Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord.” “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”"

Naii had spoken in a quiet, serious and gentle way.  In spite of this, some had walked out, and, outside the building some few yards away, an indignant protest meeting began.  From this was born a new group, calling itself the Children of God.  They claimed to believe the Bible, but also claimed that some of it only applied to the Tellurians, from whom the book originally came.  “We don’t get drunk - we don’t drink alcohol,” they said.

“I can’t find this name in the books,” said Drek, one of the new members of the team, who had been co-opted by the others.

Feor looked at the family tree.  “I’ll look this name up in the index.” The team member waited while Feor searched.

“Look,” said Feor.  “This is where that name should be - between this one - and that one.  But it isn’t.”

“It’s probably this one, isn’t it?

“No,” said Feor.  “That’s a different character altogether.”

“Could be a scribal error.”

“Possibly.  But this paper doesn’t feel right.  Compare it with this one.” Feor had selected an obviously elderly-looking parchment.  “Or this one - ” one which looked almost new, so carefully had it been kept.

“I see what you mean.  But what am I to say to him?  And there’s a great long queue.”

“Tell him you’re not sure about it, and, as there are so many others waiting, you’ll deal with them first and come back to him afterwards.”

The next claimant’s name matched perfectly, but the paper looked and felt wrong.  Drek stifled his doubts and handed out the inheritance.  The next claimant’s name varied from the one in the book by just one character, but the paper felt right.  Drek was far happier about that one.  Drek stifled his doubts three times more.  The names were exactly right, but the paper felt wrong.

The following four family trees had names he could not find written on paper which did not feel right.  Drek felt obliged to refuse these claimants, and, although he gave his reasons in each case, the claimants were clearly most annoyed.  Yet more of them queued up to see him and his colleague - Feor had dealt with his queue already.

“Would any of you like to come to my office?” Feor asked in the waiting area.  Only one claimant came to him, with a perfectly satisfactory document.

“What shall we do?” asked Drek.

“They are going to complain to the House,” said Quai.

“Let them,” said Feor.  “I think those documents are forgeries.  And if they’re not, why won’t they come to me?”

“That is a point, you know.”

“But isn’t it because . . . "

“I doubt it,” said Quai.

“We’ll lose our jobs if too many people complain,” said Drek.

“There’ll be more trouble later if we give them inheritances they are not entitled to,” said Quai.

“That’s right,” said Feor.

“I may already have done that,” said Drek honestly.

“Oh dear,” said Quai.

“Some of these documents,” suggested Feor, “could be copies of ones that they thought were too battered and illegible to present to us.”

“I’ll ask them,” said Quai.  “If that’s the case, we want to see the originals, however battered they are.”

So he went and told the claimants who were still waiting, who were holding an indignation meeting.  Two of them got up and went out.  The others threatened, again, to make a strongly worded complaint to the House of Representatives.  They then went away - and everyone packed up and went home, except Feor.  He was waiting for Helen to finish preparing her lessons for the next morning.  He was sitting working through her mathematics examples when the two claimants who had left earlier returned.  The first had a very elderly but obviously genuine document, which Feor could just about read.  Gratefully he gave this claimant his inheritance.  The second had such a battered one that Feor did not know what to do - when, unexpectedly, in walked Yujip.  He sat down and began to thought-read.

The first Feor knew of this was Yujip’s voice in his mind.

“He’s genuine, all right, Feor.”

When that claimant left, Feor thought,

“Yujip?  Could you please check on these other claimants?”

“Which other claimants?”

So Feor took Yujip round to the local inn and showed him the group of claimants.  All but one suddenly got up and went inside. Yujip sat down by the one who remained.

“Truly, stranger,” said that claimant, “my original document was lost four years ago, when my house burnt down.”

“But what about your brother - your elder brother, who could not come because he has hurt his foot?”

The claimant, furious, said, “I was going to claim it on his behalf.”

“Then why did you not say so?  And why does this family tree not have his name on it?”

The claimant would have struck Yujip, but was prevented.

“Good evening,” said Yujip pleasantly, and he and Feor walked away.

“All forgeries?”

“All forgeries.”

There were no complaints to the House of Representatives.

Wearily Wysau and Shimei walked up to the flying machine.  Other strangers were resting under the solar panel canopy.

“Did you find the retarded child?” asked Darte.

“Yes.  Arad shouldn’t be a child at all.  He needs some treffin extract.”

“I can’t make that,” said Abritis.

“I don’t expect you to.  I told his mother I’d have to order it from Cirian.” And he sat down and did so.  Shimei sat too, glad to rest in the cool.  Darte and Abritis sat and rested.  Then Wysau’s eyes re-focused on Darte, and he said,

“Last Sunday, Arad was putting weeds into the water they used on the Monday to mix labar.  Playing cooking, as his mother does at home.”

“Any effect?”

“I’ll say.”

Darte sat up.  “You know which weeds they are?”

“This is one.”

Abritis and Darte examined it with interest.

“I watched Arad, to see where he was getting them from.  I left the weeds in the water.”

“Have the brickmakers understood?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“They might throw that water away.  Yujip,” called Darte.  He came.  “A job for you, early tomorrow morning.”

So, when the brickmakers arrived for work on the Monday, Yujip was there to meet them.  They went to find their water - and complained to him:

“This is what happens when we leave our quarry on a Sunday - our mixing water gets all gunged up with weeds!”

“Don’t throw it away; fish the weeds out, and use the water to mix your labar.”

“Why should we?”

“Remember the bricks you sold to Mr. Roamal on Thursday?  They were a slightly different colour.  He was so delighted with them that he told our doctor all about them - he even took him to see them.”

“Oh.  Oh, all right.”

“I’ll come back to see them this Thursday.”

“Interfering strangers,” muttered one partner.

“Not so loud,” whispered the other.  “They’ll need to order lots of bricks for their housebuilding programme.”

“How can we make decent bricks, with this useless coal in our furnace?” demanded the second partner.  “Half of it’s slag, the other half is dust.”

“When you’ve the money to buy decent coal, you can buy it,” growled the first.

On the Thursday, true to his word, Yujip arrived and inspected the bricks.  Quite soon afterwards, Darte arrived.  Darte was testing the bricks when Wysau arrived.

“How many of you does it take to order a ton of bricks?” asked the first partner.

“See you later,” said Yujip, and was gone.

“This is not a straightforward order,” explained Darte.  “We would like to place a large order, but we want bricks like these" pointing to the bricks they had just baked “and not like these"

pointing to the bricks they had made with the labar mixed on the previous Wednesday.

“We made them all the same way,” growled the first partner.

“Can’t you see the difference?  The colour’s different - and look how much easier it is to break these" - Darte demonstrated - “than these.”

“Oh,” said both partners slowly.  “But why are they different?  Was the furnace hotter?”

“No,” said one of their workers.  “The water we mixed the labar with was all green and scummy on the Monday, but not on the Wednesday.  Then, again, this Monday it was green and scummy, and we had to fish weeds out of it.”

“So we just have to put weeds in the water?”

“We think it matters which weeds you put in,” said Darte.

“That’s why I’m here,” said Wysau.  “I saw where the boy got the weeds from, and I know when he put them in.  Come with me, and I’ll show you.” He led both partners to the patch of weeds, and they could see that weeds of a particular sort had been torn up on two recent, separate occasions.  “On the day before you want to mix your next batch of labar, you need to gather some - a reasonable number - of this particular weed, and put them in the water you will use, and leave them there till the next day.  In the summer, when it’s warm, just leaving the weeds in the water for a whole day and night will be enough.  In the winter, you might have to warm the water for some of the time.”

“But,” objected one partner as they went back to the quarry, “we can’t always wait for a whole day and night!”

“In that case,” suggested Darte, “you could try boiling the weeds in the water for - say, twenty minutes or half an hour; but it might not work so well.”

“What do we do when we’ve used all the weeds?”

“It’s a fairly common weed,” said Wysau.

“You want to grow a good patch where the others are,” said the practical Darte, “so that they’re handy for you.  Keep the seeds - sow them - keep them watered.  You don’t want your competitors to see you walking through the city gathering these weeds.”

The partners looked at each other.  “Will you tell our competitors?”

“We must not lie to them, if they ask us,” said Wysau.

“They will probably find out sooner or later,” said Darte.

“We won’t go to them, and tell them.”

Two Sundays later, one of the partners brought his entire family to the evening service.

When the inheritances were distributed, Feor found that the present site of the Palace was, in fact, the ancient one, so the Palace and most of its grounds belonged to the King.  The part that did not was an area of grassland, and he was still trying to find the present descendant of its ancient owner.  The hospital site belonged to the Church, as did the ancient building and its surrounds.  The area where the flying machines were parked was someone’s inheritance.  The new owner demanded rent of the strangers, as was his right.  The strangers could not pay, as no-one was paying them; the Roptoh’s estate had by then been shared out, and Artax had retired.  The strangers had used all the proceeds of the sale of Fsuub’s treasure.  The owner of the inheritance began a court action against the strangers for non-payment of rent.  The court decided that no rent was due till the date of the legal transfer of the property, but it was thereafter.

No-one could afford to pay that rent.  The referendum on the strangers’ administration plan and Feor’s administration of it was to be held in a few days’ time.  The general antagonism towards the strangers since Naii’s sermon, and their support of his teaching in it, made it seem very likely that it would be rejected.  And it was in that plan that they would receive payment for their work.

Where could they go?  Should they leave altogether?  They did not want to make difficulties for the King by asking him if they could site their flying machines on his land.

Some were still faithful members of their congregation.  One of these, who had recently come from the seaside, had been converted during that same evening service when Naii had preached.  When the court’s decision had been announced, he came to see them.

“There is land at the seaside,” he said, “land that cannot possibly be someone’s inheritance, because it has been made by silting up since the books were written.  There is a river there flowing into the sea, so you will have fresh water.”

“Is it very windy?” asked Abritis.

“It is flat - there are sand dunes nearer the sea.  Yes, it can be windy, but it should be warm.”

“Is it marshy?” asked Darte.

“No - the river drains it.”

“Is it so near to the sea that sand blows everywhere?”

“No; by now it is a mile or so inland.”

“Can you tell us where it is?”

This involved Feor and Helen bringing their maps, but eventually they found out where the site was.

“Thank you very much,” said Chalata, “for taking all this time and trouble to help us.  We will discuss it and pray about it, for it may well be God’s way out for us.”

After an urgent prayer meeting, they decided to go there for a fortnight’s holiday.  “You and Shimei must come too, Wysau.  They must find out what it will be like if we have to go away.  While we are there, we will ask God what to do next.”

They invited Feor and Helen, but he said he must continue his work of distributing the inheritances.  Helen said she and the other teachers would carry on the school.

Wysau and Darte went to the Leader of the House of Representatives to explain that they could not pay rent for a site until and unless the new economic system was accepted and put into operation.  If it was, they would be grateful for a site, and be prepared to pay the going rent for a suitable one.  If it were not, they would be obliged to return to their own world unless someone offered them a site free of charge.

“I’ll offer them a site,” said the King.

“Be careful, your Majesty,” said Feor.  “Wait for a while - wait for the outcome of the referendum.  It would be better if someone else would lease them a site.  But you could give them an animal, freshly slaughtered.”

“Oh, yes, certainly,” said the Queen.

Other well-wishers, not only members of their flock, provided vegetables, fruit and flour.  Obek and Naii, who was also a baker, provided them with bread and cakes.

“You can’t afford to give us all this,” protested Abritis.

“You sent me a colleague, a fellow-worker, who has supplied the shop while I’ve been teaching, and looked after it at lunchtimes to allow me to have my meal in peace with my wife.  He has paid me well for his board and lodging in terms of good work, and shouldn’t I thank you?  Go on, take it, I know you need it, and you deserve far more for all the work you have done for us, that none of us could have done.” But no-one offered one of them, not even one of the doctors, anywhere to stay.

“But we can’t leave them without a qualified doctor!” cried Wysau.  “I could stay with the King.”

“They must understand how ill-prepared the students are to take over as doctors,” said Ciecet.  “You need a break, Wysau.  So does Shimei.”

“But people could die!”

“It would be far worse if they’d sent us away for good,” said Abritis, “and were too proud to beg us to return.  No, God is in control, and He knows what He’s doing.”

“Why do we feel dejected and cast down?” asked Chalata.  “Can’t we see that our good God is providing for us a holiday we very much need?  No-one can criticize us for taking it, either, in the circumstances.”

“I feel as if the people here have dismissed me,” said Darte.

“I feel they don’t trust me any more,” said Wysau.

“Actually, they do now,” said Thilish.  “Haven’t you noticed that the women are coming to you again, especially those with sick babies?  Little old Quelzak has been a first-rate witness.  He overheard all the scheming next door.  He’s been telling everyone that you were not in that room with the prostitute for more than ten seconds, and that you were leaving before you heard him calling and came to carry him to the hospital to have his broken hip mended.  He’d been calling for an hour, and he’s sure the priest and the prostitute must have heard him, but they never took any notice.  He must have given a blow-by-blow account to half the city by now.”

“There are people who would very much like to give us a site,” said Shurzi, “but if they did, they would starve.”

“A lot of people do want us to go home,” said Abritis.  “Some are growing zook deliberately.  At this time of year it matures very quickly.”

“Is it our teaching they object to?” asked Chalata.  “Did I do wrong allowing Naii to preach?”

“You took that decision after proper consultation, serious thought and prayer,” said Ciecet.  “I heard that sermon.  Every example he gave was true and unexaggerated.  He said he had been the worst of sinners, and I felt the power of the Holy Spirit convicting of sin.”

“Perhaps God is ceasing to provide for us because of some other sin in us,” suggested Ytazu.  Tsie nodded.  Others, too, nodded in agreement.  Chalata looked round thoughtfully.

“Let’s ask God, if this is so, to show us our sin, so that we may repent of it, and put matters right, for His glory’s sake.”

“Heavenly Father,” prayed Tsie, “we know that we constantly displease You in many ways.  All our works, thoughts, words, have to be washed in Jesus’ blood before they can be acceptable to You, the high and holy God.  We know that we do not love You with all our heart, soul, and strength, nor our neighbours as ourselves, and we would confess this before You.  But if there is anything in particular that we have done that is displeasing to You - any wrong attitude or lack of love towards any particular person - then please show it to us, and give us true repentance.”

“Amen,” said the others.

“But if there is not,” prayed Thilish, “then please reassure us by providing for our needs, and enabling the work here to continue - ”

There was a knock at the door.  Tsie went to open it.  There stood Feor, with a box of jointed meat in his arms.

“Freshly slaughtered this afternoon,” he said, and took it through to the kitchen.  A servant followed him with a similar box, and Helen with a smaller one.

“It’s a present from the King,” she said.

Tsie, Abritis, Thilish and Ytazu made quick work of freezing the meat, except for one joint, which was placed in the cold cupboard.  “Thank you,” said Feor to the servant, giving him the empty boxes to take back to the Palace.

“Please convey our heartfelt gratitude to their Majesties,” said Chalata.  The servant departed with obvious relief.

“Are they still afraid of being burnt to death?” asked Wysau.

“They’re afraid of deceiving me or my helpers,” said Feor.  “Oh, by the way, Wysau, Naii is the only remaining descendant of the ancient owner of the grassland in the Palace grounds.  I don’t know why he was so keen to name an heir, for he could still marry; but he’s named the Lady Shimei, and it’s all down in the records.  The King and Queen were very pleased.  “He’s a good Christian man,” they said.  “We’d rather have him in the Palace grounds than many others one could name.”

“Is this view of Naii shared by many?”

“By all in our churches,” said Helen, “and many complete outsiders.  They respect him because he practises what he preaches.  Yes, there are others who think he carries the teaching too far, as well as the Children of God, but it’s easy to think things are worse than they are.”

Wysau, Shimei, Feor and Helen went back to the Palace together.  Tsie brought bedtime drinks, and, when the others were sitting down, Chalata read,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account.

Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great.”

So it was that on the Saturday morning Shimei said goodbye to Feor and Helen and carried her valise onto the strangers’ flying machine.  Though they had long treated her as one of their team, she still felt nervous about travelling on a flying machine full of strangers, the only one from her world.

“We’re not travelling back to Cirian,” reassured Wysau; “we’re only going on holiday, my love.  It won’t be a long journey.” They went to their cabin, lay on the bed, and Wysau held her hand as the flying machine took off.

There was a feeling of dejection and failure, though they found their holiday site quickly and easily, and it was thoroughly satisfactory, with good clean water and fresh sea air.  There were various practical jobs that had to be done immediately - more vegetable seed had to be planted in the flying machines’ pots; the water and waste pipes had to be correctly positioned; then Tsie turned them all out of first one flying machine and then the other, to give both a proper clean.

“We’ll go down to the beach, then,” said Darte.

“Everyone must wash his feet before coming back into either flying machine,” insisted Tsie.

“Don’t fuss,” said Thilish wearily.

“She’s right,” said Shurzi.  “We can’t have sand getting into the electrics.”

It was about half past eleven in the morning.  None of them were wearing hats, because of the wind; and the autumn sun did not seem very strong.  There was a weary restlessness about everyone, a lack of purpose, a slight disorientation.  They looked out to sea - a whole fleet of ships was sailing towards them.  Ciecet noticed four small fishing boats coming in to land.  The fishermen kept looking nervously over their shoulders at the fleet.  As soon as the first boat landed, one man ran off towards the nearest hamlet.  Then one fisherman pointed towards the strangers.  The sun was shining brightly, picking out their pure white hair, and, behind them, their flying machines, their freshly cleaned silver coatings reflecting the sun’s rays to a dazzling extent.  Panic ensued among the fleet.  Ships tried to turn round in frantic haste, bumping into each other; one ship overturned, and the crew were taken onto others.  All but that one abandoned ship made off as quickly as they could.

“What are they doing?” cried Shimei.

“I don’t know their language,” said Wysau.

“Neither do I,” said Abritis.

“All those cannon and guns - they look rather like an invasion,” said Shimei, still puzzled.

“Good thing they’re scared of us,” said Shurzi.

Another of the fishermen ran to the nearest hamlet.  The others began sorting their catch.  The strangers walked along the beach towards them.  Nervously one of the fishermen came with a net of fish and offered it to Shimei.

“We are sorry, we cannot pay for it,” she said.

“No, no,” said the fisherman with a strong accent, “it is a gift - we thank you that our enemies have sailed away for fear of the strangers.”

“Shimei,” asked Wysau in her thoughts, “what is he saying?”

She repeated it in her thoughts.

“Oh, I thought so, but I couldn’t be sure.  Ask him who they were.”

She did.

“The people of Zaqa,” he replied.  “I know from their flags.  They are warlike, and they must have heard that our country is in turmoil.  But they have a legend about gods with white hair flying in a silver machine - gods who have power over the minds of men.  That is why they have fled.”

“Do you speak their language?” asked Chalata, imitating his accent.

“No.  I do not think they will return - not now they have seen you - unless they hear you have flown away.”

“Thank you very much for the fish,” said Abritis.

“You are welcome, strangers.  Thank you very much for arriving today.”

“Oh - wait a moment,” said Chalata.  “Were there others with white hair, who came here about four hundred years ago? and all of them had white hair?”

“So says their legend.”

“It may be the truth,” said Chalata.  “It would explain why you have a Bible - a holy book - which has come from another world, and was printed by people from her world" indicating the white-haired Abritis “and this system of inheritances, which is copied from that Book.”

The fisherman, very interested, invited Chalata and his friends to meet the elders of their village, and to bring the Bible with him.

“I can’t understand why you’re all so dejected,” said Yujip that evening.

“Because it’s late, and we’re tired,” said Lintis.

“There’s more to it than that,” persisted Yujip.  “You’re acting as if your Master - who is, after all, our Creator - had dismissed you for incompetence.  You asked Him if He’d done that - and you asked that if He hadn’t, He would show it by providing for our needs.  The next minute Feor and Helen came with all that lovely meat.  We were given flour, bread, cakes, fruit, vegetables - everything we needed - ”

“I’m so tired, Yujip,” said Lintis.  “Please don’t go on.”

“But he’s right,” said Darte unexpectedly.

“I must go on,” said Yujip earnestly.  This time everyone listened, much to Lintis’ embarrassment.

“We’ve been brought to this smashing holiday place - the water’s the best we’ve had since we’ve been here.  And we hadn’t been here for twenty-five hours before God used us to help these people, and gave us a wonderful opportunity to share His good news.  We may not know yet of any who have believed, but we will be here a few more days, and will have more opportunities.  We should be rejoicing in God’s goodness to us.”

“Bless you, young man!” said Chalata.  “That was just what I needed.”

“Good for you,” said Thilish warmly.

Abritis wept - and Darte put his arm round her.  Ytazu took Tsie’s hand.  Everyone slept well that night.

The next day was Sunday.  When breakfast was cleared away, they gathered for prayer, and the thought-readers sought news of those in the capital.  They reported that, on the Saturday night, while they had been talking with the village elders, more zook parties were held, and Naii had gone with Obek and Rowesh to stand outside the place of ill repute, to persuade young girls not to enter, but to go home.  Many of the priests were inside with only three women, and when they saw Obek and Rowesh ushering nearly twenty girls away to the safety of their homes, they were furious.  Two of them went out to distract Naii and Obek from their purpose, by asking them questions about their Christian faith.  While Naii was answering them, Obek and Rowesh moved away, keeping watch for girls.  While Naii was answering his former colleagues, along came groups of men from the Children of God, and hurled abuse at him.

“Why did God create zook,” they shouted, “if we’re not supposed to enjoy it?”

While this was happening, one of the priests went to find swords, and put them into the hands of the most virulent abusers.  They then went quietly inside the place of ill repute, and waited.

What could Naii do?  He told them they were bringing shame on God’s Holy Name by being in that state.  He then tried to return to his place by the door, but they would not permit this.  Seeing no more girls, he then said he must go home.  They barred his way, they became violent - out came the swords, and, before the eyes of the delighted priests, Naii was murdered by men who professed to be Christians.

Shimei, shocked and horrified, found it hard to join the strangers in their fervent pleadings with God to have mercy on the people, to turn them from darkness to light.  The priests had lost no time in publicising the murder, and blaming the Christians for it.  But the true Christians did meet, and a few, who had joined themselves to the Children of God, attended the service in the ancient building.