en-es  A Wind in the Door - L'Engle, Madeline, Chapter 3
A Wind in the Door - L'Engle, Madeline 3 The Man in the Night.

A huge dark form strode swiftly through the woods and into the pasture; it reached them in a few strides, and then stood very still, so that the folds of the long robe seemed chiseled out of granite.

"Do not be afraid," he repeated. "He won't hurt you."

He?

Yes. Charles Wallace's drive of dragons was a single creature, although Meg was not at all surprised that Charles Wallace had confused this fierce, wild being with dragons. She had the feeling that she never saw all of it at once, and which of all the eyes could she meet? merry eyes, wise eyes, ferocious eyes, kitten eyes, dragon eyes, opening and closing, looking at her, looking at Charles Wallace and Calvin and the strange tall man. And wings, wings in constant motion, covering and uncovering the eyes. When the wings were spread out they had a span of at least ten feet, and when they were all folded in, the creature resembled a misty, feathery sphere. Little spurts of flame and smoke spouted up between the wings; it could certainly start a grass fire if it weren't careful. Meg did not wonder that Charles Wallace had not approached it.

Again the tall stranger reassured them. "He won't hurt you." The stranger was dark, dark as night and tall as a tree, and there was something in the repose of his body, the quiet of his voice, which drove away fear.

Charles Wallace stepped towards him. "Who are you?"

"A Teacher."

Charles Wallace's sigh was longing. "I wish you were my teacher."

"I am." The cello-like voice was calm, slightly amused.

Charles Wallace advanced another step. "And my dragons?"

The tall man—the Teacher—held out his hand in the direction of the wild creature, which seemed to gather itself together, to rise up, to give a great, courteous bow to all of them.

The Teacher said, "His name is Proginoskes."

Charles Wallace said, "He?"

"Yes."

"He's not dragons?"

"He is a cherubim."

"What!?"

"A cherubim."

Flame spurted skywards in indignation at the doubt in the atmosphere. Great wings raised and spread and the children were looked at by a great many eyes. When the wild thing spoke, it was not in vocal words, but directly into their minds.

"I suppose you think I ought to be a golden-haired baby-face with no body and two useless little wings?"

Charles Wallace stared at the great creature. "It might be simpler if you were."

Meg pulled her poncho closer about her, for protection in case the cherubim spouted fire in her direction.

"It is a constant amazement to me," the cherubim thought at them, "that so many earthling artists paint cherubim to resemble baby pigs."

Calvin made a sound which, if he had been less astonished, would have been a laugh. "But cherubim is plural."

The fire-spouting beast returned, "I am practically plural. The little boy thought I was a drive of dragons, didn't he? I am certainly not a cherub. I am a singular cherubim."

"What are you doing here?" Charles Wallace asked.

"I was sent."

"Sent?"

"To be in your class. I don't know what I've done to be assigned to a class with such immature earthlings. I have a hard enough job as it is. I really don't fancy coming back to school at all at my age."

"How old are you?" Meg held her poncho out wide, ready to use it as a shield.

"Age, for cherubim, is immaterial. It's only for time-bound creatures that age even exists. I am, in cherubic terms, still a child, and that is all you need to know. It's very rude to ask questions about age." Two of the wings crossed and uncrossed. The message had been rueful, rather than annoyed.

Charles Wallace spoke to the tall man. "You are my teacher, and his teacher, too?"

"I am."

Charles Wallace looked up at the strange dark face which was stern and gentle at the same time. "It's too good to be true. I think I must be having a dream. I wish I'd just go on dreaming and not wake up."

"What is real?" The Teacher stretched out an arm, and gently touched the bruise on Charles Wallace's cheek, the puffed and discolored flesh under his eye. "You are awake."

"Or if you're asleep," Meg said, "we're all having the same dream. Aren't we, Calvin?"

"The thing that makes me think we're awake is that if I were to dream about a cherubim, it wouldn't look like that—that—" Several very blue, long-lashed eyes looked directly at Calvin. "Proginoskes, as the Teacher told you. Proginoskes. And don't get any ideas about calling me Cherry, or Cheery, or Bimmy."

"It would be easier," Charles Wallace said.

But the creature repeated firmly, "Proginoskes."

Out of the dark form of the Teacher came a deep, gentle rumbling of amusement, a rumbling which expanded and rose and bubbled into a great laugh. "All right, then, my children. Are you ready to start—we will call it, for want of a better word in your language, school—are you ready to start school?"

Charles Wallace, a small and rather ludicrous figure in the yellow slicker he had pulled on over his pajamas, looked up at the oak-tree height and strength of the Teacher. "The sooner the better. Time's running out."

"Hey, wait a minute," Calvin objected. "What are you going to do with Charles?

You and the—the cherubim can't take him off without consulting his parents."

"What makes you think I’m planning to?" The Teacher gave an easy little jump, and there he was, comfortably sitting on the tallest of the glacial rocks as though it were a stool, his arms loosely about his knees, the folds of his robe blending with the moonlit stone. "And I came not only to call Charles Wallace. I came to call all three of you."

Meg looked startled. "All of us? But—" "You may address me as Blajeny," the Teacher said.

Charles Wallace asked, "Mr. Blajeny? Dr. Blajeny? Sir Blajeny?"

"Blajeny is enough. That is all of my name you need to know. Are you ready?"

Meg still looked astonished. "Calvin and me, too?"

"Yes."

"But—" As always when she felt unsure, Meg was argumentative. "Calvin doesn't need—he's the best student in school, and the best athlete, he's important and everything. And I'm getting along, now. It's Charles who's the trouble —you can see for yourself. School, ordinary school, is just not going to work out for him."

Blajeny's voice was cool. "That is hardly my problem."

"Then why are you here?" That Blajeny might have been sent solely to help her brother did not seem at all astonishing to Meg. Again came the rumble that bubbled up into a laugh. "My dears, you must not take yourselves so seriously. Why should school be easy for Charles Wallace?"

"It shouldn't be this bad. This is the United States of America. They'll hurt him if somebody doesn't do something."

"He will have to learn to defend himself."

Charles Wallace, looking very small and defenseless, spoke quietly. "The Teacher is right. It's a question of learning to adapt, and nobody can do that for me. If everybody will leave me alone, and stop trying to help me, I'll learn, eventually, how not to be conspicuous. I can assure you I haven't mentioned mitochondria and farandolae lately."

The Teacher nodded grave approval.

Charles Wallace moved closer to him. "I'm very glad you haven't come because I'm making such a mess of school. But—Blajeny—if you haven't come because of that, then why are you here?"

"I have come not so much to offer you my help as to ask for yours."

"Ours?" Meg asked.

Charles Wallace looked up at the Teacher. "I'm not much of a help to anybody right now. It isn't just that I'm not getting along at school—" "Yes," Blajeny said. "I know of the other problem. Nevertheless you are called, and anybody who is invited to study with one of the Teachers is called because he is needed. You have talents we cannot afford to lose."

"Then—" "We must find out what is making you ill and, if possible, make you well again."

"If possible?" Meg asked anxiously.

Calvin asked sharply, "Charles? I’ll? What's wrong? What's the matter with Charles?"

"Look at him," Meg said in a low voice. "Look how pale he is. And he has trouble breathing. He got out of breath just walking across the orchard,” She turned to the Teacher. "Oh, please, please, Blajeny, can you help?"

Blajeny looked down at her, darkly, quietly. "I think, my child, that it is you who must help."

"Me?"

"Yes."

"You know I'd do anything in the world to help Charles."

Calvin looked questioningly at the Teacher.

"Yes, Calvin, you too."

"How? How can we help?"

"You will learn as the lessons progress."

Calvin asked, "Where are we going to have these lessons, then? Where's your school?"

Blajeny jumped lightly down from the rock. Despite his height and girth he moved, Meg thought, as though he were used to a heavier gravity than earth's. He strode lightly halfway across the pasture to where there was a large, flat rock where the children often went with their parents to watch the stars. He dropped down onto the rock and lay stretched out on his back, gesturing to the others to join him. Meg lay beside him, with Calvin on her other side, so that she felt protected, not only from the cold night wind but from the cherubim, who had reached the rock with the beat of a wing and assorted himself into an assemblage of wings and eyes and puffs of smoke at a discreet distance from Charles Wallace, who was on Blajeny's other side.

"It's all right, dragons," Charles Wallace said. I’m not afraid of you."

The cherubim rearranged his wings. "Proginoskes, please."

Blajeny looked up at the sky, raised his arm, and made a wide, embracing gesture. The clouds had almost dispersed; only a few rapidly flying streamers veiled the stars, which blazed with the fierce brilliance of the rapidly plummeting mercury. The Teacher's sweeping motion indicated the entire sparkling stretch of sky. Then he sat up and folded his arms across his chest, and his strange luminous eyes turned inwards, so that he was looking not at the stars nor at the children but into some deep, dark place far within himself, and then further. He sat there, moving in, in, deeper and deeper, for time out of time. Then the focus of his eyes returned to the children, and he gave his radiant smile and answered Calvin's question as though not a moment had passed.

"Where is my school? Here, there, everywhere. In the schoolyard during first grade recess. With the cherubim and seraphim. Among the farandolae."

Charles Wallace exclaimed, "My mother's isolated the farandolae!"

"So she has."

"Blajeny, do you know if something's wrong with my farandolae and mitochondria?"

Blajeny replied quietly, "Your mother and Dr. Colubra are trying to find that out."

"Well, then, what do we do now?"

"Go home to bed."

"But school—" "You will all go to school as usual in the morning."

It was total anticlimax. "But your school—" Meg cried in disappointment. She had hoped that Charles Wallace would never have to enter the old red school building again, that Blajeny would take over, make everything all right ... "My children," Blajeny said gravely, "my school building is the entire cosmos. Before your time with me is over, I may have to take you great distances, and to very strange places."

"Are we your whole class?" Calvin asked. "Meg and Charles Wallace and me?"

Proginoskes let out a puff of huffy smoke.

"Sorry—and the cherubim."

Blajeny said, "Wait You will know when the time comes."

"And why on earth is one of our classmates a cherubim?" Meg said. "Sorry, Proginoskes, but it does seem very insulting to you to have to be with mortals like us."

Proginoskes batted several eyes in apology. "I didn't mean what I said about immature earthlings. If we have been sent to the same Teacher, then we have things to learn from each other. A cherubim is not a higher order than earthlings, you know, just different."

Blajeny nodded. "Yes. You have much to learn from each other. Meanwhile, I will give each of you assignments. Charles Wallace, can you guess what yours is?"

"To learn to adapt."

"I don't want you to change!" Meg cried.

"Neither do I," Blajeny replied. "Charles Wallace's problem is to learn to adapt while remaining wholly himself."

"What's my assignment, Blajeny?" Meg asked.

The Teacher frowned briefly, in thought. Then, "I am trying to put it into earth terms, terms which you will understand. You must pass three tests, or trials. You must start immediately on the first one."

"What is it?"

"Part of the trial is that you must discover for yourself what it is."

"But how?"

"That I cannot tell you. But you will not be alone. Proginoskes is to work with you. You will be what I think you would call partners. Together you must pass the three tests."

"But suppose we fail?"

Proginoskes flung several wings over his eyes in horror at the thought.

Blajeny said quietly, "It is a possibility, but I would prefer you not to suppose any such thing. Remember that these three trials will be nothing you could imagine or expect right now."

"But Blajeny—I can hardly take a cherubim to school with me!"

Blajeny looked affectionately at the great creature, whose wings were still folded protectingly about himself. "That is for the two of you to decide. He is not always visible, you know. Myself, I find him a little simpler when he's just a wind or a flame, but he was convinced he'd be more reassuring to earthlings if he enfleshed himself."

Charles Wallace reached out and slipped his hand into the Teacher's. "If I could take him, just this way, looking like a drive of dragons, into the schoolyard with me, I bet I wouldn't have any trouble."

Meg said, "Didn't you tell me you were supposed to bring a pet-to school tomorrow?"

Charles Wallace laughed. "We may bring a small pet tomorrow to share with the class."

Proginoskes peered under one wing. "I am not a joking matter."

"Oh, Progo," Meg assured him. "It's only whistling in the dark."

Charles Wallace, still holding the Teacher's hand, asked him, "Will you come home with us now and meet my mother?"

"Not tonight, Charles, it is very late for you to be up, and who knows what tomorrow will bring?"

"Don't you know?"

"I am only a Teacher, and I would not arrange the future ahead of time if I could. Come, I will walk part of the way back to the house with you."

Meg asked, "What about Progo—Proginoskes?"

The cherubim replied, "If it is not the time for Blajeny to meet your family, it is hardly the time for me. I am quite comfortable here. Perhaps you could come meet me early tomorrow morning, and we can compare our night thoughts."

"Well—okay. I guess that's best. Good night, then."

"Good night, Megling." He waved a wing at her, then folded himself up into a great puff. No eyes showed, no flame, no smoke.

Meg shivered.

Blajeny asked, "Are you cold?"

She shivered again. "That thunderstorm before dinner— I suppose it was caused by a cold front meeting a warm front, but it did seem awfully cosmic. I never expected to meet a cherubim . . ."

"Blajeny," Calvin said, "you haven't given me an assignment."

"No, my son. There is work for you, difficult work, and dangerous, but I cannot tell you yet what it is. Your assignment is to wait, without question. Please come to the Murrys' house after school tomorrow—you are free to do that?"

"Oh, sure," Calvin said. "I can skip my after-school stuff for once. ", "Good. Until then. Now, let us go."

Charles Wallace led the way, with Meg and Calvin close behind. The wind was blowing out of the northwest, colder, it seemed, with each gust. When they reached the stone wall to the apple orchard, the moon was shining clearly, with that extraordinary brightness which makes light and dark acute and separate. Some apples still clung to their branches; a few as dark as Blajeny, others shining with a silvery light, almost as though they were illuminated from within.

On top of the pale stones of the wall lay a dark shadow, which was moving slowly, sinuously. It rose up, carefully uncoiling, seeming to spread a hood as it loomed over them. Its forked tongue flickered, catching the light, and a hissing issued from its mouth.

Louise.

But this was not the threatening Louise who had hissed and clacked at the impossible Mr. Jenkins; this was the Louise Meg and Charles Wallace had seen that afternoon, the Louise who had been waiting to greet the unknown shadow— the shadow who, Meg suddenly understood, must have been Blajeny.

Nevertheless, she pressed closer to Calvin; she had never felt very secure around Louise, and the snake's strange behavior that afternoon and evening made her seem even more alien than when she was only the twins' pet.

Now Louise was weaving slowly back and forth in a gentle rhythm, almost as though she were making a serpentine version of a deep curtsy; and the sibilant sound was a gentle, treble fluting.

Blajeny bowed to the snake.

Louise most definitely returned the bow.

Blajeny explained gravely, "She is a colleague of mine."

"But—but—hey, now," Calvin sputtered, "wait a minute—" "She is a Teacher. That is why she is so fond of the two boys—Sandy and Dennys. One day they will be Teachers, too."

Meg said, "They're going to be successful businessmen and support the rest of us in the way to which we are not accustomed."

Blajeny waved this aside. "They will be Teachers. It is a High Calling, and you must not be distressed that it is not yours. You, too, have a Work."

Louise, with a last burst of her tiny, strange melody, dropped back to the wall and disappeared among the stones.

"Perhaps we're dreaming after all," Calvin said, wonderingly.

"What is real?" the Teacher asked again. "I will say good night to you now."

Charles Wallace was reluctant to leave. "We won't wake up in the morning and find it all never happened? We won't wake up and find we dreamed everything?"

"If only one of us does," Meg said, "and nobody else remembers any of it, then it's a dream. But if we all wake up remembering, then it really happened."

"Wait until tomorrow to find what tomorrow holds," Blajeny advised. "Good night, my children."

They did not ask him where he was going to spend the night—though Meg wondered—because it was the kind of presumptuous question one could not possibly ask Blajeny. They left him standing and watching after them, the folds of his robes chiseled like granite, his dark face catching and refracting the moonlight like fused glass.

They crossed the orchard and garden and entered the house, as usual, by the back way, through the pantry. The door to the lab was open, and the lights on. Mrs. Murry was bent over her microscope, and Dr. Colubra was curled up in an old red leather chair, reading. The lab was a long, narrow room with great slabs of stone for the floor. It had originally been used to keep milk and butter and other perishables, long before the days of refrigerators, and it was still difficult to heat in winter. The long work counter with the stone sink at one end was ideal for Mrs. Murry's lab equipment. In one corner were two comfortable chairs and a reading lamp, which softened the clinical glare of the lights over the counter. But Meg could not think of a time when she had seen her mother relaxing in one of those chairs; she inevitably perched on one of the lab stools.

She looked up from the strange convolutions of the micro-electron microscope.

"Charles! What are you doing out of bed?"

"I woke up," Charles Wallace said blandly. "I knew Meg and Calvin were outside, so I went to get them."

Mrs. Murry glanced sharply at her son, then greeted Calvin warmly.

Charles Wallace asked, "Is it okay if we make some cocoa?"

"It's very late for you to be up, Charles, and tomorrow's a school day."

"It'll help me get back to sleep."

Mrs. Murry seemed about to refuse, but Dr. Colubra closed her book, saying, "Why not, for once? Let Charles have a nap when he gets home in the afternoon. I'd like some cocoa myself. Let's make it out here while your mother goes on with her work. I'll do it."

"I'll get the milk and stuff from the kitchen," Meg said.

With Dr. Louise present they were not, she felt free to talk to their mother about the events of the evening. The children were all fond of Dr. Louise, and trusted her completely as a physician, but they were not quite sure that she had their parents' capacity to accept the extraordinary. Almost sure, but not quite. Dr. Colubra had a good deal in common with their parents; she, too, had given up work which paid extremely well in both money and prestige, to come live in this small rural village. (Too many of my colleagues have forgotten that they are supposed to practice the art of healing. If I don't have the gift of healing in my hands, then all my expensive training isn't worth very much!) She, too, had turned her back on the glitter of worldly success. Meg knew that her parents, despite the fact that they were consulted by the President of the United States, had given up much when they moved to the country in order to devote their lives to pure research. Their discoveries, many of them made in this stone laboratory, had made the Murrys more, rather than less, open to the strange, to the mysterious, to the unexplainable. Dr. Colubra's work was perforce more straightforward, and Meg was not sure how she would respond to talk of a strange dark Teacher, eight or nine feet tall, and even less sure how she would react to their description of a cherubim. She'd probably insist they were suffering from mass psychosis and that they all should see a psychiatrist at once.

—Or is it just that I'm afraid to talk about it, even to Mother? Meg wondered, as she took sugar, cocoa, milk, and a saucepan from the kitchen and returned to the pantry.

Dr. Colubra was saying, "That stuff about cosmic screams and rips in distant galaxies offends every bit of the rational part of me."

Mrs. Murry leaned against the counter. "You didn't believe in farandolae, either, until I proved them to you."

"You haven't proven them to me," Dr. Louise said. "Yet." She looked slightly ruffled, like a little grey bird. Her short, curly hair was grey; her eyes were grey above a small beak of a nose; she wore a grey flannel suit. "The main reason I think you may be right is that you go to that idiot machine—" she pointed at the micro-electron microscope—"the way my husband used to go to his violin. It was always like a lovers' meeting."

Mrs. Murry turned away from her 'idiot machine.' "I think I wish I'd never heard of farandolae, much less come to the conclusions—" She stopped abruptly, then said, "By the way, kids, I was rather surprised, just before you all barged into the lab, to have Mr. Jenkins call to suggest that we give Charles Wallace lessons in self-defense."

Mr. Jenkins? Meg wondered. Aloud she said, "But Mr. Jenkins never calls parents. Parents have to go to him." She almost asked, 'Are you sure it was Mr. Jenkins?' And stopped herself as she remembered that she had not told Blajeny about the horrible Mr. Jenkins-not-Mr. Jenkins who had turned into a bird of nothingness, the Mr. Jenkins Louise had resented so fiercely. She should have told Blajeny; she would tell him first thing in the morning.

Charles Wallace climbed up onto one of the lab stools and perched close to his mother. "What I really need are lessons in adaptation. I've been reading Darwin, but he hasn't helped me much."

"See what we mean?" Calvin asked Dr. Louise. "That's hardly what one expects from a six-year-old."

"He-really does read Darwin," Meg assured the doctor.

"And I still haven't learned how to adapt," Charles Wallace added.

Dr. Louise was making a paste of cocoa, sugar, and a little hot -water from one of Mrs. Murry's retorts. "This is just water, isn't it?" she asked.

"From our artesian well. The very best water."

Dr. Louise added milk, little by little. "You kids are too young to remember, and your mother is a good ten years younger than I am, but I'll never forget, a great many years ago, when the first astronauts went to the moon, and I sat up all night to watch them."

"I remember it all right," Mrs. Murry said. "I wasn't that young."

Dr. Louise stirred the cocoa which was heating over a Bunsen burner. "Do you remember those first steps on the moon, so tentative to begin with, on that strange, airless, alien terrain? And then, in a short time, Armstrong and Aldrin were striding about confidently, and the commentator remarked on this as an extraordinary example of man's remarkable ability to adapt."

"But all they had to adapt to was the moon's surface!" Meg objected. "It wasn't inhabited. I'll bet when our astronauts reach some place with inhabitants it won't be so easy. It's a lot simpler to adapt to low gravity, or no atmosphere, or even sandstorms, than it is to hostile inhabitants."

Fortinbras, who had an uncanine fondness for cocoa, came padding out to the lab, his nose twitching in anticipation. He stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on Charles Wallace's shoulders.

Dr. Colubra asked Meg, "Do you think the first-graders in the village school are hostile inhabitants, then?"

"Of course! Charles isn't like them, and so they're hostile towards him. People are always hostile to anybody who's different."

"Until they get used to him," the doctor said.

"They're not getting used to Charles."

Charles Wallace, fondling the big dog, said, "Don't forget to give Fort a saucer—he likes cocoa."

"You have the strangest pets," Dr. Louise said, but she poured a small dish of cocoa for Fortinbras. "I'll let it cool a bit before I put it on the floor. Meg, we need mugs."

"Okay." Meg hurried off to the kitchen, collected a stack of mugs, and returned to the laboratory.

Dr. Louise lined them up and poured the cocoa. "Speaking of pets, how's my namesake?"

Meg nearly spilled the cocoa she was handing to her mother. She looked closely at Dr. Louise, but though the question had seemed pointed, the little bird face showed nothing more than amused interest; as Charles Wallace said, Dr. Louise was very good at talking on one level and thinking on another.

Charles Wallace answered the question. "Louise the Larger is a magnificent snake. I wonder if she'd like some cocoa? Snakes like milk, don't they?"

Mrs. Murry said firmly, "You are not going back out tonight to find if the snake, magnificent though she be, likes cocoa. Save your experimental zeal for daylight. Louise is undoubtedly sound asleep."

Dr. Louise carefully poured out the last of the cocoa into her own mug. "Some snakes are very sociable at night. Many years ago when I was working in a hospital in the Philippines I had a boa constrictor for a pet; we had a problem with rats in the ward, and my boa constrictor did a thorough job of keeping the rodent population down. He also liked cream-of-mushroom soup, though I never tried him on cocoa, and he was a delightful companion in the evenings, affectionate and cuddly."

Meg did not think that she would enjoy cuddling with a snake, even Louise.

"He also had impeccable judgment about human nature. He was naturally a friendly creature, and if he showed me that he disliked or distrusted somebody, I took him seriously. We had a man brought to the men's ward who seemed to have nothing more seriously wrong with him than a slightly inflamed appendix, but my boa constrictor took a dislike to him the moment he was admitted. That night he tried to kill the man in the next bed—fortunately we got to him in time. But the snake knew, After that, I listened to his warnings immediately."

"Fortinbras has the same instinct about people," Mrs. Murry said. "Too bad we human beings have lost it."

Meg wanted to say, "So does Louise the Larger," but her mother or the doctor would have asked her on what experience she based such a remark; it would have sounded more likely coming from the twins.

Charles Wallace regarded Dr. Colubra, who had returned to the red leather chair and was sipping cocoa, her legs tucked under her like a child; as a matter of fact, she was considerably smaller than Meg. Charles said, "We take Louise very seriously, Dr. Louise. Very seriously."

Dr. Louise nodded. Her voice was light and high. "That was what I had in mind."

Calvin finished his cocoa. "Thank you very much. I'd better get on home now. See you in school tomorrow, Meg. Thanks again, Mrs. Murry and Dr. Colubra. Good night."

When he had gone, Mrs. Murry said, "All right, Charles. The twins have been in bed for an hour. Meg, it's time for you, too. Charles, I'll come check on you in a few minutes."

As they left the lab, Meg could see her mother turning back to the micro-electron microscope.

Meg undressed slowly, standing by her attic window, wondering if Dr. Louise's talk about snakes had been entirely casual chat over a cup of cocoa; perhaps it was only the strange events of the evening which caused her to look for meanings under the surface of what might well be unimportant conversation. She turned out the lights and looked out the window. She could see across the vegetable garden to the orchard, but the trees still held enough leaves so that she could not see into the north pasture.

Was there really a cherubim waiting at the star-watching rock, curled up into a great feathery ball, all those eyes closed in sleep?

Was he real?

What is real?
unit 1
A Wind in the Door - L'Engle, Madeline 3 The Man in the Night.
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unit 3
"Do not be afraid," he repeated.
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unit 4
"He won't hurt you."
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He?
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Yes.
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unit 10
And wings, wings in constant motion, covering and uncovering the eyes.
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Meg did not wonder that Charles Wallace had not approached it.
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Again the tall stranger reassured them.
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"He won't hurt you."
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Charles Wallace stepped towards him.
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"Who are you?"
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"A Teacher."
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Charles Wallace's sigh was longing.
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"I wish you were my teacher."
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"I am."
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The cello-like voice was calm, slightly amused.
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Charles Wallace advanced another step.
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"And my dragons?"
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The Teacher said, "His name is Proginoskes."
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Charles Wallace said, "He?"
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"Yes."
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"He's not dragons?"
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"He is a cherubim."
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"What!?"
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unit 33
"A cherubim."
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Flame spurted skywards in indignation at the doubt in the atmosphere.
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Charles Wallace stared at the great creature.
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unit 39
"It might be simpler if you were."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 43
"But cherubim is plural."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 44
The fire-spouting beast returned, "I am practically plural.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 45
The little boy thought I was a drive of dragons, didn't he?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 46
I am certainly not a cherub.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 47
I am a singular cherubim."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 48
"What are you doing here?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 49
Charles Wallace asked.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 50
"I was sent."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 51
"Sent?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 52
"To be in your class.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 54
I have a hard enough job as it is.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 55
I really don't fancy coming back to school at all at my age."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 56
"How old are you?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 57
Meg held her poncho out wide, ready to use it as a shield.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 58
"Age, for cherubim, is immaterial.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 59
It's only for time-bound creatures that age even exists.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 60
unit 61
It's very rude to ask questions about age."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 62
Two of the wings crossed and uncrossed.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 63
The message had been rueful, rather than annoyed.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 64
Charles Wallace spoke to the tall man.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 65
"You are my teacher, and his teacher, too?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 66
"I am."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 68
"It's too good to be true.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 69
I think I must be having a dream.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 70
I wish I'd just go on dreaming and not wake up."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 71
"What is real?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 73
"You are awake."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 74
"Or if you're asleep," Meg said, "we're all having the same dream.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 75
Aren't we, Calvin?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 77
"Proginoskes, as the Teacher told you.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 78
Proginoskes.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 79
And don't get any ideas about calling me Cherry, or Cheery, or Bimmy."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 80
"It would be easier," Charles Wallace said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 81
But the creature repeated firmly, "Proginoskes."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 83
"All right, then, my children.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 86
"The sooner the better.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 87
Time's running out."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 88
"Hey, wait a minute," Calvin objected.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 89
"What are you going to do with Charles?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 91
"What makes you think I’m planning to?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 93
"And I came not only to call Charles Wallace.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 94
I came to call all three of you."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 95
Meg looked startled.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 96
"All of us?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 97
But—" "You may address me as Blajeny," the Teacher said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 98
Charles Wallace asked, "Mr. Blajeny?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 99
Dr. Blajeny?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 100
Sir Blajeny?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 101
"Blajeny is enough.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 102
That is all of my name you need to know.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 103
Are you ready?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 104
Meg still looked astonished.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 105
"Calvin and me, too?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 106
"Yes."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 107
"But—" As always when she felt unsure, Meg was argumentative.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 109
And I'm getting along, now.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 110
It's Charles who's the trouble —you can see for yourself.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 111
School, ordinary school, is just not going to work out for him."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 112
Blajeny's voice was cool.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 113
"That is hardly my problem."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 114
"Then why are you here?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 116
Again came the rumble that bubbled up into a laugh.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 117
"My dears, you must not take yourselves so seriously.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 118
Why should school be easy for Charles Wallace?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 119
"It shouldn't be this bad.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 120
This is the United States of America.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 121
They'll hurt him if somebody doesn't do something."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 122
"He will have to learn to defend himself."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 123
Charles Wallace, looking very small and defenseless, spoke quietly.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 124
"The Teacher is right.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 125
It's a question of learning to adapt, and nobody can do that for me.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 127
unit 128
The Teacher nodded grave approval.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 129
Charles Wallace moved closer to him.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 130
unit 131
unit 132
"I have come not so much to offer you my help as to ask for yours."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 133
"Ours?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 134
Meg asked.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 135
Charles Wallace looked up at the Teacher.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 136
"I'm not much of a help to anybody right now.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 137
unit 138
"I know of the other problem.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 140
You have talents we cannot afford to lose."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 142
"If possible?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 143
Meg asked anxiously.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 144
Calvin asked sharply, "Charles?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 145
I’ll?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 146
What's wrong?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 147
What's the matter with Charles?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 148
"Look at him," Meg said in a low voice.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 149
"Look how pale he is.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 150
And he has trouble breathing.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 152
"Oh, please, please, Blajeny, can you help?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 153
Blajeny looked down at her, darkly, quietly.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 154
"I think, my child, that it is you who must help."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 155
"Me?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 156
"Yes."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 157
"You know I'd do anything in the world to help Charles."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 158
Calvin looked questioningly at the Teacher.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 159
"Yes, Calvin, you too."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 160
"How?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 161
How can we help?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 162
"You will learn as the lessons progress."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 163
Calvin asked, "Where are we going to have these lessons, then?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 164
Where's your school?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 165
Blajeny jumped lightly down from the rock.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 170
"It's all right, dragons," Charles Wallace said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 171
I’m not afraid of you."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 172
The cherubim rearranged his wings.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 173
"Proginoskes, please."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 176
unit 178
He sat there, moving in, in, deeper and deeper, for time out of time.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 180
"Where is my school?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 181
Here, there, everywhere.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 182
In the schoolyard during first grade recess.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 183
With the cherubim and seraphim.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 184
Among the farandolae."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 185
Charles Wallace exclaimed, "My mother's isolated the farandolae!"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 186
"So she has."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 189
"Well, then, what do we do now?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 190
"Go home to bed."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 191
"But school—" "You will all go to school as usual in the morning."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 192
It was total anticlimax.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 193
"But your school—" Meg cried in disappointment.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 196
"Are we your whole class?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 197
Calvin asked.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 198
"Meg and Charles Wallace and me?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 199
Proginoskes let out a puff of huffy smoke.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 200
"Sorry—and the cherubim."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 201
Blajeny said, "Wait You will know when the time comes."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 202
"And why on earth is one of our classmates a cherubim?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 203
Meg said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 205
Proginoskes batted several eyes in apology.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 206
"I didn't mean what I said about immature earthlings.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 208
unit 209
Blajeny nodded.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 210
"Yes.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 211
You have much to learn from each other.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 212
Meanwhile, I will give each of you assignments.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 213
Charles Wallace, can you guess what yours is?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 214
"To learn to adapt."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 215
"I don't want you to change!"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 216
Meg cried.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 217
"Neither do I," Blajeny replied.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 219
"What's my assignment, Blajeny?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 220
Meg asked.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 221
The Teacher frowned briefly, in thought.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 223
You must pass three tests, or trials.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 224
You must start immediately on the first one."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 225
"What is it?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 226
"Part of the trial is that you must discover for yourself what it is."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 227
"But how?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 228
"That I cannot tell you.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 229
But you will not be alone.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 230
Proginoskes is to work with you.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 231
You will be what I think you would call partners.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 232
Together you must pass the three tests."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 233
"But suppose we fail?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 234
Proginoskes flung several wings over his eyes in horror at the thought.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 237
"But Blajeny—I can hardly take a cherubim to school with me!"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 239
"That is for the two of you to decide.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 240
He is not always visible, you know.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 242
Charles Wallace reached out and slipped his hand into the Teacher's.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 245
Charles Wallace laughed.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 246
"We may bring a small pet tomorrow to share with the class."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 247
Proginoskes peered under one wing.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 248
"I am not a joking matter."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 249
"Oh, Progo," Meg assured him.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 250
"It's only whistling in the dark."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 253
"Don't you know?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 255
Come, I will walk part of the way back to the house with you."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 256
Meg asked, "What about Progo—Proginoskes?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 258
I am quite comfortable here.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 260
"Well—okay.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 261
I guess that's best.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 262
Good night, then."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 263
"Good night, Megling."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 264
He waved a wing at her, then folded himself up into a great puff.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 265
No eyes showed, no flame, no smoke.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 266
Meg shivered.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 267
Blajeny asked, "Are you cold?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 268
She shivered again.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 270
I never expected to meet a cherubim .
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 271
.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 272
."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 273
"Blajeny," Calvin said, "you haven't given me an assignment."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 274
"No, my son.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 276
Your assignment is to wait, without question.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 278
"Oh, sure," Calvin said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 279
"I can skip my after-school stuff for once.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 280
", "Good.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 281
Until then.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 282
Now, let us go."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 283
Charles Wallace led the way, with Meg and Calvin close behind.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 284
unit 290
Louise.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 294
Blajeny bowed to the snake.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 295
Louise most definitely returned the bow.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 296
Blajeny explained gravely, "She is a colleague of mine."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 298
That is why she is so fond of the two boys—Sandy and Dennys.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 299
One day they will be Teachers, too."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 301
Blajeny waved this aside.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 302
"They will be Teachers.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 303
unit 304
You, too, have a Work."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 306
"Perhaps we're dreaming after all," Calvin said, wonderingly.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 307
"What is real?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 308
the Teacher asked again.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 309
"I will say good night to you now."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 310
Charles Wallace was reluctant to leave.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 311
"We won't wake up in the morning and find it all never happened?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 312
We won't wake up and find we dreamed everything?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 314
But if we all wake up remembering, then it really happened."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 315
"Wait until tomorrow to find what tomorrow holds," Blajeny advised.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 316
"Good night, my children."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 320
The door to the lab was open, and the lights on.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 322
The lab was a long, narrow room with great slabs of stone for the floor.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 327
unit 328
"Charles!
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 329
What are you doing out of bed?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 330
"I woke up," Charles Wallace said blandly.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 331
"I knew Meg and Calvin were outside, so I went to get them."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 332
Mrs. Murry glanced sharply at her son, then greeted Calvin warmly.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 333
Charles Wallace asked, "Is it okay if we make some cocoa?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 334
"It's very late for you to be up, Charles, and tomorrow's a school day."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 335
"It'll help me get back to sleep."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 337
Let Charles have a nap when he gets home in the afternoon.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 338
I'd like some cocoa myself.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 339
Let's make it out here while your mother goes on with her work.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 340
I'll do it."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 341
"I'll get the milk and stuff from the kitchen," Meg said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 344
Almost sure, but not quite.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 348
She, too, had turned her back on the glitter of worldly success.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 353
—Or is it just that I'm afraid to talk about it, even to Mother?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 356
Mrs. Murry leaned against the counter.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 357
"You didn't believe in farandolae, either, until I proved them to you."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 358
"You haven't proven them to me," Dr. Louise said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 359
"Yet."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 360
She looked slightly ruffled, like a little grey bird.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 363
It was always like a lovers' meeting."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 364
Mrs. Murry turned away from her 'idiot machine.'
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 366
Mr. Jenkins?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 367
Meg wondered.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 368
Aloud she said, "But Mr. Jenkins never calls parents.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 369
Parents have to go to him."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 370
She almost asked, 'Are you sure it was Mr.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 371
Jenkins?'
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 373
unit 375
"What I really need are lessons in adaptation.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 376
I've been reading Darwin, but he hasn't helped me much."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 377
"See what we mean?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 378
Calvin asked Dr. Louise.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 379
"That's hardly what one expects from a six-year-old."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 380
"He-really does read Darwin," Meg assured the doctor.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 381
"And I still haven't learned how to adapt," Charles Wallace added.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 383
"This is just water, isn't it?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 384
she asked.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 385
"From our artesian well.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 386
The very best water."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 387
Dr. Louise added milk, little by little.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 389
"I remember it all right," Mrs. Murry said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 390
"I wasn't that young."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 391
Dr. Louise stirred the cocoa which was heating over a Bunsen burner.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 394
"But all they had to adapt to was the moon's surface!"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 395
Meg objected.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 396
"It wasn't inhabited.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 402
"Of course!
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 403
Charles isn't like them, and so they're hostile towards him.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 404
People are always hostile to anybody who's different."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 405
"Until they get used to him," the doctor said.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 406
"They're not getting used to Charles."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 409
"I'll let it cool a bit before I put it on the floor.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 410
Meg, we need mugs."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 411
"Okay."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 413
Dr. Louise lined them up and poured the cocoa.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 414
"Speaking of pets, how's my namesake?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 415
Meg nearly spilled the cocoa she was handing to her mother.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 417
Charles Wallace answered the question.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 418
"Louise the Larger is a magnificent snake.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 419
I wonder if she'd like some cocoa?
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 420
Snakes like milk, don't they?"
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 422
Save your experimental zeal for daylight.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 423
Louise is undoubtedly sound asleep."
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None
unit 424
Dr. Louise carefully poured out the last of the cocoa into her own mug.
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unit 425
"Some snakes are very sociable at night.
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unit 428
unit 429
"He also had impeccable judgment about human nature.
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unit 433
But the snake knew, After that, I listened to his warnings immediately."
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unit 434
"Fortinbras has the same instinct about people," Mrs. Murry said.
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unit 435
"Too bad we human beings have lost it."
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unit 438
Charles said, "We take Louise very seriously, Dr. Louise.
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unit 439
Very seriously."
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unit 440
Dr. Louise nodded.
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unit 441
Her voice was light and high.
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unit 442
"That was what I had in mind."
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unit 443
Calvin finished his cocoa.
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unit 444
"Thank you very much.
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unit 445
I'd better get on home now.
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unit 446
See you in school tomorrow, Meg.
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unit 447
Thanks again, Mrs. Murry and Dr. Colubra.
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unit 448
Good night."
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unit 449
When he had gone, Mrs. Murry said, "All right, Charles.
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unit 450
The twins have been in bed for an hour.
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unit 451
Meg, it's time for you, too.
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unit 452
Charles, I'll come check on you in a few minutes."
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unit 455
She turned out the lights and looked out the window.
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unit 458
Was he real?
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unit 459
What is real?
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A Wind in the Door - L'Engle, Madeline

3 The Man in the Night.

A huge dark form strode swiftly through the woods and into the pasture; it reached them in a few strides, and then stood very still, so that the folds of the long robe seemed chiseled out of granite.

"Do not be afraid," he repeated. "He won't hurt you."

He?

Yes. Charles Wallace's drive of dragons was a single creature, although Meg was not at all surprised that Charles Wallace had confused this fierce, wild being with dragons. She had the feeling that she never saw all of it at once, and which of all the eyes could she meet? merry eyes, wise eyes, ferocious eyes, kitten eyes, dragon eyes, opening and closing, looking at her, looking at Charles Wallace and Calvin and the strange tall man. And wings, wings in constant motion, covering and uncovering the eyes. When the wings were spread out they had a span of at least ten feet, and when they were all folded in, the creature resembled a misty, feathery sphere. Little spurts of flame and smoke spouted up between the wings; it could certainly start a grass fire if it weren't careful. Meg did not wonder that Charles Wallace had not approached it.

Again the tall stranger reassured them. "He won't hurt you." The stranger was dark, dark as night and tall as a tree, and there was something in the repose of his body, the quiet of his voice, which drove away fear.

Charles Wallace stepped towards him. "Who are you?"

"A Teacher."

Charles Wallace's sigh was longing. "I wish you were my teacher."

"I am." The cello-like voice was calm, slightly amused.

Charles Wallace advanced another step. "And my dragons?"

The tall man—the Teacher—held out his hand in the direction of the wild creature, which seemed to gather itself together, to rise up, to give a great, courteous bow to all of them.

The Teacher said, "His name is Proginoskes."

Charles Wallace said, "He?"

"Yes."

"He's not dragons?"

"He is a cherubim."

"What!?"

"A cherubim."

Flame spurted skywards in indignation at the doubt in the atmosphere. Great wings raised and spread and the children were looked at by a great many eyes. When the wild thing spoke, it was not in vocal words, but directly into their minds.

"I suppose you think I ought to be a golden-haired baby-face with no body and two useless little wings?"

Charles Wallace stared at the great creature. "It might be simpler if you were."

Meg pulled her poncho closer about her, for protection in case the cherubim spouted fire in her direction.

"It is a constant amazement to me," the cherubim thought at them, "that so many earthling artists paint cherubim to resemble baby pigs."

Calvin made a sound which, if he had been less astonished, would have been a laugh. "But cherubim is plural."

The fire-spouting beast returned, "I am practically plural. The little boy thought I was a drive of dragons, didn't he? I am certainly not a cherub. I am a singular cherubim."

"What are you doing here?" Charles Wallace asked.

"I was sent."

"Sent?"

"To be in your class. I don't know what I've done to be assigned to a class with such immature earthlings. I have a hard enough job as it is. I really don't fancy coming back to school at all at my age."

"How old are you?" Meg held her poncho out wide, ready to use it as a shield.

"Age, for cherubim, is immaterial. It's only for time-bound creatures that age even exists. I am, in cherubic terms, still a child, and that is all you need to know. It's very rude to ask questions about age." Two of the wings crossed and uncrossed. The message had been rueful, rather than annoyed.

Charles Wallace spoke to the tall man. "You are my teacher, and his teacher, too?"

"I am."

Charles Wallace looked up at the strange dark face which was stern and gentle at the same time. "It's too good to be true. I think I must be having a dream. I wish I'd just go on dreaming and not wake up."

"What is real?" The Teacher stretched out an arm, and gently touched the bruise on Charles Wallace's cheek, the puffed and discolored flesh under his eye. "You are awake."

"Or if you're asleep," Meg said, "we're all having the same dream. Aren't we, Calvin?"

"The thing that makes me think we're awake is that if I were to dream about a cherubim, it wouldn't look like that—that—"

Several very blue, long-lashed eyes looked directly at Calvin. "Proginoskes, as the Teacher told you. Proginoskes. And don't get any ideas about calling me Cherry, or Cheery, or Bimmy."

"It would be easier," Charles Wallace said.

But the creature repeated firmly, "Proginoskes."

Out of the dark form of the Teacher came a deep, gentle rumbling of amusement, a rumbling which expanded and rose and bubbled into a great laugh. "All right, then, my children. Are you ready to start—we will call it, for want of a better word in your language, school—are you ready to start school?"

Charles Wallace, a small and rather ludicrous figure in the yellow slicker he had pulled on over his pajamas, looked up at the oak-tree height and strength of the Teacher. "The sooner the better. Time's running out."

"Hey, wait a minute," Calvin objected. "What are you going to do with Charles?

You and the—the cherubim can't take him off without consulting his parents."

"What makes you think I’m planning to?" The Teacher gave an easy little jump, and there he was, comfortably sitting on the tallest of the glacial rocks as though it were a stool, his arms loosely about his knees, the folds of his robe blending with the moonlit stone. "And I came not only to call Charles Wallace. I came to call all three of you."

Meg looked startled. "All of us? But—"

"You may address me as Blajeny," the Teacher said.

Charles Wallace asked, "Mr. Blajeny? Dr. Blajeny? Sir Blajeny?"

"Blajeny is enough. That is all of my name you need to know. Are you ready?"

Meg still looked astonished. "Calvin and me, too?"

"Yes."

"But—" As always when she felt unsure, Meg was argumentative. "Calvin doesn't need—he's the best student in school, and the best athlete, he's important and everything. And I'm getting along, now. It's Charles who's the trouble —you can see for yourself. School, ordinary school, is just not going to work out for him."

Blajeny's voice was cool. "That is hardly my problem."

"Then why are you here?" That Blajeny might have been sent solely to help her brother did not seem at all astonishing to Meg. Again came the rumble that bubbled up into a laugh. "My dears, you must not take yourselves so seriously. Why should school be easy for Charles Wallace?"

"It shouldn't be this bad. This is the United States of America. They'll hurt him if somebody doesn't do something."

"He will have to learn to defend himself."

Charles Wallace, looking very small and defenseless, spoke quietly. "The Teacher is right. It's a question of learning to adapt, and nobody can do that for me. If everybody will leave me alone, and stop trying to help me, I'll learn, eventually, how not to be conspicuous. I can assure you I haven't mentioned mitochondria and farandolae lately."

The Teacher nodded grave approval.

Charles Wallace moved closer to him. "I'm very glad you haven't come because I'm making such a mess of school. But—Blajeny—if you haven't come because of that, then why are you here?"

"I have come not so much to offer you my help as to ask for yours."

"Ours?" Meg asked.

Charles Wallace looked up at the Teacher. "I'm not much of a help to anybody right now. It isn't just that I'm not getting along at school—"

"Yes," Blajeny said. "I know of the other problem. Nevertheless you are called, and anybody who is invited to study with one of the Teachers is called because he is needed. You have talents we cannot afford to lose."

"Then—"

"We must find out what is making you ill and, if possible, make you well again."

"If possible?" Meg asked anxiously.

Calvin asked sharply, "Charles? I’ll? What's wrong? What's the matter with Charles?"

"Look at him," Meg said in a low voice. "Look how pale he is. And he has trouble breathing. He got out of breath just walking across the orchard,” She turned to the Teacher. "Oh, please, please, Blajeny, can you help?"

Blajeny looked down at her, darkly, quietly. "I think, my child, that it is you who must help."

"Me?"

"Yes."

"You know I'd do anything in the world to help Charles."

Calvin looked questioningly at the Teacher.

"Yes, Calvin, you too."

"How? How can we help?"

"You will learn as the lessons progress."

Calvin asked, "Where are we going to have these lessons, then? Where's your school?"

Blajeny jumped lightly down from the rock. Despite his height and girth he moved, Meg thought, as though he were used to a heavier gravity than earth's. He strode lightly halfway across the pasture to where there was a large, flat rock where the children often went with their parents to watch the stars. He dropped down onto the rock and lay stretched out on his back, gesturing to the others to join him. Meg lay beside him, with Calvin on her other side, so that she felt protected, not only from the cold night wind but from the cherubim, who had reached the rock with the beat of a wing and assorted himself into an assemblage of wings and eyes and puffs of smoke at a discreet distance from Charles Wallace, who was on Blajeny's other side.

"It's all right, dragons," Charles Wallace said. I’m not afraid of you."

The cherubim rearranged his wings. "Proginoskes, please."

Blajeny looked up at the sky, raised his arm, and made a wide, embracing gesture. The clouds had almost dispersed; only a few rapidly flying streamers veiled the stars, which blazed with the fierce brilliance of the rapidly plummeting mercury. The Teacher's sweeping motion indicated the entire sparkling stretch of sky. Then he sat up and folded his arms across his chest, and his strange luminous eyes turned inwards, so that he was looking not at the stars nor at the children but into some deep, dark place far within himself, and then further. He sat there, moving in, in, deeper and deeper, for time out of time. Then the focus of his eyes returned to the children, and he gave his radiant smile and answered Calvin's question as though not a moment had passed.

"Where is my school? Here, there, everywhere. In the schoolyard during first grade recess. With the cherubim and seraphim. Among the farandolae."

Charles Wallace exclaimed, "My mother's isolated the farandolae!"

"So she has."

"Blajeny, do you know if something's wrong with my farandolae and mitochondria?"

Blajeny replied quietly, "Your mother and Dr. Colubra are trying to find that out."

"Well, then, what do we do now?"

"Go home to bed."

"But school—"

"You will all go to school as usual in the morning."

It was total anticlimax. "But your school—" Meg cried in disappointment. She had hoped that Charles Wallace would never have to enter the old red school building again, that Blajeny would take over, make everything all right ...

"My children," Blajeny said gravely, "my school building is the entire cosmos. Before your time with me is over, I may have to take you great distances, and to very strange places."

"Are we your whole class?" Calvin asked. "Meg and Charles Wallace and me?"

Proginoskes let out a puff of huffy smoke.

"Sorry—and the cherubim."

Blajeny said, "Wait You will know when the time comes."

"And why on earth is one of our classmates a cherubim?" Meg said. "Sorry, Proginoskes, but it does seem very insulting to you to have to be with mortals like us."

Proginoskes batted several eyes in apology. "I didn't mean what I said about immature earthlings. If we have been sent to the same Teacher, then we have things to learn from each other. A cherubim is not a higher order than earthlings, you know, just different."

Blajeny nodded. "Yes. You have much to learn from each other. Meanwhile, I will give each of you assignments. Charles Wallace, can you guess what yours is?"

"To learn to adapt."

"I don't want you to change!" Meg cried.

"Neither do I," Blajeny replied. "Charles Wallace's problem is to learn to adapt while remaining wholly himself."

"What's my assignment, Blajeny?" Meg asked.

The Teacher frowned briefly, in thought. Then, "I am trying to put it into earth terms, terms which you will understand. You must pass three tests, or trials. You must start immediately on the first one."

"What is it?"

"Part of the trial is that you must discover for yourself what it is."

"But how?"

"That I cannot tell you. But you will not be alone. Proginoskes is to work with you. You will be what I think you would call partners. Together you must pass the three tests."

"But suppose we fail?"

Proginoskes flung several wings over his eyes in horror at the thought.

Blajeny said quietly, "It is a possibility, but I would prefer you not to suppose any such thing. Remember that these three trials will be nothing you could imagine or expect right now."

"But Blajeny—I can hardly take a cherubim to school with me!"

Blajeny looked affectionately at the great creature, whose wings were still folded protectingly about himself. "That is for the two of you to decide. He is not always visible, you know. Myself, I find him a little simpler when he's just a wind or a flame, but he was convinced he'd be more reassuring to earthlings if he enfleshed himself."

Charles Wallace reached out and slipped his hand into the Teacher's. "If I could take him, just this way, looking like a drive of dragons, into the schoolyard with me, I bet I wouldn't have any trouble."

Meg said, "Didn't you tell me you were supposed to bring a pet-to school tomorrow?"

Charles Wallace laughed. "We may bring a small pet tomorrow to share with the class."

Proginoskes peered under one wing. "I am not a joking matter."

"Oh, Progo," Meg assured him. "It's only whistling in the dark."

Charles Wallace, still holding the Teacher's hand, asked him, "Will you come home with us now and meet my mother?"

"Not tonight, Charles, it is very late for you to be up, and who knows what tomorrow will bring?"

"Don't you know?"

"I am only a Teacher, and I would not arrange the future ahead of time if I could. Come, I will walk part of the way back to the house with you."

Meg asked, "What about Progo—Proginoskes?"

The cherubim replied, "If it is not the time for Blajeny to meet your family, it is hardly the time for me. I am quite comfortable here. Perhaps you could come meet me early tomorrow morning, and we can compare our night thoughts."

"Well—okay. I guess that's best. Good night, then."

"Good night, Megling." He waved a wing at her, then folded himself up into a great puff. No eyes showed, no flame, no smoke.

Meg shivered.

Blajeny asked, "Are you cold?"

She shivered again. "That thunderstorm before dinner— I suppose it was caused by a cold front meeting a warm front, but it did seem awfully cosmic. I never expected to meet a cherubim . . ."

"Blajeny," Calvin said, "you haven't given me an assignment."

"No, my son. There is work for you, difficult work, and dangerous, but I cannot tell you yet what it is. Your assignment is to wait, without question. Please come to the Murrys' house after school tomorrow—you are free to do that?"

"Oh, sure," Calvin said. "I can skip my after-school stuff for once.",

"Good. Until then. Now, let us go."

Charles Wallace led the way, with Meg and Calvin close behind. The wind was blowing out of the northwest, colder, it seemed, with each gust. When they reached the stone wall to the apple orchard, the moon was shining clearly, with that extraordinary brightness which makes light and dark acute and separate. Some apples still clung to their branches; a few as dark as Blajeny, others shining with a silvery light, almost as though they were illuminated from within.

On top of the pale stones of the wall lay a dark shadow, which was moving slowly, sinuously. It rose up, carefully uncoiling, seeming to spread a hood as it loomed over them. Its forked tongue flickered, catching the light, and a hissing issued from its mouth.

Louise.

But this was not the threatening Louise who had hissed and clacked at the impossible Mr. Jenkins; this was the Louise Meg and Charles Wallace had seen that afternoon, the Louise who had been waiting to greet the unknown shadow— the shadow who, Meg suddenly understood, must have been Blajeny.

Nevertheless, she pressed closer to Calvin; she had never felt very secure around Louise, and the snake's strange behavior that afternoon and evening made her seem even more alien than when she was only the twins' pet.

Now Louise was weaving slowly back and forth in a gentle rhythm, almost as though she were making a serpentine version of a deep curtsy; and the sibilant sound was a gentle, treble fluting.

Blajeny bowed to the snake.

Louise most definitely returned the bow.

Blajeny explained gravely, "She is a colleague of mine."

"But—but—hey, now," Calvin sputtered, "wait a minute—"

"She is a Teacher. That is why she is so fond of the two boys—Sandy and Dennys. One day they will be Teachers, too."

Meg said, "They're going to be successful businessmen and support the rest of us in the way to which we are not accustomed."

Blajeny waved this aside. "They will be Teachers. It is a High Calling, and you must not be distressed that it is not yours. You, too, have a Work."

Louise, with a last burst of her tiny, strange melody, dropped back to the wall and disappeared among the stones.

"Perhaps we're dreaming after all," Calvin said, wonderingly.

"What is real?" the Teacher asked again. "I will say good night to you now."

Charles Wallace was reluctant to leave. "We won't wake up in the morning and find it all never happened? We won't wake up and find we dreamed everything?"

"If only one of us does," Meg said, "and nobody else remembers any of it, then it's a dream. But if we all wake up remembering, then it really happened."

"Wait until tomorrow to find what tomorrow holds," Blajeny advised. "Good night, my children."

They did not ask him where he was going to spend the night—though Meg wondered—because it was the kind of presumptuous question one could not possibly ask Blajeny. They left him standing and watching after them, the folds of his robes chiseled like granite, his dark face catching and refracting the moonlight like fused glass.

They crossed the orchard and garden and entered the house, as usual, by the back way, through the pantry. The door to the lab was open, and the lights on. Mrs. Murry was bent over her microscope, and Dr. Colubra was curled up in an old red leather chair, reading. The lab was a long, narrow room with great slabs of stone for the floor. It had originally been used to keep milk and butter and other perishables, long before the days of refrigerators, and it was still difficult to heat in winter. The long work counter with the stone sink at one end was ideal for Mrs. Murry's lab equipment. In one corner were two comfortable chairs and a reading lamp, which softened the clinical glare of the lights over the counter. But Meg could not think of a time when she had seen her mother relaxing in one of those chairs; she inevitably perched on one of the lab stools.

She looked up from the strange convolutions of the micro-electron microscope.

"Charles! What are you doing out of bed?"

"I woke up," Charles Wallace said blandly. "I knew Meg and Calvin were outside, so I went to get them."

Mrs. Murry glanced sharply at her son, then greeted Calvin warmly.

Charles Wallace asked, "Is it okay if we make some cocoa?"

"It's very late for you to be up, Charles, and tomorrow's a school day."

"It'll help me get back to sleep."

Mrs. Murry seemed about to refuse, but Dr. Colubra closed her book, saying, "Why not, for once? Let Charles have a nap when he gets home in the afternoon. I'd like some cocoa myself. Let's make it out here while your mother goes on with her work. I'll do it."

"I'll get the milk and stuff from the kitchen," Meg said.

With Dr. Louise present they were not, she felt free to talk to their mother about the events of the evening. The children were all fond of Dr. Louise, and trusted her completely as a physician, but they were not quite sure that she had their parents' capacity to accept the extraordinary. Almost sure, but not quite. Dr. Colubra had a good deal in common with their parents; she, too, had given up work which paid extremely well in both money and prestige, to come live in this small rural village. (Too many of my colleagues have forgotten that they are supposed to practice the art of healing. If I don't have the gift of healing in my hands, then all my expensive training isn't worth very much!) She, too, had turned her back on the glitter of worldly success. Meg knew that her parents, despite the fact that they were consulted by the President of the United States, had given up much when they moved to the country in order to devote their lives to pure research. Their discoveries, many of them made in this stone laboratory, had made the Murrys more, rather than less, open to the strange, to the mysterious, to the unexplainable. Dr. Colubra's work was perforce more straightforward, and Meg was not sure how she would respond to talk of a strange dark Teacher, eight or nine feet tall, and even less sure how she would react to their description of a cherubim. She'd probably insist they were suffering from mass psychosis and that they all should see a psychiatrist at once.

—Or is it just that I'm afraid to talk about it, even to Mother? Meg wondered, as she took sugar, cocoa, milk, and a saucepan from the kitchen and returned to the pantry.

Dr. Colubra was saying, "That stuff about cosmic screams and rips in distant galaxies offends every bit of the rational part of me."

Mrs. Murry leaned against the counter. "You didn't believe in farandolae, either, until I proved them to you."

"You haven't proven them to me," Dr. Louise said. "Yet." She looked slightly ruffled, like a little grey bird. Her short, curly hair was grey; her eyes were grey above a small beak of a nose; she wore a grey flannel suit. "The main reason I think you may be right is that you go to that idiot machine—" she pointed at the micro-electron microscope—"the way my husband used to go to his violin. It was always like a lovers' meeting."

Mrs. Murry turned away from her 'idiot machine.' "I think I wish I'd never heard of farandolae, much less come to the conclusions—" She stopped abruptly, then said, "By the way, kids, I was rather surprised, just before you all barged into the lab, to have Mr. Jenkins call to suggest that we give Charles Wallace lessons in self-defense."

Mr. Jenkins? Meg wondered. Aloud she said, "But Mr. Jenkins never calls parents. Parents have to go to him." She almost asked, 'Are you sure it was Mr. Jenkins?' And stopped herself as she remembered that she had not told Blajeny about the horrible Mr. Jenkins-not-Mr. Jenkins who had turned into a bird of nothingness, the Mr. Jenkins Louise had resented so fiercely. She should have told Blajeny; she would tell him first thing in the morning.

Charles Wallace climbed up onto one of the lab stools and perched close to his mother. "What I really need are lessons in adaptation. I've been reading Darwin, but he hasn't helped me much."

"See what we mean?" Calvin asked Dr. Louise. "That's hardly what one expects from a six-year-old."

"He-really does read Darwin," Meg assured the doctor.

"And I still haven't learned how to adapt," Charles Wallace added.

Dr. Louise was making a paste of cocoa, sugar, and a little hot -water from one of Mrs. Murry's retorts. "This is just water, isn't it?" she asked.

"From our artesian well. The very best water."

Dr. Louise added milk, little by little. "You kids are too young to remember, and your mother is a good ten years younger than I am, but I'll never forget, a great many years ago, when the first astronauts went to the moon, and I sat up all night to watch them."

"I remember it all right," Mrs. Murry said. "I wasn't that young."

Dr. Louise stirred the cocoa which was heating over a Bunsen burner. "Do you remember those first steps on the moon, so tentative to begin with, on that strange, airless, alien terrain? And then, in a short time, Armstrong and Aldrin were striding about confidently, and the commentator remarked on this as an extraordinary example of man's remarkable ability to adapt."

"But all they had to adapt to was the moon's surface!" Meg objected. "It wasn't inhabited. I'll bet when our astronauts reach some place with inhabitants it won't be so easy. It's a lot simpler to adapt to low gravity, or no atmosphere, or even sandstorms, than it is to hostile inhabitants."

Fortinbras, who had an uncanine fondness for cocoa, came padding out to the lab, his nose twitching in anticipation. He stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on Charles Wallace's shoulders.

Dr. Colubra asked Meg, "Do you think the first-graders in the village school are hostile inhabitants, then?"

"Of course! Charles isn't like them, and so they're hostile towards him. People are always hostile to anybody who's different."

"Until they get used to him," the doctor said.

"They're not getting used to Charles."

Charles Wallace, fondling the big dog, said, "Don't forget to give Fort a saucer—he likes cocoa."

"You have the strangest pets," Dr. Louise said, but she poured a small dish of cocoa for Fortinbras. "I'll let it cool a bit before I put it on the floor. Meg, we need mugs."

"Okay." Meg hurried off to the kitchen, collected a stack of mugs, and returned to the laboratory.

Dr. Louise lined them up and poured the cocoa. "Speaking of pets, how's my namesake?"

Meg nearly spilled the cocoa she was handing to her mother. She looked closely at Dr. Louise, but though the question had seemed pointed, the little bird face showed nothing more than amused interest; as Charles Wallace said, Dr. Louise was very good at talking on one level and thinking on another.

Charles Wallace answered the question. "Louise the Larger is a magnificent snake. I wonder if she'd like some cocoa? Snakes like milk, don't they?"

Mrs. Murry said firmly, "You are not going back out tonight to find if the snake, magnificent though she be, likes cocoa. Save your experimental zeal for daylight. Louise is undoubtedly sound asleep."

Dr. Louise carefully poured out the last of the cocoa into her own mug. "Some snakes are very sociable at night. Many years ago when I was working in a hospital in the Philippines I had a boa constrictor for a pet; we had a problem with rats in the ward, and my boa constrictor did a thorough job of keeping the rodent population down. He also liked cream-of-mushroom soup, though I never tried him on cocoa, and he was a delightful companion in the evenings, affectionate and cuddly."

Meg did not think that she would enjoy cuddling with a snake, even Louise.

"He also had impeccable judgment about human nature. He was naturally a friendly creature, and if he showed me that he disliked or distrusted somebody, I took him seriously. We had a man brought to the men's ward who seemed to have nothing more seriously wrong with him than a slightly inflamed appendix, but my boa constrictor took a dislike to him the moment he was admitted. That night he tried to kill the man in the next bed—fortunately we got to him in time. But the snake knew, After that, I listened to his warnings immediately."

"Fortinbras has the same instinct about people," Mrs. Murry said. "Too bad we human beings have lost it."

Meg wanted to say, "So does Louise the Larger," but her mother or the doctor would have asked her on what experience she based such a remark; it would have sounded more likely coming from the twins.

Charles Wallace regarded Dr. Colubra, who had returned to the red leather chair and was sipping cocoa, her legs tucked under her like a child; as a matter of fact, she was considerably smaller than Meg. Charles said, "We take Louise very seriously, Dr. Louise. Very seriously."

Dr. Louise nodded. Her voice was light and high. "That was what I had in mind."

Calvin finished his cocoa. "Thank you very much. I'd better get on home now. See you in school tomorrow, Meg. Thanks again, Mrs. Murry and Dr. Colubra. Good night."

When he had gone, Mrs. Murry said, "All right, Charles. The twins have been in bed for an hour. Meg, it's time for you, too. Charles, I'll come check on you in a few minutes."

As they left the lab, Meg could see her mother turning back to the micro-electron microscope.

Meg undressed slowly, standing by her attic window, wondering if Dr. Louise's talk about snakes had been entirely casual chat over a cup of cocoa; perhaps it was only the strange events of the evening which caused her to look for meanings under the surface of what might well be unimportant conversation. She turned out the lights and looked out the window. She could see across the vegetable garden to the orchard, but the trees still held enough leaves so that she could not see into the north pasture.

Was there really a cherubim waiting at the star-watching rock, curled up into a great feathery ball, all those eyes closed in sleep?

Was he real?

What is real?