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

For His Name’s Sake

Chapter Nine

The next morning, when Feor went to the flying machine to help Chalata translate a medical textbook for the doctors’ training school, he was greeted by Tsie at the door.

“Shh!  Keep your voice down; Wysau’s been awake most of the night, and he’s still asleep.”

Feor went in and sat down opposite Chalata.  Quietly he said,

“I’d like to go down into the cellar of the ancient church and have another look at those books.  I think one area of our country is not covered by them, and I’d like to find out how large that area is, and, if possible, why it is missed out.”

“You carry on,” said Chalata.  “Take one of our electric torches.”

The building had no locks.  Feor could open the door and walk inside.  He left the door open to admit more light; he left the trapdoor open, climbed down the stepladder, and switched on the electric torch.  Those tomes were all in order.  Perhaps, in the first one, there would be a small scale map of the entire area covered?  Feor investigated, and found that map.  Yes, an area of his country, about three-eighths of the whole, was not included in the area covered.  It was marked with a different name, and shaded in brown.  In that area the Roptoh and himself had estates; so did a few of the nobles.  Was that area the country where his great-grandfather originated?  He made a note of the date when the books were printed, told Chalata what he was doing, and went to the Palace, to his father’s library, to look for a history book which covered that date.

There weren’t any.  History seemed to begin with his great - great - he didn’t know how many, exactly - grandfather, the first Roptoh to rule Remgathishboh.  “Oh, surely,” thought Feor, “there must have been history before that,” but none of the books referred to that time.  He looked again at the beginning of the first book. The records of the first Roptoh’s wonderful victories praised him, and his victorious generals, so highly that Feor found it nauseating.  Then there was a record of what estates the generals had been given as their rewards.

So, after those books were written, the first Roptoh, coming with his army from their land, that three-eighths of the whole, had conquered the people in this five-eighths, and imposed on them this empty, false religion.  And that was why the building, with the Bibles and inheritance records, had been covered up - to save it from the conqueror who destroyed all history books and all traces of true Christianity.  And he, Feor, was descended from that cruel conqueror.  That was why the inheritance of the King was marked on these maps for the King, not the Roptoh.  These people had had their own King, and that was his inheritance.  If he allowed all this to be known, these people, who carefully guarded their genealogies, would soon find a descendant of that King to put on the throne, and to reclaim his rightful inheritance.  He, Feor, would have to return to his ancient country with his father.  They would have less than a quarter of their wealth.

If the Roptoh had come into the library just then with a plan to burn down the ancient building, Feor would have helped him.  He bitterly resented the shame of having to give back their land to these people.  Wasn’t the right of conquest a perfectly good right?

But at that moment the Roptoh was receiving a delegation from the people, requesting that the inheritances recorded in the ancient books be restored to the descendants of those named in the books.  Outside, there was a noisy but peaceful demonstration.  Almost the entire city was shouting in unison: “Give back our land!”

The Roptoh tried to be gracious.  “I will consider your request, examine the books, and take the matter to the House of Nobles.”

The delegation withdrew; the crowd dispersed, muttering, with the occasional shout.  Feor heard them.  It was no use - they would have to restore the land, or there would be revolution.

In marched the Roptoh.  “Feor, what are you doing in here?  Come with me, to help me down that ladder.  We must look at these old books.”

“Surely you will send a servant to fetch them?”

“I want to see them myself.  Our servants are of this people.  I don’t trust them.  Come along.”

As they went, Feor explained about the portion of their land that was not covered by the maps in the books.

“You are more intelligent than you used to be.  At least we’ll have some kingdom and some estates left, and so will some of the nobles.”

“But Shimei - ”

“If she wants to marry her stranger and stay here, that is her choice.  I’ll be glad to get away from these cursed meddling strangers!  They won’t be welcome in my court in my own land!”

“But Father - ”

“But Father what?  Open that door.”

Feor opened it, and his father stamped inside.

“I left the trapdoor open, Father.  Please be careful.”

“Oh bother, we’ll need a light.”

Feor switched on the strangers’ torch he still carried.  He went downstairs first, and helped his father down.  Feor showed him the small scale outline map in the first volume.

“Yes, yes, you’re right.  Clearly our ancient portion was another country at that time.  Well, we might just get this through the House of Nobles.”

“But how many of the House of Nobles have estates in our ancient country?”

“Oh.” The Roptoh thought.  “Twenty at the most.”

“And how many nobles sit in the House?”

“Fifty.” The Roptoh sighed.  “They heard the people this morning.  I shall tell them plainly that they must do this thing for the sake of their own lives.  They must have heard what has happened in Traitan.”

“They will have to buy some land in our ancient country.”

“They will ask us to call out the Army to crush the rebellion.  But the common soldiers will join in the rebellion.  And what will the strangers do, curse them!  They won’t allow the people to be killed or wounded.  Besides, it isn’t just the people in the capital.  When the rest of the people hear of this, they will march on the capital to demand their land.  How can I convince the nobles that there is nothing they can do but return to our ancient country with us?”

“If only I hadn’t gone with Foquar!”

“If only I had sent them all packing as soon as they landed!  Oh well, regrets are useless.  Help me up, son.”

Feor was walking back to the Palace with his father, when he remembered that Chalata would be waiting for him.  He ought not to go back to Helen too soon - it was only a quarter to twelve.  Besides, she would still be teaching.

How could he go back to Chalata?  Chalata, who had given his own hard-earned money to help fund the trip, to bring God’s message to Feor and his people?  All the strangers had given their savings - others from their world had contributed.  They were not rich - they only had small inheritances.  They had worked hard, day after day, five days a week, to help him and the people.

“What are you lingering for, son?” asked the Roptoh impatiently.

“Chalata will be expecting me.”

“Go on, then,” said the Roptoh in exasperation.  Feor went.  He knocked at the spaceship door.

“Come in,” called Chalata.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so long.”

“Never mind.  Let’s get on now.”

Chalata went over his queries with Feor.  Feor was impressed at the amount of good translating he had done.  Then Feor lost his concentration.

“It’s only twenty-past, Feor.  Is there something on your mind?”

“If you hadn’t met Janita, would you ever have got married?”

“If I had never met a girl of Tellurian-type race, no, I would never have married.  Neither would you.  I’m quite happy to chat for the next few minutes, but can we please not talk about our wives?”

“It’s God, really,” said Feor, half to himself.  “If I had never known God’s good news, I would never have known true satisfaction - never have known peace when facing death.”

“Worth more than all the estates in Remgathishboh?  Oh Feor, it is hard for you and your father.  But think how hard it has been for the people all these years.”

“God has been good to us,” said Feor, and explained about his discoveries.

“Why, that’s great!” cried Chalata.  “But Feor, are you sure you want to go with your father?  You’re needed here.  Who’s going to administer this country?  None of us are any good at admin., and the new king won’t have a clue.  Besides, Janita and I are worn out - we’ll have to go home soon.”

“The people might not want me,” said Feor.

“Perhaps we ought to hold a referendum,” said Chalata.  “We ought to explain about the new economic system, and ask them:

1. if they would like it put into action in their country; and

2. if they’d like you to do it, because there’s no-one else who is trained and capable.”

“I’m not sure if they’d be interested in the new economic system,” said Feor.  “They want their land.”

“Who’s going to give them their land?  It’s got to be someone who can read the ancient script in which the books are written.”

“I’m not the only person who can - but I suppose there aren’t that many.”

“We could ask them if they’d like you to distribute their inheritances.”

“Would they trust me?”

“We’ll have to ask them, and see what they say.”

“If they said they wanted me to stay and do these things - ” said Feor doubtfully.

“We’ll see,” said Chalata.  “Time to go to Helen now.”

“It is hard for you and your father,” said Helen.  “And Shimei finds it difficult too, although it’s wonderful for her to know that a brilliant stranger like Wysau can love her for herself alone.  But she is worried about the revolutionaries here.  They could so easily turn violent.  The strangers have been working to stop them since about four weeks after they arrived, and Abritis and the other hypnotists are quite worn out.”

“What!  Have the people been planning to revolt for as long as that?”

“Shh!  Oh yes. Abritis explained it.  She was helping at the surgery, working as a junior doctor under Wysau’s supervision.  She wasn’t sure of her diagnosis - she thought-read that evening to find out if her patient was getting better.  He was - he’d gone to a meeting of a secret revolutionary society.  Abritis didn’t want to tell me too soon - she thought it would worry me, and you, and your parents.”

“And the strangers have been restraining the people all this time?” asked Feor far more quietly, but with no less feeling.

“Yes.”

“My father blames the strangers for the revolution, when we have them to thank for our way out.” And Feor explained Chalata’s plan.

“Oh Feor, I do hope the people will vote for the strangers’ economic system.  I’m sure it’ll be good.  I’d be so glad to see you doing really useful work, and feeling wanted.  And if we could be released from all the official functions, wouldn’t that be lovely?”

“I suppose I’d be running the country - the new king will be a figurehead.”

“Don’t make it too obvious.  You’d have to have officials under you, and explain it all to them, and show them what to do.”

“Just as Chalata explained to me.”

“So you wouldn’t mind staying here?”

“Not if the people voted for me to stay.”

“We need to have some strangers around us, to help us when we’re in trouble.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.  I wish Chalata was staying a bit longer.”

“I’m glad Abritis will be here.  And I’d miss Shimei if we had to leave her.”

“So would I.  And the school would miss you.”

“But Feor - ”

“Yes?”

“I can’t cook.  I’ve just about learnt to clean - do you suppose we could pay a maid to cook for us?”

But Shimei was even more disorientated and bewildered than anyone seemed to realize.  Her entire way of life, the social fabric she had always known, was disintegrating around her.  No longer would people defer to her; some regarded her with unconcealed hostility.  Only her ability as a teacher gave her any standing.  And what would Wysau think when he found she didn’t even know how to clean a room?  Helplessness drove her to anger.  Why had God put her in such a position?  Why didn’t Wysau care?

Again the clever rebel, on his way to work the following morning, was met by a trader who made him a proposition.  'The clever rebel was surprised and pleased.  Then three workers overtook them.

“Give my greetings to Asanta.  Till our next meeting.”

“I wouldn’t leave the flying machine just now, Emlota,” said Abritis.  “Your father’s waiting out there with one of his henchmen.”

“Mother’ll be waiting for me at the flat.”

“Shall I let her know that you will be late, and why? or will it frighten her dreadfully?”

Emlota answered without realizing it.

“I’ve a better idea - I’ll walk you home.  And how about coming in half an hour early tomorrow morning? so you can leave half an hour early, and you should miss him.”

“Father never gets up before ten.  Yes, if I left early, before he got here, that would be good.  And thank you.”

The nobleman did not try to follow them.  Once at her mother’s flat, Emlota introduced Abritis, who explained.

“Oh,” said the good woman slowly.  “Thanks for the warning, stranger.”

“What did your mother mean?” asked Abritis the next day.

“Today she will give instructions to her staff not to give any money from the business to my father without asking her first.”

“Did my father come?” asked Emlota the following morning.

“At twenty-five past five, in disguise.  He soon gave up and went away.  He decided it was not worth coming today - but I will check to see if he changes his mind.”

“Could you check, please?” asked Emlota at a quarter past five.

“Yes.” Abritis’ eyes went far away.  “Yes, he has changed his mind, and he’s on his way.  You go quickly by Trat Street, and I’ll follow you in your thoughts.  Remember I can’t see you, or him - think it if you are in trouble.”

Darte came in half an hour later, to find Abritis busy finishing Emlota’s work.

“I know,” she sighed.  “It’s silly.  I heartily wish I’d checked when you reminded me.  But she got home safely.  Oh, my love - she knows I care about her, and it is reflected in her work.”

For once, Shurzi came back to the flying machine a little early.  He had had his shower, and was sitting in the lounge relaxing, enjoying a cool drink before his evening meal.

“Shurzi?”

“Yes, Abritis?”

“Could you watch Emlota home for me?  I’ve an urgent antibiotic order to complete for tomorrow - Wysau only asked me for it at four o’clock.”

“Certainly.”

Emlota was walking home quickly, trying not to keep looking round, trying not to appear afraid.  Someone met her, and walked along beside her.  Shurzi sensed her dislike of that person - a young man.

“Miss Taralk,” he was saying, “my family will be leaving Remgath soon, to return to our ancient country.  Fortunately we have an estate there, but, as you know, I have an elder brother.  I understand that you wish to stay here.”

“That is correct.  Do give my parting respects to your family.”

“I will; thank you.  But why could I not stay here with you?”

“You could ask the strangers to train you.”

At this, Shurzi read the young man’s thoughts with more interest.  He had no intention of working with his hands among common people.  As Chalata did not need another language assistant, there was no future for this young man in Remgath.

“But,” continued Emlota, “on second thoughts, would you be safe here?  The common people have much anger against the nobility, and your family is one of the greatest in rank and wealth, and of most ancient title, here in Remgath.  Why, everyone knows the Algachthi.  Staying here might not be wise for you.  My family have but little wealth, and I am only a woman.  When they hear my father is gone, they will not trouble themselves about me.”

“Even if I am in danger, I would rather stay here with you -if you would marry me?”

“But then, I would be in danger too,” Emlota pointed out.

“Then come with me.”

“No, I wish to stay here.  I need a training.”

“Then I will stay.  Could I not come with you to your work tomorrow morning, and ask for a job with you?”

Emlota could not think of anything worse.  There was a whiff of hypnotism.

“However,” he said, “perhaps you are right.  I should not put you in danger, any more than you are already.  Do come with me, dear Miss Taralk.  My parents approve of you - we could be married before we leave.  Your father, too, approved the match.”

“I have a good job and a kind, clever teacher.  I prefer to stay,” said Emlota firmly.  She came to the door of her mother’s flat.  How could she get rid of him?  There was another whiff of hypnotism.

“Then goodbye, dear Miss Taralk.  Do let me know if you change your mind.  We will have to leave quite soon.  I would urge you not to stay in this dangerous country.”

“Thank you, Abritis,” thought Emlota, and escaped upstairs.

By the time Abritis joined the rest of the team for her evening meal, Shurzi and Darte were discussing plans for their next day’s work, and a note from Ciecet - Abritis’ next day’s work - was sitting by her place.

“Thank you a thousand times,” said Emlota the next morning.

“Oh" - Abritis looked blank for a moment - “it was Shurzi who watched for you last night.  What happened?”

“Which one is he?”

“Neither of the doctors.  He is the other young white-haired stranger.  The one who teaches your people about electricity.”

“I must thank him.”

“Please tell me what happened.”

So Emlota explained.

“Very sensible of Shurzi.  If he stayed here alone, he’d be thrown out of his palatial mansion pretty soon, and none too gently, I’m afraid.”

The next morning, as they had planned, Shurzi and Darte started early, and came back on time for their midday meal.  None of the medical team were there as Emlota thanked Shurzi very prettily for getting rid of her unwanted admirer.  Shurzi sat and ate his meal, think that Abritis’ trainee was really a very attractive young woman.

And Emlota went about her work, thinking how infinitely superior this young stranger was to any of her own people.  If the Princess Shimei could marry a stranger, why couldn’t she?

On his way home from work, the clever rebel was again invited somewhere.  But this time the passer-by was Ciecet, on his way from one call to another.  “May our Creator be praised!” he thought.  “I must tell Wysau - it’ll cheer him.”

“Give my greetings to Palua,” said the trader in parting. “Till our next meeting.”

“If that’s his wife’s name,” thought Ciecet, “I’ll eat my sandal.”

The clever rebel had noticed Ciecet.  “I don’t need to worry about him,” he thought.  “He knows all about it already.”

“And how may I help you?” asked Wysau automatically of his next patient.

“It’s the child, Doctor, my daughter’s child,” said his grandmother.

Wysau looked at the child.  Foquar’s son - all of three years old.

“He can’t seem to sleep at night.”

Wysau beckoned the child to him.

“I wish you were my father,” said the child in Wysau’s thoughts.

Wysau looked at his eyes, his fingernails, reached for a plain notepad, and wrote.

“He drives his poor mother crazy,” said his grandmother.  “She’s done some most peculiar things lately.”

Wysau looked searchingly at him.  “If I were your father,” he thought, “you’d get a good hiding.  You look after your mother.  She’s the only one you’ll ever have.  And don’t go using hypnotism except where necessary to save life.”

“She’s stupid - she can’t answer my questions.”

“Would you like to go to school?” Wysau asked aloud.

“He’s too young, Doctor.  He’s only three and a half.”

“But would you, if you could?” asked Wysau again.

"'Course.”

Wysau drew the outline of a large letter, with space for it to be coloured in.

“Here - you use this pen - copy this letter.”

The child copied the letter just as Wysau had drawn it.  Wysau then supplied coloured markers, and the child coloured it in very neatly.

“Can you cut it out?” asked Wysau, producing a small pair of scissors.

“He’s never used those before,” said his grandmother.  But the child cut out the letter, and only the letter, with obvious skill.

“How many red markers have I got here?”

“Seven.”

“But there are eight,” said his grandmother.

“That one’s not red, it’s pink,” said the boy.

“I think,” said Wysau, “that he is ready for school, in spite of his youth.  Could his mother bring him to the Palace barn tomorrow morning at half past eight?  And on her way home, she could call at our flying machine and present this note from me.  Tsie or Janita will then give her a vegetable.  There’ll be nothing to pay.  I’ll put the note in this strong, clear cover, because she’ll need to present it at the flying machine every weekday for a month.  And all three of you, including you, young man, are to share it.”

“Why can’t I sleep, Doctor?”

“Because you aren’t getting enough of three vitamins and two minerals, all of which you can get by eating this particular vegetable.”

“Ooh - why shouldn’t we eat those little mammals they’re selling on the market?”

“Dirty little things,” said his grandmother.

“They won’t give you what you need to help you sleep,” said Wysau.  “But do you have any meat?”

“Can’t afford it,” said his grandmother.

“You would have to make sure that the little mammals had been freshly killed, and that you cook them carefully, so that the meat is brown, with no pink bits inside, and no blood comes out when you poke it.  It’s a fiddly, messy business, skinning them - would you be willing to do the skinning, young man?”

“But, Doctor . . . !" protested his grandmother.

“His father has most unusual manual dexterity - clearly his son has inherited it.  I would not normally recommend that a small child should use a knife, but this young man is an exception.  However, you’re not to try till you’ve slept properly for at least three nights.”

“Doctor,” asked the child, “could we eat the vegetable raw?”

“Yes, if you wash it thoroughly in clean water first.  But you must cook the little mammals.”

“We must go,” said the grandmother determinedly.  “The doctor’s got other patients to see.”

“But Granny, no-one else ever answers my questions properly!”

“Some of them will get answered at school,” said Wysau.  “Goodbye.”

Wysau and Ciecet were taking afternoon surgery.  It was Ciecet who had left his surgery between patients just when a child rushed in to tell Thilish:

“There’s been an accident in the market square.  A woman "

“Right, Thilish, I’ll go.”

There she lay, in a pool of blood, great weals over her back, covered in wounds caused by berron hooves.  Ciecet was carrying out the usual checks for any signs of life in a hopeless, mechanical way, when a voice intruded on his thoughts:

“You can make her better.”

Ciecet raised his head.  There was a little, white-haired boy looking trustfully at him.

“I can’t.  No-one can.  She’s dead.”

“She can’t be.  She’s my mother.  And I . . . "

“Could somebody please tell me what happened?” called out Ciecet.

A housewife, accompanied by two small children, came up to him and explained:

“She walked straight out in front of a carriage drawn by two berron.  A trader shouted, one of the berron neighed - it reared up, kicked her to the ground, and both berron galloped over her, pulling the carriage behind them.”

“I see,” said Ciecet.  “But why . . . ?"

“Why did she walk out in front of them?  I’ve no idea.  It was crazy.  There was no time to stop her.  It all happened so quickly.”

“Do you know her name or address?”

“Sorry, no.”

Ciecet went to the little white-haired boy.  “Where do you live?  Is there anybody else at home?”

The child attacked Ciecet, punching him as hard as he could.  Ciecet picked him up and gave him a big hug.  When he put him down, the child was sobbing, clinging to Ciecet’s robe.

“The other white-haired doctor said he’d give me a good hiding.”

“This morning?” asked Ciecet.

“Yeah.  Why did I do it?”

“Sorry to interrupt, Wysau, but could you ask Foquar’s son’s grandmother, who brought him to you this morning, to come and identify her daughter’s body?”

“Poor woman.  We’ll do.”

There was a bench at the market.  Ciecet took the child there, and sat down with him.

“What’s your name?”

“Lath.”

“What did you do?”

“I hypnotized Mum to walk out in front of the berron - to see if I could.  I thought they would stop.”

“They might have done, if someone hadn’t shouted and frightened them.  But what did Dr. Wysau tell you this morning?”

“Not to use hypnotism except to save life.”

“That’s right.”

Suddenly Lath thumped Ciecet again.  “Can’t you see that makes it worse?  If only the other doctor would clout me . . ."

“You’re being punished far more than that already.  You’ll have to ask your Granny to forgive you.  She’s going to be terribly upset.  Look - is that your Granny?”

“Yes,” said Lath in a very small voice.

“Then you take me to her.”

That night Ciecet was on thought-reading duty.

“One of the berron reared up and kicked her - she fell down in front of the carriage, and the lord, who was driving, just rode over her.”

Expressions of shock and outrage, muted by fear of discovery, came from all present.

“How much more do we have to bear before these strangers realize we must have our freedom?”

“Let’s have a proper inquest,” said the clever rebel.

“Why do we need one?”

“Because no grown woman in her right mind would have walked out straight in front of a carriage like that.”

“Even if she did, the lord ought to have stopped his berron.  What’s the point of an inquest?”

“Because I would have thought the berron themselves would have stopped if they’d seen a woman right in front of them.” Most of the company knew that this last speaker was a groom.  If the lord had urged his berron on when they naturally would have stopped, this would surely prove to the most reluctant stranger that the lords were cruel tyrants.  Suddenly an inquest seemed a good idea.  They knew that the strangers often read their thoughts.

“When you have a proper inquest, you call witnesses - people who were there at the time and saw what happened.  Are there any market traders here?”

“I’ll fetch my Inla,” said one of those present.  “She told me she saw an accident in the market this afternoon.” He went out, and a market trader said,

“Yes, I was there.”

“What did you see?”

“I had my back to the carriage.  The other vegetable stall holder was shouting his wares on the other side of the square, so I shouted mine - and suddenly I heard berron neighing and galloping away.”

“You heard the berron neighing?” asked the groom.  “Did they sound frightened?”

“I don’t exactly know what berron sound like when they’re frightened, but there was definitely a loud neigh.”

“And then galloping?”

“Yes.”

“And you had just shouted?”

“Yes.  But, hang it, we all shout our wares in the market.  It’s part of the job.”

“But if the berron weren’t used to the market, they might be frightened, and bolt - and there was the woman, too.  I’m not blaming you; if the lord’s going to drive his berron past the market, he ought to get them used to the noise.  But there’s always a first time.”

“What you’re saying is,” said the clever rebel, “that the lord might not have been able to stop them?”

“That’s right.  I’m not trying to stick up for the lord, but these strangers are bound to think of everything.”

At this point Inla appeared.  “Dai had to stop to watch the children,” she said.

“Did you see an accident in the market this afternoon?”

“Yes.  There was Alantu, with her little white-haired son, and suddenly she walked straight out in front of this carriage.  One of the berron tried to stop - and then there was a shout - and the berr neighed - like a scream - reared up, kicked her, and they both charged off as if a devil was after them.  Straight over Alantu.  The little boy just stood and stared.”

“He didn’t follow his mother?”

“No.  He just stood at the side of the road and watched.”

“Do you know his mother?”

“She’s an acquaintance.  I do know that the little boy can’t seem to sleep at night, and that she’d got so worn out with him that her mother took the little boy to the stranger doctor that very morning.  Her mother said she’d done some rather odd things lately.  He’s about three now.”

“So she hadn’t been sleeping properly for the past three years?”

“No - some nights hardly at all.”

“Thank you very much, Inla.  Is there anyone else here who was in the market this afternoon?”

Others shook their heads.

“Well, everyone, you heard the evidence - what do you think?”

“Perhaps this once it was an accident - but every day they treat us badly, and that’s no accident!”

“Death to tyrants!”

Everyone at the meeting took up the cry.

“There must be eight or ten meetings around the city, and I was able to make people think at that one only.  And even there, it made no appreciable difference to the final mood of the meeting.” He checked at the other meetings - yes, there, people were furious - but they were breaking up for the night.

Next morning, Ciecet reported this to the others, and commented,

“That little boy needs a father who’s a thought-reader.”

“Do you think Shimei and I ought to adopt him?”

“Not unless you both feel you should.”

“I think we’d find it difficult,” admitted Wysau.

“That I can well understand,” commented Abritis.

“Doesn’t his grandmother need him?” asked Tsie.  “Who’s going to look after her in her old age?”

“Oh yes,” said Wysau, “I must warn Shimei.  He’ll be coming to school tomorrow.”

“Will he be fit?” asked Ciecet.

“Perhaps she won’t bring him if he’s not - or perhaps she will, if she needs a break.”

They asked for prayer for the boy, and a retired Cirian teacher, without grandchildren of his own, volunteered to be a 'foster uncle’ for two hours a week, to talk to the boy in his thoughts, and answer his questions.

The next evening, Shimei reported:

“Lath turned up all by himself.  He said his granny was busy with her washing.  He’s very good at writing, and Helen says his drawing is exceptional.”

His foster uncle agreed with this.  “His granny won’t let him use a knife.  He wants to skin and gut the little mammals and re-sell them.”

“Good idea,” said Wysau, “but who’s going to persuade her?”

“Her financial situation,” said the foster uncle.

They apprenticed the little lad to the gardener’s younger brother, and he sat every afternoon at the stall, skinning and gutting.  Every evening he brought a pile of coins to his grandmother - or bought food on her instructions.  At first he was very tired, and was glad to go to bed early and sleep soundly all night.  He carried on going to school, she carried on taking in washing, and somehow they made ends meet.

“I’m afraid they won’t be here for at least another half-hour, Shimei,” said Tsie.  “Do come in, anyway - I’d be glad of the company.”

“Are you all alone?”

“Yes.  Quite a lot of us have a day off tomorrow, so we want to leave everything up to date so that those who are working don’t have too hard a time.  The doctors, particularly, have been ever so busy - people from a village seven miles to the west brought three sick people this morning, so Wysau went to help this afternoon, and found that other villagers from even further away had arrived, and really needed urgent treatment.  So his patients from this city have had to wait, and the doctors felt they ought to see - ”

Suddenly Tsie stopped and listened.

“That’s all right, Ciecet.  Thanks for letting me know.” To Shimei she explained, “The doctors will be another half-hour - an hour altogether.  One of the patients brought by four villagers has an infectious disease, so all his travelling companions will have to be treated, and the family who gave them hospitality when they arrived.”

“Does Wysau know I’m here?”

“I didn’t mention it - I thought he’d have remembered - I had.  But he can’t leave the others - they’re exhausted.  They’ll come as soon as they can.  They must all be hungry.  Shall we two eat with the rest of the team when they arrive?  That’ll only be in half an hour.  Would you like a drink while you’re waiting?”

“Yes, please,” said Shimei.

The strangers were friendly - they all spoke Remsheth fluently, except perhaps Ytazu.  They treated her just like one of themselves; they asked her about her morning at the school, just as each one told the others about his day’s work.  They fully realized that she had to work in the afternoons as well, marking books and preparing lessons.  It was taken for granted that everyone had work to do, and everyone should have time to rest as well.  Ciecet apologized to her as well as to Tsie when the doctors finally arrived - but no-one blamed them.  Of course they had had to stay to treat those sick people.  But Shimei saw it differently.  Would sick people always come before herself for Wysau?  This was, after all, his day off!  Would there never be time that was reserved for herself only?

Well, she would give time to him.  She sat by him as he ate, listening to the doctors talk - and yawn!  Lintis and Ciecet were quite as tired as Wysau, and Lintis, in particular, showed her great appreciation of Wysau’s help on his day off.  Wysau had begun to eat in a leisurely fashion, but, after Lintis’ remarks, suddenly speeded up - but Shimei was too angry to notice.

“I’m sorry, love,” he said, stopping to speak.  “When things are better organized here - when we have more Cirian doctors, and when some of your people are trained, this sort of situation should not arise.  This wouldn’t be allowed to happen at home.”

“I should think not,” said Lintis.

“But none of our trainees will be able to work alone for six or seven years yet,” said Ciecet.

“But I don’t want to go to Cirian,” burst out Shimei, “and here it could often happen!  Must the people always come first?”

“God cares about you,” said Lintis.  “He will arrange for you to have time together - and it is one of our priorities as a team.”

“Oh yes!” cried Shimei.  “To keep me waiting a whole hour - and, now he is here, the poor man’s so tired he can hardly keep his eyes open!”

Ciecet looked shocked - but Wysau took his spoon, and the fruit dessert Tsie handed him, and led Shimei to his cabin.

“If there had been an epidemic in this city,” he said quietly, “your parents could have caught it as well as anyone else.  You are safe - you have been immunized against it - or it would have been even longer before you’d have seen me tonight.”

Suddenly ashamed of herself, Shimei burst into tears.  Wysau carried on eating, took his dish and spoon to the kitchen, and returned with hot drinks for them both.

“Thank you, love - you waiting on me, and you so tired!”

“Well, we can both rest now.” He sat down, and smiled at her.  “Humanly speaking, your anxiety is well-founded.  There is more danger of revolution now than there has ever been, because all the people are united in their desire for their ancient inheritances.  And you know that God does sometimes allow His servants to be killed in His service, because of Ruha’s execution.  But He does not allow that unless it really is the best thing, for them and for all the rest of His people.  We know this from His word:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

Jesus, in His prayer to His Father, says,

“I pray . . . for those who will believe in Me through their (His apostles’) word, that they may be made perfect in one, that the world may know that You have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17, vs. 20, 23.

So God the Father loves us, His children, as He loves His only begotten Son Jesus Christ!  It’s almost incredible.”

“Yet He allowed Ruha to be executed before she was twenty.”

“He allowed His own Son to die a painful and shameful death.” Wysau paused.  “But if He had not, none of us could ever have been saved.”

“I suppose if He had not, Prince Kwishe would never have been saved.”

“You can’t be quite sure, but he may well have been saved before he died.  And how pleased Ruha would be, not just in this life, but for ever.”

“Ruha is in Heaven for ever - and you will be, and I, and Feor, and Helen, and Mother - oh, that it could be Father, too!”

“Keep praying - ” and suddenly Wysau was listening to something she could not hear.

“In ten minutes there’ll be a Prayer Meeting,” he explained.

“Oh no!  I’d better go home.”

“No, my love.  You need to seek God in prayer.  You need to give all your worries to Him, and leave them with Him.”

“But I’m not fit to come to prayer.”

“We are all sinners, love.  We all need to ask for cleansing before we can come into God’s presence.  You would never have lost your temper if you hadn’t been so anxious - and it wasn’t just for your own life, but for your family, your relations, your friends.  Let me tell you why we are meeting for prayer tonight: it is because we are all so tired.  Anxiety has made you almost as tired as we are.  Now you have had a little release - a good cry can help a little - you feel your tiredness more.  But there’s no need to rush.  You have eight minutes to finish your hot drink before you need walk the few steps into the lounge.”

“But Ciecet looked so shocked.”

“He has remembered your position.  Don’t be afraid of letting us see you’ve been crying - you’re allowed to cry in public on Cirian.  No-one will think you in any way unfit to come to God in prayer.  We will be glad to have you join with us.  And, most of all, God invites you to give Him your cares and worries.  His Name is not honoured by anxious or overtired servants.” Seeing that she had drained her mug, he kissed her forehead, and led the way into the lounge, bringing the two empty mugs with him.

Shimei was surprised, almost shocked, to hear how honest these Cirians were with their Lord and Master.  They were not afraid to admit that they were all so tired, particularly the thought-readers, that they could not keep watch on the underground meetings any more that weekend.  Yet the city was seething with would-be revolutionaries.  As Wysau begged his Lord to avert rioting and bloodshed, she prayed every word with him, and, to judge by the fervent “Amen“s, so did all the strangers.  They were more aware of the dangers than she was!  In the silence that followed, she prayed for all her family by name, begging the Lord of the Universe to keep them safe.  Then she remembered how God had helped them find Helen for Feor - how God had saved her from Foquar, brought Wysau back -

And God’s peace descended on them all.  Chalata spoke.  “We are to go to bed and sleep.  Our Creator will make us lie down in safety.  He will have the glory, and He alone.”

They enjoyed a precious half-hour together in the privacy of Wysau’s cabin.

“Now I want you to learn this verse by heart, Shimei, so that you have God’s promise to cling to when danger threatens:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

This verse is in the present tense; this is in the here and now.  Say it again.  Now, do you believe that God knows what is good for you, and for each member of your family?”

Shimei nodded.

“You don’t need to be worried or afraid.  God always keeps His word.  It’s getting late, my love; I’ll walk you home.”

“Well,” said the Roptoh at breakfast the next day, which was a Saturday, “we had a quiet night last night.  But when the people hear that the House of Nobles will not meet to consider their petition till Monday afternoon, they’ll be restive, to say the least.”

Shimei was silent.  The Roptoa said, “The riots won’t start till the nobles reject their petition.”

“I wish I shared your confidence, my lady; but, most certainly, the people will riot if their petition is rejected.  I suppose we shall have to find a way of convincing the nobles that they have no option but to grant it.”

“We shall have to explain the situation,” said Feor.

“Forcibly,” agreed the Roptoh.  “But will that be enough?”

“I will go to Chalata this morning,” said Feor, “and ask him to ask all the strangers to pray about it.”

“Yes, son, but come back with some ideas and information too.  The strangers can read this people’s minds - the nobles’ minds too, if they cared to do so.  Come back fairly quickly - we must plan some sort of strategy.”

“I’d better spend the morning away from the Palace,” said Helen.

“Come for a ride with me,” invited Shimei.

“Will it rain?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I must be back in time for Feor.”

“Remind me.”

“I’ll bring my watch,” said Helen proudly.

“Wrap up warmly,” advised the Roptoa.

“Yes, Mother, we will,” said Shimei.

On the way through the city, they passed two women who sat outside their hovels, breastfeeding their babies.  Shimei said nothing at the time, but once they were in the foothills and safely out of earshot, she exploded:

“Why must they do that in public?”

“Ladies don’t, on my world,” said Helen.  “Sometimes the poor do.”

“Most ladies have a servant to do it for them.”

“It’s the same on my world,” agreed Helen.

As they returned, they saw that the market was busy as usual, but not so noisy.  People greeted them respectfully.

That evening, at the prayer meeting, Wysau reported, “There is an unusual atmosphere in the city.  Four people from the city, who have previously taken pains to avoid us, have come to us this morning with ailments they have been suffering from for a long time.”

“Between my visits this afternoon,” said Ciecet, “a group of children threw stones and earth at me, and called out, “That’s for making our mothers cry!”

“Oh, I see!” said Lintis.

“I didn’t have time to change,” he said apologetically.

The strangers thanked God for what He had already done, and pleaded for God’s Holy Spirit to convict the people, and the nobles, of their sin, God’s righteousness and coming judgement.  They went to bed and slept.  So did Feor, Helen and Shimei.  The Roptoa slept too - but the Roptoh spent the night hours - at least most of them - listening for the riot that did not break out.

On the Sunday morning, Chalata, after his time of prayer, said to Janita,

“Today, I’m not allowed to preach anything but the Gospel.”

That Sunday morning, Emlota dressed in her best and asked her stepmother what the time was.

“A quarter past ten, dear.”

“I’ve plenty of time yet.”

“Where are you going?”

“To the strangers’ religious meeting.”

“Oh,” said her mother.  “Whatever for?”

“Well, you see, it was the young stranger who got rid of that young imbecile for me - the one Father tried to foist on me.  He convinced him that it would not be safe for him to stay here.”

“No more it would - that’s quite true.”

“He was very nice to me when I thanked him.” There was no mistaking her heightened colour.

“My dear, you mustn’t go on your own,” said her stepmother, rising.  “That would be most improper.”

“Would you come too?”

“Yes, my dear.”

“Oh, thank you, Mother!  I would be pleased.”

“I’ve nothing else to do,” she said, “and it’s a nice morning.  We’ll go together.”

All Emlota receive from Shurzi was a frienly greeting from a distance, as he walked up hand-in-hand with Thilish.  The meeting was crowded.

“That clasp she’s wearing - look, the stranger woman that your young stranger is with - all the stranger women have them.  Does it mean they’re married?”

“Oh,” said Emlota, in great disappointment.

“You can’t go back now - Abritis has seen you.”

“Oh.” So Emlota waved.

“Come on, let’s go inside,” urged her stepmother.  “I wonder why there are so many here.  I never heard that so many of our people went to the strangers’ meeting.”

“I can’t be sure,” said Emlota after the service.  “If all the stranger women wear clasps, it might not mean they are married.”

“True - but he was definitely holding her hand.  But - a God Who loves us!  With a Son Who was willing to be the sacrifice Himself!  This is real love, my dear - not what these men talk about when all they want is your money.  Will you come with me tonight?”

Emlota felt she couldn’t very well refuse.

“Yes, I know,” said a troubled Chalata as they walked back to the flying machine after the morning service.  “We had almost fifty extra in our congregation - but why did they all walk out during the sermon?  What did I say wrong, Feor?”

“Nothing that I noticed,” said Feor, equally puzzled.

“In this culture,” said Helen, “crying in public is not permitted.”

That afternoon, Shurzi took Thilish out for a walk.

Over two hundred came in the evening, but, by twos and threes, and then by dozens, they all walked out before Chalata had got half way through his sermon.

“I’m sure Helen’s right, love,” comforted Janita.

“I could feel God’s presence,” said a tearful Abritis.  “I know I’m forgiven.”

Darte squeezed her hand.

“But they didn’t hear half my message,” said Chalata, still concerned.  “They only heard about sin and judgement.”

Later on that evening, Chalata’s language helper heard stifled sobs outside his hovel.  He went out to give his troubled neighbour the rest of Chalata’s message, but, while he was talking, he was surrounded by others from nearby streets.  He raised his voice a little, but someone from the back of the gathering crowd shouted,

“Please speak up!  We would all like to hear!”

Someone brought a box for him to stand on as he preached to half the city.

“All of you, who have found your God this night, go home and tell your families!  You who are not sure if you have really been forgiven, go home and cry to God until you know He has accepted you as His child.”

So it was that, by eleven that night, the crowd had dispersed quietly.

The next morning, while the strangers were having breakfast, there was a knock on the door of the flying machine.  Tsie, who had finished eating, went to answer.

“Excuse me,” said Fsuub’s nephew’s wife, “we were riding through the city last night, coming home from a dinner party, when we passed a great crowd who were listening to the message of your God.  I only heard a little bit - about a Saviour dying on a cross.  I wanted to stop and hear more, but my husband thought it not safe with such a crowd.  So I had to go home with him.  Please tell me - why did the Saviour die a cruel death like that?  Who was He?”

“Let’s go and sit on the steps leading down to the ancient building,” suggested Tsie.  “I’ll fetch you an ancient Bible, and you can read about the Saviour, and I’ll explain.”

The rest of the team looked at each other in wonder.

“Who could have been preaching?” asked Darte.

“Could have been my language helper,” said Chalata.

“He’s asleep,” said Shurzi.

“Some of the revolutionaries have been converted,” reported Wysau.  He sat, thoughtreading.

“So many,” said Shurzi.  “Lots of our workmen.”

“Even that contractor,” said Abritis, “who was so awkward - and my new Chemistry trainee.”

“So many new-born lambs,” said Lintis.

“We’ll hold an enquirers’ meeting this evening,” decided Chalata.  “Can you write me a notice, Janita, and Wysau can put it up outside on the surgery wall.”

“Tsie’s holding one already,” said Janita.  “Four other women have come to listen.”

Wysau sat staring vacantly ahead of him.

Abritis was chatting away happily as she worked.

“Thilish had the same sort of experience as you last Friday evening.  There’s been a young nobleman hanging round the clinic, waiting for a chance to talk to her.  She didn’t want to be rude - she didn’t know how to tell him she was married.  But on Friday evening - I don’t know why, he doesn’t usually - Shurzi went down to the surgery to meet her, and, as everyone else had gone home and she was locking up, he took the opportunity to kiss her.  The young nobleman looked through the window - and then went home.”

“Oh,” said Emlota.

She was very quiet for a while.

The Roptoh was pacing up and down his bedroom.  The Roptoa sat brushing her long hair, waiting for her maid to come and put it up for her.

“You look as though you’ve hardly slept all night,” she said.

“I haven’t,” he rejoined.  “I don’t know how you can sit there fiddling with your hair, while these people are preparing to sack the Palace and kill us all.”

“Because I am quite sure they will not.  There was such a peace in the city last night - Feor, Helen and Shimei all felt it, and so do I.  If the people were plotting rebellion, that vast crowd of them, they’d have carried out their plan there and then, not dispersed so quietly.”

“You have a point there,” conceded the Roptoh.

There was a knock at the door.  “Who’s there?” he asked sharply.

“It’s me, Shimei.”

“Oh, come in, dear,” called the Roptoa.  “What news?”

“A message from Wysau.  There is no need for disquiet.  Many of the revolutionaries were converted last night - many others, too.  Those who are converted will have more patience, but all of them deeply desire their inheritances.  There is no immediate danger of revolution, but please do as you told the deputation - consider their plea and present it to the House of Nobles.”

“Tell him the motion is filed for the meeting this afternoon.”

“Oh good,” said Shimei.  “And, Father, don’t be worried if there’s a crowd round the flying machine tonight.  There will be a meeting there this evening for people who want to know more about our God.”

Nobody wanted to stop Tsie and Janita counselling the women, especially those with children, who would not be able to come out to the enquirers’ meeting that evening.  The building work on the hospital was completed; there was only some straightforward electrical wiring, which the trainees were able to complete.  Darte was supervising the work on the power stations.  Ytazu’s Remsheth was still not very good, so he was the one who was asked to do Tsie’s work that day.

She left him a list of instructions.  He was not an excellent cook, but she knew he was capable.  However, he found it very hard to shake off depression that day.  Why on earth should he be depressed?  They were experiencing revival, the most wonderful answer to their persistent prayers that God could have given them.  It showed all the signs of being His work, a work for eternity.  It made all the effort and all the expenditure well worth while.  All their prayer support groups were rejoicing and praising God, and new members had joined them.  If Ytazu was not a more useful member of the team, it was because he had not made that extra effort with the language.  Why, Janita had not found it easy to learn, nor had Thilish; but they had worked, and by then spoke it correctly and fluently, though they would probably never have the distinction that Chalata and Wysau shared, of being indistinguishable from native speakers.  But someone had to work the cleaning hands, use the washing machine, prepare the meals -

He had sat brooding for longer than he had realized.  Lots of vegetables had to be prepared for the evening meal.  Vegetables for thirteen take more than ten minutes to prepare, and in ten minutes they ought to be put on to cook.  He dashed into the kitchen.

His mental cry for help had not gone unheard.  In a moment Shurzi and Thilish, whose day off it was, joined him in the kitchen, energetically preparing those vegetables.  Three can do in ten minutes what one cannot quite do in thirty.

“I was feeling low.”

“That’s all right.  Glad we could help,” said Shurzi.

The evening meal was dished up on time, and no-one mentioned that last-minute rush.

But afterwards . . .

When Ytazu had helped Tsie to stack the washing-up machine, and all was tidy, they sat down, and Ytazu was silent.  There was no point in them all going to the meeting, Chalata had said, so only he, Janita, Shurzi and Thilish had gone.  Wysau had wanted to go to meet Shimei.  The others sat exhausted.  Ciecet was on call; he had to go out, and Lintis helped him with the necessary ray treatment.  Ytazu sat, useless.

“I must not sit and brood,” he thought.  “If I have truly repented of my laziness in not learning Remsheth, I must do something about it.” So he went to his cabin to find his Remsheth grammar - a bundle of pages photocopied from Chalata’s neat handwriting.  It took him some time - it was underneath some clean underclothes in a drawer.  By the time he had found it, he was very tired - and he could not remember which was the last page he had studied.

Oh, what was the use?  He had been here for months, and would not be staying for many months longer.  It was too late to study Remsheth.  He might as well keep his resolution for the next trip.

Would there be a next trip, for Tsie and himself?  They were going back to help their daughter-in-law with her new baby.  What about their daughter, who was also married?  And then their grandchildren would need their care and attention - perhaps their training, as they got older . . .

Shurzi and Thilish sat silent, resting their heads on the high back of the sofa in the lounge.  Their eyes were closed.  Only the movement of Thilish’s lips in an `Amen’ betrayed what they were really doing.  She was not as experienced in thought-communication as her husband.

Their training, thought Ytazu.  That was something to look forward to.  Not for nothing had Chalata selected this husband-and-wife team to fly his spaceship.  Ytazu had a gift for charting courses to unknown worlds.  Perhaps one of his grandchildren would inherit that gift.

But, in the meantime, if he was going to show true repentance, he must do what he could to put right his mistake.  So he started about half-way through his grammar, revising what he did know, and, when he found a part he really did not know, applying himself seriously to learning it.

There was no loud, jovial chatter as there usually was when the nobles gathered for a convocation of their House.  They sat or stood in small groups, talking in low voices.  When they saw the Roptoh and Crown Prince coming in, they rose quickly and stood in complete silence.  The Roptoh acknowledged their respect, and, with a gesture, invited them to be seated before he began:

“My lords, you have all doubtless heard that the strangers have unearthed an ancient building, and that, in the crypt under that building, are volumes and volumes of ancient records of land inheritances covering most of the country.” He and Feor held up the map Helen had drawn that morning.  “According to these records, the land was divided amongst the ancient people of this land, before the first Roptoh conquered it.  I have no inheritance here, and neither have most of you.  Those of us whose nobility goes back many generations have estates in our original land, this portion here on the map.

Four days ago, the people presented me with a petition, asking that their ancient inheritances be restored to the descendants of those named in the books.  This petition has the support of almost every ordinary citizen of this land.  If we refuse, there will be revolution.  I hardly need to remind your lordships of recent events in Traitan.”

Cries of anger rose from the members of the House.  Two noblemen asked to speak.  As the Roptoh chose Lord Algachthi, Prynoh came in and sat quietly near the door.

“This is our land by right of conquest.  Perhaps it was divided among the people in ancient times - but on what grounds should it be returned to them now?”

“It was taken from them by conquest.  We no longer have a large loyal army.  Most of the common soldiers in our present army belong to this people.  They will not fight for us against the people because they stand to gain land if the distribution takes place.  Now the people are threatening that, if we do not restore their lands, they will take them by revolution.  As we are not able to put down such an uprising, we would be well advised to restore their lands, and return to our own land with dignity.”

“Could we not raise an army from our own ancient people?”

“It would take too long.  By the time they had arrived, we would already have been murdered.”

Lord Taralk asked to speak.  “Those of us whose nobility was conferred upon our ancestors by reason of their service in the war will have no land at all in our ancient country.  We will lose everything.”

“At least you will have your lives and your savings.  You heard and saw the demonstration.  The people feel very deeply about this.  They are united as one man.”

There were mutterings of “coward”.  One nobleman cried, “Who will lead us against this rabble?”

Suddenly Prynoh rose and strode into the centre of the House.  “Who will listen to this cowardly counsel?  Let us stand up and fight for our rights, our land, our rightful positions in society.  This rabble has been indoctrinated by the strangers with that same religion which they held before we conquered them.  It will tell them not to fight, but to accept whatever befalls them.  This God is a figment of their imagination.  He was powerless to save them from us then - He is powerless to help them now.”

“We have the strangers to thank that we haven’t had our throats cut already,” said the Roptoh.  “At least half of these people have not accepted this religion.  If we refuse their petition, they will revolt.  We must face the reality of this situation.” He raised his voice over the angry mutterings of the nobles.  “There must be six thousand people in this city who have not accepted this religion.  Six thousand who will revolt if their petition is not granted.  There are fifty of us here.  With our grown sons, that makes a hundred and twenty.  Remember, we can count on none of our servants.  A hundred and twenty men, some of us elderly - how can we stand against six thousand?  Even if some of our sons are officers in the army, the situation remains much the same.  We are hopelessly outnumbered.  It would be sheer folly to try to fight.”

“A small, well-trained and well-equipped army can take on thousands of rabble like these,” cried Prynoh.

There was some assent, but many looked doubtful.

“Are you all milli?  Too afraid to come out and show yourselves?” taunted Prynoh.  All eyes were upon him.  “We have berron, they have none.  We have swords and guns; they have none.  We could slaughter twice our number, and the rest would beg for mercy.  To arms!  Do not listen to such cowardly counsel!  I will lead you to victory!”

“Do you think the strangers will sit by and let it happen?” demanded the Roptoh - but his voice was drowned by cheering.  Feor prayed; there was nothing else he could do.

“To arms!” cried Prynoh.

“To arms!” echoed most of the lords.  Prynoh was about to lead a council of war, when suddenly he collapsed.  One of the lords near the front bent over him.  Others came to see.  There was a hush.  Prynoh lay horribly still.

“Send for the stranger doctor,” called Lord Treprom.  A servant was dispatched to summon a doctor.

“It is too late,” said another.  “He is dead.”

“May I speak, Father?” asked Feor.

“I wish you would,” growled the Roptoh.

Feor rose, and stood in front of Prynoh’s body to speak.

“I have been studying the holy book of the God who was the God of this people, who is their God now, and who is also the God of Helen’s world, and of the strangers’.  This God will chastise His people, if they turn away from Him, by allowing them to be conquered by another nation.  The sacred building and the books were buried by those who still loved their God, when they saw the first Roptoh’s victory was inevitable.  But this God has compassion on His people when they have been ill-treated and downtrodden for a long time.  He sent the strangers to help them.  He has sent His Spirit to turn them back to Himself.  Now that so many of them have truly turned to Him, do you think He will allow them to be slaughtered?”

Some of the lords were muttering impatiently, but his next point commanded their attention.

“Do you think that these strangers will sit by and allow the people to be slaughtered, when they have worked day after day to help and heal them?  Let me tell you of the power of their hypnotism.  It seeps into your mind, till it takes over your thinking, and you cannot help doing exactly as they tell you.  We may not be powerless against the people; we all may not be powerless against the strangers, though most of us will be; but we are all alike powerless against this holy, almighty God.  The strangers did not know of the holy building, nor about the books in its crypt.  It was this God who caused them to find it.  If we attempt to fight against this almighty God, what will happen to us?”

In moving back to his seat, Feor unconsciously revealed Prynoh’s body.  There was a silence you could feel.

The Roptoh rose.  “This God is a just God.  He has left us this portion of land.” Feor rose and helped his father to hold up the map.  “Let us graciously grant the petition of the people, and return to our own land with dignity.  I move that this be put to the vote.”

While the tellers were moving into their positions, and the Roptoh was reading out his motion, big, burly Lord Taralk whispered to short, fat, but rich and influential Lord Algachthi.  The latter’s face lit up with hope.  He whispered to his neighbours.  Some looked doubtful, but many tried to hide smiles as they voted for the motion.  To the Roptoh’s astonishment, the motion was carried with only five against, and six abstentions.  Immediately afterwards, the doctor arrived, and confirmed what they all suspected: Prynoh was dead.

She had gone, too.

The Roptoh had been expecting his son, his son’s wife and his daughter to attend the Christian meeting that evening.  They had been attending them for weeks at the surgery.  But when his Roptoa put on her cloak and announced her intention of accompanying them, he was quite taken aback.  True, it was a far more pleasant walk through their park to the hospital site than it was through the dusty city - not so long, either.

This year, because of the nightly dew, there was short grass in the royal park, and the trees were greener.  The Roptoh decided a walk would be more pleasant than sitting in his apartment.  He also wished to know if his daughter’s reports of the vast crowds at these meetings was exaggerated.  So he dismissed his valet and chamberlain, and went out towards the strangers’ flying machine.

Strangers they were, too - very strange.  They flew to another world to bring Helen to Feor to save his life and the stability of the Roptoh’s succession, to acquiesce cheerfully when these books were discovered, and he and Feor lost their kingdom!  He thought, perhaps, the strangers wanted to rule his kingdom through his son and daughter, over whom they had great influence, but when Feor lost his kingdom and Shimei all her wealth, they did not seem to care.  Yet Wysau was as keen to marry Shimei as ever.  It made no sense at all.

The people were nearly as puzzling.  He had been the kindest Roptoh who had ever ruled them.  First he had set up the House of Representatives.  He had paid Foquar to drain the lower city and put in pipes so that it did not flood in the rainy season.  He had paid Darte and Shurzi to build the water treatment works, and to pipe clean water into the city.  When the strangers had persuaded Lord Treprom to sell vegetables and grain so cheaply, he had not stepped in to prevent this.  Instead, he was selling his own produce just as cheaply, and losing money in the process.  He had allowed Feor to persuade him to repeal those laws, and make himself unpopular with the nobles.  The poor in the city were better off than they had been for three hundred years.  And what were they planning to do?  To oust him, and replace him with the descendant of their former King.  This descendant would, no doubt, be a peasant with no education, no experience of government, who would make a dreadful mess of things . . . when, for the past few weeks, the strangers had been teaching Feor how to run a country!

Had they been taken by surprise by the books, just as he had been?

He could hear the voice of their preacher - was it Chalata?  No; one of the people.  He went closer.  There was indeed a vast crowd - and a great silence.

“God is holy,” declared the preacher.  “He is completely, unutterably holy.  He cannot look on sin.  All evil thoughts, selfishness, foolish speaking, telling tales behind a person’s back - all the times when we have not considered God’s glory, or done what we know He would like us to do rather than what we wanted to do, or what our sons wanted - God hates all these things.  How can He accept us as His children? we who are not able to stop thinking, saying or doing evil things, and are always putting our own interests first before God’s glory or the good of others?”

The Roptoh strode away.  He did not want to hear any more.

At breakfast the next morning, he had a full report.

“God promised the strangers,” said Feor, “that He would turn the hearts of the people back to Him through the books in that building - and He has kept His word.”

“They were weeping, Father,” said Shimei.  “Wysau said his joy was overwhelming - that this was what they had hoped and longed for all these months.”

“Chalata said he would have to stay longer,” said Feor.  "“All these newborn babes need looking after,” he said.  “We must teach them to read the Bible for themselves, and to know God in a deeper way.”"

“Is that really what they came for?” asked the Roptoh.  “To see our people turn to their God?”

“Yes, Father,” said Shimei earnestly.

“What do they gain from that?”

“They love their God more than anything else.  To live for Him is their aim.”

“The priests say something like that,” said the Roptoh, “but everyone knows they love their own prestige and comfort.”

Feor nodded his agreement; so did his mother.  Only the Roptoh disliked the ensuing silence.

“It’s wonderful,” said Janita to Chalata, Tsie and anyone else on the flying machine who was close enough to hear.

“Do you think we might actually persuade them,” wondered Chalata, “to allow the lords to depart peacefully, with no executions or burnings of mansions?”

“If the lords don’t hang about for too long,” said Shurzi.  “Naturally they don’t want to start a long journey till the rains stop.”

“The people must let off steam somehow,” said Wysau.

“A day of celebration?” suggested Janita.

“Brilliant,” cried Tsie.

“Street parties and dancing,” continued Janita.

“How long till the rains stop?” asked Tsie.

“At least a fortnight,” said Darte.

“The sooner the lords go, the better,” said Wysau.

“Give them a chance to get ready,” said Chalata.

“You see,” said Tsie, “five weeks ago, Wysau gave me some wild vegetable seeds to grow.  Loads of them - sixty or seventy of each plant.  And I got ninety per cent germination.”

“Were the leaves we had yesterday from them?” asked Mosu.  “I thought I hadn’t tasted them before.”

“Did you like them?”

“They were strong,” said Mosu.  “I wouldn’t have liked them on their own.”

“I thought they had a good flavour,” said Darte.

“Were they the dark ones you gave me to analyse?” asked Abritis of Wysau.

“Yes.”

“Full of minerals - just two vitamins.”

“Have you got the full report?”

“It’s in the lab.  The other two contained more vitamins but fewer vitamins.  But, all together, they should be very useful.”

“Can you remember if they contained anything that should not be eaten freely?”

“Yes - they didn’t.”

“The problem is,” said Tsie, “that in about two to three weeks, we shall have so many that we won’t know what to do with them.  I don’t think they’ll freeze; we won’t be able to eat them all.”

“We could donate raw vegetable platters to ten of the poorest’ street parties,” suggested Janita.

“Certainly.  And have enough to put into savoury bites.  But when on earth do we prepare this party food?”

“Would you, Tsie and Janita, be willing to help the schoolgirls to learn how?” suggested Wysau.  “Helen could teach the tinies as usual, and Shimei the boys.”

“It would be hard work,” said Tsie, “but much more worthwhile than simply preparing these things ourselves.  Could Shimei invite mothers to come and help?  We’d end up with more acceptable food, and they’d learn how, too.”

“You’d want some other vegetables,” said Abritis.  “Most of the ones you need to use are green, leafy ones.  You need some root vegetables to go with them - some stem ones, too.”

“Shimei will have to ask the mothers to bring some.”

“And some flour and shortening.”

They consulted Obek.  He said he would willingly exchange some flour and shortening for some tasty vegetables to go in his savoury bites.

There was great rejoicing in the city when the people heard that their petition had been granted.

The Leader rose to address the House of Representatives.

“You have all, no doubt, heard that our oppressors are leaving us.  They will return to Ishboth, the country from which they came two hundred years ago.  By general agreement from all quarters, this House has been chosen as the interim governing body of our land of Remshethgath.  The land is ours to divide between ourselves into family inheritances according to the books discovered in the crypt of the ancient building.”

Cheering broke out from all sides.

“As the interim government,” he continued as soon as he could, “it is our duty to support the economic structure that provides work, pay and food for our citizens.  We must not allow the looting of our traders’ premises, or the stealing or spoiling of the crops grown on our land.  The same suggestion has reached us from many quarters: where stewards remain in our country, they should be appointed interim managers of their ex-lords’ estates, and should run them for the benefit of those employed on them.  Crops should be cared for and harvested, sold to traders to sell to the people, and the workers be paid from the proceeds.  Those workers and their families whose dwellings are in the worst state of disrepair, should be allowed to take up residence in rooms in their lord’s mansion.  The mansions should not, therefore, be burned down or vandalized till houses have been built for these workers.”

“Are our people not to be permitted to take any vengeance on their oppressors?” cried a Member.

“Do you think the strangers would permit it?” asked the Leader.

Fists were raised and clenched angrily, particularly in the public gallery.  A Member’s hand was raised.

“You may speak.”

“Remember the good things the strangers have done for our people.  Many of our children would have died without their help.  Let us also remember that the first stranger doctor is still to marry our ex-Princess.  He takes her with no money, land, house or dowry of any kind - not even the hope of an inheritance among us.  How can we expect him to stand by and see his beloved’s family and relatives executed - however richly they may deserve it?”

There were howls of anger, but some were silent.

“Do any of you wish to speak?” cried the Leader.

He selected one of the raised hands; the Member made an angry protest.  Other hands were raised, but the Leader intervened.

“We have no power to do anything about this,” he said.  “Does this House agree with the proposal that the stewards who remain should run their ex-lords’ estates for the benefit of those who have worked so hard to build them up?”

Members knew better than to disagree with a proposal from the `quarters’ - the revolutionary societies to which many of their voters belonged.  So, although many were not sure whether the stewards could be trusted, the suggestion was passed, and Members quietened down.

The Leader continued:

“It is necessary to choose a team to distribute the inheritances to our people according to the books.  Any Member who has a name to put forward must ensure that this person is willing to be nominated, and that another Member is willing to second the nomination.  Then the House will vote for a four-member team who can bring us a report on this matter - how long it is likely to take, any problems, whether they need further assistance, and so on.  Let us adjourn for twenty minutes, and re-assemble promptly at eleven-fifteen.”

The very next day, as Feor was on his way to help Chalata with translation work, he saw four men hesitating a little distancce from the flying machine.  He went up to them.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“We wish to speak to the strangers.”

“Come with me.  They are expecting me.”

He knocked on the flying machine door, as usual.  Tsie opened it.  “Come in, Feor.”

“May I ask you to receive these others?”

“Come in,” said Chalata, “come in.  What can we do for you?”

They looked round nervously, but Feor, obviously completely at his ease, was removing his shoes.  They copied him, and came inside.  Tsie took their wet cloaks, and hung them up to dry in the kitchen.

“We have come from the House of Representatives.  First, we wish to thank you for uncovering the ancient building and finding the books for us.  Second, we have been elected to distribute the inheritances to the people, but none of us can read the ancient script in which the books are written.”

“I can only read it very slowly,” said Chalata, “and none of my colleagues can read it at all.  Feor here can read it with ease.”

They looked apprehensively at their ex-Crown Prince.

“Feor,” said Chalata, “could you please fetch two of the books of inheritances from the ancient building - the one with the general outline, and one of the detailed ones?”

Feor put on his cloak, then his shoes, and went.  “Just like a servant,” thought the representatives.

“Are you asking yourselves if you can trust him?” asked Chalata gravely.

“Oh yes,” thought the representatives, “these strangers can read our thoughts.”

“You noticed,” continued Chalata, “that he was not nervous in the flying machine, nor with us?  We have worked together on many mornings.  He has been helping me to translate, from our language to yours, one of the textbooks we will be using to teach you our medical knowledge.  He has worked with me day after day, and has talked with all of us very often.  Some of us can see into his mind.  We consider him trustworthy.  He is, as far as we can judge, a true follower of your God and ours.”

Feor returned with the books, and the four studied the map of their country, while Feor explained it, and read them some of the writing.  They then looked at some of the more detailed maps.  One of them, whose child had learnt to read the strangers’ script, asked Feor which letters in the strangers’ script one of the ancient characters stood for.

“You’d better explain this, Chalata,” he said.  “There is not a simple one-to-one relationship, as there is with the letters in Chalata’s script, and the sounds used in our language.”

The four came out, walked down to Han’s house, made themselves dry and comfortable, and conferred.

“Ouf,” said Han.  “Am I glad to be out of that flying machine!  Those strangers give me the creeps.  I couldn’t work with one of them.”

“They can’t read the old script very well, anyway,” said Quai, “so there’s no real question of that.”

“Could any of us learn to read it?” asked Tauq.

“It would take me a long time,” said Trod, the one who could read Chalata’s script.  “It’s very difficult.  Now I understand why Chalata has invented his own script, and is teaching it to our people.  It’s very easy and quick to learn, compared with the old script.”

“There isn’t time for us to learn the old script,” said Quai.  “The people want their land as soon as possible.  Is that agreed?”

The other three nodded.

“Is there anyone else among our leaders, or the House of Representatives, who can read that script easily?” asked Tauq.

“There’s Thil, the shopkeeper,” suggested Han.

“Easily, I said,” said Tauq.

“There’s Priadt,” suggested Han.

“The Roptoh’s administrator?” cried Tauq.  “I’d as soon trust Feor.”

“I’d far rather trust Feor,” said Quai.

“Isn’t there anyone else?” asked Tauq.

“Only people who have worked for the Roptoh,” said Han, “or as stewards for other noblemen.”

“Or as scribes or tutors in their households,” said Quai.  “We must call a meeting of the House, to decide who should be asked to help us.”

“The strangers,” said Shimei, “were encouraging the babes in Christ to form groups and meet together to share what Christ has done for them, and to help each other.  We have fellowship with each other and with the strangers, but what about Lord Treprom?”

“Could we ask him to dine with us?” suggested Helen.

But when they saw him after the service on the Sunday, his wife was with him, and their children.

“We should be delighted if you could come to our abode one evening to study God’s word with us,” said Lady Treprom.  “What evening would be convenient?”

On the Monday morning, Feor was saying to Chalata,

“There’s no point in our staying here - I mean, Helen and myself.  Shurzi said that the House of Representatives wants to execute us.  We must return to our ancient country.”

“They need you to distribute inheritances,” said Chalata.  “No-one else can read that script easily except other lords or a few upper servants who are hated more than you are - largely because of Helen.  And they will need a new administration system to make the inheritance system work.  The people are in no mood to wait.  It will not be possible to maintain order unless improvements are put in place quickly.  And someone must be able to run referenda - to ask the people if they want this new administration - and, first of all, to explain it to them.  You and I, Feor, must get everything ready, so that, as soon as the House of Representatives decides the people must be consulted on an issue, we can run a referendum without delay.  The people must feel they have been consulted.  They will not like anything if they feel it has been imposed on them.”

Feor consulted Artax and the Royal secretaries, and, at Chalata’s suggestion, the records of births, marriages and deaths held at the new offices for civil marriages.  Together they drew up a list of make citizens over twenty-five to whom voting slips should be sent.

“I still don’t understand how anyone can persuade the people to let me stay here, much less do anything for them,” he complained to Helen.

“It must be because no-one else is able to do it.  You don’t just need to be able to read that difficult script - you need brains and you need training.  The House has got to find someone quickly, who is able and ready to do this work.  The strangers are not fools, my love.  They understand how the people feel.”

Feor remembered what Chalata had said - and other things that Wysau, Abritis and Shurzi had said in the past.

“And they know,” resumed Helen, “that the work will be difficult and tedious.”

“I’ll have to have people to help me,” said Feor.

“The House has already elected a team of four, Abritis says, and they want to be allowed to ask you to help them.”

“Just because I asked them if I could help, when they were hesitating outside the flying machine?”

“Chalata put in a good word for you.”

Shimei, Helen and Feor went to the Treproms’ home for their first meeting that Wednesday evening.  Lady Treprom told them how she found Christ, and Helen asked for prayer for their new maid, Hadkil.

“She is being courted by a man who is a little older than she would like, who comes to see her in the daytime when her father is not there.  Recently he has started to come in the mornings when her mother is out at the market.”

Shimei and Lady Treprom exchanged glances.

“She would tell him to go away, but she likes him so much.”

“I’m afraid he’s a priest, out to seduce her,” said Shimei.

“She’s young, a virgin, quite pretty?” asked Lady Treprom.

“Yes,” said Helen.

“My lady is right,” said Lady Treprom.  “This priest will enjoy Hadkil for a month, and then she will be a temple prostitute.”

“Oh no!” cried Helen.  “How can I warn her?”

“Tell her that if this man’s intentions were honourable, he would not call while her parents were out.  Either he must ask her father for her hand in marriage within the week, or she must tell him to go.  Remind her of that deadly disease that the priests and the prostitutes catch.”

“Oh dear,” said Helen.  “Could you be there too?”

“We must pray about this straight away,” said Lady Treprom.

As it happened, Shimei came to Helen’s apartment to work out who should teach which class on the following Monday morning, just at the right moment to give Hadkil a clear warning.

“It’s so hard to send away someone you really like,” she confessed.

“We will pray for you,” said Helen.

“But you will have to send him away,” said Shimei.  “No-one else can do it for you.”

“I sent him away - and - ”

Helen and Shimei saw the ugly scar all down Hadkil’s cheek.

“He slapped me - and his ring cut my cheek.”

“I’ll see what can be done,” said Shimei stoutly.

Two days later Hadkil was brushing Helen’s hair, when Shimei came in.

“Could you come to the strangers’ flying machine on Tuesday at three o’clock?”

“What for?”

“Your scar.  Dr. Lintis will heal it for you - remove it, I mean.”

“But I cannot pay!”

“We have paid for you,” said Helen.

On the Wednesday morning, there was Hadkil, her cheek smooth, her skin flawless.

“Why did you do this for me?”

“Because we love Jesus,” said Helen.

“Thank you, Lintis, very, very much,” said Shimei.  “It was wonderful to see her this morning, as pretty as ever.  And Helen was able to tell her about Jesus.”

“Shimei,” said Wysau quietly.

“Mm?”

“You want Hadkil’s father to have an inheritance?”

“Of course I do.  And Hadkil, when she marries - oh.”

“Well?”

“Oh Wysau!  It’s different when you talk to them, when you get to know them.  Especially when they know our God too.  But I shan’t be able to afford that sort of generosity any more.”

“I simply can’t face the journey,” said Prynoh’s mother.  “And it’s colder there.”

Lord Treprom could think of little to say to comfort her.  He had no estates in their ancient country.  He and his mother, his wife and two sons, were to lose everything but their savings.  He had no trade but farming.  He could not see how God could help them.  Yet he felt he must do all he could for Prynoh’s mother.  She was left completely alone - no husband, no son, no one, not even a daughter-in-law.

There was a knock on the door.  The servant ushered in two visitors -Wysau and Shimei.  Wysau carried a long roll of paper in his hand.

“Ah - doctor!” cried Prynoh’s mother.  “You would have saved him, if he had only followed your good advice.”

“I am most truly sorry,” said Wysau, and Shimei seconded this.

“I know,” she said, and gave him her hand.  “Thank you for coming - and you too, Shimei.  Oh, it’s a doleful day for you, my dear.”

“I shall be looked after, my lady,” said Shimei.  “We are to be married as soon as my parents permit, and Wysau will support us by working as a doctor, and teaching in the hospital.”

“You’ll do some teaching, too, Shimei, till our first child is expected.”

“I assume the Roptoh, Roptoa and Feor will be going to our ancient country.”

“My parents, yes.  But Feor and Helen would like to stay here, if the people vote to accept him as Administrator.  He is the only one who understands the strangers’ plan for running this country.”

“And so he should.  That’s very right and proper,” said the Princess Tran, and suddenly burst into tears.  Shimei silently put her arm round her aunt’s shoulders.

“We have come to see all four of you,” said Wysau, for Lord Treprom’s wife and mother were there in the room, “to ask you about a certain proposal we wish to make to the House of Representatives.  I’ve brought Helen’s map, and I wish to show you something.”

Prynoh’s mother could hardly see the map through her tears, but Lord Treprom, his wife and his mother could see, when Wysau showed them, that the old inheritances stopped three acres short of the edge of their land.  Their land next the mountain, three acres of it, was not covered by others’ inheritances - it was marked as woodland.  This was also the case with two and a half acres of Prynoh’s land, which had reverted to his mother.

“If you wish,” said Wysau, “I propose to ask the House of Representatives if you may keep this land, provided that, in both cases, the acre nearest the mountain be replanted with trees, and managed so that you can sell timber to the timber merchants, and, for every tree that is cut down, two more must be planted in its place.  You may, of course, plant more, but not less.  It is very important for the future of your country that the woodland should not be further depleted, but, on the contrary, more trees should be planted.  If you were willing to sign a document promising to do this, and your sons after you, we would find it easier to persuade the House that you should be allowed to keep this land.”

“That acre does not yield good crops,” said Lord Treprom.  “It might well pay us more in the long run to do as you ask, anyway; and there would be little hope of our keeping any land without your intervention.  And we’ll have our savings to keep us going till the trees have grown.”

“The house!” cried his mother.  “The house you built for me!  It’s in the acre closest to the mountain!  We’ll be able to keep it, and live there!” She clapped her hands with joy.  “And you shall come and live with us, my dear,” she said to the Princess Tran, “and we can all be happy together.”

“It is a large house, I hope?” Wysau asked Shimei as they rode home.

“By whose standards?  I would regard it as rather small, but you all live in cramped conditions without any discontent.  By the standards of the poor, it’s palatial.”

“How many bedrooms?”

“Six.  Ah - that means Aunt Tran and the Dowager Lady can have a sitting room to themselves.  Yes, they could all live there happily, so long as they have enough money to pay two maids, one for the elderly ladies, and one for Lady Treprom.  It might well be easier for Lord Treprom and his family to have both old ladies there - they can be company for each other, and give the noble lord a chance to be alone with his wife and children.  And they will be glad to have a man to manage their land.  I only hope the House will accept it.  If they do, Aunt Tran could be happier from then on than she’s been for years.”

“That would be lovely,” said Wysau.  “Well, we can but try.”

They rode on.  Suddenly Shimei cried,

“Oh Wysau, I am sorry - I’ve left the map behind.”

“Ah.  Never mind,” said Wysau.  “We’ll go back for it.”

He was quiet.  Shimei knew he was in a hurry to get back to his patients.  She hated offending him, but how could she make amends?  She wanted to be with him - she didn’t want to volunteer to go back by herself -but that might be better than this silence.  And then she saw Lord Treprom, on his berr, riding towards them with something tied to the back of his saddle.

“Oh, thank you, my lord,” she cried, as soon as they were within earshot.

“Thank you,” said Lord Treprom, restoring the map to her.

“My lord, I’ve been thinking,” said Wysau.  “The people don’t always appreciate what is for their long-term benefit.  Many of them think only of the present.  May I, on your behalf, offer to those families who inherit your land and the Princess Tran’s, the loan of the irrigation system we set up for you?  You should keep one sprinkling machine, but they can borrow the three others, on condition that they sell their produce cheaply, as we stipulated for you.  Also, they must not waste water, and they must take care not to damage the machines. If a family damages one, either through their deliberate fault or carelessness, they lose the right to borrow it, unless they pay for it to be repaired by us or the workmen we appoint, within a week.”

Lord Treprom pondered.  Suddenly his face lit up.

“You strangers are no fools!  You are the first to realize that the poor can oppress the poor quite as harshly as the rich ever did, once they have the opportunity.  But will they realize this?”

“Perhaps they will remember what happened when we supplied that first sprinkler to the owners of those strips of land in the city.  They could always be reminded, if necessary.”

“We’ll have to have four churches,” said Chalata, “at four different meeting-places.  We can’t expect people to stand outside in this rain.  The surgery - the whole building - could house one; another could be in the ancient building, a third in the Great Hall in the Palace - we’ll have to ask the King for his permission - ”

“The surgery’s not suitable,” said Wysau.  “It’s divided into small rooms.  There are great halls in many of the nobles’ houses.  I know poor folk have moved in, but surely two halls could be cleared on a Sunday for meetings for worship?  People in the smaller rooms, or upstairs, need not be disturbed.”

“We’ll have to consult with the residents, then,” said Chalata, “and the local church leaders.  I do wish we had church leaders with a little more spiritual maturity.  Most have only been Christians for two or three weeks.”

“They will need to be taught in the week,” said Janita.

“If you want someone with spiritual maturity,” said Shimei, “there’s Helen.”

“True,” agreed Wysau, “but she’s a woman.”

“She wouldn’t want to,” said Abritis.

“Why not?” asked Shimei.

“Read I Corinthians chapter 11,” said Wysau.  “Women are supposed to be under their husbands’ authority.  God has reserved positions of leadership in His church for men.  It’s not a case of what we want.  God appoints His ministers.”

“But Helen has been teaching Feor.”

“She did at first,” said Abritis, “but now they learn together.  Soon the position will be reversed, and Helen will be glad of it.  No, Janita has given the right answer.”

“And I shall have to carry it out,” said Chalata.

Everyone nodded.

“Oh, by the way, Shimei,” continued Chalata.  “Do you remember Sihcha?”

She nodded.  How could she forget?

“Her husband came with her to the service on Sunday evening.  He’s been attending a group meeting with her.  I shan’t be sure for some weeks yet, but keep

praying.”

Emlota came in to work on the following Monday, and collapsed into a chair.  “I did sleep last night, but I still feel tired.  I am so relieved!  My father has gone.”

“Gone?  Oh, to his ancient country.”

“He did not come to say goodbye.  We only knew he had gone because a servant came to tell us, in the hope that we would give him a job.  But we only have the money to pay one maid.  But my mother sends you a special “thank you”.  My father did ask one of her staff to give him some money.  He was able to say he had been instructed to ask my mother first.  So my father scowled impatiently and left.”

It was Abritis’ turn to sit down.  “Thank You, thank You!” she murmured.

After two minutes she got up again, and went on with her work.  “Hasn’t he gone rather early?”

“Father was always impatient.  Five of his henchmen have gone with him.  Perhaps he intends - oh, I don’t know.  It’s not my business any more.  But this is,” she continued, getting out the pipette she used to feed the cultures.

"“Perhaps he intends - ” what?” Abritis wondered.  But Emlota was thinking about her work.  They had eight urgent orders from the doctors.  She must get on.

“Don’t wait on ceremony, man!” growled the Roptoh.  “What is it?”

“Our marriage,” said Wysau.  “We should prefer, and I thought you would prefer, to be present at our wedding.  We can arrange a private ceremony on the flying machine quite quickly.”

“You realize,” said the Roptoh, “that because you have unearthed these books of inheritances, Shimei will have nothing?”

“Yes,” said Wysau, “and I’m glad - because now she knows I wish to marry her for herself alone - that I truly love her.  When she marries me, she becomes a citizen of our world.  If I have to go home, she comes with me; when we retire, we will go to my world, where we will be looked after in our old age.”

“We should much prefer a private ceremony,” said the Roptoa with dignity.

“So should I,” agreed Shimei fervently.  “But he - ” indicating Wysau -“says we may have to make a public appearance too.”

“You will be very welcome to stay inside the flying machine while it takes place,” said Wysau courteously, “and share in our refreshments afterwards.  Helen and Feor will provide the music, and the Princess Tran will also be present.”

“That will be nice,” said the Roptoa.

“I should be able to provide a small dowry,” said the Roptoh.

“Truly, your Majesty, that will not be necessary.  It is my dearest wish that Shimei should know, in her heart of hearts, that she has great worth in my eyes, of herself alone.”

“I’ll keep that money for the journey,” said the Roptoh to his conscience.  “We’ll need every penny to pay for our food and lodging along the way.”

“Mother.”

“Yes, Kadi - put the water over there.”

“Yes, Mother.  Mother, may I go to the Princess’ school?  Tomorrow morning?”

“Why?”

“To learn to read and write.  Others of my age will be going too.”

“They will teach you the strangers’ script.”

“That’s what I want to learn.  The new textbooks will be printed in that script, and I want to learn to be a doctor.  The strangers will open their new doctors’ school in a month, and I must be able to read and write and add up before they will let me train.”

“Will you earn any money while you are training?”

“There is a training allowance which I will be paid so long as I keep up with the work reasonably well, and pass my tests.  It won’t be a lot, but it will be enough to pay for my food and clothes.  But think of the money I could earn, Mother, if I went to another town and became the doctor there.  I could take you and Yago with me, and after a year we could have a proper house built.”

“Mm.  You’ll still work here while you learn to read and write?”

“The school is only in the mornings - but the training will be all day for five years.”

“Five years!  Well, you are young - only seventeen.  It will be a good career for you, my son - and, after all, you have the stranger doctor’s blood in your veins.  Yes, you may go.”

“Was it necessary to remind them?” asked Shimei, after the meeting of the House of Representatives at which Wysau’s request was made.

“Yes, but I didn’t have to do it, either directly or by hypnotism.  One of the representatives remembered - one of the converted ones - and made my point for me, quite forcibly.  “Those who first gave us our cheap food wish to secure it for us for the future.” Nobody seemed to realize the importance of woodland, as you do, my love.  But they passed it.”

Shimei kissed him - and her kiss was returned with interest.

“Loving everybody is really quite difficult,” she said.  “Now I see one of the reasons why God lets things happen to us that we don’t like.  He’s got to think of everybody.”

As usual, Chalata was busy in the lounge of his original flying machine, working away with his language helper at the translation of a medical textbook.  Janita could be in that same flying machine only if she stayed all the morning in a specially insulated cabin.  Tsie was by then running a ladies’ meeting which met on a Wednesday morning, and, on the previous evening had asked Ytazu to prepare the lunch.  When Lintis had then asked for someone to clean their larger flying machine, Janita had gladly volunteered; she would at least have some freedom of movement on the following morning.

“I’ll tidy up our bedroom,” Lintis had promised, “and ask Ciecet and Yujip to tidy theirs - it’s their day off tomorrow.”

“I don’t mind tidying up,” Janita had protested.  “You all work so hard.”

So, the next morning, Janita had gone over to the larger flying machine promptly at nine, taking the medical records book with her, in case she had time to complete it during the morning.  First of all, she put on the washing machine; she then cleared up after breakfast, stacked the washing-up machine, and set it on.  Next, she cleaned the bathroom.  All this time, she had not seen Ciecet or Yujip.  She thought they had perhaps eaten breakfast in their night robes, had gone for a quick wash while she was clearing up the kitchen, and then retreated to their bedrooms.  Would they be ready by the time she was ready to clean their bedrooms?

They both came out just in time, and sat quietly in the lounge with their Bibles while she worked cleaning hands in two perfectly tidy bedrooms.  When she came out, she found that they had tidied up the lounge between them.  They had left some sona out for her, and were taking their sona to their rooms.

Working cleaning hands in a tidy room is not hard work.  Janita had done it so often that she was well able to combine a sip or two of sona with pressing the required buttons.  She stayed sitting on the chair, enjoying the blue fruit sona, which was still her favourite.  This room, in particular, had indeed needed to be cleaned.  As she changed the cleaning fluid and pressed the buttons to make the hands wash their cloths, she wondered if she might ask Ciecet to help her fill in the medical records for that week.

Like Helen, Janita sometimes grew very tired of the restrictions an interplanetary attraction marriage placed on her.  Marriage to Chalata was fun, in general.  She enjoyed going on trips; she enjoyed the caring and sharing practised among team members.  Yet that very loving team spirit made her social restrictions even more trying.  She had to be very careful not to talk at any length with any of the other male members of the team, in case this should arouse Chalata’s jealousy.  Yet Chalata could work for hours with a female language helper, or counsel any of the female members of his team.  The other male members understood perfectly.  None of them had ever made life difficult for her or for Chalata by being too friendly.  She knew they were being thoughtful, and that they valued and respected her as much as any of the other team members.  It was just annoying.

And on that particular Wednesday, it was even more annoying.  She was very busy, for she helped forward Chalata’s work in many ways, and tried to help with the housekeeping, in the afternoons and evenings.  There was a lot of housekeeping, for, with the advent of the large flying machine, they had gained a large conservatory in which were growing many health-giving vegetables that did not grow in this part of Yumelpthi.  Most were eaten by the team, but some were required for the treatment of patients suffering from certain diseases.  They never knew when these would be wanted; and anyway, the team needed the most healthy diet available, so that they could sustain their punishing work schedule for month after month.  So, when one of the doctors had a day off on a day when she had half-an-hour free to fill in the medical records, she found it annoying that she was not allowed to ask him to help her.  Poor Lintis had had to do it every time.

Anyway, that reminded her: she must go and water some of those vegetables, and give food to others.  She set her glass down in the kitchen, and went to the conservatory.  She had to concentrate on this job, so did not have time to be annoyed till she had finished.  And then she had to go and hang up the washing.

There was just half-an-hour left before she must rejoin Chalata.

She sat down with her record book, glad to be able to sit for a while.  She opened it, to find three sheets of paper, one in Wysau’s, one in Ciecet’s, and one in Lintis’ handwriting, clearly completed while on the job, giving her all the information she needed.  Obviously this was the start of a regular practice.

All doctors seem to have to write quickly, which never improves anyone’s handwriting; but Janita rather prided herself on being able to decipher hurried scrawl.  She said a heartfelt `Thank you’ to Ciecet and Yujip before walking back, with her completed book, to the smaller flying machine to relax on her husband’s knee before their midday meal.  Interplanetary attraction did have its compensations.

It had been a long, hard day.  The rain had poured down incessantly.  Wysau was riding back, wet through, from his last visit at twenty past ten, when a servant ran out and called him.

“It’s my mistress - please come!”

Wysau sighed and followed her to the house.

“Could you place a chair for your mistress by the door, and I will stand outside and talk to her? And then I shall not drip all over your mistress’ carpet.”

The lady came, leaning on her maid.  The maid was turning to go, but Wysau immediately said, “Please stay with us,” and asked the lady, “What is the trouble, madam?”

“A pain in my back,” she said, with as sweet a smile as she deemed consistent with suffering.  “And a pain in my ribs, here - ” and she indicated an area directly beneath her ample busom.  To Wysau’s exploratory questions she gave answers that did not point to any particular ailment.  This led Wysau to thought-read.  The “pains" were small, dull aches, very likely due to sitting too long in the same position, and being overweight.  Was he likely to worm a truthful answer out of this patient in a short time?  If he had been sitting in a dry surgery, he would have tried to coax her to confess the truth, and accept her real situation; but, as it was, he himself was in an awkward position.  All she had in mind were plans of seduction.  So Wysau said,

“May I have a word with your husband, please?”

“My husband is busy with the business accounts, and does not like to be interrupted.”

“Oh, that’s where you are!  Come in at once - oh.” He had seen Wysau.

“I would like a word with you, please,” said Wysau.

“Don’t mind my wife - she is always fancying she is ill.”

“She does suffer some discomfort.  She needs some exercise and useful occupation.  Something that involves walking about.”

“A little carrying?”

“Nothing too heavy, but a little, yes.  Something that involves meeting people and talking to them - something to add interest and variety to her day.”

“Like serving in our shop?”

“Does it involve walking about?  Or will she just stand behind a counter?”

“It involves fetching material and measuring it - sometimes three or four rolls per customer - or even five or six, if it is a great lady and she is fussy.”

“Ah.  Just mornings or just afternoons for the first week or two.  She will find it exhausting till she becomes used to it.”

“But, doctor!” protested the lady.

“I am sure it will improve your health,” said Wysau.

“It would improve mine if I could get to bed, instead of staying up all hours doing the accounts,” said her husband.  “The doctor’s advice is good for both of us, dear, and it’s time for bed.”

“I quite agree,” said Wysau.  “Goodnight.”

Wysau would have liked to share his experience with one of his team-mates on his return, but everyone else was as exhausted as he was.  He went to bed, and slept.  The following days, equally busy, drove the incident from his mind, till Thilish told him after surgery on the third morning that women patients were asking to see one of the other doctors, and not him.  A little thought-reading soon told him that someone had been spreading allegations of sexual assault against him.

“You must always keep to the guidelines,” said Ciecet severely.  “You must always call one of the girls to go with you when attending a female patient.”

Wysau had been sufficiently dejected before this reminder.  After it, he wept, silently but bitterly.  Shimei felt a surge of anger against the older Cirian doctor.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” quoted Chalata.  “We must bring the matter to God in prayer.”

At first God seemed far away; their prayers became more earnest.

“We know we must expect such treatment from sinners,” pleaded Abritis, “for our Lord Christ warned us that we would be treated as He was; but we do beg of You to vindicate Wysau for the sake of Your holy Name, for he is Your servant.”

Chalata was unusually quiet.  After the time of prayer, he said,

“I feel sure that our medical team members ought all to have an extra day of rest.  Today is Wednesday; tomorrow Thursday.  Could Ciecet, Wysau and Thilish take Friday off, and the others have next Tuesday, as well as their usual rest day?”

“That would be lovely, if we could,” said Thilish, and stifled a yawn.

“Chalata, you’re absolutely right,” said Abritis with conviction.

“God will undertake for those on duty,” said Darte.  “Shurzi, Ytazu and I have had days of enforced idleness because of the rain, and we feel much better for them.”

Ytazu agreed.  “Wysau’s had an especially hard time.  He’s the only one who’s been here all the time, who is both a doctor and a thoughtreader.  It’s not surprising he’s worn out.  But not tomorrow - the ones on duty need time to prepare to do without him.”

Shimei flashed Ytazu a grateful smile - and noticed that this had warm support from everyone, even Ciecet.  Her eyes pricked, a lump rose in her throat.  She did not notice Tsie and Shurzi conferring.

“Shimei.”

Tsie was bending over her as she sat, holding her fiance’s hand.

“Could Shurzi and Obek between them help Helen in your place at the school on Friday morning?  Obek is a good cook and an even better musician -Shurzi can teach maths and physics.”

Shimei could neither speak, nor prevent tears from streaming down her face.  All she could do was respond to the loving pressure of Tsie’s hand in hers.

As she prepared herself and her classrooms for the children the next morning, Shimei prayed earnestly for Wysau.  Going to that surgery on that particular morning must be one of the hardest things he had ever had to do.

Then two mothers came in with their children.  Leaving her boy with her friend, one mother came up to Shimei.

“I am sorry about your engagement,” she said, “but I’m glad for your sake that you saw him in his true colours before you married him.”

“Oh,” said Shimei, “thank you for your kind thought - but he’s totally innocent - all the strangers know that.  They can see into his mind - they know he is telling the truth.”

“So you are still going to marry him?”

“Of course,” said Shimei.  There was no time to say more.

Lessons went as well as usual.  Some of the little ones were rather nervous about having two men teachers the next day, and one of them a stranger! but the older ones found the prospect exciting.

His ride to the surgery had been the worst part of Wysau’s morning.  Once in the surgery, he had the usual constant stream of patients, the one difference being that they were all male.  Then, just before lunchtime, a woman patient in her early thirties came in.  Her name was Weka.

“I was a prostitute,” she said.  “I heard the Good News and wanted to serve your God.  I heard that Jesus talked with, and ate with, tax collectors and sinners.  I could not promise to be chaste till I had some other way of making a living.  My father was converted - was changed, was forgiven.  My mother died four months ago.  My father tried to look after himself and my youngest brother, but neither he nor my brother can cook.  My brother did not want to take me back, but my father said, “Either you cook and I clean, or we take your sister back.” They took me back three weeks ago.  Now, I know my brother has forgiven me, and I can stay; so I can promise to be chaste.  So, please cure me of that disease that the priests get.”

Thilish came in, drew a curtain round the couch and did the necessary examination, conferring with Wysau to check her diagnosis.  After prescribing, Wysau asked Weka,

“Are there others like you who would serve our God if there were some other way to make a living?”

“I know of five,” she said.

“Would they cook and clean, and work the land of people who are too old or sick to do it themselves?”

“So long as they were paid a living wage, or given a home.  They have nowhere to live once they leave the brothel.”

“If we treat an elderly couple, or woman who needs care, who would be willing to share her home and food with a woman who has been a prostitute, how do we find such a woman for her?”

Between them, the doctors, Thilish and Weka set up an informal agency, and successfully placed those five ex-prostitutes in the first three weeks.

As Wysau and Shimei were relaxing in the Palace the next morning, so the mother, who had left her child at the school for the morning, was purchasing material from the shopkeeper’s wife.  Her purchase satisfactorily completed, she said confidentially,

“I was shocked to hear that that stranger doctor took advantage of your being alone when you called him the other week.”

The wife was confused, and shot a glance at her husband, who had just seen the customer he had been serving out of his shop.  He came up to welcome the mother, who was a regular customer.

“I don’t think any of these strangers would do such a thing.  That fat one did, and worse; but these are different.  Certainly nothing of that nature happened here.  Perhaps there was some confusion.  Dreadful how these rumours spread, isn’t it?  No, Wysau was not here for more than ten minutes, and he asked to speak to me.  We discussed the details of my wife’s treatment, and he gave good, sensible advice, which we have followed, and you’re feeling a lot better, aren’t you, dear?”

“You look well, certainly,” agreed the mother.

“It’s incredible how quickly these strangers get to the heart of the matter.  They are a little blunt in their manner, but they do mean well.”

“One of them is teaching at the Princesses’ school this morning,” said the mother.  “None of the children will dare to be naughty for him, because he will know exactly who did what without even having to ask!”

When the children came out of school that morning, they found their mothers conferring.  At sight of them, the subject was hastily dropped, in the aggravating way grown-ups usually have.  Yet still, on the Monday, Wysau saw mostly male patients.

The strangers’ party, including Shimei, were walking back to the flying machine after the morning service.  Wysau stopped to wait for Shurzi and Thilish, who had been to a service at another venue.  Wysau wanted to talk to Shurzi, so Shimei took her opportunity.  She was glad to shelter under Thilish’s umbrella as the rain suddenly came down harder.

“Why don’t you ask the poor - I mean, all of you strangers -not to breastfeed their babies during the service?”

“They only do it if their babies start crying,” said Thilish.  “Which is more disturbing?  I’d say the crying.”

“But isn’t it indecent?”

“They cover up as much as is practicable, usually,” said Thilish, “and it’s common practice among the poor.  The men take no notice.  Obviously it’s best if the babies are fed before the service, and sleep quietly, so that the mothers can concentrate on God’s Word; but we’d rather they came, and had to breastfeed in the service, than feel they couldn’t come because people didn’t like them breastfeeding during the service.”

“Oh,” said Shimei.  “But do they do it in public on your world?”

“No,” said Thilish.  “At our churches, there is a special room just for mothers and babies, where they can hear the service, but the people in the service area cannot hear the babies crying or anything that goes on in that special room.  They cannot see it either.  There are also places where they can change their babies.  There simply aren’t such rooms here, and it would be expensive to make them.  We’ll have to leave that till all the poor are properly housed and fed.”

Thilish almost had to shout this last sentence, because the rain pelted down even more heavily.  “Anyway,” she continued, “let’s walk a little faster, puddles permitting, and get out of this rain.”

They marched without speaking for the next five minutes, concentrating on keeping their feet out of the puddles.  The rain slackened a little, and Thilish noticed that Shimei was breathing hard.  She slowed down, and began to chat again.

“Ciecet’s on meals duty today, with Yujip - and, though Yujip’s cooking is rather elementary, Ciecet’s is excellent.  Batchelors who like their food generally do learn to cook rather well.”

“You wouldn’t think it, to look at him.”

“He’s very disciplined over how much he eats.  He knows exactly what he ought to eat, and what most people ought to eat; and he knows how to cook or prepare it so that it tastes good.”

“Wysau does too.  I wish the people would.”

“Some of them are beginning to.  One of your teachers teaches the children what they ought to eat, and they go home and tell their mothers.  The mothers whose children don’t sleep well have all started buying the ragged-leaved vegetable from us, and people who are prescribed a certain vegetable, free of charge, for a month, always take advantage of it.  And three of the vegetables we sell make a very valuable contribution to people’s diet.  Not very many people are buying the little mammals on the market, but most have learnt to trap them, and will usually eat the ones they have killed themselves. So there are more good vegetables, therefore they are cheaper; so, altogether, the poor eat better now than they have done for many years.”

Oh, it was good to get inside the flying machine!

“We’re having the breeze without the coolant till people are dry,” proclaimed Tsie.

And still it rained.  The midday meal had been cleared away.  Darte put the finishing touches to his third house design, and looked out of the window.  Abritis, whose day off it was, came to sit down beside him.

“I’m sick and tired of doing nothing,” he said.

“What’s this?” asked Abritis, pointing at his plan.

“Perhaps I feel cooped up,” he smiled at her.

“Actually, so do I.”

“You’ll get drenched if you come with me.  My robe’s due to be washed tonight.”

“So’s mine.  It needs it, too.  Look.” Abritis pointed at a stain.  “Not work, but food.”

“You see, while I was going round interviewing people about their houses, there was one young mother with two little ones and another on the way, whose parents were dead, and his father’s dead, and their shack leaks - and her husband works for a stern taskmaster of a lord who doesn’t let him come home till he can hardly stand up for tiredness.  Yujip has been looking out for some spare wood, sealant and nails for me.  Before our midday meal, he brought me these.  I’d really like to go and mend that roof.”

“Right, husband.”

“You’re not coming, are you?”

“Why not?  Am I that useless?”

“Of course not.  But you’ve been working - overworking.  Oughtn’t you to stay and rest?”

“I’d like to get out, even if I do get drenched.”

“You could bring your umbrella, and hold it over both of us, and the wood.”

They put on their sandals, and strode out together under the umbrella into the pouring rain.

“Okter, come here,” called Mrs. Lak in exasperation.

“I’m in the house,” he said.  Rain dripped from the hole in the roof.  He was paddling in the pool in the centre of their floor.  He was wet and filthy and perfectly happy.

“No, Tala, don’t you go too!”

But Tala went after her brother.  Their mother sighed.  Perhaps their father would be too tired to care - when he finally came home.  But how could they spread out the mattresses to sleep, without getting them soaking wet?  And nothing would dry in this rain.

There was a knock on the door.  Two strangers!  “May we mend your roof?”

“But I cannot pay.”

“Nothing to pay.  Please.”

“Thank you.”

“Out of the way, you two,” said Darte firmly.  “You don’t want nails dropping on your heads.”

The children obeyed, and watched with awe as these two tall strangers mended their roof without so much as a chair to stand on.  As Darte hammered the last nails in, Abritis began to sweep the water out of the house.  Darte climbed up onto the roof to apply the sealant - and another knock was heard.

“Come in,” called Mrs. Lak.

In came a third, even taller stranger, who had to stoop to walk into the house.  He produced, from beneath a strange shiny covering, a few long, dry planks, and laid them in the middle of the floor.  The children eyed them with interest.

“You must not walk or sit on these till you are dry and clean,” said the tallest stranger firmly.

Abritis looked at their poor tired mother.  She took the bath from its place by the wall, and, beckoning to Yujip and Darte, asked them to fill it with clean water.  “Can you get some clothes ready?” she asked the mother.

Abritis washed Tala first, gave her to her mother to be dried; Darte washed Okter, and Yujip told them both a story while Abritis washed their clothes, and Darte took the bath outside to be emptied.

Suddenly Abritis asked, “What’s the matter?”

It took Mrs. Lak a moment or two to realize that this question had been put to her.

“My husband - he was so tired this morning.  And Lord Algachthi wants him to mend a tile on the roof.”

Abritis stood still.  There wasn’t much to go on, but she knew Lord Algachthi.  Darte and Yujip suddenly strode away.  Mrs. Lak stared as Abritis stood there, a strange look in her deep blue eyes.  There was a powerful sickly sweetness, which at first seemed far away; then suddenly came close.  Her children fell asleep on a mattress near the wall.

“Help me, please - we must spread a mattress out ready for your husband.”

“Oh no!”

“He is not injured, but he is dizzy and overtired.  We must leave room for them to put him down on the floor, so that we can get him dry first before he lies on the mattress.”

“So he did not fall?”

“He was on the roof, replacing that tile.  It was wet and slippery, and he was already too tired to do any work.  They caught him - he’s safely down - they’re carrying him because he’s dizzy.  Let’s get some dry clothes ready, and a towel.”

By the time they had got Mr. Lak dry and covered, a woman knocked at the door.  Mrs. Lak recognized her as one of the new stranger doctors.  She knelt and examined Mr. Lak - and looked up at Abritis.  Yujip and Darte left the house.

“Two strangers desire an audience, my lord.”

“Two strangers!  Just like royalty.  Let them come.”

“We have come on behalf of your servant, Lak.  He slipped off your roof, and we caught him.”

“Is he dead?”

“No, he is not injured,” said Darte, “but he is dizzy and unwell.  One of our doctors has given him medicine, but she says he must have at least one day’s rest if he is to survive.  He really needs three or four days’ rest - but he will die if he has to work again tomorrow.”

“Lak . . . Steward!  Steward, hey!  At last.  Now, Haz, is Lak a good servant?”

“Yes, my lord.  He works hard, and does what he is told.”

“Then let him have two days.”

“If you let him have three,” said Yujip, “I will finish mending your roof.”

“Are there more tiles loose?” asked Lord Algachthi.

“Three more, my lord,” said Yujip.

“Go with the strangers and see, Haz.”

“Yes, my lord, they were right.  They are fixing them now, my lord.”

“How much?”

“They only ask that you keep Lak in your employ, and treat him well.”

“He’d better have a little meat in his midday meal in future.”

“If your lordship will allow me an extra quen a year.”

“Very well, very well.  It’s worth it for a good servant.”

“Three days’ rest.  I can’t believe it.”

“Have another sip, dear.  She will bring another food-drink tomorrow.”

“Water.  This is strong.”

Mrs. Lak brought clean water, but this time he had to sit up to drink.  She gave him most of his food-drink, and then made food for herself and the children.

“Oh - they’re awake!”

“Smell of food cooking,” said Mr. Lak.

“Hungry, Mum,” said Okter.

“I don’t understand how the Lord could do it,” said Yujip to Darte on the way home.  “It’s sheer murder sending someone up on such a high roof in all this rain.  Even I had to concentrate pretty hard.”

“He didn’t think about his servant,” said Abritis.  “I don’t suppose he has ever thought about any of them in a caring way.”

“Did he learn his first lesson?” asked Darte.

“Hard to tell,” said Abritis after a pause.  “He was made to think.  Servants are two a penny, but not good servants.  Lak is a good servant, and therefore not as expendable as any old servant.  But that’s as far as it goes.”

“So why did he listen to us?” wondered Darte.

“He was pleased that we’d concerned ourselves with him and his house,” said Yujip.  “Most of our visits are reserved for the Roptoh, you see.”

Once they were inside, and dry and warm, Yujip rested in the lounge, but Darte and Abritis went to their cabin and lay on their bed.

“My love,” murmured Darte.

“Mm?”

“Half your talents are wasted on Cirian.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s your talent for languages.”

“Mm.”

“And your hypnotism and thought-reading.  And you can’t say you don’t use your pharmaceutical knowledge here.”

“No, indeed,” agreed Abritis.  “But what’s all this leading up to?”

“I’m wondering whether we should stay here.”

“We’ll be here for a few months longer anyway.”

“For good, I mean.  Till we retire.”

“That’s a big decision.”

“It would be easier for a childless couple.”

“Even so.”

“Think about it, love - pray about it.  As you say, we’ll be here for a few months longer, anyway.  There’s no need to make a hasty decision.”

“Someone,” explained Darte to Lintis and Mosu, “would have been ordered to go up on that roof to fasten those tiles, and someone other than Yujip would have been far more likely to slip and fall.  I stood there and watched all the time he was up there, ready to catch him.  That Lord would never have understood that a man’s life is more important than a wet floor.  It was all we could do to persuade him to let Mr. Lak recover properly.”

Lintis sighed.  “All right, Darte; in the circumstances, I don’t see what else you could have done.  But don’t take such risks, will you, Yujip, unless it is really necessary.”

One Friday evening, as Wysau rode home with Shimei from a call, they noticed a determined, angry group of forty or fifty men, with clubs, staves and other rough weapons, converging on the temple.  Wysau suddenly changed direction and rode to where they could all see him.

“Wait a minute, everybody,” he said.

“Look, stranger,” said one, “they’ll have time to bar the doors if you speak to us.  We’ve got to teach them a lesson they won’t forget.”

“Is this the way to stop them seducing your daughters?” demanded Wysau.  “You tell your daughters from me that many of the priests have a sickness, which they will catch if they misbehave with them.  And they’ll die of it - it’s a horrible death.”

“All the more reason why we should give them a flogging.  They’ll be putting up the bars of the temple in a minute.”

There was a grating noise from inside the building.

“Now it’s too late!” They all rounded on Wysau.

“Don’t you care about our daughters?”

“Should the priests be allowed to carry on?”

“I thought you preached chastity before marriage.”

“Yes, we do,” agreed Wysau, “and we don’t like what they are doing.  Sexual immorality is against God’s law.  But God also tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and treat us badly.”

“It doesn’t work.”

“That won’t stop them.”

“Your way won’t stop them either,” said Wysau.  “It will only make them more careful and secretive.”

“Then how do we stop them?”

“It’s their religion that makes them like this.  If they were allowed to marry, it would be better for everybody.  We must pray that they will listen to God’s Good News and be converted.  Then His Holy Spirit will teach them to be faithful to their wives.”

“We may as well go home,” sighed one of the ringleaders.  “They’ve barred the doors now, and this stranger won’t let us do anything really effective, like setting fire to the temple.”

“I should think not,” said another man.  “Giving them a beating is one thing; burning them alive is quite another.”

“They deserve it.”

“If they carry on,” shouted one man, who had positioned himself close to the Temple doors.  “If they go on seducing our daughters, we’ll come one night when the strangers aren’t by, and they’ll get what’s coming to them!”

Muttering angrily, they dispersed - but one man came up to Wysau.

“Oh Cholek,” cried Wysau, recognizing one of the new believers.  “You!  In this crowd!”

“It doesn’t work, Wysau,” he said.  “That priest from Traitan - the one you healed, and have done so much for - he’s been teaching my friend’s daughter about God - at least, that was what we thought - but he’s seduced her!  And the worst is, she won’t stop seeing him.”

Wysau went white.  “Would you be willing - would her father be willing, if he were to ask to marry her?”

“He wouldn’t be pleased, but it would be better than what’s happening now.”

“It would,” said Wysau decisively.  “Anyway, he won’t be doing any more counselling.  And, if he doesn’t respond, he’ll not be staying in our flying machine any longer.  But we will see, first, if he cares for your friend’s daughter, and if a marriage between them would bring them happiness.  Thank you very much for telling us.”

“Obek,” called Chalata, “may I have a private word?”

“Tsie, I’ve left the timer on - the ones at the top should be cooked when it rings.”

“Thanks, Obek.”

Chalata ushered Obek into his cabin.

“What’s this about?”

“I’d like to translate a short passage of God’s Word for you - Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1-5:

“Therefore imitate God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

But fornication - ” here Chalata paused " - and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”"

“What is covetousness?” asked Obek.

“Wanting what belongs to someone else.”

“Oh.  What’s fornication?”

“Sleeping with a woman you’re not married to, when neither of you are married.  Adultery is sleeping with a woman you’re not married to, when one, or other, or both of you, are married to someone else.”

“Oh.  But I need a woman - I can’t go long without one.”

“God made you, Obek.  He understands how you work.  He knows your needs.  This is His command, not mine: flee fornication.  God will not have any fornicator in Christ’s kingdom.  But He did ordain marriage.”

“So if I marry her, that’s all right?”

“So you have slept with a woman since you were healed?”

“She was a virgin - I haven’t reinfected myself.”

“And you were her counsellor, to lead her to Christ?”

“Yes.  She did come to Christ.”

“And then you led her into sin against God?”

Obek squirmed.  “But if I marry her?”

“Do you love her?  Would you rather be with her than any other woman?”

“It was different, with her.”

“Do you care that she cannot marry anyone else, and that her father is very angry?”

“I told her not to tell her father.”

“I don’t know how he found out, but he knows, and he is very angry.  He thought he could trust you with her, because you claimed to be God’s servant.  You have dragged God’s holy Name through the mud, Obek.  We cannot allow you to be a counsellor any longer.”

“So her father will not let me see her any more?”

“Does that matter to you?”

“I must see her.  She wants to see me, too.”

“So what are you going to do, Obek?”

“Will her father let me marry her?”

“You’ll have to ask him.  But are you a true Christian?”

“I want to be one, and so does she.”

“If you really love Christ, you will keep His commandments.  You must not sleep with her again till you are married.”

“But I can’t keep to that!”

“Her father will be even more angry.  If it happens again, he might not let you marry her.  And then what will happen to her?  What happens to girls who are turned out of their parents’ homes?”

“But I wouldn’t let Rowesh be a prostitute.  I would marry her.”

“Will you be faithful to her?”

“So long as she doesn’t deny me for many nights at a time.”

“She might be ill,” said Chalata, “or she might do so because you are rough or unkind - or simply because she is exhausted.  You might have to work hard helping her till she feels better; then she will want to respond to you to say “Thank you.” Remember, God will judge fornicators and adulterers.  You know that’s true, don’t you?”

“Oh,” said Obek, remembering.

“We’ll keep a meal for you.  You go and talk to her father.  And apologize.  What you have done is very wrong.  He has every right to be angry.  Try to arrange a wedding as soon as possible.”

“Will you marry us?”

Chalata paused before answering.  “I would like to talk to Rowesh first.  And think about where you are going to live, and how you will support her.  You need your own home, to give your marriage a good start.”

“He was angry.  He wouldn’t listen to me.  He would not let me see her.” Obek attacked his meal.  “He said I had nowhere to take her - no job, no money.”

“Can you find somewhere?  Could you work for a baker?” suggested Tsie.

“I’ll try the baker on Plant Street.”

“He finished his meal and his juice, and went,” reported Tsie to Chalata as they gathered for prayer.

Later on, Obek returned.

“I’m going to sleep at the baker’s.  He wants to see how well I can work tomorrow morning.”

He took his belongings and went.  “Goodnight.”

Three days later, Obek and Rowesh came to see Chalata.

“Has God forgiven you?” asked Chalata of Rowesh.

“He has!  Truly, He has.  Sir, we have done a very wicked thing.  It is against His holy commandment.  Even though I had not read this commandment, I knew it was wrong at the time.”

“So did I.  I just wanted her so much.  But it didn’t excuse what I did.”

“So my father and mother will not listen to the Gospel.”

“Will they come to your wedding?”

“Yes,” said Rowesh, “but they are determined not to believe.  They just want to make sure we are truly married.”

“Well,” said Chalata, “now the House of Representatives has changed the law, to legalize Christian marriage, they can rest assured on that head.  The Pastor of your church should perform the ceremony.”

“We would like you to do it.”

“So long as he is present, and can hear you making your vows, it will be legally binding.  But please think carefully before you do this.  Are you both sure you want to commit yourselves to each other for life?  You may not always feel towards each other as you do now.  Other people may smile at one or both of you.  Are you going to work at your relationship, not for each other’s sake, but for the sake of the God before Whom you make your vows?  Are you willing to forgive each other, to bear with each other’s failings?”

“We have had to forgive each other already,” said Rowesh.  “Truly our God is a loving God.  He gave us this commandment to save us much trouble and shame.  We disobeyed, and brought trouble upon ourselves.  But He in His mercy has forgiven us, and - tell him, Obek - ”

“The baker likes my bread, and my cakes.  He especially likes the savoury bites that Tsie taught me to make.  We are going to live in three rooms above his shop, and I will bake with him every morning but Sunday.”

“So, on Sunday afternoon, can we be married, please?  And we would like you to do it, very much.  Please.”

“What about Saturday?” asked Chalata.

“Yes please,” said Obek.  “Your parents could come, couldn’t they?”

“Not before five o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Well, half past five, then?”

One advantage of having four separate meetings for worship was that both Feor and Helen could attend a morning service.  That Sunday, Helen had just come from the piano stool to sit beside Abritis to hear the sermon, when a noisy priests’ procession came down the main street outside.  Helen groaned inwardly, and cried to God to give quiet so that the new believers, in particular, could be fed with God’s Word.  She cast a sidelong glance at Abritis, who sat, still and silent, with that faraway look in her eyes.  Abruptly the priests stopped playing their instruments, and walked quietly till they were well past the meeting place.  The sermon proceeded.

Afterwards, Shurzi, Thilish, Lintis and Mosu listened to comments from other believers as they walked back from their place of worship.

“This morning the priests processed down the street where we worship.  They made such a noise that we couldn’t hear our preacher.”

“It was the same last week, but that time the noise went on for a lot longer.  Today they suddenly went quiet, just as if one of the strangers had made them.”

“Most Sundays aren’t particularly holy days for the priests.  They used only to have processions on particularly holy days - and they weren’t half as noisy.”

“I’m sure they used to have processions on two Thursdays fairly close together, but never on two Sundays.”

“Shurzi,” asked Obek, “do you know anything about this?”

“I do know that all four pastors paid a visit to the temple during the week, and requested politely that processions should be quiet when passing their places of worship on Sunday mornings and evenings, because services would be in progress at those times.  The priest at the door would not allow them to enter the temple.  He merely reminded them that he was a priest of the official religion of the kingdom, and that he was doing them a favour in passing their request on to the High Priest for his consideration.”

“Cheek!” cried Obek.  “Let’s go and hold an open air service in front of the temple.”

“No, love, that wouldn’t be right,” said Rowesh.  “Jesus said we must love our enemies.  Oh, look, there’s Mum and Dad.  Mum, did you watch the procession this morning?”

“Yes - though why they were having one today we couldn’t work out.”

“Did anything odd happen?”

“Only that the High Priest suddenly told his choir and musicians to march silently for the next forty paces, and again later, when they passed another Christian meeting place.  I thought that was good of him.  Neither the priests nor the Christians should interrupt each other’s services.  People should be free to choose how they wish to worship - or if they don’t want to worship at all.”

“Did you sense any hypnotism?”

“No, none at all - did you, dear?”

“I don’t rightly know how it feels,” said Rowesh’s father, “but I didn’t notice anything odd.”

“Perhaps it wasn’t the strangers, then,” said Rowesh.  “Perhaps the High Priest just suddenly remembered.”

At their midday meal, Shurzi asked the others,

“Did anyone communicate with the High Priest this morning?”

“Guilty, my lord,” said Abritis.

“What did you say?”

“I simply repeated the request to be quiet when passing our meeting places on a Sunday.  I made no threats.”

“Just a gentle reminder?”

“Exactly.”

“Strangers!” called someone urgently from the darkness outside the flying machine.

Tsie opened the door.  “Come in.”

Breathless, she entered and sat down.  “The priests have abducted Weka.”

Wysau’s eyes immediately took on that faraway look.

“Aren’t you going to do anything?” cried the woman desperately.  “I cannot protect her - they will take me, too.”

Tsie took her into the kitchen.

“Wysau and Abritis are dealing with the matter.  They can oblige the priests to release her.  In a few minutes they will tell you what has happened.  They cannot explain at the moment, while they are controlling the minds of the priests.  You are worried, aren’t you?  Let’s pray.”

They did - then Tsie was suddenly quiet.  It seemed an age to Weka’s friend, but at last she spoke.

“Abritis tells me Weka is now free and going home, but she is very frightened and distressed.  If you go to her now, Shurzi will watch for you both, and make sure you get home safely.”

“Thank you - oh, thank you.”

“Thank you for telling us,” responded Tsie warmly.

“Do not be disturbed, my son,” said the High Priest coolly.  “Most of the priests are younger sons; not many will have inheritances.  These strangers will not be here for ever.  When they go, the hearts of the people will return to us.”

“Should the priests of the official religion be obliged to be silent as they pass the meeting-places of this foreign religion?”

“If we show forbearance and courtesy, the people will return to us the sooner.”

“You said nothing of forbearance or courtesy when the ministers of this new religion came to the temple with their request.”

“Wisdom comes with age and mature consideration.  But, after their unwarranted interference in our affairs last night, I feel we are entitled to take some action.”

There was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” called the High Priest.  “Ah, Tiaaz.”

The pimp bowed low.  Three men, two burly and one small, had followed him in.

“What can we do for you?”

“Most revered High Priest,” said Tiaaz, “most of my stock-in-trade have deserted me.  I am ruined.”

“Find others.”

“The stranger doctors have threatened them with death by opuk.  To those who quit they offer healing.  They have heard that Obek, who was dying of opuk, is now perfectly healthy.  The stranger doctors even find homes and employment for them.”

“They have to work hard.”

“They don’t seem to mind; they won’t come back.  I tell them they can have easy money, and there is no danger - but they do not believe me.  They will not come!  You see, their condition was hopeless poverty, a life of battling with hunger and the sick sickness.  Now there is food, there is hope, and they will not come.”

“The strangers will not always be here.”

“But - if we could make them go sooner rather than later . . . ?"

“Ah?”

“If we could stop the distribution of inheritances.”

“How?”

“If we could start a fire, from all sides at once - helped along by a little oil - ”

“Are the books of inheritances still kept in the crypt?”

“Yes.”

“I gather you would like some oil.”

“If it so please you, Most Revered - and, naturally, we covet your prayers for the success of our undertaking.”

“And naturally you shall have them,” replied the High Priest with dignity.

The younger priest rose to fetch the oil.

A knock.  “Most Revered,” said a quavery voice.

“Why do you wake me at this hour?”

“I must tell you what happened.”

“What excuses now?  I suppose you woke the strangers with your carelessness?”

“No - they slept.  We were not careless - we went very softly.  No-one saw us, no-one heard us; not even when, at the corner, where you first see the ancient building, Tiaaz and his three friends caught fire and burnt - burnt to ashes in seconds in front of my eyes!”

“No doubt they had spilt oil upon themselves, and struck their tinder boxes too soon.”

“No, Most Revered, truly; I carried the oil, as you desired me.  Here it is, all five bottles, unopened and unused.  That was what we gave them, was it not?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Here it is, unopened - one, two, three - ”

“Yes, yes, I can count; I do not need the princesses’ school to teach me.”

“They had not struck their tinder boxes; we carried no lights - but they burnt in front of my eyes!”

“Be glad the strangers saw fit to spare you!”

“But there was no feel of hypnotism, no voice in my mind, no light in the strangers’ flying machine.”

“Well, I am glad we have our oil.  And now, as I have heard your news, perhaps I could be permitted to sleep?”

“Certainly, Most Revered.”

“But Tracia must be nearly forty!” cried the High Priest.  “Isn’t there anyone younger?”

“Only Olga, and last time you said she was too fat.”

“She is.  She’s disgustingly fat.” The High Priest beckoned, and his right-hand man came up close to him.

“Isn’t there a nice young thing you could beckon out from beside her present master?” he whispered.

“The seekers of priestesses are all still at work.”

“No-one?  This is serious.”

“So may we at last hold a Council about the situation?”

“Very well, very well.”

“Tomorrow at nine?”

“Eleven, please.  Have pity on my old bones.”

“Half past ten,” said his aide firmly.

“Oh, very well.”

The preliminaries were over.  The High Priest outlined the situation.  “Some three years ago, the gods allowed a strange flying machine to pollute our Roptoh’s park, to test his family and all the people’s faithfulness.  They even allowed the daemon the strangers serve to perform deceitful healings and lying wonders.  That first visit was, mercifully, brief, and almost all of our people stood the test bravely.

Then other strangers came, whose leader did not attempt to hide his own wickedness or that of the daemon he served.  He displayed his naked power and maleficence.  He would have taken over our country, but our Princess refused to perform the rites with him.  The Roptoh’s angry intervention on his daughter’s behalf drove these strangers from our country and our world.  But the daemon had a foothold in the mind of the Crown Prince, and, in spite of his parents’ pleadings, the Prince would not abjure him because of the deceitful, fatal charms of his nymph Helen.  When the first strangers brought her to him, he welcomed her - in fact, the entire Royal Family welcomed that nymph with the unearthly beauty that ought to have warned them that she was not human.  Now she possesses him wholly, the gods in their anger have driven the Roptoh and his family from our country, and deprived our Crown Prince of his throne.  But the people, in their foolishness and their land-greed, allowed Feor and his nymph to stay in their country.  So the gods, in even greater anger, have allowed almost half of our people to be deceived by that daemon into neglecting their fathers’ gods, their hope of safety and good harvests.  And when their gods try to draw their daughters back into obedience to them, their fathers turn on us, their gods’ representatives, with hatred and fury.  This year, the gods will be so angry with the people’s unfaithfulness that they will turn the fertility of our land, our animals and our people, into barrenness, unless the people turn back to them in time.”

The High Priest then turned to exhortation.

“We have a mission from our gods - to save our people from this daemon, his nymph and his stranger servants.  They must realize that the anger of the gods is upon them for their unfaithfulness.  They must return to the gods of their fathers, bring offerings, provide from those who will of their daughters to honour our gods by following the estimable profession of priestess, so that the rites for good harvests can be performed to the approval of the divine Tabil, and our country does not perish with hunger. So we, their priests, must be prophets too.  We must go out among the people and give them this message.  We must go especially to those who are already feeling the gods’ anger, to explain how they can avoid further judgement.  We must all go out to win our people’s hearts back to their gods.”

Some of the younger priests rose to cheer this eloquence; the older ones contented themselves with less enthusiastic applause.  As this died away, one of the eldest priests muttered to his neighbour,

“I’d like to see him paying visits.”

“And may the blessing of the gods rest upon us,” intoned the High Priest to conclude the Council.

“Did you hear that?” asked his aide.

“I’m not deaf.”

“Who are you going to visit?”

“Allow me to inquire of the gods.”

“Pray with urgency for a speedy answer.”

The High Priest sighed.  “Send a junior brother to Lord Algachthi, asking when it would be convenient for me to visit.”

“But he will give you seafood, and you will have indigestion for the next three days.  Besides, he will be - ”

“Everyone has indigestion.”

“Your indigestion after seafood has to be heard to be believed.”

“I can hardly refuse.”

“But the lords will be leaving soon.  It is the common people who should be visited.”

“Then Lord Algachthi will hear of it, and be hurt that I did not go to him first.” His aide sighed.