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 Sixteen

The twins had played a lively game with Darte that evening, and had eaten well.  Neither of them wanted much milk for supper, so, when they were asleep, Shimei expressed some, and put it in two bottles in the cold cupboard.  This done, she wondered how Wysau was getting on.  It was a quarter past ten.  Suddenly there was a knock on her door.  Shimei was a little nervous of opening her door so late.

“Shimei, it’s us,” called Abritis.

Relieved, Shimei let them in.  Abritis was carrying Tendris in her crib, and her bag of baby kit.  “I’ll stay with your two,” she said.  “Wysau needs you, and any baby milk you have, and baby food - particularly rusk.”

“I’ll go with you, and help carry,” said Darte.

“Ooh, yes,” said Abritis.  “Darte, go and get our bottle-warmer.  You’ve got one too, haven’t you, Shimei?”

“Somewhere in the back of this cupboard,” said Shimei, hunting.  “Yes, here we are.”

“Are your batteries still good?” asked Abritis.

They tested them.

“Here’s Darte.  Right, off you go.”

They found Wysau rocking a crying baby in each arm.  Volunteers nearby had mashed up all the extra blue fruit and were feeding this to older babies.

“Quite simply,” said Wysau, “these babies have recovered and are hungry, and their mothers are in no fit state to feed them.  Here you are,” and he gave one tiny baby, crying lustily, to his wife.  Glad of the relative darkness, Shimei sat down and fed the baby.  Darte put one baby bottle of milk into each warmer.  He then opened a packet of baby rusks.

“Bother - the water ought to be boiled,” said Wysau wearily, as another volunteer produced a spoon and two dishes.  Still the baby on his other arm was telling the world, very loudly, that he had still not been fed.

“Boiled water - here you are,” said Darte.  “It’ll be a bit warm.”

“Great,” said Wysau.  He organized two older children into feeding their five and six-month-old siblings.  “Wave the spoonfuls about a bit at first, so the food isn’t quite so hot,” he instructed them.

The baby on his arm, and, by then, another, were still crying as their bottles warmed.  As soon as they were warm, Wysau and Darte fed them.  The quiet was wonderful.  Darte noticed Wysau’s head drooping forwards.

“Wysau.  That baby.  Oughtn’t she to be winded?”

“Oh.  Oh, yes.” There was a massive burp, and a loss of about two tablespoons of milk down Wysau’s shoulder.

“She’s not all that hungry,” reported Shimei.  “She’s gone to sleep.  Where does she belong?”

“I can’t remember,” yawned Wysau.

A volunteer told Shimei, and she put the baby into her crib next to her mother.  The baby Wysau had been feeding also seemed satisfied.  A volunteer took it back, and brought another.

“Teat ought at least to be washed,” mumbled Wysau.

Another volunteer did this.  He started to feed this baby, but sleep was coming over him in waves.  He tried to keep himself awake by talking.

“It’s best for them not to have too much.  They’re only just recovering.”

Strong arms took baby and bottle from Wysau.  “To bed, young man,” said Tetrak firmly.

“Shimei?”

Shimei was burping the second baby she’d fed.  Her elder sister took him from her.

“Off you go, both of you,” said Tetrak.  “I’ve slept for the past eight hours.”

“Thanks,” said Shimei.  She gave Wysau her arm and guided him home to bed.  Abritis, too, was glad to go home.

“The twins have slept, and Tendris had her last feed just now,” she said.

“Great.  Goodnight.”

When Shimei was woken next morning at six thirty by a cry from Phet, there was Wysau, still in bed beside her.  He suddenly gasped, and his eyes went far away.  Shimei went to see to Phet.  As she sat feeding him, Wysau came in and said,

“Oh, what a relief - and oh, dear!”

“What happened?”

“When the volunteer called me over because they couldn’t hush the babies, I was just about to give another injection of antibiotic without having checked the patient’s records - he was so sure he hadn’t had one for hours and hours.  I told him I ought to check his records, anyway; went to help the volunteer, and forgot all about the patient.  When I remembered this morning, I checked with Tetrak.  He said that particular patient was terrified of dying, and kept asking for injections from every doctor he saw.  If I had given him one, I’d have overdosed him.  Thank God for those babies!  But I must go and shower - Tetrak’s worn out.”

He suddenly stopped to listen.

“Tetrak says somebody else has relieved him, and he’s on his way home.  I don’t need to rush.  I’ll go and get my clothes.”

When Shimei returned to her bedroom to get her clothes, Wysau was back in bed, fast asleep.

“Please, God, send relief, for Your holy Name’s sake!  All the doctors are getting so tired that silly mistakes are bound to be made, and they could cost lives.”

On the Monday evening Wysau came home for a half-past six evening meal.

“Hello, Wysau,” said Shimei.  “Nice to see you!  You don’t have to go back tonight, do you?”

“I’m not to go back till Saturday,” he said.  “Haven’t you heard?  The relief flying machine arrived this morning - they ran the hospital under my direction.”

“Oh, how lovely!” cried Shimei.

“Aloe and Penoe will need the rest of this week off, too.”

“Atras and Pela will help me,” said Shimei contentedly.  “Would you like to sleep tomorrow?  Shall I take the children to Abritis’ house?”

“Well - tomorrow, yes.  Tonight I’d like to see my children.”

The next day, a rather sleepy Wysau joined his family at Abritis’ house for the midday meal.  He fed Zaq at first, while Shimei fed Phet - then was informed that the two girls would take this over, so that the parents could relax.

“Phet’s still hungry,” announced Pela, after she had finished feeding him his portion.

“I’m not surprised,” said Wysau.  “This meal is absolutely delicious.”

“I’ll liquidize a bit more,” said Abritis.  She took a small amount of everything for the twins.  “And do help yourselves.”

Every bit was eaten; everybody enjoyed their first course - and Atras had made it.  The dessert was, by comparison, a failure - and Pela had made it.

“We were all so full of first course, we didn’t want much dessert,” said Wysau.  He, and Abritis, and Shimei, realized how Pela felt.

“Who is it, who does the breakfast washing-up?” asked Shimei.

“Usually Pela,” said Atras, “because I lay the table and boil the eggs.  And she did the washing last night.”

“I haven’t been giving you the chance to do your own cleaning, have I?” said Shimei.

The girls were silent.

“Shall we have a cleaning session tomorrow afternoon?”

“I could have the twins,” said Wysau.

“Well,” said Atras, looking guilty, “there’s an awful lot to be done.  We couldn’t do it all in one afternoon.”

“We could, if there were four of us,” said Abritis.  “There’s that milk you expressed this morning, Shimei.  I could leave Darte a bottle.  He’s got the day off tomorrow.”

“I’ve never given Tendris a bottle,” said Darte rather nervously.

“Do you good,” said Abritis.

“But Darte, you did it all right the other night,” said Wysau.  “Bring her round to our place.”

“That would be good,” said Darte, much relieved.

Suddenly Tetrak spoke.  “Atras, you’ve left the door shut - the door to your parents’ room - while you’ve been coming here?  You haven’t opened it, or gone inside?”

“No - yes - I mean,” said Atras, frightened and flustered, “we haven’t opened the door - we have left it shut - we haven’t gone inside.”

“Good,” said Tetrak, heaving a sigh of relief.  “Your parents died in that bed?”

“Yes.”

“When was this?”

“Three weeks and four days ago.”

“They thought that if they rested and drank plenty, they could get better without a doctor,” said Pela in a rush.  “By the time we’d made up our minds that we’d have to call a doctor whether they let us or not, they were lying there so still - the doctor came, and said they were dead.”

“If we’d only called him sooner - ”

“It was probably too late already,” said Tetrak.

“Treatment has to be given quickly if it’s going to be effective,” said Wysau.  “It’s a really nasty infection.”

Suddenly Shimei had one arm round each sister, and they were both crying on her shoulders.

“I know this sounds heartless,” said Tetrak, “but we must get this sorted out.  Am I right in thinking that no-one has washed your parents’ bedding or anything?”

“Yes.”

“We couldn’t face it.  We just wanted to get out of the house.”

“I’m sure the doctor understands,” soothed Shimei.

“I’m sorry, you two,” resumed Tetrak after a pause, “but I don’t think anyone should use that bed or any of its linen again.  We ought to have a bonfire in your garden.”

“But you can’t, not in our garden,” objected Atras.  “There’s the hens.”

“Is there anyone else in your road, who would allow you to have a bonfire in his garden?  Someone with no animals, who lives a few doors away?”

“There are the children who live four doors down,” said Pela.

“Have their parents died, too?”

“Yes.  They thought the same as Mum and Dad.”

“Both?”

“Yes.  The eldest girl is nine.  And there’s little children two doors down - their cousins - their parents have died, too.”

“So no-one will have cleared up their parents’ rooms?”

“No.”

“Do they keep any animals?”

“No.”

“Isn’t anyone looking after these children?”

“The eldest told us she could cope - she didn’t want us interfering.  She might have said that to our neighbours too.”

“They haven’t any relatives?”

“Their only relatives were two doors down.”

“We’d better pray about this,” said Tetrak.

There was a knock at the door. Abritis invited Vitatt and Kiel inside.

“I’m sorry to intrude on a family party,” said Vitatt, “but Kiel’s been with us for three months now, and, although he has tried, he can’t find anywhere else to live.”

“Glad to see you both,” said Wysau, struggling to his feet.  “Come with me to our home.”

Kiel brought his belongings with him.

“He hasn’t any relatives, you see,” explained Vitatt on the way.

“I did have two brothers,” said Kiel, “but they died in the epidemic.  And their wives.” He followed Wysau inside rather nervously.

“Where did they live?”

“On Toela Road.”

“It is unlikely,” thought Wysau, “but I may as well check up.  Shimei,” said Wysau in her thoughts, “could you ask Atras what road she lives on?”

“Toela Road.”

“What numbers are “two doors down" and “four doors down”?"

Shimei consulted with the sisters, and answered.

“Yes, that’s where they lived,” said Kiel.

“Their children still do.”

“Oh! Then perhaps . . . "

“I think you’ll find their houses hardly habitable at present,” said Wysau quickly.  “You stay with us tonight, and I’ll ask Alab’ if you can have the rest of the week off, to help us with your little nephews and nieces.”

Kiel looked round the Cirian house in some trepidation.

“Well, if that’s settled, I’ll be going,” said Vitatt.  “Thank you, Wysau.”

“Thank you, for having him all this time,” said Wysau.  “I should have thought of you sooner, but we’ve been rather preoccupied just lately.”

“It’s others who should be apologizing, not you,” said Vitatt with a warmth that surprised Wysau.  “Good evening.”

“I thought,” said Kiel, “that their neighbours would be looking after them - that they wouldn’t want me to intrude.  You see, my brothers didn’t want to know me when I got into trouble.”

“Let’s hope they didn’t say anything to their children.” And Wysau explained the situation to Kiel.

“You’re a real answer to prayer,” he said.  “We need you - your nephews and nieces need you.  We’ve met this before - people who won’t accept help from any but relatives.  I dread to think of the state of those houses.”

Next morning, it soon became clear that if the fathers had said anything, it had been forgotten.  Kiel was able to let Wysau, Darte and Tetrak into both houses; they took away bed and bedding from both parents’ rooms, and Atras and Pela’s parents’ room, and made a hot but carefully controlled bonfire in the garden that was four doors away from the hens.  Three rooms, not just one, were thoroughly decontaminated.  Kiel cleared up the kitchen and dining room of the second house down with the help (and hindrance) of small nephews and nieces, and made the midday meal for himself and all seven of them.

Both Abritis’ and Shimei’s washing machines were kept busy for the following three days, washing sheets, children’s clothes, towels and drying-up cloths.  The Wednesday afternoon women’s cleaning team was joined by two volunteers - Aloe and Penoe.  How Kiel managed to persuade his eldest niece to allow the team to clean the fourth house down, while he cleaned the bedrooms of the second house down, and she took care of the smaller children, Atras never knew.  She and Pela were busy cleaning the sitting and dining rooms of their own house.

“Thanks, Pela,” she said quietly.

“What for?”

“Making us clean up our own bedrooms and kitchen.  I’d have died of shame.”

“I felt bad enough.  But they were pleased we hadn’t gone into our parents’ room.”

“Thanks,” whispered Atras, and dusted energetically.  She had seen Shimei coming.

“You have made a good job of this room,” she said.  “You know, Kiel’s marvellous with those children.  They’d never have let us clean at all if he hadn’t coaxed them into it.  And although he couldn’t possibly do such a good job on the second house down, with all those children constantly getting under his feet, as we four did on the fourth house down, the eldest wasn’t half as pleased with us as with him.  And he looks happier - he’s found somebody who really wants him.  She’s going to be the “mother" in the second house down, and he the “father" in the fourth.  Oh, by the way, Atras, is there someone in your neighbourhood who takes in washing? Because Kiel is going to need a service like that when he goes back to work.”

On the Thursday morning, as Shimei got the breakfast, Wysau sat and thought-read.

“No admissions on Monday or Tuesday,” said Wysau as he sat down at the table and began to feed Phet, “and only two yesterday; and they were not gastro-enteritis cases.  No more deaths from gastro-enteritis since midnight on Monday.  Only three between midnight on Sunday and midnight on Monday.”

“So, by the time the relief flying machine came, the epidemic was over?”

“No.  On the Monday, we still had six hundred patients to care for, and five hundred on the Tuesday.  We needed all the volunteers and all the supplies - many of our drips were worn out.”

“And you were all worn out too.”

“I was.  I did feel better yesterday morning, but I’m rather tired today.  I expect you’re tired too.”

“Yesterday afternoon was exhausting!  Am I grateful for our cleaning hands!  And I’m glad that Atras and Pela are coming.  It’ll give you a chance to relax.”

That afternoon, the lady administrator called to see Atras and Pela.  She had found that their uncle had been using their inheritance since the death of their parents, because he was under the impression that his wife was looking after them.  His wife said that she was far too busy looking after little children whose parents were recovering to take charge of two older girls who could look after themselves - except for that rather inadequate evening meal.  Atras explained:

“Mrs. Teacher has been looking after us.  She’s been teaching us to cook.”

“And to clean,” added Pela.

“And to look after little ones,” said Shimei - for, on the lady’s arrival, Zaq had crawled to Atras and Phet to Pela, and asked to be taken on their knees.

“They can change them?” asked the lady.

“And bath them,” said Atras proudly.

Shimei nodded.  “And feed them.”

“Mrs. Teacher, or her Mum, has to feed the little one,” said Atras, indicating Tendris on Shimei’s knee, “but I can change and bath her.”

“Do you think,” asked the lady, “that you two could help look after little children whose parents are still weak and tired, because they’ve been very seriously ill?”

“My own nannies will be working for me, once they have recovered from their hard work at the hospital,” said Shimei.  “I hope to go back to teaching in two months.”

“Oh good,” said Pela.

“I think we could,” said Atras.  “Especially if the parents were there, and we could ask them if we were stuck.  I’m too old for school now; I’m sixteen.”

“You’d have to cook for the parents as well as the children and yourselves,” said Shimei.  “And you, Pela, could take the older children to school with you, and bring them home again.  Nothing fatty or spicy for people whose tummies have been very poorly.  And count the meat and vegetables according to the number of people you’re cooking for.”

“We’ll remember to wash the food, and the dishes, properly, as you’ve taught us,” said Pela.

“And uncooked vegetables for one meal, every day,” said Atras.

“My, you have been well taught,” said the lady.  “Listen, you two: this is what we are going to do.  We’re going to make sure that somebody uses each orphan’s inheritance, and that that somebody pays rent to the orphan if he or she is over eight years old, or the person looking after him if he’s younger.  So older orphans can pay carers to look after them, or if, like you two, you’re old enough to look after yourselves, you can buy your own food and clothes with the money.  But it won’t be that much; you’ll want other work as well.  So, may I place you, you two, with a family whose parents are only just recovering?  And, if you do well, you could look after little orphans in your own home, later on.”

“We might not get on with the parents,” said Atras a little nervously.

“A word of advice,” said Shimei.  “The mother is queen in her own home.  Unless she has very bad ideas that will make herself and her family ill, do things as she wants them done.  I know how I’d feel if my nannies didn’t do that in my home with my children. If she’s too ill and doesn’t care, or doesn’t ask or say, do as I’ve taught you.  If she does say, and it’s not a dirty or unhealthy thing, do as she wishes.  All right?”

Atras and Pela went to their aunt’s for their meal as usual that evening, but told her that, from the next day, they would cook for themselves.

“I must give them their rent money, dear,” said their uncle.  He had worked out how much it should have been and deducted the price of their evening meals.  Atras was amazed.

“Put it away carefully, and don’t spend it all at once,” he advised them.

“My nieces!” cried their aunt.  “Taught to cook by a princess!”

“By the wife of the first stranger doctor,” said their uncle with a shudder.

“It is a bit scary when the strangers read your thoughts,” said Pela, “but they’re ever so helpful.  Thank you, Auntie, for feeding us all this time.  Now we’ve got to help look after some little ones.”

On the Friday morning, there were Wysau and Shimei, feeding the twins their breakfast.

“Isn’t it lovely to be just us!” cried Shimei.

“It is,” agreed Wysau.  “Today I’ve more energy to change nappies.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven - take-off!”

Phet looked surprised, and let the mouthful in.

“Of course, you’ve never heard the countdown for lift-off.  Thud-ud, thud-ud.”

Phet recognized this noise, but shut his mouth firmly.

“Have you had enough?” asked his father, surprised in his turn.

“Try the countdown again,” suggested Shimei.

This time Phet admitted the mouthful, but Zaq preferred the berr noise.

Wysau came home at his usual time on the Saturday, and helped Shimei dish up the meal and feed the twins.  But, as they ate, he said,

“I’m afraid we won’t be getting any overtime payments - the hospital fund is low, through paying the volunteers for food they bought, prepared and brought in for the children and the babies.  The volunteers won’t get any payment for their work, so they should, at least, get their food given to them.  Aloe and Penoe have been treated as volunteers - no-one will pay them unless we do.”

“How are we going to afford it?”

“You and I will have to have vegetables only, when we’re alone in the evenings.  The twins do need a little meat.  Epidemics like this affect the prosperity of the entire city, because so many people are not able to do their daily work for a fortnight at least.  Many people will be having to scrimp and save for a while - we’re not the only ones.”

“I never thought that one day I should be glad of cheap vegetables.  But the twins are going to need bigger clothes.  They’re in the largest sizes of the baby clothes we had given to us.”

“I hadn’t realized that.  We’ll have to bring this need to our God.”

So, that evening, they did just that.

“We’ll just have to trust God to provide for us,” said Wysau.  We mustn’t get into debt, and we must pay Aloe and Penoe.”

“I’m not due back at school for almost two months,” said Shimei.  She noticed that Wysau had not suggested that she do without Aloe and Penoe.  Perhaps he was waiting for her to say it.  But if she didn’t have them working for her, how could she go back to teaching?

“Perhaps there’s meat in the very cold cupboard,” she thought.  But she hadn’t had much chance to shop during the epidemic, and the very cold cupboard was almost empty.  This meant that they did have the money to pay their nannies at their usual rate.  Shimei found, on the Monday and Tuesday mornings, that this was very much appreciated.  But she would have to shop the next day, and how could she afford another shop on the Friday or Saturday?

“Be anxious for nothing,” she read, “but in everything by prayer (including worship) and supplication let your requests be made known to God;

And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will garrison your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

That afternoon there was an unexpected knock at her door.  Penoe was changing Zaq, so Shimei, with Phet on her hip, went to open the door.

“Very cold cupboard?” asked the Cirian who came in,bearing frozen food in a large plastic box.  Shimei opened the lid, but had to go and put Phet in his playpen before she could help pack the food into its usual places.  Naturally Phet complained at this abrupt desertion; but his mother and his nanny, both fully occupied, could only call to him.  Another large plastic box arrived, containing more frozen food.  In came a crate of sona and various fruit juices, and a large box of a variety of fruits.  Still more supplies came - liquid for the cleaning hands, powder for the washing and washing-up machines, and batteries for clocks, torches and other similar Cirian gadgets.

“Do we share this with others - with Darte and Abritis?”

“No, this is all for you - Darte and Abritis have received theirs.  Oh, and there’s another box for you, as there was for them.”

He came in again, carrying an enormous cardboard box - so big that Shimei thought it was a good thing he was so tall, or he would not have been able to see where he was going over its top.  He was gone before Shimei could say more than a hurried “Thank you.” She went over to Phet and drew him out of his playpen, saying,

“Phet, you should be laughing and cooing for joy.  Come and see what’s in this box.  Ooh, look, new towels - clothes for you and Zaq.  Just look at this smart little robe! And these lovely leather sandals.  They’re a bit big for you yet, though.”

“They’ll fit him once he’s walking properly,” said Penoe, who had brought Zaq to see the treasures in the box.

“Yes, there’s two pairs - two of everything.”

“Are they new?”

“The towels are.  I never know whether Cirian clothes are brand new or not, because it’s such good quality material that it lasts for ages.  Ah, there’s two sizes - one for very soon, and one for three months later.”

“These look far too big,” said Penoe, taking out another pair of sandals.

“They’re so big, they might fit Wysau.  Oh, perhaps they are for Wysau.”

“And these for you.  How do they know your sizes?”

“Wysau and I went there not so long ago.  These sandals are fully adjustable - look, you can fasten the straps in any of these holes.  No, Phet, they’re not to be chewed.  Do you suppose these two would entertain each other for half an hour, while we do some putting-away?  Your playpen isn’t really such a dreadful place, especially when you’re in it together.”

As they put them away, further treasures came to light - two educational toys, and two grown-up robes, one for Shimei and one for Wysau.  Everything was put away by the time he came home.

“It’s marvellous,” he enthused over the evening meal, “to see the hospital very cold cupboard completely restocked, and new equipment in plenty - new supplies for Abritis’ lab. - everything we need.”

“Everything we needed, too,” said Shimei happily.  “I don’t need to shop tomorrow at all - except for oil.  If the very cold cupboard hadn’t been so empty, there wouldn’t have been room for it all.  Oh, and I won’t have Tendris for a few days, except for Friday evening, when they’re all going out for dinner on the relief flying machine.  Abritis’ parents are staying for a few more days - they feel they haven’t seen enough of the grandchild they thought they would never have.  They’re going back with the Cirian volunteers on the Tuesday after next.”

“That reminds me - we’ve been invited to the flying machine for Sunday midday meal and evening meal.”

“And the twins?”

“And the twins.”

Physically, and, to a certain extent, economically, the people of Remgath had recovered from gastro-enteritis by the time the Cirian volunteers had taken Abritis’ parents home with them.  The epidemic had make a lasting change in attitude.  Shimei was surprised to hear from Atras that the mother, the queen of the house in which she and Pela worked, was glad to learn from them what they had learnt in the stranger household.

Shimei went into school for two mornings three weeks before she was due to start work there again, to remind herself of what went on, and find out what the teacher from whom she was taking over had been teaching her class.  She was thoroughly reminded of the need to prepare lessons and mark books.  Every morning, and for two hours in the afternoons, at least, she would have to confide her darlings entirely to either Aloe or Penoe.  She did trust them; they had never let her down yet.  They attended the services, and listened attentively, but this was not the same, necessarily, as knowing God for themselves.  Shimei began to pray for them with greater earnestness, but there seemed to be no opportunities to speak to them about Christ.  One or other of the children always seemed to require attention - if not all three at once.  She had already taught her nannies to read and write.

Then, during the week before she was to start teaching again, Wysau said,

“Let Penoe know she could train as a children’s nurse - she was really good at the hospital.”

In trepidation, afraid of losing such a good nanny, Shimei passed the message on.

“I would like to train,” said Penoe, “but not just yet.  I’d like to work for you till the twins go to school on your husband’s world - probably for Abritis till Tendris does, as well.  If that’s all right.”

“That’s lovely,” said Shimei, greatly relieved.

“You see, when nurses work at the hospital, they have to take it in turns to work on a Sunday.  I need to learn more about God before I’m ready to do that.”

“What do you mean, exactly?”

“Well, I’m only a baby Christian - I need looking after, and feeding on milk, for a while, until I grow up a bit.  Aloe feels the same.”

“Both of you!” cried Shimei, delighted.

“It’s like this,” said Penoe, a little embarrassed.  “During the last weekend of the epidemic, one of Father’s friends became seriously ill.  He was carried to the hospital, and taken into the ancient building.  There were no beds.  Father was furious.  Then the Pastor of the church that meets there began to speak.

“You can’t blame the strangers,” he said.  “They warned you again and again, in detail, and in time.  You didn’t have to continue that superstitious practice.  Now you have to bear the consequences.  And it’s very good of the strangers to work so hard to save so many lives.  If some die, it’s not their fault, but that of the patients themselves.

Suffering doesn’t always work out fairly in this world.  Some have died after only doing this once; some have been saved after “passing the broth" fifty times.  Many babies have died because their mothers “passed the broth”.  But we are all sinners.  We all deserve to be punished for our sin by a holy God.  Even the strangers are sinners - but sinners saved and made holy by the holy God they serve.

Some of you are dying.  If it’s too late in this life, it is not for eternity.  Come to God now - confess your sin and His justice - beg for forgiveness because the Saviour died - and, instead of going to everlasting punishment, you can go to everlasting joy in the presence of the Saviour and of His almighty Father.”

My father looked at his dying friend.  There were tears streaming down his face.  “I did it,” he whispered.  “I did it many times, and now I’m dying for it - but I can still be saved - please, Saviour - ” His face lit up, as if he could see Someone my father could not see - and he died.  Father stood there staring.  He had never seen his friend so happy or so peaceful as he was in death.”

“Do go on.”

“That’s all he said to us, but he was so different!  That was what made me realize we needed to be changed too.  He gets better and better as the days go by.  He’s learning to be thankful, and to praise God; he’s even started making his bed!”

“Sorry to intrude, Wysau,” said his visitor, Vitatt, “but we’ve a very difficult problem, and I thought you might be able to help.”

“Come in, come in,” said Wysau.  Shimei also rose to welcome, not only Vitatt, but his younger friend.

“This is Gnosser, my legal friend - he’s trained as a lawyer, and he was asked to defend a man charged with a murder done in the course of a burglary.  I am glad to see you, too, Mrs. Teacher.”

“Do sit down,” said Shimei politely.  “A glass of sona and blue fruit juice?”

“Yes, please.”

Vitatt waited for her to return with the drinks, and sit down, before continuing his story.

“Just as I felt when I was working as a lawyer, Gnosser does not wish to defend a man he knows to be guilty.  He went to see him, in order to explain why he could not accept this task, but found himself unable to look him in the eye and say, “You are guilty, so I can’t defend you.” The poor man has no alibi - how could he?  His wife died three years ago; their children have grown up, got married and live separately.  At the time of the burglary - and murder - he says he was at home in bed.”

“He’s sixty-two,” said Gnosser, “and looks seventy.  I can’t believe he had the physical strength to commit the offences he is charged with.  He’s a tired, gentle old man.  Yet, except for himself, all the evidence points to his guilt.” He paused.

“I can’t find his mind just like that,” said Wysau.  “I’d need to be introduced to him.  The best thing would be for you to arrange a meeting with him to discuss the case, and let me know.  I could read his thoughts as he talks to you about it, and tell you if he is telling the truth.”

“We could,” said Vitatt, “but that wouldn’t tell us who the real murderer is.”

“Go on,” encouraged Wysau.

“While we were talking over this case, I heard a voice in my mind.”

“Yes?”

“The person who spoke had clearly been reading our thoughts for some five minutes already. `Mr. Correr is not guilty,’ it said. `The guilty man is Faz the Toll-Hair - that’s what the other man called him.  The other man did the burglary with him, but Faz did the murder.’"

“The Toll-Hair?” asked Wysau.  “I haven’t heard that expression before.”

“It means he has hair here, and all round the back of his head, but none on top.  Correr has white wispy hair, and he’s not bald on top.”

“Whereabouts was the burglary committed?” asked Wysau.

“Pennin Street, number 39.”

“Just a moment.”

The “moment" lengthened into several.

“He’s thoughtreading,” explained Shimei.

“Mrs. Teacher, while we’re waiting,” resumed Vitatt, “could you tell us anything about someone called Lath?  The voice said that was his name.”

“Oh yes.  He’s one of Foquar’s children - the cleverest of them all.  He’s only five, but he’s one of the best at maths. In the school.  And he knows about his gifts - he communicates regularly with a foster-uncle on Cirian, who is trying to teach him, among other things, how to use the gifts he has, and not misuse them.  The others don’t know yet, and Lath has been strictly warned not to tell them.”

“So it could have been him,” said Gnosser.

“But how do we know if he is telling the truth?” asked Vitatt.

“I’ve a funny feeling - Pennin Street, number 35, did you say?”

“Thirty-nine.”

“I think Lath lives with his granny at number 37.”

“Oh.  So he could have heard them, and woken, and had too much sense to confront them, but read their thoughts instead?

“I’m not absolutely sure,” said Shimei.  “The address is back at the school.  But I could look it up, and tell you definitely.”

“Is he a truthful child?”

“Yes,” said Shimei.  “I’ve never had any trouble with him telling lies - though some of the others have tried it on in their time,” she added dryly.

Wysau’s eyes saw them again.

“Lath’s evidence is corroborated by his foster-uncle on Cirian.  He woke, frightened, and heard them; he woke his foster-uncle, and led his mind to theirs.  His foster-uncle has been working overtime to gather evidence for you.  But these two deliberately framed Correr.  Oh, by the way, the other man’s name is Phio - at least, that’s what he is called by Faz, and by his own wife.  Now, by speaking to you while Lath’s foster-uncle is reading my thoughts, I’ve led his mind to yours, so that he will be able to contact you direct when he has some evidence, or can tell you where to find it.”

“What’s the matter, Lath?” asked Shimei one morning after school. She had noticed he had not been able to concentrate.

“I’m going to have to give evidence at the trial.  I want to - I don’t want to let an innocent man be hung - but I’m frightened - not of the trial itself, but what they might try to do to me or Granny afterwards.”

“But if Faz gets hung - ”

“He couldn’t, but Phio could.”

Shimei saw his point.  “I must pray for you, and ask others to pray too.  God never goes to sleep; He always sees everything.  Nothing can happen that He does not allow.  Now, can you remember about those plants?  The ones that grow wild in the foothills?”

“Where are they?  Ah.  This one is poisonous.  These four are in the same family and taste nasty.  These are edible - this one is rich in vitamins and minerals.  These two contain iron - these three are rich in Vitamin C.”

“So you were listening?”

Lath looked at her with mischief in his eyes.  Shimei sighed.  “Will you remember?  Try and say all that again without reading my thoughts.”

There was a Prayer Meeting on the smaller flying machine four days later, and Shimei asked for prayer for Lath.

“Haven’t you heard?  The trial began on Monday.  Today Faz the Toll-Hair was convicted; tomorrow he’ll hang.  Phio had to restore what was stolen, and pay for the window they broke.”

“Oh.  By the way, are any of the Mums eating those vegetables that grow wild in the foothills?”

“They might if their children fetched them for them,” said Thilish.  “The Mums are too busy.  And, for those with little children, it’s too far to walk.”

“Shall I organize an outing to the foothills for Tuesday next week?” suggested Shimei, “and all the children can take a good vegetable home for their families.”

“Good idea,” agreed Ciecet.  “If they all started to grow and eat those vegetables, it would promote the healing of their ancets.”

“Bring us some too, could you, Shimei?” begged Tsie.  “I sell almost all of the ragged-leaved vegetables I grow these days.  Some of the vitamin and mineral rich ones.”

“I must make sure all the children get decent specimens

After dinner on the Tuesday evening, Shimei dozed off.  She woke an hour later, to find that Wysau had laid her on the bed, and covered her legs.

“Oh, you’re awake.  Whatever have you been doing today?”

“All-day outing to the foothills, with a picnic.”

“Let’s have a look at your feet.” Wysau rubbed in some soothing ointment.  “Now sit up.  How about your lessons for tomorrow?”

“Oh help!”

“I am.  You’ll manage better now you’re not so tired.” And he lay down on the bed and dozed off.  Shimei went downstairs feeling a bit cross, but soon saw that Wysau had put the twins to bed.  There were no protests about this - and Shimei remembered that they had not slept that afternoon.  Could she hope they would sleep right through the night?  Well, she must prepare her lessons, anyway.

On the Friday evening, as Wysau served out their meal, he said, “There’s a lot here, Shimei.”

“There didn’t seem any point in keeping little bits of this and that - I’ve been throwing too many such bits away lately. A proper extra helping, already cooked, might come in handy.”

Wysau went to the door and looked out.  “Come,” he called. It was to Shimei little Lath ran, and buried his face in her dress.

“Whatever’s happened?”

“Granny - Granny’s dead.”

All Shimei could do was share his shock and grief - but Wysau said aloud,

“No, Lath.  You took home the right vegetable.  Mrs. Teacher made sure you each had a good vegetable to take home.  Didn’t both of you eat some last night?”

Hope returned to Lath’s eyes.  “We did - we both did - and we were fine.”

“Someone else must have given your Granny the poisonous one while you were out at school.”

Although he was so intelligent, he was only five years old.  He had seen his mother die - and had just gone home to find his grandmother dead - within two years.  Shimei took him on her knee and rocked him as if he were Zaq.

“I’ll go and make up the bed in the spare room,” said Wysau.

“Can I really stay?”

"`Course,” said Shimei.  “You’ll have to behave, though, and come with us to church on Sunday.”

“I’m not staying in alone.”

“You’re not wandering round outside by yourself.  You’re coming with us.”

Lath hugged her - and was silent.

“He’s telling his “uncle”," explained Wysau in Shimei’s thoughts.  She sat holding him till the twins began to cry, and Lath slipped off her knee.

“Teatime,” said Wysau, coming back into the room.

“It’s a reprisal,” said Gnosser.

“Obviously,” said Vitatt.  “But how do we prove it?  How can I prosecute the little chap, when I know he’s innocent?”

“You could hold an inquest,” suggested Gnosser.

“Yes, Vitatt, I agree,” said Wysau when taken aside after the morning service that Sunday.  “You must do something to clear the air.  I will communicate with Lath’s “uncle" to see if he has any evidence, or can point me in the right direction.”

On the Monday morning, as the children arrived, one mother stopped Shimei and said,

“I don’t know how you can harbour that little murderer in your home.”

“If he were guilty, he would never have come to us,” Shimei pointed out.  “He knew perfectly well that if he told my husband a lie, he would know.  The people whose place it is to decide how his grandmother died, and who was guilty, are the Public Prosecutor and his lawyers, and they are going to hold an inquest into his grandmother’s death.  If anyone has any evidence, could they please go and see the Prosecutor and tell him about it.  He wants all the evidence he can find.”

“Such as?”

“Did anyone see Lath going home at lunchtime that day?  Or did anyone see someone else going into his grandmother’s house during the morning?  And was that person carrying anything?  Was he a friend of the grandmother’s, or someone else who never usually went to see her?  That sort of thing.  Tell your husband - pass the news round.  Did anyone see Lath sitting at his usual market stall, skinning the little mammals, as they took their children home from school that day?  The more evidence the Public Prosecutor has, the more likely it is that the inquest will uncover the truth.”

Shimei hurried to her class, and found Lath trying to ignore the taunts of a few of his classmates.

“Tell him to go home, Mrs. Teacher!  We don’t want a murderer in our class!”

“Hush,” Shimei said sternly.  “I am a teacher, not a judge.  And it’s not your job, either, to decide whether a person is innocent or guilty.  The Public Prosecutor is going to hold an inquest - an investigation - into her death.  Tell your parents that if they have any evidence, they should go and see him.  Now we will get on with our lesson.”

After school, Lath insisted on going to the market stall, but soon came home again.

“He doesn’t want me any more.  I’ll frighten the customers away.”

“You come and have something to eat,” said Shimei.  “We don’t need the money.”

A few children from Lath’s class did not attend school on the Tuesday morning, but by the Friday all but one were back at school, and the atmosphere in the class had much improved.  So Wysau and Shimei took Lath and the twins to church with them as they always did, without expecting anything unusual.  On the way there, they passed Pela with a small group of children.  She said “Hello" rather distantly.  “She’s busy with the children,” thought Shimei.

Though the meeting-place was crowded, no-one sat next to Lath, till a delayed Thilish panted in.  After the service, people who, in the past, had often come up to speak to them, turned away.

“Auntie Shimei,” said Lath, “let’s take the twins home, and then people will talk to Uncle Wysau.”

“Lath was right,” said Wysau when he joined his family for lunch.  “People had plenty to say to me, and I to them.  Oh, it is sad when believers get carried away by the prejudices of the worldly!  But there is one thing that cheered me.  One mother said she understood now why we wanted people to eat those vegetables that grow wild in the foothills - to make their ancets strong again, after all the tummy upsets they had when they were children, and now the epidemic.  The road of love is a long, hard one - as our Saviour found - and many did not understand His message.  But when some do understand, you know it has all been worthwhile.”

“No evidence,” reported Wysau to the rest of the team.  “No-one saw or heard anything odd.  Someone just slipped in quietly and substituted one vegetable for another.  I wonder how many of those other vegetables got thrown away.”

“They didn’t,” said Thilish.  “Most families have four members - they finished their vegetable that same evening.  There have been no reports of stomach-ache or trouble of any kind.  People are too poor to throw away good food.”

“What a relief!”

“But they will be nervous of sending their children unaccompanied to choose wild vegetables.  It’s perfectly reasonable, Wysau.  I shall have to teach the mothers, too.”

“What concerns me is the inquest,” said Abritis.  “People will not believe that Lath is entirely innocent of his grandmother’s death until it is proved beyond reasonable doubt; perhaps not even then.  And how can anything be proved without evidence?”

“Haven’t you discovered anything?” begged Wysau desperately of Tauton on the evening before the inquest.

“Of course Phio did it,” said Tauton.  “He dressed up as an old woman.  But thought-reading evidence is not admissible on

Yumelpthi, and I can’t see how you can possibly prove it in any other way.”

The next day, the inquest opened.

“I have two children at the school, your Honour,” explained the mother to the judge.  “My Kedai’s eight, and my little Gan is five, and has only just started.  So I went with him into the foothills.  We all learned about plant families, and the teaching about the wild vegetables was very clear and often repeated.  The children were shown specimens of every one, not just from the front, but they were all passed round so they could look at them properly, and smell them, too.  They all played a lively game, they all washed their hands in a stream, and then we sat down to eat our lunches.  Not till after lunch, when the children were asked questions to make sure they had understood about the vegetables, were small groups of children sent to fetch one of a particular sort.  No-one was asked to bring a nasty-tasting or poisonous vegetable.  They were strictly warned not to touch the poisonous ones.  The teachers ensured that each child had a good vegetable to take home, and, when we had all returned to the school, the senior teacher, the wife of the stranger doctor, examined every one carefully before the child took it home.”

“Did you take a vegetable home?”

“We had two - one for each of my children.  We washed and ate them both uncooked.  They were quite pleasant to taste, and no-one in our family had any stomach trouble afterwards - not even indigestion.”

Another mother, this time a mother of three, gave similar evidence.  She had two brothers and a sister, all with families; none of them had had any problems with the vegetables.  “My eldest son wants to take seeds from the best vegetable later on in the summer,” she added, “so that, next spring, he can plant them in our garden.  But now I think I will go with him, to make quite sure he gets the right seeds.”

Lath was called to give evidence.

“I took a vegetable home.  It was the very best one.  Granny and I had some that same evening, but we didn’t finish it. Granny said she’d keep some for her lunch.  Next morning I went to school as usual, and after my lunch I went to skin little mammals at the market stall.  I didn’t get home till five o’clock.  And there she was, on the floor.  The chair was knocked over.  There was the rest of a vegetable on the table - and it didn’t look right.”

“Did it smell different from the one you shared with her the night before?”

“I don’t know.  The smell of vomit was so bad.  Granny’s hand was cold.  I was frightened.  I ran away.”

“Where did you go?”

“To the stranger doctor’s house, to Mrs. Teacher.”

Shimei was called, and corroborated evidence already given.

“Did he give you the impression that he was feeling guilty?”

“No.  He was very frightened and distressed, as one would expect.  If he were guilty, I do not think he would have come to us.  He knows perfectly well that my husband can read his thoughts, and would know if he had done anything wrong.”

“Do you wish to add anything?”

“There is one point I would like to make.  This child has been working every afternoon for many months, skinning little mammals in the market, to help support his grandmother and himself.  He had no-one else in the world to love or look after him.  What possible motive could he have to harm her?”

Vitatt summed up.

“We have established that the vegetable Lath brought home from school was edible and good.  Both the child and the grandmother shared it without any ill effects.  At some time between their evening meal and the grandmother’s lunchtime, the remains of the good vegetable were removed, and leaves from a poisonous one put in their place.  As the child was out regularly between eight in the morning and five at night, someone else, with a grudge against the child or his grandmother, would have had more opportunity than the child of carrying out this fatal substitution.  However, for lack of evidence, we shall have to record an open verdict.”

“It was the best we could do,” said Vitatt apologetically.

“It was the only thing you could do,” agreed Wysau sadly.

“Then you won’t be angry when I tell you that Arad had to be fined a great deal in court the other day.”

“Arad - oh, yes.  I’m sorry, but I’m not altogether surprised.  I’m sorry for his mother.  He wore her out so much while he was a baby in his mind, that, when his mind began to grow up, she had no energy to discipline him properly.  She had no husband to help her - he had no older brother - you see?  I should have given her some vitamin tablets - but, then, she might have given them to him.”

“I shall never understand you strangers,” said Vitatt, “but you’re right about the discipline.”

The midday meal was just over an hour later than usual - this was normal on a Sunday.  By then the family was hungry, so it was a large cooked meal, and, except when he was on duty, Wysau would prepare it.  This meant that Shimei found it particularly enjoyable, and, often, so did other people.  That Sunday, they only had one guest, and he, Lath, had devoured his portion long before Wysau or Shimei had finished theirs, for they were each feeding a twin as well as themselves.

“That was scrumptious,” said Lath.

“Glad you liked it,” said Wysau.

“May I have some more?”

Shimei looked into the dishes.  “Yes, by all means - help yourself - only leave a little, because the twins might want some too.”

Lath took her at her word.  She had to give Phet most of her attention, but gave Lath a quick glance now and then.

He was sitting, eating with a good appetite, obviously enjoying his food.

The sight reminded Shimei forcibly of someone else, who had often sat at her father’s table, obviously enjoying his food.

Wysau looked at her, glanced at Lath, and back at Zaq. “When we’ve had our pudding,” he said aloud, “if you help Auntie Shimei clear the table and stack the washing-up machine, I could get the sona, and you could find a game for us to play.”

“A sitting-down game?”

“That’s right.”

“Well done, Wysau,” thought Shimei.

“Please pray for me - I will for you.”

That evening, when Wysau was sure that Lath was asleep, he came down to ask Shimei to pray with him.  “I was horrified at the darkness in my own heart.”

“I couldn’t help remembering the sort of thoughts Foquar tried to put into my mind.  I was so grateful for your prayers.”

“And I was for yours.  So let’s pray for each other for tomorrow.”

“Our holy, heavenly Father,” began Wysau, “we - ”

And Zaq cried.

An hour later, they tried again.  But it was late, and Shimei yawned, so Wysau made his prayer brief.

“And, to cap it all,” continued Lath’s “uncle”, “he had to give evidence at the inquest.  Although the presiding judge said that it was far more likely that someone else had substituted the poisonous vegetable for the wholesome one, he could not say, for lack of evidence, that Lath had not done it.  After his involvement with his mother’s death, many suspect him.  No-one would take him in - he’s staying with Wysau and Shimei.”

“Poor little chap,” said Thenlis.

“If only they’d admit thought-reading evidence, I could have testified that Phio had done it.”

“Definitely?”

“Oh yes.  And it would cause problems for Wysau and Shimei.”

“What?”

“Adopting Lath.  Not only because they both - especially Shimei - have unpleasant memories of his father, but also because other people do.  And their eldest son would naturally succeed to the throne of Ishboh.  The people of Ishboh would prefer their eldest twin.”

“So what do you suggest?”

“If we married, we could adopt him.”

“True.”

“Would you like that?”

“I don’t know.  What would you say if I said I’d rather not adopt Lath?”

“That I’m sorry to have made a nuisance of myself.” He rose to leave, and was out of her door before she had a chance to explain herself.

Annelis, her eight-year-old daughter, came home from school.

“I thought Tauton was coming to the evening meal.”

“He won’t, now.”

“Why not?”

“Well - he asked me to marry him so that we could adopt Lath.”

“And?”

“I wanted to be sure he wanted me for myself, not just as a mother for Lath.  But he didn’t give me a chance to explain.”

“Oh Mum!” cried Annelis.  She stamped upstairs, muttering to herself about the stupidity of grown-ups.  Thenlis sighed.  She was truly sorry - she missed Tauton - but what could she do?  She knew him well enough - his sensitivity - to know he would not come back.  She tried to concentrate on making their evening meal, but she kept on kicking herself for her mishandling of his proposal.  She would not have minded adopting Lath - she liked what she knew of him - but she had to be sure Tauton wanted to marry her for herself.  She had lost her chance.  It was too late now.

A ring at the door.  Oh dear.  “Come in,” she called wearily.  “Tauton!”

He entered rather nervously.

“Annelis said - you just wanted to be sure I wanted you for yourself.”

She nodded.

“I’ve wanted you for the past four years, but I thought I was too old.”

“Tauton.”

“I’m fifteen years older than you.”

“Fiddlesticks!”

Annelis came down to find them dishing up the meal together. “That’s better!” she cried.  “Now tell me about my new little brother.”

“Wait a minute, Annelis,” said Tauton.  “We can’t apply for permission to adopt him till we’re married.”

“Couldn’t he come to stay while they’re seeing about permission to adopt?”

“If he lived on Cirian, that would be a good idea,” said Thenlis.  “But have you thought about how expensive it would be to charter a spaceship to go and fetch him?  We’ll have to wait till a supply ship is going there anyway.”

“How ever long will that be?”

“Two months?  Four months?  I don’t know.”

“They have recently received a large cargo of supplies,” said Tauton.  “Could be six months.”

“We need time to adjust, all of us,” said Thenlis, “to our marriage, before Lath comes.  Assuming his relatives give their consent to the adoption.”

“Please hurry up and get married, then.”

“Yes,” said Tauton.  “Next Saturday.”

“Great,” said Annelis.

“He’s a bit difficult to manage,” reported Aloe to Shimei.  “I was wondering, quietly, in my own mind, why his own relatives didn’t come and fetch him, when he suddenly replied to my thoughts in my head!  He won’t play with Phet or Zaq, and he won’t help, not even with laying the table.  He’ll come out shopping with us, because he’s afraid of being left in the house alone.  Otherwise, all he’ll do is read or watch the television.”

Shimei consulted with Wysau that evening.

The next day, on the way home from school, Lath said,

“Enin and Tiat (the more intelligent of Foquar’s other sons) would come round to play, if they were asked together.”

“That makes extra work for Auntie Aloe or Auntie Penoe,” said Shimei.  “I don’t think they’d like that.”

“Oh, please!  Other children have friends round to play.”

“Will you help either Auntie for a while every afternoon for a week at least?  And then I’ll consider the matter again.”

“What will I have to do?”

“What they ask you to do.”

“Mum never made me.”

“You were smaller then.  And she didn’t realize how clever you are.  You could be really helpful if you tried a bit, and listened carefully to what they asked you to do, and how they wanted you to do it.  Don’t try to do it your way till you really understand what it’s all about.”

“Oh, all right.”

Lath was asked to look after the twins and keep them quiet while Penoe cleaned the upstairs rooms.  He soon got bored with playing with them, so sent them to sleep by hypnotism.  The following day, he was asked again - but, this time, he felt someone blocking his hypnotism.  He looked at Zaq again, and realized that he, too, had white hair and blue eyes.  Another thought-reader!  Dr. Wysau’s son, of course.  Both of them.  And he wasn’t supposed to tell them, or let them find out.  He would have to play with them.  Then he thought they were probably more clever than their mother or their Aunties realized.  He began to teach them to count up to three.  He was not surprised when they learnt, but Aloe was.  She listened, and watched out of the corner of her eye as she tidied the room.  Oh yes, Lath was testing them, and they had actually understood.  Tired by the effort, they fell asleep, and she got Lath to lay the table.

Penoe persuaded Lath to help Zaq to walk, by holding his hands and walking behind him, while she helped Phet.  They walked round the garden, and back inside.  They played with trains.  Then they walked round outside again.  Lath talked to Phet, but slowly and clearly, as one would to a foreigner.  Phet began to mimic Lath’s words.  While Penoe worked the cleaning hands in the kitchen, Lath played a “climbing upstairs" game with the twins.  This was not so successful as far as Penoe was concerned, because she had to keep stopping her work to carry one twin or the other downstairs.  They loved climbing, but even Lath could not convince them of the need to crawl downstairs backwards.

Later that afternoon, it was discovered that someone had been pilfering from the market stalls.  No-one thought a great deal about it - it had been done so often before, and Penoe could testify to Lath’s whereabouts for the whole afternoon.  But, the next time it happened, Lath had been out shopping with Aloe.  She had had the twins to deal with, and could not vouch for all Lath’s activities.  Rumour had it that Lath was responsible.

The little mammal stallholder would have none of it.  “People know him too well,” he said.  “They would recognize him.  It’s far easier for an adult to steal - most of the stalls are quite high.  And he never pinched anything from my stall.”

Some of his friends believed him.

A few days later, a shop wad broken into at night through a very small opening, and goods were stolen.  Again, rumour had it that it was Lath.  How could Wysau and Shimei vouch for his having been in bed asleep?  They began to lock the doors at night, and hide the key, with fingerprint powder on it.

“We’re going to have to hold an inquest into his mother’s death,” said Vitatt to Wysau.  “Could Ciecet come and give evidence?”

“He couldn’t come; he’s gone back to Cirian.  He could give evidence in the judge’s thoughts, or he could send us a written statement in Chalata’s script.”

“That would be much better.  Thought-reading evidence is not admissible.”

“Will Lath have to give evidence?”

“I don’t see how we can avoid it.”

“It will be terrible for him.”

“Can’t be worse than what’s happening now.”

“Only a few days after the event, a mock inquest was held at an underground meeting,” said Wysau.  “Two witnesses, mothers, gave evidence.  If you ask Eziak Quatelo, he may remember their names.  If they could be called again, they could give eyewitness accounts of what happened.  And they could both be asked this question: at what age would they begin training their children to cross a busy road, and at what age, after such training, would they allow their child to cross by himself, and why?”

“Ah - a child of that age does not understand the dangers?”

“I would not have thought so.  No Cirian mother would allow her child of three and a half to cross a busy road alone, however intelligent he was.  Learning about danger takes time.”

“Thanks.  So, if you could contact Ciecet for me . . ?"

“Certainly.  One thing - if you hold the inquest in public, Lath’s friends, Foquar’s four other children, may well pester their mothers into taking them to the inquest, and they will soon realize that they have such powers, too.  They mustn’t hear the whole story from their friends at school, either.”

“Oh,” said Vitatt.  “Ah.”

Wysau smiled, and Vitatt smiled back.

Lath had Enin and Tiat round to play, and as guests to the evening meal.

“They entertained each other quite well,” said Penoe as she handed over to Shimei and left for her own home.  And so they did - till Wysau came home.  They ran to him and started pelting him with questions.

“No questions answered,” he said firmly, “except by you, until we’re all sitting down with our meals served out, and we have thanked the Person who has given us our food.”

Once that time had come, two questions came at once.

“One at a time,” he said, and chose Enin.

“Ah,” he said, considering.  “Are Tiat and Lath prepared to sit quietly and listen to the long answer?  Or are you, Enin, content with a short answer?  Work it out among yourselves.”

“How long is the long answer going to be?” asked Tiat.

“Half an hour.”

They consulted with each other.

“Yes, we are,” said Lath.  “We all want to know the long answer.”

Shimei learnt a great deal that evening.  Wysau was greatly relieved when a mother and a grandfather came to collect their offspring.  Lath tried another question - but Wysau said, even more firmly,

“Bedtime.  Now.” Lath disappeared upstairs.

“No, Wysau,” said Shimei.  “They are not like that with me, nor the nannies.  We don’t know enough.”

“You’d better go upstairs, then, to make sure his light’s turned off.  I’ve had quite enough for one evening.”

For a while there was silence.  Shimei went up, and came down.  “Lath was reading.  His light’s off now.”

“It must be frustrating, though,” said Wysau, “for an intelligent child never to get satisfactory answers to his questions.  Enin and Tiat must find it very hard.”

The following evening, just after the evening meal, Alab’ contacted Wysau.  “Chalata, and I, need to know who Lath’s next of kin are, and their address.  I must go and see them, as their consent is needed for the adoption request.”

Later on that evening, Alab’ contacted Wysau again.

“They gave their consent to the adoption, but thought Lath ought to be staying with them till then.”

“Oh well, if they want him,” said Shimei, very relieved.  “Be nice for him to feel somebody here wants him, if only temporarily.”

“They probably just want him to work for them,” said Wysau.  “They’ll be picking him up from the school tomorrow.  Make sure he stands on the bathroom scales before he goes, and write down his weight, and the date.”

“You don’t think they’ll starve him?”

“Not exactly,” said Wysau.  “But he’d hardly have come to us if he’d thought his own relatives would have offered him a caring home.”

Shimei did not feel quite easy in her mind when she had obliged a reluctant Lath to go with his aunt.  She went home alone, to find that Penoe also was relieved.  She was glad for Penoe’s sake, but had to try to shut out the memory of those pleading eyes.

“I had no choice,” she said to herself.  “Wysau said we had no legal right to keep him, once his relatives had asked for him.  And I did ask his aunt to send him to school as usual.”

She tried not to see his pleading eyes, his tiredness.  She had to treat him like any other child in the school.

“Can I borrow a book?” he begged on the Friday at going-home time.  “I’ll bring it back on Monday.  They’ve got no books - none at all.”

“Is your aunt coming to fetch you?”

“No - I know the way.”

“Then come to our home, and take one of our books.  I shouldn’t let you borrow a book from school.”

So they went to Shimei’s house.

“Can I have something to eat?”

“Doesn’t your aunt feed you?”

“Not much.  A sandwich, with some meat in?  Please.”

“All right,” said Shimei.  “But you’d better not be too long.  Here’s some blue fruit juice - you sit down and drink it while I make your sandwich.”

She used two whole slices of bread and two large slices of meat.  Lath ate ravenously - and took as long as he dared to choose a book, while Shimei and Aloe each fed a twin, and had their own lunch.  The only books they had in Chalata’s script were Bible stories, with Helen’s pictures.  Lath chose one of these, and brought it to Shimei.

“I’ll put our name in it.  You’ve been ages - your aunt’ll be wondering what’s happened to you.”

“She can’t be much crosser than she usually is.” And off he went.

“You’ve been too soft with him,” said Aloe, as they stacked the washing-up machine.  “Most children have to work pretty hard, and they don’t get half such good food as you give here.”

“I have tried to encourage him to be helpful.”

“It’s good for children to have some work to do.  Keeps them out of mischief - teaches them that everyone has to work.”

“They ought to have time to read and study as well - and some time off.”

“You and I get precious little of that!”

“True.  But we should have some.  Wysau will help me with my jobs to try to give us both some time free to relax together.  A child should have some time to play with his friends or go on a picnic or for a walk, or just read a book he enjoys.  Everyone should have a Sunday off, or another day if he has to work on a Sunday.”

“Yes, I agree with that,” said Aloe.

On the Monday afternoon, Shimei congratulated herself on having remembered to take a book with her to school for Lath to borrow.  As she expected, he had faithfully returned the one he had taken on the Friday.  Clearly he had been strictly warned to go home straight away from school, but his eyes said “Thank you" far more eloquently than his lips.  Why could Shimei not forget those eyes?  Why did they disturb her, make her feel guilty?  She had done what she could.  He was not her child.  She was not to blame for his plight, which, according to Aloe, was no worse than that of many children who lived with their own parents.

The next morning, Wysau said,

“This afternoon, I must attend the inquest on Lath’s mother’s death.  I’ve been called to give evidence, and to present Ciecet’s statement.  It’s being held in private - I can’t take anyone with me - but please pray.  I still get annoyed, deep down, that I - that we - should have to clear up the mess that Foquar has left behind him.”

“Why should you have to give evidence?”

“His grandmother brought him to me that same morning.”

“Oh yes.”

“My evidence won’t be very helpful to him, but I must tell the whole truth.”

Shimei prayed - prayed from her heart for Wysau, who cared about Lath, yet was struggling with the same sort of feelings that she had.  She prayed for Lath, that he would understand about the proper use of his gifts; that the verdict of the court should be fair and just, and help to dispel the fear and hatred that was making Lath suffer.

"“Accidental death”," reported Wysau.  “The judge recommended that children with gifts like Lath’s should be brought up by parents who also had these gifts, and were therefore able to control them.  Well, if they can’t find another thoughtreader with exceptional powers who is able and willing to communicate with Foquar, I shall have to be one of the witnesses.”

“Why?  Oh, the adoption - ”

“Not only of Lath, but, possibly in the future, of any or all of his sons on Yumelpthi.  Cirian law must be upheld.  Thank you for praying, love, and please go on - I know you understand.” He gathered her into his arms.  From their playpen, Phet and Zaq turned to look at their parents.

“Never mind them,” said their father to their mother.  “It’ll make them feel more secure.”

They went on playing contentedly as their parents embraced.

The next day, Shimei had just come down after preparing her lessons, and said “Goodbye and thank you" to Penoe, when Lath ran sobbing into her arms.

“Lath! Have they been horrid to you?”

He lifted the back of his shirt.  There was blood on it, and, on his back, was one stripe, nasty and deep.

“Uncle Tauton didn’t let him beat me any more.  He told me to come to you.”

“But what did you do?”

“Don’t question him,” came Tauton’s voice in her thoughts.  “Just comfort him - I’ll explain.”

So she took Lath on her knee.

“They made him work, all the time, except when he was in school or in bed.  Ordinary, menial work.  His aunt had to do the accounts.  She didn’t understand them properly, and it took her ages.  His uncle didn’t understand them properly, either.  I tried to explain them to her, but she was too frightened to understand.  So I suggested to her that I should teach Lath to do them, and, when he understood, he could teach her.  She wouldn’t have it.  He felt so cross and frustrated that he hypnotized her into making silly mistakes, and his uncle beat him.”

At this point Wysau came home, took one look and went upstairs.

“Why didn’t Uncle Tauton stop him before he did this to me?” demanded Lath.  “It really hurts.”

Shimei was at a loss at first, and had to pray before she thought of the answer.  “So that Uncle Wysau can prove that your real uncle was ill-treating you.  Yes - look, he’s going to take a picture of your back.  Sit up - sit still.”

Wysau took three; one from the front, to show who it was, and two from behind, to show his back.

“Now wait a minute,” he said, and sat down.  Shimei began to worry about the evening meal, but Lath clung to her.

“Right, Lath,” said Wysau.  “We are going to have four visitors after our evening meal, and I’d like to be able to tell them how brave you were when I cleaned up this nasty lesion, and put medicine on it to kill any little germs that might stop it healing.  So, while Auntie Shimei gets the dinner ready, we’re going up to the bathroom.”

“I thought you could heal it with a ray.”

“Our visitors must see it first.  Otherwise, why did Uncle Tauton let your real uncle hit you?  And I want to weigh you.”

Lath found his visitors somewhat disappointing.  Alab’ and Abritis took one good look, and hardly stayed long enough to hear Wysau’s commendation of his bravery.  Vitatt and Gnosser were not impressed.

“Many fathers would give their own children ten of these without a twinge of conscience,” said Vitatt.  “We can’t give you a court order just because of this.”

“Children who are beaten, except for a very good reason, will learn to beat others in their turn,” said Wysau sadly.  “Anyway, you’ve seen it - now I can take him to the hospital and heal it.”

“Try and sleep on your tummy tonight,” encouraged Wysau on their return.

“Can you promise me I won’t have to go back to my real uncle?”

“Not yet.  They are your relatives.  If they come for you, we shall have to let you go - we have as yet no legal right to keep you against their wishes.  We are doing what we can.”

Lath went obediently to bed.

“Oh, Wysau, did you have to tell him that?”

“You have to speak the whole truth to a thought-reader.”

“But how’s he going to sleep?”

“If he doesn’t get off in the first half-hour, I’ll go up.”

Lath turned his bedside lamp off quickly when he heard Wysau coming upstairs, but Wysau soon turned it on again, and knelt by his bed.

“If you don’t sleep tonight, you’ll be hopeless at school in the morning.”

“Oh.” There was strong competition between Lath, Enin and Tiat at school.

“May I hypnotize you to go to sleep?”

“Can you?”

“I beat your father in a hypnotizing match.”

“I’d rather go to sleep than lie here worrying.”

“Here goes.” Lath yielded to Wysau’s greater powers.

“How long will he be with us?”

“Till the next supply ship comes - unless his relatives ask for him again.”

“I don’t want him to be beaten, or starved, or bored out of his mind, but - he keeps reminding me of his father.”

“My love,” said Wysau, “it may be that Foquar will one day be converted.  He may yet be in Heaven with us for eternity.  We must learn to forgive him.”

“Oh Wysau!” she wailed.

“You believe that he will be converted, don’t you?” Wysau looked a little startled.

“I do.”

“Pray for me, love - I don’t find this easy - but I must do it - and straight away.  I’ll need peace and quiet for an hour.”

“Pray - what for?”

“That Foquar will be reasonable, and co-operate.”

“Oh - about Lath?”

“And the other four.”

So Shimei prayed - and soothed a teething Phet, anointed his gums with gel and put him back to bed - and prayed again.  Still Wysau sat.

“Am I really praying from my heart?” wondered Shimei.  “Is that why God does not hear me?  Is it that I wish Lath would go away, and leave me in peace?”

Would it be in peace?

His voice - his eyes - the way he looked up at her when she spoke to him - even the way he walked!  Memories surged back into her mind - loathsome memories.  Foquar had tried to defile her thoughts.

She must not let her heart be defiled with resentment and holding of grudges.  She must overcome evil with good.

So the next morning, she tried to treat Lath as if he were hers.  The twins she left with Aloe; Lath came to school with her.

“Please don’t send me back to my aunt’s!”

“I don’t want to, Lath, honestly.  But the law obliges us to let your relatives take you if they come for you.  Uncle Wysau is doing his best, and so is Uncle Tauton - you know that.  But until the adoption becomes law, we cannot refuse your relatives.”

“Oh,” said Lath.  “So I don’t have to wait till the flying machine comes.”

“Uncle Wysau told me what the judge said at the inquest.”

“I can’t remember; it was all so awful.”

“The judge recommended that you should be in the care of people who had your powers, and could control you.  Once the adoption has gone through, Uncle Tauton will be your legal guardian; so, if he says he thinks you ought to stay with us because Uncle Wysau can control you, your relatives will have to accept that.”

“Oh!  So it wasn’t for nothing.  But why did Uncle Tauton let me be beaten?”

“Do you remember who came to see you?”

“The Public Prosecutor and his legal friend?  That wasn’t much good.”

“Before that.”

“Those two strangers.”

“Now, normally it takes six weeks for an adoption request to be granted; but, because of that stripe on your back, it will not take so long.  The authorities on Cirian are hurrying it along as quickly as they legally can.  Here, a stripe is not considered important; but on Cirian - my husband’s world - to inflict an injury like that on a small child is considered a dreadful thing.”

“Oh,” said Lath slowly.  “So Uncle Tauton does care about me.”

“Yes,” agreed Shimei heartily, happy in the knowledge that this was absolutely true.  “Yes, he does.  And remember, he knew that Uncle Wysau could make it better quickly.”

Lath found it hard to concentrate that morning - till ten to eleven.  Then, suddenly, he was answering questions, working well, outshining his half-brothers.

On the way home, Shimei asked him,

“What happened at ten to eleven?”

“Uncle Wysau told me my real uncle and aunt had decided I was more trouble than I was worth.”

Shimei’s face lit up - and Lath, looking up and seeing it, smiled too.

“It’s right that schools should be inspected, love,” said Wysau.  “You do a good job; you’ve nothing to worry about.  Just carry on as usual.”

Shimei prepared her lessons with extra care.  “You will be good, won’t you, Lath?”

“I thought I was.”

“You are, usually.  Don’t let the Inspectors unnerve you.”

“Uncle Wysau said, “Just carry on as usual.”"

Shimei nodded, with a wry smile.

The Inspectors arrived, sat quietly at the back.  Shimei prayed - and tried to concentrate on her class, the top class.  She had to teach the mathematics Shurzi had taught her.  The Inspectors found they were learning too - till suddenly Phio came barging in and shouted,

“Look at them!  White hair and blue eyes!  Just like their father!  A menace to society - treat us like machines, they can!”

The Inspectors rose and hustled Phio out.  As they went, they sensed hypnotism and fought it.  They returned to the class, to find the lesson proceeding as if nothing had happened.

After school, Lath asked his friends,

“What did that intruder say - the one who barged in in the middle of maths.?"

“Can’t remember - I can only remember the Inspectors taking him out.”

“Jolly good thing they were there.”

Lath caught Shimei’s eye.  “Well done,” she thought.

They were just settling down to a peaceful evening, as Shimei sat down after checking Lath was asleep, when there was a quiet knock on the door.  Wysau rose, and brought in two from the House of Representatives.

“We do appreciate what you are doing for Lath, but, as the Inspectors saw a few days ago, it would take only a careless word to land us all in quadruple trouble.”

“We have asked Cirian for “uncles" for the other four,” explained Wysau.  “They won’t try to communicate with any of the children - just keep a check on their thoughts from time to time, on their mothers’ thoughts, and also help their mothers to answer difficult questions.  We have also obtained their father’s consent to possible future adoption requests.  But, at the moment, there is a bond of love between the boys and their mothers which ought to be respected.”

“So, once the boys realize their powers . . ?"

“Their “uncles" on Cirian will begin communicating with them, and teaching them how, when and where to use, and not to use their powers.”

“So they might be adopted, too.”

“This avenue is only open to Enin and Tiat.  Lath is by far the most intelligent of Foquar’s sons on Yumelpthi.  I should think Enin and Tiat would be intelligent enough to earn their livings on Cirian, and attend an ordinary Cirian school without feeling inferior to the other children - but not the other two. They would be better off here.  But we will make sure that someone checks on them regularly, so that action can be taken in time if they should begin to misuse their powers.  Enin and Tiat may prefer to stay here.  If they act responsibly, they could be a great asset to society.  They could be trained as doctors or architects or engineers, and train others in their turn.  All of us have potential for evil or for good.  It is true that the greater the intelligence, the greater the powers, the more potential there is for evil - but also, the more potential there is for good.”

“But won’t they tend to take after their father?”

“They may inherit some of their father’s weaknesses.  This is why their relationships with their mothers are so important.  Lath will have an adoptive mother on Cirian - a mother who has the same powers as himself.  He will also have an elder sister who shares those powers.”

“We’re not worried about Lath any more.”

“Good.  These other boys are just as likely to take after their mothers.  And it is their mothers and grandparents who have been bringing them up, and still are.  They will have far more influence on their sons than a father his sons have never seen, who never contacts them, who cares nothing for them or their mothers.”

“Could they contact him?”

“Not unless he contacted them first.  Even when - if - they realize what powers they have, they would not be able to find his mind - or, if they did, would not recognize it.  Another way to find someone’s mind is to be introduced to it by another person you know - either someone who speaks to him normally, or a thought-reader who was communicating with him.  Foquar is far away on another planet, speaking languages they do not understand, speaking to people they have never seen.  We don’t contact him if we can help it.  He has been threatened by our Director of Foreign Affairs with dire penalties if he does contact anyone on this planet.”

“Dr. Wysau, may I quote you on these matters?” asked the first Representative.  “These things are what our people need to know.  They will feel far less worried if I can tell them.”

“If you can somehow restrict the information to adults.”

“Why?  Oh - oh, I see.”

“There’s something I’d like to say,” said Shimei.

“Say on,” said the Representative.

“Was Lath mentioned in the Inspectors’ report?”

“Oh yes.  They said he’d hypnotized the other children to forget what Phio said - and that he was attentive and well-behaved in class.”

“Ah.”

“So?”

“Did they consider it a responsible use of his powers?”

“Of course.  Oh, I see what you’re getting at.”

“I’m not saying,” said Wysau, “that Foquar wasn’t trained by his parents to use his powers responsibly.  He clearly rejected his training, and so might his sons.  But he is the exception rather than the rule.  There is no need to be terrified of thought-readers - only if they give themselves over to evil.  But then, any man who does that is a danger to society.  However, your concern is not unfounded, and we will let you know as soon as “uncles" are found for all Foquar’s sons. We hope this will make people feel safer.”

“Have any already been found?”

“Two - for Enin and Tiat.  They are from our prayer support groups, and have already learnt your language.”

“Have they started their checking?”

“Yes, they have begun.  They are both “aunties”, and have been explaining to their mothers the answers to some of their questions.  We don’t want these intelligent children to become frustrated and angry with their mothers because they cannot answer their questions.  Their mothers may well be intelligent women, but they have never been taught.”

“Please listen,” said Shimei.  “These mothers are the unfortunate victims of an evil man.  They are not guilty of any misdemeanour, unchaste behaviour or even foolishness - they were not deceived by him.  They should not be despised.”

“We can understand what you say,” said one of the Representatives, “and accept it for ourselves, but convincing our people is another matter.  They would like you to take mothers and sons away to your own world.”

“We are not allowed to do that,” said Wysau.  “Their father forfeited his citizenship long ago.  Our world is very beautiful, and everyone has a good house and clean water and good food to eat.  We cannot allow entry to most people who would like to live there, or we would quickly become overcrowded, and the beauty would be spoilt for everyone.  We have to make strict laws and keep them impartially.  This is why we want to help you to make your world beautiful and prosperous like ours.”

“Well done, Shimei,” said Wysau, after the Representatives had gone.

“I just had to say those things,” she said.  “They are important.”

“At the end, you achieved real communication,” he said.  “You were both being honest, you and the Representative, and speaking the truth.  As he said, he cannot change the attitude of the people, but he will tell them.  God can use his words - God will use His own Word.  The more individuals there are in this country - on this planet - who listen to God and obey Him, the more likely it will be that this world will be beautiful and prosperous like ours in fifty to a hundred years’ time.  But the changing of attitudes takes time.”

“So - Lath - there’s no hope that they’ll accept him?”

“He will be far better off on Cirian.  He’ll be among children, some of whom are quite as intelligent as he is, perhaps even more so.  He will learn that he’s not so very special, except to his own family and friends.”

It was Shimei’s turn to attend the Prayer Meeting on the flying machine.  When she came home, Wysau got up to make drinks.

“We heard some rather distressing news,” she said.  “But I expect you know all about it.”

“I sat down to thought-read,” said Wysau, “but I fell asleep.  I only woke up when you came in.”

“I’m not surprised.  You never really got over your exhaustion after the epidemic.  Anyway, it’s about Chalata’s first language helper - Dan, I think he’s called.”

“The one who’s such a good preacher.”

“He was.  In preaching ability he still is - but he’s - well, what began as an over-emphasis on practical love at the expense of sound doctrine, has become woolly theology and a largely social gospel.”

“So quickly!”

“He had no-one of similar maturity, even, to have fellowship with, let alone someone like Helen who has been a Christian for years.  Chalata and Janita, with their crew, are going to pay him a friendly visit, hoping that he will ask Chalata to preach while they are there.”

The next time Enin and Tiat came round to play, happened to coincide, quite unintentionally on Shimei’s part, with Wysau’s day off.  Having a few days’ notice of this was useful - Wysau was able to commission a local craftsman to make a soft ball with a pig’s bladder he acquired from a butcher.  Wysau consented to answer questions during the midday meal, and for half an hour afterwards.  Then he took the boys outside onto a quiet street.  He positioned the window-saver in front of the nearest house, and taught the boys how to play a ball game.

“First of all, we mark out a pitch - a rectangle, like this.”

Other boys came to watch as Wysau drew the court boundaries.

“And an extra area behind each court - here and here - and a centre line.  Go and find stones to mark the corners of the boundaries.”

The other boys, fascinated, listened as Wysau explained.

“You need two teams, with the same numbers of players in each.  It doesn’t matter how big they are - though for really big teams, you’d want a bigger pitch - or how small, though I don’t think it would work very well with less than four players in each team.”

“Ooh - can we play?”

“So long as your mothers aren’t going to be cross because you’re not working.”

“I’ve done my work for today,” said one boy.

“So have I.”

“Please let me play.”

“She’s too little,” said Enin.

“So long as she’s five, she’ll be fine,” said Wysau.  “Little people can be very good at this game.”

“I’ve got to look after her,” said an older girl.  “Please can I play too?”

“So long as she’s happy,” said Wysau.  “If she gets fed up, you’ll have to go and do what she wants.”

“How do we play?” asked Lath.

“You have to dodge the ball,” said Wysau, “or else catch it and not drop it.  It’s quite a soft ball - it won’t hurt you.  One player from each team has to stand in this extra area.  That player is from the team on the opposite side of the court.  One team chooses their side of the court, and the other starts with the ball.  Each team member tries to hit one of the opposing team with the ball.  The opposing team tries to dodge the ball, or catch it, and throw it back at the team that started.  If a player is hit by the ball, and it falls to the ground, he has to go into the area behind the opposing team’s court and try to catch the ball, throw it at a member of the other team and hit him.  If he does hit him, then the one who threw the ball can go back into his own team’s inside court and carry on playing.”

“How do we know,” asked Tiet, “when a team has won?”

“You set a time for the end of the game - agreed between both teams - before you start.  There’s a sundial outside this house, just here.  Send one person from, or for, each team to check the sundial, and when they come back and say it’s time, you stop the game, and count the number of players each team has in its inside court.  The team with the most players in the inner court has won.  You’ll find that, if you cheat, you’ll spoil the game.”

Wysau stayed and watched for a few minutes.  Yes, at least Lath, Enin and Tiat had understood, and they were teaching the others.  Then one player was hit, and an argument began.  Wysau had to act as referee, and one of the players who began behind the line said,

“But it’s not fair!  I wasn’t hit, and I’ve still got to stay here till I hit someone!”

“You’re right,” said Wysau, “I forgot this bit.  This only applies to you two who start behind the line, who were not hit in the first place.  You can go into your team’s inner court as soon as one of the opposing team is hit.”

A mother came to call her son.  Wysau explained the game, and persuaded her to act as referee till the appointed time for the game to end.  Then he went home, glad to sit down in peace with his wife and children.

Shimei quite expected the boys to return in about an hour; but it was two good hours before they did, and then they collapsed, exhausted, on the sofa.

“Where’s the ball?” asked Wysau.

“They wanted to go on playing,” said Lath.  “They said they’d bring it back at six o’clock.”

“The little girl cried when she was hit,” said Enin, “and her big sister had to take her away.  Two of the boys had to go home - their mums came for them - but others arrived and joined in.”

“There were about twenty in each team when we left,” said Lath.

“And more watching,” added Tiet.

They sat and rested.  No questions were asked till halfway through the evening meal.  The ball was returned at eight o’clock, with a request for the loan of it on the Sunday afternoon.

“Not on Sunday,” said Wysau.  “You could have it on Saturday at four o’clock.”

“We’ll have to ask our Mums.”

“If they say it’s all right, you come and fetch it then.”

“Feor,” said Oloxis in his mind, as he was getting out of bed that morning.

“Yes?” responded Feor.

“Your father’s had a nasty shock - and your mother.”

“Oh?”

“A priest tried to assassinate him last night.”

“What!  I never heard a thing.”

“You weren’t meant to.  It’s all right - the priest was hypnotized in time - no physical damage was done, thanks to our Creator waking me.  If only I’d been a little quicker in understanding what God wanted, your father need not have been woken.  You’ll have plenty to do today; your father won’t be fit. But if Helen can spare the time this morning, they could do with her.”

The Roptoh and Roptoa had breakfast in their apartment; afterwards, Helen knocked on their door.

“Come in,” said the Roptoa, with considerable reluctance in her tone.  “Oh, it’s Helen! Oh, my dear, do come.” The Roptoa welcomed her with open arms.  “We’ve had such a shock.”

“Oloxis told us,” said Helen, and hugged the Roptoa in return.

“How our people must hate me,” said the Roptoh.

“People don’t hate you,” said Helen.  “The Representatives are pleased with your response to the result of the referendum.  It’s the priests who are not pleased.  When the people find out that a priest tried to kill you, they won’t be at all pleased with the priests.”

“Who told you, did you say?” asked the Roptoh suddenly.

“Oloxis.  She hypnotized the priest.”

The Roptoh put his head in his hands.  The Roptoa gave him a quick hug, and she and Helen, carrying the breakfast tray, left the room.  The Roptoa ordered the meals; Helen made her and Feor’s bed, dusted their room, and rejoined the Roptoa for a drink and a chat.

“He’s never liked Oloxis,” explained the Roptoa.  “And this isn’t the first time the strangers have saved our lives.”

“Yes,” said Helen, “but this priest does not represent anyone but a few of the other priests and their most fanatical adherents.  Most of the people want the Roptoh to rule them, and they are delighted with Feor.  If this were not true, they would never have voted as they did in the referendum.  What they want is the new economic system, and their inheritances.  Truly, Mother, it is so.  Didn’t the strangers tell you the truth about Remgath?”

“Yes - yes, they did.”

“Then believe them now.”

“Bless you, Helen!” The Roptoa wiped her eyes.  “One thing I do know.”

“Yes?”

“That God is looking after us.  I cried to Him, and He heard - and the priest just turned and went away.”

“Let’s pray for Father,” suggested Helen - and they did.

“Haven’t you a service at the temple this morning?” asked the Roptoa of her husband a few days later.

“No, dear; I’m not attending any more services at the temple.”

“I’m sure no-one will blame you,” said the Roptoa comfortably.

“It is a most convenient excuse.  I haven’t wanted to go for years.  Let me know, my dear, when enough of our people have become Christians, for me to do the same publicly without giving offence.”

“I’ve heard that many have; there are certainly more at our place of worship these days.  But I don’t know how many.”

“The more the better,” said the Roptoh.  “That also would be convenient.  In the meantime, if you could report on what is taught at the services . . . "

“Certainly,” said the Roptoa.

“Especially in my position,” said the Roptoh, “one should think long and hard before committing oneself publicly to a religion.” He looked at his wife.  “Somehow,” he continued, “that doesn’t express what I wish to say.”

“No, it doesn’t,” agreed his wife.  “Try a Person.  And you’re absolutely right, dear.”

It was Saturday.  That morning, Lath and Shimei had been listening to another Tsetri tape, and had repeated words and phrases to the twins. Zaq had tried to mimic them; Phet, tiring of this, took Lath’s hands and made Lath support him as he walked all round the living-room.  Zaq thought this was a good idea, and took his mother’s hands.  They walked round and round, repeating Tsetri phrases as they went - till Zaq led Shimei into the kitchen, and she noticed that the washing machine was no longer

working.  She called Wysau in from the garden.

“No,” he said a few moments later.  “I can’t do anything with it.” He straightened up and stood still.

There was no need for Darte to ring the doorbell - Tendris was loudly complaining about the presence of wind in her stomach, even to those who would normally have considered themselves out of earshot.  Darte handed her to Wysau, and, with evident relief, turned his attention to the washing-machine.  Wysau noticed that Tendris was too hot; he took her outside, sat down in the shade, put her on her tummy over his knees and rubbed her back soothingly.  Still she cried, but her distress was diminishing, as was the urgency of her cries.

“Da,” said Zaq, looking out of the window.

“Dada,” said Phet.  Shimei and Lath fastened small pairs of sandals.  Shimei said, in slow, halting Tsetri,

“I am putting on my sandals.”

Lath repeated this as he followed suit.  Out they all went - and Tendris, seeing her playmates, stopped crying altogether.  As she relaxed, up came a massive burp - and another.  Zaq came up to Tendris, who touched his forehead with her fingers.

“That was a “Thank you”, Zaq,” explained his father.

When Abritis returned, she found Tendris changed, fed and asleep.  Gratefully she sat down at Shimei’s table with her husband, and fed Zaq while Shimei fed Phet.  Every now and again the mothers managed to pop a mouthful into their own mouths.  Lath was practising his Tsetri.

“We are eating uncooked vegetables,” he proclaimed.

“Cirians usually do,” agreed Abritis, “especially at the midday meal.”

“We will have no indigestion,” he continued.

“Neither will most people in Remgath, I hope,” said Wysau.

Lath looked puzzled.

“Slower, please, love,” said Shimei in Remsheth.  “We can’t follow unless you speak very slowly.”

Wysau repeated his words at two miles an hour, but they were obscured by the washing-machine, which had just started its final spin.  Lath was determined to understand; so, as soon as the spin had ceased, Wysau had to repeat his words again as Shimei, leaving the feeding with Wysau, went out to hang out her washing.

“Sorry to desert you all,” she said on her return, “but I did want to get it out as soon as I could.  The machine went on strike this morning,” she explained to Abritis.

“In protest at one very chewed-up baby garment blocking its outlet pipe,” said Darte.

“You have had a lively morning,” said Abritis.

By the time Tendris woke, the twins were asleep, so Darte and Abritis took their daughter home.

“I shall be glad to go to Cirian,” said Lath, “but I still miss my Granny, and my Mum.”

“Of course you do,” said Shimei.  “I miss my Mum and Dad - haven’t seen them for months - and my brother and Helen - and I’m a grown-up lady with children of my own.  But God knows what He’s doing.  I know my family ought to be in Ishboh and Wysau and I ought to be here.  We just have to trust God that He’s doing what’s best for us - and for them, too.”

Lath did not reply.  Shimei turned to look at him.  He looked startled, excited - and suddenly ran to her and held onto her.

“He’s coming for me - tomorrow at eight o’clock at night - he’ll be here, in the flying machine - I’m frightened - I don’t want to go.  Can I stay here with you?”

Shimei thanked God that the twins were asleep.  She took Lath on her knee.  “A year and a few months ago,” she said, “I went to Cirian with Uncle Wysau.  I was scared, too.  But it was all right - it didn’t hurt - we arrived there safely, and back again.  And Cirian’s the most beautiful world.”

“Why, if it’s so beautiful, don’t you and Uncle Wysau stay there?  You’d be allowed to, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh yes, we’d be allowed to.  But God wants us here.  He wants us to serve my people - our people.  Because Uncle Wysau went to school on Cirian, and studied hard, and learnt to be such a good doctor, he’s able to be so useful here, and heal so many people, and teach some of our people to be doctors too.  If you go to Cirian, and study hard, you will grow up to be a clever - whatever it is that God wants you to be.  And then you will be ready to go wherever He wants you, and be really useful to other people there.”

Lath clung to her, and said not a word.

“Lath,” she said softly, “while you’re here, you’ll keep seeing people, and places, and things, that remind you of your Mum and your Gran.”

He nodded.

“On Cirian, you’ll have your new Dad, and Mum, and big sister.  And you’ll soon have friends at school.  Your griefs will heal quicker.  There’ll be lots to learn.  You’ll be with children who are as clever as you are.”

“Will I be as clever as them?”

“As most of them, yes.  There will be some who are cleverer than you.  Won’t do you any harm - it will encourage you to study hard.  It will stop you getting proud.  God doesn’t like proud people - and other people don’t either.”

The twins woke, and Shimei was fully occupied, looking after them and making the evening meal.  Wysau had been busy in the garden, but, once he came in for the evening meal, his work was done.  So, while she changed Phet and he changed Zaq, he told Lath more about Cirian.

“Our script isn’t quite so simple and straightforward as Chalata’s for Remsheth, because it was last revised eighty-seven years ago, and languages keep changing.  But it is nearly.  The good thing about it is that the vast majority of books in Tsetri are printed in that script.  So, whereas here there are only a few books you can read, on Cirian there’ll be lots and lots.”

“But they’ll all be in Tsetri!”

“Your family and all your friends will speak Tsetri.  They will teach you in Tsetri at school.”

“How soon will I start school?”

“Not till the term that starts after your sixth birthday.”

“So that will give me - about how long, to learn Tsetri?”

“Five months,” said Wysau.

“Ah.”

“You’ll have to be able to speak it very well.  Tape after tape after tape, young man.”

“It’s all right for you - it’s your own language.”

“I had to learn yours when I came here.  And there weren’t any tapes.”

“Why is life so hard?”

“To make you a nicer, stronger person.”

“Will it be better on Cirian?”

“I’m sure it will do you good.  Whether you are happier, or find life easier, depends partly on your own attitude.  Your parents will love you, and they’ll make sure you help in the home, and work at school, and go to bed when you’re told.  This is normal - all Cirian children are treated like this.  They’ll care about you too much to spoil you.  And I ought to do the same.  It’s time for bed, young man.”

After all the children had settled down to sleep, and Wysau’s and Shimei’s brains had been revived with a twenty-minute sit-down, Wysau suddenly sat up.

“Yes,” he said.  “Oh, hello, Tauton.”

Shimei looked at him, startled.

“He’ll communicate with you, and I’ll read your thoughts - ready, Shimei?”

“I’m on the ship on the way here,” began Tauton.  “Lath has got frightened, and says he prefers to stay with you.  But I’m sure he ought to come to Cirian.”

“I’d second that,” thought Wysau.  “With a Cirian education, that boy could go far.  Without it, he’ll be frustrated, and could turn to evil ways sooner than his father did.”

“Exactly,” thought Tauton.  “So please pray.  Oh, Shimei, there’s something I wanted to ask you.  Most little children are proud of their drawings, and get praised for them, whether they are any good or not.  How are Lath’s?”

“Helen says they are truly exceptional.”

“Then - could you please do something for me?  Persuade Lath to draw something, or two or three things - it doesn’t matter.  He did want to show me a drawing, but he said they were all at school.”

Next morning, Shimei, already showered and dressed, was giving a morning drink to the twins.  Wysau finished dressing, and went to call Lath.  He found him already showered and dressed, pencil in hand, his head bent over his sketch book.

“Breakfast in fifteen minutes,” he said.

“Yes.  I’m going to Cirian.”

“Great,” said Wysau.

“Auntie Shimei.”

Shimei was stacking the washing-up machine.  Lath brought some cutlery and put it in its correct place.

“I can’t go - I just don’t want to.”

“Oh no!” thought Shimei.  She could not think of anything to say to persuade him.  He went on helping her till the machine was full enough to be put on.

“Let me do it.”

He put the powder in the correct container; he shut the door and set the dials - all quite correctly.

“Now you start it.  Thank you, Lath.”

He would be a useful child to have around.  She tried to calm herself with this thought.  But poor Tauton!  He had gone to all this trouble for Lath’s sake - he was coming all the way to Yumelpthi to pick Lath up, to find Lath would not come after all. The cry of her heart was, “Dear Lord, please may he decide, definitely and finally, that he does want to go to Cirian.”

Still she could not think of any way to persuade him.  Lath had gone back up to his room.  Wysau had gone out to an emergency.  The twins demanded her attention.

“Lath.”

A voice in his mind he had not heard before.

“Hello, brother.  I’m Annelis, your new sister.  Mum said I wasn’t to learn Remsheth, but I followed in her thoughts, lots, while she was listening to her tapes, and I borrowed one tape for a school trip, and listened on the journeys.”

“I’m not coming.  It’s all very well for you - they’re your real parents.  They won’t love you any the less if they have a new little child of their own.”

“Listen, Lath.  Tauton is not my real father - my father died when I was three.  Neither Mum nor Uncle Tauton want to have a new baby.  Uncle Tauton is sixty-two, and Mum’s forty-seven.  They were going to say to each other that they didn’t mind, but I knew they neither of them wanted to.  So I had to tell them both.  They were both very relieved and quite pleased.  They say two children are enough, and they’d rather have a child your age than a baby.  Babies are hard work, and they both feel too old.  I’d rather have a brother I can talk to and play with, then a baby who’s asleep most of the time.  Well, wouldn’t you?”

“How old are you?”

“Eight.”

“Oh good.  I did try to play with Phet and Zaq, but they’re too small.  Can we play a game now, in our thoughts?”

“If you put the letters down for me.  Oh, it’ll have to be a word game in Tsetri.  Oh.  Perhaps it would be fairer to play it in your language.”

“Yes.”

“I’ll teach you - here goes.”

“Tea time, Lath!” Wysau called for the second time.  “We want to be in time for the service.”

“I’m coming,” Lath called aloud.  Then, in his thoughts, he said, “Thanks for a good game.”

“Uncle Wysau, do I need to pack anything?”

“Your sketchbook and pencils.  Tauton’s brought clothes and sandals for you.  I don’t think you’ll need anything else.”

They did not linger after the evening service, but one father of a family stopped Wysau.

“Just a quick word.  You’ve really started something, teaching them that ball game.  Children are playing it all over the city - they can work out their stress and release pent-up energy without being naughty - and learn to play fair.  Thanks a lot.”

Then everything seemed to happen very quickly.  The trip’s main purpose had been to take Kalat and Ishtis to Ishboh, and to bring supplies to the team there.  It had also brought some supplies for the team in Remgath, which Tauton, Lath, Shimei, Wysau and Darte all helped to unload.  There was no time for anything but a quick hug and a “Goodbye" before Tauton took Lath with him into the flying machine, and Shimei and Wysau carried the last crates of supplies into their house.  Then they said “Goodnight" to the twins; Abritis took Tendris home; and there was still putting-away to be done before they could relax, and Shimei had leisure to feel a pang of regret at losing Lath.

“Let’s pray for him, and for his new family,” said Wysau.

“Did he realize,” asked Shimei afterwards, “how anxious we were that he should go?”

“He did realize we wanted him to go.  I doubt if he tried to find out any other reason besides the obvious one that we thought it would be better for him.  Tauton told me the real reason why he was afraid to go - he was worried about his new family - and that if Annelis had obeyed her mother, she’d never have been able to sort it out!  At the same time, Lath felt, deep down inside, that it was best for him to go to Cirian - hence his indecision.”

“So now I can be relieved without feeling guilty.”

“It was a battle scarcely won.  If God had not upheld us, it could have ended in dreadful defeat.  How we do need Him!”

They sat in silence, recovering.

“Yes, sir?” said Wysau - and, again, the communication took place in Shimei’s thoughts.

“First of all, an urgent prayer request from Chalata.  Do pray for Dan and those who meet with him.  Dan welcomed Chalata and Janita, but did not ask Chalata to preach, and Chalata had to take him to task on the Sunday afternoon about the lack of teaching in his sermons.  Dan’s so busy practising what he preaches - he thought Chalata looked tired - which he is - that he doesn’t spend time on study and prayer, and his people, spiritually, are dying of starvation.  Clearly he did not enjoy Chalata telling him this.  He rather sulkily asked Chalata to preach in the evening, which he did.  The people certainly noticed the difference, and many thanked Chalata warmly.  But Dan himself was rather hurt, and although, when they left on the Monday morning, Chalata did encourage Dan to carry on, the hurt remains.

I thought you’d like to know that Kalat’s going to help Treik set up a surgery, and Ishtis will help Oloxis distribute inheritances in the capital city and its suburbs.  The committee’s doing some of that work - the Cirians will keep a discreet eye on them - and an eye on your parents, Shimei, for Feor and Helen must travel round with Chalata and Janita, overseeing the distribution in country areas.  The priests have warned their adherents not to try anything against your parents while the strangers are there.  The High Priest is trying to distance himself and the mainstream of his following from the fanatic who attempted to knife your father, but the people are not convinced.”

“So my parents are not in immediate danger?”

“No, because of the Cirian presence there.  When the new economic system is in place, and the people see that they can make a comfortable living from their inheritances, they should be out of danger, for the priests will realize that any further assassination attempts will lose them what public support they still have.  But, ultimately, they are in God’s hands.  I hope and pray that revival will spread further among their people.”

“What about Feor’s jealousy?” asked Wysau.

“Separation seems the best answer - at least for the moment.  That also seems to be dictated by circumstances.  The Adversary is targeting Feor - he has had a difficult time lately.  Chalata and Janita have been a good support for him - please pray for them, too - they’re physically weary, but know they are needed in Ishboh.  Living on their ship, with a crew to look after them, has been the saving of them.

Anyway, we’d like to confirm you two in your permanent posts.  Your relationships with our other agents there are excellent.  The Directors have particularly commended you and Abritis, Wysau, for your handling of the epidemic; for your foresight and patient labours.  And you, Shimei - because of your work, orphans will be treated fairly as long as the system lasts.  But God has used this epidemic to teach the people of Remgath the importance of food hygiene - to teach them that these bacteria you have taught them about do in fact exist and cause illness - not the false gods some of them still worship.”