John Wyndham is by right considered a leading British
science-fiction writer of our day. Born in 1903, he tried various
careers including farming, law, commercial art, and advertising, and he
first started writing short stories in 1925. From !930 to I939 he wrote
stories of various kinds under different names, published mostly in the
USA. He also wrote detective novels. During the war he was in thc Civil
Service and afterwards in the Army. In 1946 he went back to writing
stories and decided to try a modified form of what is known as science
fiction. He wrote The Day of Truffids, translated into many languages,
including Russian. It is a fantastic, frightening, but entirely
plausable story of the future when thc world is dominated by triffids,
grotesque and dangerous plants over seven feet tall. This was followed
by The Kraken Waves, a book telling of the awakening and rise to power
of forces of cruelly terrifying consequence from beneath the surface of
the sea. Next came The Crysalids, a thrilling and realistic account of
the world beset by genetic mutations, The seeds of Time, a collection of
short stories acknowledged by their author as `experiments in adapting
the SF motif to various styles of short story', and The Midwich Cuckoos,
believed to be Wyndham's most disturbing story set in a quiet little
English village. Then appeared The Trouble with Lichen.
Chocky is the last book written by J. Wyndham, who died in 1969. It
was also translated into Russian a few years ago. Here the author is not
concerned with the panoramic views of world destruction, like, for
instance, in The Day of the Triffids. The stage is small, the cast are
few, the setting is familiar - yet, into the most uneventual lives, the
unexpected can disquietingly intrude.
Once you begin reading this book you start living with the Gores -
a plain middle class English family of our days. But then the unexpected
happens: a new and seemingly fantastic element appears within the Gores.
Now you see adults' rear and hostility towards things not fully
understood and difficult to cope with. The situation goes out of thc
Gores' control and a group of people intrudes whose basic motive is
their own profit,
This book is intended for the students of Teachers' Training
Colleges. The language is fairly simple yet idiomatic, and one will find
here quite a few phrases and terms important for the future teachers of
Chocky has been slightly abridged and commented so as to fit the
knowledge of the first-year student. In the book the reader will also
find a list of names which pronunciation may present some difficulty.
It was in the spring of the year that Matthew reached twelve that I
first became aware of Chocky. Late April, I think, or possibly May;
anyway I am sure it was the spring because on that Saturday afternoon I
was out in the garden shed unenthusiastically oiling the mower for
labours to come (*) when I heard Matthew's voice outside the window. It
surprised me; I had no idea he was anywhere about until I heard him say,
on a note of distinct irritation, and, apparently, of nothing:
`I don't know why It's just the way things are.'
I assumed that he had brought one of his friends into the garden to
play, and that the question which prompted his remark had been asked out
of earshot. I listened for the reply, but there was none. Presently,
after a pause, Matthew went on, rather more patiently:
`Well, the time the world takes to turn round is a day, and that's
twenty-four hours, and...'
He broke off, as if at some interruption, though it was quite
inaudible to me. Then he repeated:
`I don't know why. And I don't see why thirty-two hours would be
more sensible. Anyway, twenty-four hours do make a day, (*) everybody
knows that, and seven days make a week...' Again he appeared to be cut
short. (*) Once more he protested. `I don't see why seven is a sillier
number than eight...'
Evidently there was another inaudible interruption, then he went
on: `Well who wants to divide a week into halves and quarters, anyway?
What would be the point of it? A week just is seven days. and four weeks
ought to make a month, only usually it's thirty days or thirty-one
days...' - `No, it's never thirty-two days...' - `Yes, I can see that,
but we don't want a week of eight days. Besides, the world goes round
the sun in three hundred and sixty-five days, and nobody can do anything
that will make that turn into proper halves and quarters.'
At that point the peculiarity of this one-sided conversation
aroused my curiosity so much that I put my head cautiously out of the
open window. The garden was sunny, and that side of the shed was
she1tered and warm. Matthew was seated on an upturned seed-tray, 1eaning
back against the brick wall of the shed just under the window, so that I
was looking down on the top of his fair-haired head. He seemed to be
gazing straight across the lawn and into the bushes beyond. There was no
sign of a companion, nor of any place one could be hidden.
Matthew, however, went on:
`There are twelve of these months in a year, so...' He broke off
again, his head a little ti1ted as though he were listening. I listened,
too, but there was not a whisper of any other voice to be heard.
`It's not just stupid,' he objected. `It's like that because no
kind of same-sized months would fit into a year properly, even if...'
He broke off once more, but this time the source of the
interruption was far from inaudible. Colin, the neighbour's boy, had
shouted from the next garden. Matthew jumped up with a friendly
answering whoop, and ran off across the lawn towards the gap in the
I turned back to my oiling, puzzled, but reassured by the sound of
normal boyish voices next door.
I put the incident out of my mind for the time being, but it
recurred to me that evening when the children had both gone upstairs to
bed, and I found myself vaguely troubled by it. Not so much by the
conversation - for, after all, there is nothing unusual in any child
talking to lim, or her, self - as by the form of it: the consistency of
its assumption that a second party was involved, (*) and the improbable
subject for argument. I was prompted after a time to ask:
`Darling, have you noticed anything odd - no, I don't exactly mean
odd - anything unusual, about Matthew lately?'
Mary lowered her knitting, and looked at me over it.
`Oh, so you have, have you? Though I agree "odd" isn't exactly the
word. Was he listening to nothing or talking to himself?'
`Talking - well, both, really,' I said. `How long has this been
`The first time I noticed it would be - oh I suppose about two or
three weeks ago. It didn't seem worth bothering about. Just another of
those crazes children get you know. Like the time when he was being a
car and had to steer himself round corners and change gear on hills
and put on the brake whenever he stopped. Fortunately it wore off quite
soon. Probably this will too.
There was more hope than conviction in her tone.
`You re not worried about him? I asked.
`Oh, good gracious, no. He s perfectly well. What I am worried
about is us.'
`Well, it begins to look to me rather as if we may have got another
Piff, or something like her in the family.'
I felt, and probably looked, dismayed. I shook my head.
`Oh, no! Don't say it. Not another Piff!' I protested.
Piff was a small, or supposedly small invisible friend that Polly.
Our daughter, had acquired when she was about five. And while she lasted
she was a great nuisance.
When one tried to sit down upon a conveniently empty chair he
would often be stopped by a cry of anguish from Polly; (*) one had, it
seemed, been about to sit on Piff who would then be embraced and
comforted by a lot of sympathetic mutterings about careless and brutal
Frequently, and more likely than not when the television play was
really thrilling, there would come an urgent call from Polly's bedroom
above; the cause had to be investigated although one could be almost
sure that it would concern Piff's need of a drink of water. We would sit
down at a table for four in a cafe, and Polly would ask the mystified
waitress for an extra chair for Piff. I could be starting the car when a
yell would inform me that Piff was not yet with us, and the car door had
to be opened to let her aboard. Once I testily refused to wa it for her.
It was not worth it; my heart1essness had clouded our whole day.
Piff must have been with us the best part of a year - and it seemed
a great deal longer - but in the end she somehow got mis1aid during our
summer holidays. Polly, so much taken up by several more substantial,
and much more audible, new friends, dropped Piff with great callousmess.
Her absence came as a great relief - even, one suspected, to Polly
herself. The idea that we might now have acquired another such was by no
`A grim thought,' I said, `but, fortunately improbable, I think. A
Piff can provide useful bossing material for a member of the younger
female age-groups, but an elevenyear-old boy who wants to boss seems to
me more likely to take it out on other, and smaller, boys.' (*)
`I'm sure I hope you are right,' (*) Mary said, but dubious1y. `One
Piff was more than enough.'
`There's quite a different quality here,' I pointed out.
If you remember, Piff spent about eighty per cent of her
time being scolded for something or other, and having to take it. This
one appeared to be criticizing, and coming back with opinions of its
Mary looked startled.
`What do you mean? I don't see how...'
I repeated, as nearly as I could recall, the one-sided conversation
I had overheard.
Mary frowned as she considered it.
`I don't understand that at all,' she said.
`Oh, it's simple enough. After all the arrangement of a calendar is
just a convention...'
`But that's just what it isn't - not to a child, David. To an
eleven-year-old it seems like a natural law - just as much as day and
night, or the seasons... A week is a week, and it has seven days - it's
unquestionable, it just is so.'
`Well, that's more or less what Matthew was saying, but apparently
he was being argued with - or he was arguing with himself. In either
case it isn't easy to explain.'
`He must have been arguing with what someone's told him at school -
one of his teachers, most likely.'
`I suppose so,' I conceded. `All the same, it's a new one on me.
I've heard of calendar reformers who want all months to have
twenty-eight days, but never of anyone advocating an eight-day week -
or, come to that. a thirtytwo day month.' I pondered a moment. `Besides,
then you'd need nineteen more days in a year...' I shook my head.
`Anyway,' I went on, `I didn't mean to make heavy weather of it. It just
strikes me as odd. (*) I wondered if you had noticed anything of the
Mary lowered her knitting again, and studied its pattern
`No - well, not exactly. I have heard him muttering to himself
occasionally, but nearly all children do that at times. I'm afraid I
didn't pay any attention - actually I was anxious not to do anything
which might encourage another Piff. But there is one thing: the
questions he's been asking lately -'
`Lately!' I repeated. `Was there ever a time when he didn't?'
`I know. But these are a bit different. I mean - well, usually his
questions have been average-boy questions.'
`I hadn't noticed they'd changed.'
`Oh, the old kind of questions keep on, but there's a new kind, too
- with a different sort of slant.'
`Such as ...?'
`Well, one of them was about why are there two sexes? He said he
didn't see why it was necessary to have two people to produce one, so
how had it got arranged that way, and why? That's a difficult one, you
know, on the spur of the moment (*) - well, it's difficult anyway,
I frowned not knowing what to say. `And there was another one, too,
a bout ``where is Earth?" Now, I ask you - where is Earth? - in relation
to what? Oh, yes, he knows it goes round the sun, but where, please, is
the sun? And there were some others - simply not his kind of questions.'
I saw what she meant. Matthew's questions were plentiful, and quite
varied, but they usually kept a more homely orbit: things like `Why
can't we live on grass if horses can?'
`A new phase?' I suggested. `He's reached a stage where things are
beginning to widen out for him.'
Mary shook her head, giving me a look of reproach.
`That, darling, is what I've been telling you. What I want to know
is why they should widen, and his interests apparently change, quite so
suddenly. This doesn't seem to me like just development. It's more as if
he'd switched to a different track It's a sudden change in quality -
quality and approach.' She went on frowning for the pause before she
added: `I do wish we knew a little more about his parents. That might
help. In Polly I can see bits you and bits of me. It gives one a feeling
of something to go on. But with Matthew there's no guide at all...
There's nothing to give me any idea what to expect...'
I could see what when we lost all hopes to have a baby of our own.
He was a month old when he entered our family bringing peace and
consolation to Mary. A year later there had come the first signs that a
new baby was on the way, and so, Matthew was about two, he had a new
baby sister - little Polly. I could also see where we were heading. In
about three more moves we'd be back at the old unprofitable contest:
heredity versus environment. To sidestep I said:
`It looks to me as if the best thing we can do for the present is
simply to listen and watch carefully - though not obviously - until we
get a firmer impression. no good worrying ourselves over what may easily
be an insignificant passing phase.'
And there we decided to leave it for the time being.
It was about ten days after that we about Chocky. It might well
have been longer had Matthew not picked up the flu at school which
caused him to run quite a temperature for a while. When it was at its
height he rambled a bit, with all defences down. There times when he did
not seem to know whether he was talking to his mother, or his father, or
to some mysterious character he called Chocky. Moreover, this Chocky
appeared to worry him, for he protested several times.
On the second evening his temperature ran high. Mary called down to
me to come up. Poor Matthew looked in a sorry state. His colour was
high, his brow damp, and he was very restless. He kept rolling his head
from side to side on the pillow, almost as if he were trying to shake it
free of something. In a tone of weary exasperation he said: `No, no,
Chocky. Not now. I can't understand. I want to go to sleep... No ... Oh,
do shut up and go away... No, I can't tell you now... He rolled his head
again, and pulled his arms from under the bedclothes to press his hands
over his ears. `Oh, do stop it, Chocky. Do shut up!'
Mary reached across and put her hand on his forehead. He opened his
eyes and became aware of her.
`Oh, Mummy, I' m so tired. Do tell chocky to go away She doesn't
understand. She won't leave me alone...' (*)
Mary glanced questioningly at me. I could only shrug and shake my
head. Then she rose to the occasion (*) Turning back, she addressed
herself to a point slightly above Matthew's head. I recognized the
technique she had sometimes used with Piff. In a kindly but firm tone
`Chocky, you really must let Matthew he quiet and rest. He isn't at
all well, Chocky, and he needs to go to sleep. So please go away and
leave him alone now. Perhaps, if he's better tomorrow, you can come back
`See?' said Matthew. `You've got to clear out, Chocky, so that I
can get better.' He seemed to listen. `Yes,' he said decisively.
It appeared to work. In fact, it did work.
He lay back again, and visibly relaxed.
`She's gone,' he announced.
`That's fine. Now you can settle down,' said Mary.
And he did. He wriggled into a comfortable position and lay quiet.
Presently his eyes closed. In a very few minutes he was fast asleep.
Mary and I looked at one another. She tucked his bedclothes closer, and
put the bell-push handy. We tiptoed to the door, turned off the room
light, and went downstairs.
`Well,' I said, `what do you think of that?'
`Aren't they astonishing?' said Mary. `Dear, oh dear, it does very
much look as if this family is landed with another Piff'.
I poured us some sherry, handed Mary hers, and raised mime.
`Here's to (*) hoping it turns out to be less of a pest than the
last one,' I said. I set down the glass, and looked at it You
know,' I told her, `I can't help feeling there's something wrong
about this. As I said before, Piffs aren't unusual with little girls,
but I don't remember hearing of an eleven-year-old boy inventing one...
It seems out of order, somehow... I must ask someone about it...'
Mary nodded agreement.
`Yes,' she said, `but what strikes me as even odder is - did you
notice? - he doesn't seem to be clear in his own mind whether his Chocky
is a him or a her. Children are usually very positive about that. They
feel it's important...'
`I wouldn't say the feeling of importance is entirely restricted to
children,' I told her, but I see what you mean, and you're perfectly
right, of course. It is odd... The whole thing's odd...'
Matthew's temperature was down the next morning. He picked up
quickly. In a few days he was fully recovered. So too, apparently, was
his invisible friend, undiscouraged by the temporary banishment.
Now that Chocky's existence was out of the bag (*) - and largely, I
was inclined to think, because neither Mary nor I had displayed
incredulity - Matthew gained enough confidence to talk a little more
freely about him/her.
To begin with, at any rate, he/she seemed a considerable
improvement on the original Piff. There was none of that business of hi
m/her invisibly occupying one's chair, or feeling sick in teashops to
which Piff had been so prone. Indeed, Chocky quite markedly lacked
physical attributes. He/she appeared to be scarcely more than a
presence, having perhaps something in common with Wordsworth's cuckoo,
(*) but with the added limitation that his/her wandering voice was
audible to Matthew alone. There were days when Matthew seemed to forget
him/her altogether. Unlike Piff, he/she was not prone to appearing
any - and everywhere, nor did he/she show any of Piff's talent for
embarrassment such as a determined insistence on being taken to the
lavatory in the middle of the sermon. On the whole, if one had to choose
between the two, my preference was decided1y in favour of Chocky.
Mary was less certain.
`Are we,' she suddenly demanded one evening, staring into the loops
of her knitting with a slight squint, `are we I wonder, doing the right
thing in playing up to this nonsense? I know you shouldn't crush a
child's imagination, and all that, but what nobody tells you is how far
is enough. There comes a stage when it begins to get a bit like
conspiracy. I mean, if everyone goes around pretending to believe in
things that aren't there, how on earth is a child going to learn to
distinguish what really is, from what really isn't.'
'Careful, darling,' I told her. 'You're steering close to dangerous
waters. (*) It chiefly depends on who, and how many, believe what isn't
She nodded. Then she went on:
`It'd be a most unfortunate thing if we found out on that we're
helping to stabilize a fantasy-system that we ought to be trying to
dispel. Hadn't we better consult a psychiatrist about it? He could at
least tell us whether it's one of the expectable things, or not.'
`I'm rather against making too much fuss about it,' I told her.
`More inclined to leave it for a bit. After all we managed to lose Piff
in the end, and no harm done.'
`I didn't mean send him to a psychiatrist. I thought just an
enquiry on general lines to find out whether it is unusual, or simply
nothing to bother about. I'd feel easier if we knew.'
`I'll ask around if you like,' I said. `I don't think it is
serious. It seems to me a bit like fiction - we read our kind of
fiction, children often make up their own, and live it. The thing that
does trouble me a bit about it is that th is Chocky seems to have
entered the wrong age-group. I think we'll find it will fade away after
a bit. If it doesn't we can consult someone about it.'
I wasn't, I admit, being quite honest when I said that. Some of
Matthew's questions were puzzling me considerably - not only by their
un-Matthew-like character but because, now that Chocky's existence was
acknowledged, Matthew did not always present the questions as his own.
Quite frequently he would preface them with: `Chocky says he doesn't see
how ... or `Chocky wants to ,know ... or `Chocky says she doesn't
One thing I felt could be cleared up.
`Look here,' I told him, `I get all confused with this he-and-she
business. On grounds of grammar alone it would be easier if I knew which
Matthew quite agreed.
`Yes, it would,' he said. `I thought so, too. So I asked. But
Chocky doesn't seem to know.'
`Oh,' I said. `That's rather unusual. I mean, it's one of those
things people are generally pretty sure about.'
Matthew agreed about that, too. .
`But Chocky's sort of (*) different,' he told me earnestly.
I explained all the differences between hims and hers, but she
couldn't seem to get it, somehow. That's funny because he's really
frightfully clever I think, but all he said was that it sounded a
pretty silly arrangement, and wanted to know why it's like that.'
I recalled that Mary had encountered a question along those lines.
Matthew went on:
`I couldn't tell her why. And nobody I've asked has been much help.
Do you know why, ,Daddy.?'
`Well - er - not exactly why, I confessed. `It's just - um - how it
is. One of Nature's ways of managing things.'
`That's what I tried to tell Chocky - well, sort of. But I don't
think I can have been very good at it because she said that even if I
had got it right, and it was as silly as it sounded, there still had to
be a why behind it.' He paused reflectively, and then added, with a nice
blend of pique and regret: `Chocky keeps on finding such a lot of
things, quite ordinary things, silly. It gets a bit boring.'
We talked on for a while. I was interested and showed it, but from
what I learned, however, I found myself feeling a little less kindly
towards Chocky. He/she gave an impression of being quite aggressive.
Afterwards when I recollected the entirely serious nature of our
conversation I felt some increase in uneasiness. Going back over it I
realized that not once in the course of it had Matthew even hinted by a
single word, or slip, that Chocky was not just as real a person as
ourselves, and I began to wonder whether Mary had not been right about
consulting a psychiatrist
However, we did get one thing more or less tidied up: the him/her
question. Matthew explained:
`Chocky does talk rather like a boy, but a lot of the time it's not
about the sort of thing boys talk about - if you see what I mean. And
sometimes there is a bit of - well, you know the sort of snooty way
chaps' older sisters often get ...?'
I said I did, and after we had discussed these and a few other
characteristics we decided that Chocky's balance did on the whole lean
more to the F than the M, (*) and agreed that in future it would be
convenient to class Chocky as feminine.
Mary gave me a thoughtful look when I reported to her that, at
least, was settled. .
`The point it is gives more personification if Chocky is one or the
other - not just an it,, I explained. `Puts a sort of picture in the
mind which must be easier for him to cope with than just a vague,
undifferentiated, disembodied something. And as Matthew feels there,is
not much similarity to any of the boys he knows ...
`You decide she's feminine because you fee it will help you and
Matthew to attack her, , Mary declared. She spent then a few moments in
reflective silence, and emerged from it to say, a little wistfully.
`I do think being a parent must have been a lot more fun before
Freud was invented. (*) As it is, if this fantasy ga me doesn't clear
up in a week or two we shall feel a moral, social, and medical
obligation to do something about it ... And it's such nonsense really I
sometimes wonder if we aren't all of us a bit morbid about children
nowadays I'm sure there are more delinquents than there used to be...'
`I'm for keeping him clear of psychiatrists and suchlike if we can,
I told her. `Once you let a child get the idea he's an interesting case,
you turn loose a whole new boxful of troubles.' (*)
She was silent for some seconds. Running over in her mind, I
guessed, a number of the children we knew. Then she nodded.
So there we let it rest: once more waiting a bit longer to see how
it would go.
In point of fact it went rather differently from anything we had in
`Shut up!' I snapped suddenly. `Shut up, both of you.' Matthew
regarded me with unbelieving astonishment. Polly's eyes went wide, too.
Then both of them turned to look at their mother. Mary kept her
expression carefully non-counmittal. Her lips tightened slightly, and
she shook her head at them without speaking. Matthew silently finished
the pudding still on his plate, and then got up and left the room,
carrying himself stiffly, with the hurt of injustice. Polly choked on
her final mouthful, and burst into tears. I was not feeling sympathetic.
`What have you to cry about?' I asked her. `You started it again,
`Come here, darling,' said Mary. She produced a handkerchief,
dabbed at the wet cheeks, and then kissed her
`There, that's better,' she said. `Darling, Daddy didn't mean to be
unkind I'm sure, but he has told you lots of times not to quarrel with
Matthew - particularly at meals - you know he has, don't you?' Polly
replied only with a sniff. She looked down at her fingers twisting a
button on her dress. Mary went on: `You really must try not to quarrel
so much. Matthew doesn't want to quarrel with you, he hates it. It makes
things very uncomfortable for us - and, I believe you hate it, too,
really. So do try, it's so much nicer for everyone if you don't.'
Polly looked up from the button.
`But I do try, Mummy - only I can't help it. `Her tears began to
rise again. Mary gave her a hug.
`Well, you'll just have to try a little harder, darling, won't
you?' she said.
Polly stood passive1y for a moment, then she broke away across the
room, and fumb1ed with the door-knob.
I got up, and closed the door behind her.
`I'm sorry about that,' I said as I came back. `In fact I'm ashamed
of myself - but really ! I don't believe we've had a meal in the last
two weeks without th is infernal quarrelling. And it's Polly who
provokes it every time. She keeps on nagging and picking at him until he
has to retaliate. I don't know what's come over her: they've always got
on so well together ...'
`Certainly they have,' Mary agreed `- Until quite recently,' she
`Another phase, I suppose, I said. `Children seem to be just one
phase after another.'
`I suppose you could call this a phase - I hope it is,' Mary said
thoughtfully. `But it's not one confined to children.'
Her tone caused me to look at her inquiringly. She asked:
My dear, don't you see what Polly's trouble is?'
I went on looking at her blankly. She explained.
`It is just plain, ordinary jealousy - only jealousy, of course is
never ordinary to the sufferer.'
`Jealousy... ?' I repeated.
`Yes, jealousy .
`But of whom, of what? I don't get it.'
`Surely that should be obvious enough. Of this Chocky, of course.
I stared at her.
`But that's absurd. Chocky is only - well, I don't know what he,
she, or it is, but it' s not even real - doesn't even exist, I mean.'
`Whatever does that matter? Chocky's real enough to Matthew - and,
consequently,.to Polly. Polly and Matthew have always got on very well,
as you said. She admires him tremendously. She's always been his
confidante, and his aide, and it's meant a lot to her But now he has a
new confidante. This Chocky has displaced her. She's on the outside now
. I'm not in the least surprised she's jealous.'
I felt bewildered.
`Now you're beginning to talk as if Chocky were real.'
Mary reached for a cigarette, and lit it.
`Reality is relative. Devils, evil spirits, witches and so on
became real enough to the people who believed in them. Just as God is to
people who believe in Him. When people live their lives by their beliefs
objective reality is almost irrelevant.
`That's why I wonder if we are doing the right thing. By playing up
to Matthew we are strengthening his belief, we are helping to establish
the existence of this Chocky more firmly - until now we have Polly
believing in her, too - to the point of a wretched jealousy... It's
somehow getting beyond a game of make-believe - and I don't like it. I
think we ought to get advice on it before it goes further.'
I could see that this time she meant it seriously.
All right,' I agreed. `Perhaps it would be -' I was
beginning when I was cut off by the sound of the door bell.
I went to answer it, and opened the door to find myself facing a
man I knew I should have recognized. I was just beginning to remember
him - that is, I had got as far as connecting him with the Parents'
Association meeting - when he introduced himself.
`Good evening, Mr Gore. I don't expect you'll remember me.
Trimble's my name. I take your Matthew for maths.' (*)
I led him into the sitting-room. Mary joined us, and greeted him,
`Good evening, Mr Trimble. Matthew's just upstaIrs, doinG his
homework, I think. Shall I call him?'
Trimble shook his head.
`Oh, no, Mrs Gore. In fact, I'd rather you didn't.(*) It's really
yourselves I wanted to see - about Matthew, of course.'
We sat him down. I produced a bottle of whisky. Trimble accepted
his drink Gratefully.
`Well, now, what's the trouble?' I asked. Trimble shook his head.
He said reassurinGly..
`Oh, no trouble. NothinG of that kind.' He paused, and went on: `I
do hope you don't mind my callinG on you like this. It's unofficial. To
be honest, it's chiefly curiosity on my part - well, a bit more than
that really. I'm puzzled.' He paused once more, and looked from me to
Mary and back aGain. `Is it you who is the mathematician of the family?'
I denied it.
`I'm just an accountant. Arithmetic, not mathematics.'
He turned to Mary.
`Then it must be you, Mrs Gore.'
She shook her head.
`Indeed not, Mr Trimble. I can't even get arithmetic right.'
Trimble looked surprised, and a little disappointed.
`That's funny,' he said. `I was sure - perhaps you have a relative,
or some friend, who is?'
We both shook our heads. Mr Trimble continued to look surprised.
`Well,' he said, `Somebody has been helping - no perhaps that's not
the riGht word - shall we say, GivinG your son ideas about his maths -
not that I mind that,' he hurried to explain. `Indeed, in a general way
I'm all for anything that gets children along. But that's really the
point. When a child is trying to cope simultaneously with two different
methods it's more likely to confuse him than get him along...
`I'll be frank. I won't pretend that your Matthew is one of those
boys you sometimes find, with a natural quick grasp of figures. He's
about average, perhaps a shade above, and he's been doing quite all
right - until lately . But it has seemed to me recently that someone has
been trying towell, I suppose the idea was to push him on, but the stuff
he's been given isn't doing that; it's getting him mixed up.' He paused
again, and added apologically: `With a boy with a real gIft for figures
It might not fact he'd probably enjoy it. But, frankly, I think too much
for your Matthew to grasp at the moment. muddling him, and
that's,holding him back.
`Well, just as frankly, I told him, `I'm at a loss. Do you mean
that he's trying to get ahead fast - missing out some of the steps?'
Trimble shook his head.
`Oh, no, not that. It's more like - well, something like trying to
think In two languages at the same time. At first I couldn't understand
what had got out of gear. (*) Then I managed to get some sheets of his
rough work. I'll show you.
And, with pencil and paper, he did, for an hour. As an audience we
disappointed him, but I managed to understand some of it, and ceased to
be surprised that Matthew appeared muddled. Trimble went off into realms
quite belongs me, and when we eventually saw him off, it was with some
relief. Still, we appreciated the concern that had brought hIm along to
see us In his own time, and promised to do our best to find the source
of Matthew' s confusion.
`I don't know who it can be,' Mary said as we returned to the
sitting-room. `I can't think of anyone he sees often enough.'
`It must be one of the other boys at school who's a natural whizz
at maths, and got him interested although it's a bit beyond him,' I
said. `It's certainly no one I can thInk of. Anyway I'll try to fInd
I left it until the following Saturday afternoon. Then, when Mary
had taken away the tea things, and Polly, too, Matthew and I had the
verandah to ourselves. I picked up a pencil and scribbled on a newspaper
`What do you reckon that means, Matthew?' I asked. He glanced at
`A hundred and seventy-nine,' he said.
`It seems complicated when you can just write 179,' I said. `How
does it work?'
Matthew explained the binary code (*) to me, much as Trimble had.
`But do you find that way easier.?' I asked.
`Only sometimes - and it does make division difficult,' Matthew
`It seems such a long way round. Wouldn't it be simpler to stick to
the ordinary way?' I suggested.
`Well, you see, that's the way I have to use with Chocky because
that's the way she counts, 'Matthew explained.
She doesn't understand the ordinary way, and she thinks
it's silly to have to bother with ten different figures just because
you've ten fingers, when all you really need is two fingers.'
I continued to look at the paper while I thought how to go on. So
Chocky was in on this - I might have known...
`You mean when Chocky counts she just talks Ys and Ns,' I enquired.
`Sort of - only not actually What I mean is, I just call them Y and
N for Yes and. No, because it's easier.'
I was still wondering how best to handle this new intrusion of
Chocky, but apparently I looked merely baffled, for Matthew went on to
`See, Daddy. A hundred is YYNNYNN an d because each one is double
the one on its right that means, if you start from the right hand end 1
- No, 2 - No, 4 - yes, 8 - No, 16 - No, 32 - yes, 64 - yes. You just add
the Yesses together, and it's a hundred. You can get any number that
`Yes. I see, Matthew But, tell me, where did you first come across
this way of doing it?'
`I, just told you, Daddy. It's the way Chocky always uses.
Once more I was tempted to call the Chocky bluff, but I checked
myself. I said, reasonably:
`But she must have got it from somewhere. Did she find it in a
book, or something?'
`I don't know. I expect somebody taught her,' Matthew told me,
I recalled one or two other mathematical queries that Trimble had
raised, and put them, as far as I understood the m. I was scarcely
surprised to learn that they, too, were devices that Chocky was
accustomed to use.
So there we were, at a dead end. I was just about to close the
rather fruitless session when Matthew stopped me, disturbingly He
emerged from silent reflection, as if he had made up his mind to
something. With a somewhat troubled expression, and his eyes fixed on
mine he asked:
`Daddy, you don't think I'm mad, do you?'
I was taken aback. I think I managed not to show it.
`Good heavens, no. What next? What on earth put such an idea into
`Well, it was Colin, really.'
`You haven't told him about Chocky.?' I asked, with a quickening
Matthew shook his head.
`Oh, no. I haven't told anyone but you, and Mummy - and Polly , he
added a little sadly.
`Good,' I approved. `If I were you I'd keep it that way. But what
`I only asked him if he knew anyone who could hear someone talking
inside himself. I wanted to know,' he explained seriously. `And he said
no, because hearing voices was a well known first sign of madness, and
people who did hear them either got put in asylums or, burnt at the
stake, like Joan of Arc. (*) So I sort of wondered...'
`Oh, that,' I said, with more conviction than I was feeling.
`That's something quite different.' I searched hurriedly and
desperately for a valid-sounding difference. `He must have been thinking
of the kind of voices that prophesy, tell of disasters to come, and try
to persuade people to do foolish things so that they get muddled over
what's right and what's wrong, and what's sensible and what isn't.
You've no need to worry about that - no need at all.'
I must have sounded more convincing than I felt. Matthew relaxed,
`Good,' he said, with satisfaction. `I think I'd hate to go mad.
You see, I don't feel at all mad.'
When I reported on our session to Mary I suppressed any reference
to the last part of it. I felt it would simply add to her anxiety
without getting Us any further, so I concentrated on my enquiries into Y
an d N business.
`This Chocky affair seems to get more baffling,' I confessed. `One
expects children to keep on making discoveries-well, that's what's
education's all about - but one also expects them to be pretty pleased
with themselves for making them. There seems to me to be something
psychologically unsound when all progress is attributed to a sort of
friend instead of to self. It just isn't normal yet we've got to admit
that his interests have widened. He's taking more notice of more things
than he used to. And lately he's been gaining a - a sort of air of
responsibility. had you noticed that?...'
`Oh, that reminds me,' Mary put in, `I had a note today from Miss
Toach who takes him for geography It's a bit confused, but I think it is
meant to thank us for helping to stimulate his interest in the subject
while at the same time suggesting tactfully that we shouldn't try to
push him too much.'
`Oh,' I said. `More Chocky?'
`I don't know, but I rather suspect he's been asking her the sort
of awkward questions he asked me - about where Earth is, and so on.
I thought it over for some moments.
`Suppose we were to change our strategy - hit out at Chocky a
bit... ?' I suggested.
`No,' she told me. `I don't think that's the way. probaby go
underground - I mean, he'd lose confidence in us, and turn secretive.
And that'd be worse really, wouldn't it?'
I rubbed my forehead.
`It's a very difficult. It doesn't seem wise to go on encouraging
him; and it seems unwise to discourage him. So what do we do?'
We were still trying to make up our minds the next Tuesday.
That was the day I stopped on the way home to take the new car. It
was a station-wagon (*) that I'd bee dreaming of for some time. Lots of
room for everyone, and for a load of baggage i the back as well. We all
piled in, ad took it out for a short experimental run before supper. I
was pleased with the way it handled and thought I'd get to like it. The
others were enthusiastic, and by the time we returned it was generally
voted that the Gore family was entitled to tilt its chins a degree or
two higher. (*)
I left the car parked in front of the garage ready to take Mary and
me to a friend's house later on, and went to write a letter while Mary
got the supper.
About a quarter of an hour later came the sound of Matthew's raised
voice. I couldn't catch what he was saying; it was a noise of
half-choked, inarticulate protest. Looking out of the window I noticed
that several passers-by had paused and were looking over the gate with
expression of uncertain amusement. I went out investigate. I found
Matthew standing a few feet from the car, very red in the face, and
shouting incoherently. I walked towards him.
`What's the trouble, Matthew?' I inquired.
He turned. There were tears of childish rage running down his
flushed cheeks. He tried to speak, but choked the words, and grabbed my
hand with both of his. I looked at the car which seemed to be the focus
of the trouble. It did not appear damaged, nor to have anything visibly
a miss with it. Then, conscious of the spectators at the gate, I led
Matthew round to the other side of the house, out of their sight. There
I sat down on one of the verandah chairs, and took him on my knee. I had
never seen him so upset. He was shaking with anger, half-strangled by
it, and still with tears heavily streaming. I put an arm round him.
`There now, old man. Take it easy. (*) Take it easy,' I told him.
Gradually the shaking and the tears began to subside. He breathed
more easily. By degrees the tension in him relaxed, and he grew quieter
After a time he gave a great exhausted sigh. I handed him my
handkerchief. He plied it a bit, and then he blew.
`Sorry, Daddy,' he apologized through it, still chokily.
`That's all right, old man. Just take your time.' (*)
Presently he lowered the handkerchief and plucked at it, still
breathing jerkily. A few more tears, but of a different kind,
overflowed. He cleaned up once more, sighed again, and began to be more
l like his normal self.
`Sorry, Daddy,' he said again. `All right now - I think.'
`Good,' I told him. `But dear, oh dear, what was all that about?'
Matthew hesitated, then he said.
`It was the car.'
`The car! For heaven's sake. It seems to be all right. What's it
done to you?'
`Well, not the car, exactly,' Matthew corrected himself.
`You see, it's a jolly nice car. I think it's super, and I thought
chocky would be interested in it, so I started showing it to her, and
telling her how it works, and things.'
I became aware of a slight sinking, here-we-go-again feeling. (*)
`But Chocky wasn't interested?' I inquired. Something seemed to
rise in Matthew's throat, but he took himself in hand, swallowed hard
and continued bravely:
`She said it was silly, and ugly, and clumsy. She - she laughed at
At the recollection of this enormity his indignation swelled once
more, and all but overwhelmed him. (*) He tried to fight it down.
I was beginning to feel seriously worried. That the hypothetical
Chocky could provoke such a near-hysterical condition of anger and
outrage was alarming. I wished I knew more about the nature and
manifestations of schizophrenia. However, one thing was clear, this was
not the for debunking Chocky, on the other hand it was necessary to say
something. I asked:
`What does she find so a musing about it?' Matthew sniffed, paused,
and sniffed again.
`Pretty nearly everything,' he told me, gloomily.
She said the engine is funny, and old-fashioned, and waste-
ful, and that an engine that needed gears was ridiculous anyway. And
that a car that didn't use an engine to stop itself as well as make
itself go was stupid. And how it was terribly funny to think of anyone
making a car that to have springs because it just bumped along the
ground on wheels that had to have things like sausages fastened round
`So I told her that's how cars are, anyway and ours is a new car,
and a jolly good one. And she said that was nonsense because our car is
just silly, and nobody with any brains would make anything so clumsy and
dangerous, and nobody with any sense would ride in one. And then well,
it's a bit muddled after that because I got angry. But, anyway, I don't
care what she thinks: I like our new car.'
It was difficult. His indignation was authentic: a stranger would
not have doubted for a moment that he had been engaged in a dispute
which was not only genuine, but impassioned. Any doubt I may have had as
to whether we really needed advice about Matthew was swept away then.
However, rather than risk a wrong step now, I kept up the front. (*)
`What does she think cars ought to be like, then?' I asked.
`That's what I asked her when she started on our car,' said
Matthew. `And she said that where she comes from the cars don't have
wheels at all. They go along a bit above the ground, and they don't make
any noise, either She said that our kind of cars that have to keep to
roads are bound to run into one another pretty often, and that, anyway,
properly made cars are made so that they can't run into one another.'
`There's quite a lot to be said for that - if you can manage it,' I
admitted. `But, tell me, where does Chocky come from?'
`That's one of the things we can't find out,' he said.
It's too difficult. You see, if you don't know where any-
thing else is, how can you find out where you are?'
`You mean no reference points?' I suggested.
`I expect that's it,' Matthew said, a little vaguely.
But I think where Chocky lives must be a very, very, long
way away. Everything seems to be different there.'
`H'm,' I said. I tried another tack. `How old is Chocky?' I asked.
`Oh, pretty old,' Matthew told me. `Her time doesn't go like ours
though. But we worked it out that if it did she'd be at least twenty.
Only she says she'll go on living until she's about two hundred, so that
sort of makes twenty seem less. She thinks only living until you're
seventy or eighty like we do, is silly and wasteful.'
`Chocky, I suggested, `appears to think a great many things silly.'
Matthew nodded emphatically.
`Oh, she does,' he agreed. `Nearly everything, really, he added, in
`Rather depressing,' I commented.
`It does get a bit boring pretty often,' Matthew conceded.
Then Mary called us to supper.
I found myself at a loss to know what to do about it. Matthew had
evidently had enough sense of self-protection not to tell any of his
friends or school-fellows about Chocky. He had confided in Polly
possibly, I thought with some idea of sharing Chocky with her, but that
had certainly been a failure. Yet, quite clearly, he found it a relief
to talk about her - and after the car incident I had undoubtedly
provided a very sorely needed safety-valve. (*)
Mary, when I told her about the car incident that evening, was
inclined to favour the straight forward line of asking our regular
doctor, Dr Aycott, to recommend a consultant. I was not. Not that I had
anything against old Aycott. I wouldn't deny that the old boy was an
adequate enough pill-pusher, (*) but I couldn't help feeling that the
Matthew problem was not in his line. (*) Moreover, I pointed out,
Matthew did not like him so it was improbable that he would confide in
him. It seemed much probable that he would consider we had abused his
confidence by mentioning the matter to Aycott at al; in which case
there was a risk that he would go silent altogether.
Mary, upon reflection, admitted the validity of that.
`But,' she said, `It's getting to the point where we can't just go
on letting it drift. We must do something... An d you can't simply pick
a psychiatrist out of a list with a pin. You want the right kind of
psychiatrist, proper recommendations, and all the rest of it...'
`I think I may have a line on that,' (*) I told her. `You remember
Alan, a friend of mine? He was my best man at our wedding. So I was
telling him about it the other day, and he mentioned a man I used to
know slightly at Cambridge; a fellow called Landis - Roy Landis. Alan
knew him rather better, aud he's kept in touch with him. It appears that
after Landis graduated he went in for mental disorders. He's got a job
at a well-reputed clinic now, so he must be some good at it. Alan
suggested it might be worth having a try at him - informally just to
give us a lead. If he were wiling to have a look at Matthew he'd be abe
to tel us whether we ought to consult somebody professionally, and who
would be the best man for the job. Or, possibly it might be in his,own
line, and he'd take it on himself.
`Good,' Mary approved. 'You tackle him, then, and see if you can
get him to come down. At least we shall feel that we're doing
Time, and professional look can work wonders. I could scarcely
recognize the rather untidy undergraduate I remembered in the well
brushed, neatly bearded, elegantly suited Roy Landis who joined Alan and
me at the club for dinner.
I started and at once stressed that our immediate need was advice
upon the best steps to take, and told him something of Matthew. His
professional caution relaxed as he listened, and his interest plainly
grew. The episode with the new car particularly seemed to intrigue him.
He asked a number of questions which I answered as best I could,
beginning to feel hopeful. In the end he agreed to drive down to
Hindmere the following Sunday. He also gave me some instructions on
preparing the ground for the visit, so that I was able to return home to
report to Mary with a feeling of relief that, at last, we had things
under way. (*)
The next evening I told Matthew:
`I had dinner with an old friend of mine last night. I think you
might like to meet him.'
`Oh,' said Matthew, not much interested in my old friends.
`The thing was,' I went on, 'we were talking cars, and he seems to
have some of the same ideas as you told me Chocky has about them. He
thinks our present cars are rather crude.'
`Oh,' said Matthew again. Then, with a steady look, he asked:
`Did you tell him about Chocky?'
`Well, I had to - a bit. You see, I could scarcely pretend that her
ideas are yours, because they certainly aren't. He seemed interested,
but not much surprised. Not nearly so surprised as I was when you first
told me about Chocky. I rather got the idea he may have run across
someone a bit like her before.'
Matthew showed signs of interest, but he was still cautious.
`Someone who talks to him the same way?' he inquired.
`No,' I admitted, `Not to him, but to someone - or it may be more
than one person - that he knows. Anyway, as I said, he didn't seem very
surprised. I'm afraid we didn't go into it a great deal, but I thought
you might like to know.'
That turned out to be a promising start. Matthew returned to the
subject of his Own accord (*) a couple of times. Clearly, he was more
than a little fascinated by the idea of someone who found Chocky
It was that, as well as the prospect of reassurance it held for
him, I thought, that prompted him to admit he might like to have a talk
with Roy Landis, someday.
During the following week I felt even more g1a d that Landis was
coming down the next Sunday, particularly when Matthew's school report
(*) arrived. While, on the whole, it was not unsatisfactory, I
detected a slightly puzzled air about parts of it.
Mr Trimble acknowledged that Matthew had made progress - of a kind,
but felt that he was capable of doing much better if he could confine
his attention to the orthodox forms of nathematics.
Miss Toach, while she was g1a d to record that his inter - est in
her subject had sharpened considerably, thought he would do better to
concentrate on geography at present, and let cosmography cone later.
Mr Caffer, the physics master, WaS not entirely pleased. He wrote:
`There has been a marked difference in his approach this term. If it
showed itself less in a capacity to ask questions, and more in ability
to absorb information, his work would improve.'
`What have you been doing to Mr Caffer?' I asked.
`He gets annoyed,' said Matthew. `There was one time when I wanted
to know about the pressure of light, and another time when I told him I
can see what gravity does, but I don't see why it does it. I don't think
he knows why, and there were some other things, too. He wanted to know
where I was getting the questions from. I couldn't very well tell him
they came out of things Chocky had told me. So he got a bit angry. But
it's all right now. I mean, it's not much good asking him things, so I
haven't any more.'
`And there's Miss Blayde, biology. She seems to be a bit sniffy,
too,' I said.
`Oh, I expect that's because I asked her how people who had only
one sex managed to reproduce. She said, well, everybody had only one
sex, and I said what I meant was one kind of person, all alike, not
different like men and women. She said that could be in some plants, but
not in people. And I said not always and she said nonsense. But I said
it wasn't nonsense because I happened to know someone like that. And she
said what did I mean - in that kind of voice. Then I saw it had been
stupid of me to ask at all, because I couldn't tell her about Chocky, so
I shut up although she kept on wanting to know what I meant. And ever
since then she sometimes looks at me very hard. That's really all .'
Miss Blayde was not the only one to feel baffled. A little time
before, trying to get some idea what type of mental protection this
Chocky was, I had asked:
`Doesn't Chocky have a homeS Doesn't she even tell you about her
mother and father, and where she lies - that kind of thingS'
`Not much,' said Matthew. `I can't make out what it's like. You
see, such a lot of things she says don't meant anything.'
I said I was afraid I didn't quite see. Matthew had frowned in
`Well,' he said, `suppose I was quite, quite deaf and you tried to
tell me about a tune - I wouldn't be able to know what you were talking
about, would . I? It's a bit like that sort of - I think .. She does
sometimes talk about her father, or her mother - but the hims and hers
get mixed up, as if they were both the same.'
On Sunday, just before lunch, Landis's car slid into our drive. He
arrived, as becomes a with-it medical man, in a large, well-groommed
I ma de the introductions. Mary appeared a little reserved, but
Matthew, I was glad to see, seemed to take to him easily. After lunch we
all adjourned to the verandah for a quarter of an hour or so, then, by
arrangement, Mary took Polly off with her, I mentioned some work I must
do, and Matthew and Landis were left alone together.
Tea time came, and I looked out to find Matthew still talking hard.
Landis caught my eye, and decisively frowned me away. (*)
The three of us decided not to wait, which was just as well, for it
was nearly six o'clock before the other two broke up their talk and
joined us. They appeared to be on excellent terms. Matthew in rather
better spirits, I thought, than he had been lately; Landis inclined to
be quietly reflective.
We let the children have their supper first, and get along to bed.
Then, when we sat down to our meal there was a chance to talk. Mary
opened up with:
`Well, you two certainly did have a session. I do hope Matthew
wasn't too tedious.'
Landis regarded her for a moment, and shook his head.
`Tedious!' he repeated. `Oh, no. I assure you he wasn't that.' He
turned to me. `You know, you didn't tell me the half of it,' he said,
with a touch of reproof.
`I don't suppose I know half of it,' I replied. `I told you most of
what I do know, but to find out more I'd have had to press him for it. I
thought that might be unwise - I'm not so old as to have forgotten how
intrusive one's parents' interest can seem. That's why I asked you to
come. Quite apart from your professional experience, I hoped he'd feel
freer to talk to you. Apparently he did.'
`He did indeed,' Landis nodded. `Yes, I think you probably were
wise not to push him - though it meant that I felt a bit ill-briefed to
start with. I found him more puzzled and more in need of someone to talk
about it than you had led me to expect. However, he's got a lot of it
off his chest (*) now, and I think he'll be feeling the better for
that, at least.'
He paused a moment, and then turned to Mary
`Tell me, Mrs Gore, normally - that is to say before this Chocky
business set in - would you have called him a highly imaginative boy?'
`I don't think so,' she said. `As a little boy, he was very
suggestible. I mean, he was always afraid of dark rooms - but that's not
quite the same thing, is it? No, I'd not say he was highly imaginative -
`An open mind is a difficult thing to keep. I must admit that from
what David told me I rather suspected he might be an imaginative child
who had been rea ding too much fantastic stuff - to a point where he was
having difficulty in distinguishing it from reality. That set me on the
`He must have read some. They all do,' I put in, `but his taste in
fiction really runs more to simple adventure stories.'
`Yes, I got on to that fairly soon. So I changed my line of thought
... and then had to change it again.'
For quite a long pause he toyed with the cold meat on his pate
until Mary became impatient.
`But what do you think it is now?' she asked.
Landis delayed another moment or two before he looked up. When he
did so, he stared at the opposite wall with a curiously far away
`After all,' he said, `you are not consulting me professionally. If
you were, I would say it is a complex case needing more than a short
examination can reveal: I would try to escape a direct and clear answer.
But I a nm going to be unprofessional. I am goIng to confess that I
He broke off, and fiddled with his knife Mary's eyes met mine We
`I don't understand it,' Landis repeated. ,`I know what it looks
like - but that's sheer nonsense...'
He broke off again.
`What does it look like?' I prompted, a little sharply.
He hesitated, and then drew a breath.
`More than anything I've ever come across it resembles what our
unscientific ancestors used to consider a case of "possession" They
would have claimed quite simply that this Chocky is a wandering spirit
which has invaded Matthew.'
There was a silence. I broke it.'
`But being, as you said, nonsense...?'
`I don't know... One must be careful not to be as dogmatic in our
way as our ancestors were in theirs. It's easy to over-simplify - that
is just what Matthew himself is doing when he says he "talks to", or "is
talked to", by this Chocky. The ancestors would say he "hears voices"'
but that is only a manner of speaking. Matthew only uses the word
"talks" because he has no word for what he really means When he
"listens" to Chocky there are no words: he is not really hearing sounds
at all. When he replies he doesn't need to use words - he sometimes
does, particularly when he is feeling worked up, but he does it because
it is his natural way of expressing his emotions, not because it is
necessary. Therefore his "hearing" a voice is a metaphorical expression
- but the conversations he holds with this imagined voice are not
metaphorical. They are quite real.'
Mary was frowning.
`You'll have to explain that more,' she said.
`Well, for one thing, it is quite indisputable that there is some
kind of second intelligence somehow involved,' Landis said. `Just think
back to some of the questions he has been asking, and the things he has
said to you and David. We're satisfied he did not invent them himself;
that's why I am here at all, but wasn't it characteristic of all of them
that they were naively, sometimes childishly expressed?'
`After all, he's not quite twelve,' Mary pointed out.
`Exactly, and in fact he has an unusually good vocabulary, for a
child of his age - but it isn't adequate to express clearly the
questions he wants to ask. He knows what he wants to ask, and often
understands quite well what he wants to tell His chief difficulty is in
finding the words to make the ideas clear.
`Now if he were passing on questions he had heard, he wouldn't have
that particular difficulty. He'd simply repeat the words, whether he had
understood them, or not. or if he'd read the questions in a book he'd
know the words. In either case he'd be using the words he needs instead
of having this trouble with the limits of his vocabulary.
`It follows, therefore, that he did not, in the ordinary sense,
hear these questions, nor rea d them; yet he understand what he is
trying to ask. So - how did the quest ions get into his head without the
words necessary to carry them there? - And that really is quite a
`But is it - any more than it always is?' Mary said.
Words are only names for ideas. Everybody gets ideas.
They have to come into minds from somewhere before they can be given
I knew the pitch of her voice. Something - possibly, I suspected
Landis's use of the word `possession' - bad made her antagonistic.
Landis went on:
`Take his use of the binary code. If anyone ha d shown him, or if
he had seen it in a book, the odds are that the symbols used would have
been ought and one, or plus and minus, or possibly x and y, and he would
naturally have used the same symbols himself. But the way he got them
appeared to him simply as an affirmative and negative, so he
conveniently abbreviated them to Y and N.'
`But,' Mary objected, `if, as you say, there aren't any words so
that he isn't listening when he seems to be, what is going on? I mean,
why this idea of this Chocky who "talks" at all?'
`Oh, Chocky exists all right. Naturally, I looked at first for some
personification of his subconscious, however I was sure quite soon that
it wasn't that. But where Chocky exists, and what she is, beats me
completely at present - and it beats Matthew, too.'
That was not what Mary had hoped to hear. She said:
`I can understand that for him she exists. She's quite real to him:
that's why we've been playing up to it, but...' Land is cut her short:
`Oh, Chocky has a much more definite existence than that. I am
quite sure that whatever she is, she is more than his own invention.
Consider the car incident. Now, no boy of Matthew's age would dream for
a moment of calling a brand new model of a modern car old_fashioned.,He
thinks it's wonderful. Matthew himself was proud and anxious to show it
off. But, according to your account, what happened was exactly what
would have happened if another child - or anyone else, for that matter -
had been scornful of it - except that no other child, nor his
subconscious, would have able to explain how it ought to be radically
`And here's another thing he told me this afternoon, though he
couldn't quite get the concept. It was a kind of power. It seemed to him
something like electricity, but he knew that it was really quite
different... Anyway, with this source of energy which can be picked up
from space radiations and converted to operate motors, there is no
question of running out of power - but there Matthew lost the idea among
ideas that were quite beyond his grasp As he put it to nne: "She kept on
going on, but it didn't mean anything. It wouldn't turn into proper
Landis paused. Then he added:
`Now, that again, I'm quite satisfied, did not come out of books.
It could have done, but it didn't.'
`Why?' Mary demanded.
`Because If there had been some slips caused by misunderstandIngs,
or by Inventions of hIs own which did not fit wIth the rest, there'd
stIll be the chance that be's reconstructed it out of things he's read.
As it is, he freely admits he couldn't understand a lot of it, and it
appears that for the rest he's doing an honest job of reporting.'
`Very well,' I saId. `And - what's to be done about all it?'
Landis shook his head again.
`At present I've, quite frankly, no idea. At the moment I can't see
- quIte unscientIfically can't see - I don't know what's got into him. I
wIsh I did. Something has.'
Mary got up from the table abruptly and decisIvely We loaded the
dishes on to the trolley, and she pushed it out. A few minutes later she
came back with coffee. As she poured it out she said to Landis:
`So what It amounts to is that all you have to tell us is that you
can't see any way of helping Matthew, is that it?'
Landis's brow furrowed.
`Helping him?' he repeated. 'I don't know. I'm not even sure that
he needs help. His chief need at the moment seems to be for someone he
can talk to about this Chocky. He doesn't particularly like her in fact
she frequently irritates hIm, but she does supply him with a great deal
that Interests hIm. In fact, it doesn't seem to be so much Chocky's
existence that troubles him, as his own selfdefensive instinct to keep
her exIstence hidden - and in that he's wise. UntIl now you two have
been his any safety-valves. His sister might have been another, but she
appears to have et him down.' (*)
Mary stirred her coffee, gazing at it with abstraction. Then,
makIng up her mind, she said forthrighty:
`Now you're talking as if this Chocky really exists. Let's get this
straight. (*) Chocky is an invention of Matthew's. It is simply a name
for an imagined companion - just as Polly's Piff was, isn't it?'
Landis considered her for a moment before he replied:
`I'm afraid I have not made myself clear,' he said.
Any resemblance between Chocky and Piff is quite super-
ficial. I would like to believe what you wish to believe - and what my
training tells me I should believe - that the whole thing is subjective.
That Chocky is a child's invention, like Piff - an invention of
Matthew's own which has got out of hand. (*) But I can only do that by
ignoring the facts to suit what I have been taught; Chocky is, in some
way I don't understand, objective - she comes from outside, not from
inside. On the other hand I'm not credulous enough to accept the old
idea of "possession", although it fits the evidence much better , He
broke off in thought for some seconds, and then shook his head:
`No. That's not so, either "possession" meant what it said:
domination. This is not. It is much more like a working arrangement...'
`What on earth do you mean by that?' Mary demanded.
The sharpness of her voice told me that any confidence she may have
had in Landis had disappeared entirely. Landis himself seemed not to
notice it. His reply was unruffled:
`You will remember that when he was ill he told Chocky to shut up
and go away - which, with your added persuasion she apparently did. She
seems to have done the same after she had reduced him to speechless
anger over the car. He rejected her. She does not dominate...
`I asked him about that. He told me that when she first started to
"talk" to him she would do it any time. It might be when he was in
class, or doing his homework, or at mealtimes, or, quite often at night.
`So, he tells me, he simply refused to co-operate unless she would
come only at times when he could give her his full attention.
`And notice, too, how practical this was. No element of fantasy at
all. Simply a boy laying it down . that hiS friend should visit him only
at convenient times. And the friend apparently willing to accept the
conditions he offered.'
Mary was not impressed. Indeed, I was doubtful whether she
listened. She said impatiently..
`I don't understand this. When the Chocky business began David and
I thought it would be unwise to try to suppress it. We assumed that it
would soon pass. We were wrong: it seemed to take a firmer hold. I
became uneasy. One doesn't have to be a psychologist to know the result
of a fantasy gaining the same validity as reality. I agreed to David
asking you to come because I thought you would suggest some course we
could take which would rid Matthew of his fantasy Without harming him.
Instead, you seem to have spent the day encouraging him in it - and to
have become infected with it yourself. I am not able to feel that this
is doing much good to Matthew, or to anyone.'
Landis looked as if he were about to make a sharp answer but he
checked the impulse.
`The first requirement,' he said, `is to understand the condition.
In order to do that it is necessary to gain his confidence.'
`That is quite obvious,' Mary told him, `and I understand perfectly
well that while you were with Matthew it was necessary for you to seem
to accept the reality of this Chocky - we've been doing the same for
weeks. What I do not understand is why you keep it up when Matthew is no
Landis asked patiently:
`But Mrs Gore, consider the questions he has been putting and the
things he has been saying. Don't they seem to you odd - intelligently
odd - but quite out of his usual key?' (*)
`Of course they do,' she replied sharply. `But boys read all kinds
of things: one expects it. And it's no surprise that what they pick up
makes them ask questions. What is disturbing us is the way he twists all
hiS natural curiosity into support for this Chocky fantasy. Can't you
see, I'm afraid of it becoming a permanent obsession? What I want to
know is simply the best way of stopping that from happening.'
Landis attempted once more to explain why in. His view Chocky could
not be considered as a simple fantasy, but Mary had now worked herself
into a mood where she obstinate1y refused to accept any of his points. I
wished very strongly that he had not made that reference to
"posssesion". It seemed to me an error of a kind one did not expect from
a psychologist - and once it had been made the damage was done.
There was nothing for me to do but sit by and watch them
consolidate their opposition.
It was a relief to all of us when Landis at last decided to give it
up, and leave.
I found the situation awkward. I could follow Landis's reasoning -
though I would be hanged if I could see where it was leading him - but I
also had some sympathy for Mary's impatience. Landis, however
unseriously he may have intended it, had, for a psychiatrist, made a bad
psychological error. It would have been better, in my opinion, for him
not to have referred to ancient beliefs at all; particularly, he should
not have used the word `possession' Moreover, as much as what he said,
his unhurried, detached, analytical attitude to the problem ha d
irritated her. Her concern was immediate. There was something wrong with
Matthew, and she wanted to put it right without delay She had looked to
Landis for advice on how that could best be done: what she had got was a
dissertation on an interesting case, the more disquieting because of his
admission that it baffled him. By the time he left she had been giving
an impression of regarding him as little better than a charlatan. An
unfortunate, and unfruitful occasion.
When I got home the following evening she had an abstracted air.
After we had cleared the table and packed the children off upstairs
there was an atmosphere that I recognized. Some kind of prepared
statement, a little uncertain of its reception, was on its way. Mary sat
down, a little more upright than usual, and addressed herself to the
empty grate rather than to me. With a slightly challenging manner she
`I went to see Dr Aycott today ,
`Oh,' I said. `Something wrong?'
`About Matthew', she added.
I looked at her.
`You didn't take Matthew to him?'
`No.' She shook her head. `I thought of doing that, but decided
`I'm glad,' I told her. `I rather think Matthew had regarded that
as a breach of confidence. It might be better if he doesn't . know ,
`Yes,' she agreed, rather definitely
`As I've said before,' I remarked, `I've nothing against Aycott as
a cut-stitcher and meases-spotter, but I don't fee this kind of thing is
up his street.' (*)
`You're right. It certainly isn't,' Mary agreed. She went on: `Mind
you, I didn't really expect that be. I did my best to tell him how
things are. He not very patiently and seemed a bit piqued that brought
Matthew himself along. I tried to explain to old fool that I wasn't
asking for an opinion then and all I wanted was a recommendation to a
`From which I gather that what you got was an opinion?'
She nodded, with a wry expression.
`Oh, yes indeed. All Matthew needs is plenty of exercise, a cold
bath in the morning, plenty of good plain seasoned food, lots of salads,
and the window open at night,' she told me gloomily
`And no specialists?'
`No. No need for that. Growing is often more than we realize, but a
healthy life, and Nature, the great healer, will soon correct any
`I'm sorry, I said.
There was a pause. It was Mary who broke it:
`David we must help him somehow.'
`Darling, I know you didn't take to Landis, but he quite highly
thought of, you know. He wouldn't say he's doubtful whether Matthew
really needs help if he didn't mean it. We're both worried, but simply
because we don't understand: we're really no reason to think that this
thing is unusual it is therefore harmful. I feel quite sure that if
Landis had seen cause for alarm he'd have told us so.'
`I don't suppose he felt any. Matthew isn't his boy He's just an
unusual, rather puzzling case: quite interesting now, but if he became
normal again he'd no longer be interesting.'
`Darling, that's a dreadful thing to imply. Besides, you knOW,
Matthew isn't abnormal: he's perfectly normal, but plus something -
which is quite different.'
Mary gave me the look she keeps for hair-splitting, (*) and some
other forms of tiresomeness.
`But it is different,' I insisted. `There is an essential
She cut that short ruthlessly.
`I don't care about that,' she saId. `All I want Is for hIm to be
normally normal, not plus or minus anything. I just want hIm to be
I decIded to leave It there, for the time being. Except for hIs
occasional fIts of frustratIon - ad what child doesn't have those, one
way or another? - Matthew did not seem to me to be unhappy.
The question of what was to be done remained, however. For my part,
I favoured further contact with Landis: Matthew clearly felt able to
confide In him, aud he was undoubtedly Interested by Matthew But, with
Mary turned agaInst Landis, such a course would be in dIrect oppositIon
to her wIshes - only a highly critical situation could juStify that And
crisis and urgency were qualitIes that the Chocky affair appeared to
So, for the present, as on several. We attempted to console
ourselves previous occasions we attempted to console ourselves
recollectIons of the way In whIch Polly had suddenly expelled PIff from
In the meantime, however, I did suggest to Matthew that as Mummy
dId not seem to care a lot for Chocky, it might not be a bad idea to
keep her rather in the background for. a bit...
We heard very lIttle of Chocky for about a fortnight after that.
Indeed, I began to have hopes that she was leaving us. But they were
only slender hopes, and soon to be nipped. (*)
One evenIng as I was reaching for the televisIon switch Mary
stopped me. `Just a minute,' she saId. She got up and went across to her
bureau. When she came back she was hold several sheets of paper, the
largest about sixteen inches by twelve. She handed them to me without a
word, and went back to her chair.
I looked at the papers. Some of the smaller ones were pencil
sketches, the larger ones were paintings in watercolour. Rather odd
paintings. The first two were lardscapes, with a few figures. The scenes
were undoubtedly local, and vaguely familiar, though I could not
positively identify the viewpoints. The first thing that struck me was
the figures, they were treated with an individuality of style that was
quite constant: cows, and sheep, too, had a rectangular and lean look;
human beings appeared as a half-way compromise between the real thing
and stickmen, noticeably lacking in bulk and surprisingly angular. But
despite that there was life and movement in them.
The drawing was firm and confident, the colouring somewhat sobmre;
it gave an impression of being much concerned with subtle shades of
green. I know next to nothing of painting, but they gave me a feeling
that the sureness of line, and the economy with which effects ha d been
achieved showed considerable accomplishment.
The next two were still-lifes: a vase of flowers, not seen as a
botanist would see them, but, nevertheless, recognizably roses; and a
bowl of red things, which were undoubtedly strawberries.
Following these ca me a view through a win dow. Th is I was able to
recognize. It showed a corner of a school playground, with a number of
figures there that were active, but, again, long-legged.
Then there were a couple of portraits. One of a man with a long
rather severely-planed face. I - well, I cannot say I recognized it, but
there was something about the ha irline which seemed to imply that it
was intended for myselfthough to my mind my eyes do not in the least
resemble traffic go-lights. The other portrait was of a woman; not Mary
nor anyone I could identify.
After I had studied the pictures I laid them down on my knees, and
looked across at Mary. She simply nodded.
`You understand this kind of thing better than I do. Would you call
them good?' I asked.
`I think so. They're odd, but there's life and movement in them,
perception, a feeling of confidence...' She stopped and then added: `It
was accidental. I was clearing his room. They'd fallen behind the chest
of drawers ...'
`Perhaps one of the children in his class - or his artteacher?' (*)
Mary shook her head.
`Those aren't hers. I've seen some of Miss Soames' stuff: her
style's a bit on the niggly side. (*) Besides, the last one is her - not
very flattering, either.
I looked through the pictures once more, reconsidering the mn. They
grew on one, once the first strangeness ha d worn off. (*)
`You could put them back there tomorrow, and just say nothing,' I
Mary smoothed her knitting, and pulled it to get the rows straight.
`I could ... but they'd go on worrying me. I'd rather he told us
about them ...'
I looked at the second landscape, and suddenly recognized the
scene, knew the exact bend in the river which gave it.
`Darling,' I said. `I'm afraid you won't like it.'
`I've not liked any of it. I didn't like it even before that friend
of yours started talking about ``possession" But I'd rather know than be
left guessing. After all, it is just possible that someone did give them
Her expression told me that she meant what she said. I did not
object further, but it was with a feeling that the whole thing was now
entering upon a new phase that I agreed. I took her hand, and pressed
`All right,' I said. `He'll scarcely be in bed yet.' And I put my
head into the hall, and called upstairs. Then I spread the pictures out
on the floor.
Matthew arrived in his dressing-gown, pink, tousleheaded, and fresh
from the bath. He stopped abruptly at the sight of the pictures. Then
his eyes went to Mary's face, uneasily.
`I say, Matthew, I said, as chattily as I could, `Mummy happened to
come across these when she was clearing your room. They'd slipped down
behind the chest of drawers.'
`Oh,' said Matthew. `That's where they went.'
`They're very interesting, and we think they're rather good. Are
Matthew hesitated, then:
`Yes,' he said, a little too defiantly.
`What I mean is,' I explained, `did you paint them?' This time his
`yes' had a defensive touch.
`H'm... They aren't much like your usual style, are they? I should
have thought you'd got higher marks for these than you usually do in
Art,' I suggested.
Matthew shuffled a little.
`These ones aren't Art. They're private,' he told me.
I looked at one of the landscapes again.
`You seem to be seeing things in quite a different way.' I
`Yes,' Matthew agreed. Hopefully he added: `I expect it's something
to do with growing up.
His eyes pleaded with me. After all, it was I who had advised him
to be discreet.
`It's quite all right, Matthew. We're only interested to know who
really did them.'
Matthew hesitated. He darted an unhappy glance at Mary, hooked down
at the carpet in front of him, aud traced one of the patterns there with
`I did,' he told us, but then his resolution appeared to weaken. He
qualified: `I mean - sort of - well, I did do them ...'
He looked so miserable and confused that I was reluctant to press
him further. It was Mary who came to his rescue. She put an arm round
`It doesn't really matter a bit, darling. It's just, that we were
so interested in them, we wanted to know. She reached down and picked up
a painting. `This view. Ht's very clever. I think it's very good - bunt
it's rather strange. Did it really look like that to you?'
Matthew stayed dumb for some seconds, then halfblurting he told
`I did do them, Mummy, really I did. Why they look sort of funny is
because that's how Chocky sees things.'
He turned an anxious look on her, but Mary's face showed only
`Tell us about it, darling,' she encouraged him.
Matthew looked relieved. He sighed.
`It happened one day after Art,' he explained. `I don't seer to be
much good at Art,' he added, regretfully
Miss Soames said what I had done was hopeless. And
Chocky thought it was pretty bad, too. So I said I did try but it never
seemed to come out at all right, and Chocky said that was because I
didn't look at things properly. So I said I didn't see what `"properly"
meant; yoU either see things, or you don"t. And she said no, it wasn't
like that because your can look at things without seeing them, if you
don't do it properly. And we argued a bit about that because it didn't
`So in the end she said what about trying an experiment - me doing
the drawing, and her doing the seeing? I didn't see how that could work,
but she said she thought it was worth trying. So we did
`I couldn't do it at first because I couldn't think of nothing. The
first time you try it's awfully hard to think of nothing you sort of
keep on thinking of rot thinking of anything, but that isn't the same at
all, so it doesn't work. But that's what Chocky said: just sit and hold
a pencil and think of nothing. I got pretty fed up with trying, but she
kept on wanting to have another try. And, well about the fourth time we
tried I half managed it for a minute or two. After that it got easier,
and then when we'd practised a bit more it got quite easy. So now I've
only got to sit down with the paints and - well, sort of switch-off me,
and the picture comes - only the way it comes is the way Chocky sees it,
not the way I do.'
I could see Mary's fingers fidgeting, but her mask of impersonal
interest remained unaltered. I said:
`I think I understand what you mean, Matthew. You sort of hand over
to Chocky, But I should think that feels a bit funny, doesn't it?'
`Only the first time or two. Them I felt a bit like - well, no
brakes. But after that it gets more like. He paused for some moments
searching with furrowed brOW for a simile. His expression cleared
shightly. `... it gets more like riding a bicycle, no hands.' He frowned
again, and amended: `Only not quite, because it's Chocky doing the
steering, not me - sort of difficult to explain,' he added
I could appreciate that it would be. To give Mary some reassurance
`I suppose it doesn't ever happen when you don't want it to? By
accident, I mean?'
Matthew shook his head emphatically
`Oh no. I have to make it happen by thinking of nothing. Only now I
don't have to keep on thinking of nothing all the time it's happening.
The last few times I could watch my bands doing the pictures - so ahh
the real doing them is mine. It's just the seeing wwhat to do that
`Yes, dear,' Mary said. `We understand thmat, but ...' she
hesitated, searching for a gentle way to make her point,
... but do you think it is a good thing to do?'
Matthew glanced at the pictures.
`I think so, Mummy. They're much better pictures than I do when
they're all mine - even if they do look a bit funny,' he admitted
`That wasn't quite what I, Mary began. Then she changed her mind,
and looked.at the clock.
`It's getting late,' she said, with a glance at me.
`That's right. It is,' I backed her up. `But just before you go,
Matthew, have you shown these to anyone else?'
`Well, not really shown,' he said. `Miss Soames came in one day
just after I'd done that one.' He pointed to the view of the play-ground
through the window. `She said whose was it, which was a bit awkward
because I couldn't pretend it was anyone else's, so I had to say it was
mine, and she looked at me, the way people do when they don't believe
you. Then she looked at the picture, and then back again at me. "All
right," she said, "let's see you do a - a racing car, at speed." So then
I had to explain that I couldn't do things that I couldn't see - I meant
that Chocky couldn't see for me, but I couldn't tel her that. And she
looked at me hard again, and said: "Very well, what about the view
through the other window?"
`So I turned the easel round, and did that. She.took it off the
board and stared at it for a kong time, then she looked at me very
queerly, and said did I mind if she kept it? I couldn't very well say I
did, so I said no, and, please, could I go now? And she nodded, and went
on staring at it.'
`It's funny she said nothing about it in your report,' I told him.
`Oh, it was right at the end of term; after reports,' he explained.
I felt a premonitory twinge of misgiving, but there was nothing to
be done about it. Besides, it was, as Mary had said, getting late.
`Well, time you were off to bed now, (*) Matthew,' I said. `Thanks
for telling us about the pictures. May we keep them down here a bit so
that we can look at them again?'
`All right, but please don't lose them,' he agreed. His eye fell on
the famine-victim portrait. `That isn't a bit like you, Daddy. It really
isn't,' he assured me. Then he said his good-nights, and ran away
We sat and looked at one another
Mary's eyes slowly brimmed with tears.
`Oh, David. He was such a lovely little boy ...'
Later when she was calmer she said:
`I'm afraid for him, David. This - this whatever it is, is getting
more real to him. He's beginning to let it take control of him ... I'm
afraid for him ...'
I shook my head.
`I'm sure you've got it wrong. It Isn't like that, you know. He was
pretty emphatic that he is the one who decides when and whether it shall
happen at all,' I pointed out
`Naturally he'd think that,' she said..
I looked in on him on my way to bed. He was asleep, with the light
still on. A book he had been reading lay as it had dropped from his
hands, face down on his chest. I read the title, then bent a little
closer to make sure I had read aright. It was my copy of Lewis Mumford's
Living in cities. (*) I picked it up, and in doing so woke Matthew.
`I don't wonder you fell asleep. A bit heavy for bed time reading,
`Pretty boring,' he acknowledged. `But Chocky thinks it's
interesting - the parts of it I can understand for her.'
`Oh,' I said. `Well ... well, time to go to sleep now. Goodnight,
For our holiday that summer we took a cottage jointly with Alan and
Phyl Froome. They had married a couple of years after we did, and had
two children, Emma and Paul, much of an age with our own. (*) It was an
arrangement, we thought, which would give the adults opportunities to
go off duty for a bit, and have some holiday themselves.
The place was Bontgoch, a village on an estuary in North Wales,
where I bad enjoyed several holidays in my own childhood. It was an
ideal place for boating, and now it even had a painted-up shed with a
bar at one end the Yacht Club.
We did not have a boat, but we still enjoyed the place. The sands
are still there for children to dabble around On at low tide and catch
shrimps and flat fish. So, too, on both sides of the estuary are the
not-too-steep mountains on which one can climb and explore the pockings
of old workings that are known to have been gold mines. It was good to
be able to go off in the car for the day and leave Phyl and Alan in
charge of the children - and quite good, too, to take charge when it was
their turn for freedom. Everything was, in fact, a great success until
the Monday of the second week ...
On that day it was Mary and I who were free. We drove almost off
the map (*) by very minor roads, heft the car, walked along a hillside
amd picnicked by a stream with the whole Irish Sea spread out below us.
In the evening we had a good dinner at a roadside hotel and dawdled
back to Bontgoch about ten o'clock. We paused a moment by thc gate to
admire the serenity of a superb sunset, and then went up the path.
One had only to set foot on the threshold of the cottage to know
that something had gone wrong. Mary sensed it at once. She stared at
`What is it?' she said. `What's happened?'
`Its all right, Mary. It's quite all right,' Phyl said.
`They're perfectly safe and sound. Both upstairs in bed now.
Nothing to worry about.'
`What happened?' Mary said again.
`They fell in the river. But they're quite all right.'
She and Mary went upstairs. Alan reached for a bottle and poured a
couple of whiskies.
`What's been going on?' I said as he held a glass towards me.
`It's quite all right now, as Phyl said,' he assured me.
Near thing, (*) though. Shook us to our foundations, I can tell
you. Not stopped sweating yet.' He pressed a handkerchief to his brow
as if in evidence, said `Cheers', * and downed half is glass.
I looked at him, and looked at the bottle. It bad been untouched
that morning, now it was three-quarters empty.
`But what happened?' I insisted.
He put down lis glass, shook his head, and expolained:
`Pure accident, old man. They were all four of them playing around
on that rickety landing stage. The tide was a bit past the turn, (*) and
running out fast. That hulking motor-boat of Bill Weston's was moored
about fifty yards up-stream. According to old Evans who saw the whole
thing its mooring line must have broken. The boat hit the landing-stage
at full speed, and the far end of the damned thIng collapsed. My two
happened to be standIng back a bit, so they were only knocked down, but
your two went straight into the water...'
He paused, exasperatingly. But for the repeated assur - ances (*)
that they were quite all right I could have shaken him. He took another
swig at his glass.
`Well, you know how fast water runs at the ebb-time. They were
yards away in a few seconds. At first Evans thought they were done for
then he saw Matthew strike out towards Polly He didn't see any more
because he started running off to. the Yacht Club to give the alarm.
`It was Colonel Summers who went after them, but eve with that fast
motor-boat of his they were well over a mi 1e downstream before he could
find them. Matthew was still supporting Polly.
`The Colonel was tremendously impressed. He says that if he ever
saw anything that deserved a medal, that did; and he's going to make
sure Matthew gets one. (*)
`We were i here when it happened. My two never thought to tell us
until they ha d seen the Colonel's boat chase off after them. Not that
we could have done anything. But lord-oh-lord, waiting for him to come
back ... I hope I never have to spend an hour like that again ...'
`Anyway, it came out all right, thank God - and thanks to young
Matthew. There's no doubt at all your Polly'd have been done for, but
for him. Damn good show, and if the Colonel needs any backing for that
medal idea, he'll certainly get mine. Matthew deserves it.'
Alan finished off his drink at a gulp, and reached for the bottle
I finished nine, too. I felt I needed it.
Everybody ought to be able to swim. It had worried me at times for
the last year or two that Matthew could never succeed in swimming more
than three consecutive strokes ...
I was shushed away from the room Polly was sharing with young Emma.
`She's fast asleep,' Mary told me. `She's got a nasty bruise on her
right shoulder. We think she must have hit the boot os she fell.
Otherwise she seems only tired out. Oh, David...'
`It's all right, darling. It's over now.'
`Yes, thank God. Phyl told me all about it. But, David, how did
Matthew do it ...?'
I looked in on Matthew. The light was still on. He was lying on his
back storing at the lamp. I had time to catch his worried look before he
turned his head and saw me.
`Hullo, Daddy,' he said.
Momentarily he looked pleased, and relieved, but the anxious
expression soon came back.
`Hullo, Matthew. How are you feeling?' I asked.
`All right,' he told me. `We got jolly cold, but Auntie Phyl made
us have a hot bath.'
I nodded. He certainly looked all right now.
`I've been hearing great things about you, Matthew,' I told him.
He looked more worried now. His eyes dropped, and his fingers began
twisting at the sheet.
`It's not true, Daddy,' he said, with great earnestness.
`It did rather make me wonder,' I admitted. `A few days ago you
`I know, Daddy, but ...' Again he twisted at the sheet.
... but Chocky can ...' he finished, looking up at me un-
I tried to show nothing but sympathetic interest.
`Tell me about it,' I suggested.
Matthew looked a little relieved.
`Well, it all happened terribly quickly. I saw the boat just going
to hit, and then I was in the water. tried to swim, but I was awfully
frightened because I knew it would be no good, and I thought I was going
to be drowned. Then Chocky told me not to be a fool, and not to panic.
She was sort of fierce. She sounded rather like Mr Caffer when he gets
angry in class, only more. I've never known her get like that before,
and I was so surprised that I stopped panicking. Then she said: "Now
think of nothing, like you do witk painting." So I tried. And tlen I was
swimmming ...' He frowned. `I don't know how, but somehow she showed my
arms and legs the way to swim, just like she makes my hands go the right
way to draw. So, you see, it was really her, not me, that did it, Daddy.
'I see,' I said. It was a memorable overstatement. (*) Matthew
`You, and lots of other people, have shown me how to swim, Daddy,
and I tried, but it kept on not happening until Chocky did it.'
'I see,' I lied again. I reflected for some moments while Matthew
watched my face attentively.
'I see,' I said once more, and nodded. `So, of course once you
found you could swim, you struck out for the shore?'
Matthew's attentive look turned to an incredulous stare. (*)
'But I couldn't do that. There was Polly. She'd fallen in, too.'
I nodded again.
'Yes,' I said. `There was Polly, too - that does rather seem to me
to be the point...'
Matthew considered. I think he went back to those first frightened
moments in the water, for he shuddered slightly. Then his face took a
look of determination.
'But it was Chocky who did it,' he asserted, obstinately.
The next morning Alan and I sat in the sun, waiting for the call to
'What surprises me,' Alan said presently, `is how did he do it?"
According to the Colonel he was still supporting her when the boat came
up with them. Nearly a mile and a half, he reckons, in that fast ebb.
Matthew was tired, he says, but not exhausted. And only a couple of days
ago he was telling me, as if he were ashamed of it, too, that he
couldn't swim ... I tried to teach him, but he didn't have the knack. '
'It's quite true. He couldn't,' I told him, and then, since he knew
already about the Chocky problem and been responsible for bringing
Landis into it, I gave him Matthew's version of the affair. He looked at
'But - well, and no disrespect to Matthew - but do you believe
'I believe that Matthew believes it - and how else can one explain
it? Besides ...' I told him about the pictures. He'd not heard of them
before. `They, somehow, make it not quite as difficult to accept, or
half-accept,' I said.
Alan, became thoughtful. He lit a cigarette, and sat silently
smoking it, gazing out across the estuary. At last he said:
'If this is what it seems to be-and I can see that it's difficult
to explain it any other way. it opens up a whole new phase of this
'That's what we thought,' I acknowledged. `And poor Mary's not at
all happy about it. She's afraid for him.'
Alan shook his head.
'I can't see that she needs to be. After all, whether Chocky exists
or not, it is because Matthew believes she does that your two are alive
today. Does Mary realize that? It ought to help her a bit.'
'It ought,' I agreed. `But - oh, I don't know - why do people
always find it easier to believe in evil spirits than in good ones?'
Matthew was late for lunch. I went in search of him, and found him
sitting on the remains of the wrecked jetty, talking to a good-looking,
fair.haired young man I did not remember seeing before. Matthew looked
up as I approached.
'Hullo, Daddy - oh, is it late?'
'It is,' I told him.
The young man got up, politely.
'I'm sorry, sir. I'm afraid it's my fault f@r keeping him. I should
have thought. I was just asking him about his feat: he's quite a local
hero, you know, after yesterday.'
'Maybe,' I said, 'but he still has to eat. Come along now, Matthew.
'Goodbye,' Matthew said to the young man, and we turned back to the
`Who was that?' I asked.
'Just a man,' said Matthew. 'He wanted to know how Polly is after
yesterday. He said he's got a little girl just like her, so he was
It did just cross my mind that the stranger looked a little young
to be a family man with ten or eleven year old child, but then you never
know nowadays, and by the time lunch was finished I had forgotten about
During the next few days Matthew developed such a passion for
swimming that he could scarcely be kept away from the water.
Then the holiday was over. Colonel Summers dropped in on the last
evening for a drink, and to assure me that he had already written to The
Royal Swimming Society commending Matthew.
'Plucky youngster of yours. Good reason to be proud of him. Could
just as easily have looked after himself only: many would. Funny thing
his pretending he couldn't swim; unaccountable things, boys. Never mind.
Damned good show! And good luck to him.'
The following Monday evening I got home late and tired after a busy
day catching up with the accumulation of work at the office. I was
vaguely aware that Mary was a little distrait, but she had the tact to
keep the cause to herself until I had eaten my supper. Then she produced
a newspaper, much folded for post, and handed it to me.
'Came this afternoon,' she said. `Front page.' Her expression as
she watched me unfold it and read MERIONETH MERCURY across the top was
'Further down,' she said.
I looked at the lower half of the page and saw a photograph of
Matthew looking back at me. Not at all a bad photograph either. I looked
at the headline to the story beside it. It said: BOY-HERO TELLS OF
'GUARDIAN ANGEL' RESCUE. (*) My heart sank a little. I read on:
'Matthew Gore (12) of Hindmere, Surrey, on holiday at Bontgoch has
been nominated to receive a medal for his bravery in saving his sister
Polly (10) from drowning in the estuary at Bontgoch last Monday.
'Matthew and his sister were playing on a light wooden jetty not
far from the Bontgoch Yacht Club when a motor-cruiser belonging to Mr
William Weston, a local resident, was torn from its moorings by the
force of the ebb tide, and crashed into the jetty, demolishing ten feet
of it, and hurling both children into the swirling current.
'Matthew immediately struck out, and, seizing his sister, supported
her head above water as the flood bore them away. The alarm was given by
Mr Evan Evans, a familiar figure in Bontgoch, whereupon Colonel Summers,
a well-known local resident, hastened to the scene and lost no time in
giving chase in his motor-cruiser.
'Colonel Summers was compelled to pursue the two children nearly
two miles down the treacherous waters of the estuary before he was able
to manoeuvre his boat alongside them so that they could be safely
'Said the Colonel: "Matthew undoubtedly saved his sister's life at
the risk of his own. England could do with more boys like him."'(*)
'Most astounding fact of all: Matthew did not known he could swim.
'Interviewed by our reporter he modestly denied any claims to
heroism. "Polly could not swim, and when I found I could, the obvious
thing was to help her," he said. Questioned about this, he told our
reporter that he had taken swimming lessons, but had never been able to
learn to swim. "When I was suddenly throw into the water I was
terrified," he acknowledged, "but then I heard a voice telling me to
keep calm, and how to move my arms and legs. So I did as it said, and
found I could swim."
'There seems to be no doubt that Matthew is telling the truth. Our
reporter was unable to find anyone who had seen him swimming before
that, and it was generally thought that he could not swim.
'Asked if he was not astonished to hear a voice speaking to him, he
replied that he had often heard it before, and so did not find it very
'When our reporter suggested that it could be the voice of his
Guardian Angel, he admitted that it might be that.'
I looked up at Mary. She shook her head slowly. I shrugged,
'Shall we ...?' I began to suggest.
Mary shook her head again.
'He'll be fast asleep by now. Besides, what's the point? It's done
'It's only a local paper,' I said. `But how on earth...?' Then I
remembered the young man who had been talking to Matthew on the shore...
'They know we live in Hindmere,' Mary painted out. 'They've only
got to look in the telephone directory.'
I was determined to be hopeful.
'Why should they bother? It reads like a pretty phoney sensation
worked up by a local reporter, anyway.'
il don't think either of us was quite certain just then whom we
meant by this `they', but it did not take long for me to discover that I
was underestimating the abilities of press-reporters.
I have fallen into the bad habit of switching on the radio when
shaving - bad because untroubled shaving is itself a serious enough
affair - however, that's modern life, and the next morning I turned on
Today' (*) as usual, and Jack de Manio (*) said: `The time is exactly
twenty-five - and a half minutes past eight - no, hang it, (*) I mean
past seven. Now the news from our local reporters. lt was become known
that young Matthew Gore while on holiday from his home at Hindmere,
recently, and gallantly, saved his still younger sister from drowning,
and the peculiar thing is that young Matthew had never swum before.
Dennis Clutterbuck reports:'
The quality of the transmission changed. A voice said:
'I am told that when an accident flung you and your sister into the
fast-flowing river you immediately went to her rescue and supported her
in the water until you were picked up more than a mile down-stream. is
'Well, yes,' said Matthew's voice. He sounded a little doubtful.
'And they also tell me you had never swum before?' 'Yes - I mean,
no,' said Matthew, in some confusion. 'You hadn't ever swum before?'
'No,' said Matthew, definitely now. `]'d tried, but it wouldn't
happen ...' he added.
'But this time it did?'
'Yes,' said Matthew.
'I am told you heard a voice telling you what to do?'
Matthew hesitated. `Well - sort of ...' he agreed. 'And you think
this must have been the voice of your Guardian Angel?'
'No,' said Matthew indignantly. `That's a lot of rot.'
'But you told the news reporter ...' Matthew interrupted him.
'I didn't. He said it, and I didn't know he was a reporter,
'But you did hear a voice?'
Matthew hesitated again. Once more he could manage no better than:
'... Sort of.'
'And after you had heard it, you found you were able to swim?'
A grunt from Matthew.
'But now you don't think it was your Guardian Angel that told you
how to do it?'
'[ never said anything about Guardian Angels - it was him.' Matthew
sounded exasperated. `All that happened was that I got into panic, and
Chock... ' He stopped abruptly. I could almost hear him bite his tongue.
`I just found I could swim,' he ended lamely.
The interviewer started to speak again but was cut off in the
middle of the first syllable.
Jack de Manio said.
'Swimming in one easy lesson. Well, whether there was a Guardian
Angel involved, or not, congratulations to Matthew on the way he put the
lesson to use.'
Matthew came down to his breakfast as I was finishing mine.
'I've just been listening to you on the wireless,' I told him.
'Oh,' said Matthew. He did not seem disposed to follow that up, and
attended to his cornflakes, rather apprehensively.
'When did it happen?' I inquired.
'A man rang up, when Mummy was out. He said was I Matthew, and I
said I was, and he said he was BBC, and could he come round and see me.
I said I supposed it be all right, because it seemed rude to say no to
the BBC. So he came; and he showed me a bit about me in the paper. Then
he turned on his recorder, and asked me questions. And after that he
went away again.'
'And you didn't tell Mummy, or anyone else, that he'd been?'
He dabbled his cornflakes.
'Well, you see, I thought she'd be afraid that I'd told him about
Chocky - though I didn't. And I didn't think it would be interesting
enough to get broadcasted, anyway.'
Not very valid reason, I thought. Probably he was feeling guilty
over letting the man into the house at all.
'H'm. - It can't be helped now,' I said. 'But if there are any more
interviewers, I think you'd better refer them to Mummy, or me, before
you talk to them. Will you do that?'
'Okay, Daddy,' he agreed, and then added, with a frown. 'It's a bit
difficult though. You see, I didn't know the man at Bontgoch was a
reporter and the BBC one - well, it didn't seem like an interview
`Perhaps the simplest way would be to treat any stranger as a
suspected interpreter,' I suggested. `You might easily make a slip, and
we don't want them getting on to Chocky, do we?'
Matthew's mouth was now too full of cornflakes to let him speak,
but he nodded very decisively.
A young man representing, as he put it, The Hindmere and District
Courier turned up that afternoon. Mary dealt with him briskly. Yes, she
had seen that rubbish about a guardian angel, and was surprised that a
paper had printed such nonsense. Matthew had swimming lessons, but had
lacked the confidence to trust himself to the water. What had happened
was that in the emergency he had known that he ought to do to swim; he
had made the motions he had been taught to make, and discovered that he
could swim. He had been very brave in going to the rescuee of his
sister, and very fortunate, but there was nothing miraculous about it.
No, she was sorry he couldn't see - Matthew; he was out for the day.
And, in any case, she preferred not to have him troubled about it. After
considerable persuasion the reporter went away, ill-satisfied.
The same day Land!s rang me up at the office. He had, he said, been
thinking about Matthew, and a number of questions had occurred to him.
He suggested that I should have dinner with him one evening. It crossed
my mind to ask him if he had heard Matthew on `Today' that morning, but
I had no wish to get involved in a lot of explanation in the middle of a
busy day, so I did not mention it. In the circumstances I could scarcely
refuse his invitation, and it also occurred to me that he might have
thought of a suitable consultant. We agreed to meet at his Club the
I got back to find Mary preparing our dinner with grim resolve and
a heavy hand, as she does where she is annoyed. I inquired why.
`Matthew's been talking to reporters again,' she said, punishing
`But I told him...'
'] know,' she said bitterly. `Oh, it isn't his fault, poor boy, but
it does make me so wild.'
I inquired further.
Reporters, it seemed, was a manner of speaking. There had been only
one reporter. Matthew, on his way home, had encountered him at the end
of the road. He had asked if he was speaking to Matthew Gore, and
introduced himself as the representative of The Hindmere and District
Courier. Matthew told him he must speak to his mother first. Oh, of
course, agreed the young man, that was only proper, naturally he had
called on Mrs Gore to ask her permission. He had been hoping to have a
talk with Matthew there at the house, only he had not been at home. But
it was very fortunate that they had met like this. They couldn't really
talk, standing here on the corner, though. What about some tea and cakes
in the cafe over there? So they had gone to the cafe.
'You must write to the editor at once. It's disgusting,' she told
I wrote a suitably indignant letter, without the least hope that it
would be paid attention to, but it helped to reduce Mary's feelings to a
mere simmer. father there risk raising the temperature again I didn't
mention Landis's call.
Wednesday passed without incident, but Thursday made up for it. (*)
I was reading The Times in a full railway compartment, when my eye
was caught by a photograph in the copy of The Daily Telegraph held by
the man in the opposite seat. Even at a glance it had a quality which
triggered my curiosity. I leant forward to take a closer look. Habitual
travellers develop an instinct which warns them of such liberties. My
vis-a-vis (*) immediately lowered his paper to glare at me as if I were
committing trespass and probably worse, and refolded it to present a
The glimpse I had had, brief though it was, disturbed me enough to
send me to the Waterloo Station (*) bookstall in search of a Telegraph I
could rightfully, read. They had, of course, sold out. This somehow
helped to convince me that my suspicions were we]l founded, and on
arriving in Bloomsbury Square (*) I lost no time in sending a message
round the office asking for a copy of today's Telegraph. Eventually one
was found, and brought to me. I unfolded it with a sense of misgiving -
and I was right to feel it...
Half a page was devoted to photographs of pictures on display at an
exhibition entitled `Art and the Schoolchild'. The one that had caught
my eye on the train caught it again. It was a scene from an upper window
showing half a dozen boys laden with satchels jostling their way towards
an open gate in a wall. The boys had an angular, spindly look; curious
to some no doubt, but familiar to me. I had no need to read the print
beneath the photograph, but I did:
'"Homeward" by Matthew Gore (12) of Hinton School, Hindmere,
reveals a talent and power .of observation quite outstanding in one of
I was still looking at it when Tommy Percell, one of my partners
came in, and glanced over me shoulder.
'Ah, yes,' he to]d me. `Spotted that on the way up this morning.
Congratulations. Thought it must be your youngster. Didn't know he'd a
gift for that kind of thing. Very clever - but a bit queer, though,
'Yes,' I said, with a feeling that the thing was slipping out of my
hands. `Yes, it is a bit queer ...'
Landis drank half his sherry at a gulp.
'Seen the papers?' he inquired.
I did not pretend to misunderstand him.
:Yes, I saw today's Telegraph.' 1 admitted.
'But not the Standard? They've got it, too - with a paragraph about
a child-artist of genius. You didn't tell me about this,' he added, with
'I didn't know about it when I last saw you.'
'Nor about the swimming?'
'It hadn't happened then.'
'Both Chocky, of course?'
'Apparently,' I said.
I told him what Matthew had told Mary and me about the pictures. It
did not appear to surprise him, but he was lost in thought again...
Over the meal he inquired in detail into the swimming incident. I
told him as much as could, and he clearly found it no less significant
than the painting. What astonished me most of the time, and still more
on later reflection, was his lack of surprise. It was so marked that I
almost had a suspicion for a time that he might be humouring me -
leading me on to see how far I would go in my claims for Matthew, but I
had to abandon that. I could detect no trace of scepticism; he appeared
to accept the fantastic without prejudice.
After dinner, over coffee and brandy, Landis said:
'As I expect you'll have gathered, (*) I've been giving the problem
considerable thought, and in my opinion Thorbe is your man. Sir William
Thorbe. He's a very sound fellow with great experience - and not
bigoted, which is something in our profession. He treats his cases on
their merits - if he decides analysis will help, then he'll use it; if
he thinks it calls for one of the new drugs, then he'll use that. He has
a large number of quite remarkable successes to his credit. I don't
think you could do better than to get his opinion, he's willing to take
Matthew on. I'm certain that if anyone can help it's Thorbe.'
I did not greatly care for that `if anyone', but let it pass. I
'I seem to remember that the last time we met you were doubtful
whether Matthew needed help. '
'My dear fellow, I still am. But your wife does, you know. And you
yourself could do with (*) some definite assurance, couldn't you?'
And, of course, he was right. Mary and I were a lot more worried
about Matthew than Matthew was about himself. Just the knowledge that we
were doing our best for him by taking competent advice would relieve our
In the end I agreed that, on Mary's consent, I would be glad to
have Sir William Thorbe's opinion.
And on that, we parted.
I arrived home to find Mary bursting with indignation. I gathered
she had seen The Evening Standard.
'It's outrageous!' she announced. `What right had she to send the
thing in without even consulting us? The least she could have done was
to ask us. To enter it like that without your even knowing! Really, the
kind of people these Teachers' Training Colleges turn out these days...
No manners at all... How can you expect a child to learn decent
behaviour when he's taught by people who don't know how to behave...?
It's quite disgraceful.'
'She was doing her job,' I cut in. `One of her pupils produced a
picture that she thought good enough to submit for this exhibition. She
wanted him to have the credit for it. Naturally, she thought we'd be
delighted, and so we should have been - but for this Chocky business.'
'She ought to have asked our consent...'
'So that you could explain to her about Chocky, and tell her why we
didn't want it shown? And, anyway, it was right at the end of the term.
She probably had just time to send it in before she went away. I
wouldn't mind betting that at this very moment she's expecting to
receive a letter of thanks and congratulations from is.'
Mary made an angry sound.
'All right,' I told her. 'You go ahead and write the headmaster a
letter demanding an apology. And you won't get your apology. What are
you going to do then, make a row? Local newspapers love rows between
parents and schoolteachers. So do the national ones. If you want more
publicity for the picture than they have already printed you'll
certainly get it. And somebody's going to point out that the Matthew
Gore who painted the picture is the same one who is the guardian angel
hero. - Someone's going to do that anyway, but do we want it done on a
national scale? How long will it take before Chocky is right out of the
Mary's look of dismay made me sorry for the way I'd put it. She
went on staring at me for several seconds, then her face suddenly
crumpled. I picked her up and carried her over to the armchair.,.
After a time she pulled the handkerchief out of my breast-pocket.
Gradually I felt her relax. One hand sought, and found, mine.
'I'm sorry to be so silly,' she said.
I hugged her.
'It's all right, darling. You're not silly, you're anxious - and I
'But I was silly. I didn't see what making a row might lead to.'
She paused, kneading the handkerchief in her clenched right hand.
I'm so afraid for Matthew,' she said unsteadily. She raised herself a
little, and looked into my face. `David, tell me something honestly...
They - they won't think he - he's mad, will they, David ...?'
'Of course not, darling. How could they possibly? You couldn't find
a saner boy anywhere than Matthew, you know that.'
'But if they find out about Chocky? If they get to know that he
thinks he hears her speaking...? I mean, hearing voices in your head...
that's ...' She let it tail away.
'Darling,' I told her. `You're being afraid of the wrong thing. Put
that right away. There is nothing - nothing at all - wrong with Matthew
himself. He's as sane and sensible a boy as one could wish to meet.
Please, please let it into your head quite firmly that this Chocky,
whatever it is, is not subjective - it is objective. It does not - come
from Matthew, it is something outside that comes to him. I know it's
hard to believe, because one doesn't understand how it can happen. But
you must believe that.'
'I do try, but ... I don't understand. What is Chocky...? - The
swimming ... the painting ... all the questions...?'
'That's what we don't know - yet. My own idea is that Matthew is -
well, sort of haunted. I know that's an unfortunate word, it carries
ideas of fear and malevolence, but I don't mean that at all. It's just
that there isn't another word for it. What I am thinking of is a kindly
sort of haunting ... It quite clearly doesn't mean Matthew any harm.
It's only alarming to us because we don't understand it. After all,
remember, Matthew thinks it saved both their lives... And if it didn't,
we don't know what, did.
'Whatever it is, I think we'd be wrong to regard it as a threat. It
seems intrusive and inquisitive, but basically well disposed -
essentially a benign kind of - er - presence.
'Oh, I see,' said Mary. `In fact you're trying to tell me it is a
'No - er - well, I suppose I mean - er. yes, in a way...' I said.
AIan rang up in the morning and suggested lunch, so I joined him.
'Saw the photograph of Matthew's picture in the paper yesterday,'
he said. `What are you going to do about it now?'
I shrugged. `About it what can I do except try to deal with things
as they crop up? About Matthew, though, Landis has come up with a
recommendation.' I told him @Jhat Landis had said.
'Thorbe, Thorbe,' Alan muttered, frowning. `I heard something about
him just the other day - Oh, yes. I know. He's recent]y got an
appointment as a sort of advisory industrial psychologist to one of the
big groups. (*) Can't remember which, but one of the really big boy's.'
'Oh,' I said. `Very high fees?'
Alan shook his head.
'Can't tell you about that, but he won't be cheap. I should have a
word with Landis about it before you commit yourself.'
'Thanks, I will. One hears such things. I don't want to pay lots of
money for months and months, if it can be helped.'
'Of course,' Alan agreed. `After al], nobody has suggested that
there's anything wrong with Matthew, nothing that needs treatment. All
you really want is an explanation to set your minds at rest - and advice
on the best way to cope with things, isn't it?'
'I don't know,' I told him. `I admit that this Chocky hasn't done
him any harm ...'
'And has, in fact, saved his and Polly's lives, don't forget.'
'Yes. But it's Mary I'm worried about now. She's not going to be
easy in her mind until she's satisfied that. Chocky has been driven
right away, abolished, exorcised, or somehow finished with ... '
I arrived home to find the atmosphere a trifle gloomy, perhaps, but
certainly not critical. My spirits lifted. I asked @ary about the day.
'My sister Janet has just rung up,' she told me.
'Oh, no ...!'
'Yes. She was thrilled about Matthew's success with the picture...'
'And wants to come over tomorrow to discuss it?'
'Well, actually, she said Sunday. It's Patience who rang up in the
afternoon and said could she come tomorrow.'
'I hope,'I told her, without much hope, `that you put them both
She hesitated. `Well, Janet's always so difficult and insistent...'
'Oh,' I said, and picked up the telephone.
'No, wait a minute,' she protested.
'I'm damned if we're going to sit here all the week-end listening
to your sisters taking Matthew to pieces. You know just the line they'll
take - gushing, inquisitive, self-congratulatory, phoney commiseration
for their unfortunate sister who would have the ill-luck to have a
peculiar child. To hell with it! 'I put my finger on the dial.
'No,' said Mary. `I'd better do it.'
'All right,' I agreed. 'Tell them they can't come. That I've fixed
up for us to go out with friends tomorrow and Sunday - and next
week-end, too, or they'll switch it to that if you give them the
She did, quite efficiently, and looked at me, as she put the phone
down, with an air of relief that cheered me immensely.
'Thank you, David ...' she began. Then the phone rang. I picked it
up and listened.
'No,' I said. `He's in bed and asleep now ... No, he'll be out all
day tomorrow,' and put it down again.
'Who was that?' Mary asked.
'The Sunday Dawn, wanting an interview with Matthew.' I thought it
over for a moment. `At a guess I'd say they've just tied up Matthew the
life-saver with Matthew the artist. There'll probably be more of them.'
There were. The Sunday Voice followed by The Report.
'That settles it,' I told Mary. `We'll have to go out tomorrow. And
we'll have to start early, before they come camping in the front garden:
I tell you what, we'll stay away over night. Let's go and pack.'
We started upstairs, and the phone went again. I hesitated.
'Oh, leave the thing,' said Mary.
So we did - and the next time.
We managed to get away by seven o'clock, unimpeded by interviewers,
and set course for the coast.
'I hope they won't break in while we're away,' said Mary. `I feel
like a refugee.'
We ali began to feel like refugees a couple of hours later as we
neared the sea. The roads grew thick with ears, our speed was little
better than a crawl. Mysterious holdups occurred, immobilizing
everything for miles.
Presently we arrived at a vast car park charging five shillings a
time, collected our things and went in search of the sea. The pebbly
beach near the park was crowded and we made our way further along and
down the pebbles, until ali that separated us from the shining summer
sea was a band of oil and dirt about six feet wide.
'Oh, God,' said Mary. `You're not going to bathe in that,' she told
Matthew who was beginning to unbutton his shirt.
Matthew looked at the mess more closely; even he seemed a little
'But I do want to swim now I can,' he protested.
'Not here,' said Mary. 'Oh, dear. It was a lovely beach only a few
years ago. Now it's ...'
'Just the edge of the Cloaca Britannica?' I suggested.
'Let's go somewhere else. Come along, we're moving,'
I called rio Matthew who was still staring down at the mess in a
fascinated, dreamy way. I waited for him while Polly and Mary began to
pick their way up the beach.
'Chocky's back, is she?' I asked as he cave up.
'How did you know?' he inquired, with surprise.
'I recognized the signs. Look, do me a favour, will you? Just keep
her under cover if you can. We don't want to spoil Mummy's day - at
least,' I added, `not more than this place has already.'
'Okay,' he agreed.
We nt a little inland and found a village nestled in a cleft at the
foot of the Downs. (*) It was peaceful. And there was An inn which gave
us quite a passable lunch. I asked if we could stay the night, and found
that by the good luck they had rooms to spare. Mary and I lazed on
deck-chairs in the garden. Matthew disappeared, saying vaguely that he
was going to look round. Polly lay on the lawn under a tree, and started
reading. After, an hour or so I suggested a stroll before tea.
We found a path which followed the contour across the side of the
hill and walked it in a leisurely fashion. After about half a mile we
came in sight of a figure working intently on a large sketch-pad
supported by his knees. I stopped. Mary said:
'Yes,' I agreed, and turned to go back.
'No,' she said, `Let's go on. I'd like to see.'
Rather reluctantly I went forward with her. Matthew seemed quite
unaware of us. Even when we drew close he remained utterly absorbed in
his work. From a box of crayons on the grass beside him he would select
what he wanted, with decision, and apply it to the paper with a deftness
I could not recognize in him. Then, with a curious mixture of delicacy
and firmness he smudged, blurred, and softened the line using his
fingers, or his thumb, or a part of a dirty handkerchief on which he
wiped his hands before adding the next stroke.
The painting of a picture seems to me at any time a marvel, but to
watch the Sussex landscape taking form on !he paper from such crude
materials under such an unfamiliar technique held me completely
fascinated, and Mary, too. We must have stood there almost unmoving for
more than half an hour before Matthew relaxed. Then he lifted his head,
sighed heavily, and lifted the finished picture to study it. Presently
he became aware of us standing behind him, and turned his head.
'Oh, hullo,' he said, looking at Mary a little uncertainly.
'Oh, Matthew, that's beautiful,' she exclaimed.
Matthew looked relieved. He studied the picture again.
'I think Chocky's seeing things more properly now, though it's
still a bit funny,' he said judicially.
Mary asked tentatively:
'Will you give it to me. Matthew? I promise to keep it very safely,
if you will.'
Matthew looked pp at her with a smile. He recognized a peace
'Yes, if you like Mummy,' he said, and then added on a cautionary
note. `Only you'll have to be careful. This kind smudges if you don't
spray them with something or other. '
'I'll be most careful. It's much too beautiful to spoil,' she
'Yes, it is rather beautiful,' Matthew agreed. `Chocky thinks that,
except where we've spoilt it, this is a very beautiful planet.'
We arrived home on Sunday evening feeling much the better for our
week-end. (*) Mary, however, was not looking forward to Monday.
'These newspaper men are so pushing. Foot in the door and all
that,' she complained.
'I doubt if they'll trouble you much - not the Sundays, (*) anyway.
It'll have gone stale by next week-end. I think the best thing would be
to get Matthew out of the way. It's only one day; he starts school again
on Tuesday. Make him up some sandwiches and send him off with
instructions to keep clear until -six o'clock. See that he has enough
money to go to the pictures if he gets bored. He'll be all right.'
'It seems a bit hard on him to be turned out.'
'I know^ but I think he'd prefer that to intervlewers.'
So next morning Mary shooed him out of the place - and just as
well. Six callers inquired for Matthew in the course of the day. They
were, our own vicar, another clergyman, a middle-aged lady who confided
with some intensity that she was a spiritualist, a member of the
regional Arts-Group which she was sure Matthew would want to join,
another lady who considered the dream-life of children to be a
disgracefully neglected field of study, and an instructor at the local
baths who hoped that Matthew would give a demonstration of life-saving
at the next swimming gala.
I arrived home and found Mary quite exhausted. Apart from that,
however, Monday was uneventful. Matthew appeared to have enjoyed his day
out. He came back with two pictures, both landscapes from the same
viewpoint. One was unmistakably Chocky-directed, the other less good,
but Matthew was proud of it.
'I did it all myself,' he told us. `Chocky's been telling me how to
look at things, and I'm sort of beginning to see what sh means.'
On Tuesday morning Matthew went off to school to start his new
term. On Tuesday afternoon he returned home, with a black eye.
Mary regarded it with dismay.
'Oh, Matthew. You've been fighting,' she exclaimed.
'I haven't,' Matthew told her, indignantly. `I was fought at.'
According to his account he had been simply standing in the
playground during break when a slightly older boy called Simon Ledder
had come up to him, accompanied by three or four henchmen, and started
jeering about guardian angels. Somehow a situation had been reached in
which Simon proclaimed that if Matthew's guardian angel could guard him
from him, Simon's, lists he was willing to believe in guardian angels,
if not it proved that Matthew was a liar. Simon had then put his
postulate to a practical test by landing Matthew a punch in the face
which had knocked him down. Matthew was not quite clear about the next
minute or two. He admitted he might have been dazed. AI] he remembered
was that he was on his feet again, and instead of facing Simon and his
companion he found himself looking at Mr Slatson, the headmaster.
Mr Slatson very decently took the trouble to ring up at
dinner-time, and inquire about Matthew. I was able to tell him that he
seemed quite himself, though he did not look pretty.
After he rang off 'I gave Mary my news of the day. Landis had
phoned in the morning. He had, he told me, managed to see Sir William
who seemed quite hopefully interested by his account of Matthew, Sir
William's time was, of course, rather closely booked, but he had
suggested that I ring up his secretary, and see if an appointment could
So I did that. Sir William's secretary also told me that Sir
William was very much booked-up, but she would see. There was a sound of
rifling papers, then, on a gracious note, she informed me that I was
fortunate; there had been a cancellation, two o'clock Friday afternoon
if I cared to take it, otherwise it might be a matter of weeks.
Mary hesitated. She seemed, during the last two or three days, to
have lost her antipathy to Chocky; also, I fancy, she had an instinctive
reluctance to entrusting Matthew in other hands, as if, like the
beginning of schooldays, it marked the end of a phase. But her common
sense asserted itself. We arranged that Matthew should come up on
Friday, and I would escort him to Sir William.
On Friday I met Matthew off the train at Waterloo. We had lunch and
arrived in Sir William's office with five minutes to spare.
Sir William Thorbe turned out to be a tall, clean-shaved man with a
rather high-bridged nose, fine hair just greying, and a pair of dark,
perceptive eyes under thick eyebrows, In other circumstances I should
have thought him a barrister rather than a medical man, h: air,
appearance, and carriage gave a first misleading impression of
familiarity which I later ascribed to his resemblance to the Duke of
I introduced Matthew, exchanged a few words, and was then shown out
'How long?' I asked the secretary.
'Two hours is the minimum with a new patient,' she told me. `I
suggest you come back at half-past four. We'll look after your boy if
he's through before that,'
I went back to the office, and returned on time. It was after five
before Matthew emerged. He looked at the clock.
'Gosh,' he said. `I thought it was only about half an hour.'
The secretary bustled up.
`Sir William asks me to make his apologies for not seeing you now.
He has an urgent consultation to attend. He will He writing to you in a
day or two,' she said, and we were shown out.
'What happened?' I asked Matthew when we were in the train.
'He asked me some questions. He didn't seem at all surprised about
Chocky,' he said, and added: `Then we listened $0 records.'
'Oh. Pop music?' I inquired.
'Not that sort of record. It was all soft and quiet - musical and
of music. It just went on while he asked the questions. And then when it
stopped he took another record out of a cupboard and asked me if I had
ever seen one like that. I said no, because it was a funny looking
record with black and white patterns all over it, So he moved a chair
and said: "Sit here where you can see it," and he put it on the
'It made a queer humming noise, not real music at all, though it
went up and down a bit. Then there was another humming noise, a sort of
sharper one. It came in on top of the other humming, and went up and
down, too. I watched the record going round, and all the pattern seemd
to be running into the middle - a bit like bath-water running out of the
plug-hole, only not quite because it didn't go down, it just ran into
itself and disappeared to nowhere, and kept on doing it. It was funny
watching it because I began to feel as if the whole room was turning
round, and I was falling off the chair, Then, quite suddenly it was all
right again and there was an ordinary record with ordinary music coming
out of it.
'Well, then Sir William gave me an orange drink, and asked some
more questions, and after a bit he said that'd be all for today, and
goodbye, and I came out.'
I duly reported to Mary.
'Oh,' she said. `Hypnosis. I don't think I like that very much.'
'No,' I agreed. `But I suppose he'd use whatever method seemed
appropriate. Matthew can be pretty cagey about Chocky. I know he opened
up with Landis, but that was exceptional. If Sir William was having to
fight for every answer he may well have felt that hypnosis would make it
easier for both of them.'
'M'm,' said Mary, `well, all we can do now is to wait for his
The next morning, Saturday, Matthew came down to breakfast looking
tired. He was low-spirited, too, and listless. He refused Polly's
invitation to dispute with such gloomy distaste that Mary dropped on her
heavily, and shut her up.
'Are you not feeling well?' she demanded of Matthew, who was toying
uninterestedly with his cornflakes.
'I'm all right,' he said.
Mary regarded him, and tried again.
'It's not anything to do with yesterday? Did that man do something
that upset you?'
'No,' Matthew shook his head. `I'm all tight,' he repeated, and
attacked his cornflakes as if in demonstration. He got them down as if
every leaf were threatening to choke him.
I watched him closely, and had a strong impression was on the verge
'Look, old man. I've-got to go down to London again today. Would
you like to come along?' I suggested.
He shook his head again.
'No, thank you, Daddy. I'd rather. Mummy, can T just have some
Mary looked at me in question, I nodded.
'All right, darling. I'm cut you some after breakfast,' she said.
Matthew ate a little more, and then disappeared upstairs.
When we were alone Mary said:
'I'm sure it's something that man told him yesterday.'
'Could be,' I admitted. `But I don't think so. He wasn't at all
upset yesterday evening. Anyway, if he wants to get away by himself, I
think we ought to let him.'
When I went out to get the car I found Matthew strapping a
sketching-block, his paint-box, and a packet of sandwiches on to the
carrier of his bicycle I hoped the sandwiches would survive it.
'Go carefully. Remember it's Saturday,' I told him. 'Yes,' he said,
and rode off.
He did not come back until six o'clock, and went straight up to his
room. At dinner he was still up there. I inquired.
'He says he doesn't want any,' Mary told me. `He's just lying on
his bed staring at the ceiling., I'm sure he must be sickening for
I went up to see. Matthew was, as Mary had said, lying on his bed,
He looked very tired.
'Feeling worn out, old man?' I asked him. `Why don't you get right
into bed? I'm bring you something on a tray.'
He shook his head.
'No thanks, Daddy. I don't want anything.'
'You ought to have something, you know.'
He shook his head again.
I looked round the room. There were four pictures I had not seen
before. All landscapes. Two propped up on the mantel shelf, two on the
chest of drawers.
'Did you do these today? May I look?' I asked.
I moved closer to them. One I recognized immediately, a view across
Docksham Great Pond, another included a part of the pond in one corner,
the third was taken from a higher po-int looking across a village to the
Downs beyond, the fourth was like nothing I had ever seen.
It was a view across a plain. As a background a line of rounded,
ancient-looking hills, topped here and there by domed towers, was set -
against a cloudless blue sky. In the middle-ground, to the right of the
centre, stood something like a very large stone structure. It had the
shape, though not the regularity of a pyramid, nor were the stones
fitted together; rather they seemed, as far as one could tell from the
drawing, to be boulders piled up. It could scarcely have been called a
building, yet it quite certainly was not a natural formation. In the
foreground were rows of things precisely spaced and arranged in curving
lines - I say `things' because it was impossible to make out what they
were; they could have been plants, or haycocks, or, perhaps even, huts,
there-was no telling, and to make their shape more difficult to
determine, each appeared to throw two shadows. From the left of the
picture a wide, cleared strip ran straight as a ruler's edge to the foot
of the pyramid, where it changed direction towards the mountains. It was
a depressing view with the feeling of intolerable heat.
I was still looking at the thing, bewildered, when there was a gulp
from the bed behind me. Matthew said, with difficulty:
'They're the last pictures, Daddy.'
I turned round. His eyes were screwed up, but tears were trickling
out of them. I sat down on the bed beside him and took his hand.
'Matthew, boy, tell me. Tell me what the trouble is.' Matthew
sniffed, choked, and then stammered out: 'It's Chocky, Daddy. She's
going away - for ever :..'
I heard Mary's feet on the stairs, crossed swiftly to the door, and
closed it behind me.
'What is it? Is he ill?' she asked.
I took her arm and moved away from the door.
'No. He'll be all right,' I told her, leading her back to the
'But what is the matter?' she insisted.
I shook my head. When we were down in the hail, safely out of
earshot of Matthew's room -T told her.
'It's Chocky. Apparently she's leaving - clearing out.' 'Well,
thank goodness for that,' Mary said.
'Maybe, but don't let him see you think that.'
She looked at me uncertainly, with a puzzled frown.
'But, David, you're talking as if - I mean, Chocky isn't real.'
'To Matthew she is. And he's taking it hard.'
'All the same, I think he ought to have some food.'
'Later on, perhaps,' I said. `But not now.'
Throughout, the meal Polly chattered constantly and boringly of
ponies. When we had got rid of her Mary asked:
'I've been thinking. Do you think it's something that man did?'
'That Sir William Something, (*).f course,' she said, impatiently.
`After all he did hypnotize Matthew. People can be made to do all kinds
of things through hypnotic suggestion. Suppose he said to Matthew, where
he was in a trance: "Tomorrow your friend Chocky is going to tell you
she is going away. You are going to be very sorry to say goodbye to her,
but you will. Then she will leave you, and gradually you will forget all
about her" - something like that. I don't know much about it, but isn't
it possible that a suggestion of that kind might cure him, and clear up
the whole thing?'
`"Cure him"?' I said.
'Well, I mean ...'
You mean you've gone back to thinking Chocky is an illusion?'
'Not exactly an illusion ...'
'Really, darling - after the swimming, after watching him at his
painting last week-end, you can still think that ...?'
'I can still hope that. At least it's less alarming than what your
friend Landis talked about - possession.'
I had to admit that she had a point (*) there. I wished I knew more
about hypnosis in general , and Matthew's in )articular. -1 also wished
very much that, if Sir William would manage to expel Chocky by hypnosis,
he could have managed to do it in some way that would have caused
Matthew less distress.
In fact, I found myself displeased with Sir William. It began to
look as if I had taken Matthew to him for a diagnosis - which I had not
yet got - and possibly been given instead a treatment, which I had not,
at this stage, requested. The more I considered it, the more
unsatisfactory it seemed.
On our way to bed we looked into Matthew's room in case he were
feeling hungry now. There was no sound except his regular breathing, so
we shut the door quietly and went away.
The next morning, Sunday, we let him sleep on. He emerged about ten
o'clock looking dazed with sleep, his eyes pink about the rims, his
manner distrait, but with his appetite hugely restored.
About half-past eleven a large American car with a front like a
juke-box turned into the drive. Matthew came thundering down the stairs.
'It's Auntie Janet, Daddy. I'm off,' he said breathlessly, and shot
down the passage to the back door.
We had a trying day. Matthew had been wise. There was a lot of
discussion, mostly one-sided, on guardian angels, and on the
characteristics of an artist in the family, presenting almost all of
them a sun desirable, if not actually disruptive.
I do not know when Matthew returned, He just have come in and crept
upstairs while we were talking. After they had gone I went up to his
room. He was sitting looking out of the open window at the sinking sun.
'You'll have to face her sooner or later,' I told him. 'Bi!t I must
say today was not the day. They were most disappointed not to see you.'
Matthew managed a grin.
I looked round. The four paintings were propped up again on
display. I commented favourably on the view's of a pond. When I came to
the last picture I hesitated, wondering whether to ignore it. I decided
'Wherever is that supposed to be?' I inquired. Matthew turned his
head to look at it.
'That's where Chocky lives,' he said, and paused. Then he added.
`It's a horrid place, isn't it? That's why she thinks this world is so
'Not at all an attractive spot,' I agreed. `It looks terribly hot
`Oh, it is in the daytime. That fuzzy bit at the back is vapour
coming off a lake.'
I pointed to the stone pyramid,
'What is that thing?'
I don't know, really,' Matthew admitted. `Sometimes she seems to
mean a building, and sometimes it comes like a lot of buildings, more
like a town. It's a bit difficult without words when there isn't
anything the same here.'
'And these lumps?' I pointed to the rows of symmetrically spaced
'Things that grow there,' was all he could tell me.
'Where is it?' I asked.
Matthew shook his head.
'We still couldn't find out - or where our world is, either,' he
I noted his use of the past tense, and looked at the picture again,
The harsh monotony of the colouring, and the feeling of heat struck me
'You know, if I were you I'd keep it out of sight when you're not
here. I don't think Mummy would like it much.'
Matthew nodded. `That's what I thought. So I put it away today.'
There was a pause. We looked out of the window at the red arc of
sun fretted by the treetops as it set. I asked him:
'Has she gone, Matthew?'
We were silent while the last rim of the sun sank down and
disappeared. Matthew sniffed. His eyes filled with tears.
'Oh, Daddy ... lt', like losing part of me ...'
Matthew was subdued, and perhaps a little pale the next morning,
but he went off resolutely enough to school. He came back looking tired,
but as the week went by he improved daily. By the end of it he seemed
more like his normal self again. We were relieved; for the same reasons,
but on different grounds.
'Well, thank goodness that's over,' Mary said to me on Friday
evening. `It looks as if Sir William thing was right after all.'
'Thorbe,' I said.
'Well, Thing or Thorbe. The point is that he told you that it was
just a phase, that Matthew had built up an elaborate fantasy system,
that it was nothing very unusual at his age, and there was nothing for
us to worry about unless it were to become persistent. (*) the thought
that unlikely. In his opinion the fantasy would break up of itself, and
disperse - probably quite soon. And that's exactly what's happened.'
'Yes,' I agreed. It was the simplest way, and, after all, what did
it matter now if Thorbe had been right off the beam? (*) Chocky was, in
one way or another, gone.
Nevertheless when I had received his letter on the Tuesday, I had
found it exceedingly hard to take. The swimming he dealt with by
explaining that Matthew had in fact learned to swim some time before,
but a deep-seated fear of the water had caused him to suppress the
ability. This fear had persisted until the shock of the emergency caused
b his sudden immersion had broken down the mental block. Naturally, his
conscious mind remained ignorant of the block, and had attributed the
ability to an outside influence.
Rather similarly with the pictures. Undoubtedly Matthew had in his
subconscious mind a strong desire to paint. This had remained
suppressed, quite possibly as a result of terror inspired in him by the
sight of horrifylng pictures at an early age. Only when 4is present
fantasy had grown potent enough to affect both his conscious and his
subconscious minds, forming a bridge between them, had the urge to paint
become liberated and capable of expressing itself in action.
There were explanations of the far incident, and others, along
roughly the same lines. And though much of what I considered worthy of
attention had been ignored I had little doubt he could have explained
that away, too, upon request.
It was not only one of the most disappointing letters I have ever
waited for; it was insulting in the native smoothness of its
explanations, and patronizing in its reassurances. I was furious that
Mary could take it at face value; (*) still more furious that events
appeared to justify her in doing so. I realized that I had expected a
lot from Thorbe: 1 felt that all I had got was a brush-off, and a
And yet the fellow had been right ... The Chocky-presence /7ad
dispersed, as he put it. The Chocky-trauma seemed to be mending - though
I felt less sure of that ...
So I contented myself with a simple `yes', and let Mary go on
telling me in as sympathetic a way as possible how wrong I had been to
perceive subtle complexities which had, after al], turned out to be just
a rather more developed, and certainly more troublesome, version of
Piff. ii lt did her quite a lot of good. So, fair enough.
The parcel from the Royal Swimming Society arrived by registered
post on the Monday morning addressed to Mr Matthew Gore. Unfortunately I
was unable to intercept it. Mary signed for it, and when Matthew and I
arrived in the dining-room together it was lying beside his plate.
Matthew glanced at the envelope, stiffened and sat quite still
looking at it for some moments. Then he turned to his cornflakes. I
tried to catch Mary's eye, but in vain. She leant forward.
'Aren't you going to open it?' she asked, encouragingly.
Matthew looked at it again. His eyes roved round the table, looking
for an escape. They encountered his mother's expectant expression. Very
reluctantly he picked up his knife and slit the envelope. A small red,
leather-covered box slid out. He hesitated again. Slowly he picked it
up, and opened it. For some seconds he was motionless, gazing at the
golden disc gleaming in its bed of blue velvet. Then:
'I don't want it,' he blurted.
This time I did manage to catch Mary's eye, and gave a slight shake
of ny head.
Matthew's low.er lip came out a little. It shook slightly.
'It's not fair,' he said. `It's Chocky's - she saved me and
Polly... It's not true, Daddy ...'
He went on looking at the medal, head down. The discovery that one
lived in a world which could pay honour where honour was not due, was
one of the shocks of growing up...
Matthew got up, and ran blindly out of the room. The medal, gaudily
shining in its case, lay on the table.
I picked it up. The Society's name in full ran round the edge, then
there was a band of ornament, in the centre a boy and a girl standing
hand in hand looking at half a sun which radiated vigorously presumably
in the act of rising.
I turned it over. The reverse was plainer. Simply an inscription
within a circular wreath of laurel leaves. Above:
then, engraved in a different type-face:
and, finally, the all-purpose laudation:
FOR A VALOROUS DEED
I handed it to Mary.
She examined it thoughtfully for some moments, and then put it back
in its case.
'It's a shame he's taken it like that,' she said.
I picked up the case, and slipped it into my pocket.
'It's unfortunate it arrived just now,' I agreed, `I'm keep it for
him until later on,'
Mary looked as if she might object, but at that moment Polly
arrived babbling, and anxious not to be late for school.
I looked upstairs before I left, but Matthew had already gone - and
left his books of homework lying on the table...
He turned up again about half-past six, just after I had got home.
'Oh,' I said, `and where have you bee all day?'
'Walking,' he told me.
I shook my head.
'It won't do, Matthew, you know. You can't just cutting school (*)
'I know,' he agreed.
The rest of our conversation was unspoken. We understood one
another well enough.
The rest of the week went uneventfully, until Friday. I had to work
late that evening, and had dinner in London, At almost ten o'clock I
arrived home to find Mary on the telephone, She finished her call just
as I carne into the room, and pressed the rest without putting the
receiver on it.
'Matthew's not back,' she said. `I'm ringing the hospitals.'
She consulted a list and began to dial again. After two or three
more calls she came to the end of her list, and laid the receiver in its
rest. I had got out the whisky.
'Drink this. It'll do you good,' I told her.
She took it, gratefully.
'You've tried the police?'
'Yes. I called the school first. He left there at the usual time
all right. So then I tried the police, and gave them particulars.
They've promised to ring us if they have any news.' She took a drink of
whisky. `Oh, David. Thank goodness you're Lack. I'd got to imagining all
sorts of things... I hoped everything would be all right once that
Chocky business was over ... He doesn't say anything - not to me ... And
then going off like he did on Monday ... You didn't think ..,?'
I sat down beside her, and took her hand.
'Of course I don't. And you mustn't either.'
'He's kept everything so bottled up (*) ...'
'lt did come as a shock to him. Whatever Chocky w;as he'd got used
to having her around. Suddenly losing her upset him - knocked the bottom
out of things for him. It needed some adjustment - but he's making it
all right ...'
'You really thing that? You're not just saying it ...?'
'Of course I do, darling. I'm perfectly certain that if he were
going to do anything silly he'd have done it a fortnight ago, and he
wasn't near that even then - he was distressed and pretty wretched, poor
boy. But nothing of that kind ever entered his head. I'm sure of it.'
'I hope you're right - yes, I'm sure you are. But that makes me all
the more mysterious. He must know how we'll feel. He's not an
insensitive boy ...'
'Yes,' I agreed. `That's what's worrying me most...'
Neither of us slept much that night.
I rang the police the next morning. They were sympathetic, doing
all they could, but had no news.
Time gloominess of the breakfast table subdued even Polly. We
questioned her though without much hope. Matthew no longer confided in
her, but there was just the chance that he might have told her
something. Apparently he had not - at least nothing that Polly could
remember. We relapsed into our gloomy silence. Pol]y, emerged from hers
'I expect Matthew's been kidnapped. You'll probably: get a note
wanting an enormous ransom.'
'Not very likely,' 1 told her. `We don't keep enormous ransom round
'What about the Sunday papers? They were anxious enough to
interview him beFore,' Mary suggested.
'You know what that means. "Child Artist Vanishes." "Guardian Angel
Hero Missing", et cetera.'
'What's that matter if it helps to find him?'
'All right,' 1 told her. `I'll try.'
There was no news that day.
At ten o'clock on Sunday morning the phone rang, I grabbed it.
'My name is Bollot. You don't know me, but my boy goes to the same
school as yours. We've just been reading il] the paper about it.
Shocking business. Very sorry to hear it. No news yet, 1 suppose?'
'Well, look here, th point is my Lawrence says he saw your Matthew
on Friday'. He noticed him talking to a man with a big car - a Mercedes,
he thinks - a little way down the road from school. He has an idea they
were arguing about something. Then your Matthew got into the car with
the man, and it drove off.'
'Thanks, Mr Bollot. Thanks very much. I'll let the police know at
'Oh, is that really - ? Yes, I suppose it is. Well, I hope they
find him quickly for you. '
But they did not.
The @onday papers took it up. (*) The BBC included it in their
local news bulletin. Telephone seemed scarcely to stop ringing. But it
brought no news of Matthew ,..
That was a dreadful week. What can one do in the face of utter
blankness? There was no corroboration of the Bollot boy's story, but he
stuck to it with unshakeable conviction. An enquiry at the school failed
to discover any other boy who had accented a lift that evening. So,
apparently, it had been Matthew ...
But why? What possible reason? Even threats, a demand for ransom
would have been more bearable than this silent vanishing into utter
nothingness. I could feel the tension in Mary growing tighter every day,
and dreaded the moment when it should @reak ...
The week seemed endless. The week-end that followed it' longer
still, but then:
At about half-past eight o'clock on the following Tuesday morning a
small boy paused on the pavement edge of a busy crossing in Birmingham,
and watched the policeman directing the traffic, When the cars ahead of
him were held up he crossed to the middle of the road, stationed himself
alongside the policeman, waiting patiently to be attended to. Presently,
his traffic safely on course for the moment, the policeman bent down.
'Hullo, Sonny, and what's your trouble?' he inquired.
'Please, sir,' said the boy, `I'm afraid I'm sort of lost. And it's
difficult because I haven't any money to get home with.'
The policeman shook his head.
'That's bad,' he said, sympathetically. 'And where would home be?'
'Hindmere,' the boy told him.
The policeman stiffened, and looked at him with sudden interest.
'And what's your name?' he asked, carefully.
'Matthew,' said Matthew. `Matthew Gore.'
'Is it, by God!' said the policeman. `Now you stand just where you
are, Matthew. Don't you move an inch.'
He took a microphone out of his breast-pocket, pressed a switch,
and spoke into it.
A squad car drew up beside them a couple of minutes later.
'That's service for you. Come to take you home. Hop in now,' thc
policeman told him.
'Thank you very much, sir,' said Matthew, with his customary
respect for the police.
They brought him home about six o'clock that evening. Mary had rung
me up, and I was there to greet him, so, by request, was Dr Aycott.
Matthew seemed to be, on very good terms with his escort. He
invited them in, but they spoke of duty. Matthew thanked them, we
thanked them, and they drove off narrowly missing a car that was turning
in. Its driver introduced himself as Dr Prost, police surgeon, and we
all went inside.
We. had drinks, and after ten minutes or so Dr Prost spoke quietly
to Mary. She took Matthew off in spite of his protests that the police
had already given him a high tea. (*)
'Well, first of all,' said Dr Prost as the door closed behind them,
`you can put your mind at rest. The boy come to no harm at all as far as
we can tell. Furthermore, he has not even been frightened. It is quite
the most considerate kidnapping that I have ever heard of. I see no
reason at all for you to fear any ill-effects either physical, or
dental. He seems to me to be in perfect condition.
'But, having said that, there are one or two things I think [ ought
to mention, which is why I wanted you, Dr Aycott, lo come along. In the
first place, he has had a number of injections, A dozen or more, in both
arms. We have no idea at all what was injected. Whatever it was, it
appears to have had no after effects. He makes no complains of any
abnormal condition. In fact he appears to be excellent spirits.
Nevertheless, since there have been these injections we feel that it
would be wise to keep a careful eye on him for any delayed reactions. We
have no reason to expect them, but we thought it as well, Doctor, that
you should be informed of the possibility.'
Dr Aycott nodded. Dr Prost went on:
'The second thing is rather curious. Matthew is quite convinced
that he has been in a car accident, and that his leg was fractured. He
says that it was in plaster, and that the people "at the hospital" gave
him a new treatment which made it mend very quickly. Naturally, we
X-rayed. There was no sign of a break.'
He paused, frowned into his whisky. and tossed it off. He went on:
'He seems to have been treated very well. Everybody at "the.
hospital" was friendly and reassuring. The whole thing has the
appearance of an elaborate hoax deliberately contrived to be as
unalarming to him as possibly. In fact it seems never to have occurred
to him that he had been kidnapped. The only two elements that puzzled
him were, first, why you and his mother did not go to see him, or answer
when he wrote to you, and, second, the way he was dumped in Birmingham.'
'lt looks to us very much as if somebody wanted him out of the way
for ten days, or so.' He turned a penetrating look on me. `If you know,
or suspect, anybody who could have an interest in doing that, I think
you'd be well advised to tell the police.'
I shook my head.
'I can't think of any conceivable reason for anyone to want to do
such a thing. There's no sense in it,' I said.
'Well, if you can think of any other explanation -' he said, and
left it in the air, not looking entirely convinced.
He and Dr Aycott conferred briefly, and left together a few minutes
later, Dr Aycott promising to look in the next day.
I found Matthew, Mary, and Polly in the kitchen. The police high
tea had left him with some appetite still. I sat down and lit a
'Well, now: suppose you tell us all about it, Matthew,' I
'Oh dear. Again?' said Matthew.
'You haven't told us yet,' I pointed out.
Matthew took a deep breath.
'Well, I was just coming home from school, and this car passed me
and stopped a little way in front. And a man got out and looked up and
down the road in a lost sort of way,' he began.
The man looked at Matthew, appeared to he about to speak, but
hesitated, then just as Matthew was passing him he said:
'Excuse me, but I wonder if you could help us. We're looking for
Densham Road, but none of the roads here seem to have any names.'
'Yes,' said Matthew. `You turn right at the next corner, then the
second on the left. That's Old Lane, only when you get over the
crossroads it's called Densham Road.'
'Thank you. That's very clear,' said the man, and turned to the
car. Then, on an afterthought, he turned back.
'1 suppose you couldn't tell us which side of it lo look for a
house Mr Gore lives in?'
Il was as easy as that. Of course Matthew accepted the offer of a
lift home. He did not know anything else until he woke up in `the
'What made you think it was a hospital?' Mary asked.
'It looked like one - well, the way I think hospitals look,' said
Matthew. `I was in a while bed, and the room was all white and bare and
terribly clean. And there was a nurse; she was frightfully clean, too.'
He had discovered that he couldn't move his leg. The nurse told him
not to try because it had been broken, and asked him if it hurt. He told
her it didn't a bit. She had said `good', and that was because he had
been injected with a new `anti-something' drug that stopped the pain,
and not to worry because they were using a wonderful new process which
healed bones, particularly young ones, very quickly.
There had been two or three doctors - well, they wore white coats
like doctors on television, anyway - and they were friendly and
cheerful. There was rather a lot of injecting. He hadn't liked that at
first, but didn't mind it much after the first two or three times,
Anyway, it was worth it because the leg hadn't hurt at all.
Sometimes it had been a bit boring, but they gave him some books.
They hadn't a radio to spare, they told him, but they had let him have a
record-player with lots of records. The food was jolly good.
His chief disappointment was that we had not come to see him.
'Of course we'd have come if we could, but we'd no idea w:here you
were,' Mary told him.
'They said they'd told you. And I wrote you two letters with the
address at thc top,' (*) Matthew protested.
'I'll afraid nobody did tell us. And we never got your letters,
either,' I said. `What was the address?'
'Aptford House, Wonersh, near Guildford,' (*) he told me promptly.
'You've told the police that?'
He went on. Apparently he'd seen nothing of the place except thc
room he had @een kept in. The view from its window had been
undistinguished, a meadow in the foreground, bounded by a hedge with
tall trees in it. Sometime the day before yesterday they had taken off
the cast, examined his leg, told him it had mended perfectly, and would
be as good as ever, and that he'd be able to go home the next day.
Actually they had started ln the dark - he did not know the time
because there was no clock in the room, He had said goodbye to the
nurse. One of the doctors - not in a white coat this time -- had taken
him downstairs to where there was a big car waiting in front of the
house. When they got in the back the doctor said they'd leave the light
on, but had better have the blinds down so as not to dazzle the driver.
After they'd started the doctor produced a pack of cards and did some
tricks with them. Then the doctor brought out a couple of vacuum flasks,
coffee in one for himself, cocoa in the. other for Matthew. Shortly
after that Matthew had fallen asleep.
He had woken up feeling rather cold. The car hall stopped, and
there was dayllght outside. When he sat up he discovered that not only
was he all alone, but he was in a different car which was parked in an
utterly unfamiliar street. It was very bewildering. He got out of the
car. There were few people walking along the street, but they looked
busily on their way somewhere, and took no notice of him. At the end of
the street he saw its name on the wall of the building. He didn't
remember what it was, but above it he read `City of Birmingham', which
puzzled him greatly. He was now facing a bigger, busier street, with a
small cafe just opposite. He became aware that he was hungry, but when
he felt in his pocket he found he'd no money. After that, the only thing
to do had seemed to be to find a policeman, and put his problems to him.
'A very sensible thing to do, too,' I told him.
'Yes ...' said Matthew, doubtfully. `But they kept on asking so
'And they brought you all the way home in a squad car, free?' Polly
'Well, three cars,' Matthew told her. `There was one to the,
Birmingham police station where they asked a lot of questions, then one
to the Hindmere police station, where they gave me that high tea, and
asked all the same questions over again. And then one here.'
'Gosh, you are lucky,' said Polly enviously. `I have never been
kidnapped in my life.'
'Kidnapped ...' Matthew repeated, `But ...' He broke off, and
became very thoughtful. He turned to me. 'Was I kidnapped, Daddy?'
'It looks very much like it.' I told him.
'But - but ... But they were kind people, nice people. They got me
better. They weren't a bit like kidnappers ...' He lapsed into thought
again, and emerged from it to ask: 'Do you mean it was all phoney - my
leg wasn't broken at all?'
'I don't believe it. It had plaster on - and everything,' he
protested. `Anyway, why? Why should anybody want to kidnap me?' He
checked, and then asked: `Did you have to pay a lot of money, Daddy?'
I shook my head again.
`No. Nothing at all,' 1 assured him.
'Then it can't have been kidnapped,' asserted Matthew'.
'You must be tired out,' Mary put in. `Give me a kiss. Then run
along upstairs, both of you. Daddy and I will come up and see you when
you're in bed, Matthew.'
The door closed behind him. Mary looked at me, her eyes brimming.
Then she laid her head on her arms on the table and - for the first time
since Matthew had disappeared - she let herself cry ...
That was Tuesday.
On Wednesday Dr Aycott looked in as he had promised. He gave
Matthew a very thorough examination with so satisfactory a result that
he saw no reason why Matthew should not go to school the following day.
On Wednesday, also, Mary felt it to be her duty to ring up her
sister Janet and inform her that Matthew was now restored to us in
perfect health, and then had to spend some time explaining that his
health was not perhaps quite perfect enough to withstand a family
invasion the next week-end.
On Thursday Matthew went to school and returned a bit above himself
on discovering that he had been a figure of national interest while at
the same time feeling somewhat inadequate in not having a more exciting
tale to tell.
By Friday everything was back to normal.
That evening Mary, feeling tired, went upstairs to bed soon after
ten. I stayed down. I had brought home some week, and thought I would
clear it off to leave the weekend free.
About half-past eleven there was a tap on the door. Matthew's head
appeared, and looked cautiously round.
`Has Mummy gone to bed?' he inquired.
`Some time ago. It's where you ought to be,' I told him.
`Good.' he said, and came in, carefully closing the door behind
him. He was wearing his dressing-gown and bedroom slippers, and his hair
was all on end. (*) I wondered if he had been having a nightmare.
`What's the matter?' I asked.
He glanced back at the door as if to make sure it was closed.
'It's Chocky,' he told me.
My spirits sank a little.
'I thought she'd come away - for good,' I said.
'She did. But she's come back now. She says she wants me to tell
you some things.'
I sighed. It had been a relief to think that we had finished with
all that, but Matthew was looking very earnest and somewhat troubled. I
took a cigarette, lit it, and leaned back.
`All right,' I said. `I'm all attention. What things?'
But Matthew had become abstracted. He did not appear to hear. He
noticed my expression though.
`Sorry, Daddy. Just a minute,' he said, and reverted to his look of
abstraction. His changes of expression and the small movements of his
head gave one a sensation of seeing one side of a television
conversation, with the sound cut off. It ended with him nodding and
saying aloud: 'Okay. I'll try,' though rather doubtfully. Looking at me
again he explained:
'Chocky says it'll take an awful long time if she has to tell me
and then I have to tell you because sometimes I can't think of the right
words for what she means; and sometimes they don't quite mean it when I
can; if you see what I mean.'
'I think I do,' I told him. `Lots of other people have. difficulty
over that at the best of times. And when it's a kind of translation,
too, it must be quite hard work.'
'Yes, it is, ' Matthew agreed, decidedly. `So Chocky thinks it
would be better if she talks to you herself.'
'Oh,' I said. `Well - tell her to go ahead. What do I do?'
'No, not the way she talks to me, I don't understand why, but she
says that only words with some people. It doesn't with you, so she wants
to try and see if we can do it another way.'
'What other way?' I inquired.
'Well, me talking, but sort of letting her do it ... Like my hands
and the painting,' he explained, not very adequately.
'Oh,' I said again, this time doubtfully, I was feeling at sea, (*)
unclear what was implied, uncertain whether it ought to be encouraged,
`I don't know. Do you think ...?'
'I don't know,' he said. `But Chocky's pretty sure she can work it
okay, so I expect she can. She's usually right about things like that.'
I was uneasy, with a feeling that 1 was being forced to take part
in something suspiciously like a seance. (*) I stalled.
'Look here,' I said. 'If this is going to take some time, don't you
think it would be better if you were in bed, You'd keep warmer there.'
'All right,' agreed Matthew.
So we went up to his room. He got back to bed, and I sat down in a
chair. I still had misgivings, a feeling that I ought not to be allowing
this to go on - and a conviction that if Mary were here she would
disapprove strongly and 1 only hoped that once Matthew was back in bell
again he would fall asleep.
Matthew leant his head back on the pillow, and closed his eyes.
'1 am going to think of nothing,' he said.
I hesitated. Then:
'Look here, Matthew. Don't you ...?' I began, and then broke off as
his eyes reopened, They were not looking at me now, nor, seemingly,, at
anything else. His lips parted, came together two or three times without
a sound, parted again, and his voice said:
'It is Chocky talking.'
There was no air of seance about it, nothing of the medium about
Matthew: no pale face, no change in his rate of breathing. Except for
the unfocussed look in his eyes he was apparently quite himself. The
voice went on:
'I want to explain some things to you. It is not easy because I can
use only Matthew's understanding, and only his' - there was a slight
pause - 'vocabulary, which is simple, and not large, and has some
meanings not clear in his mind.'
The voice was characteristically Matthew's, but thc flatness of its
delivery was certainly not. There was an impression of intended
decisiveness blurred, and frustrated; an athlete condemned to take part
in a sack-race. (*) Unwillingly fascinated I said:
'Very well, I'll do my best to follow you.'
'I want to talk to you because I shall not come back again after
this. You will be glad to hear this: the other part of his parent, I
mean Matthew, I mean your wife, will be gladder because it is afraid of
me and thinks I am bad for Matthew, which is a pity because I did not
mean me, I mean you, I mean Matthew, any harm. Do you understand?'
'1 think so,' I said, cautiously. `But wouldn't it be best to tell
me first who you are, what you are, why you are here at al?'
`I am an explorer, I mean scout, I mean missionary - no, I mean
teacher. I am here to teach things.'
`Oh, are you? What sort of things?'
There was a pause, then
`Matthew hasn't words for them - he doesn't understand them.'
`Not, perhaps, a very successful teacher?'
`Not yet. Matthew is too young. He can only think in too simple
words for difficult ideas. If I think in maths, or physic, we do not
meet. Even numbers are difficult. This is a good thing, I mean, lucky.'
I have quoted the above exchanges as closely as I can remember in
order to give some idea of what I was up against, and to justify my
corrections and simplifications from now on. A word-for-word record
would be impossible. The usual words and usages came easily enough, but
less familiar words brought hold-ups.
Add to that thc necessity to wade through a mess of Matthew's
favourite, and not very specific, adjectives: sort-of, kind-of, and
I-mean, and the conversation became so intricate that it is quite
necessary for me to edit ruth-lessly in order to extract and attempt to
convey Chocky's intended meaning - in so far as I could grasp it, which
was not always.
I could see from the beginning that it was not going to be easy.
The sight of Matthew lying there, quite expressionless as he spoke, his
eyes with that unfocussed stare was too disturbing for rlle to give the
words the fuli attention they needed.
I turned otlt the light as an aid to concentration - and in
sneaking hope that without it he might fall asleep.
'AII right. Go ahead,' I said into the darkness. `You are a
missionary - or a teacher - or an explorer. Where from?'
'Far? How far?'
'I do not know, Many, many parsecs.' (*)
'Oh,' I said.
'I was sent here to find out what kind of a planet this is.'
'Were you indeed. Why?'
'To see, in the first place, whether it would be useful to us. You
see, we are a very old people compared with you, on a very old planet
compared with yours. It has long been clear to us that if we want to
survive we must colonize. But that is difficult. A ship that can travei
only at the speed of light takes a very long time to get anywhere. One
cannot send out ships on time chance of their finding a suitable planet.
There are innumerable millions of planets. It is extrernely hard to find
a suitable one.
'So a scout - an explorer - is sent out in this way. Because mind
has no mass it takes no time to travel. The scout makes his report. If
he reports that it would be a suitable planet for a colony, other scouts
are sent to check. lf their reports are favourable, the astronomers go
to work to locate the planet. If it is found to be within practicable
range they may send a ship of colonists. But this is very rare. It has
happened only four times in a thousand of your years. And only two
colonies have been established.'
'I see. And when are we to expect a ship here?'
'Oh, this planet is not any use to us. Your planet is exceptional,
and very beautifu], but it is much too cold for us, and there is a great
deal too much water. There are plenty of reasons wily it is quite
impossible fot us. I could tell that at once.'
'Then why stay hete? Why not go and find a more suitable planet?'
Chocky went on, patiently:
`We are explorers. We are at present, as far as we know, the only
explorers of the universe. For a long time we thought that ours was the
only planet that could support life. Then we found others that could - a
few. For still longer we thought we are unique - the only intelligent
form of life - utterly lonely in the horrid wastes of space... Again we
discovered we were mistaken...'
'But intelligent life is rare... very rare indeed... the rarest
thing in creation...'
'But the most precious...'
'For intelligent life is the only thing that gives meaning to the
universe. It is a holy thing, to be fostered and treasured.'
'Therefore, the support of all intelligent forms is a sacred duty.
Even the merest spark of reason must be fanned in the hope of a flame.
Frustrated intelligence must have its bonds broken. Narrow-channelled
intelligence must be given the power to widen out. High intelligence
must be learned from. That is why I have stayed here.'
`And into which of these categories do you think the Intelligent
life of this planet falls?' I asked.
The Chocky-Matthew voice answered that without hesitation.
'Narrow-channelled. It has recently managed to over-come some of
its frustrations by its own efforts - which is hopefully good progress
at your age. It is now in a groove of primitive technology.'
'But it seems to us that we are making progress pretty fast.'
'Yes. You have not done badly with electricity in a hundred years.
And you did well with steam in quite a short time. But all that is so
inefficient. And your oil engines are dirty, noisy, poisonous, and the
cars you drive with them are barbarous, dangerous ...'
'Yes,' I interrupted. `You mentioned that before, to Matthew. But
we do have atomic power now.'
'Very crudely, yes. You are learning, slowly. But you still live in
a finite, sun-based economy.'
'Yes. Everything you are, and have, you owe to tile radiations from
your sun. Direct radiations you must have to keep your bodies alive, and
to grow your food, and provide fresh-water; and they could continue to
support you for millions of years. But to grow and expand intelligence
'It is true you have an elementary form of atomic power which you
will no doubt improve. But that is almost your only investment for your
future. Most of your power is being used to build machines to consume
power faster and faster, while your sources of power remain finite.
There can be only one end to that.'
'You have a point there,' I agreed. `What, in your opinion, ought
we to be doing?'
'You should be employing your resources, while you still have them,
to develop the use of a source of power which is not finite. Once you
have an infinite supply of power you will have broken out of the closed
circle of your solar-economy. You will no longer be isolated and
condemned to eventual degeneration upon wasted resources. You will
become a part of the larger creation, for a source of infinite power is
a source of infinite possibilities.'
'I see,' I said. `At least, I think I see - dimly. What is this
source of infinite power?'
'It is radiation - throughout the cosmos. It can be tapped and
I thought. Then I said:
'It is a funny thing that in a world crowded with scientists nobody
has suspected the existence of this source of power.'
'It is an equally funny thing that two hundred of your years ago
nobody understood, nor suspected, the potentials of electricity. But
they were there to be discovered. So is xxxxx.'
'So is - what?'
'Matthew has no word for it. It is a concept he cannot grasp.'
After a pause I asked:
'So you are here to sell us a new form of power. Why?'
'I have told you that. Intelligent forms are rare. In each form
they owe a duty to all other forms. Today we can help you over some
obstacles; it may be you will so develop that in some future time you
will be able to help us, or others, over obstacles. The employment of
xxxxx is only the first thing we can teach you. lt will liberate your
world from a great deal of hard work, and clear the your future
'So we are, in fact, a kind of investment for you?'
'You could also say that if a teacher does not teach his pupils to
overtake him there can be no advance.'
There was quite a lot more along these lines. I found it somewhat
tedious. It was difficult to drag thc conversation from the general to
the particular, Chocky seemed to have her mission so much at heart. But
I managed it at last.
Why, I wanted to know, out of millions of possible hosts, had
Chocky chosen to come here and `haunt' Matthew.
Chocky explained that `millions' was a gross overstatement.
Conditions varied with the type of intelligent life-form, of course, but
here there was a number of qualifications that had to be fulfilled.
First, the subject had to have the type of mind that was susceptible to
her communications. This was by no means common. Second, it l@ad to bc a
young mind. Third, it must be a mind with a potential of development -
which, according to her, a surprising proportion have not. Fourth, its
owner must inhabit a technologically advanced country where the
educational opportunities are good.
These requirements narrowed the field remarkably, but eventually
her search had brought her to Matthew who fulfilled all of them.
I said that I still did not see her purpose. She said, and I
thought I could detect a note of sadness even through the flatness of
'I would have interested Matthew in physics. He would have taken it
up, and with me to help him he would have done remarkably well. As his
knowledge of physics increased we should have had the basis of a common
language. He would begin to understand some of the concepts I wanted to
communicate to him. Gradually, as he learned, communication would grow
still better. I should convince him that xxxxx existed, and he would
begin to search for it. I would still be able to communicate only in
terms that he could understand. It still would l)e like' - there was a
pause - `something like trying to teach a steam-engineer with no
knowledge of electricity how to build a radio transmitter - without
names for any of the parts, or word for their functions. Difficult, but
with time, patience, and intelligence, not impossible.
'If he had succeeded in demonstrating the existence of xxxxx - let
us call it cosmic-power - he would have become the most famous man in
your world. Greater than your Newton, or your Einstein.'
There was a pause while she let that sink in. It did. I said:
'Do you know, I don't think that would have suited Matthew very
well. He hated taking the credit for saving Polly's life. He would have
hated this unearned fame even more.'
'It would have been hard-earned. Very hard-earned indeed.'
'Perhaps, but all the same - Oh, well, it doesn't matter now. Tell
me, why have you decided to give it up? Why arc you going away?'
'Because I made mistakes. I have failed here. It is my first
assignment. I was warned of the difficulties and dangers. I did not take
enough notice of the warnings. The failure is my own fault.'
A scout, a missionary, she explained, should preserve detachment.
She was advised not to let her sympathies become engaged, not to
identify with her host, and, above all, to be discreet.
Chocky had understood this well enough in theory before she came,
hut once she had made contact with Matthew it had seemed that the
preservation of detachment was not one of her gifts. The proper
missionary temperament would not have let itself get into arguments with
Matthew; nor have made disparaging remarks about the local inhabitants.
It would simply have noted that Matthew was incompetent with his paints;
it would not have tried to help him do better. It would have been
careful to keep its influence down to the minimum. Quite certainly it
would not have permitted itself to develop an affection for Matthew that
could lead to an interference with the natural course of events. It
would regretfully, but quite properly, have let Matthew drown ...
'Well, thank God for your lack of discretion that time,' 1 said.
`But are these indiscretions as serious as all that? I can see that they
have aroused a certain amount of unwelcome attention, indeed we have
suffered from it ourselves, but it doesn't see!n to me that even ta@en
all together they can amount to failure.'
Chocky insisted that they did. She i@ad had her first suspicion
that failure might lie ahead when Matthew had talked to Landis.
'He told him too much,' she said. `It was not until then that I
realized how much I had talked to Matthew. I could only hope that Landis
would be unintelligent enough to dismiss it as a child's fantasy.'
But Landis was not. On the contrary, he had found it a fascinating
problem. He had mentioned it to Sir William Thorbe, who also found it
Chocky went on:
'When Sir William hypnotized Matthew, he did not hypnotize me. I
could hear what Matthew heard, I could also watch through his eyes. 1
saw Sir William turn on his tape-recorder and heard him ask his
questions. At first he was merely interested by Matthew's answers. Then
he paid closer attention. He tried several trick questions. He tempted
lack of understanding in attempts to catch Matthew out. He pretended to
assume that Matthew had said things which he might have said, but had
not. He tempted Matthew to invent, or to lie, with misleading questions.
When none of these traps worked, he stopped the tape-recorder, and
looked at Matthew very thoughtfullly for some minutes. I could see him
becoming excited. He poured himself a drink, and his hand was shaking
slightly. While he drink it he continued to stare at Matthew with
half-incredulous wonderment of a man who has struck gold. (*)
'Presently, with a decisive gesture he put down his glass. He took
himself in hand and became coolly methodical. He re-started thc
tape-recorder, tested it with care, picked up a note pad and pencil, and
closed his eyes for a few moments in concentration. Then the questioning
really began ...'
The Matthew-Chocky voice paused for a little.
'That was when I knew I had failed ... To attempt to go on further
with Matthew would be a waste of time - and dangerous, too. I knew I
would have to leave him - and would have to make the parting painful for
him, too. I was sorry about that - but it was necessary for him to be
utterly convinced that I was going for good - never to return. Nor shall
I, after this.'
'I don't quite see ...'
'It was quite clear that Sir William, having made his discovery,
had his plans for making use of it; or handing on his news to someone
else - and once that happened there would be no end to it ...'
'It dill happen, and very quickly. Matthew was kidnapped. He was
injected with hypnotic, and other, drugs. And he talked ...'
'They wrung him dry. (*) Every detail, every word I had ever told
him went into their tape-recorders ... And their recordings included his
distress at my leaving him ... That was painful enough to convince them
that it was true, and under drugs it could not leave been otherwise ...'
'They were not bad people. They certainly wished him no harm. On
the contrary, until they learnt that I had left him, he was potentially
a very valuable property indeed. They realized that he was a channel
through which I could, when he should have more background knowledge,
and understanding, communicate information that would change the power
sources of the whole world.'
'When they had to accept the fact that I had left him, they decided
the wisest course would be to let him go - and keep an eye on him. They
could always pick him up again if there were any sign that I had
returned; and they will go on watching for that sign ...'
'I don't know whether they have bugged this room yet, but if they
haven't, they will. It doesn't much matter now whether they have, or
not, because I really am going, after this.'
I broke in.
'I don't think I altogether understand this,' I said. 'From your
point of view, I mean. They, whoever "they" may be, had Matthew. They
could have seen to it that he should have the best possible coaching in
physics and maths and whatever is necessary for him to understand you.
That was what you wanted: your channel of communication - with all the
help they could make available to him. If your purpose is, as you say,
to tell us how to develop the use of a source of "cosmic power" you had
the whole thing on a plate. (*) They want to know what you want to tell
them. And yet, instead of seizing the opportunity, you withdraw ... It
does not make sense ...'
There was a pause.
'I don't think you altogether understand your own world,' was
Chocky's reply. `There are power-empires: oil interests, gas interests,
coal interests, electrical interests, atomic interests. How much would
they be willing to pay for information of a threat to their existence? A
million pounds... two million... three million... even more? Somebody
would take the chance...'
'And then what would a little boy's life matter? What would a
hundred lives matter, if necessary? There would be plenty of effective
ways of taking action ... '
I had not thought of that ...
Chocky went on.
'I tell you this because Matthew will be watched, and you may
become aware of it. It does not matter, but do not tell him unless it is
necessary. It is unpleasant to know that one is watched.'
`If you are wise you will discourage him from taking up physics -
or any science, then there will be nothing to feed their suspicion. He
is beginning to learn how to look at things, and to have an idea of
drawing. As an artist he would be safe...'
`Remember, he knows nothing of what I have been telling you through
`Now is the time for me to say goodbye.'
`You are going back to your own world?' I asked.
`No. I have to do my work here. But this failure has made it much
more difficult. It will take longer. I shall have to be subtle. They
will be watching for me now.'
`You think you can do it in spite of that?'
`Off course. I must do it. It is my duty as one intelligent form to
another. But now it will have to be done differently. A hint here, a
hint there, an idea for one man, a moment of inspiration for another,
more and more little pieces, until one day they will suddenly come
together. The puzzle will be solved - the secret out... It will take a
long time. Probably it will not happen in your lifetime. But it will
come... it will come...'
`Before you go,' I put in, `what are you, Chocky? I think I might
understand better if I could imagine you as more than a blank. Suppose I
gave Matthew a pencil and paper, would you have him draw a picture of
There was a pause, but then it was followed by a `No' that was
'No,' repeated the Matthew-Chocky voice. `Even with my: training I
sometimes find it hard to believe that forms like yours can house real
minds at all, I think you would find it still harder to believe that
mine could if you could see me. No, it is better not.' The voice paused
'Goodbye,' it said.
I got up, feeling stiff and somewhat chilled. There was a dim early
light coming through the curtains, enough of it to show Matthew still
lying in his bed, still gazing blankly into nothingness. I moved towards
him. His lips parted.
'No,' they said, `let him be. I must say goodbye to him too.'
I hesitated a moment, then:
'All right,' I said. `Goodbye, Chocky.'
We let Matthew sleep the whole morning. He came down at lunch-time,
tired and depressed, but, I was thankful to see, not too much. After
lunch he got out his bicycle and went off by himself. We did not see him
again until he came in weary, but hungry for his supper. Immediately
after he had finished it he went upstairs to bed.
The. next day, Sunday, he was almost his usual self again. Mary's
concern diminished as she watched him eat a huge breakfast. After
breakfast Matthew and I took a quiet stroll along the river bank.
'She told me she had to go,' I said.
'Yes,' agreed Matthew. He sighed. `She explained properly this
time. It was pretty horrid the way she did it beFore.'
I did not inquire into the explanation she had given him. He sighed
'It's going to be a bit dull,' he said. `She sort of made me notice
'Can't you go on noticing things? The world's quite an interesting
place. There's lots to notice.'
'Oh, I do. @ore than I did, I mean. Only it's kind of lonely, just
noticing by yourself ...'
'Ii you could get what you see down on paper you'd be able to share
your noticing with other people ...' I suggested.
'Yes,' Matthew admitted. `It wouldn't be the same - but it'd be
I stopped, and my hand in my pocket.
'Matthew, I've got this I want to give you.'
I took out a small red leather-covered case, and held it out to
Matthew's eyes clouded. His hands did not move.
'No. Take it,' I insisted.
He took it reluctantly, and gazed at it dim-eyed. 'Open it,' I told
He hesitated. Slowly, and even more reluctantly he pressed the
catch, and lifted the lid.
The medal glittered in the sunlight.
Matthew looked at it with an indifference that was near to
distaste. Suddenly he stiffened, and bent his head forward to examine it
more closely. For some seconds he did not move. Then he looked up
smiling, though his eyes were overbright.
'Thank you, Daddy ... Oh, thank you ... !' he si and dropped his
head to study it again.
They had made a nice job of it. It looked just as if it had always
FOR A VALOROUS DEED
LIst of names
Names of Persons
1. Christian Names
to page 109
for labours to come - for coming work
do make a day - _do_ is often used to emphasize a statement or a
command as in "Do shut up!" (p.115) Russ. ‡ вЄЁбм ¦Ґ вл!
he appeared to be cut short - it appeared (seemed) that he was
to page 110
the consistency of the assumption that a second party was involved
- Matthew behaved as though he really believed that he was talking with
to page 111
he would often be stopped by a cry of anguish from Polly - _would_
is used here to denote a repeated action in the past (=used to). See
also the following few sentences.
to page 112
A Piff can provide ... on other, and smaller, boys. - A small child
can be satisfied by an imagined creature like Piff, whom she may treat
as her junior, but an eleven-year-old boy can use smaller children for
these bossing purposes without inventing anyone (to boss - to execise
authority over a person).
I'm sure I hope you are right - I do hope you are right
to page 113
I didn't mean to make heavy weather on it. It just strikes me as
odd. - I was't going to be too serious about it. It just seems strange
on the spur of the moment = hastily, without preparation
to page 115
She won't leave me alone. (Russ. Ћ Ё § зв® Ґ е®зҐв ®бв ўЁвм
¬Ґп ў Ї®Є®Ґ.) Modal _would_ here shows persistance.
Then she rose to the occasion = Then she managed to grasp the
Here is to ... - a usual toasting formula (Russ. ‚лЇмҐ¬ § ...)
to page 116
Now that Chocky's existence was out of the bag = Now that Chocky's
existence was no longer a xecret
Wordsworth's cuckoo - an allusion to a poem by William Wordsworth
...O Cuckoo! Shall I call you a bird
Or but a wandering voice?
(To the Cuckoo: O Blithe New-comer)
to page 117
You're steering close to dangerous waters. - You are touching upon
sort of..., kind of... - (in Matthew's speech) practically
meaningless expression, correspond to Russian ўа®¤Ґ Є Є
to page 118
Chocky's balance did on the whole lean more to the F than the M =
Chocky was more like a woman than a man (F stands for female, M for
to page 119
before Freud was invented - before Freud became popular. Sigmund
Freud (1856-1939) - Austrian physician and psychiatrist, founder of
you turn loose a whole new boxfil of troubles = tou may expect a
lot of new troubles
to page 121
I take your Matthew for maths. = I teach your Matthew mathematics.
to page 122
I'd rather didn't. = I don't think you should do it.
to page 123
what had got out of gear = what was wrong
to page 124
the binary code - in mathematics: a system of numeration using 2
figures (not 10) as the base
to page 125
Joan of Arc (1412-1431; Fr. Jeanne d'Arc) - French national
heroine; defeated the English at Orleans (1429); burned at the stake for
to page 126
station-wagon - an automobile with a back end that opens for easy
loading of luggage, etc.
to page 127
it was generally voted that the Gore family was entitled to filt
its chins a degree or two higher = the general opinion was that now the
Gores would have the right to feel a little more proud of themselves
There now, old man. Take it easy. = Don't worry about it, old man.
_There now_ - an exclamation expressing sympathy.
take your time = don't be in a hurry
to page 128
a here-we-go-again feeling = (here) a feeling that we were
returning to the Chocky problem again. In colloquial English a quotation
group can be used as an attribute.
all but overwhelmed him = nearly overwhelmed him
to page 129
However, rather than risk a wrong step now, I keep up the front. =
However, not wishing to risk a wrong step now, I continued to pretend I
to page 130
safety-value - (here) something that serves as an outlet for the
release of strong emotion
the old boy was an adequate enough pill-pusher = (derogatory) the
old man was a good enough physician
the Matthew problem was not in his line = the problem with Matthew
was not hos speciality
to have a line on smth. = to have information about smth.
to page 131
we had things under way = (here) we were making progress
to page 132
of his own accord = on his own, voluntarily
school report - written report of a pupil's marks, behaviour, etc.,
sent to his parents at regular intervals
to page 133
as becomes a with-it medical man = as a fashionable medical man
Jaguar - an expensive make of a stylish sports car
to page 134
frowned me away = sent me away with a frown
to get smth. off one's chest = to unburden oneself of some trouble
by talking about it
to page 138
It wouldn't turn into proper words. - Chocky could not find
suitable words to express her idea.
to let smb. down = to disappoint smb.
to page 139
Let's get straight. = Let's make this thing clean.
to get out of hand = to get out of control
to page 140
out of usual key - unusual for him
to page 142
I've nothing against Aycott as a cut-stitcher and measles-spotter,
but I don't feel this kind of thing is up his street. = I've nothing
against Aycott as an ordinary physician, but I don't feel this kind of
things is in his line.
to page 143
the look she keeps for hair-splitting = a hair-splitting,
and soon to be nipped = which soon disappeared
to page 145
They grew on one, once the first strangeness had worn off. = You
started liking them when you had got used to them.
to page 148
time you were off to bed now = now it's time for you to go to bed
to page 149
Lewis Mumford's _living in Cities_ - Lewis Mumford (born in 1895) -
American author, critic and educationalist; several of his books are
devoted to the problems of big cities
much of an age with our own = almost of the same age as our own
to page 150
off the map = beyond the area covered by local maps
near thing = narrow escape, escape at the last moment
Cheers - a usual exclamation before drinking a glass of wine, beer,
The tide was a bit past the turn = The tide was getting lower
to page 151
But for his repeated assurances = If he had't assured me several
he's going to make sure Matthew gets one = he is going to do
everything necessary so that Matthew would get a medal
to page 153
It was a memorable overstatement - exaggeration. The author means
that in fact Matthew's words were not at all clear to him.
to page 155
Boy-hero tells of `guardian angel' rescue. - Note the omission of
the article and the peculiar sty;e characteristic of newspaper headings.
to page 156
England could do with more boys like him. - England needs such
to page 157
`Today' - a BBC daily morning program of current affairs
Jack de Manio - a popular BBC announcer and compere
hang it! - an exclamation of anger or exasperation
to page 160
Thursday made up for it - (here) on Thursday there was a lot about
Matthew in the newspapers
vis-a-vis (Fr., opposite) - a person who is face to face with
another (as in a railway carriage)
the Waterloo Station - a big railway station in London
Bloomsbury Square - a square in the centre of London, near the
to page 162
you'll have gathered = you must have understood
you ... could do with ... - cf. Russ. ’ҐЎҐ Ґ Ї®ўаҐ¤Ё«® Ўл...
to page 165
big groups - (here) big companies or firms (see below: big boys =
big business men)
to page 167
the Downs - the treeless, hilly uplands of Kent and Sussex in
to page 169
feeling much the better for our week-end = feeling much the better
after our week-end rest
the Sundays - (here) Sunday newspapers
to page 171
the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) - outstanding British general
and ststesman; defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815
to page 175
Sir William Something - _Something_ stands for the surname which
Mary doesn't remember. See also Sir William Thing (p.177). Cf. Russ.
ќв®в Є Є ҐЈ® в ¬.
She had a point = (here) she was right
to page 177
unless it were to become persistent = unless it became persistent
to page 178
Thorbe had been right off the beam = Thorbe had been absolutely
take it at face value = (here) believe it
all I had got was a brush-off and a let-down = I had only been
brushed off (got rid of) and let down (disappointed)
to page 180
to cut school = to stay away from school
to page 181
He's kept everything so bottled up. = He hasn't been willing to
discuss his problems with anybody.
to page 182
The Monday papers took it up. = On Monday all the newspapers wrote
to page 184
a high tea - a meal somewhat more substantial and served later than
the usual five o'clock tea
to page 186
with the address at the top - in Great Britain and some other
countries the return address is usually written on the flap of the
envelope, that is, at the top of the back side
Aptford House, Wonersh, near Guildford - Guildford, a town about 20
miles South-West of London; Wonersh, a former village, now a district of
Guilford. No street or number is given because in small places like
Wonersh houses are usually known by names their owners give them, as
to page 189
his hair was all end - cf. Russ. ў®«®бл г ҐЈ® бв®п«Ё ¤лЎ®¬
to page 190
I was feeling at sea = I was uncertain, bewildered
seance (Fr.) - a meeting at which a group of spiritualists try to
communicate with the spirits of the dead through a medium, a person who
is believed to be able to speak with such spirits
to page 191
a sack-race - a race in which each participant lies his legs in a
sack and moves by jumping
to page 192
parsec - a unit of measure of astronomical distance, equal to 3.26
light years, or 19,200,000,000,000 miles
to page 197
a man who has struck gold = a man who has found a treasure
to page 198
They wrung him dry. = They made him tell them everything he knew.
you had the whole thing on a plate = you could easily do whatever
you intended to