Fortinbras had arrived on their doorstep, a half-grown puppy, scrawny and abandoned, one winter night. He was, Megâs father had decided, part Llewellyn setter and part greyhound, and he had a slender, dark beauty that was all his own.
âWhy didnât you come up to the attic?â Meg asked her brother, speaking as though he were at least her own age. âIâve been scared stiff.â
âToo windy up in that attic of yours,â the little boy said. âIÂ knew youâd be down. I put some milk on the stove for you. It ought to be hot by now.â
How did Charles Wallace always know about her? How could he always tell? He never knewâor seemed to careâwhat Dennys or Sandy were thinking. It was his motherâs mind, and Megâs, that he probed with frightening accuracy.
Was it because people were a little afraid of him that they whispered about the Murrysâ youngest child, who was rumored to be not quite bright? âIâve heard that clever people often have subnormal children,â Meg had once overheard. âThe two boys seem to be nice, regular children, but that unattractive girl and the baby boy certainly arenât all there.â
It was true that Charles Wallace seldom spoke when anybody was around, so that many people thought heâd never learned to talk. And it was true that he hadnât talked at all until he was almost four. Meg would turn white with fury when people looked at him and clucked, shaking their heads sadly.
âDonât worry about Charles Wallace, Meg,â her father had once told her. Meg remembered it very clearly because it was shortly before he went away. âThereâs nothing the matter with his mind. He just does things in his own way and in his own time.â
âI donât want him to grow up to be dumb like me,â Meg had said.
âOh, my darling, youâre not dumb,â her father answered. âYouâre like Charles Wallace. Your development has to go at its own pace. It just doesnât happen to be the usual pace.â
âHow do you know ?â Meg had demanded. âHow do you know Iâm not dumb? Isnât it just because you love me?â
âI love you, but thatâs not what tells me. Mother and Iâve given you a number of tests, you know.â
Yes, that was true. Meg had realized that some of the âgamesâ her parents played with her were tests of some kind, and that there had been more for her and Charles Wallace than for the twins. âIQ tests, you mean?â
âYes, some of them.â
âIs my IQ okay?â
âMore than okay.â
âWhat is it?â
âThat Iâm not going to tell you. But it assures me that both you and Charles Wallace will be able to do pretty much whatever you like when you grow up to yourselves. You just wait till Charles Wallace starts to talk. Youâll see.â
How right he had been about that, though he himself had left before Charles Wallace began to speak, suddenly, with none of the usual baby preliminaries, using entire sentences. How proud he would have been!
âYouâd better check the milk,â Charles Wallace said to Meg now, his diction clearer and cleaner than that of most five-year-olds. âYou know you donât like it when it gets a skin on top.â
âYou put in more than twice enough milk.â Meg peered into the saucepan.
Charles Wallace nodded serenely. âI thought Mother might like some.â
âI might like what?â a voice said, and there was their mother standing in the doorway.
âCocoa,â Charles Wallace said. âWould you like a liverwurst-and-cream-cheese sandwich? Iâll be happy to make you one.â
âThat would be lovely,â Mrs. Murry said, âbut I can make it myself if youâre busy.â
âNo trouble at all.â Charles Wallace slid down from his chair and trotted over to the refrigerator,