JOHN WYNDHAM THE CHRYSALID S 1 When I was quite small I would sometimes dream of a city – which was strange because it began before I even knew what a city was. But this city, clustered on the curve of a big blue bay, would come into my mind. I could see the streets, and the buildings that lined them, the waterfront, even boats in the harbour; yet, waking, I had never seen the sea, or a boat… And the buildings were quite unlike any I knew. The traffic in the streets was strange, carts running with no horses to pull them; and sometimes there were things in the sky, shiny fish-shaped things that certainly were not birds. Most often I would see this wonderful place by daylight, but occasionally it was by night when the lights lay like strings of glow-worms along the shore, and a few of them seemed to be sparks drifting on the water, or in the air.
It was a beautiful, fascinating place, and once, when I was still young enough to know no better, I asked my eldest sister, Mary, where this lovely city could be. She shook her head, and told me that there was no such place – not now. But, perhaps, she suggested, I could somehow be dreaming about times long ago. Dreams were funny things, and there was no accounting for them; so it might be that what I was seeing was a bit of the world as it had been once upon a time – the wonderful world that the Old People had lived in; as it had been before God sent Tribulation.
But after that she went on to warn me very seriously not to mention it to anyone else; other people, as far as she knew, did not have such pictures in their heads, either sleeping or waking, so it would be unwise to mention them. That was good advice, and luckily I had the sense to take it. People in our district had a very sharp eye for the odd, or the unusual, so that even my left-handedness caused slight disapproval. So, at that time, and for some years afterwards, I did not mention it to anyone – indeed, I almost forgot about it, for as I grew older the dream came less frequently, and then very rarely.
... happy of what they have. I created my dream city because sometimes we all want go away from ... forgetting about everything. My city is perfect because people of Warrior know how to turn things for the better and ... sometimes the ocean winds bring rains. In my dream city you cannot help admiring how the sun in the ... me with its nature, people, and soul. I created this city for a long time and now it is done ...
But the advice stuck. Without it I might have mentioned the curious understanding I had with my cousin Rosalind, and that would certainly have led us both into very grave trouble – if anyone had happened to believe me. Neither I nor she, I think, paid much attention to it at that time: we simply had the habit of caution. I certainly did not feel unusual. I was a normal little boy, growing up in a normal way, taking the ways of the world about me for granted. And I kept on like that until the day I met Sophie.
Even then, the difference was not immediate. It is hind-sight that enables me to fix that as the day when my first small doubts started to germinate. That day I had gone off by myself, as I often did. I was, I suppose, nearly ten years old. My next sister, Sarah, was five years older, and the gap meant that I played a great deal alone. I had made my way down the cart-track to the south, along the borders of several fields until I came to the high bank, and then along the top of the bank for quite a way.
The bank was no puzzle to me then: it was far too big for me to think of as a thing that men could have built, nor had it ever occurred to me to connect it with the wondrous doings of the Old People whom I sometimes heard about. It was simply the bank, coming round in a wide curve, and then running straight as an arrow towards the distant hills; just a part of the world, and no more to be wondered at than the river, the sky, or the hills themselves. I had often gone along the top of it, but seldom explored on the farther side. For some reason I regarded the country there as foreign – not so much hostile, as outside my territory. But there was a place I had discovered where the rain, in running down the far side of the bank, had worn a sandy gully. If one sat in the start of that and gave a good push off, one could go swishing down at a fine speed, and finally fly a few feet through the air to land in a pile of soft sand at the bottom.
... of these services (Robinson). According the New York Times, the Bush administration cut funding programs for many essential programs ... Crutsinger, Martin and Aversa, Jeannine 8 October 2008. Bush administration mulls bank stakes. 10 March 2009. //www. freep. ... com/article/20081008/BUSINESS07/81008120/1015/BUSINESS02/Bush+administration+mulls+bank+stakes Curl, Joseph. 23 Oct. 2008 McCain ...
I must have been there half a dozen times before, and there had never been anyone about, but on this occasion, when I was picking myself up after my third descent and preparing for a fourth, a voice said: ‘ Hullo!’ I looked round. At first I could not tell where it came from; then a shaking of the top twigs in a bunch of bushes caught my eye. The branches parted, and a face looked out at me. It was a small face, sunburned, and clustered about by dark curls. The expression was somewhat serious, but the eyes sparkled. We regarded one another for a moment, then:’ Hallo,’ I responded.
She hesitated, then pushed the bushes farther apart. I saw a girl a little shorter than I was, and perhaps a little younger. She wore reddish-brown dungarees with a yellow shirt. The cross stitched to the front of the dungarees was of a darker brown material.
Her hair was tied on either side of her head with yellow ribbons. She stood still for a few seconds as though uncertain about leaving the security of the bushes, then curiosity got the better of her caution, and she stepped out. I stared at her because she was completely a stranger. From time to time there were gatherings or parties which brought together all the children for miles around, so that it was astonishing to encounter one that I had never seen before.’ What’s your name?’ I asked her.’ Sophie,’ she told me.
‘What’s yours?’ ‘ David,’ I said. ‘Where’s your home?’ ‘ Over there,’ she said, waving her hand vaguely towards the foreign country beyond the bank. Her eyes left mine and went to the sandy runnel down which I had been sliding.’ Is that fun?’ she inquired, with a wistful look. I hesitated a moment before inviting her, then:’ Yes,’ I told her. ‘Come and try.’s he hung back, turning her attention to me again. She studied me with a serious expression for a second or two, then made up her mind quite suddenly.
She scrambled to the top of the bank ahead of me. She sped down the runnel with curls and ribbons flying. When I landed she had lost her serious look, and her eyes were dancing with excitement.’ Again,’ she said, and panted back up the bank. It was on her third descent that the misadventure occurred. She sat down and shoved off as before. I watched her swish down and come to a stop in a Hurry of sand.
... a majority of my academic career until I was faced with an even larger task... highschool. With problems ... in it would get me through whatever challenge I faced. As an innocent, radiant slip of a girl ... to drive and all the obstacles that I faced in between I was always able to employ ... helplessness, of defeat. After a comfortable amount of time was spent wallowing in self-pity, my relentless attitude ...
Somehow she had contrived to land a couple of feet to the left of the usual place. I made ready to follow, and waited for her to get clear. She did not.’ Go on,’ I told her impatiently. She tried to move, and then called up,’ I can’t. It hurts.’ I risked pushing off, anyway, and landed close beside her.’ What’s the matter?’ I asked.
Her face was screwed up. Tears stood in her eyes.’ My foot’s stuck,’ she said. Her left foot was buried. I scrabbled the soft sand clear with my hands.
Her shoe was jammed in a narrow space between two up-pointed stones. I tried to move it, but it would not budge.’ Can’t you sort of twist it out?’ I suggested. She tried, lips valiantly compressed.’ It won’t come.’ ‘ I’ll help pull,’ I offered.’ No, no! It hurts,’ she protested. I did not know what to do next. Very clearly her predicament was painful. I considered the problem.’ We’d better cut the laces so you can pull your foot out of the shoe.
I can’t reach the knot,’ I decided.’ No!’ she said, alarmed. ‘No, I mustn’t.’s he was so emphatic that I was baffled. If she were to pull the foot out of the shoe, we might knock the shoe itself free with a stone, but if she would not, I didn’t see what was to be done. She lay back on the sand, the knee of the trapped leg sticking up in the air.’ Oh, it is hurting so,’ she said.
She could not hold back the tears any longer. They ran down her face. But even then she didn’t howl: she made small puppy ish noises.’ You ” ll have to take it off,’ I told her.’ No!’ she protested again. ‘No, I mustn’t.
Not ever. I mustn’t.’ I sat down beside her, at a loss. Both her hands held on to one of mine, gripping it tightly while she cried. Clearly the pain of her foot was increasing. For almost the first time in my life I found myself in charge of a situation which needed a decision.
... , organization, dedication, and fairness. In the movie, My Left Foot, the mother displays both motivational and unique personality traits. Starting with motivation ... painting and writing. Since he has no use in his hands (or a very advanced use of his voice), he must ... , motivation to look for a job. Personality, on the other hand, is a persons consistant behavioral traits. Such traits may include ...
I made it.’ It’s no good. You ” ve got to get it off,’ I told her. ‘If you don’t, you ” ll probably stay here and die, I expect.’s he did not give in at once, but at last she consented. She watched apprehensively while I cut the lace. Then she said:’ Go away! You mustn’t look.’ I hesitated, but childhood is a time thickly beset with incomprehensible, though important, conventions, so I withdrew a few yards and turned my back. I heard her breathing hard.
Then she was crying again. I turned round.’ I can’t,’ she said, looking at me fearfully through her tears, so I knelt down to see what I could do about it.’ You mustn’t ever tell,’ she said. ‘Never, never! Promise?’ I promised. She was very brave.
Nothing more than the puppy noises. When I did succeed in getting the foot free, it looked queer: I mean, it was all twisted and puffy – I didn’t even notice then that it had more than the usual number of toes… I managed to hammer the shoe out of the cleft, and handed it to her. But she found she could not put it on her swollen foot. Nor could she put the foot to the ground.
I thought I might carry her on my back, but she was heavier than I expected, and it was clear that we should not get far like that.’ I’ll have to go and fetch somebody to help,’ I told her.’ No. I’ll crawl,’ she said. I walked beside her, carrying the shoe, and feeling useless. She kept going gamely for a surprisingly long way, but she had to give it up.
Her trousers were worn through at the knees, and the knees themselves were sore and bleeding. I had never known anyone, boy or girl, who would have kept on till that pitch; it awed me slightly. I helped her to stand up on her sound foot, and steadied her while she pointed out where her home was, and the trickle of smoke that marked it. When I looked back she was on all fours again, disappearing into the bushes. I found the house without much difficulty, and knocked, a little nervously. A tall woman answered.
She had a fine, handsome face with large bright eyes. Her dress was russet and a little shorter than those most of the women at home wore, but it carried the conventional cross, from neck to hem and breast to breast, in a green that matched the scarf on her head.’ Are you Sophie’s mother?’ I asked. She looked at me sharply and frowned. She said, with anxious abruptness:’ What is it?’ I told her.’ Oh!’ she exclaimed.
... in fact break away from his mother and heads for the majors house on foot, arriving there he warns the ... This is obviously a common occurrence in the young mans life and always ends up the same, they ... the Civil War). His father was obviously a man of little or no education who had developed ... This story is recounted from The memories of a man named Colonel Sartoris Snopes (named after Colonel Sartoris ...
‘Her foot!’s he looked hard at me again for a moment, then she least the broom she was holding against the wall, and asked briskly:’ Where is she?’ I led her by the way I had come. At the sound of her voice Sophie crawled out of the bushes. Her mother looked at the swollen, misshapen foot and the bleeding knees.’ Oh, my poor darling!’ she said, holding her and kissing her. Then she added: ‘He’s seen it?’ ‘Yes,’ Sophie told her. ‘I’m sorry, Mummy.
I tried hard, but I couldn’t do it myself, and it did hurt so.’ Her mother nodded slowly. She sighed.’ Oh, well, it can’t be helped now. Up you get.’s sophie climbed on to her mother’s back, and we all went back to the house together. The commandments and precepts one learns as a child can be remembered by rote, but they mean little until there is example – and, even then, the example needs to be recognized. Thus, I was able to sit patiently and watch the hurt foot being washed, cold-poulticed, and bound up, and perceive no connexion between it and the affirmation which I had heard almost every Sunday of my life.’ And God created man in His own image. And God decreed that man should have one body, one head, two arms and two legs: that each arm should be jointed in two places and end in one hand: that each hand should have four fingers and one thumb: that each finger should bear a flat finger-nail…
.’ And so on until:’ Then God created woman, also, and in the same image, but with these differences, according to her nature: her voice should be of higher pitch than man’s: she should grow no beard: she should have two breasts… .’ And so on again. I knew it all, word for word – and yet the sight of Sophie’s six toes stirred nothing in my memory. I saw the foot resting in her mother’s lap. Watched her mother pause to look down at it for a still moment, lift it, bend to kiss it gently, and then look up with tears in her eyes. I felt sorry for her distress, and for Sophie, and for the hurt foot – but nothing more.
... is indeed worthy to be considered as “the man after God’s own heart” since he managed to maintain ... be a great king and was called by God as “the man after His own heart”. Notwithstanding the fact ... the sin that humans have done, there is still room for forgiveness. Despite the sins that King David ... every weakness and sin that “a man of blood” is capable and yet God still showered and bestowed him with ...
While the bandaging was finished I looked round the room curiously. The house was a great deal smaller than my home, a cottage, in fact, but I liked it better. It felt friendly. And although Sophie’s mother was anxious and worried she did not give me the feeling that I was the one regrettable and unreliable factor in an otherwise orderly life, the way most people did at home. And the room itself seemed to me the better, too, for not having groups of words hanging on the wall for people to point to in disapproval. Instead, this room had several drawings of horses, which I thought very fine.
Presently, Sophie, tidied up now, and with the tear-marks washed away, hopped to a chair at the table. Quite restored, but for the foot, she inquired with grave hospitality whether I liked eggs. Afterwards, Mrs Wender told me to wait where I was while she carried her upstairs. She returned in a few minutes, and sat down beside me.
She took my hand in hers and looked at me seriously for some moments. I could feel her anxiety strongly; though quite why she should be so worried was not, at first, clear to me. I was surprised by her, for there had been no sign before that she could think in that way. I thought back to her, trying to reassure her and show her that she need not be anxious about me, but the thought didn’t reach her.
She went on looking at me with her eyes shining, much as Sophie’s had when she was trying not to cry. Her own thoughts were all worry and shapelessness as she kept looking at me. I tried again, but still couldn’t reach them. Then she nodded slowly, and said in words:’ You ” re a good boy, David. You were very kind to Sophie. I want to thank you for that.’ I felt awkward, and looked at my shoes.
I couldn’t remember anyone saying before that I was a good boy. I knew no form of response designed to meet such an event.’ You like Sophie, don’t you?’ she went on, still looking at me.’ Yes,’ I told her. And I added: ‘I think she’s awfully brave, too. It must have hurt a lot.’ ‘Will you keep a secret – an important secret – for her sake?’ she asked.’ Yes – of course,’ I agreed, but a little uncertain in my tone for not realizing what the secret was.’ You – you saw her foot?’ she said, looking steadily into my face. ‘ Her – toes?’ I nodded.
‘Yes,’ I said again.’ Well, that is the secret, David. Nobody else must know about that. You are the only person who does, except her father and me. Nobody else must know. Nobody at all – not ever.’ ‘No,’ I agreed, and nodded seriously again. There was a pause – at least, her voice paused, but her thoughts went on, as if ‘ nobody’ and ‘ not ever’ were making desolate, unhappy echoes there.
Then that changed, and she became tense and fierce and afraid inside. It was no good thinking back to her, so I tried clumsily to emphasize in words that I had meant what I said.’ Never – not anybody at all,’ I assured her earnestly.’ It’s very, very important,’ she insisted. ‘ How can I explain to you?’ But she didn’t really need to explain. Her urgent, tight-strung feeling of the importance was very plain. Her words were far less potent.
She said:’ If anyone were to find out, they’d – they’d be terribly unkind to her. We ” ve got to see that that never happens.’ It was as if the anxious feeling had turned into something hard, like an iron rod.’ Because she has six toes?’ I asked.’ Yes. That’s what nobody but us must ever know. It must be a secret between us,’ she repeated, driving it home.
‘You ” ll promise, David?’ ‘I’ll promise. I can swear, if you like,’ I offered.’ The promise is enough,’ she told me. It was so heavy a promise that I was quite resolved to keep it completely – even from my cousin, Rosalind. Though, underneath, I was puzzled by its evident importance. It seemed a very small toe to cause such a degree of anxiety. But there was often a great deal of grown-up fuss that seemed disproportionate to causes.
So I held on to the main point – the need for secrecy. Sophie’s mother kept on looking at me with a sad but unseeing expression until I became uncomfortable. She noticed when I fidgeted, and smiled. It was a kind smile.’ All right, then,’ she said.
‘We ” ll keep it secret, and never talk about it again?’ ‘Yes,’ I agreed. On the way down the path from the door, I turned round.’ May I come and see Sophie again soon?’ I asked. She hesitated, giving the question some thought, then she said:’ Very well – but only if you are sure you can come without anyone knowing,’ she agreed. Not until I had reached the bank and was making my homeward way along the top of it did the monotonous Sunday precepts join up with reality. Then they did it with a click that was almost audible. The Definition of Man recited itself in my head: ‘…
and each leg shall be jointed twice and have one foot, and each foot five toes, and each toe shall end with a flat nail… .’ And so on, until finally: ‘And any creature that shall seem to be human, but is not formed thus is not human. It is neither man nor woman. It is a blasphemy against the true Image of God, and hateful in the sight of God.’ I was abruptly perturbed – and considerably puzzled, too. A blasphemy was, as had been impressed upon me often enough, a frightful thing. Yet there was nothing frightful about Sophie.
She was simply an ordinary little girl – if a great deal more sensible and braver than most. Yet, according to the Definition… Clearly there must be a mistake somewhere. Surely having one very small toe extra – well, two very small toes, because I supposed there would be one to match on the other foot – surely that couldn’t be enough to make her ‘hateful in the sight of God… .’ ? The ways of the world were very puzzling… 2 I reached home by my usual method.
At a point where the woods had lapped up the side of the bank and grown across it I scrambled down on to a narrow, little-used track. From there on I was watchful, and kept my hand on my knife. I was supposed to keep out of the woods, for it did occasionally – though very rarely – happen that large creatures penetrated as far into civilized parts as Waknuk, and there was just a chance that one might encounter some kind of wild dog or cat. However, and as usual, the only creatures I heard were small ones, hurriedly making off.
After a mile or so I reached cultivated land, with the house in sight across three or four fields. I worked along the fringe of the woods, observing carefully from cover, then crossed all but the last field in the shadows of the hedges, and paused to prospect again. There was no one in sight but old Jacob slowly shovelling muck in the yard. When his back was safely turned I cut swiftly across the bit of open ground, climbed in through a window, and made my way cautiously to my own room.
Our house is not easy to describe. Since my grandfather, Elias Strorm, built the first part of it, over fifty years earlier, it had grown new rooms and extensions at various times. By now it rambled off on one side into stock-sheds, stores, stables, and barns, and on the other into wash-houses, dairies, cheese-rooms, farm-hands’ rooms, and so on until it three-quarters enclosed a large, beaten-earth yard which lay to leeward of the main house and had a midden for its central feature. Like all the houses of the district, it was constructed on a frame of solid, roughly-dressed timbers, but, since it was the oldest house there, most of the spaces in the outer walls had been filled in with bricks and stones from the ruins of some of the Old People’s buildings, and plastered wattle was used only for the internal walls. My grandfather, in the aspect he wore when presented to me by my father, appeared to have been a man of somewhat tediously unrelieved virtue. It was only later that I pieced together a portrait that was more credible, if less creditable.
Elias Strorm came from the East, somewhere near the sea. Why he came is not quite clear. He himself maintained that it was the ungodly ways of the East which drove him to search for a less sophisticated, stauncher-minded region; though I have heard it suggested that there came a point when his native parts refused to tolerate him any longer. Whatever the cause, it persuaded him to Waknuk – then undeveloped, almost frontier country – with all his worldly goods in a train of six wagons, at the age of forty-five. He was a husky man, a dominating man, and a man fierce for rectitude.
He had eyes that could flash with evangelical fire beneath bushy brows. Respect for God was frequently on his lips, and fear of the devil constantly in his heart, and it seems to have been hard to say which inspired him the more. Soon after he had started the house he went off on a journey and brought back a bride. She was shy, pretty in the pink and golden way, and twenty-five years younger than himself. She moved, I have been told, like a lovely colt when she thought herself unwatched; as timorously as a rabbit when she felt her husband’s eye upon her. All her answers, poor thing, were dusty.
She did not find that a marriage service generated love; she did not enable her husband to recapture his youth through hers; nor could she compensate for that by running his home in the manner of an experienced housekeeper. Elias was not a man to let shortcomings pass unremarked. In a few seasons he straitened the coltishness with admonitions, faded the pink and gold with preaching, and produced a sad, grey wraith of wifehood who died, unprotesting, a year after her second son was born. Grandfather Elias had never a moment’s doubt of the proper pattern for his heir. My father’s faith was bred into his bones, his principles were his sinews, and both responded to a mind richly stored with examples from the Bible, and from Nicholson’s Repentances. In faith father and son were at one; the difference between them was only in approach; the evangelical flash did not appear in my lather s eye; his virtue was inure legalistic.
Joseph Strorm, my father, did not marry until Elias was dead, and when he did he was not a man to repeat his father’s mistake. My mother’s views harmonized with his own. She had a strong sense of duty, and never doubted where it lay. Our district, and, consequently, our house as the first there, was called Waknuk because of a tradition that there had been a place of that name there, or thereabouts, long, long ago, in the time of the Old People. The tradition was, as usual, vague, but certainly there had been some buildings of some kind, for the remnants and foundations had remained until they were taken for new buildings. There was also the long bank, running away until it reached the hills and the huge scar that must have been made by the Old People when, in their superhuman fashion, they had cut away half a mountain in order to find something or other that interested them.
The place may have been called Waknuk then; anyway, Waknuk it had become; an orderly, law-abiding, God-respecting community of some hundred scattered holdings, large and small. My father was a man of local consequence. When, at the age of sixteen, he had made his first public appearance by giving a Sunday address in the church his father had built, there had still been fewer than sixty families in the district. But as more land was cleared for farming and more people came to settle, he was not submerged by them. He was still the largest landowner, he still continued to preach frequently on Sundays and to explain with practical clarity the laws and views held in heaven upon a variety of matters and practices, and, upon the appointed days, he administered the laws temporal, as a magistrate.
For the rest of the time he saw to it that he, and all within his control, continued to set a high example to the district. Within the house, life centred, as was the local custom, upon the large living-room which was also the kitchen. As the house was the largest and best in Waknuk, so was the room. The great fireplace there was an object of pride – not vain pride, of course; more a matter of being conscious of having given worthy treatment to the excellent materials that the Lord had provided: a kind of testament, really. The hearth was solid stone blocks. The whole chimney was built of bricks and had never been known to catch fire.
The area about its point of emergence was covered with the only tiles in the district, so that the thatch which covered the rest of the roof had never caught fire, either. My mother saw to it that the big room was kept very clean and tidy. The floor was composed of pieces of brick and stone and artificial stone cleverly fitted together. The furniture was whitely-scrubbed tables and stools, with a few chairs. The walls were whitewashed.
Several burnished pans, too big to go in the cupboards, hung against them. The nearest approach to decoration was a number of wooden panels with sayings, mostly from Repentances, artistically burnt into them. The one on the left of the fireplace read: ONLY THE IMAGE OF GOD IS MAN. The one on the right: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD. On the opposite wall two more said: BLESSED IS THE NORM, and IN PURITY OUR SALVATION.
The largest was the one on the back wall, hung to face the door which led to the yard. It reminded everyone who came in: WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT! Frequent references to these texts had made me familiar with the words long before I was able to read, in fact I am not sure that they did not give me my first reading lessons. I knew them by heart, just as I knew others elsewhere in the house, which said things like: THE NORM IS THE WILL OF GOD, and, REPRODUCTION IS THE ONLY HOLY PRODUCTION and, THE DEVIL IS THE FATHER OF DEVIATION, and a number of others about Offences and Blasphemies. Many of them were still obscure to me; others I had learnt something about. Offences, for instance. That was because the occurrence of an Offence was sometimes quite an impressive occasion.
Usually the first sign that one had happened was that my father came into the house in a bad temper. Then, in the evening, he would call us all together, including everyone who worked on the farm. We would all kneel while he proclaimed our repentance and led prayers for forgiveness. The next morning we would all be up before daylight and gather in the yard. As the sun rose we would sing a hymn while my father ceremonially slaughtered the two-headed calf, four-legged chicken, or whatever other kind of Offence it happened to be. Sometimes it would be a much queerer thing than those…
Nor were Offences limited to the livestock. Sometimes there would be some stalks of corn, or some vegetables, that my father produced and cast on the kitchen table in anger and shame. If it were merely a matter of a few rows of vegetables, they just came out and were destroyed. But if a whole field had gone wrong we would wait for good weather, and then set fire to it, singing hymns while it burnt. I used to find that a very fine sight. It was because my father was a careful and pious man with a keen eye for an Offence that we used to have more slaughtering’s and burnings than anyone else: but any suggestion that we were more afflicted with Offences than other people hurt and angered him.
He had no wish at all to throw good money away, he pointed out. If our neighbours were as conscientious as ourselves, he had no doubt that their liquidations would far outnumber ours: unfortunately there were certain persons with elastic principles. So I learnt quite early to know what Offences were. They were things which did not look right – that is to say, did not look like their parents, or parent-plants.
Usually there was only some small thing wrong, but however much or little was wrong it was an Offence, and if it happened among people it was a Blasphemy – at least, that was the technical term, though commonly both kinds were called Deviations. Nevertheless, the question of Offences was not always as simple as one might think, and when there was disagreement the district’s inspector could be sent for. My father, however, seldom called in the inspector, he preferred to be on the safe side and liquidate anything doubtful. There were people who disapproved of his meticulousness, saying that the local Deviation-rate, which had shown a steady overall improvement and now stood at half what it had been in my grandfather’s time, would have been better still, but for my father. All the same, the Waknuk district had a great name for Purity. Ours was no longer a frontier region.
Hard work and sacrifice had produced a stability of stock and crops which could be envied even by some communities to the east of us. You could now go some thirty miles to the south or south-west before you came to Wild Country – that is to say parts where the chance of breeding true was less than fifty per cent. After that, everything grew more erratic across a belt which was ten miles wide in some places and up to twenty in others, until you came to the mysterious Fringes where nothing was dependable, and where, to quote my father, ‘the Devil struts his wide estates, and the laws of God are mocked.’ Fringes country, too, was said to be variable in depth, and beyond it lay the Badlands about which nobody knew anything. Usually anybody who went into the Badlands died there, and the one or two men who had come back from them did not last long.
It was not the Badlands, but the Fringes that gave us trouble from time to time. The people of the Fringes – at least, one calls them people, because although they were really Deviations they often looked quite like ordinary human people, if nothing had gone too much wrong with them – these people, then, had very little where they lived in their border country, so they came out into civilized parts to steal grain and livestock and clothes and tools and weapons, too, if they could; and sometimes they carried off children. Occasional small raids used to happen two or three times a year, and nobody took much notice of them as a rule – except the people who got raided, of course. Usually they had time to get away and lost only their stock. Then everybody would contribute a little in kind, or in money, to help them set up again.
But as time went on and the frontier was pushed back there were more Fringes people trying to live on less country. Some years they got very hungry, and after a time it was no longer just a matter of a dozen or so making a quick raid and then running back into Fringes country; they came instead in large, organized bands and did a lot of damage. In my father’s childhood mothers used to quieten and awe troublesome infants by threatening: ‘Be good now, or I’ll fetch Old Maggie from the Fringes to you. She’s got four eyes to watch you with, and four ears to hear you with, and four arms to smack you with. So you be careful.’ Or Hairy Jack was another ominous figure who might be called in ‘… and he ” ll take you off to his cave in the Fringes where all his family lives.
They ” re all hairy, too, with long tails; and they eat a little boy each for breakfast every morning, and a little girl each for supper every evening.’ Nowadays, however, it was not only small children who lived in nervous awareness of the Fringes people not so far away. Their existence had become a dangerous nuisance and their depredations the cause of many representations to the Government in Rigo. For all the good the petitions did, they might never have been sent. Indeed, with no one able to tell, over a stretch of five or six hundred miles, where the next attack would come, it is difficult to see what practical help could have been given.
What the Government did do, from its comfortable situation far, far to the east, was to express sympathy in encouraging phrases, and suggest the formation of a local militia: a suggestion which, as all able-bodies males had as a matter of course been members of a kind of unofficial militia since frontier days, was felt to amount to disregard of the situation. As far as the Waknuk district was concerned the threat from the Fringes was more of a nuisance than a menace. The deepest raid had come no nearer than ten miles, but every now and then there were emergencies, and seemingly more every year, which called the men away, and brought all the farm work to a stop. The interruptions were expensive and wasteful; moreover, they always brought anxiety if the trouble was near our sector: nobody could be sure that they might not come farther one time…
Mostly, however, we led a comfortable, settled, industrious existence. Our household was extensive. There were my father and mother, my two sisters, and my Uncle Axel to make the family, but also there were the kitchen girls and dairymaids, some of whom were married to the farm men, and their children, and, of course, the men themselves, so when we were all gathered for the meal at the end of the day’s work there were over twenty of us; and when we assembled for prayers there were still more because the men from the adjoining cottages came in with their wives and children. Uncle Axel was not a real relative. He had married one of my mother’s sisters, Elizabeth. He was a sailor then, and she had gone East with him and died in Rigo while he was on the voyage that had left him a cripple.
He was a useful all-round man, though slow in getting about because of his leg, so my father let him live with us: he was also my best friend. My mother came of a family of five girls and two boys. Four of the girls were full sisters; the youngest girl and the two boys were half-sister and half-brothers to the rest. Hannah, the eldest, had been sent away by her husband, and nobody had heard of her since. Emily, my mother, was next in age. Then came Harriet who was married to a man with a big farm at Kentak, almost fifteen miles away.
Then Elizabeth, who had married Uncle Axel. Where my half-aunt Lilian and my half-uncle Thomas were I did not know, but my half-uncle, Angus Morton, owned the farm next to us, and a mile or more of our boundaries ran together, which annoyed my father who could scarcely agree with half-uncle Angus about anything. His daughter, Rosalind, was, of course, my cousin. Although Waknuk itself was the biggest farm in the district, most of them were organized along the same lines, and all of them growing larger, for with the improving stability-rate there was the incentive to extend; every year felling of trees and clearing went on to make new fields. The woods and spurs of forest were being nibbled away until the countryside was beginning to look like the old, long-cultivated land in the east.
It was said that nowadays even people in Rigo knew where Waknuk was without looking it up on the map. I lived, in fact, on the most prosperous farm in a prospering district. At the age of ten, however, I had little appreciation of that. My impression was of an uncomfortably industrious place where there always seemed to be more jobs than people, unless one was careful, so on this particular evening I contrived to lie low until routine sounds told me that it was near enough to the mealtime for me to show myself safely. I hung about, watching the horses being unharnessed and turned out.
Presently the bell on the gable-end tolled a couple of times. Doors opened, and people came into the yard, making for the kitchen. I went along with them. The warning: WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT! faced me as I went in, but it was much too familiar to stir a thought. What interested me exclusively at the moment was the smell of food. 3 I usually went over to see Sophie once or twice a week after that.
What schooling we had – which was a matter of half a dozen children being taught to read and write and do some sums by one or another of several old women – took place in the mornings. It was not difficult at the midday meal to slip away from the table early and disappear until everyone would think someone else had found a job for me. When her ankle was quite recovered she was able to show me the favourite corners of her territory. One day I took her over our side of the big bank to see the steam-engine.
There wasn’t another steam-engine within a hundred miles, and we were very proud of it. Corky, who looked after it, was not about, but the doors at the end of its shed were open, letting out the sound of a rhythmic groaning, creaking, and puffing. We ventured on to the threshold and peered into the gloom inside. It was fascinating to watch the big timbers moving up and down with wheezing noises while up in the shadows of the roof a huge cross-beam rocked slowly backwards and forwards, with a pause at the end of each tilt as though it were summoning up energy for the next effort.
Fascinating – but, after a time, monotonous. Ten minutes of it were enough, and we withdrew to climb to the top of the wood-pile beside the shed. We sat there with the whole heap quivering beneath us as the engine chugged ponderously on.’ My Uncle Axel says the Old People must have had much better engines than this,’ I told her.’ My father says that if one-quarter of the things they say about the Old People are true, they must have been magicians: not real people, at all,’ Sophie countered.’ But they were wonderful,’ I insisted.’ Too wonderful to be true, he says,’ she told me.’ Doesn’t he think they were able to fly, like people say?’ I asked.’ No. That’s silly.
If they could ” ve, we’d be able to.’ ‘ But there are lots of things they could do that we are learning to do again,’ I protested.’ Not flying.’ She shook her head. ‘ Things can either fly, or they can’t, and we can’t,’ she said. I thought of telling her about my dream of the city and the things flying over it, but after all, a dream isn’t much evidence of anything, so I let it pass. Presently we climbed down, leaving the engine to its panting and creaking, and made our way over to her home. John Wender, her father, was back from one of his trips. A sound of hammering came from the outside shed where he was stretching skins on frames, and the whole place smelt of his operations.
Sophie rushed to him and flung her arms round his neck. He straightened up, holding her against him with one arm.’ Hullo, Chicks,’ he said. He greeted me more gravely. We had an unspoken understanding that we were on a man to man basis. It had always been like that. When he first saw me he had looked at me in a way that had scared me and made me afraid to speak in his presence.
Gradually, however, that had changed. We became friends. He showed me and told me a lot of interesting things – all the same I would look up sometimes to find him watching me uneasily. And no wonder. Only some years later could I appreciate how badly troubled he must have been when he came home to find Sophie had sprained her ankle, and that it had been David Strorm, the son of Joseph Strorm, of all people, who had seen her foot. He must, I think, have been greatly tempted by the thought that a dead boy could break no promise…
Perhaps Mrs Wender saved me… But I think he could have been reassured had he known of an incident at my home about a month after I met Sophie. I had run a splinter into my hand and when I pulled it out it bled a lot. I went to the kitchen with it only to find everybody too busy getting supper to be bothered with me, so I rummaged a strip out of the rag-drawer for myself.
I tried clumsily for a minute or two to tie it, then my mother noticed. She made – noises of disapproval and insisted on it being washed. Then she wound the strip on neatly, grumbling that of course I had to go and do it just when she was busy. I said I was sorry, and added:’ I could have managed it all right by myself if I’d had another hand.’ My voice must have carried, for silence fell on the whole room like a clap. My mother froze. I looked round the room at the sudden quiet.
Mary, standing with a pie in her hands, two of the farm men waiting for their meal, my father about to take his seat at the head of the table, and the others; they were all staring at me. I caught my father’s expression just as it was turning from amazement to anger. Alarmed, but uncomprehending, I watched his mouth tighten, his jaw come forward, his brows press together over his still incredulous eyes. He demanded:’ What was that you said, boy?’ I knew the tone.
I tried to think in a desperate hurry how I had offended this time. I stumbled and stuttered.’ I – I s-aid I couldn’t manage to tie this for myself,’ I told him. His eyes had become less incredulous, more accusing.’ And you wished you had a third hand!’ ‘No, father. I only said if I had another hand…
.’ ‘… you would be able to tie it. If that was not a wish, what was it?’ ‘ I only meant if,’ I protested. I was alarmed, and too confused to explain that I had only happened to use one way of expressing a difficulty which might have been put in several ways. I was aware that the rest had stopped gaping at me, and were now looking apprehensively at my father. His expression was grim.’ You – my own son – were calling upon the Devil to give you another hand!’ he accused me.’ But I wasn’t.
I only -”Be quiet, boy. Everyone in this room heard you. You ” ll certainly make it no better by lying.’ ‘But -”Were you, or were you not, expressing dissatisfaction with the form of the body God gave you – the form in His own image?’ ‘ I just said if I -”You blasphemed, boy. You found fault with the Norm. Everybody here heard you. What have you to say to that? You know what the Norm is?’ I gave up protesting.
I knew well enough that my father in his present mood would not try to understand. I muttered, parrot-like:’ ‘The Norm is the Image of God’.’ ‘You do know – and yet, knowing this, you deliberately wished yourself a Mutant. That is a terrible thing, an outrageous thing. You, my son, committing blasphemy, and before his parents!’ In his sternest pulpit voice, he added:’ What is a Mutant?’ ”A thing accursed in the sight of God and man’,’ I mumbled.’ And that is what you wished to be! What have you to say?’ With a heart-sunk certainty that it would be useless to say anything, I kept my lips shut and my eyes lowered.’ Down on your knees!’ he commanded. ‘Kneel and pray!’ The others all knelt, too. My father’s voice rose:’ Lord, we have sinned in omission.
We beg Thy forgiveness that we have not better instructed this child in Thy laws… .’ The prayer seemed to go booming on for a long time. After the ‘Amen’ there was a pause, until my father said:’ Now go to your room, and pray. Pray, you wretched boy for a forgiveness you do not deserve, but which God, in His mercy, may yet grant you. I will come to you later.’ In the night, when the anguish which had followed my father’s visit was somewhat abated, I lay awake, puzzling.
I had had no idea of wishing for a third hand, but even if I had… ? If it was such a terrible thing just to think of having three hands, what would happen if one really had them – or anything else wrong; such as, for instance, an extra toe -? And when at last I fell asleep I had a dream. We were all gathered in the yard, just as we had been at the last Purification. Then it had been a little hairless calf that stood waiting, blinking stupidly at the knife in my father’s hand; this time it was a little girl, Sophie, standing barefooted and trying uselessly to hide the whole long row of toes that everyone could see on each foot. We all stood looking at her, and waiting. Presently she started to run from one person to another, imploring them to help her, but none of them moved, and none of their faces had any expression.
My father started to walk towards her, the knife shining in his hand. Sophie grew frantic; she flitted from one unmoving person to another, tears running down her face. My father, stern, implacable, kept on coming nearer; still no one would move to help her. My father came closer still, with long arms outspread to prevent her bolting as he cornered her.
He caught her, and dragged her back to the middle of the yard. The sun’s edge began to show above the horizon, and everyone started to sing a hymn. My father held Sophie with one arm just as he had held the struggling calf. He raised his other hand high, and as he swept it down the knife flashed in the light of the rising sun, just as it had flashed when he cut the calf’s throat…
If John and Mary Wender had been there when I woke up struggling and crying, and then lay in the dark trying to convince myself that the terrible picture was nothing more than a dream, they would, I think, have felt quite a lot easier in their minds. 4 This was a time when I passed out of a placid period into one where things kept on happening. There wasn’t much reason about it; that is to say, only a few of the things were connected with one another: it was more as if an active cycle had set in, just as a spell of different weather might come along. My meeting with Sophie was, I suppose, the first incident; the next was that Uncle Axel found out about me and my half-cousin, Rosalind Morton. He – and it was lucky it was he, and no one else – happened to come upon me when I was talking to her. It must have been a self-preserving instinct which had made us keep the thing to ourselves, for we’d no active feeling of danger – I had so little, in fact, that when Uncle Axel found me sitting behind a rick chatting apparently to myself, I made very little effort to dissemble.
He may have been there a minute or more before I became aware of somebody just round the corner of my eye, and turned to see who it was. My Uncle Axel was a tall man, neither thin nor fat, but sturdy, and with a seasoned look to him. I used to think when I watched him at work that his weathered hands and forearms had some sort of kinship with the polished wood of the helves they used. He was standing in his customary way, with much of his weight upon the thick stick he used because his leg had been wrongly set when it was broken at sea.
His bushy eyebrows, a little touched with grey, were drawn closer by a half-frown, but the lines on his tanned face were half-amused as he regarded me.’ Well, Davie boy, and who would you be chattering away so hard to? Is it fairies, or gnomes, or only the rabbits?’ he asked. I just shook my head. He limped closer, and sat down beside me, chewing on a stalk of grass from the rick.’ Feeling lonely?’ he inquired.’ No,’ I told him. He frowned a bit again. ‘Wouldn’t it be more fun to do your chattering with some of the other kids?’ he suggested. ‘ More interesting than just sitting and talking to yourself?’ I hesitated, and then because he was Uncle Axel and my best friend among the grown-ups, I said:’ But I was.’ ‘Was what?’ he asked, puzzled.’ Talking to one of them,’ I told him.
He frowned, and went on looking puzzled.’ Who?’ ‘ Rosalind,’ I told him. He paused a bit, looking at me harder.’ H’m – I didn’t see her around,’ he remarked.’ Oh, she isn’t here. She’s at home – at least, she’s near home, in a little secret tree-house her brothers built in the spinney,’ I explained. ‘ It’s a favourite place of hers.’ He was not able to understand what I meant at first. He kept on talking as though it were a make-believe game; but after I had tried for some time to explain he sat quiet, watching my face as I talked, and presently his expression became very serious. After I’d stopped he said nothing for a minute or two, then he asked:’ This isn’t play-stuff – it’s the real truth you ” re telling me, Davie boy?’ And he looked at me hard and steadily as he spoke.’ Yes, Uncle Axel, of course,’ I assured him.’ And you never told anyone else – nobody at all?’ ‘ No.
It’s a secret,’ I told him, and he looked relieved. He threw away the remains of his grass-stalk, and pulled another out of the rick. After he had thoughtfully bitten a few pieces off that and spat them out he looked directly at me again.’ Davie,’ he said, ‘ I want you to make me a promise.’ ‘Yes, Uncle Axel?’ ‘ It’s this,’ he said, speaking very seriously. ‘ I want you to keep it secret. I want you to promise that you will never, never tell anyone else what you have just told me – never. It’s very important: later on you ” ll understand better how important it is.
You mustn’t do anything that would even let anyone guess about it. Will you promise me that?’ His gravity impressed me greatly. I had never known him to speak with so much intensity. It made me aware, when I gave my promise, that I was vowing something more important than I could understand.
He kept his eyes on mine as I spoke, and then nodded, satisfied that I meant it. We shook hands on the agreement. Then he said:’ It would be best if you could forget it altogether.’ I thought that over, and then shook my head.’ I don’t think I could, Uncle Axel. Not really. I mean, it just is. It’d be like trying to forget -‘ I broke off, unable to express what I wanted to.’ Like trying to forget how to talk, or how to hear, perhaps?’ he suggested.’ Rather like that – only different,’ I admitted.
He nodded, and thought again.’ You hear the words inside your head?’ he asked.’ Well, not exactly ‘hear’, and not exactly ‘see’,’ I told him. ‘ There are – well, sort of shapes – and if you use words you make them clearer so that they ” re easier to understand.’ ‘But you don’t have to use words – not say them out loud as you were doing just now?’ ‘ Oh, no – it just helps to make it clearer sometimes.’ ‘ It also helps to make things a lot more dangerous, for both of you. I want you to make another promise – that you ” ll never do it out loud any more.’ ‘All right, Uncle Axel,’ I agreed again.’ You ” ll understand when you ” re older how important it is,’ he told me, and then he went on to insist that I should get Rosalind to make the same promises. I did not tell him anything about the others because he seemed so worried already, but I decided I’d get them to promise, too. At the end he put out his hand again, and once more we swore secrecy very solemnly.
I put the matter to Rosalind and the others the same evening. It crystallized a feeling that was in all of us. I don’t suppose that there was a single one of us who had not at some time made a slip or two and brought upon himself, or herself, an odd, suspicious look. A few of these looks had been warnings enough to each; it was such looks, not comprehended, but clear enough as signs of disapproval just below the verge of suspicion, that had kept us out of trouble. There had been no acknowledged, co-operative policy among us. It was simply as individuals that we had all taken the same self-protective, secretive course.
But now, out of Uncle Axel’s anxious insistence on my promise, the feeling of a threat was strengthened. It was still shapeless to us, but it was more real. Furthermore, in trying to convey Uncle Axel’s seriousness to them I must have stirred up an uneasiness that was in all their minds, for there was no dissent. They made the promise willingly; eagerly, in fact, as though it was a burden they were relieved to share.
It was our first act as a group; it made us a group by its formal admission of our responsibilities towards one another. It changed our lives by marking our first step in corporate self-preservation, though we understood little of that at the time. What seemed most important just then was the feeling of sharing… Then, almost on top of that personal event came another which was of general concern; an invasion in force from the Fringes. As usual there was no detailed plan to deal with it. As near as anyone came to organization was the appointment of headquarters in the different sectors.
Upon an alarm it was the duty of all able-bodied men in the district to rally at their local headquarters, when a course of action would be decided according to the location and extent of the trouble. As a method of dealing with small raids it had proved good enough, but that was all it was intended for. As a result, when the Fringes people found leaders who could promote an organized invasion there had been no adequately organized system of defence to delay them. They were able to push forward on a broad front, mopping up little bands of our militia here and there, and looting as they liked, and meeting nothing to delay them seriously until they were twenty-five miles or more into civilized parts. By that time we had our forces in somewhat better order, and neighbouring districts had pulled themselves together to head off a further widening, and harry the flanks.
Our men were better armed, too. Quite a lot of them had guns, whereas the Fringes people had only a few that they had stolen, and depended chiefly on bows, knives, and spears. Nevertheless, the width of their advance made them difficult to deal with. They were better woodsmen and cleverer at hiding themselves than proper human beings, so that they were able to press on another fifteen miles before we could contain them and bring them to battle. It was exciting for a boy. With the Fringes people little more than seven miles away, our yard at Waknuk had become one of the rallying points.
My father, who had had an arrow through his arm early in the campaign, was helping to organize the new volunteers into squads. For several days there was a great bustling and coming and going as men were registered and sorted, and finally rode off with a fine air of determination, and the women of the household waving handkerchiefs at them. When they had all departed, and our workers, too, the place seemed quite uncannily quiet for a day. Then there came a single rider, dashing back. He paused long enough to tell us that there had been a big battle and the Fringes people, with some of their leaders taken prisoner, were running away as fast as they could, then he galloped on with his good news. That same afternoon a small troop of horsemen came riding into the yard, with two of the captured Fringes leaders in the middle of them.
I dropped what I was doing, and ran across to see. It was a bit disappointing at first sight. The tales about the Fringes had led me to expect creatures with two heads, or fur all over, or half a dozen arms and legs. Instead, they seemed at first glance to be just two ordinary men with beards – though unusually dirty, and with very ragged clothes. One of them was a short man with fair hair which was tufted as though he had trimmed it with a knife. But when I looked at the other I had a shock which brought me up dumbfounded, and staring at him.
I was so jolted I just went on staring at him, for, put him in decent clothes, tidy up his beard, and he’d be the image of my father… As he sat his horse, looking round, he noticed me; casually at first, in passing, then his gaze switched back and he stared hard at me. A strange look that I did not understand at all came into his eyes… He opened his mouth as if to speak, but at that moment people came out of the house – my father, with his arm still in a sling, among them – to see what was going on. I saw my father pause on the step and survey the group of horsemen, then he, too, noticed the man in the middle of them. For a moment he stood staring, just as I had done – then all his colour drained away, and his face went blotchy grey.
I looked quickly at the other man. He was sitting absolutely rigid on his horse. The expression on his face made something clutch suddenly in my chest. I had never seen hatred naked before, the lines cut deep, the eyes glittering, the teeth suddenly looking like a savage animal’s. It struck me with a slap, a horrid revelation of something hitherto unknown, and hideous; it stamped itself on my mind so that I never forgot it…
Then my father, still looking as though he were ill, put out his good hand to steady himself against the door-post, and turned back into the house. One of the escort cut the rope which held the prisoner’s arms. He dismounted, and I was able to see then what was wrong with him. He stood some eighteen inches taller than anyone else, but not because he was a big man. If his legs had been right, he would have stood no taller than my father’s five-feet-ten; but they were not: they were monstrously long and thin, and his arms were long and thin, too. It made him look half-man, half-spider…
His escort gave him food and a pot of beer. He sat down on a bench, and his bony knees stuck up to seem almost level with his shoulders. He looked round the yard, noticing everything as he munched his bread and cheese. In the course of his inspection he perceived me again. He beckoned.
I hung back, pretending not to see. He beckoned again. I became ashamed of being afraid of him. I went closer, and then a little closer still, but keeping warily out of range, I judged, of those spidery arms.’ What’s your name, boy?’ he asked.’ David,’ I told him. ‘David Strorm.’ He nodded, as if that were satisfactory.’ The man at the door, with his arm in a sling, that would be your father, Joseph Strorm?’ ‘Yes,’ I told him. Again he nodded.
He looked round the house and the outbuildings.’ This place, then, would be Waknuk?’ he asked.’ Yes,’ I said again. I don’t know whether he would have asked more, for at that point somebody told me to clear off. A little later they all remounted, and soon they moved away, the spidery man with his arms tied together once more. I watched them ride off in the Kentak direction, glad to see them go. My first encounter with someone from the Fringes had not, after all, been exciting; but it had been unpleasantly disturbing. I heard later that both the captured Fringes men managed to escape that same night.
I can’t remember who told me, but I am perfectly certain it was not my father. I never once heard him refer to that day, and I never had the courage to ask him about it… Then scarcely, it seemed, had we settled down after the invasion and got the men back to catching up with the farm work, than my father was in the middle of a new row with my half-uncle, Angus Morton. Differences of temperament and outlook had kept them intermittently at war with one another for years.
My father had been heard to sum up his opinion by declaring that if Angus had any principles they were of such infinite width as to be a menace to the rectitude of the neighbourhood; to which Angus was reputed to have replied that Joseph Strorm was a flinty-souled pedant, and bigoted well beyond reason. It was not, therefore, difficult for a row to blow up, and the latest one occurred over Angus’ acquisition of a pair of great-horses. Rumours of great-horses had reached our district though none had been seen there. My father was already uneasy in his mind at what he had heard of them, nor was the fact that Angus was the importer of them a commendation; consequently, it may have been with some prejudice that he went to inspect them. His doubts were confirmed at once. The moment he set eyes on the huge creatures standing twenty-six hands at the shoulder, he knew they were wrong.
He turned his back on them with disgust, and went straight to the inspector’s house with a demand that they should be destroyed as Offences.’ You ” re out of order this time,’ the inspector told him cheerfully, glad that for once his position was incontestable.’ They ” re Government-approved, so they are beyond my jurisdiction, anyway.’ ‘I don’t believe it,’ my father told him. ‘God never made horses the size of these. The Government can’t have approved them.’ ‘But they have,’ said the inspector. ‘What’s more,’ he added with satisfaction, ‘Angus tells me that knowing the neighbourhood so well he has got attested pedigrees for them.’ ‘Any government that could pass creatures like that is corrupt and immoral,’ my father announced.’ Possibly,’ admitted the inspector, ‘but it’s still the Government.’ My father glared at him.’ It’s easy to see why some people would approve them,’ he said.
‘ One of those brutes could do the work of two, maybe three, ordinary horses – and for less than double the feed of one. There’s a good profit there, a good incentive to get them passed – but that doesn’t mean that they ” re right. I say a horse like that is not one of God’s creatures – and if it isn’t His, then it’s an Offence, and should be destroyed as such.’ ‘The official approval states that the breed was produced simply by mating for size, in the normal way. And I’d defy you to find any characteristic that’s identifiably wrong with them, anyway,’ the inspector told him.’ Somebody would say that when he saw how profitable they could be. There’s a word for that kind of thinking,’ my father replied.
The inspector shrugged.’ It does not follow that they are right,’ my father persisted. ‘A horse that size is not right – you know that unofficially, as well as I do, and there’s no getting away from it. Once we allow things that we know are not right, there’s no telling where it will end. A god-fearing community doesn’t have to deny its faith just because there’s been pressure brought to bear in a government licensing office. There are plenty of us here who know how God intended his creatures to be, even if the Government doesn’t.’ The inspector smiled.
‘As with the Dakers’ cat?’ he suggested. My father glared at him again. The affair of the Dakers’ cat rankled. About a year previously it had somehow come to his knowledge that Ben Dakers’ wife housed a tailless cat. He investigated, and when he had collected evidence that it had not simply lost its tail in some way, but had never possessed one, he condemned it, and, in his capacity as a magistrate, ordered the inspector to make out a warrant for its destruction as an Offence.
The inspector had done so, with reluctance, whereupon Dakers promptly entered an appeal. Such s hilly-shall ying in an obvious case outraged my father’s principles, and he personally attended to the demise of the Dakers’ cat while the matter was still sub juice. His position, when a notification subsequently arrived stating that there was a recognized breed of tailless cats with a well-authenticated history, was awkward, and somewhat expensive. It had been with very bad grace that he had chosen to make a public apology rather than resign his magistracy.’ This,’ he told the inspector sharply, ‘is an altogether more important affair.’ ‘Listen,’ said the inspector patiently. ‘The type is approved. This particular pair has confirmatory sanction.
If that’s not good enough for you, go ahead and shoot them yourself – and see what happens to you.’ ‘It is your moral duty to issue an order against these so-called horses,’ my father insisted. The inspector was suddenly tired of it.’ It’s part of my official duty to protect them from harm by fools and bigots,’ he snapped. My father did not actually hit the inspector, but it must have been a near thing. He went on boiling with rage for several days and the next Sunday we were treated to a searing address on the toleration of Mutants which sullied the Purity of our community. He called for a general boycott of the owner of the Offences, speculated upon immorality in high places, hinted that some there might be expected to have a fellow-feeling for Mutants, and wound up with a peroration in which a certain official was scathed as an unprincipled hireling of unprincipled masters and the local representative of the Forces of Evil.
Though the inspector had no such convenient pulpit for reply, certain trenchant remarks of his on persecution, contempt of authority, bigotry, religious mania, the law of slander, and the probable effects of direct action in opposition to Government sanction achieved a wide circulation. It was very likely the last point that kept my father from doing more than talk. He had had plenty of trouble over the Dakers’ cat which was of no value at all: but the great-horses were costly creatures; besides, Angus would not be one to waive any possible penalty… So there was a degree of frustration about that made home a good place to get away from as much as possible. Now that the countryside had settled down again and was not full of unexpected people, Sophie’s parents would let her go out on rambles once.