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

For His Name’s Sake

Chapter Eleven

Two leading representatives of the people, who were highly regarded members of the House, had gone to see Feor on the Monday morning with queries about the strangers’ administration plan.  They sat and waited as he dealt with two enquirers who had not yet received inheritances.  Feor took out detailed maps of the mountain slopes nearest to the city.  The first, who was a smith, said,

“What can I do with mountain land?  Nothing will grow there.”

“You can build a windmill and generate electricity,” said Feor.  “Darte will teach you how.”

“But who will buy my electricity when so much is coming from the machines to make power from falling water?”

“And what about me?” interrupted the next enquirer rather rudely.  “I don’t want mountain land either.  I want land in the city where I can make pipes.  I don’t want to have to carry the ore up the mountain.  It’s expensive enough in the first place.”

“Why not mine it out of the mountain?” said Feor.  “There’s fella ore in this area - some on the surface, and more further down, so the strangers tell me.”

“Is it safe to mine the forbidden ore?” asked Qol nervously.

“I’ve been using it for the past three months,” said the smith confidently.  “Has anything happened to me?  Or to the strangers who have bought my pipes?”

“You don’t believe in any religion, I know, but - ”

“One thing I do know: I’d sooner trust those strangers than the priests.  You go up the mountain, Qol, have a look for yourself, and bring me a report.  I’d come with you, but my forge’ll be hot in a minute.”

“If Qol accepts that inheritance which is rich in ore, he’s going to need a furnace to smelt it in,” said Feor, half to himself.

“He hasn’t the faintest how to smelt ore,” said the smith.  “He’s good at working the ore once it’s been refined, but hopeless at smelting it.”

“Could you do that for him?” asked Feor.

“How on earth could I get coal all the way up there?  It’s just not practical.”

“Excuse me, master - the forge is hot now.”

“Must go - I’ll be back in an hour.”

Feor was occupied in answering the representatives’ queries.  As they were going out, the smith and Qol returned.  The representatives lingered, listening.

“It’s no good,” said Qol.  “The place may be rich in fella ore, but I can’t smelt it.”

“The smith here could,” said Feor.

“Not without coal,” said the smith.

“You don’t need coal if you have electricity.  An electric arc furnace can heat the ore hotter than any coal furnace.  But you’d have to ask Shurzi to show you how it’s done.”

“I’m past forty,” said the smith.  “I don’t want to learn new things.  I want coal so that I can smelt as I’ve always done.”

“There’s coal up in the mountain,” Qol got in at last.

“Is there?  D’you mean I could dig it out myself without having to pay that rascal Kowd for it?  Is it on the surface, I mean?”

“Oh yes,” said Qol.  “I can see it with my eyes shut.”

“Don’t be daft,” retorted the smith.

“I can feel it,” said Qol.  “Look at my fingers.” Feor’s precious map was covered in coal dust.  Feor shook it off as best he could into the waste paper bin.

“Is it decent quality coal?” demanded the smith.

“That’s why I felt it - that’s how you can tell.  Feels all right to me.”

“Will you take these two inheritances, then?” asked Feor.

“I’d like to go and look at this coal first,” said the smith.

“My wife will want a house in the city,” said Qol.

“So will mine,” agreed the smith.  “Glad you said that.”

“They’re under construction,” said Feor.  “We’d better make sure your names are on the list.  Here it is - I’m doing this while Darte is away.”

“Long list,” complained Qol.

“Lots are being built,” said Feor.  “They’d be built more quickly if the strangers were here.  But no-one is going to make you move out of your present houses till your new ones are ready.  Afterwards, yes, because there’s got to be room for more new houses to be built, and most people want to live in the city.  Anyway, when you’ve been to see the place, could you come back and tell me whether you’d like to take the inheritances?”

“What about your sons?” asked Qol, as they went.

“They’re always in and out of the forge, asking questions.  I shall be glad to be up the mountain, away from the house.”

The representatives looked at each other.  As they went away down the street, one said to the other,

“Not many have that sort of patience.”

“He works really hard, too.”

“Just shows it’s not only the strangers who can get things done.”

“But they trained him.”

“If only the strangers hadn’t been so moral and goody-goody about the annual harvest celebration, no-one would have grown zook deliberately.  No-one has in previous years.  It’s time they allowed us to run our own affairs.”

“They will, once they’ve trained us.”

“Big deal!  You may as well say, as long as we do as they say.  It’s time they went home.”

“I think we’d miss their doctors.”

On the Tuesday evening, when, rather despondently, they gathered for prayer, Abritis gave news of Chalata’s language helper, Den.

“He travelled with his cousin to their inheritances.  There was a hut there, rather primitive - they made themselves as comfortable as they could, and slept, simply because they were exhausted.  Next morning they found a well, and drank; then a neighbour came.

“Have you come from the capital?  Can you tell us about the strangers, and all that has happened there?”

“Yes.”

“Come to breakfast, and tell us.”

His cousin began, allowing Den to eat, but soon asked him to do the talking, as he was hungry too.  So Den answered their questions, and soon someone asked,

“Why have these strangers come: Why are they doing these things for us?”

So Den explained, and preached the Gospel - and they listened - and they wanted to hear more.  On the following evening, many more from the village came to hear about the Creator, and His Son the Saviour.  Some brought small gifts of food.  The people asked to hear more, so they decided to meet on the Sunday on the village common to hear Den.  By the end of the service it was raining hard - so the only wealthy man in the gathering offered the largest room in his house as a meeting-place.  Please pray for Den - he has to work hard on his land, and prepare sermons.  Give thanks that his cousin is helping him, because he shared the gifts of food with him.”

“The referendum will be taking place on Thursday,” said Chalata.  “As things stand, there’ll be a firm “No" to both questions.”

“This is from the people in the capital?” asked Ciecet.

“Yes.  We don’t know about the country at large.”

“Perhaps I got it wrong,” said Wysau despondently.

“Then why were we obliged to take this holiday?” asked Lintis.

“Oh,” thought Shimei, “I’ll have to go to their world!  Oh no! oh, please, Heavenly Father, I’m so scared - and what will happen to Feor?”

“We’ll take him and Helen to your father’s palace as we leave, my love - it’s the best we can do.”

She raised troubled eyes to his.

“If God wants us here, He’ll open the way.  We’re better off where He wants us, wherever that is.”

On the Wednesday evening, when the strangers gathered to pray, Shimei could feel God’s presence with them in an unusual way.

“The church in Remgath plans to meet to pray this evening,” announced Shurzi.  Encouraged, the strangers prayed and prayed - but by the time they went to bed, nothing had changed.  Shimei lay awake after Wysau was asleep, feeling bewildered, betrayed, afraid of going to the strangers’ world.  “Please, Heavenly Father, help me to trust You as Wysau does!”

They met to pray again the following morning.  At that meeting, Wysau announced that a messenger had come late the previous night from Traitan.  At breakfast time that morning, he had said:

“An army from Zaqa marched over the Traitan border and advanced on an outpost where one of the Republican leaders was staying.  The leader went out to meet them with all the men he had - which wasn’t more than thirty.  I was one of them - I saw this with my own eyes.  Our leader just stood there.  The army stopped.  Then their colonel turned round and he looked - well, furious, and terrified, at the same time.  The entire army turned round - well, stiffly - and marched back the way they came.  They did not stop - well, we followed them - till they were over the border.  Then there was a fierce argument - the colonel was trying to persuade his men to come back over the border - then, well, suddenly they all began marching again, away from the border, back to barracks, probably.  We watched them out of sight.  Our leader sent me with the news to the government in our new capital.  They sent me to thank the strangers - but where are they?”

“They went to the coast - er - for a holiday.”

He had hardly finished speaking, when there was a commotion outside.

“There is another messenger coming - look!” said one of those at the door.  They all went out to hear his news.

“A fleet of ships from Zaqa,” he panted.

The people looked dismayed.

“It’s all right.  The strangers were on the shore.  Sailors and soldiers from the fleet saw them - their white hair, their silver flying machines all shining in the sunlight.  They cried out in terror, and fled.”

“Then it was the strangers,” said the messenger from Traitan.  “I must thank them - when will they return?”

The people looked at each other.

“In a fortnight, they said,” said someone.  “They won’t stay unless we vote for their administration plan.”

“Oh, please do!” cried both messengers from Traitan.  “If the Zaqa people invade us, you’ll be next.”

“But it wasn’t you,” said Shimei.

“No.”

“Then who was it?  Who can do such things?”

“There are people on our world,” said Wysau, “who can hypnotize people’s bodies, and oblige their muscles to move without their consent.  Our leader, who has been advising the people of Traitan, would have known one of these, and have asked him to do this for him.  But only our Creator could have warned him that the people of Zaqa were about to invade - perhaps by causing him to read the thoughts of that leader at the border at just the right moment.”

Shimei shuddered.

“Should the Zaqan army be permitted to invade a country where the people are at peace with them, and have done them no harm?”

“No, no, of course not.”

“No physical harm was done to a single soldier in that army.  They were made afraid of invading Traitan and Remgathsheth, that was all.”

Again they gathered for prayer on the Thursday morning.

“A report from Vielev,” said Chalata.  “He had been trying to persuade the leaders of Traitan to stop the fighting with the maritime people, but they would not listen.  Avend and Mela arrived in the capital, cleared out some idols from a room in the temple, cleaned up the room, and, after having put a key, which they had found in the dust in a corner, up on a shelf, and pushed a trunk, which was too heavy for them to carry out, into a corner out of the way, one of the prostitutes brought them two sleeping mats, and they settled in.  Everyone in the city was short of food and water.  So Avend and Mela went to the leaders and asked them to send them to a metalworker with the plans they had for the drill, so that he could make a drill and they could use it, with power from under-used windmills, to deepen wells to get water for the people.

“Who gave you these plans?” they were asked.

“A friend of ours who got them from some strangers from another world.  They looked after him in their flying machine . . . "

“And you expect us to believe that!  We haven’t time for this today.”

So they had to go.

Rather despondently they went back to their lodging.  There was no way they could earn the money to pay the metalworker themselves.  Tehy sat down to rest on their sleeping mats.  Mela felt restless, and wondered if that key would fit the trunk.  If it did, they could empty the trunk and get it out of their room.

In the trunk was money, lots of money.  Avend was so hungry that he just said, “Thank You, Lord!” and went to buy food and water.  Then Mela remembered that this was the trunk in which the prostitutes’ earnings were put.  You could put money in easily enough; you only needed the key when you wanted to get some out.  The priests must have been in a dreadful panic, have dropped the key, could not see it for dust, and could not carry the trunk because it was too heavy.  “Some of this money is mine,” she thought, “but most of it belongs to the other prostitutes.” But she felt too tired to do anything about it just then; and when Avend came with food and water, she could think of nothing else . . . they slept.

So the next day they took some more money, found a metalworker who knew his work, and asked him to make the drill.  In the end, he and Avend did it together.  While they were studying the plans for getting the windmill to drive the drill, the metalworker’s wife came in.

“There’s no water - not anywhere.  What are we going to do?”

“Isn’t there a well in our neighbour’s back garden?”

“Dry as a bone.”

“And hasn’t he got a windmill?  Come on, let’s try this drill.”

Their neighbour, too, was desperate.  “I’ll try anything.

Come on.” He even helped to carry the drill onto his land.  Mela prayed for wind - and it came, when Avend had connected the drill to the wheel.  The drill drove through the rock - slowly, slowly, and suddenly - water!

The neighbour’s wife and Mela ran for buckets.  All present drank.  Mela filled a bucket and went to the leaders.  They were busy, she was told.

“Not too busy for a drink of water?” she asked.

“Where is it?  How much is it?”

“Here!”

The man ran for a cup.  A leader came out.  “Water!” he cried.  Suddenly all the leaders were sharing the two cups they had, drinking, drinking.

“It’s good clean water.  Where did you get it?”

“My husband drilled a well deeper, into the rock.  There was water under the rock.”

“Oh yes - you were the people who came with the plans!”

“We followed the plans, and it worked.”

“Can you drill our well deeper?”

“If you have power from a windmill.”

That day they deepened six more wells, and were paid by each landowner.

That evening a messenger came to tell the leaders what you already know - about the attempted invasion from Zaqa.

“Who did this?  Who can do such things?” they asked one another in fear.

“Try the strangers my friend met in Remgath,” said Avend.  He was there because another leader wanted his well to be deepened.  “He said they could read his thoughts.”

“These strangers are the ones who gave you the plans?”

“They are.  They are kind and helpful.  They won’t hurt you.”

“So this is the sort of thing they might do?”

“Oh yes.”

“They can read your thoughts?  And speak in your thoughts?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a voice - been telling me to stop the fighting with the maritime people.  I thought I’d imagined it - but - you know the despatch we got the other day?  This voice told me as much the day before.”

“Well, our army aren’t getting anywhere, and our men are dying of cold and sickness.  So we may as well recall them, voices or no voices.”

This time there were no objectors.”

Most of the strangers were greatly cheered, but Wysau could read Shimei’s thoughts.  She was glad that they had helped, and that next time their advice was likely to be followed; but she was still terrified of how it had been done.

The tension between Wysau and Shimei made it difficult for them to relax.  Because Shimei’s dislike of his hypnotic and thought-reading powers was intuitive, rather than something that could be defended by rational argument, Wysau felt it was pointless to talk about it.  He made sure Shimei brought her sunhat, sat beside his beloved on the beach, and in his heart brought the matter to his God.  Shimei looked round restlessly.  There was hope that the strangers’ administration plan would be accepted, and her brother’s position assured, but she could not be sure till the results were announced.

A woman came slowly along the beach.  Shimei watcched her picking up pebbles and shells, and, as she drew nearer, could hear her singing to herself above the noise of the waves.  She had the white wispy hair that denotes advanced age.  Shimei was wondering whether it was safe to leave her to wander on by herself, when Wysau said,

“That old woman’s thoughts are very vague and disconnected.  I’m just going to check if someone in the village is worried about where she is.  Can you keep an eye on her?  If she walks into the sea, you’d better go down and coax her out.”

All was well for about half an hour - then Shimei leapt up and ran to the old woman.  As she came close, she approached more slowly, and, gently but firmly, led her out of the water and up the beach.  But when the old woman saw Wysau, she shrank back.

“Not going near a stranger,” she said.  “Better in the waves.”

“Well, let’s sit down here.”

They sat for a little while, but the old woman, in spite of her age, seemed to have plenty of energy.  Shimei tried to steer her back to the village, but she would not go.  Shimei thought it better to humour her, so that she would accept her company, and she could at least keep her out of the sea.  They went on, further and further away from the flying machines and the village.  However would this old woman have the energy to walk all the way back?  Shimei cried to God - and suddenly the old woman turned round and began to retrace her steps.  Shimei knew a whiff of hypnotism as she did so.  Wysau, no doubt.  She was angry at herself for being so grateful.

“Bring her to the flying machine, my love,” he said in Shimei’s thoughts.  “This dementia may be caused by an infection.  Her daughter’s daughter’s having a baby, and her other grandchild has just cut himself - quite badly -with his father’s knife.  I told your patient’s daughter that I’m dealing with her mum, and have sent Thilish and Ciecet round to help.”

So Shimei tried to steer the old woman up the beach towards the flying machine, but she would not come.

“May I?”

Shimei sighed.  “You’ll have to - she won’t come.”

When they arrived at the flying machine, the old woman clung to Shimei, who coaxed her into washing her sandy hands and feet before sharing the strangers’ midday salad.  Wysau sat on the other side of Shimei, and Abritis and Shimei both tried to coax their guest into eating this unfamiliar meal.  It was hopeless, till Shimei felt that same sickly sweetness - and the woman ate ravenously.

“I only hypnotized her to start eating,” said Abritis in Shimei’s thoughts.  “She must have been very hungry.”

After lunch Shimei went with Wysau to help take samples from the woman.  Abritis tested them, and came in to report.

“Oh yes, raging infection - I got the results very quickly.  You’d never believe it, to see her eat.  Mercifully, I’ve got some of the relevant antibiotic ready - this particular infection is rare in Remgath.”

To everyone’s surprise, the old woman accepted her injection and medicine quite willingly - she seemed very pleased to have some notice taken of her.  She had a rest, which Wysau and Shimei were glad to share.  They set out with their patient, to walk her back to her daughter and explain about her medicine, as Thilish and Ciecet brought a small boy with his hand bandaged.  “Breech presentation,” she said to Wysau.  “Mother and baby doing fine.”

The old woman knew where she lived; she was greeted by her worried daughter.  “Have you had anything to eat, Mother?”

“I ate vegetables with the strangers,” she replied.  “I’m tired,” and she lay down on her mat and went to sleep.  Her daughter put a light covering over her and sat down.

“Thank you so much for bringing her home - and for giving her a meal.”

“That’s all right,” said Wysau.  “I wanted to explain about her medicine,” he said, producing the bottle of pills.  “She must take two of these three times a day till they have all gone.  Today she only wants her last two before going to bed.”

“She’s always saying she’s ill.  Are they just sugar?”

“No.  She has an infection.  I hope that once it has cleared up, she will be far more rational.”

The daughter looked incredulous - but she smiled and said, “I’m sure that pleased Mother.  I ought to trust you - your friend was marvellous with Maid and her baby - I’ve never seen a midwife manage a difficult birth so well.  And your other friend soothed and bandaged little Bei - but why did he take him to your flying machine?”

“To heal his cut properly.”

“But that will take time.”

Wysau’s eyes went far away - but the daughter chose that moment to ask him,

“How is little Bei now?  Did you see him?”

“We only saw him very briefly.  Wysau will tell you in a few minutes how he is now.”

The daughter looked from one to the other in puzzlement.

“He’s resting,” reported Wysau.  “They’ve healed his cut - it was quite deep.  You see, my friend thought it would be difficult to keep a small boy’s hand clean and dry long enough for it to heal properly.”

“It would,” said the daughter, who understood the second sentence perfectly, but did not know what to make of the first.  Shimei thought they owed her a full explanation.  The daughter looked at Wysau in fear.

“Don’t worry,” said Shimei.  “These strangers are quite safe, perfectly human - they are unusually good and kind and have unusual gifts, that’s all.” She looked up at Wysau and answered his smile.

“I can’t believe this.” The daughter sat with her head in her hands.  “Everything went wrong at once - and now everything’s all right.  My head’s spinning.”

“Have you had anything to eat?” asked Wysau.

“I haven’t had the chance.”

“Then that’s the next thing to do.  We’ll leave you to it.”

Two days later Tsie and Ytazu planted out their unwanted vegetable seedlings in the daughter’s garden, after her elderly mother had told everyone in the village how good the strangers’ meal of fresh uncooked vegetables had tasted.  “No indigestion!” she had repeated, for at least the hundredth time.  “The first day for years when I’ve had peace in my inside!”

Apart from these activities, and the Sunday services, which, on the second Sunday, were held outside so that the villagers could join in, the strangers did next to nothing from the Tuesday of one week till the Thursday of the next.  After the first Thursday, Wysau in particular would fall asleep after lunch and not wake till it was time for the evening meal - except when it was his turn to prepare it.  But on the second Thursday, everyone did more.  The thought readers checked some of the referendum results - the “Yes" was far more conclusive in the country at large than in Remgath.  Later that morning, while many of the strangers went swimming, Shimei and Janita investigated the holes they had noticed in the sand.

“Oh, there are shellfish underneath these holes.”

“They might be good to eat.”

“But look at the colour of the sand and water by them.”

“It is a lovely blue,” agreed Janita.

“I’m pretty sure they’re used for dye - they’d sell for a lot of money.”

“We ought to ask those who have the fishing rights first.”

Mosu, Lintis and Yujip came with Shimei and Janita to the village.

“Oh, yes, you can take them,” said the fishermen.  “They have to reach their destination alive to be any good.  We can’t possibly transport them in water to the capital; it’s too far.  They’d die on the way.  And the nearest town where cloth is made has its own supply.”

“Why don’t you make cloth here?”

“You couldn’t raise sheep on this land.”

“But look at this,” said Mosu, showing them a plant that was growing on the border of a garden.  “Don’t you recognize this plant?”

The villagers looked at the plant.  “It’s a common weed.”

“It’s a wild variety of a plant grown near Remgath.  Cloth is made from the lining of its seed.  If it grows wild here, surely you could cultivate it on this soil.  These seeds will be ripe in a week or two.  Find as many as you can, prepare some soil and plant the seeds.  Next year, you may have enough to spin the yarn and weave some cloth.  You may only manage to dye a little next year, but you can keep all the seeds, make more cloth next year, and dye it for yourselves.  By the third year you may have enough cloth to sell, and have learnt to dye it well.”

“But we haven’t any spinning wheels,” objected a woman.

“I can make you a spinning wheel, if you will use it,” said the village carpenter.

“You can pay us with your first yarn, and I’ll weave it,” said his sister.

“But we can’t start till next year,” said a fisherman.  “You can take this year’s shellfish - the big ones - and welcome.”

“We must pay you,” said Mosu.

“Could you please help my daughter?” asked another fisherman.

“Where is she?” asked Lintis.

“At home.  She broke her leg - it healed crooked - and now she limps, and cannot walk very far.”

While Lintis, with Shimei and Janita, went to examine the girl, Mosu led Yujip more slowly.  Soon they were joined by Ytazu and Wysau, with a stretcher.

The lame girl and her elder sister came onto the flying machine with Lintis and Mosu.  Shimei did not see the ray treatment, nor the girl while she lay asleep, waiting for her bone and flesh to set, and the stretched skin to heal; but her sister came to Shimei, the only one of her own people on that strange craft, and told her all about her constantly aching stomach, and how it made her irritable and cross, and how no-one would believe there was anything wrong with her beyond the usual indigestion.  But she had eaten raw vegetables once a day for four days, and, though she did feel a little better, she was not cured.

When Wysau arrived, Shimei expected to have to say this all over again, but it was not necessary.  “I must do some tests, young lady,” he said.

“Oh, no, there’s nothing wrong with me, really,” she protested in a small frightened voice.

“That’s for me to say.  Come, Shimei.  You’re not the doctor,” said Wysau firmly to his reluctant patient.  “I am, and I shall say if there’s anything wrong.”

The elder girl returned to her sister’s side before she woke.  When it was time for the evening meal, Shimei took the younger sister her food-drink, and the elder some fish, with vegetables and sauce.  The elder looked at it in surprise.

“White fish?”

“By order of the doctor,” said Shimei.

“But we always have oily fish for the evening meal.”

“You have developed an intolerance to oily fish - that’s what the doctor said.  It means that your stomach is upset when you eat it.  No oily fish for you, not any more.”

“Well, everybody,” said Shurzi at breakfast the next day, “the results have been declared.  The admin. plan is in with a narrow majority in the capital city, but, in the country at large, the majority in favour is far greater.  Feor is in with a far larger majority in the city.  Crazy, that - some in the city must have voted against the admin. plan, but for Feor to administer it.”

“What they were really saying,” said Wysau, “is that they wanted us to go home, but they wanted Feor to administer our admin. plan.”

“Did the news of the Zaqan invasion make any difference to the way people voted?” asked Chalata.

“It’s difficult to tell,” said Shurzi.  “These people don’t think out the reasons why they do things.  They don’t really believe there is danger from Zaqa - not yet.  I don’t think we need conclude that they have been frightened into voting for our plan.”

“We must remember,” said Mosu, “that the population has been moved around by the distribution of inheritances.  Many who were in the city at first have moved out, and vice versa.  This means that those in the country at large were far better informed than they would otherwise have been.  We have no need to be despondent - we are wanted here, and we shall go on serving our God here as long as He wishes.”

There was so much to do on the Saturday morning that Shimei had to concentrate on doing her part, and did not have time to take in what others were doing.  She came out with the others to say “Goodbye" and “Thank you" to the villagers, and she did notice that many of the women and children had wet, sandy hands and feet - but she was quite tired, and glad to lie down beside Wysau for the take-off.  Not until the flying machine was speeding on its way did she see the tanks and buckets full of blue shellfish.

“My goodness, that’s a lot!”

“There’s still more over here,” said Abritis.

“You didn’t collect all these this morning.”

“No - we couldn’t possibly.  The villagers did.”

“All these?  And this fish?”

“The villagers told us there’s a big market for these at Crecal, only an hour’s flight from their village.  All of us will have to help unload, and please, Shimei, could you and Wysau do the bargaining between you?”

They were remarkably successful, because the shellfish were so fresh.  Buyers flocked to their buckets, inspected their wares, paid, and emptied the shellfish into their own containers.  By the time they had finished, Shimei was more than ready for her midday meal, but they had to take the buckets back to the villagers first, with a present carefully selected by Shurzi and Thilish.

“Well, you won’t be short of money for a while,” said Shimei, as they all enjoyed a leisurely meal on the way back to Remgath.  All of them, that was, except Tsie and Ytazu, who had to take it in turns to eat and fly the flying machine.

“We’ll have enough to pay our rent,” said Chalata.  “Our workmen have been building, plumbing, putting in electrical wiring, all sorts, while we’ve been away.  We should be able to pay everyone all their back pay, and, we hope, help Obek with Naii’s funeral expenses.”

“I’m glad you’ll have somewhere to park now.”

“Where?”

“On my inheritance, of course.”

“May we?” asked Chalata.  “We’ll pay you the proper rent.”

“Of course not.”

“They’ve voted the new system in, remember?” said Darte.  “We’ll be able to afford it easily between us.”

“Yes, Shimei, you must have the money; it’s only right,” said Chalata firmly.  “If you don’t care about it, others will - they will feel it’s right, so we must pay you.”

“You’ll accept it, wife,” said Wysau, “and we’ll pay rent to the King.”

“Yes, love,” she said, a little frightened by his tone - then reassured by his smile, and the pressure of his hand on hers.

They arrived quite late on the Saturday evening.  The King, Queen, Feor and Helen came to greet them.  Shimei and Wysau carried their cases into the Palace, and they all settled down for the night.

“I am glad you have come back,” said the Queen, taking Wysau’s hand, as Helen hugged Shimei.

That same evening, the flying machines landed on Shimei’s inheritance.  When Darte came out to put their water pipe into the irrigation channel that they had suggested should be dug, the messenger from the Zaqan border came up to him to thank them.  Darte brought him to the door.

“It’s very nice of you to come all this way to thank us,” said Chalata.

“Have you anywhere to sleep for the night?” asked Tsie.

“Well - I could go and sleep on Triat’s floor, but it’s crowded, and dirty, and he does not want me to come.”

“If you have a bath,” said Tsie, “and let us wash your clothes, you can sleep in a cabin in our flying machine.”

“I would love a bath,” he said.

Tsie put a little disinfectant in the water before calling the messenger.  Gladly he washed his hair and beard, and dead insects swirled away in the water as it ran out of the bath.  Tsie cleaned it round with more disinfectant.  Mosu found him an old robe to wear.  He was not pleased to have his hair combed with a very fine-toothed comb, but he was surprised and delighted to have his hair and beard dried by Lintis’ electric hair dryer.

“Can you tell me more about the people of Zaqa?” asked Chalata.  “Why do they try to invade other countries?”

“The Zaqan people used to have a King and nobles, but they became addicted to a terrible drug that you drink - ”

“Made of fruit juice gone bad?”

“However did you know?” asked the messenger, startled.

“It’s easy enough to find out about it by accident.  If you have any sense, you don’t make it, and you don’t drink it.”

“Yes - it is extremely dangerous.  And one day they had a party in the Palace, and the King and all the nobles became drunk, and some of the servants tried a little.  Then one of these servants poured the drugged drink clumsily, and it went over a lady - and the lady ordered him to be whipped.  But the servants got angry, and took the lords’ swords, and killed them all.  They could not fight; they could not even stand up.  One of the servants was a good fighter.  He led his people against the army of another southern country.  The King of that country was the brother of their Queen, you see.  Well, this servant won a great victory, so his people elected him as their leader.  But he is not a good ruler - his popularity depends on his victories.  So when he led his army over the Traitanish border, and you made him go back, he lost his reputation.  We hope that now the people will choose another leader, who will not try to invade other countries.”

Suddenly the messenger was handed a plate with bites, cold meat and salad vegetables set out on it.  “Thank you,” he said.

Ytazu brought him a drink.

“How did you know I had not eaten?”

“You know we can read your thoughts,” smiled Abritis.

“Thank you for the information,” said Chalata.  “Oh yes - how long ago did the people of Zaqa kill their nobility?”

“About five years ago.”

“Ah,” said Chalata, and relapsed into thoughtful silence.

“Let’s give him a copy of those plans,” said Mosu the next morning, as the messenger was preparing to depart.  “You know - for drilling the wells deeper.”

“Oh yes,” said Darte.

So when the messenger set out, he carried a bag of food, some of it frozen, and a copy of the plans.

Mela sat on her mat, leaning against the wall, lonely and wretched.  How stupid to slip and sprain her ankle!  All that morning she tried to pray -then she had to get up and hobble painfully to what passed as a bathroom.  On the way back, she leant against the wall for a few moments.

“Oh Mela!  You’re here?” cried her one-time friend, Aqala.  “Why haven’t you gone out with your husband?”

“Look.”

“Oh, you’ve hurt your ankle.  It is swollen.”

“I must get back to my room and sit down.  But please come and talk, if you have time - it’s lonely without Avend.”

“Let me support you.  You are lucky to have a husband.  We’d all love to go home to our families, but how could our families feed us?  At least there’s water in the city now.”

“Will your families have water?”

“Not many of them - not enough.  If we took the plans home - there, you lean against the wall - are you comfortable?”

“Yes, that’s better.  Do sit down and stay for a while.”

Aqala sat down.  “If we took copies of your plans home, our brothers and fathers would say, “Where’s the money to pay the metalworker to make the drill?” so it wouldn’t be any good.”

“But if you could give them the money - ?”

“But how can we get that money?  There aren’t many in the city can afford to pay us.  That’s why I’m not out there now.  I’m not that pretty - it’s no good me going out till it starts getting dark.”

“So are you busy?”

“No.  I can’t do any more washing of clothes - there isn’t enough water.  I’ve swept the floor; I can’t wash it.  I can’t cook till four o’clock when the others come back with some food.”

“If I told you there is money, would you help me copy these plans?  Here’s some paper, here’s some pencils, they’re cheap enough.  Look, I’ve done two copies, and copied the instructions.”

“Is there money?”

Mela tapped the chest.

“That’s where we used to put our earnings, but the key was lost.”

Mela held up the key.  Aqala turned it in the lock - the lid opened - and there was the money.

“Oh Mela!”

“Help me copy.”

“I’ll get my mates.  There’s five more of us can’t earn till dusk.”

That night the money was counted and divided between the women.  All of them took two copies of the plans and instructions with them the next morning as they set off for their homes.

Mela’s painful ankle made their journey home very slow, and it soon developed kinks here and there.  They left a trail of deepened wells behind them, and Avend made good money.

“I do feel stupid,” said Mela.  “I don’t know why this ankle won’t heal.”

“Your sprained ankle was the best thing that could have happened,” said Avend, trying to comfort her.  “Just think of all the people who will be able to grow food, because we had to stop for so long every day.  And I’ve earned quite a bit of money.”

“But there’s been a little rain - don’t you see?  It must have fallen in the night.”

“Hardly enough to lay the dust.  They’ll still need their wells for months yet.  But you’ve had lots of opportunities to tell people why we’re on this journey, and who gave us the plans, and why they came.  You’ve taken those opportunities, too; I’ve heard you telling people about our God, the strangers’ God, the God who is beginning to send the rain.  Don’t feel useless, wife; our God knew what He was doing when He allowed you to sprain that ankle.  He will heal you in His good time.”

Wysau came back from the Prayer Meeting on the flying machine, and gave Shimei the outline of this report.  Shimei needed to finish preparing her lessons for the next morning, so she asked,

“Are Auntie Tran and the Treproms getting on all right together?”

Wysau sat down in a comfortable chair and closed his eyes.  Suddenly inspiration came, and Shimei wrote diligently.  She knew she would have to wait awhile before he could answer - if she could just get this all done - She was just finishing her last sentence when his eyes focused on her again.  He waited till she put down her pen, and said,

“So long as Mrs. Treprom remembers not to overcook the vegetables.  Yes.  It does help that your Aunt Tran has that land; it keeps the balance right, even though it will revert to the House of Representatives after her death.  As she’s paying Mr. Treprom to look after her land, if she lives ten or fifteen years, by the time she does die, he will be able to start selling wood to the timber merchants.  If she lived for twenty years, it would be better; so it pays the Treproms to be good to her.  And she pays a maid, who also waits on Mrs. Treprom senior.”

“Thank you, love.” Shimei had really wanted to know.

“Have you finished your lesson preparation?”

“Just about.”

“Come here.  Sit on my knee - there.  Mm.”

“You are getting awfully tired.  And we’ve only just had a holiday.”

“Mm.”

“Wouldn’t you rather go to bed?”

“In a while.  Stay; you relax me.”

“Aren’t I heavy?”

“You’re a great comfort to a weary husband.” He kissed and cuddled her sleepily.  “Mm.”

“You’re purring like a contented animal.”

“Mm.  Ah - I’ve got you to relax at last.  Now tell me - why would I enjoy this so much, if I didn’t love you?”

Helen and Feor were already in bed - Helen was dozing.

“Helen.”

“Feor?”

“I wish we could give concerts.”

Helen woke up completely but said nothing.

“But we can’t.  I’m still the Crown Prince of my father’s country, and it would never do for me to entertain in public.  We’ll have to be content with making records for the Cirians.”

Helen sighed - with relief, in fact, but Feor misinterpreted her.

“I wonder if we could ever go to Cirian to perform.”

“Would you want to?”

“I don’t know.”

During the three weeks following their holiday, twenty-three wrong diagnoses came to light.  Four were fatal.

“The wonderful thing is,” said Lintis, “that more deaths did not occur.”

“Well,” said Ciecet.

“You see,” said Wysau.

“What have you two been up to?” she asked resignedly.

The two most senior trainees had felt the burden of their sudden responsibility.  One had asked Wysau, and the other Ciecet, to read their thoughts at certain times.  This had meant far greater peace of mind to the two Cirians, and many lives saved.  “Even if we didn’t sleep for four hours during some nights,” said Ciecet, “we could make it up during the day.”

“We warned Cirian,” said Wysau, “and they organized a team of volunteers to watch the ray machines, and talk the trainees through the various ray treatments.  It’s been excellent training for them.”

“But the people won’t realize how desperate the situation would be if they really did send us away,” protested Lintis.

“They didn’t realize how much had gone wrong.  And many waited for our return before coming to the surgery.”

“Although we didn’t think so at the time, God did speak to them through those two attempted Zaqan invasions - or perhaps they did not realize how serious the implications were for them till they had taken in what the messengers who came from Traitan were trying to tell them.  It didn’t affect their voting in the referendum, but now at least some of them have understood.”

On the Tuesday evening, the whole team, including Shimei, Feor and Helen, met on the larger flying machine.

“First of all,” said Chalata, “we must praise God for supplying all our needs so wonderfully, thus reassuring us that He still wants us here.  We praise Him, too, for the marvellous way in which He has used Feor to deal with the distribution of inheritances, and for the referendum vote in his favour.  Everyone who voted in favour of our economic system also voted for him to administer it.  We also thank God for Helen and the other teachers who ran the school in Shimei’s absence.”

“We’ll need Shimei even more in the next fortnight - three weeks,” said Helen, “as we set up three more schools in different parts of the city for all the other children who will start school as soon as schooling is free.”

“We must praise God,” said Shurzi, “for the builders and electricians who carried on in our absence, and who, on the whole, have done a marvellous job.”

“We urgently need more piping,” said Darte, “for the plumbing.  Thanks to your two, Feor, with the mountain inheritances, we have a potential continuing supply, but we need more than they can make in the next week.”

“We have money to pay for some,” said Chalata.

“As the need for piping is so urgent,” said Darte, “perhaps trained workers should be encouraged to make piping, and the untrained could be trained on the building sites.”

“We want to get across to the people,” resumed Chalata, “that we don’t plan to stay here indefinitely.  Janita and I need to go home for a good long rest after a few more months.”

“So do we,” agreed the Mosu family, Ciecet, Shurzi, Tsie and Ytazu.

“So we need some more doctors and nurses to help with the training,” said Wysau.

“And an electrician,” said Darte.

“Feor needs a rest,” said Helen.

“And an administrator,” said Chalata.

“Heavenly Father,” prayed Chalata, “we come to You in the Name of Your holy Son Jesus, Who gave Himself for our sin. We cry to You, first and foremost, to cleanse us from our sin in His blood, and make us fit to come into Your holy presence.  We ask that Your Name may be hallowed and glorified through the work that we are doing here.  To that end, we bring You our needs, and thank You for meeting so many of them by sending us on holiday when and where You did, and in the provision of a good site for our flying machines.  We thank You, too, for these our fellow-workers who have come here to help us.  We cry to You for more.  May they be of Your choosing, for You know our needs better than we do ourselves.”

Not long after the prayer meeting started, Feor and Helen slipped away.  “They need their two hours,” Wysau reported to Chalata in his thoughts.

The judge blinked.  Chalata’s legal representative, and Chalata himself, sat alone on the long bench set for the strangers.

“Do we wait for any more defendants to arrive?”

“No, your Honour,” said the legal representative.  “My clients have asked that only one of them may represent all of them, as they all have urgent work to do.”

“In spite of the seriousness of the charge? the murder of Naii in order to obtain his inheritance?”

“My clients fully understand the seriousness of the charge, your Honour.”

“Oh yes, we do,” agreed Chalata in his thoughts.  That last Sunday had been a day of fasting and prayer.

The charge was brought by Naii’s father, a poor man, who had obtained free legal aid under the provisions of the strangers’ new administration plan.  He maintained that they had hypnotized his son into changing his religion, leaving the priesthood, nominating Shimei Wysau’s wife as his heir, interfering with other people’s religious liberty and acting in such a way as was likely to provoke others to kill him.  “No-one can deny,” said Dreden’s legal representative, with new-found eloquence, “that it was as taught by the strangers and under their influence, that he preached the sermon that so incensed his killers, and took up the public position that he did at midnight on a night when many zook revellers were abroad.  These people were not accountable for their actions; it was the strangers who engineered the situation, and are responsible for his death.”

“Now,” thought Chalata, “how can one prove that it was not so?  The best we can hope for is a verdict of “Not proven”, which will not clear us in the eyes of the people.”

The trial took its predictable course - till, after Dreden’s representative had pressed the point that they had returned to Remgath and taken up residence on Naii’s inheritance without needing to be told about his death, there was an interruption from the public gallery.

“With your permission, your Honour, the Court should hear what I have to report.  I was in the company of the strangers not three hours before the murder.”

“No-one claims that they physically killed Naii,” said the judge.

“I understand that.  This relates to inheritances.”

“Very well, let us hear it.” The witness was sworn in.

“Your Honour, the strangers arrived near our village between eleven in the morning and midday on the day of the murder.  As they came down to the beach, I was in my boat, near the shore, bringing in our catch.  My brother pointed out to sea, crying, “Look!” I looked round, and saw a Zaqan invading force sailing towards our coast.  Suddenly the sun came out, and shone on the strangers’ white hair and silver flying machines - and the Zaqan ships turned and fled.  So naturally we thanked the strangers, and offered them some of our catch; we got talking, and invited them to our village for the evening.  We met in two houses, and outside as well, for our houses are small; and when the strangers were invited inside, they saw our family trees up on our walls.

“Ah,” they said, “Feor was wondering where the descendants of these people are - you and your brother-in-law have inheritances in Remgath.  We must tell him about you.”

“So I came to Remgath and have received my inheritance,” went on the witness, “but my brother-in-law did not want to leave his village.  He said to the strangers, “Could you ask Feor to give my family the silted-up land where you have parked your flying machines, and you can have my inheritance in Remgath to park your flying machines on?” They had explained to us why they’d had to come.  They were delighted - they thanked him warmly, and he duly received his certificate from Feor.”

“What is the relevance of all this?” demanded Dreden’s representative.

“That the strangers had no need of an inheritance.  They already had one.  If they had set up Naii’s murder, they could have prevented it - after all, he was their ally and supporter.  No, they were all very tired.  They walked back to their flying machines at about ten to ten, and when my brother-in-law took his boat out at eleven that night, there were no lights in their machines at all - they were all asleep.”

“Why did you not take up residence on this inheritance?” asked Dreden’s representative.

“We felt bound to respect Naii’s wishes,” explained Chalata.  “The inheritance we were offered was in fact perfectly satisfactory, but, you see, we knew that Shimei had a special place in Naii’s heart.  We felt bad enough that we’d all been asleep, and no-one had prevented his murder.  To reject his parting gift seemed to add insult to injury.”

“So what happened to the inheritance?”

“We told Feor about it, and it has been given to a family who had no inheritance.”

Feor was called to give evidence, and he showed the records to the Court.  The representatives’ evidence supported his.

Dreden’s representative then detailed Naii’s unwise behaviour.  A witness he called said that he’d seen the men approaching Naii, but, when cross-questioned by Chalata’s representative, he said they had carried no swords.  So the judge asked, “Where did the swords come from?” Neither of the representatives knew.  Then a tall, squarely built man came down from the public gallery, hiding his face in a hood.

“You will hide me in your flying machine?” he whispered to Chalata.

“You may stay with us for a week, as we promised,” said Chalata, “and we will check to see if reprisals can be expected; but we cannot give you a cast-iron promise of safety.  Only God can do that.”

“Let the trial proceed,” said the judge.

“I wish to give evidence,” said the hooded man.  “I have of this moment left the priesthood.  As of now, I have no religion, but I cannot sit by and let innocent people be branded murderers, when I know the guilt lies elsewhere.  I was present inside the house of ill repute on the night of Naii’s murder.  I wish to answer your Honour’s question: “Where did the swords come from?” They were put into the hands of the zook revellers by four of the priests.  I will not say which ones - they were my friends, I don’t want to betray them personally - but I will say that I saw four priests put these four swords into the revellers’ hands.  That is all I am willing to say.  I will not give my name.  If you doubt my word, examine the swords.”

“Where are the swords?” asked the judge.

“No swords were found, your Honour,” said Dreden’s representative.

“But Naii was killed by swords?”

“Yes, your Honour,” agreed both representatives.

“There were gashes in his body,” said his father, “just like sword thrusts.” He sat, staring ahead of him.

The trial was adjourned till the next morning.  As the judge was leaving the courtroom, he saw Chalata and Dreden in earnest conversation.  Before he went home, he went to see Dreden, who was sitting with his representative.

“The stranger was telling me not to attempt vengeance on the High Priest.  He was not responsible, he said.  The priests who supplied the swords were not acting on his orders.  “We do not feel it is right,” he said, “to try to find out the identity of the priests who did this, because it would abuse the trust of the ex-priest who gave evidence.” That’s what the stranger said.  The priests said they’d support me!  They’d pray for the success of my case!” he continued bitterly, “when it’s quite clear they were responsible.  My son! only five and twenty, and brutally murdered!  And the other priest afraid to give evidence - it was a reprisal for his leaving the priesthood!  That’s what it was.  Look, your Honour, I withdraw the charge.”

“But Dreden, don’t you want me to clear the strangers?”

“If you wish.  My son’s still dead.  Oh, what’s the use?”

“Look, Dreden, if the strangers have been unjustly accused - and not by you, particularly; it was all over the city before you laid the charge before me - they ought to be cleared.  I have no right to point the finger at anyone else; only to settle the case that has been brought before me.  But there were many in the public gallery who will tell what they heard and saw.  You have no need to attempt vengeance; that vengeance is already in progress.”

“You mean,” said the burly ex-priest, Vitatt, “that only Tsie will be in either of the flying machines for most of the day?”

“Tsie, and Chalata, in the morning, and Tsie, Janita and Chalata in the afternoon.”

“And none of them have white hair!  Can I come with one of you to your place of work?”

“I’m helping at the surgery,” said Abritis.  “I can at least diagnose common ailments, now that the doctors have trained me.”

“But the surgery is a public place!  I shall be seen!  Where are you working today?” he asked of Shurzi.

“Yujip and I will be checking the water treatment works today,” said Shurzi.  “It won’t be very interesting.”

“But could I come with you?  Could you hide me there?”

“There won’t be many people up there,” admitted Shurzi.

“I suppose we could explain how it’s done,” said Yujip.

“That doesn’t matter, so long as I’m with you, and hidden,” said Vitatt.

“There’ll be the walk up the hill,” said Yujip.

“I can put my hood up,” said Vitatt.

So three sets of frozen sandwiches were produced, and the ill-assorted group set out.  By this time Shurzi and Yujip were fit, and easily able to walk up the hill; but Vitatt puffed and panted, and only his terror of being left behind made him struggle to keep up with these white-haired strangers

Later on that afternoon, the two strangers decided they would both have to go back to the flying machine to fetch various implements and chemicals.

“Couldn’t one of you stay here?” pleaded Vitatt.

“One of us could, if you went with the other to help carry,” said Yujip.

The thought of having to carry a heavy bag up that hill was even more daunting than being left alone.

“You could sit quietly in the control tower,” suggested Shurzi.  “No-one will see you, and we two have been seen here today.  Anyway, we must go.  We won’t be long.”

“And I will check your thoughts as we climb back up the hill,” promised Yujip.

So Vitatt sat down in a corner of the control tower, the corner behind the door, so that no-one coming in would see him until they had shut the door.  Inside the control tower was a narrow chute, and a scoop that could be lowered down the chute into the final outlet pipe to facilitate testing of the purified water.  The control tower was not often used, and Vitatt would have moved the chair into his corner, except that only by sitting on the dusty floor could he be sure of not being seen.

All was well for some minutes, and Vitatt was already breathing a little more easily when he heard a creaking - someone was coming up the steps stealthily, creeping in quietly, leaving the door ajar - a priest coming to murder him!  He froze in his corner.  The priest took out a little bottle - the sort of bottle poison was put in - he was going to turn on Vitatt and pour it down his throat, and he would die in agony!  The priest pushed the door to - he advanced nervously towards the testing chute -

“Atishoo!” sneezed the helpless Vitatt.

The priest dropped the still-sealed bottle and fled.

Vitatt cowered in his corner, not daring to move.  The priest might pluck up the courage to return to retrieve the bottle.

“So, a little later,” said Vitatt, enjoying the fact that all the strangers were sitting listening to him with all their attention, “there were more confident footsteps coming up the tower.  I stayed quietly in my corner.  The intruder opened the door and looked round for the bottle.  He saw it and picked it up, and was going over towards that narrow chute when I sneezed again.  This priest did not run away - he looked at me, recognized me, pulled out a dagger and came for me - when he suddenly put it down, and went out of the tower.”

“So did he unstopper the bottle?” asked Darte and Wysau in unison.

“No.  He only picked it up and put it on the table.” Vitatt was annoyed - he had come so close to death, and all they were concerned about was the bottle!

“The bottle was still sealed,” said Shurzi.  “Look.”

The bottle had been put inside a clear plastic bag.  Darte, Wysau, Ciecet and Lintis all examined it through the bag.

“You’re right, Shurzi, it’s still sealed,” said Ciecet.

Then, at last, someone took some notice of Vitatt.  “Have you been decontaminated?” asked Wysau.

“Yes,” said Tsie.  “I wasn’t taking any chances.”

“Well done.  Well, Vitatt, we must say a heartfelt “Thank you" for protecting everyone’s water supply.”

Finally Vitatt understood.  “What did you do to the priest?” he asked Shurzi.

“I explained.”

“In gory detail,” added Yujip.

“What, exactly?”

“What would happen to the priests themselves if they contaminated the water supply.  He hadn’t even worked out that he ought to have warned the other priests of what he was about to do.  I told him that people knew the priests made such poisons, and would know they were responsible when people started dying.  That if he poisoned the water supply, the priests themselves would have to carry buckets of water up from the river, and they would get the sick sickness all over again.  And, I said, if they did, once we’d finished decontaminating the treatment works and water supply, and saving as many poisoned people as we could, we would bring a charge against them, and ask for payment, from them, for all the extra work we’d had to do.”

“But what about me?” cried Vitatt.

“You’d be all right,” said Tsie.  “We have a special filter for our water, and an alarm fitted - when it detects a poison, it goes off, and we put a special cleansing mechanism into action.”

“But will they attack me again?”

No-one answered.  Vitatt looked from one stranger to another.  None of them were paying any attention to him.  Then, suddenly, Shurzi said to him,

“They have decided to leave you alone, at least for the moment, because if they kill you, we will know it was them, and could find out enough to bring a charge against them.”

“They’re learning,” added Yujip.

It was Friday evening.  The strangers had just given all their workmen their weekly wages, and were taking it in turns to have showers before their evening meal.  Wysau and Ciecet were walking back from their evening surgery when Weka panted up to Wysau.

“Doctor, there are four men with pistols in the side street robbing your workmen of their wages!”

She spoke so quickly that Wysau could hardly take it in.  Ciecet did not hear what she said at all, but he saw the man who had pursued her, and made him come up to them both and hand over his pistol.  A glance from Ciecet to Wysau, a quick communication with Shurzi, who had sought Ciecet’s thoughts to ask him how long it would be before he and Wysau came back to the flying machine; and three strangers’ minds were at work, rounding up the malefactors, and sending Weka to ask those who had been robbed to come and retrieve their wages.

Vitatt heard all about it at the dinner table.

“But that’s no good!” he exclaimed.  “They have done wrong - they ought to be punished.  They’ll just do the same again when you’re not around.”

“If you’ve got the time and energy.” said Wysau, “to go and see the workmen who had their wages stolen, and persuade one of them to make a complaint to the court - ”

“Watch it, Wysau,” said Ciecet.  “He’ll want us to go and give evidence.”

“I will,” said Vitatt.

“If you could let us know exactly when and where,” said Wysau, “and brief your counsel to call us as soon as we arrive - ”

“Oh, Wysau!”

“Vitatt is right, Ciecet,” said Chalata.  “Somehow we must teach these bandits crime doesn’t pay.”

“Absolutely, sir,” said Vitatt.

“Then you go along to the court tomorrow,” said Chalata, “and take - who d’you think, Darte?”

Darte and Shurzi looked at each other.

“I know Akka’s reliable, and articulate,” said Shurzi, “but we can’t spare him - he’s a good trainer.”

“Who can we spare,” asked Darte, “of that bunch?”

“Is it a case of who we can spare, or who will go to court?”

In the end it was Tomas who went with Vitatt to lay the charge before the court, on behalf of Ak, Ethin, Akka, Frak, Gulan, and himself.

“But as the strangers restored your wages to you,” said the judge, “why do you bring the charge?”

“Because they will do it again when the strangers aren’t by,” said Vitatt.  “If Weka hadn’t managed to get to the stranger doctors before Telik caught up with her, none of them would have seen their money again.”

“Why didn’t he shoot her?”

“Because she kept ducking and weaving and hiding behind other people.  She was very brave,” said Tomas.

Vitatt sighed.

“Well, they have a case to answer,” said the judge.  “Any doubt of the identification - I mean, do you know the accused?”

“Only Telik,” said Vitatt.

“I would know them again,” said Tomas, “but I didn’t know them before.  I think the same goes for the stranger doctors.”

“Oh, but the stranger doctor still has a pistol,” said Vitatt, “which he will bring to court when he comes to give evidence.  The very tall stranger doctor.  Ah, and there were bystanders who witnessed the scene - the malefactors returning the stolen property.”

“You’d better find them,” said the judge, “if you’re going to act as Tomas’ legal representative.”

This proved difficult.  The bystanders were afraid of reprisals.  Only one burly man agreed to act as a witness.  But, with the evidence from all the plaintiffs, from Weka, from Wysau and particularly Ciecet, Vitatt knew that he was fighting for truth and justice, and he could and would win.

“I was most impressed with him,” said Mr. Treprom to Wysau, Shimei, Feor and Helen as Mrs. Treprom served hot drinks after their Sharing and Support group meeting.  “He didn’t need a reminder - he went to the House of Representatives and obtained a certified copy of the agreement signed by those who inherited our land and the Lady Tran’s, stating clearly the terms of the loan of our irrigation system.  It soon became clear that the families’ legal representative had been told these terms had been imposed by us unilaterally, and he requested an adjournment so that he and the fathers could discuss the situation.  After this, I could see their representative was doing his best for them in the circumstances, but his heart wasn’t in the case.  Whereas Vitatt had a confidence about him.  He spoke very reasonably and sensibly; he carried the vast majority of those in the courtroom with him, as well as the judge.”

“I have heard,” said Feor, “that Vitatt refused two cases recently, because he couldn’t prosecute them wholeheartedly.  Is this right?”

“It is,” said Lady Treprom.  “That’s how we managed to employ him.”

“What do you think, Wysau?” asked Feor.  “We need a Public Prosecutor to present cases brought by the police.  He would have powers either to take up such a case, or to refuse it.”

“He certainly has a strong sense of fairness,” agreed Wysau.  “But we can only recommend him to the House of Representatives; the final decision on who gets the post is theirs.  I’d like to do a bit more checking and thoughtreading, and talk to the judges, before I could give a formal recommendation.  But, at the moment, he’s the only suitable person I know of.”

“Is he a Christian?” asked Mr. Treprom.

“I don’t think so,” said Wysau.  “He certainly heard the Gospel while he stayed with us in our flying machine.  But something’s changed him.  He was an indolent coward; now, he’s an energetic, brave man doing a very useful job, and doing it well.  But, you see, there are people who live clean useful lives, who never see their need of Christ until too late.  Their very moral uprightness is used by the Enemy of souls to blind their eyes to their sin against God.  He hasn’t attended any of the services.”

“He brought that case against the robbers to a most satisfactory conclusion,” said Shimei.  “The House of Representatives was informed by the judge that it was time money was set aside to pay a police force to keep order in the city - and they agreed with him.”

At the end of that week, Vitatt asked if he could stay on the flying machine for another week, and said he was quite prepared to work for his keep.

“What work will you do?” asked Chalata.

“I will help Tsie.”

Chalata remembered one burnt meal - but only one - earlier that week.

“He rescued our evening meals twice this week,” said Tsie, “when I was counselling; so I asked him to bake our fruit tartlets for Saturday evening, and our bites for Sunday after the service.  He not only cooked them well, but he did all the clearing away, and has learnt how to stack and operate the washing-up machine.  He can make bread, too - Obek’s missing Naii’s help.”

“Oh,” said Wysau, “Shimei said Obek hasn’t had time to teach lately, and it’s a shame.”

“I could help Obek, if he’ll have me, if I could sleep here,” said Vitatt.

“So long as you don’t have to get up at three in the morning, and disturb us all,” said Chalata.

“Oh no,” said Vitatt, “I could not be a baker - not permanently.  I need my sleep.”

But Obek said, “If he wants to help me, he must come and live with us, and help me from four in the morning.  He can go to bed when we do, at nine in the evening.  I would be glad to do some teaching, but I cannot, without help in the shop.”

So Vitatt moved in with Obek and Rowesh.

“He is much more industrious than we thought he’d be,” Rowesh confided to Thilish, “but his heart isn’t in the work.  He does make good bread, though, and his crumpy cakes are sensational - we sell out before lunchtime every day.  But people still come a long way for the bites Tsie taught Obek to make.”

They had only been home from their holiday for three weeks, but Shimei was as tired as ever.  She did not know how to cope with life’s incessant demands - teaching, marking, preparing lessons, cleaning, prayer meetings.  These should have been a help, she thought, but they seemed only part of the weekly grind, of her vain efforts to do all that was expected of her, and still be cheerful like the strangers.  That evening there was another.

But this time there was a report from Vielev about what was happening in Traitan.  Mela and Avend had finally arrived home - to find that Trak had a guest for Mela - a Traitanish priest! who had been too ill to walk any further into Traitan.  He had had to lie in bed for ten days, and have drinks brought to him.  Mela, supported by Avend, had just managed to stumble the last few miles home.  She’d collapsed on her bed, in her own home at last - to be told that their spare room was occupied by this priest, who would, Mela thought, no doubt expect to be looked after!  “It’s just too much!” she wept.  “Please, Lord, I can’t stand any more.” But the priest came, told her what food was in the house, and suggested how he might cook it.  It was a good meal; he cleared away and washed up; and, that night, the pain in Mela’s ankle was so bad that she felt nothing but gratitude.

By the following evening the pain had eased, and she began to feel frustrated.  She found it hard to let the priest do things his way in her house.  So Avend was delighted when Vielev arranged for a friend of his to help Mela translate Paul’s letter to the Romans into the current speech of Traitan.

Two days later, the ankle was no better.  The healer came, and strapped the ankle to a wooden splint.  She said it was broken, and would take a long time to heal, because she had had to walk on it.  She must not put her weight on it for the next three weeks.  The priest smiled and went on doing all the work of the house.  He even fetched her some crutches.

“But Avend,” said Mela quietly one night, as they lay in bed together, “how long can we go on feeding Rineat?  You can’t earn enough to support the three of us.”

“I’m not.  There isn’t the work, not from this area alone.  At the moment we’re all right, because of all the money I earned on the way home.  We’ll be all right for those three weeks - remember what the healer said.  But after that - well, you are working for God, and He is no man’s debtor, and no woman’s either.”

The following evening, Avend and Mela thanked Rineat warmly for a particularly tasty meal.

“I am pleased; I enjoyed it too,” he said.  “I like living with you.  What is it that makes you so different?”

“Oh Heavenly Father!” cried Shimei silently.  “You heard Mela’s cry - You helped her.  Please will You help me?”

These words from her next morning’s reading:

“We will reap, if we don’t give up"

rang in her mind all that day.

That evening, Wysau had cheerful news.

“The treffin extract is working wonders for Arad - his mother is very grateful.  Now he is intelligent and strong enough to do some work for her, instead of needing constant supervision.  But he isn’t always very willing. “You must insist,” I told her.  “He must learn to work, like all the other children.”

“I get so tired,” she said.  “It’s easier to do it myself.”"

“Trak,” said Vielev one day after a translation session, “did you know your brother Vadt and sister Lulo escaped too?”

“No.”

“They did - they got over the mountains and now live among the maritime people.  They’re spreading the Gospel there, and they’ve built a machine to make power from falling water, so that the people there don’t have to cut down trees to heat their houses in the winter.  There’ll have to be many more such machines, but they’ve made a start.  Like Avend, they’ve proved to the people that it can be done, and that it’s worth doing.  I’ve told them that you’re alive, and whereabouts you live, and about your daughter.”

“Are they married?”

“Lulo is.  Some of the girls there say they want to believe, but they cannot change their religion till the master of the house does - their father or their elder brother.”

“So does Vadt love a girl?”

“Yes, but he cannot speak - he does not know if she is a believer.”

“Can you tell, from reading her thoughts?”

“Ah - I don’t know - I don’t think so.”

“But why - ?”

“I’ll talk later.”

Trak was puzzled.  He’d taken it for granted that Vielev must be a believer.  Why, all the things he’d done to help Trak’s people - all the work he’d put in on the translation of God’s Word - how could he not be a true Christian?  He prayed for Vielev as he hoed his vegetables the next morning - as he used his new sprinkler equipment that Avend had made for him from the plans Vielev had given them.

The partner in the brickmaking firm brought his family, as usual, to the service, but he was not cheerful.  Darte asked,

“Have they found out?”

“Yes.  My partner keeps saying we ought to prosecute them, because they’re using our idea, but I thought it would be expensive, and anyway, isn’t it better for everyone to have good bricks to build with?”

“I agree with you,” said Darte.  “Just keep going - your bricks are at least as good as theirs.  Don’t change anything about the way you make them.  You can quote me on that to your partner.”

“Sihcha!” cried Shimei, as she answered the knock on her door.  “Do come in, sit down - all those stairs! and you expecting!”

“Won’t do me any harm,” said Sihcha sturdily.  “I am glad you and the strangers have come back - you will stay here now, won’t you?  My husband and I are most anxious to have Thilish attend on me at the birth of our child.”

“Most of the strangers will only be here for a few more months.”

“Who will stay?”

“Darte and Abritis, Wysau and I, and some doctors.”

“Ah good, Wysau will be here.  There are many who will be glad to hear that. The trainees try their best, but they are not like the stranger doctors, to know what the matter is.”

“They need more training - and experience at the hospital, where they can ask the strangers if they have got it right.  But the strangers want to train our people - they don’t want to stay here and run the country.  They want you to do it, and to do it well, and be fair to everyone.”

“People have been saying that the strangers only saved them from the people of Zaqa because they wished to stay here - and they realized that if they did not accept the strangers’ plan, they would go away, and the people of Zaqa would come and conquer them.  And that is why there are no plans for an army.”

“But there are, Sihcha!  Look, I’ve a copy of the admin. plan here.  Let’s look at the index - yes - army - my brother put forward the names of the best and most apt to train of the non-commissioned officers of the Roptoh’s army.  These will be interviewed and asked if they would like to serve in the standing army, and who they would wish to recruit to serve under them.  There will only be a small standing army, occupied in training.  Every male between eighteen and forty-five does six weeks’ military training initially, in groups, and then two weeks every year, so that if a foreign power attacks, a large trained army can be called up to defend the country.”

“Oh,” said Sihcha slowly.  She looked more carefully at the document, read on.

“Police,” she read.  “Fire services.  We could do with some policemen right now.”

“I haven’t heard what’s happening about the police or fire services, but I think the admin. system has to run for a while before there’s the money to pay these people.  They’ll need training, too.”

“So there will be jobs for these younger brothers who have come to the capital.”

“Some of them, certainly - but if they want to be in the police or the army, or the fire services, they’d better stay out of trouble.”

“Could I borrow this, please, my lady? and then I can show people what they have voted for?  It isn’t too complicated for us to understand at all.”

“I’m getting so tired,” said Feor.  “I’m glad you said so in the meeting.  There’s no-one I can really trust to take over from me while we have a holiday.”

“Would you like to play something?”

Feor picked up his trie, played half a tune, and put it down again with a sigh.  “No - I just want to sit.  You play - if you’d like to, that is.”

Helen was happy to be an accompanist but not a solo performer.  She generally declined such invitations.

“Then come here, my dearest love.”

No, she never would understand why he found it so comforting and relaxing to put his head on a cushion on her knees, and gaze up at her as he drifted off to sleep.  Yet, an hour or so later, when she came to herself, he would cheerfully and resolutely carry her off to bed - and in the morning, he would get up and go on with his work.  He would talk about it when they had kissed before the meal - and she knew he did enjoy it - and in the afternoon, as he worked with his subordinates, she could do her lesson preparation, draw maps if required - sometimes she even had time to illustrate a Bible story.  No, they had much to thank God for, but perhaps they should have gone with the strangers on their seaside holiday.  She stifled a yawn.

“I wish we had some news of your parents,” she said to Feor after their evening meal.

“It’s been some time - perhaps we could ask one of the strangers to find out how they are.”

Just as their tea was being brought to them, there was a knock on their door.

“Come in,” called Feor.  “Oh, welcome, sister! and you too, brother.”

“I’ll do some thought-reading,” offered Wysau, in his usual disconcerting manner, “while you talk.”

The two teachers were listening to Feor’s advice about the location of one of the proposed schools, when suddenly Wysau burst out, “Oh, thank you, sir! that’s marvellous!” They all turned to look at him, but it was no use trying to attract his attention yet.  They forced their minds back to their previously absorbing topic, till he said,

“Shimei and I have had a holiday - it’s Feor and Helen who need one.  No, that’ll be great.”

There was a pause, and he continued:

“Thank you very much, sir.  Thank the whole team from all of us.”

Another pause.  “Oloxis and Treik.  Oloxis and Treik.  Both thought-readers - good.  Oloxis,” he repeated meditatively, looking at Shimei.  “A bit difficult to get on with, but very good at admin.”

“Oloxis?  Who’s this?” asked Shimei.

“Oloxis and Treik are sister and brother.  Treik’s a doctor, good at training.  Oloxis, as I said, is a bit difficult to get on with, but she is very, very good at administration.  And no-one, not even the craftiest, will get past her eagle eye.”

“Does this mean we could have a holiday?” enquired Helen.

“They’re arriving from Cirian in a fortnight,” said Wysau.  “The Director suggests that you show her the details for a week, Feor, while I show Treik - remember, they’re both being fully briefed at the moment on Cirian - and then their crew will take the four of us to see your parents, Shimei and Feor.  And, from what I can gather, they’ll be more than glad to see us.  It’s a question of the succession, Feor - the people want to know if you will administer their country as you are doing Remgathsheth.”

“Will they mind?”

“No, they’ll be delighted - except the nobility.  You see, the nobility were very angry at the way they were treated - they felt it was a great blow to their pride.  So our Director organized some advisors for your father.  Your people now have a clean water supply to the capital city and the next largest city, and effective irrigation in the south; they also have a House of Representatives and certain key legal rights.  And a testing programme for - consumption, Helen.”

Feor and Shimei listened uncomprehendingly while Wysau explained to Helen how tuberculosis was passed on, and the measures necessary to stamp it out.

“I didn’t know you could catch it, too.”

“It isn’t exactly the same disease, but very similar - and you’ll be able to explain to Feor.  Only the people in the north of Remgathsheth keep these animals, so we don’t meet it in Remgath.  Well, the measures weren’t popular at first, but as people’s health has improved, so the Roptoh’s popularity has increased by leaps and bounds.  When the nobles tried to whip up resentment against him, most of the common people were not interested.  But your poor father has found life rather trying recently, especially when he had to translate instructions for the water treatment plant, and found that his engineer understood them better than he did.  And there are the nobles.  They will be very angry when they hear your plans for their country, and realize how important they are to the common people.  Only one noble lady and a few of the Palace servants have been converted, you see.  In spite of the news from Traitan, they still cling to their old religion.”

“I don’t speak their language very well,” said Feor.

“I’m having to learn it,” groaned Wysau.

“How?”

“One of our people, who knows Greek and Hebrew, has been helping the man who is translating the Bible from the language of Wendei four hundred years ago, into their current speech.  He is in the same situation as Trak was with Vielev.  This linguist from our people is writing a grammar of the current speech of Wendei, and of your father’s kingdom.”

“Oh yes,” said Feor, “that’s right, they’re the same.”

“Apart from minor dialect differences, yes.  So I’ve got to learn that grammar.”

“You’ll have to teach me,” said Shimei.

“And both of us,” said Feor.

“I shan’t make much progress in only a fortnight,” said Helen.

“If we just learn a few phrases, people will be pleased,” said Shimei.

“That’s right,” agreed Feor.

“He will send his grammar via the screen as soon as he’s completed it, which will be any day now.  Unfortunately he has never heard the current speech of Wendei; he’s only heard recordings of the ancient speech.  You may be able to help us, Feor.”

The Roptoa descended the stairs of their new home in the northern capital, to greet three noble families from the Remgathsheth countryside, who had travelled on berron.

“If only I hadn’t bought that estate in Arvana not two months ago, I might have been able to purchase one here - but, as it is, I’m afraid we must trespass on your kindness.”

“Of course, of course,” said the Roptoa soothingly.  “I will give orders that your apartments be prepared to receive you.” The Roptoh tried to put on a friendly face, but inwardly he was seething with helpless anger.  He had spent all the proceeds of that sale, and more, giving hospitality to these noble families.  If only he had not sold that estate, he would not have had to welcome three more families under his roof.  It was too late to remedy the situation.

After dinner on the flying machine, the crew retired to the kitchen to give the Roptoh and Roptoa time to enjoy their children’s company.

“I can’t tell you what it has meant to us to eat with you today,” said the Roptoa.  “We have been able to relax.  There has been no need to make polite conversation, to laugh at stupid jokes, to be gracious, to try to make peace between rival families, or rival aspirants to the same girl’s hand.  How we wish we could dismiss them all to their country houses!  But they have no houses, no estates, no money.  To them it is unthinkable that they should work.”

“Some of the young nobles,” said the Roptoh, “particularly younger brothers, have offered themselves as tutors to the families of nobility who have estates here.  They are also considering the army or the priesthood.  We cannot offer estates to all fifty-odd of the noble families who followed us from Remgath, for the people greatly desire their inheritances. They expect you, my son, to do for them here as you have done in Remgathsheth.  So we shall have little land left, and still twenty-two families to feed.”

“They are citizens here, are they not?” said Feor.

“Yes,” said the Roptoh, “but they will think one inheritance per family is a pittance - it will reduce them to the level of peasants.”

“Is it not worse for them to have no money and no land at all?” asked Wysau.

“It certainly makes them very ill-tempered,” agreed the Roptoa.

“It’s going to be a great deal of work,” said Feor, “for in Remgathsheth all the inheritance boundaries were already set.  Here, that must be done first.  One must consider whether it is possible for a man to feed his family from that particular stretch of land.  If the land is fertile, has he enough land to produce enough to feed his family, and to sell, so he can clothe them too?  And what if the land is not fertile?  What can he do with it then?  And where should his house be built? on his land, or on a street in the city?  We’ll need a Commission to draw up a list of all citizens, to make detailed maps of all the land available to be divided into inheritances.”

“Not many of the common people can read or write,” said the Roptoh.

“Then offer positions on the Commissions to the nobility,” suggested Wysau.  “You’re bound to need local Commissions responsible to the Central Commission, which in turn should be responsible to the House of Representatives, which, we hope, will be prepared to pay them.  But make sure they understand that every peasant must have an inheritance as valuable as theirs, or there will be revolution, and their heads will be the first to fall.”

“But what of the nobles who have estates here?” groaned the Roptoh.

“Have they many noble families to feed, as you have?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“Don’t you think,” said Wysau, “that they would be glad to exchange their estates - not their houses or immediate gardens -for a peaceful family life?”

“Feeding twenty-two families is also a crippling expense,” mused the Roptoh.  “Especially when they expect such good food.”

“They even expect fine clothes and entertainment,” sighed the Roptoa.

“Did you anticipate this?” Suddenly the Roptoh turned almost viciously on his son-in-law.  “Can you tell me honestly that you did not anticipate this outcome when you so graciously took us to our own land in your flying machine?”

“None of our team did.”

“But - ”

“Our leader did - our Director.  He foresaw it all.”

“Who is this voice, who gives me good counsel?”

“Not our Director, but a member of the team he brought together.  The crew of our small flying machine are members of that team.”

“When I brought the problem of our nobility before that voice, he said, `Give the people their inheritances.’ I expect he would have explained, as you have - but I refused.  That was two months ago.  Now - well - ”

“I cannot bear,” said the Roptoa, “the thought of those twenty-two families living in our palace, sharing our meals, every day for the rest of our lives.”

“If they did, we would be obliged to sell estate after estate to support them all,” sighed the Roptoh.  “Please forgive me, my son,” and here he extended a hand towards Wysau across the table, a hand that Wysau took and pressed affectionately, “if sometimes I bitterly resent your coming.  Yet if you had not come, neither you nor Foquar, our people would have executed us, as the royal family of Traitan was executed.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.  Even my very own people here - my flesh and blood - would have risen against me by now, were it not for your friend’s good counsel, and my own son’s good work in what was our country.  Oh yes, Feor, you heard their welcome.  The city is full of the romantic story of your beautiful wife from a faraway world.  But your popularity really stems from their hope of inheritances.”

“Then the sooner the Commissions are set up,” said Wysau, “the better for everyone.  Oh, by the way, Father, have you a windswept piece of land?”

“Up behind the Palace, to give shelter to the Palace and its gardens, there is a high cliff, and on top of that cliff the winds rage like the desires of the common people.”

“Is not one of your biggest bills for the coal to heat the Palace and to cook hot food for these families?” asked Shimei.

“What it is to have a daughter married to a stranger!” exclaimed the Roptoa.  “You’ll be reading my mind next.”

“Yes, my love,” said Wysau.  “Wind machines can drive generators to make electricity to heat the Palace and run electric ovens, and heat water.  If the winds really rage as powerfully as you suggest, there should be electricity to sell.”

“But first there must be installation, training, wiring - ”

The Roptoh looked up at the tall, white-haired crew member who had just come in with his wife.

“That’s what we’re here for,” she said.

“I can’t do it - I can’t give up my estates!”

The Commission had asked for maps of all the land they had available to divide into inheritances.  “Surely they ought to expect their Roptoh to retain some of his estates - the King in Remgathsheth has an estate.  Wysau would have me give all but the land immediately around the Palace. `If you keep that windswept cliff area,’ he said, `you will be able to generate electricity for all your heating, cooking, lighting and hot water, and sell some - it will be a good inheritance for your grandchildren.’ `But will they know how to maintain these strange wind machines?’ I asked. `You forget, Father,’ he said. `They will be my children.’

They will be his children.  They won’t mind.  Feor won’t mind.  Shimei won’t mind.  Even my Roptoa - all she wants is peace in her own house.  But surely I could keep one estate.”

“You’re very welcome to come to dinner too, Father,” said Wysau.

“No, I’ll stay here.  Someone ought to supervise the workmen.”

“If you’re sure you don’t mind?” queried his wife.

“No, you go, dear.  I’m glad you can have a rest from it all.”

A group of noble ladies had gathered before dinner in the Palace.

“I can’t stay here, with all these workmen everywhere.  There’s no privacy to change for dinner.”

“When are we to be given estates?”

“No-one’s said anything about our having any larger inheritances than the common people.”

“Oh, surely that’s not right.”

“It certainly isn’t right.”

“We should never have left Remgath.”

“It’s so cold here.”

“I hear Lady Elkere is not well.”

“What is the matter?”

“They say it is not mentionable.”

“How shocking!”

“She must have . . . !"

“We cannot stay here any longer.  Our daughters might catch it.”

“But where are we to go?”

The Roptoh came in.

“Your Majesty, how long are we to be kept in suspense?  We must have our inheritances soon - and we need enough land so that we can go on living in the style to which we are accustomed.”

“That will not be possible.  If I refuse the people’s request for inheritances, both you and I will be executed.  It is better to live on a little land, in a small house, in peace with your neighbours, than to be hated, spat upon, brought to a summary trial and executed - is it not?”

“How much land will you retain?” asked one of the Commissioners.

“Only one estate.”

“But if we cannot have estates - ”

“Then only that windswept cliff that protects the Palace.”

“No-one will dispute that, your Majesty,” said the Commissioner.  “No-one could grow anything there, or build a house there.”

“Well, if we must.”

“We must,” said the Roptoh firmly.

“How soon can we have a house of our own?”

“When it is built.  Many, many houses will have to be built for the people as well as for you.  The strangers are busy instructing the workmen.”

“I can’t stay here with Lady Elkire - she has a dreadful disease.”

“Is she ill?” asked the Roptoh.

“Most certainly,” said her husband.

“I will ask the stranger doctor to call.”

“Your son-in-law?”

“Indeed.”

“We are honoured,” said Lord Elkire.

“What is it, doctor?” asked Lord Elkire.

Wysau confirmed his fears.

“When did she have this affair?”

“When did you last visit the temple?”

“Last Wednesday - ” The words were out before he could stop them.

“And what did you do there?”

Lord Elkire wilted under Wysau’s searching gaze.

“Be assured,” said Wysau, “your wife has been faithful to you.  But if you wish her to recover - if you yourself do not wish to appear to everyone as the guilty party - then these visits to the temple prostitutes have to stop.  Now, immediately, and for the rest of your life.  Is that understood?”

“I have not consulted you about my private life.”

“That is my price for the treatment of your wife’s illness.  There is no point in treating her if you are not prepared to give me that assurance, sincerely; for she will, very likely, contract the disease again five days after your next visit.”

“You will not charge any money?”

“No money from this world can pay for this medicine from mine.”

“Then I promise, Doctor.”

“You don’t mean it.  Good day.”

“Doctor, please,” asked a lady, who stopped him at the foot of the Palace stairs, “could I or my daughters catch this disease from Lady Elkire?”

“No, you will not catch it from the noble lady.  Your daughters, as long as they remain chaste, will be quite safe.  Married ladies are only in danger if they, or their husbands, have affairs, or if their husbands visit the temple prostitutes.”

“Oh, thank you, Doctor.” The lady heaved a sigh of relief.  Wysau gave her a smile, and walked on.

“Doctor!” Lord Elkire was running down the stairs after him.  “I do sincerely give you that assurance,” he panted.

Wysau turned round and looked at him searchingly.  “Very well,” he said at last, and followed his patient back upstairs.

“Wysau,” asked Feor, “could you consult your grammar?  How do I say “divide the land up into inheritances”?" Wysau looked it up, and spelt the required words.

“Thanks,” said Feor, writing busily.

“How many patients have you had so far?” asked Shimei.

“Those two,” replied Wysau, “and one family with consumption.  I feel I’m having more of a holiday than you are, Feor.”

Feor looked up from the text of the speech he was preparing to give to the House of Representatives.  “Study while you may,” he said.  “I’ll give them two more days, and you’ll be taking morning and evening surgeries, and visiting patients every afternoon.  You’ll be working quite as hard as our crew, while I make music with Helen to soothe my poor mother’s nerves.”

It did, in fact, take a day longer than Feor had predicted -a day which Wysau and Shimei badly needed to study the language.  The necessity of severity with those first two families (the second had been ignoring the Roptoh’s anti-consumption regulations) had given Wysau a reputation for strictness.  His third patient was a little blind lad who begged from Wysau - who took him to his parents, asked permission to operate, and returned him two days later well-fed, well rested and able to see.  This lad spoke so warmly of the doctor’s gentleness, and of the Princess’ care, that the next morning Wysau opened his surgery in the flying machine, with Shimei as his nurse-cum-receptionist.  More people came to have cataracts removed; a sixteen-year-old limped in with a broken leg that had healed crooked; a mother brought her badly dehydrated baby - and so it went on.

“You go back to the Palace, my love,” said Wysau.  “Treik has recruited a receptionist for me for my evening surgery.  You need a rest.”

Shimei felt unwanted - but she was tired.  “Right,” she said, trying not to sound hurt.

“Your Mum and Dad are in your mother’s sitting room upstairs.”

So she went upstairs to find them.

“Oh, hello, dear,” said her mother.  “I knew he would overwork you.”

Shimei explained.

“How many patients come?”

“Twenty this morning - there were more tonight.”

“I was just saying to my Roptoa that you were only here for a brief visit, and we’d hardly seen you.”

“Does he work you as hard as this in Remgath?” asked her mother.

“It was my idea to start the school.  It’s harder work, but I enjoy it more.  And it was his idea - the strangers’, anyway -that we went on a seaside holiday.”

“But the sea is miles and miles away.”

“They went in the flying machine, I expect, dear.”

“In both, yes.  And we came back far richer than when we left.” Shimei told them about the blue shellfish.

“But why were the people there so keen to help you?”

Shimei explained about the fleet of ships from Zaqa.  “The strangers did nothing, Father - they just stood there in the sunshine.  It was God Who arranged that they should be in the right place at the right time - and that Tsie had just cleaned the outsides of the flying machines.”

“And they healed their sick, no doubt,” said the Roptoa.

Shimei laughed.  “There’s no stopping Wysau.  But we did have one week’s real rest.  No,” she continued, “if I have to work hard in Remgath, it’s because the Queen can only afford one maid.  When she’s busy looking after the Crown Prince day and night, she hasn’t the time or energy to do the cleaning.  But now the Crown Prince is bigger and sleeps through the night, the maid is able to do more cleaning.”

“Why did you have to do the cleaning?” asked the Roptoa.

“Nobody told me to do it; I just got tired of a dirty bathroom and a dusty dining room.  Helen helped me clean the schoolroom and Wysau our apartment and the dining room.”

“So you shouldn’t normally have to work quite so hard.  I am glad to hear that,” said the Roptoa.

So it went on - the wind generators, swiftly erected from prepared components, generated electricity for the new heating system in the Palace, and for the new houses that were being built under the crew’s shrewd direction.  The workmen were soon convinced that their new overseers knew everything they thought as well as everything they did, and worked accordingly.  Every tenth house was soon allocated to one of the workmen as a reward for their good work, and, before the three week visit ended, the Roptoh and Roptoa saw four of the most troublesome families move out to their own houses, able to support themselves because the father or eldest son was a member of the Commission.  The Roptoa’s head cook was delighted with the new electric oven (also brought in components from Cirian), but asked to keep her coal range as well till she had no need to cook for forty people at every meal.

The House of Representatives thanked Feor warmly for setting up the Commission, the crew for teaching the workmen how to build good houses and for training three electricians, but entered an urgent plea for Wysau to stay.  “None of our doctors can heal as he can,” they pleaded.

“He is needed in Remgath to help train doctors,” explained Feor.

“Then could we send two young men for training in Remgath?”

The two chosen were younger sons of noblemen from Remgath, who missed the warm sunshine, and saw no future for themselves in the northern kingdom without a training.  That night Wysau communicated with his team-mates in Remgath, arranging accommodation for the two students.

On the Monday evening after their return, Wysau and Shimei were dining, as usual, with the King and Queen, Feor and Helen.

“The amount of work Oloxis has done!” exclaimed Feor.  “And the work one of my colleagues has done, since she explained his job to him over again!  I can scarcely believe it.”

“She seems rather curt and impolite,” said the King.  “I’d much rather have you two around.”

“Well, I shall be delighted to have her, as long as she can stay,” said Feor.  “These Cirians are intellectually brilliant, you do realize that?  She understands my job far better than I do.”

“Don’t run yourself down, Feor,” said Wysau.  “Being a thought-reader does make it far easier to get the truth out of people first time.  You were very good with the House of Representatives in your own kingdom - they were most impressed with you, and are looking forward to the day when you can re-organize their country’s economic system.”

“They were most impressed with you,” said Feor.  “When the succession was explained, everyone cheered.”

Shimei was silent at the meal.  She had had a trying day, setting up a new school with only two satisfactory teachers.  When they were by themselves, she complained,

“Everyone loves you.  Everyone loves Helen - I just haven’t got that touch.”

“You’re a first-rate teacher and organizer,” encouraged her husband.  “You’ll make an excellent mother for our children.  You were just what I needed as a receptionist-cum-nurse in your father’s kingdom.  You are using the gifts God has given you.  It is for Him that you work; He sees your work, and He will reward you; here and now, and in that day.  There’s one thing about you I’ve noticed in these last few days, that has pleased me very much: you do feel for Oloxis.”

“It must be hard for her.  She obviously gets on with her own people - she gets on with all you strangers - but everyone here seems either to be terrified of her or dislike her.”

“Everyone but Feor.”

“Good for him.” Shimei blew away the dust from the table before setting her books on it.  “This room hasn’t been cleaned for at least a fortnight.  I’ll have to complain to the maid tomorrow.”

“She hasn’t had the time or the energy, I expect.  Remember, the Queen was very tired before her baby came, and now the maid has to get up in the night to change him, and take him to the Queen to be fed - as well as looking after them both in the daytime.”

“I suppose I’ll have to do it.”

“If you prepare your lessons tomorrow afternoon, early, I’ll be home at half past four - I’ll help you till dinner’s ready.”

When Wysau arrived home, Shimei was busy tidying up.  Wysau beat the rugs out of the window that faced onto the Palace garden, while Shimei swept the floor.  Clumsily she knocked over the dustpan full of dust, and had to sweep it up all over again.

“If only I weren’t so tired.”

“Was it a difficult morning?”

“Yes, and when I got back I saw how dirty the bathroom was.  Abritis is too busy; Helen’s afternoons and evenings are all booked as well as her mornings - so I did it this afternoon.  I’ll have to prepare my lessons this evening.”

“There’s a prayer meeting on the flying machine.”

“You’ll have to give my apologies.”

Shimei and Helen spent their Saturday morning cleaning the schoolrooms in the Palace.

“The Queen ought to have a nurse for that baby, so that the maid can do the cleaning,” grumbled Shimei as she stacked the chairs so that the floor could be swept.

“I don’t think she can afford to pay another maid,” said Helen, dusting the desks as she put them to one side.

“Poor you - you came here to be married to the Crown Prince, and find yourself doing the cleaning like a housemaid!”

“We both have enough to do without this - yet I’d rather do it than try to teach in a dusty classroom.  Thank you for helping, Shimei - this isn’t your school any more.”

“I wish it were.  It’s been hard at the new school.”

“You’ve had a harder time than I have - I do at least have three efficient teachers who can keep order.”

“But I do get my school cleaned!”

“No, Shimei,” said Wysau.  “You’re as tired as I am, if not more so.  We need a rest this afternoon.”

“But then the dining room will never get done.  This room needs doing, too.”

“We’ll have an hour’s rest, and then we’ll do this room - our room.  The maid is far more likely to do the dining room, isn’t she?”

“I feel so restless and annoyed.”

“Tidy up a bit, and, as soon as you can, come and lie by me.”

Shimei didn’t know quite how it worked, but the sight of her husband dozing off on their bed soon made her feel her tiredness.  In ten minutes she was lying beside him.  They slept for an hour and a half, and cuddled for another half hour because neither could face jumping up to clean immediately.  But then Wysau resolutely dragged her up, and got on enthusiastically with the cleaning.  She felt much cheered when she went to bed that night.

By Monday evening the dining room still had not been cleaned.

“It is getting dusty in here,” hinted Shimei at dinner.

“Poor Rikkia was so tired, I had to let her sleep today,” said the Queen, stifling a yawn.  “She got up just ten minutes ago, to have baby so we could eat in peace.”

“I’m tired too,” said the King.  “Either the baby’s crying, or my wife’s feeding him, every time I wake in the night.  There seem to be continual comings and goings.  I shall have to sleep by myself tonight, to get a proper night’s sleep.”

“Good idea,” said Wysau.  “This is the worst time - it won’t last for ever.  When baby is four months old or so, and starts sleeping through the night, you’ll both feel a lot better.”

Tuesday came and went, and by Wednesday afternoon the dining room had still not been cleaned.  Shimei felt obliged at least to sweep the carpet.

“I don’t mind not being rich, or not being the Princess, but I do mind having so much work to do,” she muttered angrily to herself.  “No-one has any sympathy with me - they all say it’s the Queen who is having the hard time.  When I have my baby, I shall have to get up and change him, feed him and hush him; I shan’t have a maid to do anything for me - and Wysau will be as busy at the hospital as ever.”

She tried to work out her annoyance by polishing the fine old furniture, her parents’ and grandparents’ furniture, which then belonged to the King and Queen.  All too soon it was five o’clock; she had not prepared tomorrow’s lessons, and that evening there was another prayer meeting.  She went back to her room and tried to prepare.  She managed one lesson, but was too tired to think of a way of making her next one interesting.  She had to miss another prayer meeting.

“Come, love, time for bed.”

“Can’t I have a little read?  I’ve been working all day.”

“Are you taking anything in?”

“No,” said Shimei crossly.  “I’m too tired.”

Wysau held out his hand.  She yawned.  Wysau bent his knees, took both her hands and lifted her to her feet.

“You’re so aggravating!  You’re always right.”

He drew her into his arms for a hug, then along towards the bathroom.  He went to sleep soon enough, but Shimei was so annoyed and resentful that she lay awake for at least an hour.

In the morning, she woke late and had no time to read her Bible or bring her problem to her Master.  With a great effort she managed to keep up appearances that morning, and mark books and prepare lessons in the afternoon; but, once alone with Wysau, she found fault with the dinner.

“I’m going to see Treik this evening - coming?”

“You’ll talk medicine all evening.”

“Oloxis won’t.”

“I can’t cope with Cirians just now.  I’ll go and see Helen.”

“You could go for a short time straight away,” he said at the door, “then come and join us in the flying machine - Feor and Helen will be wanting their two hours together.”

“Oh, all right, I’ll meet you there.”

But she did not go to Helen’s room; she stayed in her own, to read her Bible.  At first she only did this because she felt guilty; but when she asked God to change her attitude, her cry was from her heart.

When Shimei arrived in the flying machine, Treik said,

“I’ve been waiting for you, Shimei, so I could tell both of you together.  Vielev sent news from Traitan.  The rains started gradually, and came early, and some of the seed sown before the famine has germinated and begun to grow.  So has some, kept for two years, which was sown when the rains began in earnest.  Many are turning to the true God, but they know so little about Him that some are worshipping Him as they did their previous gods.  Trak is keeping on faithfully with the translation work, and, when they finished Exodus four weeks ago, he suggested they start the gospel of Mark, so that it can be printed and distributed among the people, who do need teaching so badly.  Vielev could take a month off to do translation work, but Trak can’t.  And, of course, the people need pastoral care and proper teaching - the need is desperate.”

“Did you have a good talk to Oloxis?” asked Wysau as they walked home.

“She was all admiration and appreciation - how hard Feor and I must have found it to give up all that we had been brought up to regard as our rights and our property.  She made me feel so ashamed.”

Wysau took Shimei’s hand.

“What were you discussing?” she asked.

“The training school.  It was useful.”

“Thank you for dragging me out.”

That night, his arms went round her.

The next morning, she asked for forgiveness, prayed for the help of the Holy Spirit - but resentment, once cherished, does not give up easily.

The partner in the brickmaking firm was there, with all his family - including his elderly mother.

“Your God is real,” she said to Wysau.  “He is blessing us because my son and his partner give their workers a Sunday off.  Why, the other firm have found out about the weed, and they are using it too, and their bricks are almost the same colour as ours.  But customers still come back to us, and tell us our bricks are better - that they wear better.”

“That’s great,” said Wysau.  He and Shimei rejoiced with, and encouraged the family.  The partner slipped away for a quiet word with Darte.

“There must be something we’re doing that they’re not - and I’m sure you know what it is.”

“If I do,” said Darte, “I’m not sure that it’s that; and, if I tell you, the other firm are more likely to find out.  Just remember what I said: don’t change anything about the way you make them.  And tell your partner, when he nags you about taking the other firm to court, that if any royalties are due from the discovery, we strangers have just as much right to them as he has.  If you had spent a lot of time and money in making that discovery, then we would have been prepared to support you in court.  In fact, God gave it to us both - neither of us worked for it - so we should be prepared for others to use it too.”

“It is difficult working with him, because we don’t have the same standards any more.”

“Think and pray about a friendly separation.  Could either you or he do something slightly different - or completely different?  Could one of you make the bricks, and the other the roof tiles?  You see, God’s Word says, “Don’t be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” You’d find it a lot easier with a Christian partner who shared your values.”

“Like my son,” said the partner thoughtfully.

“Shurzi.”

“Yes, love?”

“Couldn’t we stay here?”

“We said we’d start work on Cirian in four weeks.”

“We could explain.  They’d understand.”

“We ought to have given them three months’ notice.”

“I was so busy, I didn’t think of it.”

“If God had wanted us to stay here, He’d have called us before, so that we wouldn’t cause inconvenience.  We must keep our word now.”

“But I’m so much more useful here.”

“That’s for God to judge.”

“Chalata?”

“Yes, Shurzi?”

“Can I have a private word?”

Shurzi told him how Thilish felt, and added, “It is true that she is more useful here than on Cirian.”

“So are you,” agreed Chalata, “at the moment.  But whether you would be till you retire, or for another five years, depends on God and on His plans.  Now, do you share her call?”

“Perhaps I ought to,” said Shurzi.  “Perhaps I’m being selfish - loving a life of ease - but I’m so tired - I’m longing to get back for a rest.  We had agreed to start a family, but she says she doesn’t care about that now.  There again - am I being selfish?  Shouldn’t I put the needs of these people before my own desires?”

“But, basically, you don’t - share her call, I mean.”

“I said that if God had wanted to call us, He’d have called us in time to give our three months’ notice, as we should, to our future employers.”

Chalata thought.  “You want my advice?”

“Please.”

“For what it’s worth - go back and keep your word.  Work for your new employers for at least a year.  Then review the situation.  If God is really calling you back here, He will make it clear, and open the way.”

“But once you get home, you won’t listen.”

“If God truly calls us, He’ll make me listen.  I did consider what you said seriously, or I wouldn’t have gone to Chalata about it.”

“Oh.”

“He is our team leader.  I do feel that we ought to keep to our current commitments.  We can always come back later if God wills.”

“That’s what he said?”

“That’s what he said.”

“Men!”

“When it comes to applying to return, our previous experience will be a great asset.”

Thilish turned to look at Shurzi.  He was tired.  Her heart smote her.  “All right,” she sighed.

That night she was the first to bed.

“Are you happier about going home?” asked Shurzi the following evening.

“I was kept going by my desire to stay.  Now I feel all my tiredness.  I still don’t feel happy - but perhaps it’s better to make important decisions when one is not worn out.  I needed to be honest with myself - I do need a rest.”

“Is your wife any better today, Chadra?” asked Feor as he went over to his colleague’s desk to get a file from a nearby filing cabinet.

“Yes, she is, thank you - her stomach is settling, and she has no more vomiting or pain.  Thank you for that good advice from your brother-in-law.”

“He was pleased to give it, and will be pleased if you tell others.  Remember, if, after twenty-four hours of only clear fluids, a patient still vomits, then a doctor should be called.”

“I don’t think I shall need to call him - she has eaten a little dry bread, and has not vomited again.”

“That’s good news.  Give her my good wishes for a speedy recovery.”

Feor found the file he wanted, and took it to his desk.  Chadra breathed a sigh of relief.  “Surely he would not be so friendly to me if he knew - if that stranger lady knew - ”

The office door opened; in walked the three who had bribed him, the father and two sons.  Behind them came the stranger lady, Oloxis, carrying a bag of money.  Chadra trembled, but tried not to show it.  Perhaps she did not know who had allocated them the weekly income for disabled people.  She went straight to both files, and made the three confess that they had received the payments according to the record, and that the record of their having received inheritances under another name was also correct.

“Now, how did this happen?”

“He said he could fix it for us so that no-one ever found out, by using false names.”

“Who is “he”?"

The father looked round the office, and saw Chadra.

“The one over there.”

Oloxis asked the sons if this was correct.  They nodded.

“Chadra, come here.  Is this your writing?”

“No, it is not.”

“Is it not the same as in this entry, here, that you have just initialled?”

“No - the “f“s are different.”

“What do you say, Feor?”

“This entry was made two months ago.  Let’s find a specimen of Chadra’s writing at that time.” He looked in the file he had just consulted, and found an entry signed by Chadra.  “Oh.  Look, these “f“s are the same as in the entry under discussion.”

“What do you say, Chadra?”

“That you’re a toady, Feor, with no loyalty to anyone - you say nice things to people, but don’t mean them - a two-faced skunk!  The only sort of loyalty you have is to your own pocket and your own security!  You toady diligently to the new King, dishonouring the noble name you bear.  You have no loyalty to the time-honoured customs of your adopted people - ”

“Chadra,” interposed Oloxis gently, “have you nothing to say in your own defence?  Did these people tell you lies?”

“There is no point in trying to defend myself against a stranger.”

“So did you accept money from them to make these false entries?”

“What’s the point of denying anything, when you and Feor have ganged up on me?”

“I’m trying to be fair to you, Chadra,” said Oloxis, “because, if you admit that this is true, and the evidence does point clearly in that direction, we shall have to dismiss you, and take from these three what they have saved from their wrongfully obtained allowances.”

“I’m not going to admit it!” cried Chadra.  “The matter ought to be properly investigated before a judge.”

“No,” said the accused father.  “We’re not having that.  We want this to be kept quiet.  This lady" indicating Oloxis “is willing to accept what we have here, and close the matter without any publicity.  No-one need know that you were fired, either, or why, if you’ve the sense to come clean now.”

“Oh, all right.  So I did it.”

“And a right mess you made of it,” muttered the elder son.  Oloxis pretended not to notice, but she dismissed the three bribers first, and, as they went away, there was a sickly sweetness.

“What did you do?” asked Feor.

Oloxis turned to Chadra.  “They will not remember your name, address or face - not even your voice.  They will not come and take vengeance on you.  Finish your day’s work and leave at the usual time, so that no-one will notice anything.  We will pay you what you have earned before you leave tonight.”

“My new employer will ask for a reference from you.  What will you tell him?”

“We will tell him the good things we know about you.  We will tell him that you are an able man.”

“Then - couldn’t you possibly give me another chance here?”

“You were told, when you took the job, that if we caught you accepting bribes, you would be dismissed.  We must keep to that.  If we don’t, however are we going to keep the system corruption-free?”

Feor came, quiet and gloomy, to their evening meal.  The King and Queen had gone out to dine, so Shimei felt free to ask what was troubling him.  He told them the whole story, including the fact that Oloxis had made Chadra forget the identities of the men who had bribed him - but without revealing Chadra’s name.

“Dealing with it quickly saved the member of staff involved, and the other three a lot of stress, and the Department time and money in bringing a case against them,” Feor continued.  “But after Oloxis returned to her office, two of my senior colleagues came to me and said that bribery and corruption had always been facts of life, and it was rather unrealistic to dismiss a competent member of staff on bribery charges alone; and that it was not going to be easy to replace him.”

“So what did you say?”

“I had to be loyal to Oloxis.  I said, `You cannot be fair to the poor and wink at bribery.  It will be hard, but we must do our best to keep it out of Government.’"

“That’s right, Feor,” agreed Wysau.  “Well done.”

“Thanks, Wysau; at least I’ve done something right.  But what hurts is that the member of staff has a point.  I am a turncoat - I’ve shown no loyalty to my parents.  If I were a loyal son, I’d have gone with them, not stayed here to play nursemaid to this King who still has no idea how to govern a country.  I’ve even had to teach him to read.  The people here don’t want me - they’re suspicious and resentful.  Oh, Helen, let’s go to my parents’ kingdom - at least we’re wanted there.”

“But - don’t we need some Cirians around?” protested Helen.

“Then Shimei and Wysau can come too.  They want you there, too, Wysau.”

“Oh, let’s, Wysau!” cried Shimei.  “We could live in my father’s palace, and I could have a maid, and wouldn’t it be nice, Feor, to be treated as Prince and Princess again!”

“It would be good to be trusted and respected,” said Feor.

“But what about the school?” pleaded Helen.

“You could set up a school there,” said Feor.

“But I can’t speak the language,” objected Helen.

“My mother would teach us,” said Shimei, as if it could be done in five minutes.  “Oh, please, Wysau, let’s go - they need you there - remember how they begged you to stay?  They’ve no decent doctors there at all.”

Wysau shook his head silently.

“Oh, why not, love?”

Wysau waited a moment before replying.  “Look honestly into your own hearts.  Why is it, deep down, that you want to go there?  And, given that motive, would God bless you once you had arrived?”

There was silence.

But in their own room, afterwards, Shimei unleashed all her anger and disappointment.

“You think that, for me, the common people exist to pander to the whims of royalty?” she stormed.

“Not now,” he answered gravely, “but you’re still too concerned about your prestige.”

“Not that much,” she snapped.  “I want to live in my parents’ palace because I want the security of having my cleaning and my cooking done for me.  I’ve not been brought up to it as you have.  I haven’t the faintest idea how to cook.  Surely you realized that before you married me.  And Helen has far more idea of how to clean than I have.”

“Having servants to do your cleaning and cooking is all part of being a Princess - or, at least, a wealthy woman.  When you give up that wealth, you have to give up the servants with it.”

“If I have to teach and prepare lessons, clean and cook every day, I shall be working all the time.”

“If we had a Cirian house, I could cook when I came home from work, as long as you’d done the shopping.  While we’re here, we might just as well go on sharing the meals.  If you had to do some of the cleaning on a regular basis, I’d be willing to help.  But think: what have the poor been doing all these years but working all day every day?”

“I’d feel very bad about expecting my husband to do the cooking.”

“I’ll teach you - on my days off.”

“But we haven’t a Cirian house.”

“I could manage in the kitchen here, but it would be more difficult.  Again, cleaning’s ten times easier and quicker in a Cirian house.”

“Why do you keep talking about a Cirian house?  We’re not going to live on Cirian.”

“If we were permanent, recognized Cirian agents here, they would bring us one in a spaceship.”

“And then you’d expect me to do everything.”

“I could do the cooking when I came home from work, love, especially at first.  And I’d teach you how to work the cleaning hands.  You can clean an entire room - once you’ve put everything away - by sitting in a chair, pressing buttons, for half an hour.”

Shimei looked hard at him, to see if he were making fun of her; but his expression was matter-of-fact.

“We don’t have living servants on Cirian, but we do have machines.  In a Cirian house, there are machines to wash the dishes and to wash the clothes.  You have to put the dirty plates, cups, saucepans and cutlery each into its proper place in the machine, put cleaning fluid in the proper container, and switch it on.  Later, when the machine has washed it all, and it’s had time to drain dry, you take it all out and put it away.

You have to put the dirty clothes into the washing machine, put powder in it, set it to the right wash, switch it on, and, when the machine has finished, take the clothes out and hang them up to dry.  Later, you have to take them in, or down, and put them away.  But that is all.”

Shimei could not follow all the details, but he did convince her he was being perfectly serious.

“Cirians don’t work for the sake of it,” he continued.  “They do the work that needs to be done.  On Cirian, most people only work in the mornings, most of the time.  We all are working far harder here than we ever did on Cirian, and, at first, we found it exhausting.  We’re becoming used to it, little by little.”

“Oh, Wysau, how am I going to cope?”

It was a cry of distress.  He came to her, put his arms round her.  “Ask the God Who gives strength to His people to help and support you.  Don’t take on any more than He commands you to do.  He knows you’re only human - many times in the Bible, it says that God “remembers we are but dust”.  He also knows what work is suitable for you.  He doesn’t expect you to take my morning surgery, nor would He expect me to teach a class of lively children.  I couldn’t do it - certainly, not half as well as you can.”

“Would it be too much for you, on your own, to treat all the sick in my father’s capital city?”

“Of course.  I’d never have any time free, to be with you, to help Feor and Helen, to talk to your parents.  And it wouldn’t be half as useful to your people as training them to be doctors, who would be able to train others in their turn.”

“I didn’t think.  Oh Wysau, I’m sorry - I shouldn’t have said that to Feor.”

“No, that’s true.”

She drew away, to look at his face.  “Oh no! he and Helen aren’t having a quarrel, are they?  Oh no, what have I done?”

“Harboured resentment, my love.  It’s not a furry pussycat, it’s a filthy rat, which turns on you and bites you.”

“Could you find out if Feor’s all right?”

“Yes.” He sat down.  She paced round in an agony of suspense.

“Oloxis is there,” he said at last.  “It’s all right; she’s talked him round.”

“What did she say?”

“That if he hadn’t encouraged your father to repeal those laws when he did, and spoken as he did in the House of Nobles that day, when they all agreed to leave for his present kingdom, his parents would have been executed here.  And if he hadn’t done such a good job of distributing the inheritances here, and wasn’t doing such a good job keeping the system going here, his parents would be in far greater danger from their own common people than they are at present.  It’s the truth, Shimei; perhaps I know it better than you.”

“So he has been a faithful son.  But what do the people here think of him?”

“Much more than they did.”

“Be honest.”

“They used to think that he had no courage, no backbone; that he would not make a good Roptoh.  Only the more thoughtful of these people appreciate the work he has done bringing in the new system, but for all of them he is the man who gave them their inheritances.”

Shimei appreciated that.  “What do they think of me?”

“They think I’ve done wonders for you,” said Wysau, going red, and moving away restlessly.  “They don’t despise you; they see both you and Helen doing useful work, and doing it well.  You have no need to feel distrusted or unwanted.  Remember that the man who said those things to Feor had just lost his job - a good job for which he was well paid.  He does not speak for others.”

“So it’s all right, really?”

“Don’t give up, love; don’t get tired of doing good.  God will reward you if you persevere.”

“Don’t worry about it, Helen,” said Shimei.  “Be glad that poor Oloxis has someone who appreciates her.  Feor’s admiration of Oloxis is quite as platonic as your friendship with Abritis.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Wysau told me.  Feor cannot be physically attracted to any other woman - he never has been and never will be.  Interplanetary attraction works like that.  Chalata is the same.”

“Feor’s becoming more like the strangers every day.  He’s so clever - he wasn’t like this when I married him.  So clever, so much more confident, able to run the country and make the King feel he is the King.  And his own people can’t wait for him to come and run their country.”

“They’d like Wysau there, too.  I know, Helen.”

“I suppose you must feel it even more than I do.”

“I do.  At least you get on really well with my parents, especially Mother.  I’m not sure whether Wysau’s like me or not.  They’d be kind to me anyway, because Cirians are like that.  And we’ll probably have to send our children to Cirian to be educated, and in term-time they’ll stay with Wysau’s parents.”

“Abritis said she and Darte can’t have children,” said Helen in a stifled voice.

“Oh, Helen, I’m sorry - I ought to have thought - ”

Helen dried her tears.  “I’ll have to get used to being an Auntie.”

“But the people do appreciate us, Helen - you and I - Wysau said so, and you know how honest these Cirians are.”