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 Fourteen

At ten to five, Wysau returned to bed after being called out to an emergency.

“Oh, Shimei!  I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“It wasn’t you.  I’m being kicked.”

“May I feel?” He passed his practised hand over her distended abdomen.

“Ow!” she cried.

“Yes, I felt that,” said Wysau.

“Ow! That was right on my rib.”

Wysau’s hand roamed curiously over her abdomen.  “I want a scan picture of your womb, young woman.  I’d like to be sure what’s going on in there.”

Wysau booked the baby scanning room for lunchtime the next day - and found Abritis wanted one too.  She explained as they walked to the room.

“My parents are coming to help me - they want to know when baby’s due.  I’ll have to get back to the lab. pronto, because it’s Emlota’s day off, and the other trainees won’t know what to do.”

“You’d better go first.”

“D’you mind clearing up?”

“That’s fine.”

“Thanks.”

She opened the door - and there was Thilish, in the final stages of preparation.

“Great,” said Abritis.  “You get Shimei ready, Wysau, and Thilish will do mine.”

“Thought I’d be needed,” said Thilish happily.

“You are who I need, my dear.  What I need is a date.”

In ten minutes Thilish called, “Shimei, Wysau’s wife.”

In came Shimei in an odd white dressing-gown.  She lay down on the couch.  Thilish smoothed oil onto her abdomen, and switched on the rays.  Wysau watched the screen intently.

“Hold still a moment,” he said to Thilish, who was moving a machine over Shimei’s abdomen.  “Look.”

“Oh.” She moved the machine a little.  “Mm.” She moved the machine a little the other way, and both had a better view.

“Yes,” said Wysau.

Thilish moved the machine a little further.

“Definitely,” said both at once.

“Definitely what?” asked Shimei.  “It’s my tum you’re looking at.”

“We’re looking at the inhabitants,” said Wysau.

“Inhabitants plural?” Shimei was horror-stricken.

“Only two,” said Wysau.

“Only two, he says!” Shimei felt like screaming.

“It’ll be all right, Shimei,” soothed Thilish.  “God would not have allowed you to have twins if you couldn’t cope with them.  Ooh - look, Wysau.”

“Oh - could be.”

“Let’s have a better look.  Thanks, little one.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“About what?” asked the mother-to-be.

“We think one of them’s a boy.”

“God does care about me, after all,” thought Shimei.  Aloud, she said, “No wonder there’s a lot of kicking.”

“There won’t be room for them to kick with any force in a month or two,” said Wysau, in an attempt to comfort his wife.

“You must have your baby equipment back,” said Abritis when she heard the news.  “We’ll have a few months to find some more.”

“But Abritis,” said Wysau, “by the time yours arrives, ours will have grown out of the smallest baby clothes.  And there’s a crib as well as two cots.”

As they lay in bed that night, Shimei was restless.

“You being kicked?” asked Wysau sleepily.

“No.”

“Are you worried about how you’ll cope?”

“Terrified.”

“My Mum will come for a month, to arrive about a week after they’re due, to help you out.”

“How do I cope in that week?”

“If Mum isn’t here when they arrive, I’ll take a few days off.  I’d better work extra now, to build up goodwill.  If she gets here just before they arrive, I’ll take those days off after she’s gone.”

“But after that - couldn’t I have a nurse to help me?”

“We can’t afford to pay one.”

“There’s the ground rent Darte and Abritis pay me.  Couldn’t I have someone - just in the mornings?”

“If you went out teaching, you could afford to - but then you’d have more work, because you’d have to prepare lessons and

mark books.  And she’d never do as much as you would, and she wouldn’t know how to work the cleaning hands or use the machines.”

Shimei sighed.

“Oh, by the way, you asked Abritis if she’d seen Sihcha at any of the services lately.”

“Oh yes.”

“Abritis said she hasn’t seen her since the birth of her baby.”

“Oh, what a shame.  I wonder what’s happened.”

“The Cirian midwife told me.  Sihcha’s was a normal, healthy pregnancy.  Her husband’s mother didn’t want her to come into hospital to have the baby; there wasn’t any particular reason why she should, any more than any other mother-to-be.  But Sihcha had asked for Cirian medical attention at the birth, and I had mentioned this to my colleagues.  The only way the Cirian midwife could justify attending on Sihcha was by taking her group of trainees along to learn how to cope with a normal birth in a private house.  They were all women, and Maedlis was careful not to ask any of them to do anything which might have endangered Sihcha or the baby’s health if they had done it wrong.  She did it all herself, but, all the time, she had to explain everything to her trainees, and she was not able to give attention and reassurance to Sihcha herself as she would have wished.  That was left to Sihcha’s mother and mother-in-law.  Her mother was not suited to the task.  She nearly fainted, and had to be taken out and attended to by one of the trainees.  But Sihcha’s mother-in-law was marvellous.  She’s good with the baby, too, so now it’s what she says that is done.  This means that Sihcha and her husband get on well with each other and with his mother and father, the baby’s thriving, and no thought is given to the strangers’ God.”

Again Shimei looked for her Aunt Tran when she saw Lord - or, rather, Mr. Treprom with his family at the Sunday services.  Even the elderly Mrs. Treprom came, riding her son’s berr, while the youngest of the Treprom children rode in front of his mother.  Shimei knew her Aunt Tran could ride.  Mr. Treprom’s big berr could easily carry the two small, slender old ladies.  But she never came.  She did not even attend the Bible studies they shared at the Treprom home.

Shimei went to greet the Treproms after the service, and asked after her Aunt Tran.

“Oh yes,” said Mrs. Treprom, “she has asked to see you.  She said she ought to tell you something important, but she wouldn’t say what it was.”

“When would be convenient?”

“Any afternoon at four, or evening at half past seven.”

Shimei borrowed what was her berra and rode up to the Treproms’ house.  Aunt Tran was agitated.

“I’m afraid this won’t be very pleasant for you - but now your father is getting older, and your brother has gone to meet the people of what will be his kingdom, it is important that someone should know - someone younger, someone who cares for Feor as you do.”

She paused - then the words came tumbling out.

“You see, your mother was very disappointed when you were born, because she had hoped for a boy.  Well, so had your father.

There was coolness between them. Your mother was feeling forsaken and homesick, and the Chancellor, Lord Fsuub, tried to comfort her.  Well, one day he comforted her rather too much - and, nine months later, Feor was born.”

“Oh!” cried Shimei.  “So that was why Artax became Chancellor instead?”

“It was.  But your father did nothing else.  He did not wish to disinherit Feor till he had another son - his own son.  He waited.  Only Ruhamah was born.  And, as the years passed, he grew to love your mother.  Nothing would persuade him to expose her now.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” agreed Shimei.  “But what can we do if someone else finds out?”

“Foquar did find out,” said Aunt Tran.  “That was why your mother had so little defence against him.”

“Did Foquar tell anyone else?”

“Only Prynoh - who only told me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

“But what could I do to help Feor, if someone else - someone here - found out?”

“There is an ancient law, that was passed during the time before your ancestor conquered Remgath.  Whether it would apply here I’m not quite sure, but it would certainly apply in Ishboh.

My husband found out all about it - it had not been repealed when we married.  Here is a paper with the name and number of the law, and the wording of the law, all written down.”

It was copied in Aunt Tran’s own rather shaky handwriting.  Shimei found the number hard to read.

“I can’t remember it,” said her Aunt, and referred to another document.  “I can’t quite see - ”

“May I look?”

Aunt Tran sat down rather heavily in her chair.  “You may as well know.  It won’t make any difference now.”

Shimei soon deciphered the number, and wrote it clearly on the copy Aunt Tran had made.  “I won’t read this, if you don’t want me to.”

“I think I would rather you did read it,” she said.  “It would take some of the burden away - but - for a Princess to be reduced to that ...!" She covered her face with her handkerchief.

Shimei read, and gathered that when the Lord had married the Princess Tran, he had already been married once.  He had an eighteen-year-old son, who had just celebrated his own wedding.

“If I come to you myself,” the Lord had explained, “you will die, for I have opuk, from the temple prostitutes.  That is why my first wife died.  My son wants to visit them too.  I have warned him - I have found him a wife - all to no avail.  So I made this bargain with him: he must not visit them till after you have had a son by him.  I will show you this ancient law - no-one will be able to dispute your son’s legitimacy, because I will not disown him.  And people will see the family likeness in him.  My son may not live long after your son is born.  He may not have any children - opuk makes you infertile.  I want an heir, and that heir needs a healthy mother to care for him.  And, if at all possible, keep him away from those temple prostitutes!”

“So - that son was Prynoh!”

Aunt Tran wept.

“Oh, Auntie, I am sorry!  What a dreadful position to find yourself in!”

“My husband did love me - he loved me too much to come to me himself.  He wanted me to be healthy.  And he did save me from that horrible death.  He wouldn’t let me near him after Prynoh was born.  If I’d only married him the first time he asked me!  He said he never loved his first wife - he really wanted me - and if I’d married him, he would have been faithful.”

Shimei went to her Aunt and put her arms round her.

“You don’t want to touch a wicked old woman.”

“It wasn’t fair of him to blame you for his own moral failure.”

“But - my dreadful pride ...!"

“God will forgive you if you ask Him, because Christ died to pay for all our sin.”

“Surely not such a dreadful sin!”

“Two of those men who tried to murder Wysau have been forgiven.  You can tell because of their changed lives.  Two of the priests have been forgiven.  St. Paul said he was the chief of sinners, because he persecuted Christ’s church.  Yet he was forgiven.  The thief on the cross next to Christ’s was forgiven - he was a criminal - but Christ Himself said to him,

`Today you will be with Me in Paradise!’"

“He was a criminal!” echoed Aunt Tran.

“The Bible says so.”

Great strangled sobs racked the elderly lady’s thin body, but her eyes shone.

“And King David was forgiven when he committed adultery and murder - but we all must repent first.”

“So, under the provisions of this law,” said Wysau, “your father not having disowned him before his own death or ten years after Feor’s birth, whichever is the sooner, accepts and acknowledges Feor as his son, whether he actually is his son or not?  And that makes him legally his son?”

“He must be the son of his legitimate wife, who was living with him at the time of conception.  Feor isn’t much like Father- we’ve always said, in the family, that I take after Father and Feor after Mother - but that can happen anyway, even with children whose legitimacy never comes into question.”

After this, Aunt Tran attended the Bible Studies.  A few weeks later, she began to come to services, riding her son’s berr with far more confidence than her pillion passenger, Mrs. Treprom.  Shimei noticed, to her delight, that her Aunt was rather less thin than she had been.

Soon afterwards, after a Bible Study, Aunt Tran called Shimei into her room for a private chat.

“I must be a most perverse person.  When I look back, I can see that I spent most of my life longing for love - real love - and when it first came, I didn’t recognise it.”

“You mean, your husband?”

“Well, yes, in a sense - but - there’s a lot more to love than just married love.  After he died, the first love shown to me was by Helen - and you - when you called to give me this hat.”

There it was, on the bed.

“You know, I didn’t like it.  My heart sank; I thought `Oh, no, I’ll have to wear it.’ But everybody else liked it, and, what I treasured most of all, Prynoh liked it.  At last I received some sort of grudging approval from him.  You gave me something very precious.  And, in the same way, when Mrs. Treprom first talked to me about Jesus Christ, I changed the subject rather rudely.  But she has persisted, not in talking to me about Him, but in her kindness - that everyday kindness that makes all the difference in the world to life.  But not until you showed me such love - you put your arms around me as you had not done since you were a small child - did I have my eyes opened to the greatest Love there is.”

Delightedly Shimei hugged her again, and was hugged in return.

“Chalata.”

“Yes?  Oh, Amrad, it’s you.”

“Yes.  We’re really grateful to you two for taking this difficult assignment on when you hadn’t recovered properly from your previous visit.  You do realize that if they don’t get their inheritances, these people will almost certainly revolt?”

“That had crossed my mind.”

“Remember we’ll all be praying for you.”

Helen was with Janita in the Palace in Ishboh one morning, when Abritis contacted her, and told her she was pregnant.

“How lovely!” cried Janita aloud.  “I am pleased for you.” And she blurted out the news to Helen - and suddenly thought,

“Oh, I’m sorry - does it hurt?”

“Not really, no,” said Helen.

“Are you sure?”

“Well, I used to look after the Queen’s children sometimes, but I didn’t enjoy it much.  Especially when her second one was so badly sick all over me.  The smell was foul - it really turned my stomach.  God has been very good, to let me find that out, and then bring me away from babies.  I used to get the maid to change dirty nappies whenever I could.”

“God knows what He’s doing,” agreed Janita comfortably.  “I would have found children an irksome tie.  I love to be able to come away with Chalata without having to worry about grandmotherly responsibilities.  No, God chooses our lifestyles for us, and knows best what we can cope with, and what we can’t.”

At first it was a great relief for Feor to meet Chalata again - to be taken, with Helen, far away from Wysau.  And Helen was so obviously glad to come, and delighted to see his mother again, and his father.  His parents gave him a loving welcome - and then they asked after Shimei, and the baby - and Wysau.  The bitterness surged back into Feor’s heart.

When the Roptoh shared with his son the great problems he was having with the division of the land into inheritances, Feor felt better.  This was something important he could do, rather than Wysau.  The people were disagreeing about where the boundaries should be drawn, quarrelling with each other about who should have which inheritance, and with the local commissions about whether anyone could make a living with this or that piece of land.  Chalata suggested that it be explained to the people that if they would not accept the land allotted to them, the whole plan would have to be abandoned.  They could vote on the issue, and, if less than 60% were prepared to accept the land allotted to them, the plan would be abandoned.

“It may be that their grievances are just,” said Feor.  “At least in some cases.”

“That’s true,” agreed Chalata.  “How do we find out?”

“By examining the allocations in six different local areas,” suggested Oloxis.  “I could be dropped in the area next door each time.”

“Then we’d better do that,” decided Feor.

“I think you should each take two members of the Central Commission with you,” suggested the Roptoh.

Feor nodded.

Chalata’s spaceship could act as an aeroplane.  As they travelled the next afternoon to the first of their selected areas, Helen tried her hardest to be brave - and Feor battled miserably with his jealousy.

“Do take Helen’s hand,” said Oloxis in his mind.  “She’s ever so nervous underneath that display of bravery.”

Feor was used to obeying the strangers.  Helen’s warm response to his handclasp cheered him so much that he was able to work that afternoon and the next day at improving the inheritances, wherever possible, and suggesting to their prospective owners ways of making a good living from them or on them.  Some of these were not practicable with their current economic system.

“You know, Chalata,” he said, “this system of inheritances only works properly when the Cirian economic system is in place.”

“They are designed to work together,” he agreed.

So Oloxis and Feor began to work out how to apply that system to his father’s country.  After the evening meal, Feor carried on.

“I can do this, Feor,” said Oloxis.  “You have a rest - you deserve it.”

“Feor,” said Chalata, “you need your time with Helen.”

“Just let me write down what’s in my mind already.”

Chalata knew he needed his time with Janita, so they withdrew to their cabin.  Oloxis, feeling she might be encouraging Feor to work, went to hers. Helen picked up a book and waited.  Every now and again she would look up.  Not until her looking up happened to coincide with his did Feor come to her.  They were late to bed that night.

Feor woke only just in time to shower and have breakfast before his work began.  Except for an hour in which to kiss Helen and have lunch, it went on all day.  The people were awkward, the local committee impatient.  Feor himself became a little impatient by the end of the day.

At ten to eight Janita looked at Helen.  Helen knew what that look meant.

“Come, my love,” she said.

“I had an idea this afternoon - I must write it down while I think of it.”

Chalata and Janita retired to their cabin. Helen waited till he looked up, and looked at him appealingly.

He wrote again.

She immersed herself in her book.

He looked up at her, but she was reading.  He wrote some more, and looked up again.  He thought she was ignoring him.  She hated being forward, and thought she had made quite enough advances already.

Feor had used so much of his spiritual energy striving against jealousy that he had very little left to battle against that little voice that told him Helen could not love him any more.  To give him his due, he did make a manly attempt at resistance.  “Helen does love me,” he said to that voice.  “She didn’t fret when she found she wasn’t the Crown Princess of Remgath any more.  She didn’t love me any less.”

But the voice said,

“Remember what Prynoh tried to tell you all those years ago: you are not the Roptoh’s son.  Your mother the Roptoa, unhappy because her first baby, Shimei, was a girl, was comforted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  She grasped eagerly at the love and tenderness shown her - till one day they went too far - and, nine months later, you were born.  Not long afterwards, Fsuub was given other duties which kept him outside the Palace, and Artax became Chancellor.

“So Father knew!”

“He suspected - but he did not want to disinherit you till he had another son - his own son.”

“I cannot be Crown Prince of Ishboh.”

“If you die before your supposed father, the crown will pass to Shimei - where it should go - and there need be no scandal to distress your mother.”

“But Wysau does not want to be King, and the people won’t accept a Queen.”

“What will Helen think of her bastard husband?” jeered the voice.  “How can you expect beautiful, wise Helen to go on loving a worm like you?  So don’t you think you’d better get rid of yourself, and give Helen a chance of a new beginning with that young nobleman, whose love would quickly rekindle if he were allowed to see her?”

There was a familiar ring to this voice in his mind, which made it even harder to combat.

Chalata and Janita had prayed for Feor at the beginning of their time together.  The weariness that had built up during their long months on Yumelpthi had not completely gone.  At that point it caught up with them, and they slept in their cabin.  This was not surprising; they would have been surprised had they known that their crew was asleep too.  Oloxis was absorbed in her work; Foquar thought it wiser to leave her alone.

“That wasn’t difficult,” he gloated.  “My only problem now is that there is no quick, certain way of Feor committing suicide out there on that deserted field.”

When Helen saw Feor go out, she knew that this was serious; she hated having to go out to him, so she prayed.  But God did not seem to be listening, and she found it hard to concentrate.  Everything seemed to urge her to go out to him - but what if he would not come in with her? Would not listen to her at all?  Then she would have to go and tell Oloxis and Janita - which she very much wanted to avoid.  Well, if she had already tried to persuade him to come in, it wouldn’t sound quite so feeble.  It was very hard to go out - she felt as if she were going out alone to do battle with the powers of Satan.  An almost physical obstacle seemed to have to be surmounted before she could get out of that door.  What was it?  Oh, of course, she shouldn’t go out without a cloak and boots, and a torch - but it was hard to find them.  She simply could not find a torch at all.  But she had to go.  She pushed past the obstacle and went.

Where was Feor?  She was so frightened that she thought she had better go back and look once more for the torch.  Then she saw a figure moving about in the darkness - coming nearer - was it Feor? Or a stranger?

It was Feor, but he took so little notice of her that he might have been a stranger, except that he went into the flying machine of his own accord.  “There’ll be a good sharp knife in a drawer in the kitchen,” Foquar was saying in Feor’s mind.  Helen went in after him and shut the door.  She sat down and went to sleep.  Feor went into the kitchen and opened the drawer where the knives were kept.

“My lord Foquar.”

His eyes saw the messenger; his mind tuned in to his language.

“My lord Foquar, you are expected at the Cabinet meeting, which is about to start.”

“Ah.  Yes, I am sorry; I will come.  I was busy with my thought work for the Cabinet.”

An hour later, Helen woke with the feeling that someone had been calling her.  She would have got up to go and see who it was, but there was Feor, lying along the seat, with his head on her knees.  He was warm; she could see his chest rising and falling.  He was asleep, and looked so peaceful that she did not like to call out to the person who had been calling her.

“Dear Feor,” she murmured; she bent over and kissed his forehead.  His eyes opened and looked into hers.

“Would you still love me, Helen, if I told you I’m not the Roptoh’s son - I’m illegitimate?”

“Of course, my love; it wouldn’t be your fault!  Oh, Feor, need we make a fuss?  The crown will go to Shimei’s children anyway, and all will come out right.  Think of your poor mother.”

“Feor.”

Feor was getting used to thought communication.  He did not look round for the speaker; he simply thought, “Hello.”

“This is Wysau.  Shimei tells me of an ancient law of Ishboh - she has the name and number - under which, as your father, for over ten years, never stated that you were not his, he has acknowledged you as his son, and this makes you legally his son, whether you are physically his son or not.  As far as she knows, and she is reliably informed, this law has never been repealed.”

“I must have search made,” thought Feor.

“I think you’d better do that yourself,” said Helen, when this had been explained to her, “as soon as you have opportunity.”

A moment or two later, Chalata and Janita came in, followed by Oloxis and the crew members.

“Were you calling us, Helen?” they asked.

“No.  I thought someone was calling me.”

Chalata looked thoughtful.  “Treis,” he said, “could you get in touch with Wysau?”

Feor sat up by Helen to make room for others to sit down.  Everyone waited for Treis.

“They’re having a prayer meeting,” she reported; “they’re praying for us.  It’s ten past eight there.”

“Ah,” said Chalata and Jopit together.  Janita and Helen looked at each other, bewildered.  Then Oloxis explained.  “I wish I had greater powers,” she said.

“How did it go this morning, Feor?” asked Helen as she rested on his knee, while Janita and Treis prepared the midday meal.

“The villagers had got together, and sent two representatives to say that none of the inheritances are large enough so that a family could live comfortably on the money that could be made from one.  The commission were trying to say that they were.  They appealed to me.  I said they were not.  The commission were shocked.  The villagers, though they agreed, said,“Then what can be done?” I said, “You’ll have to abandon the whole idea unless you all agree to have a new economic system similar to the one we have introduced in Remgath.  It can’t be exactly the same; it will have to take account of the inadequate size of these inheritances.  They are all slightly inadequate.  It’s the same in the other areas we have visited.  I’ve agreed to explain it to them this afternoon.  But at lunchtime we must ask for a short time of prayer before this afternoon meeting, which starts at two thirty.  I must remember this time that I am utterly incapable of achieving anything worth the trouble with out God.  Why, He saved my life last night - He even worked through Foquar’s hypnotism.”

“So it was Foquar.  Chalata asked Treis to contact Wysau this morning.  Abritis thought-read last night before their prayer meeting, to find out how we were so that they could pray intelligently.  She found we were all asleep, and that everyone but you had been hypnotized.  She tried to lift the hypnotism, but could not, and had to ask Wysau to do it.  They thought it must have been Foquar, but they could not work out why you were not hypnotized.”

“He was hypnotizing me, but someone interrupted him.  I couldn’t remember what he was hypnotizing me to do.  It left me bewildered and utterly unable to think.  Then this voice came, `Go to Helen, and lie down with your head on her knee.’ That is all I remember till I felt your lips on my forehead, my love.”

"`Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep,’" quoted Helen.

“What’s the matter, Feor?” asked Oloxis over the evening meal.  “They understood, didn’t they?”

“Oh yes, and they approved.  But I should have consulted with my host.  What if these ideas don’t work in practice?”

“Don’t worry, Feor,” reassured Oloxis; “I consulted with him.  I worked the ideas through last night, and consulted this morning.  He made one change to my working: something I hadn’t thought of.  But your ideas are fine.  And, by the way, if Foquar tries to hypnotize you again, please tell me - or Treis.  Just think - Foquar might try to make you murder us all!  Even if you’re wrong, it doesn’t matter - we’d want to help anyway, even if it’s just that little voice getting at you.  Don’t do battle with little voices alone.  Remember, we’re here to help each other.”

The very next day, just as he ought to have been relaxing with Helen, Feor again heard that familiar voice.  This time, Oloxis was on the alert, and happened to read his thoughts.  Remembering how great Foquar’s powers were, she contacted Wysau.

He was desperately busy - and, just at that moment his father, who had a morning off and was bored, contacted him to ask if there was anything he could do to help.  Gladly Wysau passed the problem to him, for he already knew the situation, and his powers were, if anything, greater than his son’s.  Foquar was again interrupted by a messenger; and, while he was in the meeting, Wysau’s father calmly hypnotized him to forget about Feor and Helen - in fact, about everyone and everything on Yumelpthi, and Yumelpthi itself.  When asked by an over-scrupulous Wysau if this was right, he said he had done it to preserve life.  No-one on the team could raise any further objections.  After this, Feor realized he must give himself his time with Helen - it caused so much trouble to everyone if he did not.

“You see, Chalata,” explained Feor after breakfast on the Saturday morning, “Helen told me very firmly that she would not have come to Yumelpthi to marry me unless the Cirians had told her that I’d been converted.  If I’d been King of my entire world, that would not have made any difference.  Now Helen may appear quiet and meek, but underneath she’s as firm as a rock.  The only time I’ve ever seen her weak was when she panicked on the way to Cirian.  And what she needed then was my touch!  But the point is, God will keep her faithful to me if she - and I - keep close to Him.  So what should concern me is not: Does Helen love me?, but, Is Helen walking close to God? And, Am I walking close to God?  If this is our priority, God will supply all our need, emotionally as well as physically.”

“It’s wonderful how God brings good out of evil.”

“How He has brought good for me - and for Shimei - from Foquar’s evil attempts to take over the kingdom?”

“Yes - and just lately.”

“Yes - I was wretched because I didn’t really trust God to look after me - to keep her heart to me, as you told me right at the beginning.”

“I have to keep on re-learning that lesson, just the same - the Devil is always trying to bring doubts into our minds.  We have to call to mind what God has already done for us - especially how much His Son had to suffer to save our souls.  If God did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”

The very day on which Feor, Helen, Oloxis, Chalata and their team returned to the capital, Feor snatched a few minutes to go with his mother to examine the still-binding laws of Ishboh.  Armed as they were, it did not take them long to find it.  There was the law, as Wysau had told Feor, there in black and white.  Feor hugged his mother, and she had a little cry on his shoulder.

“So Feor and Helen are going to stay in Ishboh,” said Shimei sadly.  “All my family - gone!”

“They didn’t want to leave you,” said Wysau.

“And all this about Feor being illegitimate.”

“One important thing is that Helen knows - and feels - that it is not his fault.  The other is that, legally, he is the Roptoh’s son.”

“But still, it’s a great shame.  Poor Feor!  I’d feel dreadful if it were me.”

“He does.  But his people won’t want him any the less.”

“Really?” Shimei was disbelieving.  “Have you been thought-reading?”

“I can hardly put the question to any of them.”

“No.  And we don’t want to go broadcasting the fact.”

“But what they want is inheritances that support them.  They’re not too bothered about Feor being the Crown Prince; the reason why they want him is that he’s a capable administrator.  When he stood up for those villagers against the local Commission, and said that the inheritances were inadequate without the new economic system, it got round.  His personal popularity has increased.  Even if people do find out about his birth, they will still want him as Administrator.  And no-one can make a successful legal challenge to his position as Crown Prince.”

“Just like the people here.  Well,” sighed Shimei, “I suppose it’s a good thing.  Just as I can see that Feor and Helen are better away from you - but my heart screams at it.”

Wysau made her sit on his knee, and put his arms gently round her.  She cried - and he supplied her with a clean handkerchief.

“Yes, that is the situation,” reported Feor to the Roptoh and the Central Commission.  “There is not enough land to give viable inheritances to every citizen - viable, that is, under the present economic system.  In order to make those inheritances viable, a new economic system has to be accepted and put into operation.”

“Like the one you have in Remgath,” said the Roptoh.

“That’s right, Father.”

“It seems to work there, so far,” said a member of the Commission.

“The priests won’t have it,” said another.  “They object to any change in the money system.”

“Do you know why?” asked Feor.

“Some ancient prophecy - I don’t know the details - does anyone?”

The members of the Central Committee looked round at each other - and shook their heads.

“All we know is that they will object strongly.  None of their adherents will accept such a change.”

“Oh dear, that’s impossible, then,” said the Leader.  “Is there no other way?”

“Not that I know of,” said Feor grimly.

“I do think this might have been considered before we started this laborious work,” complained the Leader.

“I was unaware that the priests would oppose it,” said Feor gently.

“But - ” burst out a junior member “we can’t abandon it like this, without a referendum!  We’ll have no land!”

There was a moment’s shocked silence.

“Look, the people of this country want their inheritances as much as we do,” resumed the junior member.  “Couldn’t you explain this, your royal Highness? And ask the people to vote on it?  Many of the more nominal adherents of the priestly religion would rather have a viable inheritance than keep to every little precept of the priests’."

“There is wisdom in our colleague’s suggestion,” agreed the Leader of the Commission.

Feor usually went back to the Palace half an hour before the Roptoh, so that he could kiss Helen before the midday meal.  As he walked that day, deep in gloom (for it seemed to him that all his work had been in vain), he was accosted by a trader who was trying to sell those same bottles of cook-in sauce.  As Feor hoped, he opened the bottle and suggested that Feor smell it.  But at that moment, Helen and Janita came up.  They had been shopping in the market.

“Here is my wife,” said Feor proudly.  The trader offered Helen the bottle to smell.

“It’s wine,” she said in Remsheth.  “Inferior wine - we don’t want this, Feor.”

“You two go on home,” said Janita.  “I’ll go straight to the flying machine.” She asked the trader, “Where are you from?”

“From the south, madam.”

“From what country?”

“South of Traitan.  This sauce is good,” he resumed quickly.  “It helps the meat to keep longer, once it has been cooked in it.” He waved the bottle under Janita’s nose.

“Is it a speciality from your country?  Something we do not make in the north?”

“Oh yes,” said the trader happily.  “Many people in Zaqa use this sauce.”

“Thank you - I will buy one.”

“That will be forty-five zwon.”

“Forty-five?” cried Janita.  “I am sorry - I have just been shopping - I do not have all that money.  I’ll have to leave it. Good day.”

“Thanks for the warning, my love,” said Chalata to Janita.  “I wish I could contact someone in Remgath and tell them straight away.  But our thought-reading crew member isn’t here at the moment, and, even if she were, she doesn’t know any of the Remgath team.  We’ll have to wait till someone contacts us.”

“I will warn Helen, though,” said Janita.  “That’s something I can do.”

“At least neither of us suggested a referendum on the proposed economic system,” said the Roptoh in private after their midday meal.  “It’s doomed to failure.  As soon as the priests get wind of it, they’ll be calling on all their followers to vote against it.”

Feor sat in silent gloom, trying to wrest his thoughts away from his lingering desire for that smell.

“I don’t know that the priests have as much influence as all that,” said his mother thoughtfully.

“Remember the referendum in Remgath,” said Helen.

Feor lifted his head.  “God can do it, Father.  We cannot, but He can.  And we shall plead with Him to do it, for the glory of His name.  Let all the people see it is He, the Creator, Who truly wishes them well, and Who will give them a good and fair system as well as the inheritances their hearts desire.”

“I wish I had your faith, son.  Well, I have given the referendum idea my approval, so you’d better draft your explanation before your visit to Wendei.”

The next morning, directly after breakfast, Oloxis encouraged Feor to draft his explanation about the inheritances and the new economic system.

“When it’s ready, bring it to me, I’ll check it over, and give it to Chalata to be translated into Wendei.”

“See you later, love,” said Helen.

Off went Feor obediently.

“Poor boy,” said the Roptoa.  “He’s had a gruelling tour, and the Wendei visit coming up so soon.  How long will it take you to organize this referendum, Oloxis?”

“Three to four months,” replied Oloxis, “depending on how complete the birth, marriage and death records are.”

“Couldn’t you wait for Feor’s explanation till after his Wendei visit?  He probably has plenty to do revising the language.”

“Chalata will be organizing the language learning in the afternoons, so that Helen and Janita can join in.  Feor needs something to occupy his mind in the mornings - and he has what he wants to say fresh in his mind at the moment.  It will be easier for him to write it now than later.”

Chalata and Vielev had made Traitanish tapes with Obek, as well as Remsheth tapes with Rowesh and Feor, but, although another Cirian volunteer had helped the Wendat translator with his new translation, no-one had had the opportunity to take recording equipment into Wendei to make tapes of that language.  The Roptoa found herself very much in demand as a speaker of her native language, not only for Feor and Helen, but for Chalata and Janita too.  Fortunately for the Roptoa, Chalata knew exactly how to conduct each learning session, and all she had to do was answer his questions.

“To think I’d almost forgotten my native language,” she said, “before moving back here.  But the accent here is different from my own - my brother and his family reminded me of my own during their visit.”

“I shall forget my native language, at this rate,” said Helen.  They shared a smile.

Oloxis stayed behind in the Roptoh’s palace to help organize the referendum.  The Roptoh found her rather abrupt, but the Roptoa liked her.

“She’s very straightforward,” she said to her husband.  “You can trust what she says.  If she says she’ll do something, she does it - quickly and well.  If she can’t, or won’t, she’ll say so, and why.”

“True,” agreed the Roptoh with some reluctance.

“And you know who would protect us if there were a riot.”

“Not all of them can.”

“She can.  Her hair is as white and her eyes as blue as Wysau’s.  And she does care about Feor - she’s been a tremendous help and support to him on this tour.”

“Actually, I do agree with her about his getting on and writing his explanation.  He’ll feel a lot better when that’s been done.  He’ll be able to concentrate on the Wendei visit.  But I wish - ”

“Mm?” asked the Roptoa.

“I wish we’d told the people about Feor’s birth.  They’re so intent on their inheritances that it won’t bother them.  Perhaps even now, it’s not too late.”

“I should have told you,” said the Roptoa, and left the room.

“Oh no!” thought the Roptoh.  “I ought not to have said any more about it.  I do hope she’s not too upset.  I am clumsy and thoughtless.”

But back came his wife, with the copy of the up-to-date laws of Ishboh in her hands.  She showed him the relevant page.

“What’s this?”

She pointed to the words.

“Oh my love!  My dear one!  So we don’t need to say anything?”

“The Cirians don’t think so.”

“Put the book down.” And he took her in his arms.

Helen was relaxing quite happily next to Feor on their journey from Ishboh to Wendei, when she suddenly said, “Oh no!”

“What’s the matter, love?”

Helen was searching feverishly in her bag, and other hand luggage.  “I’ve left it behind!  The most important thing - the gift I should have had ready as soon as we arrived!  The Traitanish Bible for the Princess Tereh!  Oh!” she wailed.  “You see, Feor, your mother told me I must be well-dressed - apparently, in Wendei, if a guest wears her very best and looks really posh, it’s a compliment to her hosts.”

“Oh, I see!  I was a bit surprised - I didn’t think it was like you to be so concerned about your clothes.  Look, here’s something you can give her when we arrive.”

It was a nice enough present, but it was not the Bible.  Helen thanked him, and wept quietly.

“Feor,” said Chalata suddenly from his seat immediately behind him, “we have a problem.  When your uncle visited your mother in Ishboh, he fully intended to protect the man who’s been translating the Bible into up-to-date Wendei, but he went home with his head so full of other things that he forgot.  The priests are hot on the trail of this translator, and they’ll have him in prison and his work burned up before your uncle realizes what is happening.  If this translator could get to Ishboh, the priests would have to ask for such powers, and it would give both your uncle and your parents the chance to protect him.  Can you think of a good reason why our ship should be sent back to Ishboh in a hurry?”

“Yes!” cried Helen joyfully.  “My gift for the Princess Tereh - I’ve left it behind, I really have - the Traitanish Bible.  I should be delighted if it could be brought.”

“Is this important in their culture?” asked Chalata.

“Oh yes,” said Feor.  “One must give a gift on arrival - something really precious.”

“So it wouldn’t seem odd to them if we sent our crew back to fetch it?”

“No.  Especially when they see how quickly it travels.  And it would be a compliment to the Princess.”

So everyone was told that the Princess Helen had left a gift behind at the Roptoh’s palace, and the Princess Tereh was truly gratified at this unusual attention.  The strange thing was that in Ishboh the next morning, a group of curious housewives gathered round a street preacher with a pile of Bibles at his feet - a street preacher with a slightly odd accent, but quite understandable when you got used to it.

That evening there was a good crowd round that same preacher, listening eagerly.  An hour later, the pile of Bibles was disappearing fast.  The following evening a vast crowd assembled, and even more Bibles were sold.  The following evening the preacher stood at the other side of the city, with as many Bibles as he had had at the start.  And it didn’t take long for a crowd to find him.  He was asked to preach at the Palace before he began his long walk to another city, stopping at all the towns and villages on the way.  He went out with a satchel of food, some of it so cold that it was hard, and as many Bibles as he could carry.

In the meantime the crew, who returned to Wendei that same day, made friends with the Prince, the King’s second son.  They taught him simple scientific principles, and helped him to conduct experiments which showed that it was even as they said. “Why are your people so wise?” he asked.  “How did you find out all this?”

They told him a little of Cirian history.  They told him about the comet that exploded too close to Cirian, and about the revival.  They showed him a copy of the Bible in Wendei, which could bring God’s message of hope, new life, the knowledge of the mighty Creator Who had invented all the laws of science which they had discovered.  He read the first few chapters of Genesis.

“One man, one woman created,” he said.

“God joined them together in marriage,” said the crew members, “and that’s how they should stay.”

He changed the subject rather quickly, but he broke his assignation with his mistress.

Feor found most in common, not with the Crown Prince, but with his father the King.  The lonely Princess Tereh was so cheered by Helen’s friendship and fellowship that she really looked quite pretty as she walked into the State banqueting hall arm in arm with her husband.

“Your Highness.” Her maid curtsied to Princess Tereh.  Then, seeing Helen, she curtsied again.  “Your royal Highness of Wendei.”

“What is it, Katia?” asked her mistress.

“There is a trader at the door, selling a cook-in sauce.  It smells delightful, but it is very expensive.  The housekeeper said you should be consulted.”

Both Princesses came to the door, for Helen’s memory had been jogged.

“May I smell it, please?” asked Helen.

Princess Tereh was surprised.  It was not like Helen to put herself forward.

“Ninety parr,” said the trader as Helen smelt.  She shook her head and turned away.

“Don’t smell it,” she said quietly.  “It’s a drug.”

“No, thank you,” said the mistress of the house firmly.  The trader bowed and went away.

“Helen, what was it?”

“Wine - alcohol - I don’t know what it’s called in your language.  For me, and for Janita, it is not so dangerous, but for you it is.”

“Oh,” said the Princess slowly, youthful memories stirring.  “Is it that drug the nobles of Zaqa used to drink?”

“You do drink it, yes.”

“And they became addicted, and feeble, and stupid, and ten servants killed fifty noblemen in an hour?  I thought that trader looked Zaqan.  It’s a plot to overthrow our royal house and nobility.  I must report it to my mother-in-law.”

“Let me check with Chalata that it is the same drug.  I should like to be able to support you in this.”

After consultation, Janita went with the other Princesses to visit the Queen, and reported the previous incident in the capital of Wendei.  The Traitanish Princess Tereh was explaining what had happened in Zaqa when, quite unexpectedly, the King came in, and wanted to hear the whole matter from the beginning.

He called for his counsellors.  Two of them said their servants had been approached by Zaqan traders offering the same commodity.  As there was no trade treaty between Wendei and Zaqa, a stiff letter was sent to the Zaqan government, forbidding Zaqan traders to enter Wendei.  This was also enforced at the border.

When the Roptoh heard of this, he and the Representatives decided to take similar action.  But in Remgath there was the problem of the treaty.

“Your Majesty, we have asked for this audience,” said the High Priest to the King of Wendei, “about a matter of law and order.”

“Very well,” sighed the King.

“We wish to bring before you a man found stirring up your people, and advocating the experimental religion of those who oppose us.  He was surrounded by a great crowd; some were throwing rotten fruit at him, some contradicting him, and some supporting him.  He was causing a major disturbance, which could have developed into a riot.”

“Where is he?”

At a signal from the High Priest, the man was brought in by two burly priests.  This was hardly necessary, thought the King, as the prisoner made no resistance whatever.  His clothes were stained with fruit juice; there was a large stain on his face.  He bowed respectfully before the King.

“What were you preaching?” asked the King.

“The truth, Your Majesty, about the God Who is there,” replied the man gravely.

“How do we know that it is the truth?”

“It is the truth as is written in this Holy Book,” replied the man.

“Why is it necessary to preach that truth on a street corner?” asked the King.  “Surely that truth is preached in every church and cathedral in the land.”

“Because what is preached in the churches is not what is written in the Holy Book,” answered the man.

At this point the High Priest protested.

“Let him answer,” said the King firmly, “and afterwards you shall speak.  In what respect is it different?”

“The Holy Book teaches that it is necessary for a man to repent and turn from his sins, and believe that Christ was raised from the dead, before he is baptized.  The Holy Book teaches that if a man is truly born again, he will live a life worthy of that confession.  The priests teach that if a man is baptized, attends church regularly and gives to the church, he will go to Heaven no matter what sins he commits and continues to commit.”

“Is this true?” It was the High Priest’s turn to speak.

“We are all fallible, we all sin.  We have no right to drive a man away from the Church because he sins.  If he confesses that sin to the priest, and does the penance required, we cannot debar

him from the Church.”

“So,” said the King, “what would a priest do if a man confessed to him that he was not paying all the taxes he should?  That he had made a false statement to the tax officials?”

“The priest would tell him this was wrong; that he should make a true statement, and pay the taxes he should according to the law.”

“If that man had not done this three months afterwards, would you still receive him?”

“How would we know?  We cannot ask such a question in public.”

“The priest could ask in the privacy of the confessional.”

“If he still had not paid?”

“The priest would remonstrate with him.”

“And if he still refused?”

“The priest would pray that he would change his mind.”

“Could he not do anything more about it?  Would he still receive him at Communion?”

“We should not turn away erring children.  The Church should be merciful as our God is merciful.”

The King turned to the preacher.  “What would you do, if you were the leader of a group of Christians who agreed with your preaching?”

“Tell him to pay his taxes.  The next time he came, if he wanted to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we would first ask him privately if he had paid, or at least given a correct statement to the tax officials.  If he had not done this, we would not allow him to partake until he had.  We would allow him to attend services, but not partake of the Lord’s Supper; for that is only for those who are true followers of our God.  For those who are true followers obey what is written in the Holy Book; and in the Holy Book God tells us quite clearly that we must pay our taxes.  God is a holy God and will not be mocked.”

The King was silent, pondering.  Then he turned to the High Priest and asked,

“Does this man teach anything that is contrary to the laws of our land?  Does he incite his followers to hate or persecute anybody?  Does he preach any sort of immorality?”

“He teaches that we do not preach the truth.”

“He has the right to disagree with you - but does he incite his followers to spit on you, shout abuse at you or damage church property?”

“We do not know that he has any followers.”

“But does he?”

“No, your Majesty.”

“Then he can be released unharmed - but - ” The King turned to the man.  “If you, or any of your followers, should abuse the priests or damage any of their property, you will be dealt with severely.  Is that understood?  You may teach the truth as you see it, but you must not break the laws of the land, or incite anyone else to do so.  Others have a right to their opinions as you have to yours.  You are dismissed.”

The man bowed, and walked free.

“Remember,” said the King to the High Priest, “he has a right to teach what he sees as the truth, just as you have.  Do not persecute or be offensive to each other.”

Having dismissed the priests, the King turned to Feor, who was sitting near him.

“What would you do in these circumstances, your royal Highness?”

“Your Majesty has judged correctly,” said Feor politely, but with sincerity.  “All your subjects should have the freedom to worship or not worship, as they wish, provided that their freedom does not violate the rights of others.  If a group wishes to serve a god who demands human sacrifice, that cannot be allowed, because it takes away the right to live of those who are sacrificed.”

The Crown Prince of Wendei was also present.  “My exalted Father,” he said, “should we allow the priests to demand tithes of all the people, including those who do not believe what the priests teach?”

“What do you think, your royal Highness?” said the King, again turning to Feor.

“If everyone is allowed to believe as he sees fit, then no-one should be obliged, against his will, to contribute to any religious organization.  Taxes are different; they are raised for the benefit of every citizen of the land.”

“I feel it would not be wise to make such a radical change at this time of unrest,” said the King.  “Many of the people follow the High Priest’s teaching.  They would be grieved and further unsettled if we severed that ancient link between the Church and the crown.”

A young nobleman of Wendei had been helping Chalata and his team to learn his language.  He did not wish to desert the church of his fathers, but he was impressed by the way Chalata and his team lived out their faith.  So Chalata showed him copies of the ancient manuscripts in Remsheth and Traitanese, and he exclaimed,

“There is an ancient, very sacred manuscript which is revered in our Church.  There is a copy of it in every church in our land.  I have a learned friend who is a priest in a church quite near here.”

So he and Chalata went to visit this priest, who showed them the ancient, sacred manuscript.  Chalata and the nobleman compared it with the Traitanese version; the priest, who himself knew some Traitanese, could also see that it was a translation of the same original as the Traitanese manuscript.

“So, your God, stranger, is the same as this God in this ancient, very sacred manuscript?”

“Indeed,” agreed Chalata.

“And there is a translation of this same manuscript into Remsheth also?”

“I have seen it,” said the nobleman.

“Having studied the history of our church,” said the priest, “I know that there have been many shifts of doctrine over the centuries, but I had no idea that they mattered so much - that they were away from the truth and towards error.  Oh - there was one shift backwards, but I never understood before why it should have coincided with a great growth in the number of our adherents, and that, not long after it was “corrected”, many began slipping away.  My studies are suddenly taking on a new meaning.  Could I possibly keep this copy of your new translation of our Holy Book?”

“You see what I mean, son,” said the King to the Crown Prince.  “We know that Feor and his wife are ardent followers of the same religion as the preacher; yet he did not advocate any State recognition of his religion, even at such a favourable moment.  There are many in our land who would agree with Feor’s proposition.”

“It would mean that we would not have to pretend to be religious when we are not - wouldn’t it?”

“Indeed.”

“Then I agree with it, too.  Yes, Father - he may not be marvellous company, but he will make a wise ruler.  Even the fair-minded followers of the High Priest will see that it is just.”

“Oh, no, they won’t.  They will see it as an attack on them.”

“What a shame.  Father, your name would go down in history - ”

“As the king who did the right thing at the wrong time, and lost his throne in the process.  I would like to leave you a stable kingdom.”

“I am sorry to have grieved you, Most Reverend,” said the antiquary politely, “But I was informed that our original sacred manuscript has twin brothers, one in Traitanese and one in Remsheth, which have only just come to light.  Their great antiquity is beyond question.  The three manuscripts are translations into different languages of the same original, which was even more ancient.”

“I fail to see why this excuses your teaching of error.”

“But it is not error.  It is the teaching of this very ancient manuscript, a translation of which is revered in every church - ”

“It is error.”

“Yet the same is taught in our Holy Book.”

“Do you presume to tell me what is taught in our Holy Book?  What you were teaching is error.”

“Most Reverend, at our recent Council you expressed concern that attendance at services has been falling of late.  I wished to show you how that trend could be reversed - how it was reversed - ”

“I cannot sanction,” said the High Priest firmly, “the teaching of error in order to increase the numbers of our followers.  You will retract this teaching, and tell your flock so, at the first opportunity, or you will be stripped of your office and excommunicated.”

This was a serious threat.  He would have no pulpit to preach from, no income, and no roof over his head.  Meekly he submitted to the authority he had obeyed all his adult life.  He went home wretched.

Yet when that first opportunity arrived, he found he could not retract his teaching.  He did not refer to the notes he had so carefully prepared; he preached what he had just learned from his study of the new translation of the Holy Book.  His large congregation was not disappointed.  But one of his flock had promised to inform the High Priest if his heretical teaching was not retracted.

A loyal member of his flock was walking home from the market the following morning, when she saw a notice on the church notice-board.  Over the evening meal, she told her husband,

“Our priest has been excommunicated - a new priest will take up residence in the priestly house tomorrow.”

“Then that High Priest is a liar! A cruel liar!  I’ll make him listen!”

“Calm yourself, husband.  If he won’t listen to one of his own priests, he won’t listen to us.”

“Then how can we show our loyalty to our good priest?”

“We have a spare room - will you help me make ready?”

The next day, the wife went to see the ex-priest and invited him to come and stay.

“That’s a far better solution,” said Chalata to his crew members.  “Then we shall not put Feor into a difficult position.”

On the next day of worship, very few came to hear the new priest.  Hundreds came to the field where the ex-priest was preaching.  The High Priest complained to the local police, but, as the assembly was peaceful and reverent, and the farmer to whom the field belonged was a member of his congregation, they declined to interfere.

The High Priest expressed his fury to his aides in no uncertain terms.  “Serve the King right if we organize a demonstration to show him how much loyal support we still have. They would shout, “Respect our holy Mother Church!” for two hours and more!”

“Very well, Most Reverend, it shall be done.”

And before the High Priest’s customary prudence and caution had had time to moderate his anger, his aides initiated the required action.

Two days later, as the Royal party and their guests were driving in their carriages through the streets of the capital, they were met by a massive crowd shouting, “Respect our holy Mother Church!” The King said to the Crown Prince,

“You see, there is far stronger support for the Established Church among the people than you thought.  These demonstrators are mostly common people.”

“The hungry poor will demonstrate for any cause if you pay them enough,” said the Crown Prince.  “Here, my good man, what is all this about?”

The man came nervously to the side of the carriage.

“Drive slowly,” commanded the Prince.

“May it please your Royal Highness,” said the man.  “We have been told that our church is to lose its privileges as the Established Church, and that another religion of lies is to replace it in standing.  They will persecute us - any who have attended the Established Church, paid tithes or worked for the priests, and hound us to death unless we accept this new religion.”

The Crown Prince explained what Feor’s proposition really was.

“So, if this proposition became law, no-one would be persecuted whatever they believed?  And no-one would have to give to any church unless they wished to?”

“Not according to the proposition, no.”

The man looked to the King for confirmation of this.

“That is correct,” he affirmed.

“Ah.  Now that’s a different matter,” said the man.  “My humble grateful thanks to your Majesty and to your royal Highness.” The man bowed low, and went to walk beside his friend.  Within half an hour the crowd had melted away.

“I wish you had made it clearer that it was only a proposition, and that I had decided not to act upon it for the time being at least.”

“He seemed to like it.”

“He did.  But I do not like the priests spreading lies about our proposals.  I will send the High Priest an invitation to talk the matter over, as there appears to be some misunderstanding between us.”

The invitation was cordially worded.  The King intended to reassure the High Priest that there was no question of disestablishment, for the moment at least.  The High Priest, who did not realize that, or how, the demonstration had been defused, felt he was in a strong bargaining position, and that he could demand the co-operation of the civil authorities in his persecution of those who spread this new teaching.

“The fact that you are the established Church of our realm does not confer the right to suppress all other forms of religion,” replied the King.

“Should a ruler who has the welfare of his people at heart allow lies to be taught to his people, instead of the truth?”

“Should a Church leader who makes an equal claim forbid the study of the human body, in order to find out what causes different illnesses, so that those illnesses can be cured?”

“But God alone heals.  We should not interfere.”

“The strangers believe in a God Who heals.  They say they bring healing to us at His command.  Those they heal are truly healed.”

“You hear of great wonders from a distance.  You have not met and talked with those they have “healed" three or four years later.”

“Indeed I have,” retorted the King.  “My own royal sister is the picture of health, as is her husband the King of Ishboh, in spite of their trials.”

“Brought on them by those same strangers.”

“Indeed they were not,” retorted the King.  The common people everywhere have been restless ever since the revolution in Zaqa.  They must see their King giving them good things that they cannot provide themselves - clean water, better wages, good food, education - ”

“We already provide education,” said the High Priest.

“Including scientific education, and for everyone - not just the nobility.”

“I hear of no great healings performed by that secret society,” observed the High Priest.

“Those who are healed do not wish to be excommunicated,” said the King.

“Surely,” interposed the Crown Prince, “we should be working together to calm the restlessness of the common people.”

The combatants were so angry already that this inflamed their anger further.

“It is time you learnt to tolerate different views and religions,” said the King.  “The common people are learning to think for themselves, and it is something that should be encouraged.  Healthy, intelligent common people will work better and build a prosperous country.  If well treated, they will be content.”

“The strangers treated the people of Remgath well.  That did not stop them from lusting after the blood of their King and nobility.  No, the Church should be a rock in troubled times - always consistent, always giving clear, sound teaching, never compromising with error.”

“And allowing the people to die from their sicknesses!  They will tolerate that no longer.  Since you refuse to learn tolerance, I must give you a lesson in it that you will not soon forget.  As from tomorrow, I deprive your Church of the rights and privileges of an Established Church.  We shall have no established church, and all citizens shall be free to believe and practice as they wish, provided that, in their religious observances, they do not break the laws of the land.”

“Tomorrow,” said the High Priest in a cold fury, “you shall see and hear what the people think of this proposal.”

“You must tell no lies to my people,” said the King.  “You must tell them truthfully what I have just said.  If you stir up unrest by telling lies, the wrath of the people will rebound upon you.”

The High Priest glowered and took his leave.  For a few minutes there was silence.

“Father, you were magnificent,” said the Crown Prince in awe.  “You were inspired.  Your prophecy will come true.”

“You mean, we shall have riots.”

“We may.  But when the people hear the truth . . . "

The next day, however, news was brought of noisy demonstrations in other towns and cities.  “Is there any point in putting this proposal before the Houses?” asked the King.

“No doubt the demonstrators have been told the same lies as we heard from that man yesterday,” said the Crown Prince. “And the truth would have the same effect.”

“That man yesterday heard the truth from our own lips, my son,” said the King.  “That is why it carried immediate conviction.  The common people in the towns and villages across our realm will hear one thing from the priests and another from the royal heralds.  How will they know what to believe?  It may be that some of the royal heralds will allow themselves to be bribed by the priests to add our sanction to their lies.  How do we find out if this is so?”

“I cannot tell, Father,” said the Crown Prince.

“Your royal Highness?”

“This is a serious matter,” said Feor.  “Has your Majesty reason to believe that certain heralds are not trustworthy?”

“Nothing that can be proved - as yet.”

“How well paid are they?”

“Reasonably - for the work they do.  They do not have to read proclamations every day.”

“They must be sufficiently well paid that keeping their positions is far more important to them than a bribe.  And they must be clearly warned that as soon as taking a bribe to proclaim what you have not told them to proclaim can be proved against them, they will lose their positions.  Your Majesty is quite right in realizing that they are human and fallible.  If they understand that taking a bribe is a risk not worth taking, because their positions are so valuable, they are far more likely to serve you faithfully.”

“Mm,” said the King.  “You have had real contact with the common people in Remgath and in Ishboh.  I wish some of my advisors had such contact.”

“Would it be worth consulting one of the more experienced Representatives from that House?” suggested Feor rather tentatively.

“That is, most certainly, worth considering.  You do understand that I have to think about the things you suggest, as you have some costly, and sometimes unwelcome proposals to make; but, on the other hand, I can see that they would work, and no-one else seems to be able to suggest better ones.  I shall give my advisors the opportunity tomorrow, and we shall see what they say.”

The King’s advisors believed that, by and large, the royal heralds could be trusted.  However, as they were more likely than usual to be offered bribes on this particular occasion, a pay rise should be given, together with the warning.  They could think of no more effective way of bolstering their loyalty.  If the demonstrations ceased after the royal proclamation, then the people must be reasonably content with the proposal.  If there were further demonstrations, then further measures would be necessary.

The King asked for ways of finding out what the common people really thought about the proposal, but was not satisfied with the answers he received.  So, after dinner, he put that question to Feor.

“Do the common people have a vote?” asked Feor.  “Do they elect representatives to that House?”

“Only people who pay taxes have that privilege.”

“Do you have a register of births, marriages and deaths among the common people?”

“Indeed.”

“If your Majesty wishes to be absolutely sure of the views of the common people, they will have to be allowed to vote on the issue.  Each of the royal heralds could be given the task of drawing up the list of adult males in his area.  The voting slips should display pictures as well as questions in words, so that illiterate citizens know where to make their marks - and they must be able to vote in secret, so that no-one can bribe or terrify them into voting as they do not wish.”

“Once we give the common people a vote on one issue,” said the King, “will they expect to vote regularly?”

“Probably,” said Feor.

“What will their representatives ask for?”

“Education, better food and housing, clean water supplies and sanitation - for a start.”

“And how will all this be paid for?  Will it be dangerous to educate the poor?”

“If you give them only education,” said Feor, “and deny them better food and housing, perhaps.  One thing I do know: in Traitan, it was dangerous to leave discontented priests with a hold over the minds and hearts of many of the people.”

“Indeed,” said the King.  “I heard about that.”

On the following morning, it was reported to the King that a demonstration in favour of the Holy Mother Church had just begun in a town only three-quarters of an hour’s drive from the Palace.  The King was annoyed.  The Crown Prince wished to prove that if the demonstrators were told the truth about the proposition, they would support it.  The Royal carriage was ordered forthwith, and with one consent the King and the Crown Prince set out for the scene of the demonstration.  Again, exactly the same thing happened.

“You see, Father?  The people are pleased with our proposition.”

“I will not have these priests publishing lies to my people about my proposals,” fumed the King.

On his return, he made sure that the proposition would be put forward, and had the copy to send to the heralds drafted in simple, unequivocal language.  The next day, when the Houses met, he himself moved his proposition in both Houses, and moved that the heralds should have a pay rise as well as the stern warning.  He was pleased that the House of Representatives supported these measures wholeheartedly.  When his younger son brought his wife in to dinner, they were told all about it.

“Father, I congratulate you,” said the Prince.  “You have taken the initiative.  It is important that you should keep it - that the people should look to you to improve their lot, and not be disappointed.”

“He’s been talking to those strangers,” whispered the Crown Prince.

The twins arrived three days early.  Shimei’s labour had not been long, but rather painful while it lasted.  Wysau and Abritis had delivered the babies on the couch downstairs.  She had only rested for half an hour when Wysau put the first twin, Phet, to one breast, burped him, replaced him in one crib, and fetched the other, Zaq.

“He’s quite right, Shimei,” soothed Abritis, as Zaq was feeding. “From now on, you won’t have any trouble getting them to feed.  And your colostrum will help them to grow quickly.  Phet is only five pounds twelve ounces, and Zaq isn’t much heavier at six pounds two ounces.  They need to put on weight steadily.”

“I just want to go to sleep,” she said, as Abritis burped Zaq.

“Good idea.  You can, now.”

Wysau was at home for the first three days, doing everything but feed the twins.  Shimei watched him in admiration, between her intervals of sleep.  He never seemed to get cross, or be unable to deal with any situation.  There were times, especially when he was cooking, when he would bring her a crying twin to be comforted.  On occasions he would bring her both at once to be fed - but he would always help to get them properly in position and supported before leaving her with them.  Although her nights were a succession of cries, feeding, changing, rest, for after only two or three hours the other twin would wake up hungry, she could often sleep in the day, and life was quite comfortable till Wysau was obliged to go back to work.

“I’m awfully sorry, love,” he said.  “It’s a combination of Feor’s trainees needing a translator, and the increasing numbers of stomach upsets - some of which are really nasty. With some people, they keep recurring, and we can’t work out why.  Abritis says she’ll help in the afternoons.”

That night, Shimei felt obliged to cope alone.  He needed his sleep.  She crawled back to bed at four, hoping for sleep till seven; but Zaq woke her at twenty past six, demanding more food.

Before Wysau went out, Abritis came over to help.  For an hour Shimei was able to sleep.  But all too soon, Abritis had to go to work, and tired Shimei had to try to cope.

“If I were still a Princess, I’d have a nurse for the babies, and a maidservant to look after me,” she grumbled to herself.  She was so tired she kept forgetting what she was trying to do.  Everything seemed to take twice as long - and she was constantly being interrupted by one twin or the other.  She kept getting drinks for herself, as Wysau had said she must, and finding herself feeding a twin far away from her drink.  By the end of that morning, she had learnt that it was worth putting up with crying for a few moments to fetch her drink before she sat down to feed a baby.  She also learnt that she must share her time between each twin, and not change one twice and neglect the other.  Poor Phet was so sore because she’d been preoccupied with trying to get Zaq settled, that when Abritis came in and asked,

“How’s things?”

Shimei burst into tears.

“But you’ve seen to him now,” said Abritis.  “His bottom will soon heal if you keep changing him regularly.  He’s going to be fine.  I’ll make a sandwich for us both.  You sit down a minute and finish your drink.”

The next day, Abritis had to work in the afternoon. At lunchtime, she made sure that there was meat defrosting ready for the evening meal, and vegetables in the cold cupboard, so that a meal could be made quickly if Shimei hadn’t had time to think about it.

Thus reassured, Shimei felt better after lunch, and fell asleep on the sofa.  Phet, still a little sore, woke her at three-thirty.  Before she had finished changing him, Zaq had started to cry.  So she changed him while Phet cried, fed Phet while Zaq cried, fed Zaq while Phet cried.  The babies’ cries rang in her ears and through her head, and nothing she did seemed to calm them.  So she left them both to cry while she got in the washing.  Wysau arrived home to find both his children crying, his wife distraught, and no meal ready.

“The washing can sit in the basket,” he said.

“It’s dry,” she said.

“That’s fine.  You go and pick both of them up and cuddle them while I make the meal.”

“Oh, bless you, Abritis,” he thought.

Shimei was feeling dreadfully ashamed, but Wysau’s calm presence was a great comfort.  She supported one twin on each arm, and rocked herself gently from side to side.  “Please, God, help me,” she wept quietly.  “I just can’t cope.  Please show Wysau I need a nurse for these babies.”

So she asked him after their evening meal.

“Why do you need a nurse?” he said.  “You settled them both and we had our meal in peace.  You did the washing and made our bed.”

“I didn’t do any housework.”

“You stacked the washing-up machine and set it on.  I didn’t have to wash up any dirty things before I could make the meal.  And my mum will catch up with the housework when she comes next week.  Of course you’re extra tired now - they’re demanding food every three hours, because they’re so small.  As they get bigger, they’ll take more at a time, and by the time my mum leaves us, they’ll be feeding four-hourly - you’ll have more time between feeds and better sleep at night.  You were quite right to have a sleep after the midday meal.  You let me sleep last night, and I really appreciated that.”

“I feel terrible - I’ve been here all day, and you still have to make the evening meal, when you’ve been working all day.”

“Looking after babies is hard work - especially two at once. You’re doing all right, my love.  Just keep going.  Now is the worst time.  Gradually it’ll get better.”

“I’ll go mad first.”

She didn’t like to persist - he was tired, and he had been very good about it.  But however could she convince him . . .?

“Have you been helping Shimei again this afternoon?” asked Darte.

“Remember, she’s up half the night with them,” said Abritis, putting the glasses on the table.  “There, I think that’s everything.” She came to sit down beside Darte.  “Last night she was determined not to wake Wysau.  She mustn’t get too tired, or her milk will dry up.”

“You mustn’t get overtired either - ours will be due soon.”

“After tomorrow, Wysau’s mother will be here for a month.  Anyway, it’s been good practice for me.” She got up slowly.  “They’re coming - let’s put the sona and blue fruit juice on the table.”

“I’d like some green selter.”

“Right.”

In came Shimei, holding Phet; in came Wysau, pushing Zaq in a big pram, with baby equipment on the shopping tray underneath.

Shimei put Phet gently back in the pram.  Both parents sat down to eat with their hosts, but Wysau kept the pram within reach.  When a twin began to whimper, he would rock the pram backwards and forwards.

“What a blessing they’re both boys!” cried Shimei.  “And what a blessing your mother’s coming!  You know, I do miss teaching, even though it’s hard work.  God has been really good to me, giving me twin boys.  I won’t have to go through this again.”

“Oh, by the way, Wysau,” said Abritis, “Zaqan traders have been trying to sell wine all over Remgath.  They’ve been banned in Wendei and in Ishboh, but we have a trade treaty with Zaqa, so we can’t.  Do pray about it.”

“What about Traitan?”

“People in Traitan know about what happened to the Zaqan nobility, and they won’t touch it.”

“Oh, do stay for dinner,” invited Janita.  “It will be good to talk things over.”

“We’d love to,” said Helen.  “Thank you.”

“The entertainment for this afternoon,” said Feor, “had to be cancelled due to illness among the team of entertainers.  I was sorry for them, and so was able to say, sincerely, that I was sorry; but, oh, the relief of being with you, being able to say what I think, and relax!”

“I was hard put to it not to smile,” said Helen.  “I shouldn’t be surprised if it was the dirty water the poor have to drink that caused the illness in the first place.”

“Obviously the King found it embarrassing, and the Crown Prince annoying.  But truly, I thank God.” And Feor sat back in his chair, and yawned.

“He knows when we need a break,” said Chalata.  “This afternoon Janita and I ought to have our two hours - I’ve an informant coming this evening. We can use our cabin.”

“You two can borrow ours,” said the female member.  “We can always be private in the engine room if necessary.  As far as we know, we can sit in the lounge.”

“Of course,” said the male crew member, “the Prince might call - especially as the entertainment has been cancelled.”

“Then we’ll be fine in the lounge,” said his wife.

“We’ll sit tight,” said Feor.

“You do that,” said Chalata approvingly.

The male crew member was thought-reading.  Helen and Feor rose to retire to the offered cabin.

“Thanks, you two,” he called, as they followed his wife.

“He’s glad of the warning,” she explained.  “He’s got some preparing to do.”

Later on that evening, feeling far more relaxed, Feor told Chalata,

“I’ve done my utmost to build a friendship with the Crown Prince, but we don’t share any interests.  He finds me boring, and I get exasperated with him because he doesn’t seem to care about his people.  So I end up talking to the King.  He finds me too revolutionary, and my ideas too costly, but he does seem more interested in talking to me.  Is he just being diplomatic, or is he really interested?”

“He is genuinely interested,” said the male crew member.  “He can see that your ideas would work - and that, in Remgath, they are working.  He heartily wishes his son was more like you.  He has a shadowy realization at the back of his mind that once the people of Ishboh have received their inheritances, and his people can see that these ideas work and would benefit them, that he is going to have to do something similar- and he’ll know where to come for advice when that time comes.  Don’t be weary in well-doing, Feor - you are being useful - keep going, keep on obeying.  And be encouraged - the younger Prince was beginning to show interest in the Gospel this afternoon.  He didn’t say anything about his wife, but I think he is impressed with the change in her.”

“Praise the Lord!” cried Helen.  “I do thank Him for Princess Tereh’s growth in grace.  It would be wonderful for her if he was converted.”

“Then tell her to keep on praying,” said the male crew member.  “It’s only a little interest at the moment; there’s a long way to go yet.  Let her show the truth by her life - no words yet, please.”

The day Shimei had been longing for finally came - the day when Wysau’s mother would arrive to help her.  But she would not arrive till it was time for the evening meal.

Shimei had not had a particularly bad night, but that morning she felt more tired than ever.  The washing would never have got put on at all if Abritis hadn’t done it before she went to work.  Shimei had managed to hang it out - but an unexpected shower late in the afternoon had come and gone unnoticed, and when she had brought it in, the washing had had to be hung up inside.  Only Zaq had got bathed that day - and ever since then, he had been wailing unbearably, and she could not work out what the matter was.  Nothing she did seemed to help at all.  By the time Wysau appeared, she could not bear it any longer.

“You shut him up,” she said, presenting him with his crying son.  “I can’t stand it any longer.” And she sat down and fed Phet.

“Come on, little chap,” coaxed Wysau.  But Zaq’s wails redoubled.

“What have you done for him longest ago?”

“I haven’t changed him - I only bathed him at four o’clock.”

“Right, we’ll try that, shall we?”

Wysau took his baby suit off his legs - and suddenly the crying ceased.

“Oh,” he said.  “His toenail was caught in his babygro - his little toe’s quite red - it must have got twisted or pulled.”

The silence was a great relief, but Shimei did feel a fool.

“Anyway, young man, you’re quite wet enough to be worth changing.”

“Hadn’t one of us better start making the evening meal?  Your mother’ll be here in a minute.”

“Don’t worry - she’s bringing our meal.”

“Oh?”

“She told me to tell you, but I forgot.  I’m sorry, love.”

“Well, we’d better put the meat in the cold cupboard.”

“When I’ve finished with Zaq.”

“The floor’s filthy - whatever will your mother think?”

“That she’s needed.”

No sooner had Wysau put Zaq down, than he started crying again.

“Hang on a sec., little chap,” said Wysau.  “Meat in cold cupboard first.” He also brought Shimei a big glass of milk.

“But I’ve got to change Phet.”

“Shouting’s hard work,” said Wysau.  “Little tum’s empty.  You stay there, and I’ll change Phet.”

“Oh, all right,” said Shimei crossly.

“You drink up.”

“I know, I know, you needn’t go on,” said Shimei impatiently - and at this point Wysau’s mother walked in, carrying a tray with two large dishes on it.  A crew member followed with her suitcases.  She put one of the dishes in the oven, switched it on low, and began to clear the remains of Shimei and Abritis’ midday meal.  By the time she had emptied the washing-up machine, stacked it with the dirty things, and laid the table, Zaq was fed and Phet changed.  Zaq went straight to sleep, but Phet had to be rocked in the pram as they ate.

“This is lovely, Mum,” said Wysau.

“It is, it’s delicious,” echoed Shimei.

“I did four hours’ duty for one of the thought-readers - he wasn’t feeling very well - and his wife cooked enough for us as well as for the crew.”

“Thanks ever so.”

There was peace after the meal.  Wysau’s mother rested with them for a while.  Shimei rested, her head against the deep back of the sofa, and everything - the dirty house, the wet washing, receded as she sank into a doze.  For just over half an hour she actually slept.  She half woke to see Wysau weeping, and his mother’s arm round him.

“Thanks ever so much for coming, Mum.  I couldn’t have gone on much longer.”

She said nothing, simply sat.  Shimei was too tired to move or speak, and fell into a doze again.  When she woke properly, there was another glass of milk on the table beside her, and Wysau was looking at her, and holding Zaq.

“I know it isn’t really time for his next feed yet, but this young man thinks it is.”

“They’re always hungry in the evenings,” said Shimei.  “Oh - thanks - I’m ever so thirsty.”

That night, she seemed to be feeding and changing all night.  No sooner had she settled one twin and gone back to bed, than the other started crying.  And through her weary mind went the state of the house, the wet washing, the unmade beds, the uncleared table - and Wysau’s tears - “I couldn’t have gone on much longer" all washing her into the whirlpool of despair.

“Must get breakfast,” said Shimei to herself, struggling to get up.  She remembered to set the timer when the eggs began to cook, and to turn it off, but forgot to take the eggs out till a minute later.  They were hard.  She felt so ashamed that she could not think of anything friendly to say.  When she had finished eating, Wysau passed her another big glass of milk.

“Can’t I have anything different?” she snapped.  Then a twin began to cry.  Shimei burst into tears, but got up to go upstairs.  Wysau and his mother exchanged a glance.

“You sit down on the sofa,” he said, and placed her milk beside her.  His mother had gone upstairs.

“Let her do the work, love,” said Wysau gently.  “That’s what she’s here for.  It’s considered normal and proper on Cirian.  We two slept last night; you didn’t.  It’s our turn to work.  Goodbye, love,” he kissed her.  “I must go.  See you tonight.  'Bye, Mum,” he called - and was gone.  His mother brought Phet, who began to feed hungrily.

It might have been the fiftieth glass of milk she’d had since the twins were born, but absent-mindedly she drank it, because she was thirsty and it was there.  While she was encouraging Phet to bring up his wind, she noticed that Wysau’s mother had left the table-clearing and gone upstairs again.  Phet carried on feeding.

Feeding, changing and comforting the twins was all Wysau’s mother would let her do all day; except moving the twins upstairs and down again, to give her the opportunity of working the cleaning hands.  Shimei felt much better when the house was clean, but dreadfully guilty as well.

“Don’t,” said Wysau’s mother.  “Most mothers on Cirian only have one baby at once, and the father is there in the afternoons to help.  You’ve done very well.  Now you need to rest.”

Shimei only slept for an hour that afternoon - the babies kept on demanding food and more food.  She only had an hour’s sleep in the evening after their meal.  Again the babies demanded food.  She went on feeding them till nearly bedtime, when Wysau took her firmly upstairs to bed.

But that night was different.  Both twins slept till a quarter past five.  Shimei had plenty of milk to give them.  She went back to bed, and slept.  Not till another cry was heard, did she wake - it was half past nine!  Yet only Zaq was demanding food - and the feed didn’t take as long as it had the day before.  She was actually ready for Phet when he woke.  She went downstairs and ate a hearty breakfast, and drank three big glasses of blue fruit sona.

While she was drinking the last one, Wysau’s mother came in with one for herself, and sat down with Shimei.  The washing was already on the line.

“Haven’t you done well!” cried Shimei.

“It’s much easier for me - I slept all night, and I haven’t had to feed and change the twins twice this morning.”

“But how come they slept so well?”

“We gave them a bottle each after you went to bed last night.  One between them might do tonight.”

Shimei felt inadequate, but was so near to tears that she could not trust herself to speak.

“We might not have to do it again, after tonight.  Remember, twins are an exception, not the norm.  I repeat: you are doing very well.  Because you slept, you made more milk, and this morning they were satisfied, and slept longer.”

Shimei could not say anything - but you didn’t need to, with these thoughtreaders.

“Shimei, my dear, don’t be so hurt.  You’d have wanted me to tell you the truth, wouldn’t you?”

Shimei nodded.

“You’ve obviously plenty of milk to feed one baby - some Cirian women can’t do that.  You just need your night’s sleep - who doesn’t?”

“Oh, put them on bottles, and be done with it!”

“I wish you could hear how they’d feel about that!  They didn’t like the bottled milk nearly as much as yours, and they didn’t think much of the rubber teats either.  Wysau had to hypnotize Zaq to take his.”

This jolted Shimei out of her misery.

“If you had the choice between reconstituted dried milk, and fresh milk, which would you prefer?”

“Wysau said it was better for them.”

“It is.”

Shimei gazed out of the window, trying to calm herself, to be better company.  “It’s a lovely morning.”

“Shall we take the babies out, and do a little shopping?”

“I ought to shower and dress.”

“I’ll get them ready.”

By the time they returned, the twins were crying.  Shimei fed both at once; Wysau’s mother had started to put the shopping away when Abritis arrived.  She began to make drinks and sandwiches for all three women.  Wysau’s mother changed first one baby and then the other, while the other finished his feed.  When the adults sat down to their midday meal, Shimei said,

“It was worth it - they fed well - and we’ve all had some fresh air.  We haven’t been out for over a fortnight.”

“One of my trainees said,” reported Abritis, “that her sister’s children miss you at the school.”

That evening Shimei’s prayers were answered most unexpectedly.

“The situation is not the same here as on Cirian,” stated Wysau’s mother calmly.  “Shimei’s skills as a teacher will be needed at the school on the original site, once the most experienced teacher has moved to one of the new schools because it is near her home.  But much more important is the need for Abritis’ skills for the pharmaceutical training programme.  If her senior trainee, Emlota, is absent for any reason, there is no-one who can take over from her.  Only one of you doctors could stand in for her, and you are all fully stretched already.”

Wysau held up his hand.  “You needn’t say any more.  I am persuaded.  I had not considered Abritis’ position.”

“I’d like to recruit a full-time nanny for both the twins and Abritis’ baby.”

“There’s no-one trained.”

“That’s why I want to go ahead immediately, and train the girl while I’m here.”

“The cost.”

“Yes.  A young girl - between eighteen and twenty-two - with a sense of responsibility.  Just think what a good training it would be for her.”

“We could use her at the hospital, while she completed her training as a children’s nurse.”

“Or she could find employment as a child-minder when she is married and has her own baby.  So, as she will be receiving training, she need not be paid a great deal.  Shimei could teach her to read and write, I’m sure.”

“I’d enjoy that,” said Shimei.

Suddenly Wysau’s eyes lit up.  “I’ll talk to Darte, and give you a salary range for negotiating purposes.  Oh, Mum, I am so grateful to you for coming - we’ve been under rather more pressure lately, with all the usual things plus an increasing number of stomach upsets - persistent ones that keep coming back.  Things are worse morally too - there’s so much half-heartedness and lukewarmness even among those who are genuinely converted.”

“Are there more stomach upsets among this particular group?”

“Not more than among unbelievers - but, come to think of it, there aren’t any among those who are walking close to God.”

“Then ask the Pastors to warn their congregations in terms of 1 Corinthians 11 verses 26 - 32 - making clear also that sometimes God allows trouble to come to His people even when, on the whole, He is pleased with them.”

“The other thing is that people seem to be losing confidence in us.  They come to us with abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, we give them sachets of glucose and salts, and an antibiotic; they recover, but, in a fortnight to three weeks, they’re back again with the same symptoms - often worse.”

“If they have a good clean water supply - ”

“Yes - ”

“That points to unhygienic practices, or persistent eating of something that should not be eaten, or even drug-taking.”

“No signs of the last.  Perhaps they keep milk or meat for too long.  But we’ve warned them about that before.”

Wysau’s mother conducted interviews from her shortlist of five by engaging each for one day, and ensuring that both Shimei and Abritis worked with each during that day.  She brought up the subject on the Friday evening after the meal.

“Which one would you choose, Abritis?”

“Penoe.”

“Oh,” said Shimei.  “I preferred her elder sister - what’s her name?”

“Aloe,” supplied Wysau’s mother.

“I liked both sisters better than any of the others,” said Abritis.

“So did I,” said Shimei, and she sat and thought.  Abritis was about to speak, but Wysau’s mother stopped her.

“Could we - ” began Shimei tentatively - “could we employ them both - so that they shared the job? So that if one were ill, the other could come?”

“Go on,” said Wysau’s mother.

“You see, they both help their elderly father, who can’t walk very well.”

“Why?” asked Wysau.

“He won’t see a doctor.”

“Ah.”

“He’s very awkward and crotchety, and both are longing to work for us, to get out of the house.  But someone’s got to look after him.  If they shared the job, they could share his care, and neither would feel jealous of the other, and both would stay sane.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Wysau, and promptly sat back with his eyes far away.

“It is a good idea,” said Abritis.  “Once the children are weaned, if one were not seriously ill, but couldn’t sleep properly, we could ask one of the nannies to work a night, so that both Shimei and I could get a proper night’s sleep.  You couldn’t expect one girl to work a night and the next day as well, but if there were two, that would be feasible.”

“I second that,” said Darte.

Wysau’s mother laughed happily.  “But the two will take longer to train.”

“When I’ve had my baby,” said Abritis, “my parents are coming here for two months.  Dad’s a retired doctor; they can continue the training.”

Somewhat irrelevantly, Wysau said, “He finds the pain in those swollen legs very hard to bear, but he won’t allow a doctor to examine them because he’s afraid of the ray machine.  He might have an infection that I could treat with medicine.  Mum, have you said how you will let your applicants know?”

“No.”

“Could you visit those two, and ask for a sample?”

“If I can tell them why.”

“Because if he has them up at all hours at night, they won’t be fit to work.  It’s pretty grim for him, not being able to walk.  He’s not that old - only fifty-six.”

His mother sat, thoughtful.

“I could very reasonably visit them, because it’s not a case of simply saying `Yes’ to one girl.  Is the father’s complaint very likely to be what you think it is?  Would it be better simply to try and persuade him to let you visit?”

“Most certainly you can try.  But if his daughters can tell him definitely that there is no question of ray treatment, he will be far more likely to allow me to treat him.”

“Oh Wysau,” said Abritis when they next met, “that sample from Penoe’s father - the result was negative.”

“You sure?” said Wysau in great surprise.

“Quite sure.  Clear as a topaz.”

Wysau went home, sat down on the sofa next to Shimei, and reported what Abritis had said.  Shimei almost wept.

“Aloe was so tired this morning, she could hardly keep awake.  This afternoon I sent her to bed.  She said there was more peace in our house with the twins, than there is in theirs.”

“Did she manage to sleep?” asked Wysau.

“Yes, for an hour and a half - then Mr. Impatient here woke her, while I was changing his twin.  Your Mum was in the garden, getting the washing in.”

Wysau kissed the top of Zaq’s head; he promptly brought up some wind.  Wysau’s mother was bringing in the evening meal.

“When we’ve had our meal,” he began,

“We must pray,” she finished.

It was all they could do, thought Shimei miserably.  If the father were insane, or his illness life-threatening, Wysau might consider hypnotism, but not in these circumstances.  And she had thought her own situation was unendurable! The twins were, after all, normal healthy babies, and if she could not hush them, Wysau always could - when he was around.

“Try and be good to your father,” said Wysau’s mother quietly to Penoe the next afternoon, “however trying he is.” They were stacking the washing-up machine while Shimei and the twins slept.  “It’s good weather at the moment - have you a comfortable chair he could sit in outside, in the shade?”

“He could see the people going by from the yard at the side of our house.  We could ask him if he would like that, tomorrow afternoon.  It’s easier for us to take him out on a Saturday, when we’re both there.”

“We didn’t have to ask him; he asked us,” said Aloe to Shimei on the Monday.  “He wanted to sit out yesterday, too.  I don’t know if Penoe will be able to get him out on her own today.  Perhaps our neighbour will help.”

“Has he been more cheerful?” Shimei asked.

“Well - yes and no.  Sometimes more cheerful, sometimes very quiet.  More manageable, anyway.”

“That’s a good thing.”

They went on praying.

On the Friday Aloe arrived at a quarter to nine, panting.  “Has your husband gone to the hospital?”

“Just about to,” said Wysau, pausing to finish his drink.

“Father would like you to call.”

“This afternoon at four twenty?”

“You’ll probably find him outside.”

“I can help Penoe in with him.”

“Praise the Lord!” cried Shimei.  “Whatever - ”

“Bye, my love,” called Wysau, and was gone.

“Bye,” called Shimei.  “Whatever’s happened?”

“I don’t really know, but I think he must have been talking to people as they went by - he’d never listen to us.”

“I can’t believe it,” said Penoe on the Wednesday.  “He’s back from hospital, walking normally - all the swelling is subsiding.  He’s even quite cheerful.”

“Yesterday,” said Penoe on the Friday, “he went out in the afternoon, and wasn’t back till teatime.  He wouldn’t say where he’d been.”

“On Saturday,” said Aloe on the Monday, “we had a guest to our evening meal - a very pleasant lady.  But Father is much more keen on her than she is on him.  He even agreed to go to church with her.  She invited us, too - but Father doesn’t want us to go with them.”

“You could sit with us,” said Shimei.  “I mean, with Abritis , Darte and Mum-in-law.  It’s my turn to watch the twins in the cool nursery room under the ancient building.”

“I’ll sit with you,” said Aloe.

Just before the sermon, the twins went to sleep.  Shimei and Aloe sat quietly, listening.  In the chapel, Penoe sat between Wysau’s mother and Abritis, and listened.  Their father sat and looked at the lady - or fidgeted.

“Father’s been ever so grumpy this past week,” said Aloe on the following Thursday.  “Worse than for a long time.”

“I am sorry,” sighed Shimei.  “It seems we’ve only made things worse for you.”

“Oh, no, no.  He may be grumpy, but he doesn’t wake us in the night.  We don’t have to see to his toilet, we both get out of the house regularly, and we don’t have to worry about money any more.”

“Has the lady not been so friendly?”

“That’s it - she’s not really interested in him if he’s not interested in her God.  He’s refused to go back to church, you see.  Says it’s a load of rubbish.  We don’t think that at all, but it’s no good us talking to him.”

“Mum, you’ve been marvellous,” said Shimei.  “Now I don’t dread life after you’ve gone - I shall still have Aloe and Penoe, and you’ve done a marvellous job training them.”

“I’m sorry to see you so busy, son.  I’ll go on praying, and ask others to pray.  There must be a reason for all these stomach upsets.”

“Give my love to Dad.”

Two weeks later . . .

“No, we’re much better off,” said Aloe.  “As long as one of us is there to make the midday meal for Father - and his guests if he has any - on a Sunday, and we make sure he has the evening meal prepared, or is going out, he doesn’t mind us coming to church.  He’s working now, part-time, to cover the expenses of his social life.  He can still be grumpy, especially if his stomach feels queasy, but he’s not around all day as he used to be.  And Penoe and I get along together quite well now.”

“That’s good news.”

“It’s odd, though.  Father often feels queasy, but we never seem to.  And there’s an awful lot of queasy stomachs about.  Do you think it could be some unhygienic practice, that you have taught us not to do?”

“Quite possible - I’ll talk it over with my husband.”

“Ask your nannies if they eat out,” suggested Wysau with a yawn, “and if they feel queasy afterwards.  It’s odd - it doesn’t fit the picture.  Why didn’t we have this trouble earlier, if it’s due to bad food hygiene?  Surely that should be improving - we have taught them a great deal about it - unless they are refusing to do what we say.”

“You’d think mothers would be more careful - they don’t want their husbands and children to be ill.”

“That’s another odd thing.  The adults get it, babies on the breast get it, but from, say, two to thirteen, the children are almost completely free of it.”

“But what’s the cause, doctor?” asked the wife of his next patient.

“Is there some ritual that you have begun in the past year, that involves food, especially meat or fish, or the broth from meat or fish, in which you do not usually allow children to participate?”

“No,” said the woman innocently, “I can’t think of any.”

“If there is, try stopping it, and see if his and your health improves.”

Wysau read her thoughts as he rode away, but had to stop soon to concentrate on riding.  At home there were the twins and Shimei, and he was far too tired to sit up thought-reading.  Every time he was called to treat a similar illness, he repeated his warning about the ritual.  He mentioned it to the other doctors, and they began to do the same.  Still the illness kept recurring.  Wysau and the other doctors became more and more tired.  Then Abritis’ baby was born - a lovely little girl, white-haired like her mother.  This put Abritis out of action for two months.  The four were feeling weary and dejected; the only helpful event was Abritis’ parents’ arrival.

“I only retired a month ago,” said her father Tetrak.  “I’m still tired - I can’t start practising again just yet.  We’re here to look after our daughter and her baby.”

And they did.  Tetrak was very strict, teaching the nannies the observe only the best practice in hygiene, all the time.  When he scolded Penoe for not washing her hands before changing Tendris, Shimei said,

“I’m sorry, doctor - blame me - I’ve not bothered with before, only after.”

Tetrak told Wysau about this, expecting him to be horrified; but Wysau’s eyes lit up.  Tetrak was shocked.

“Of course you’re right, Tetrak, and she ought to do as you say.  I was pleased because Shimei used to be the Princess of this land, the second in line to the throne, taught from infancy to regard the common people as vermin, as the mire of the streets.”

“Ah,” said Tetrak, appeased.  “That’s in a different realm altogether.”

The following three weeks were even more hectic for the doctors.  When, after a busy day, Wysau was called out for the third time in one night, he told the messenger what to do for the patient, and went back to bed.  But Tetrak, awake after having helped with Tendris, overheard, and accompanied the messenger.

“How can I thank you, Tetrak!” cried Wysau when he saw him at the evening meal.  “That patient would have died - it’s a really nasty attack - I’ve rarely seen this severe form.”

“He is improving?”

“Yes - with a saline drip, having received a blood transfusion.”

“Good - he’s had many upsets of the mild kind.”

“Oh.  Then we’ll see more and more of the severe ones.  Tetrak, please - could you do some thought-reading?”

“No, Wysau,” said Tetrak gently.  “You know these people far better than I do.  I’ll take over your duties.  You shouldn’t be working, anyway; you’re too tired.  When you’re rested, you do the thought-reading.  This is an emergency, my dear,” he explained to his wife.

“If I have worries about the babies,” she said, “I can call on you, Wysau?”

“Of course.”

For the first day, Wysau slept.

“Don’t worry, wife,” said Tetrak.  “Wysau has a marvellous way with babies.  Everyone says so - the patients and the other doctors.  And if he slept today, it was because he was so tired that nothing he did would have been of any real use.”

The next morning -

“Oh, Penoe!” cried Shimei.  “Do come in.  Is Aloe not well?”

“She went out with Father last night,” said Penoe, and began her duties.

“Penoe,” said Wysau, “there are five more cases of serious gastro-enteritis in the hospital today.  Every one of them would have died without blood transfusions.  We will soon be running short of blood and of hospital beds.  You must tell us what happened, or people will be dying all round us, and we will be powerless to save all but a few.  And one of those dead could be your father.”

Penoe hesitated.  Suddenly her mind made itself up.

“All right, I will.  After the meal, when the children were in bed, they gathered for a good luck ritual.  They took some rather high broth out of the oven, and passed it round, everyone taking a drink from the same soup bowl.”

“Is this a common custom?”

“According to Father, yes.  They said it would be safe because of the cook-in sauce.”

“It will be the death of those who do it regularly.”

“So it is that.”

“Oh yes.  Something that began two years ago, say? And gradually became more widespread?”

“Yes.”

“Tell your father never to do it again, if he wants to remain healthy - to remain alive.  As the germs which cause the severe form of gastro-enteritis become more common, so this custom becomes more and more dangerous.  You see, if you make soup from a joint of meat, keep it in the cold cupboard and boil it up in a saucepan the next day, being careful to boil it for ten minutes to kill all the germs, and serve it out into separate clean soup bowls, one for each person, no harm will result.  But don’t keep it for another day, and don’t pass the same soup bowl round to everybody.  And thank you, Penoe.”

“Most people don’t have cold cupboards.  We haven’t.  We just keep things covered overnight.  You taught us not to keep meat longer than two days, and our stomachs are usually fine.  But please don’t quote me, about the good luck ritual.  Father would be furious.”

“I’ll have to prove it.  I’ll go and interview patients, and gather evidence.  But - what was it you said, about the cook-in sauce?”

“The originators of this custom bought this cook-in sauce that was supposed to make the broth keep better, so that it wouldn’t make you ill.”

“Did it have a particularly heady smell?”

“Aloe didn’t say anything about that kind of smell.  She just said the broth was very high.”

“Can you still get the cook-in sauce?”

“I’ve no idea.”

It became clear that someone would have to loiter round the market and buy a bottle of cook-in sauce.  The strangers prayed much about this.  In the end, Tomas’ mother volunteered, for she was Flak’s mother too.

“When you’ve bought some, bring it directly to the lab, and Emlota will analyze it.”

“Just 1% of fermented fruit juice,” reported Emlota, “a trace of food colouring, and water.  Not very pure water, either - there were some rather undesirable traces in it.”

“How much did you pay for this?” they asked Tomas’ mother.

“Forty terron!  And that was all it was?  What a rip-off!”

“You got it for us, so here’s twenty terron,” said Wysau.

“And here’s the other twenty,” said Alab’.

“No wonder it didn’t do anything to help the broth to keep,” said Abritis.  “It was far too dilute.”

“They ought to be prosecuted for watering down their product,” said Tomas’ mother.

“Actually,” said Wysau, “it was a good thing they did, or people would be addicted by now.  I wonder if some people realized it was watered down, and stopped buying it?”

“I would have thought so,” said Tomas’ mother.  “But what damage does this wine do?  Why are you so concerned about it?”

“Alcohol is a very dangerous drug,” explained one of the Cirian doctors.  “It is the drug that caused the downfall of the Zaqan royal house.”

“Oh,” said Tomas’ mother slowly.

“But if you cook it,” explained Abritis, " the alcohol evaporates.  The danger is that people like the smell so much that eventually they drink the uncooked product.  In a few hours they want more.  The more they have, the more they want, till they develop such a craving for it that they will pay a lot of money for it, and feel terrible if they can’t get it, and will rob and murder for it.  It eats away at the brain cells, damages the digestive system, and an overdose will kill.”