Authors: Madeleine L’Engle
Then she felt her limbs again. Her legs and arms were tingling faintly, as though they had been asleep. She blinked
her eyes rapidly, but though she herself was somehow back, nothing else was. It was not as simple as
darkness, or absence of light. Darkness has a tangible quality; it can be moved through and felt; in darkness you can bark your shins; the world of things still exists around you. She was lost in a horrifying void.
It was the same way with the silence. This was more than silence. A deaf person
can feel vibrations. Here there was nothing to feel.
Suddenly she was aware of her heart beating rapidly within the cage of her ribs. Had it stopped before? What had made it start again? The tingling in her arms and legs grew stronger, and suddenly she felt movement. This movement, she felt, must be the turning of the earth, rotating on its axis, traveling its elliptic course about the sun. And
this feeling of moving with the earth was somewhat like the feeling of being in the ocean, out in the ocean beyond this rising and falling of the breakers, lying on the moving water, pulsing gently with the swells, and feeling the gentle, inexorable tug of the moon.
I am asleep; I am dreaming, she thought. I’m having a nightmare. I want to wake up. Let me wake up.
“Well!” Charles Wallace’s voice
said. “That was quite a trip! I do think you might have warned us.”
Light began to pulse and quiver. Meg blinked and shoved shakily at her glasses and there was Charles Wallace standing indignantly in front of her, his hands on his hips. “Meg!” he shouted. “Calvin! Where are you?”
She saw Charles, she heard him, but she could not go to him. She could not shove through the strange, trembling
light to meet him.
Calvin’s voice came as though it were pushing through a cloud. “Well, just give me time, will you? I’m older than you are.”
Meg gasped. It wasn’t that Calvin wasn’t there and then that he was. It wasn’t that part of him came first and then the rest of him followed, like a hand and then an arm, an eye and then a nose. It was a sort of shimmering, a looking at Calvin through
water, through smoke, through fire, and then there he was, solid and reassuring.
“Meg!” Charles Wallace’s voice came. “Meg! Calvin, where’s Meg?”
“I’m right here,” she tried to say, but her voice seemed to be caught at its source.
“Meg!” Calvin cried, and he turned around, looking about wildly.
“Mrs Which, you haven’t left Meg be
, have you?” Charles Wallace shouted.
“If you’ve hurt Meg,
any of you—” Calvin started, but suddenly Meg felt a violent push and a shattering as though she had been thrust through a wall of glass.
you are!” Charles Wallace said, and rushed over to her and hugged her.
am I?” Meg asked breathlessly, relieved to hear that her voice was now coming out of her in more or less a normal way.
She looked around rather wildly. They were
standing in a sunlit field, and the air about them was moving with the delicious fragrance that comes only on the rarest of spring days when the sun’s touch is gentle and the apple blossoms
are just beginning to unfold. She pushed her glasses up on her nose to reassure herself that what she was seeing was real.
They had left the silver glint of a biting autumn evening; and now around them everything
was golden with light. The grasses of the field were a tender new green, and scattered about were tiny, multicolored flowers. Meg turned slowly to face a mountain reaching so high into the sky that its peak was lost in a crown of puffy white clouds. From the trees at the base of the mountain came a sudden singing of birds. There was an air of such ineffable peace and joy all around her that
her heart’s wild thumping slowed.
“When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning, or in rain,”
came Mrs Who’s voice. Suddenly the three of them were there, Mrs Whatsit with her pink stole askew; Mrs Who with her spectacles gleaming; and Mrs Which still little more than a shimmer. Delicate, multicolored butterflies were fluttering about them, as though in greeting.
and Mrs Who began to giggle, and they giggled until it seemed that, whatever their private joke was, they would fall down with the wild fun of it. The shimmer seemed to be laughing, too. It became vaguely darker and more solid; and then there appeared a figure in a black robe and a black peaked hat, beady eyes, a beaked nose, and long gray hair; one bony claw clutched a broomstick.
ttoo kkeepp yyou girrlls happpy,” the
strange voice said, and Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who fell into each other’s arms in gales of laughter.
“If you ladies have had your fun I think you should tell Calvin and Meg a little more about all this,” Charles Wallace said coldly. “You scared Meg half out of her wits, whisking her off this way without any warning.”
Finxerunt animi, raro et perpauca loquentis
,” Mrs Who intoned. “Horace.
To action little, less to words inclined
“Mrs Who, I wish you’d stop quoting!” Charles Wallace sounded very annoyed.
Mrs Whatsit adjusted her stole. “But she finds it so difficult to verbalize, Charles dear. It helps her if she can quote instead of working out words of her own.”
“Anndd wee mussttn’tt looose ourr sensses of hummorr,” Mrs Which said. “Thee onnlly
wway ttoo ccope withh ssometthingg ddeadly sseriouss iss ttoo ttry ttoo trreatt itt a llittlle lligghtly.”
“But that’s going to be hard for Meg,” Mrs Whatsit said. “It’s going to be hard for her to realize that we
“What about me?” Calvin asked.
“The life of your father isn’t at stake,” Mrs Whatsit told him.
“What about Charles Wallace, then?”
Mrs Whatsit’s unoiled-door-hinge
voice was warm with affection and pride. “Charles Wallace knows. Charles Wallace knows that it’s far more than just the life of his father. Charles Wallace knows what’s at stake.”
“But remember,” Mrs Who said,
Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.
“Where are we now, and how did we get here?” Calvin asked.
“Uriel, the third planet
of the star Malak in the spiral nebula Messier 101.”
“This I’m supposed to believe?” Calvin asked indignantly.
“Aas yyou llike,” Mrs Which said coldly.
For some reason Meg felt that Mrs Which, despite her looks and ephemeral broomstick, was someone in whom one could put complete trust. “It doesn’t seem any more peculiar than anything else that’s happened.”
“Well, then, someone just tell me
how we got here!” Calvin’s voice was still angry and his freckles seemed to stand out on his face. “Even traveling at the speed of light it would take us years and years to get here.”
“Oh, we don’t travel at the speed of
,” Mrs Whatsit explained earnestly. “We
. Or you might say, we
“Clear as mud,” Calvin said.
Tesser, Meg thought. Could that have anything to do with
She was about to ask when Mrs Which started to speak, and one did not interrupt when Mrs Which was speaking. “Mrs Whatsit iss yyoungg andd nnaïve.”
“She keeps thinking she can explain things in
,” Mrs Who said. “
Qui plus sait, plus se tait
. French, you know.
The more a man knows, the less he talks
“But she has to use words for Meg and Calvin,” Charles reminded Mrs
Who. “If you brought them along, they have a right to know what’s going on.”
Meg went up to Mrs Which. In the intensity of her question she had forgotten all about the tesseract. “Is my father here?”
Mrs Which shook her head. “Nnott heeere, Megg. Llett Mrs Whatsitt expllainn. Shee isss yyoungg annd thee llanguage of worrds iss eeasierr fforr hherr thann itt iss fforr Mrs Whoo andd mee.”
stopped here,” Mrs Whatsit explained, “more or less to catch our breaths. And to give you a chance to know what you’re up against.”
“But what about Father?” Meg asked. “Is he all right?”
“For the moment, love, yes. He’s one of the reasons we’re here. But you see, he’s only one.”
“Well, where is he? Please take me to him!”
“We can’t, not yet,” Charles said. “You have to be patient, Meg.”
patient!” Meg cried passionately. “I’ve never been patient!”
Mrs Who’s glasses shone at her gently. “If you want to help your father then you must learn patience.
Vitam impendere vero. To stake one’s life for the truth
. That is what we must do.”
“That is what your father is doing.” Mrs Whatsit nodded, her voice, like Mrs Who’s, very serious, very solemn. Then she smiled her radiant
smile. “Now! Why don’t you three children wander around and Charles can explain things a little. You’re perfectly safe on Uriel. That’s why we stopped here to rest.”
“But aren’t you coming with us?” Meg asked fearfully.
There was silence for a moment. Then Mrs Which raised her authoritative hand. “Sshoww themm,” she said
to Mrs Whatsit, and at something in her voice Meg felt prickles of apprehension.
” Mrs Whatsit asked, her creaky voice rising to a squeak. Whatever it was Mrs Which wanted them to see, it was something that made Mrs Whatsit uncomfortable, too.
“Nnoww,” Mrs Which said. “Tthey mmay aas welll knoww.”
” Mrs Whatsit asked.
“I hope it won’t upset the children too much,” Mrs Whatsit murmured, as though to herself.
“Should I change, too?”
Mrs Who asked. “Oh, but I’ve had
in these clothes. But I’ll have to admit Mrs Whatsit is the best at it.
Das Werk lobt den Meister
The work proves the craftsman
. Shall I transform now, too?”
Mrs Which shook her head. “Nnott yett. Nnott heere. Yyou mmay wwaitt.”
“Now, don’t be frightened, loves,” Mrs Whatsit said. Her plump little body began to shimmer, to quiver, to shift. The wild
colors of her clothes became muted, whitened. The pudding-bag shape stretched, lengthened, merged. And suddenly before the children was a creature more beautiful than any Meg had even imagined, and the beauty lay in far more than the outward description. Outwardly Mrs Whatsit was surely no longer a Mrs Whatsit. She was a marble white body with powerful flanks, something like a horse but at the
same time completely unlike a horse, for from the magnificently modeled back sprang a nobly formed torso, arms, and a head resembling a man’s, but a man with a perfection of dignity and virtue, an exaltation of joy
such as Meg had never before seen. No, she thought, it’s not like a Greek centaur. Not in the least.
From the shoulders slowly a pair of wings unfolded, wings made of rainbows, of
light upon water, of poetry.
Calvin fell to his knees.
“No,” Mrs Whatsit said, though her voice was not Mrs Whatsit’s voice. “Not to me, Calvin. Never to me. Stand up.”
“Ccarrry themm,” Mrs Which commanded.
With a gesture both delicate and strong Mrs Whatsit knelt in front of the children, stretching her wings wide and holding them steady, but quivering. “Onto my back, now,” the new voice
The children took hesitant steps toward the beautiful creature.
“But what do we call you now?” Calvin asked.
“Oh, my dears,” came the new voice, a rich voice with the warmth of a woodwind, the clarity of a trumpet, the mystery of an English horn. “You can’t go on changing my name each time I metamorphose. And I’ve had such pleasure being Mrs Whatsit I think you’d better keep to that.”
She? he? it? smiled at them, and the radiance of the smile was as tangible as a soft breeze, as directly warming as the rays of the sun.
“Come.” Charles Wallace clambered up.
Meg and Calvin followed him, Meg sitting between the two boys. A tremor went through the great wings and then Mrs Whatsit lifted and they were moving through the air.
Meg soon found that there was no need to cling to Charles
Wallace or Calvin. The great creature’s flight was
serenely smooth. The boys were eagerly looking around the landscape.
“Look.” Charles Wallace pointed. “The mountains are so tall that you can’t see where they end.”
Meg looked upward and indeed the mountains seemed to be reaching into infinity.
They left the fertile fields and flew across a great plateau of granite-like rock shaped into enormous
monoliths. These had a definite, rhythmic form, but they were not statues; they were like nothing Meg had ever seen before, and she wondered if they had been made by wind and weather, by the formation of this earth, or if they were a creation of beings like the one on which she rode.
They left the great granite plain and flew over a garden even more beautiful than anything in a dream. In it were
gathered many of the creatures like the one Mrs Whatsit had become, some lying among the flowers, some swimming in a broad, crystal river that flowed through the garden, some flying in what Meg was sure must be a kind of dance, moving in and out above the trees. They were making music, music that came not only from their throats but from the movement of their great wings as well.