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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 Fifteen

“It’s only a cold, Feor,” Helen had said rather nasally that morning.  “I don’t like to bother Janita with it when she and Chalata are so very tired.  I’ll get over it.”

Tired.  He was tired.  He went off to the House and did his duty.  He left early so that he could walk slowly.  He sat down on a bench in the market, longing for a drink.  He was so tired that he was almost dizzy.  He did not notice others lingering in the market, watching and waiting, screwing up their hands impatiently.  Suddenly a man marched up to his bench, sat down at the other end of it, and all those loiterers gathered round him.

“There, madam,” he was saying, “there’th your viruth remedy.  And you, thir.  No, that’th not enough.  Forty-five terron, pleath.”

“I’ll pay you the rest next time,” said a desperate-sounding voice.  “Have mercy, I beg of you.”

“No.  Only the full prithe akthepted.  Yeth, madam; yeth, thir.” Feor felt a hand reaching into his pocket.  “Let him reach,” he thought.  “There’s no money in that pocket.” But Feor’s hand closed round his when he attempted to take money from the other pocket.

“Please, sir, I’m desperate - it’s so expensive.”

“Then you must learn to do without,” said Feor.

“How can I?  It’s life to me.”

“And you’ll find it’s life to you,” said another voice - and a blade was held to Feor’s neck.  “Take his money.”

But the police were alerted, and rushed over.  The man with the knife, and his accomplice, were stopped and arrested.  The trader had quietly disappeared.

“Would you like to bring a charge against these two, sir?” asked the policeman.  “These two people are willing to testify to what they saw just now.”

“I’m not sure,” said Feor.  “I will consider the matter.”

“We will take a large sum of money from them, which will be returned to them when they appear in court to answer the charge; or else they will have to remain in prison.”

Feor felt shaken - and so tired that he could not move.  The policemen departed with their charges.

After a few moments the trader returned.  “Here, thir,” he said.  “I’ll give you another if you don’t preth chargeth.”

“Thank you,” said Feor mechanically, and took the bottle home.  He put it away before going to meet Helen.

After lunch, Helen went to the small flying machine.

“Janita, I’m sorry to intrude on your time of rest, but I’m afraid Feor isn’t very well.  He’s terribly tired, and seems to be running a temperature.”

“Oh, he’s getting your cold!  Oh dear.  Helen, I am glad you came.  And you’re not well yourself, are you?  Come on, Chalata, we’ll have to go.  We need remedies for the Tellurian common cold virus.”

As Chalata found these remedies, Janita explained to Helen that the Cirians had not yet discovered remedies she or Janita could use for the common cold.  Once in Feor’s apartment, Janita sat Helen down and gave her a hot drink.  “When you’ve drunk this, lie down and rest.”

Chalata came in with Feor.

He sprayed medicine into Feor’s throat and up each nostril, and gave him two capsules to swallow.

“You lie down and rest by Helen.”

No craving beset Feor for the rest of that day; nor on the following morning - not till midday.  Being ill did not help.  Usually he had work or business of some kind to attend to in the mornings - something which demanded his attention - something to which to apply his mind.  Very often other people were concerned, and their presence and interest helped him to concentrate.  In these circumstances, mornings passed quickly, and only when he was actually walking back to their meeting-place did he crave Helen.  But then he was walking, walking towards Helen.  On this particular morning, he could only wait.  Thirty minutes seemed like a hundred and thirty.

There was that bottle in the cupboard of his sitting-room next door.  Feor knew he should not get it, or smell it, and most certainly should not drink any.  But - it was there.  Nobody else knew it was there.  He could go into his sitting room, open the bottle, smell it, screw up the lid and put it away.  Nobody would know.

“No,” thought Feor, “I mustn’t.”

He tried to think about something else.  Helen would arrive in another half hour.  How could he face Helen, if he had smelled the contents of that bottle?

But he was still very tired.  He did not feel as dizzy or as ill as he had the day before, but his head still ached, and he could not breathe through his nose.  He began to cough.  He wanted a drink.  No amount of nose-blowing seemed to remove the blockage.  Would he be able to smell the liquid in that bottle?

He lay down again and tried to rest.  But lying down seemed to make it hard to breathe, and very much harder not to cough.  Wearily he got up and went into his sitting-room.  A maid was there, dusting the furniture.  How could he get her out of the way?

“Could I have a drink of fruit tea, please?”

Just as that maid was about to leave the room, another came; she went to make Feor’s drink, and the first maid carried on dusting his sitting-room.  Feor had to return to his bedroom.  He waited and listened.  He could still hear the maid moving about, sweeping the room.  She took the rug out to beat it on the terrace, but he would not have time to get the bottle before she returned to replace the rug.

In the meantime, the other maid brought his fruit tea.  It was very hot.  He put it to his lips, but it was too hot to drink.  However, he breathed in the steam, and it did ease the stuffiness in his nose.  He sat down, and carried on breathing in the steam.  After a few minutes, he could actually smell the fruit tea.

Then he heard the maid close his sitting-room door.  Had she gone away?  Could he go and fetch the bottle, unobserved?  He put down his fruit tea.

Footsteps outside his door.  A knock.  What a good thing he had not got that bottle!

“Come in.”

“Your Royal Highness,” said the representative, “I bring the greetings of the House, and their sincere wishes for your speedy recovery.”

“Thank you,” said Feor.

“May I present you with a report of the House’s deliberations and decisions this morning.”

The representative bowed himself out.  Feor’s first impulse was to put the report aside.  But then -

“I must look at it,” thought Feor.  “I must study it.  This is God’s way out for me.”

In the report was written:

“The problem of addiction to alcohol was brought before the House by the representative for Achen.  Other representatives agreed that something must be done.  At present it is only illegal for a Zaqan to enter the country to sell alcohol. To secure a conviction, the Prosecution must prove that the Zaqan had entered Ishboh in order to sell alcohol.  No addict would testify against his supplier; for others, positive identification was difficult, for, to most people of Ishboh, Zaqans all looked the same.  More than twelve cases had been brought, and the verdict in each case had been, “Not proven”.  How could the law be tightened up in order to convict the guilty?  And what could be done to help those who were addicted?

It was soon decided that the second question should be put to the stranger doctors, and that the Crown Prince should be asked to do so.

The first question was much more difficult.  Many suggestions were made; some were rejected.  All were agreed that the selling of alcohol ought to be an offence, and this statute was enacted without opposition.  Not everyone agreed that the possession of alcohol should be an offence, but the great majority saw such a law as a help, because the addict could be forcibly deprived of his alcohol while in prison.  Someone who was not an addict and possessed alcohol almost certainly intended to sell it, and therefore deserved to be in prison.

No-one saw these measures as a complete answer to the problem, so finally it was agreed that the Crown Prince should be requested to ask the strangers for any advice they could give on the matter.

“Obviously,” said Mitue when consulted, “you put strict measures in place to reduce supply, but they won’t work unless you carry public opinion with you.  The ordinary man in the street must be willing to report drug dealers, and be willing to testify against them in court.  Somehow you have to make it safe for him to do so.  Then you must reduce demand.  You have to give the public the facts about drugs.  Also, people need to know where they can find help and support with the various different problems of life, so that tempted souls have somewhere else to turn in confidence.”

“There aren’t such agencies here,” said Chalata.

“Then have a general help agency set up in each large city.  Tell the House of Representatives that the costs of training the staff, supplying the building, and all the other necessary expenses, are minute compared with the cost of crime caused by escalating drug abuse.  I know that some people try drugs out of curiosity or a desire for thrills.  With the best measures, you can still have a problem, because men are sinners.  Only God can satisfy that deep inner longing for love, for pardon, for help and support, for meaning and purpose in life.  I’ll have all the support groups alerted so that they can pray.”

Feor forgot about the bottle till eleven-thirty the next morning.  Just as he was wondering if he could have one short sniff without anyone knowing, his mother came to see him.  Feor was disgusted with himself - he actually wanted her out of the way, so that he could sniff that bottle, although she had not been allowed to see him for the past two days, in case he should give her his virus infection.  So the Roptoa did not stay long.  He heard her footsteps, walking away slowly and sadly - then they stopped, and he heard murmurs of conversation.  It was too far away for him to hear any of the words.  After a while it stopped, and there was silence.  That bottle!  Would no-one let him get at his own bottle, in his own right-hand cupboard in his own sitting-room!  Suddenly there were quick, firm footsteps - his sitting-room door was opened.  Somebody was looking in his cupboard - somebody shut a cupboard door, and went out of the room, shutting the door behind him.  Footsteps went down the corridor towards the stairs.  When Feor finally got into his sitting-room, and opened the cupboard door, the bottle was gone.

Feor was furious - and ashamed.  That somebody must have been a thought-reader - Oloxis.  So all the Cirians would know.  The cry of his heart was, “Please don’t tell Helen!”

Then he must not cherish wrong feelings and display a wrong attitude when she returned.  In spite of his anger, he forced himself onto his knees before God to thank Him for saving him from that terrible addiction.

“Please help me not to be cross!  Please give me true gratitude!”

And then an idea struck him.  What if a maid - the maid who cleaned his sitting-room - had found the bottle, sniffed at it, taken it away - and was starting down that dangerous road - and it was all his fault, for harbouring such a bottle?

Footsteps.  A knock on the door.

“Come in.”

It was Chalata.  “I’ve come to give you some more medicine.  Helen may well have re-infected you.”

“Thank you.” Feor sat down and did as he was told.  The medicine soothed his nostrils and throat, but his heart and mind were in turmoil.  He had to know.

“Chalata - did Oloxis bring you a bottle - ?”

“Yes.  Janita put it away somewhere out of my way, and certainly has made sure I don’t know where it is.  Oloxis wanted it out of her way, too.  She didn’t want to know where Janita had put it, either.” And he smiled at Feor.  “We must help each other,” he said gently.  “We all get tempted - it’s all too easy to fall.”

“You won’t tell Helen?”

“Not unless it is necessary.  At the moment I don’t think it is.  We’d get rid of that bottle altogether, but the police may require it as evidence.”

Chalata then explained why it would be better for Feor’s attackers, and for the rest of his kingdom, that he should press charges.

“Oh, bother,” said Feor.

“There’s bound to be a delay before the case comes up,” said Chalata.  “You’ll be feeling well again by then.”

“But if those men are poor victims - ”

“I’ll take them a present, Feor, to help them out of that terrible addiction.  It’ll still be hard for them,but it’ll help, especially when they’re released from prison and have to face temptation all over again.  But if you don’t take them to court, we’ll never alert the people to the real villains - those drug dealers from Zaqa.  Keeping your attackers in prison till their worst craving has passed will give them a good start.”

“Perhaps I ought to, then.  Yes, you’re right.”

No craving beset Feor for the rest of that day; not until, the next day, it was nearly time for Helen to rejoin him.  Then he began to wonder where the bottle was - began to wish he had not told Chalata to press those charges.  But when he kissed Helen, it all vanished.

On the following morning, Chalata came to see him.

“How are you, Feor?” he asked.

“Much better, thank you - but - you know that drink you gave those two addicts - what was it?”

“I don’t know exactly; you’d have to ask Abritis.”

“But what does it do?”

“If they so much as smell alcohol - inhale it, I mean - they will feel nauseated.  If they drink it, they will vomit it up.  They will soon find out that they cannot get a “high”, and that will help them not to become addicted all over again.”

“Are the effects permanent?”

“They last at least five years.”

“Chalata, could you give me this drink?”

“It won’t stop the craving.”

“No, but it’ll help.  I only crave it when I need Helen.”

“It will pass.”

“I’d rather have it - please.”

Chalata nodded, and went to the flying machine.  When Feor had drunk it, he said to Chalata,

“The real villain is that drug dealer.  Let the Chief of Police and the Public Prosecutor know that this is only a ploy to catch him - and then let it be known that I’m withdrawing the charges - so that they can detail an officer to watch me - so that he can catch that trader.”

“Mm,” said Chalata.  “We’d better pray about this.  It might not be so easy as you’d think.  These drug dealers are very canny.  For instance, did you look hard at that drug dealer?  Would you be able to swear in court, beyond a shadow of doubt, that it was he who gave you that bottle of wine?”

Feor leaned back for a moment and thought.  “I would recognize his voice,” he said.  “There was a particular nasality about it - and a slight lisp.”

“The nasality is typically Zaqan,” said Chalata, “but not, I think, the lisp.  Ah.”

“No, no, sir,” said the policeman.  “You have not been arrested for trying to give a bottle of fruit juice to His Royal Highness.  You have been detained so that he may identify you.  He will be here in a few minutes.”

“Identify me?  But why?  What have I done?”

“You were involved in the incident which led to an attack on our Prince.”

“Do you want me as a witneth?”

“More than that.” The trader did not notice the door opening quietly.

“But I don’t examine the fatheth of everyone I meet in the market.  I than’t be able to identify the Crown Printh’th attackerth.  I doubt if he’d be able to identify me.”

As he spoke, Feor was ushered inside.  “Yes, he is the man; the trader who sat at the end of the bench in the market.”

The trader rose and bowed.  “Your Royal Highneth,” he said respectfully.

“Yes, most certainly,” said Feor.  “I remember the lisp.”

“Yeth, your royal Highneth, I wath - but ath I wath not involved in the inthident, why thould I be detained?”

“Your involvement in the incident is a matter for the Court to decide,” said Feor.

“But I cannot be detained unleth thomeone ith bringing chargeth againth me.  It ith againth the law of the land.”

“I am bringing a charge against you - that of selling alcohol.  I sat at the other end of the bench and overheard you doing it.”

“But thelling it ith not illegal.  How can you prove I entered Ithboh in order to thell it?”

“The law has just recently been changed,” explained the prison officer.

“Oh.  I demand to thee a tholithitor.”

“That is quite in order.  I will call one to you.”

“If it were simply a case of putting the two addicts behind bars, Father, I would not press charges.  It’s the Zaqan drug trader who should be punished.”

“But how can you secure a conviction, son?  It’s simply your word against his - whereas the policemen caught your attackers in the very act.”

And the Cirians prayed . . .

On the day of the case, two poor women asked to see the Prosecutor.  He would have sent them away, but Feor, who was present, intervened on their behalf.

“Honourable Sir,” said one of the women, “we are the wives

of the two defendants - the two Ishboh nationals.  We wish to inform you that we are able and willing to identify the Zaqan trader in court.”

There was a knock on the door.  “Please, sir, I’m a prison officer, and I wish to give evidence.  I’ve brought this, sir.” He held up a bottle that was only one quarter full.  The women whispered to each other.

“What is it?” asked the Prosecutor, feeling somewhat beseiged.

“Honourable Sir,” said the other woman, “we wish to identify that bottle.  It is the one we bought from that same Zaqan trader.  Our husbands threatened us, and forced us to buy some from him.”

“What does it contain?” asked the Prosecutor wearily.

“Wine, sir,” said the prison officer and the women all at once.  “It was rolling round on the floor of their cell,” explained the prison officer.  “They could not finish it because they vomited so violently.”

“Disgusting,” muttered the Prosecutor.

“Indeed it was, sir,” agreed the prison officer with feeling, wrinkling up his nose at the memory.  He had had to help clear up the mess.

“Well,” said the Prosecutor after a short pause, “as your testimony agrees, it will be useful.  Yes, I should like to call you all as witnesses.”

“Well!” said the Roptoh, on his return from the court.

“My dear?” enquired the Roptoa.

“The most surprising facet of the case was that one of the two ex-addicts, Feor’s attackers, gave evidence supporting Feor’s against the Zaqan trader, his supplier.  Once the conviction against him had been secured, Feor dropped all charges against the ex-addicts.  He even entered a plea to their employers to take them back.”

“Why do that in court?”

“Because they were present.  Feor explained why they had vomited so violently in their prison cell, and that this drink that Chalata had given them would help them to overcome their addiction.  I saw the one who gave the evidence talking to his employer outside the court.”

Chalata and Oloxis were also present, and, before the verdict was announced, she contacted him in his thoughts.

“Yes, Oloxis?”

“There are two creditors waiting outside the court for the wives of the ex-addicts.  One is owed four zwong 42, and the other five zwong 03, by each of the wives, for food for their families while their husbands were in prison.  Have you enough money on you to pay those debts?”

“A ten zwong note - yes, just.”

“Please.  I’ll give you a five zwong note when we get to the flying machine.”

Chalata gave the note to Oloxis, who slipped out of the court. The creditors, satisfied, returned to their shops.

“So - he’s really going to take you back?”

“I’m to start work again tomorrow morning.”

“I can’t believe this.” She hugged him - and was kissed.

“He’s going to give me another chance, because I gave evidence against the Zaqan trader.  It was the drink the stranger gave us.  Neither of us believed it would do what he said it would.  But when we found that what he said was true - that we couldn’t get a high however hard we tried - we were both very cross and fed up.  I felt I’d done so many things wrong that life wasn’t worth living any more.  There was nothing in the cell I could use - I was looking round - and there was this leaflet the stranger had left, so I read it - about God’s Son Who died to pay for all the wrong things His people had done.  You could become one of His people if you really turned from your sin.  It said I could walk free from God’s court because God’s Son had paid for my crimes.  I couldn’t believe it.  But I had to show I meant business - I had to give that evidence - and when I actually did walk free from the court, it was as if God had said to me, “Yes, I accept you as one of My Son’s people, one of My children.” And then He gave me my job back - you see - ”

“Just one thing worries me - I couldn’t pay for food while you were in prison.  I owe the grocer over five zwong.”

“I’ll tell my Father about it.”

At last all was ready for the people to vote.  After the four months of waiting, the day of voting passed incredibly quickly.  Feor was far too tired to worry about the outcome; he had still not fully recovered from his virus infection, and had no idea how much the court case had contributed to his personal popularity.  His father had resigned himself to a “No" vote, whereas his mother waited in quiet faith.  Not till a week after polling day were the results brought to the Royal Family by two members of the Committee and two from the House of Representatives.

“Well! 67% in favour of the new economic system!” The Roptoh stared at the paper as if he could hardly believe his eyes.  Feor’s face shone; Helen was too happy to speak.

“I knew it!” cried the Roptoa triumphantly.

“We are delighted with this result,” said the Roptoh formally to the representatives, “and will gladly act upon it.”

“Well, there’s the equipment,” said Wysau to himself, as he tested his loaded backpack for portability.  “Yes, I could walk a reasonable distance with this.  But please, my Lord, where shall I go?  Who will allow me to test their broth?”

“Wysau.” It was one of his Cirian colleagues.  “Tetrak tells me you’re going visiting today, to demonstrate the dangers of passing the broth.  Could you possibly call in on a patient, Mr. Eldi, at 32 Corn Street - his wife had the sense to call us quickly when he developed the severe form of gastro-enteritis, so I was able to leave him at home with sint-enkabestion 400 - I gave him an initial injection of 500mg so that he could keep his next oral dose down.  I’d just like you to check that he’s responding as expected, and no complications have arisen.  If you could possibly persuade his wife to throw the broth away in your presence, put some bleach down the sink after it, and allow you to bring the container back to be sterilized, that would be wonderful.”

“Wouldn’t it just!” agreed Wysau fervently.  “I’ll do my best.”

Wysau prayed again, and went out.

He had not fully recovered from his weariness.  His pack weighed him down.  It was hard to straighten his back and lift up his head.  People whispered about him as he walked along the street.  Two crossed the road to avoid him.

It was a difficult assignment - for at that time there was a good deal of resentment and suspicion directed against the strangers.  There had even been a petition to the House of Representatives, signed by almost five thousand people, that the strangers be asked to go home.  It was debated and rejected, but by an uncomfortably slender majority.  At least, if this patient had called a stranger doctor, there was more hope than if his wife had offered a sacrifice in the temple.  But how much hope was there anyway?  Even if they saw the bacteria in the broth, would they believe they had been there when it was passed round, or would they think that Wysau had put them there?

Would he find, when he reached this patient’s house, that the broth that had made him ill had already been thrown away, and Wysau would have to try another family, who would refuse to allow him to test their broth?  How could you prove anything to people who were determined not to believe you?  They might just as well call a halt to the whole mission, and pull out.  He could go home and practice on Cirian, and Shimei would have his mother’s help with the twins.  It would be so much easier to turn round and go home.  He was so tired - and the pack was becoming heavier with every step he took.

But what would Shimei say when he got home?  How could she teach on Cirian?

Perhaps he ought to go home for today, and try tomorrow, when he was not so very tired.  But he had promised his colleague.  What if the patient was not recovering?  It would be Wysau’s fault if he died.

It was no good.  He would have to go on.  “Please, my Lord, give me strength.  I’m so tired.”

Then thoughts came into his mind.  “God doesn’t care about you.  He’ll let you work till you drop, all through the epidemic that’s coming - and people will praise God for your faithfulness till death, and Shimei’s faithfulness in carrying on, in spite of your death.  Your lives may bring glory to His name, but, after Shimei’s retirement, the people will revert to their old ways.  You might as well not have bothered.”

Wysau had often memorized verses of Scripture, and one came to his mind:

“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them.”

He straightened his back, lifted up his head and strode on - he had arrived at the door.  He knocked.

The wife was a little reluctant to let him in, but the husband was clearly glad to see Wysau.  Not because he was feeling ill - he was, in fact, making a good recovery - but because he was anxious to enlist Wysau on his side in a conjugal disagreement.  His wife wanted to warm up, for his lunch, some of the broth they’d passed on the Saturday night - and he thought it would make him feel ill again.

“You see, the thing is,” he finished, “she didn’t use any of the cook-in sauce.”

“It was too expensive,” she said defensively.

“We’ve had a bottle of that sauce analysed in our laboratory,” said Wysau.  “It contains less than 5% of fermented fruit juice.  That is the part that is supposed to help your broth to keep for longer.  That amount of fermented juice wouldn’t make any difference to the keeping qualities of any broth; and fermented juice isn’t a very good preservative anyway.”

“What else does it contain?” asked the wife.

“Food colouring and water.”

“Is that all?”

“That is all.”

“Forty-five for that!” cried the wife.  “It’s an absolute rip-off.”

“That’s what the housewife said, who bought it for us,” said Wysau.

“You see,” said the wife to the husband.

“However,” said Wysau, “I would certainly not advise anyone to drink any of the broth you passed on Saturday evening.  And the same goes for all the broth in the city that has been kept for longer than two days.”

“I know,” said the wife, “that you strangers are blaming our custom for this outbreak of stomach upsets, but personally I don’t believe it.”

“Will you allow me to test your broth?  Look, when we first admitted a patient to hospital with the severe form of gastro-enteritis, we put a tube down her throat into her stomach, took out, through the tube, a sample of the contents, and analysed them.  We found bacteria, and grew them on a petri dish on some bacteria food called agar jelly.  We then divided our sample into four, and on three of these samples we tested three different sorts of medicine that kill bacteria.  The medicine that killed the bacteria most quickly and effectively, we gave to our patient, and she recovered.”

“How do you know she would not have recovered anyway?”

“She was getting worse,” said Wysau.  “She had a dreadful pain in her stomach.  She kept on vomiting.  She could not eat anything.  She could not even keep water down.  I personally injected that medicine into her vein, and stayed to watch her, because her condition was so serious.  She stopped vomiting, calmed down and lay quietly.  At last I was able to put a tube into her vein, and give her glucose and salts, to stop her dehydrating any further.”

“Dehydrating?” asked the husband.

“Losing body fluids.  If you lose too much, that in itself can kill.  She found that rather trying, and I had to calm her; and I said, “Isn’t the pain easing?”

“Yes - yes, it is.”

“It should go away completely, quite soon,” I said.  “Just lie quietly.” At that point I was called to another patient; when I came back, the woman was asleep.”

“That was what happened to me,” said the husband, “barring the tube into my vein.”

“You called us very quickly,” said Wysau.  “We were grateful - it was the best thing to do.  The doctor who came to you recognized your symptoms and gave you the right medicine immediately.”

This appeased the wife.

“So - may I test your broth?  We can all three look down the microscope into the sample, and see whether or not there are bacteria there, and, if so, whether they are the same as the ones we found in that woman’s stomach.  If they are the same, then the broth made your husband ill, because the same medicine made him better.”

“How do we recognize them?” asked the wife.

“I have with me slides of those bacteria, and those that cause the milder form of gastro-enteritis that has been so common just lately.  You can have a look at them, and compare them with what you see in your broth.”

“Well,” said the wife, hesitating.

“I’d like to know for certain,” said the husband.  “Either those things are there, or they’re not.”

“What if there’s something else there?” asked the wife.

“Then I want to know about it,” said Wysau with emphasis.  “The sooner we know about any other bacteria, the sooner we can find medicine to kill them.”

“All right,” said the wife.

“There’s another thing we ought to make sure of,” said Wysau.  “We need to be sure that the medicine your husband has does kill the bacteria in the broth.  If it doesn’t, then they’re not the same.”

The wife looked at Wysau.  “You really want to know the truth, don’t you?  Even if it’s different from what you think?”

“We do.  So may I set this experiment up?  It will take some hours to work, you see.  I’d like you to check that there aren’t any bacteria on the dishes I put your broth on, before we start.  I want you to be sure I’m playing fair.  And in the jelly, too.”

“Fair enough,” said the wife.

As Wysau was setting up the experiment, the wife’s sister called with her two children.  She was very sceptical, and was pleased to check the cleanliness of the petri dishes and the jelly.

“What’s this all about?” asked the daughter, who was eleven.

“About the broth, dear - the broth we pass.”

“I’m not doing that again.  It don’t bring me good luck - it just gives me tummy-ache.  Last time the tummy-ache lasted three days.  I’m not doing that no more.”

Wysau wisely refrained from comment.  A quarrel broke out between the daughter and her brother.

“Hush, you two,” said their mother.

“But - ”

“Do feel free,” said Wysau, “to invite anyone you wish to come and see the results of this experiment.  With your permission, I’ll come again at eight this evening, and we shall all see what has happened.”

“Mum, we want to come!” clamoured both children. “Please!”

“There’s something to see now,” said Wysau.  “Come and look, but don’t touch.”

“Ooh!” said the wife.  “What’s that orange stain?”

“It’s bacteria, growing.”

“It’s come in all four,” said her sister.  Her husband looked too.

“Now, is this the same as the medicine you were given?”

“Yes - here’s my bottle.”

“Now, we’ll add a little to these three, but not this one. Right?” Wysau put the cover back over the petri dishes, adding, “Now I’ll leave you in peace till eight o’clock.  Oh - lunch - you could try a blue fruit.”

“That’s an idea,” said the wife gratefully.

“All right.  A nice juicy ripe one,” he said.

“This one?”

“Fine.”

Wysau smiled and took his leave.

The kitchen was full of people when Wysau arrived with his microscope and testing equipment.

“Now, you made this broth last Thursday?”

“And reheated it, and passed it round to guests on Saturday evening?”

“Yes.”

“And your husband was taken ill during the night?”

“Yes.”

“And today is Tuesday.” He looked round his audience to make sure everyone had heard.  “Now we will test the broth.  Look at this petri dish through the microscope - and at this one.” Everyone present was encouraged to look.  There was nothing in either.

Then Wysau poured some of the broth into each.  Everyone was encouraged to look again.

“There are some smudges - and some little things I can see clearly,” reported the wife’s sister.  “But how do I know what bacteria look like?”

“I’ve brought some slides to show you,” said Wysau.  “Here are the bacteria that cause the mild form of gastro-enteritis.”

She looked.  “Now, can I look at the broth again?”

Wysau put the specimen back under the microscope.

“Oh,” said the sister.  “You look,” she said to the wife.

“Oh,” she said.  The children wanted to see.

“I can see these,” said the daughter, “but what are these?”

“Have a look at these, that cause the severe form,” said Wysau.

“Yes, they’re there, too.”

The boy looked.

“Well, they are there, aren’t they?” demanded his sister.  “You can see them clear as clear.”

Others came to look.  “Ooh,” said one neighbour.  “Look at this thing.  It’s doing something.”

Others wanted to see.  It divided before their eyes.  “There’s two now, where there was one.  What’s it doing?”

“Dividing.  Growing.  That’s how you know they’re alive.”

The neighbours all looked at one another nervously.

“Let me explain,” said Wysau, in the sudden uneasy hush.  “These specimens in the slides were not taken from broth, but from the insides of people who were ill.  These were from a woman who was very seriously ill - the patient I told you about this morning.  We gave her this medicine" holding up the bottle “and she recovered.”

Wysau left the room, and returned with his container of petri dishes.

“Now, let’s look at these specimens.”

One dish was covered with orange.  On the other three, the orange was completely gone.  All that was left was a little watery substance on top of the jelly.  Wysau invited his audience to look down the microscope at all four dishes.

“But don’t touch them - especially not the orange one.”

The things on the orange dish were quickly recognized.  They, too, were dividing. The liquid on the other dishes also contained bacteria, but on one they were disintegrating - and on none were they dividing.

“The medicine has killed them,” explained Wysau.  “Dividing is growing, a clear sign of life.  Dead things don’t grow.”

“The orange dish was the one you didn’t put any medicine on?” asked the daughter, checking up on her understanding of the experiment.

“That’s right.”

“There’s one more thing I’d like to say,” resumed Wysau after a pause.  “Do you know the Rigins?”

“Well enough.”

“They’re a bit stiff and starchy.”

“Do they pass the broth?”

“No - never.”

“Have they been ill - in their stomachs, I mean?”

“Not as far as I remember.”

Other neighbours shook their heads.

“Any time in the past two years?”

“No,” said another neighbour.

After a brief silence, Wysau moved a vote of thanks to their host and hostess, “especially,” he added, “as our host is still recovering from quite a serious illness.  It is very good of you to entertain us all.”

The visitors left quietly - except for the daughter.

“There - you see?  I was right all the time!”

“Shh!” said Wysau.  “Your point is proved - you don’t need to say any more.”

The husband said, “I’d be glad if it were all thrown away - and the pot.”

“But it’s my best pot!”

“You needn’t throw the pot away,” intervened Wysau.  “I’ll take it and its lid to the hospital to be sterilized, and return them to you.”

“Oh, thank you,” said the woman.

“And this,” said Wysau, indicating the contents of the petri dishes, “I’d like to throw away, too.  Let’s do it, both of us, together, and put some bleach down afterwards.”

So the contents were thrown away, pot and lid and petri dishes rinsed under the tap, and bleach put down afterwards.  The woman asked,

“Will the bleach kill the bacteria?”

“Yes,” said Wysau.

“Why don’t you give bleach as medicine?”

“Because the bleach would kill the patients, too.”

Wysau smiled at her husband.  “I’ll bring your pot back as soon as it’s ready.  And thank you, both of you, very much.”

“Thank you, Tetrak, very, very much.  You’ve done my duty for a whole week.”

“You haven’t exactly been lazing about.”

“I had one full day of sleep, which I badly needed - thank your wife, too, for me.  Oh, and I’ve slept at night - it’s done me a power of good.”

“It’s been very useful for everyone, Father,” said Abritis. “It’s saved us from a far worse epidemic than we’re going to have; and it’s cleared our record.”

“Why should you have an epidemic?” demanded Tetrak.  “Surely they won’t go on with this practice, now that they’ve seen clear proof of the danger.  If those from the three different neighbourhoods, who saw the experiments, told all their friends and neighbours, most people in the city will know all about it by now.  Surely they won’t continue this practice.”

“I’m afraid they will,” said Wysau.  “If those bacteria hadn’t begun to divide just when people were looking at them, the whole experiment would have been a waste of time.”

“Remember, Father,” said Darte, “how Satan blinds the minds of his slaves.  If we can see, we have God’s Holy Spirit to thank, not ourselves.”

“Then you must appeal to Cirian for more equipment to deal with this epidemic,” said Tetrak.  “Saline drips, blood supplies . . . "

“Absolutely right,” agreed Wysau.  He sat there, in the middle of eating his meal, his eyes far away.  Shimei sighed, and began to feed him as if he were one of the twins.

“This is going to be difficult to deal with immediately,” replied the Director, “unless far more blood donors and retired able-bodied Cirian doctors respond than usual.  You see, just a week ago we had a desperate call for help from Asa - an epidemic of a sexually transmitted disease has broken out in five areas at once, on a world they are trying to help.  They need doctors, saline drips, and supplies of blood, just as you do; and, as they asked first, we must help them first.  We will help you as soon as we can, but there may be an unavoidable delay.  Please pray for us.”

Tetrak’s expression hardened as he heard this in Wysau’s thoughts.  “In the meantime,” he said, “we’ll have to do the best we can with what we have.”

By the next morning, twenty-one cases of severe gastro-enteritis were occupying hospital beds.  One patient, who was ashamed to call a stranger doctor till it was too late, died.

The next day, there were thirty more.  All the trainees were fully stretched; Abritis’ parents, Aloe and Penoe worked at the hospital.  Abritis was desperately needed in her laboratory; so, officially, for two hours every morning and afternoon, Shimei had the care of little Tendris.  Thank goodness, she thought, that her own twins were eight months old, sleeping through the night, and eating mashed-up fruit, rusk, and liquidized meals, as well as some of Shimei’s milk.  But Tendris was someone else’s child; and, what was more, a stranger baby, a Cirian baby, with parents who had very high standards.  At first Shimei tried her best to remember to wash her hands before changing Tendris as well as afterwards; but she soon became so desperate that this was forgotten.  Tendris, naturally, missed her mother; Shimei’s own all too mobile twins kept getting hold of things they should not have.  But if she put them in their playpen, they would soon get bored, and cry.  Yet didn’t they cry even louder when she took boxes of tissues or nappy liners or baby cream away from them?  Or particularly when she smacked Zaq for, after a clear and repeated “No!”, pulling the clean wet washing out of the basket and trailing it all over the dirty floor?  At least the washing machine did not complain, as a servant would have done, at having to do the same washing all over again.  But Zaq complained long and loud in the playpen where his own naughtiness had obliged her to confine him.

It was Phet’s pulling a glass off the table, breaking it and cutting his hand, which decided her that, however much they disliked it, they would have to spend two hours a day in their playpen so that she could do essential things like hanging out the washing, clearing the table, stacking the washing-up machine and putting it on - changing Tendris, making the beds - and, increasingly, trying to calm and entertain Tendris when her mother delayed beyond the appointed time.  The worst thing was the loneliness.  Again and again she had to cry to her Heavenly Father for the strength to bear it, and a clear mind, so that she could think what to do next.  Abritis only briefly appeared when bringing Tendris, but she stayed with Shimei at lunchtime for an hour.  When she came to collect Tendris in the afternoon, she was usually in a hurry.

“Oh, Wysau, what can I do?  Should I put them in their playpen and let them cry?”

“Yes - I think you have to.  Try and impose some structure on your day.  Get them used to being in their playpen at certain times, and try to spend a short while playing with all three of them every day - or just the twins, if Tendris is asleep.  If they know they’ll only be in their playpen for so long, and later you will play with them and let them crawl about, they’ll get used to it.”

But then he had to go.

“I can’t,” thought Shimei.  “I haven’t time to play with them - I’ll get even less done.

But I’ll have to put them in their playpen when the washing’s ready to be hung out.  I’ll have to ignore any cries, and go out and do it.  So what about my side of the bargain?”

Tendris was still asleep; Phet and Zaq had dozed off on the soft floor of their playpen, and Shimei had put cot blankets over them both.  This was the first opportunity she had had that day to have her usual time of quiet alone with God - and she was determined to take it, however dirty and untidy the room was.  She had something urgent to say.

“Heavenly Father, I can’t cope - You know I can’t.  You very graciously gave me Aloe and Penoe - and they’ve been wonderful - but now You’ve taken them away, AND given me Tendris to look after.  I can’t complain, in that Abritis must work, and so must Wysau, and Aloe and Penoe are helping to save lives every day - but how can I cope?  You did help this morning when I cried to You.  When Abritis came, Tendris was fed and changed and asleep, and at least I’d managed to clear the breakfast things.  But Abritis couldn’t stay for lunch, and the twins were fretful and hungry.  Oh, please, Lord, may the people wake up and realize that they mustn’t keep broth for so long - that it only makes them ill!  If only they’d stop, it would be better for them, and for Wysau and Abritis and the other staff, and I could have my nannies back.  Oh, please, Lord, send me some help soon!”

It seemed as if her pleas never reached her Maker.  Zaq stirred and turned over, hitting Phet’s head with his foot ...

Darte sent out his trainees with leaflets warning of the dangers of keeping broth, or any meat or fish, for longer than two days.  One was delivered to every home in the city.  But still the numbers of patients needing hospital treatment increased.

The next morning, Abritis brought Tendris to Shimei at ten to nine.  “I’ll try and be back for twelve,” she promised.  “I got Tendris to feed as much as I could.  There’s lots of medicines to be made.  Please don’t give her a bottle unless you absolutely have to - I want her breast-fed, basically.  It’s better for her. Goodbye.”

Twelve came and went, and still no Abritis.  Tendris was getting seriously hungry, and refused to be distracted or comforted.  When she started to shout in good earnest, Shimei was distraught.  She changed her, but being comfortable outside was not good enough.  “Please, Heavenly Father, what shall I do?”

Shimei’s breasts had been leaking a little; she was wet and uncomfortable.  She put Tendris down, thinking she might go to sleep from exhaustion.  She went upstairs, washed herself quickly and hurried back downstairs, for her twins were getting worried about all this shouting.  Instinctively Shimei put Tendris to her breast.  Oh, the relief!  Not only the sudden silence, but the drawing away of excess milk.  Tendris was so hungry that, no sooner had Shimei burped her, than she had to put her to her other breast.  She fed and fed.  The twins were not in the least put out; they carried on playing.  When Abritis finally arrived at ten past one, there was her daughter, sleeping soundly.

“Oh, I am sorry,” she said.  “Did you give her a bottle?”

“No - I fed her myself.  She was so hungry, she couldn’t wait.”

Abritis took a deep breath.  “Thank you, Shimei, very much.  You did absolutely right.  I’m afraid I must go - Mum’ll have a meal ready, and then they’re going to help at the hospital.  I’ll bring Tendris back before I go to work.”

“Oh.” Shimei could not keep her disappointment out of her voice.

“I really meant that, Shimei,” continued Abritis. “I’m so tired - I was up with her twice last night, and having to work so hard doesn’t help.  I’ll have more milk for her later because you fed her.  I shouldn’t have to work for more than one and a half hours this afternoon.  But if the same thing happens tomorrow, yes, please feed her yourself - as long as your two can spare the milk.”

Abritis did return on time, just after Shimei had changed Tendris, and sat on Shimei’s sofa, feeding her baby.  It was Shimei’s turn to bring a thirsty mother two big glasses of milk.  Abritis was so tired that she did not want to move.  It was Shimei who burped Tendris and put her down.  Shimei went outside to bring her washing in.  By the time she had put it away, Abritis was fast asleep, and Phet and Zaq were quietly pulling out the contents of one of Shimei’s floor-level cupboards, that Shimei had forgotten to tie up . . .

By the time Shimei had cleared up, and tied up the cupboard securely, Abritis was awake, but still too tired to move.  Shimei fetched some sona and fruit juice, and they had a precious twenty minutes together before Tendris and the twins woke.  Abritis told about the situation at the hospital: the numbers of patients were still increasing every day.  Shimei told Abritis how hard she was finding it to battle on alone.

“Let’s pray,” said Abritis.  And they did.

“Tell you what,” said Abritis.  “If you keep Tendris, and bring her with you when you come, I’ll make a meal for all of us.  I’ve got to cook for us two anyway, and my parents will eat at the hospital.  Have you some meat out ready?”

“Oh, Abritis, thank you!” Gladly Shimei rose and fetched the meat and some fresh vegetables.

“Come at six,” said Abritis.  “Just for tonight.” And she went.  For once, tired Wysau was able to sit down to a meal when he came home.

“This is nice, Abritis,” he said.

“Your wife’s been wonderful,” said Abritis loyally.  She and Shimei were each feeding a twin.  When Tendris cried, Darte shot a helpless look at Wysau - who rose, brought Tendris to the table with him, and sat down.  She kept wriggling, and drawing up her knees; and she cried as if to say, “Oh, doctor, it really hurts!” With a towel on his shoulder, Wysau held her against his chest, and thumped her back harder than Darte would have dared to.  Two large burps came up.  With calm confidence, he rocked her gently on his knees, and, as her cries subsided, he took the opportunity to feed himself.  Darte watched his daughter drifting off to sleep, and Wysau putting her down, in great admiration.

“She’s very often like this in the evenings, Wysau - we just can’t get her wind up, so she cries and cries, and makes it worse.  Abritis’ Mum put her over her knees, and rubbed her back, for at least an hour and a half yesterday evening, before she brought up the wind and settled down.”

“I expect Tetrak’s got a diet and wind chart going already.”

“Yes - it hasn’t shown up any particular food yet.”

“Persevere with it - it’s very early days.”

There were no more cries for three-quarters of an hour.  Shimei helped Darte bring in the dessert, and clear the table after the meal.

“Abritis,” said her husband, as they all relaxed with their sona, “let’s do this again.”

“He certainly has the knack of bringing up her wind,” said Abritis gratefully.

A little later on, Tendris woke - but instead of crying, she lay on the floor on her mat, watching the twins play.  Phet gave her a toy, and she held it, and cooed.

“Look at the time!” cried Wysau.  “I must go.  Many thanks, you two.  See you later, love.”

“Thank you!  Goodbye!”

Oh, how good it was to know that somebody cared and understood! For when Wysau came home, exhausted and ravenous, he usually had to help get the meal.  Then he would eat and eat; she would bring him a hot drink, and he would sit on the sofa and doze off while she tried to talk to him.  By the time he was awake enough to take in what she was saying, a twin would cry; and when she had hushed him, Wysau would get up wearily and say,

“I’m afraid I’ve got to go back.”

He would reappear any time between ten and eleven at night, sit down, have a drink, and go upstairs to bed.

Shimei felt dreadfully guilty.  Abritis’ house had been so clean and tidy, and hers was such a mess.  When Tendris went to sleep the next morning, Shimei determinedly took her in her carry-cot, then the playpen, upstairs, then some toys, then the twins, and left them in it while she tidied up downstairs.  Their yells took her upstairs - “Ah,” she thought, “I’ll take these things up with me.” By the time she got there, they had each found something to play with.  So she hurried downstairs, determined to vent all her annoyance and frustration on cleaning the living cum dining room, however much they shouted.  And, most wonderfully, she succeeded!

But, that night, she had to get up to Phet; and the way he chewed her finger soon told her he was teething.  She found some teething gel and applied it, and in twenty minutes was able to go back to bed.  The next morning, she was extra tired; Tendris, who had slept well, wanted to play - and then the doorbell rang.  At the door were two girls, girls whom she had taught.

“Mrs. Teacher,” said the elder, Atras, “my sister Pela won’t talk since Mum and Dad died.  My auntie’s too busy looking after younger children.  Could you please help us?”

Shimei felt she needed help herself, but what could she do?  She invited them inside; she saw Phet’s face puckering, ready to cry - but he saw the girls first, and the yell was postponed. The children regarded each other warily at first.  As Shimei changed Tendris, she wondered whether these children were old enough to appreciate unsweetened fruit juice.  “But what else can I offer them?” she thought.  “Blue fruit juice isn’t tart, and it’ll do them good - they look as if they need a few vitamins.” So she put Tendris down.  She would ignore any whimpers until she had given the girls their drinks.

Atras simply said, “Thank you.” Pela took hers without any comment, but drank thirstily.  Atras, too, drank.  “This is nice, Mrs. Teacher.  What is it?”

“Blue fruit juice.”

Atras drank all hers, and took the two empty glasses into the kitchen, while Pela pushed toy trains towards both the twins.

“Thank you, Atras,” said Shimei.  “Could you watch these three for me, while I clear up in the kitchen?”

After this, Shimei returned, found the twins amused and Tendris asleep, and took the opportunity to make the beds.  She returned to the children with her own drink, and sat for a few moments watching them.  Atras was definitely worth keeping, and Pela was patient and gentle with her twins.  They didn’t mind if she didn’t talk, as long as she played with them.

Shimei went to the cold cupboard.  O the force of habit!  Again she had set aside enough cold cooked meat and salad vegetables for Abritis, herself and the twins, and either Aloe or Penoe - forgetting that Aloe and Penoe would eat at the hospital.  She added the extra she had not used from the day before, and set to work to bake a large fruit tart.

Atras came.  “One of the boy babies needs changing - I have changed my cousin two or three times.”

Shimei set out the equipment while Atras was undressing Zaq.  “Give him a wash with warm water in this container, and these balls; wash all the dirt away, every bit, even if he cries.  Dry him with this, and put a little of this cream on, especially in the folds of his skin.” Atras began with reasonable confidence; Shimei returned to her cooking - and suddenly left it, found a waterproof apron and put it on Atras from behind her.

“Thanks,” she said.

“I’ll take this away.” Instead she brought a clean all-in-one baby garment, a Cirian one that Atras would never have seen before that morning.  As Atras had managed to remove the dirty one with no problems, she would probably manage to put the clean one on.  Anyway, Shimei knew she must get on with the lunch; Abritis had to have hers on time, and the twins would be hungry.  So she had to leave Atras to cope.

Atras coped - and, Shimei realized, so did Pela, for there were no howls from Phet - nor from Zaq, while Atras changed Phet. The smell of cooking wafted into the front room.

“If you’re cooking, we ought to go home,” said Atras.

“No-one else is cooking for you, are they?” asked Shimei.

“No.”

“Then please stay and eat with us - I’ve prepared enough for us all.  Tendris’ Mum will eat with us.  Please stay.”

“Thank you.”

“You’ve been very helpful this morning.”

“She’s pleased with us, and we’re staying for lunch,” Atras reported to Pela.  Shimei heard no response - only Zaq cooing happily.  Shimei felt quite helpless.  How could she coax Pela to talk?  She had more than enough to do already.  So she prayed as she washed and arranged the vegetables.

Abritis arrived, was introduced, took Tendris upstairs to be fed and changed.  Shimei laid the table for three adults and the twins automatically - and then remembered to add another adult setting.  She even had time to liquidize the twins’ meals before lunch.  Abritis reappeared and put Tendris down in her crib.

Pela came to the table willingly enough, and the mothers began to feed a twin and themselves as they usually did.  When Atras had finished her meal, she asked to feed Zaq.  Pela finished hers, and Abritis looked at her.

“Yes, come and feed Phet,” she said.  Pela came almost eagerly.  Atras glanced her surprise to Shimei - who indicated Abritis’ white hair.  Atras looked a little frightened, but she still smiled.  Pela looked round - and Atras asked,

“How do you keep your drinks so cold?”

“By keeping them in the cold cupboard,” replied Shimei promptly.

“Don’t ask me how a cold cupboard works,” said Abritis.  “I only know there’s an engine inside that makes the air cold.  If you want to know how the engine does it, you’ll have to ask one of the stranger electricians.”

Then, suddenly, Abritis added:

“Yes, the electricity does cost money, but a cold cupboard isn’t just for making drinks taste nicer on a hot day.  A cold cupboard keeps food fresh for longer. If you leave meat or milk out of the cold cupboard for two days, especially in summer, they will smell, and taste nasty.  On the fourth day, they will make you ill if you eat or drink them.  Whereas, if they are kept in the cold cupboard, and that cold cupboard is kept plugged in and switched on, the meat and milk will still be good on the third day - but you don’t want to keep them for four days or more if you can help it.”

“It means I can go to the market twice a week instead of every day,” said Shimei, trying not to sound too startled.

Phet complained - and Pela hurriedly put in another mouthful.

After Abritis had gone back to work, it was time to change the twins again.  Atras was changing Zaq, and Shimei was stacking the washing-up machine, when Pela, carrying Phet, came to ask,

“Mrs. Teacher, can you read my thoughts?”

“No,” said Shimei.  “Only the white-haired strangers can do that.”

“Can you teach me how to change Phet?”

“When Atras has finished with Zaq.”

Pela sat down on a chair near her sister, put Phet on her knee, and watched Atras - till Phet claimed her attention.  Both twins had often stood supported, but at that point Phet decided he wanted to try to walk, holding both Pela’s hands.

That day did not seem like a Saturday, for Wysau and Abritis were working all day.  Shimei knew that Wysau would have the Sunday off, so she invited the girls to come back on the Monday after school, for lunch.

That evening Wysau came home, reeking of disinfectant, exhausted and dejected.  The numbers of patients needing hospital treatment were still increasing, and five patients had died - because their relatives had been ashamed to call for treatment till it was too late.

“If we have forty more tomorrow, as we did today, we won’t have any drips, blood or beds for ten of them.  They’ll die.  This was just what I said on holiday - except that it’s happened while we’re still here.  People have lost confidence in us.  They don’t believe it can be this unhygienic practice, because they’ve been doing this for some, two, some, four, some five months with no apparent ill effects.  And those that we have treated in the past have the most serious infections.  We might just as well pack up and go back to Cirian.”

Shimei did not know what to do.  Last time Wysau had become so depressed, nothing she said had helped - she had just lost her temper, and God had intervened.  “Please, my Lord, our Creator, help us now!”

There was a knock on the door - Shimei answered.

“A report for Wysau, from Cirian.  Chalata printed it out on the flying machine.” Darte smiled, and was gone.  A strange answer to her prayer? Or was it?  She took it to him.

“From the Research Department at Treala Hospital,” he translated.  “Oh, yes, Rowesh’s rare complication.” He flipped through it - then something arrested his attention.  He began a free translation of part of the report aloud in the middle of a sentence.  ". . . frequent untreated bacterial infections due to unhygienic practices and dirty drinking water.  Those who survived childhood built up an immunity at the expense of their ancets.  If, as adults, they continue with these unhygienic practices, gradually either their ancets degenerate, or their immunity is worn away.  Such immunity as they have can, of course, be lost more quickly if they are treated with antibiotics.  But how to explain this to these people?”

“Try explaining it to me first,” suggested Shimei.

“It’s difficult,” said Wysau.  “To me, it’s so simple and obvious that I could kick myself for not thinking of it before.  But, to your people, it must seem as if we’re making complicated excuses for ourselves.”

To Shimei, who had the utmost respect for Wysau and his colleagues, his explanation carried immediate conviction.

“There might be another factor.  This cook-in sauce - did it contain more alcohol when it was first sold?”

“Very probably, but the vast majority would be lost in cooking.” He rose and paced the room.  “Oh, my dear love, how can I make them understand?”

“By loving them.”

He looked at her, considering.

“That’s how you made me want to listen, and believe what you said.”

“But you had been converted.”

“This was before that - at the very beginning.  Yes, I know that only God can open their eyes to see the truth, but He does use the love shown to unbelievers by His own people.”

Wysau thought that the whole team had already shown a great deal of love to the people.  But he could not give up and go home, because he loved Shimei.

She persuaded him to eat, rest and go to bed.  As she was putting Zaq to bed, it suddenly occurred to her that she was much more cheerful than she had been since the epidemic started.  She might not have had much adult company, but she had been able to carry on a conversation with Atras - even with Pela, to a certain extent.  She was glad they were coming again on the Monday.

On the Sunday, there were new faces in the congregation - but even this did not seem to cheer Wysau.  Shimei prayed for him as she dished up the meal, and he finished changing Phet.

That afternoon, Oloxis contacted Wysau, and asked him to contact Chalata.  First, Chalata listened as Wysau poured out his troubles.  There had been twenty-eight new patients that morning, so the staff on duty had just coped.  There had been no more deaths since Wysau had come home on the Saturday evening; but the situation could worsen dramatically at any time.

“Don’t give up, Wysau; we have a great God.  He has blessed the people of Traitan most wonderfully through the new translation of the Bible, and through the ministry of Trak, Rineat, Obek and Avend.  Rineat is making good progress as a trainee Pastor, and we hope to send him to another large group of believers soon.  Other older and more mature believers are being helped to lead in their churches by volunteer Cirian counsellors, all of whom have had pastoral or missionary experience.  Thank you, too, for your prayers for Feor and the situation in Wendei and in Ishboh.  We will pray for you as a matter of urgency.  And please continue to pray for Feor: for perseverance, and encouragement in his soul.  He is under great pressure.  Praise for the spread of the Gospel in Ishboh - God has been blessing the Wendat Bible translator’s faithful preaching.  God has used him to help dry up demand for alcohol more than any of the other measures that have been put in place recently - though they have helped.  The Zaqan traders have still been coming, but more warily.”

“That’s a point - we should be praising God for using the traders’ own greed to prevent a drug problem here in Remgath.  That’s one thing that did go home at my demonstration - housewives increasingly regard their “cook-in sauce" as a waste of money.  Oh, thank you, Chalata - you’ve cheered me up tremendously.  God is working here - using even this dreadful epidemic for His purposes.” And Wysau wept tears of relief.

“Well, Wysau,” said Tetrak at the evening meal, which they all shared at Abritis and Darte’s home, “I hope that your epidemic’s over.  We only had two admissions on Monday, and none at all today.  They ought to have learnt by now.”

Darte looked doubtful; Abritis said,

“So they ought, Father, but . . . "

“I only wish you were right,” said Wysau.  “But I’m afraid this is only a lull before an even greater storm.  They’ll try it again this weekend.”

Later that evening, in their own home, Wysau was resting with his evening drink, and Shimei was sitting feeding Zaq.

“Wysau, are you awake enough to answer a question?”

“Mm?”

“Atras and Pela have been helping me with the twins, and I’ve been feeding them at lunchtimes, for three days now.  Can we afford to carry on?”

“You’re saving Aloe and Penoe’s wages - they’re being paid from the hospital fund.  And I should be getting overtime.  But they’re orphans, aren’t they?  They should be getting the income from their parents’ inheritance.  Can you remind me tomorrow at breakfast?  And I’ll ask for a member of the administrative staff to visit the girls here, find out who their parents were, and make sure their inheritance is being used by somebody, so that they can receive rent from that somebody.”

“But, as they’re helping so much, I shouldn’t accept anything for their meals, should I?”

“It’ll only be a temporary arrangement, won’t it?  I mean, once things return to normal at the hospital, you won’t need them.”

“Unless Aloe and Penoe decide they prefer to work there.”

“I don’t somehow think they will - not yet.  Teach both these girls food hygiene - that’s very important.  How old is the elder one?”

“Fifteen.”

“Try to teach her to cook.  The novelty of helping with the twins will wear off soon enough.  She’s old enough to help look after younger orphans.  You’re giving both of them a useful training.”

On the Wednesday at lunchtime, Shimei discovered that the girls were getting an evening meal at their aunt’s, but there was never enough for them.  So, that afternoon, Shimei encouraged Atras to change Tendris; she left both girls in charge while she went to work the cleaning hands at Abritis’ house (for Abritis was making sure there were sufficient medicines for the horrific weekend they were dreading), and returned to find all was well.  Then she asked Pela to cope, for Zaq had gone to sleep, while she taught Atras how to prepare their cold salad vegetables for that part of the evening meal.  On the Thursday, when she needed to shop, she went in the afternoon, taking the girls and babies with her, and showed Atras and Pela how to choose good fresh vegetables and meat from the market.  On the Friday afternoon, the lady administrator called, and took down all their details.

There had been no further admissions on those days, but, when Shimei was woken by a cry from Phet at half past six on Saturday morning, she saw that Wysau had gone.  His side of the bed was not even warm.  At ten to nine Abritis turned up with Tendris; and when, at half past ten, Atras and Pela rather tentatively knocked on her door, she welcomed them with open arms.

“We heard that lots of sick people went to the hospital in the night,” they said.

“That’s what my husband said.  That’s why I’m alone.  The hospital is full of sick people, and still more are coming.  My husband’s afraid that some of them are going to die, because there aren’t enough hospital beds or drips or supplies of blood for them all.  But this little girl’s mother has been busy all week, making sure there is enough medicine, bless her!”

“Mrs. Teacher,” said Pela, “these babies of yours have got white hair.  Will it get goldy as they get older, or will they be white-haired like their father?”

“Wysau said it’s very likely that they’ll be white-haired like him.  He was explaining something about the white hair being dominant - I didn’t really understand that bit - but, yes, they will most probably be able to read people’s thoughts.  They may not realize this for years.  “Just treat them like normal children,” he said.  “It would be best if they didn’t find out any sooner than I did.  When I’d been at school for two or three years, one of the other children told me.  Cirian teachers are used to children’s experiments, and they and the parents can make the children understand when it is, and when it is not, helpful to use such gifts.  My parents will soon sort them out.”

Shimei went on with her work, thinking of what Wysau had said next.  “Let’s hope the mothers of Foquar’s children have had the sense not to tell them what they can do.  Maybe by the time they realize, our two will be old and sensible enough to come and help you when necessary.”

“Foquar’s children will be clever, anyway,” she had said.

“They might be naughty because they’re bored.  If you find they learn quickly, teach them as fast as they learn, and move them up a class when they’re ready.  But they may not be particularly clever; at least, not all of them.  Or one of them might be absolutely brilliant.  People vary.  But it might be better for everyone if they never realize they have thought-reading gifts.  Unfortunately, they are bound to ask their mothers who their father was.  The less said about the hereditary nature of such gifts, the better.”

Oh dear, perhaps she shouldn’t have told Atras and Pela!  So, later that day, out of hearing of her children, she warned them not to tell anyone.

The senior staff at that five hundred bed hospital were Cirians.  They all felt that every patient who needed to be admitted to hospital should always find a bed available, and all the staff, drugs and equipment necessary to give the best treatment. Wysau had not found it hard to convince them that there were going to be an even greater number of severe gastro-enteritis cases that weekend.  With great reluctance they had postponed non-urgent treatment originally scheduled for that Friday.  By 6 p.m., all patients who could be sent home, had been sent home.  Only a hundred and two beds were occupied.  Tetrak had suggested that the elders of the church that met in the ancient building should be asked for permission to use their building as an overflow for the hospital.  Permission had been granted; a key hung in the office at the hospital, together with a list of volunteers who could be called upon to give practical assistance.  Some of these had already moved the chairs in the ancient building to the sides; the members had agreed to join other churches for the services that Sunday.

All these preparations proved necessary.  By four on the Saturday morning, four hundred severe gastro-enteritis patients had been admitted; a few were on trolleys in the corridors.  By five on the Sunday morning, that figure had risen to over seven hundred.  There were many more mild cases, but these had been given the relevant antibiotic and been sent home.  There were no more trolleys, no more mattresses; there was no more room in the corridors or between beds in the wards.  So Wysau took the key, and volunteers directed the relatives to support those who could walk downstairs, and those who had to be carried were laid upstairs, in both cases on whatever cloaks or blankets the relatives had brought with them.  Some had nothing; at least the floor was carpeted.  Overworked staff came to these patients, giving injections, supplying various receptacles, supplying invalid cups, baby bottles and trainer cups full of glucose water and salts, for relatives and volunteers to administer in frequent sips.  Relatives fetched more cloaks and blankets from their homes.

One patient, very ill, gave birth to a dead baby.  “Oh!” she wailed, “I’ve killed him!  I passed the broth, and I killed him!”

Wysau said, “Have you other children?”

“Two girls - I’ve killed him!”

“Your girls need you,” said Wysau.  “Calm yourself; have another sip.  If you die, who’s going to give them a baby brother?  Hush now.  Your girls need you.  You must get better, for their sakes.”

A colleague saw Wysau’s face as he came into the hospital mortuary with the tiny body.  “When did you come on duty, Wysau?”

“Just before midnight.”

“You were here on Friday - a full day?”

“Yes.”

“Go home and sleep, and come back at three this afternoon.  No, I insist.  I had a day off on Friday, and slept all that night.  I’ll carry on till four today.”

So Wysau crept in beside Shimei, only half waking her, and slept through her rising, and the twins’ cries as she coped as best she could to give them breakfast and clear away.  While she was making a stew, Zaq was holding onto the sofa, trying to stand.  He wobbled over, bumped his head, and let out a yell fit to wake the dead - but Wysau slept on.  Shimei got them ready and took them to church.

“At least the house will be quiet for Wysau for an hour and a half.”

He did not wake when she and the twins returned.  By the time she had changed them both, they were getting hungry and beginning to cry.

“Hush - you’ll wake your Dad.”

She liquidized their food, and tried to feed them both at once, leaving hers and Wysau’s in the pot, in the oven.  This done, she put them in their playpen.

“If they cry, they cry,” she thought.  “I need my dinner, too.”

She was just bringing the stew to the table when Wysau appeared, showered and dressed.  It was twenty past two.

“That was well timed!” she said.

“I’m due back at three.” He poured himself some sona.

“Eat up, then, love; you’ll need all your strength.”

“I need strength I haven’t got.”

She prayed for him as they ate.  The twins got bored, and made fretful noises.

“You’ve had your dinner, you two, and been changed.  Let us have ours now, there’s good children.”

“Shimei, did you take them out this morning?”

“Yes. I needed to.”

“You’ve done really well.  This stew is good.”

They shared a blue fruit, and more sona.

“I’ll have to go - won’t be back till eleven or midnight - don’t wait up for me, but please pray.  Some patients without drips are dying.  We just haven’t got seven hundred drips.”

“I heard, at the service.  We all prayed for you.”

“We have more needles, because they’re disposable.  We can make up glucose water and salts.”

“We’ve got some Cirian plastic bags for the very cold cupboard.  But the tubes . . . ?"

“Broom handles and clasps,” thought Wysau aloud.  “The broom handles need supports.” His eyes went far away.

“He’s communicating with Darte,” thought Shimei.  She prayed that they might be able to improvise successfully.  She could not think where they could get the plastic tubing from.  Plastic was a substance her people had never made.

Back on duty, Wysau came to one seriously ill mother with a weird-looking contraption made with a broom handle, one of Shimei’s plastic bags, sterilized and filled with blood from a volunteer, a narrow length of hosepipe and a proper needle.  He set it up, and watched as blood dripped down and into her vein. She sighed and closed her eyes.

“Natural sleep,” thought Wysau after a brief examination.  Her sick baby was being plied with glucose water and salts by a conscientious elder sister.

“That’s enough for now.  Give another sip in five minutes - watch the clock.  If you give him too much at once, he’ll be sick.”

“Is he all right, Doctor?”

“When did he last have an injection?”

“Not since this morning.”

Wysau went to check with the volunteer who was keeping records.  He carefully measured the appropriately small quantity of antibiotic, and injected.  The baby burped, and went to sleep.

“Have a rest yourself,” said Wysau.

“Doctor, I’m hungry.”

Wysau stood up and looked round.  Other children between three and twelve were looking round unhappily.  A little thought-reading soon settled the matter in his mind.  He went to talk to one of the volunteers.

An hour and many injections later, Wysau saw Darte and Abritis coming in with ten other makeshift drips, and bags of glucose water with salts.  Abritis set some up while he did others.  “Ten more very seriously ill patients should survive now, Darte - thank you - ” His voice broke.  Then he saw bottles of water, sandwiches and blue fruit being distributed to the healthy children by two of the volunteers.  Abritis followed his gaze.

“Cheer up, Wysau.  We’ll go and make some more drips.”

At the side of the next patient, Wysau had to write out a death certificate.  As he did so, the Pastor of the church that met in the ancient building cleared his throat, and began, loudly and clearly, to explain the need for, and the way of salvation.

Twenty - twenty-five - thirty patients died in the next hour.  Wysau felt overwhelmed.  Such unnecessary suffering - such preventable deaths!

A man called Wysau over.  “My wife.”

Not another!  Wysau felt for a pulse - looked for any other sign of life.

“I’m sorry - there’s no more I can do.”

“She’s dead?”

“She’s dead.”

“Why didn’t your medicine work?” cried the man angrily.

“It was working,” said Wysau as he filled in another death certificate.  “The medicine was killing the bacteria, but she lost too much body fluid.  We haven’t enough drips for seven hundred people.  Five hundred is usually plenty.”

The children began to cry - but their father made no attempt to comfort them.  “Who’s going to look after the children?  Who’s going to cook my meals and keep my house?  She was a good woman - she worked hard.  Everybody loved her.  Why did you save all these others but not my Shala?”

He rose and came at Wysau.  “Look at this woman - she’s got a drip!” Suddenly, with one sharp tug, he pulled out the drip.  Wysau was so angry that in a moment he would have flown at the man; but there was a cry of pain from the woman, whose arm was bleeding.  Immediately Wysau’s years of training took over.  He was kneeling at the woman’s side, putting the drip in again in another place, and calling, in her thoughts, one of the nurses to bring the portable ray machine to mend the tear in her arm.  A volunteer had seen what had happened.  He approached the man and took him gently outside.

Yet, of thirteen of those dead, the relatives went home somewhat comforted, because they knew their loved ones were in paradise; and they, too, had come to know this Saviour as their own.  This sustained him till Darte and Abritis returned with more makeshift drips.  He was able to help put them up, and show Darte that the ten patients on the makeshift drips he had brought earlier were beginning to recover.  Darte took him outside and sat beside him on the steps.

“We’ve used all the suitable tubing we can get hold of,” he explained.

“You’ve probably saved twenty-three lives - thank you, both of you, very much.  And Abritis has been wonderful,” sobbed Wysau.  “If she and Emlota hadn’t kept going all week, we’d never have had enough to go round.”

“Not only they, but also their five assistants,” said Darte.  “Two people, however good, couldn’t have made all this without help.  Let’s thank God for the willingness of these assistants, and the volunteers, and for warning you and Abritis about this weekend.”

“And for causing the subject to come up in private conversation like that,” added Wysau.

“Abritis hadn’t discussed it with me, and if I, and you, hadn’t agreed with her, and Tetrak, too, in the end, she wouldn’t have had the confidence to inspire her assistants to work as they did.”

“Nor would I, to move that all those preparations be made at the hospital,” agreed Wysau.

“And for God’s grace,” resumed Darte.  “The grace He gave to Abritis, to bear the thought of another mother breast-feeding Tendris.  The grace He gave to Shimei, to cope with three babies and two orphan girls, who were helpful, but who needed love.  And He has all the grace you need, Wysau, to bear to watch the suffering of these people that you love.  Remember, God loves them too - and He’s had to use these harsh measures to make them turn to Him, because they wouldn’t listen any other way.  And, for those who do listen, it’ll have been worth all the pain, the thirst, the bereavement, to spend eternity with God in heaven.”

Darte took Abritis to Shimei’s home to fetch Tendris, as Wysau returned to his work.

“May we pray with you before you go?” asked Darte.  “Wysau is being attacked by the Adversary.”

The twins played quietly till Abritis said, “Amen.” Shimei’s eyes glowed her gratitude, even as she sorted out the quarrel that followed.  Afterwards Abritis said,

“It’s time we had the twins for you, so that you can concentrate on the evening service.”

At the service, Shimei found Aloe sitting by herself, and sat beside her.

“Penoe came this morning, while I was at the hospital,” she explained.  “Your husband’s been wonderful, especially during the past hour.  He’s prayed with lots of patients who thought they were going to die.”

“Let’s hope they’ll live like Christians when they recover.”