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stood in our midst and wrestled, as we were wrestling, for the life of
Frank, sharing our sorrow and sympathising with our anxiety, and
suddenly the veil was lifted and we knew He was the King.

After his audible prayer was over, Henderson laid his hands upon Frank,
and an intense stillness fell upon the room whilst the man lifted up
his soul to Heaven in silent petition for the dying boy, and as he
prayed the stiffened muscles relaxed, the harsh breathing grew easy,
and Frank gradually fell into a peaceful slumber.

As soon as he saw that the boy slept, Henderson made the sign of the
Cross upon Frank's brow and rose from his knees.

"The boy will live," he said; "Christ has healed him."

The doctor was amazed. He examined Frank, and admitted that the
tetanus had lost its hold, and that, provided there was no relapse, the
danger was over.

The two things that struck me most in the whole happening were first
its unspeakable wonder, and secondly its absolute naturalness. But
that is the way with all real miracles: beforehand they appear
impossible, and afterwards inevitable. Thus it is with the two great
miracles of marriage and parenthood. An imaginary wife and imaginary
children are amongst the most impossible creations of our dreams; yet
when they come, they seem to have been always there, and we cannot
picture a world without them. And so I think it will be with the other
great miracle of death. At present the heart of man fails to conceive
what good things are prepared for us in the land beyond the grave; but
when we are really there, I believe it will seem one of the most
natural things we have ever known; as natural as that earthly home
where the dream-wife and the dream-children came true, and made the
life before their coming sink into the realms of vain and
half-forgotten things.

When we had left Frank's room, and were waiting downstairs for Mr.
Henderson's motor, which was to take him back to London, I asked him -

"How do you explain your gift of healing?"

"I have but one explanation," he answered: "as many as touched the hem
of His garment were made perfectly whole."

"Then do you not put it down to the influence of mind over
matter - which is an influence we are only just beginning to realise?" I

"I put it down to nothing but the power of Christ," replied Henderson.
"I find that as long as people talk about mentality, or suggestion, or
will-power, or the influence of mind over matter, or the particle of
Godhead inherent in ourselves, the world will listen to them, and
follow after them, and believe in their cures; but the minute we put
all these things on one side and teach that there is no power in
anything save in Christ Jesus and Him crucified, the world becomes shy
of us at once and looks the other way. Yet there is no help for any of
us but in His Name, neither in this world nor in the world to come."

"But how would you explain this working of His power?" asked Arthur.
"I suppose He would work by means of mental suggestion, or something of
that kind."

Mr. Henderson shook his head. "I never attempt to explain: I only
believe. I know that He does certain things, but how He does them is
no business of mine."

"We are too fond of explaining things nowadays," said Arthur. "I think
we should do well to follow the example of the Cherubim who used two of
their wings to cover their faces, because there were things into which
they were not desired to look. We, on the contrary, try to pry into

"But we have as yet no wings with which to cover our faces," I
suggested. "It is only because we are low and earthy that we pry. As
we grow higher we shall grow humbler, and by the time that we attain to
wings we shall know how to use them."

"And until we know how to use them we shall probably not get the
wings," added Arthur.

"Tell me one thing," I said, turning to Mr. Henderson. "Do you think
that everybody who has sufficient faith in Christ could heal as you do?"

"That again I do not know. It is all in His hands. But I am inclined
to think that as there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit, so
the gift of healing is given to one, the gift of preaching to another,
and so on, and we have not all the same gifts. It is all Christ
working in us; but He works one way in one person and another way in
another. We must cultivate the gift that we have, and be content to do
without the gifts that have been denied us, and as we are all members
of Christ there can be no rivalry amongst us."

"After all," I said after a moment's silence, "we are sent into the
world to do the Will and not to trouble about the Doctrine: that
follows the other as a matter of course. And submission is the most
necessary and the most difficult lesson we have to learn. If we were
allowed to choose our gifts I should have chosen the one of healing;
but we are not allowed to choose."

Mr. Henderson looked at me intently for a moment with his piercing dark
eyes. "I do not know, but I think that you have the gift of healing,"
he said; "utterly uncultivated and undeveloped, but ready for Christ's
use, should He need it."

And then the motor came round, and he drove away to the multitudinous
duties awaiting him in town, and I went upstairs to rejoice with Fay,
as before I had mourned with her.



It was a bright autumn morning, and the central hall of the Manor House
was given up to a Moloch worshipped by Annabel and described by her as
the "Ladies' Needlework Guild." I had learnt from long and bitter
experience that the festival of this Moloch fell in the first week in
October, and during that time there was not a chair or a Chesterfield
or even a table in the great hall which was not covered with heaps of
unbleached and evil-smelling garments. To the uninitiated it looked
like an extensive preparation for something which Ponty called "the
Wash," and which was long confused in my childish mind with that
portion of the North Sea which separates Norfolk from Lincolnshire; but
the initiated knew better. I never really grasped the true inwardness
of this Moloch of my sister's. Once, in an unguarded moment, I asked
Annabel how the Ladies' Needlework Guild was worked and what it did;
and for three-quarters of an hour on end - without even a half-time for
sucking lemons - she volubly expounded to me the manifold rules and
regulations of the fetish. Needless to say I didn't understand; but
after that I always pretended that I did, for fear Annabel should
explain again. As far as I could grasp the situation, the monster had
to be fed with a huge meal of unbleached calico, flannelette, rough
flannel and other inexpensive and somewhat odoriferous materials,
served in the form of useful undergarments, some of which it swallowed
whole, and some of which it generously returned to the respective
parishes whence they had originally sprung. But the reasons why they
were given to the monster, and why the monster gave some of them back
again, I have never even attempted to fathom. But that yearly festival
was to Annabel as sacred as the Feast of Tabernacles is to the Jews or
the Feast of Ramadhan is to the Mohammedans; and the smell of its
flannelette and unbleached calico was as incense in my sister's

On this particular October morning she and Fay were apparently sorting
clothes for a gigantic laundry, but were actually assisting at one of
Annabel's most holy rites. I sank on to a settee, full of wonder at
the marvellous power the gentler sex possesses of transforming into a
sacred ritual the most ordinary and commonplace actions.

But I was not allowed to sit for long.

"Good gracious, Reggie, you are sitting upon St. Etheldreda's flannel
petticoats. Do get up at once!"

I rose with due apologies to the saint in question.

"Those were St. Etheldreda's flannel petticoats on that sofa, weren't
they, Fay?" continued my sister.

"Yes," replied her acolyte, "and the rest of St. Etheldreda's garments
are on the chair by the fire-place. Hadn't I better put them all
together, and do the Etheldreda bundle up?"

"Not yet, my dear. I think St. Etheldreda's garments are too scanty at

"Well then, they ought not to be," I said sternly; "I am both shocked
and surprised."

"You see it is such a poor parish," continued Annabel "that we ought to
send them a good large grant and I don't think the garments which we
have already allotted to St. Etheldreda's are sufficient, in spite of
the extra petticoats. I must add some more to them. Lady Westerham
has sent me a lot of such beautiful scarlet flannel petticoats, Reggie,
and I want to divide them equally amongst the poorest parishes. I
shouldn't send any of those to St. James's, I think."

"Certainly not," I interrupted; "they wouldn't be at all appropriate."

Fay began to laugh. "I really don't see anything to laugh at," said
Annabel good-humouredly; "Reggie is quite right in agreeing with me
that it is not appropriate to send our best garments to a comparatively
wealthy parish like St. James's. Those calico shirts that Mrs. Jones
sent can go to St. James's; they're quite good enough for that. I
always think that the Vicar of St. James's is a most grasping person,
considering how many well-to-do people he has in his parish. I am not
going to send him any of my warmest garments; I shall only send him my
shirts and socks and things like that. If he wants expensive flannel
petticoats he must buy them for himself, for he certainly shan't have
them from the Guild."

"What's this?" I asked, picking up a grey knitted habiliment.

"Oh, that's one of St. Stephen's sweaters, Ponty knitted them," replied
Annabel. "The Vicar of St. Stephen's is a very worthy young man, who
has organized a cricket team or a football eleven or something of that
sort among the poorest boys of his parish, and he asked me if the Guild
could send sweaters for them to play in as they have nothing themselves
but rags. Where are the rest of them, Fay?"

Fay indicated a shapeless mass of grey matter underneath the
gate-legged table.

Annabel continued to flit like a bird from one heap of clothes to
another, talking meanwhile in her usual irrelevant fashion. "I am very
much disappointed in Summerglade's contribution - very much disappointed
indeed. I consider it most shabby. As a matter of fact I don't think
it is large enough to entitle them to a grant from the Guild at all.
The Summerglade people will have to do without any garments at all this

"Oh, that would hardly do," I meekly suggested, balancing myself on the
arm of a nightgown-covered chair, like Noah's Ark on the top of Ararat.

"Well, they don't deserve any," replied Annabel sternly.

"But that has nothing to do with it," I argued, "in fact quite the
reverse. As far as I can judge, the only reason for being given
garments at all is the fact that one doesn't deserve them. If you
don't believe me, let me refer you to the precedent of Adam and Eve."

"Oh Reggie, how silly you are to drag Adam and Eve into a thing like
the Needlework Guild, which has nothing in the world to do with them.
As I've told you, the rule of the Guild is that for every twenty
garments given by a particular parish, a grant of twenty garments is
allotted to that parish; while the odd garments outside the twenties
are given to the poorest East-end parishes, who can't afford to send
any garments at all."

"I know, I know!" I cried hastily, in a valiant attempt to stem the
flood of Annabel's explanations.

But she went on as if I had not spoken. "Therefore you see, when a
well-to-do parish sends less than twenty garments, it doesn't get any
grant at all; and that is just what I am saying about Summerglade.
Summerglade didn't send as many as twenty garments, did it, Fay?"

"No, Miss Kingsnorth, only a measly seventeen."

"I blame the Vicar, Mr. Sneyd, for that," said Annabel severely. "He
is a most feeble person, and takes no interest at all in the Needlework
Guild. He called here for a subscription for Foreign Missions the
other day, which I considered a great impertinence, as I cannot see
what claim the foreign heathen of Summerglade have upon me. I thought
him a most stupid man."

"I thought him a blooming idiot," exclaimed Fay.

Annabel started as if she had been shot. "Oh, my dear, what an
improper expression to make use of."

"I learnt it from Frankie," Fay explained; "he is always calling people
blooming idiots."

"But Frank is different," said Annabel, who would have found an excuse
for Frank if he had committed murder.

"I don't recognise any difference at all," said I, taking up the
cudgels on Fay's behalf. "I cannot see that the bloom is in any way
rubbed off the idiot by Fay's using the expression instead of Frank."

"But it is different, Reggie. There is a difference between boys and
girls, whether you see it or not. I can quite understand that, as
Frank and Fay are so much alike, they seem to you like the same person.
But they are not really the same, and I am surprised at your stupidity
in thinking that they are."

Annabel might marvel at my obtuseness, but not more than I marvelled at

Fay bent low over St. Etheldreda's petticoats, but not low enough to
prevent my seeing that she did so in order to hide a smile, which
smile, to my disgust, brought the blood into my cheeks as if I had been
a raw youth of seventeen instead of an avuncular person of forty-two.

"Come out into the garden, Fay," I said, hopping down from my perch
upon Mount Ararat in a feeble attempt to cover my infantile confusion;
"it is a shame to spend St. Luke's summer in the atmosphere of St.
James's unbleached shirts."

Annabel corrected me. "It isn't St. Luke's summer yet, Reggie - not
till the 15th. And I cannot possibly leave the house until all the
Guild things are properly sorted; but young people need more fresh air
than people of our age do; so if you like to take Fay out for a little
walk, I will ring for Ponty and one of the housemaids to come and help
me in apportioning the garments."

"All right; come along, Fay, and take what fresh air your youth needs,"
I said rather grimly; "or else Annabel and I shall be summoned by the
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children."

I was furious with myself for blushing, and just a little - a very
little - furious with Fay for smiling so as to make me blush; for
although I had been mad enough to fall in love with a girl twenty-four
years younger than myself, I had no intention of being selfish enough
to ask that girl to marry me and hamper her youth with my crabbed age.
Therefore I had made up my mind to keep my love to myself, and not to
let Fay guess that I regarded her save in the avuncular fashion that
Annabel had ordained for me. Madly in love though I was, I had still
sense enough left to see that youth must mate with youth, and that it
would be impossible for a girl of eighteen to love a man of forty-two
as a woman ought to love her husband. But I knew that Fay was attached
to me, and I felt that there was just a possibility - though hardly a
probability - that she might, in her youth and inexperience, mistake
that niecely devotion for something warmer. Therefore I felt bound in
honour to save her from herself, in the unlikely event of her imagining
herself in love with me. And I thought that the best way of doing this
was to support Annabel's fiction of my own avuncular attitude of mind
and heart.

But that smile which had endeavoured to hide itself in St. Etheldreda's
petticoats raised a doubt in my mind as to the efficacy of my disguise;
whilst the ridiculous blush on my part, which had arisen out of the
smile, showed me that the garment of friendship, in which I had wrapped
myself, needed a considerable amount of repair. So I thought that the
time had arrived for that necessary evil which Annabel described as "a
word in season."

"I don't wish to give credit where credit is not due," I said,
following Fay into the garden and walking by her side along the denuded
pergola; "and if Annabel says this isn't St. Luke's summer, of course
it isn't. But whatever saint is responsible for it I must say he has
done his work well, for a better imitation of an ordinary and garden
summer I never saw."

"Isn't it glorious?" exclaimed Fay, absolutely skipping by my side in
the sheer joy of living and drinking in great draughts of the
sun-warmed air. St. Martin is another of the saints who are famous for
manufacturing imitation summers, but I believe his little affair does
not come off till November so I think this must be St. Luke's after
all, a bit before the time. He may have got confused, you see, and
thought it was a movable feast, like Easter. Even saints make mistakes

"The Ladies' Needlework Guild isn't a movable feast. The saints may be
unpunctual, but Annabel never is. The first week of every October
finds the scent of unbleached calico rising like incense from our house
to heaven."

Fay fell in with my mood at once. That was one of the reasons why she
attracted me so much: she was always so adaptable. And adaptability
was such a change to me after forty-two years of Annabel. "Not exactly
a movable feast, perhaps, but a very recurrent one. And as when you
fall under the spell of the lotus-flower it is always afternoon, so
when you fall under the spell of the Needlework Guild it is always the
first week in October. No sooner is one October finished, than another
comes close on its heels, crying out for its fill of garments."

"But how do you know that?" I asked. "This is the first October that
you have been here."

Fay shook her head. "That has nothing to do with it. The Needlework
Guild is one of those things that ought to be called Pan, don't you
know! - meaning they are everywhere all at once. It existed at school,
just as it does here; and the first week of October came as often then
as it does now. But we can't grumble at however many Octobers we may
get, provided they are as warm and fine and summery as this one."

Now seemed the appropriate moment for my word in season. "But they are
not summer after all - at least they are only as you say, summery.
These saints' affairs may be very good imitations, but they aren't the
real thing, you know. When once the summer has gone, it has gone, and
neither St. Luke nor St. Martin can bring it back again. And it is the
same with ourselves. We may look young and feel young and all that
sort of thing, but we are only really young once, and when once our
youth is gone, it is gone for ever."

Fay looked up into my face with her wonderful eyes, and she was so near
to me that even I could see their depth and their beauty, though I
still refused to follow Annabel's advice and disfigure myself, and
indirectly my friends, by wearing spectacles. "You are very gloomy
this morning, Sir Reggie." ("Sir Reggie" was the name that she and
Frank had invented for me, as being a compromise between the stiffness
of "Sir Reginald" and the familiarity of "Reggie.") "I'm afraid St.
Luke's kindness is wasted on you, and it is really very ungrateful of
you, as he is doing his best to make things pleasant."

"No, I'm not gloomy, I'm only truthful. I can't see any use in
pretending that things are different from what they are," I said.

"But there is great use in proving that things are different from what
they seem," replied Fay enigmatically.

By this time we were standing by the old sundial. "Look at that," I
said, laying my hand on the grey stone pedestal; "no one nowadays can
turn the shadow on the dial ten degrees backward. It simply isn't
done. When morning is past it is past, and when summer is past it is
past, and when youth is past it is past, and not all the saints in the
calendar can bring them back again."

"Still One greater than the saints once did turn the shadow on the dial
of Ahaz ten degrees backward. And if He did it once, why shouldn't He
do it again?" said Fay softly.

"Because, my child, He doesn't. The age of miracles is past."

"No, it isn't. It was a miracle when Mr. Henderson cured Frank. You
said so yourself. So miracles do happen."

I was surprised to find Fay persistent on the point, but I held my own.
"Yes, but not this kind of miracle. Frank was made alive again, I
admit; but that doesn't mean that old people like Annabel and myself
will be made young again. The two cases are absolutely different. A
miracle may give us back our future, but no miracle can give us back
our past."

Fay smiled a strange sort of smile: the sort that I remember on my
mother's face when I was a little boy; but all she said was, "Oh, if
you're going to pick and choose your miracles, I've done with you."

"I'm not picking and choosing my miracles, as you call it, I'm only
pointing out that certain things don't happen, and that people merely
make unhappiness for themselves and for others by pretending or
imagining that they do. I'm grateful for St. Luke's summer, but I
don't delude myself into imagining that it is the real summer come back
again. I'm grateful - and so is Annabel - for the young life that you
and Frank have brought into our home and into our lives, but I don't
delude myself with the belief that because we feel young when we are
with you, we really are young. It is autumn with Annabel and me, and
it always will be autumn until it changes into winter: there is no more
spring or summer for us, and it would be foolish as well as futile to
imagine that there is."

But Fay still argued. "Frank and I don't make Miss Kingsnorth feel
young, we make her feel most awfully old and wise and sensible, and she
enjoys the feeling. She wouldn't be young again for anything, it would
bore her beyond words. But you are different: you are quite young
really - in your mind and soul, I mean - but you pretend to be old. You
aren't a St. Luke's summer at all: you are one of those June days when
it seems cold and we light a fire, and then the sun comes out and we
are boiled to death. You aren't autumn masquerading as spring: you are
really a boy dressed up as Father Christmas, like those you see in
toy-shops in December."

Unspeakably sweet were Fay's words to me, yet I felt bound in honour to
show her how wrong she was.

"My dear little girl, you are out of it altogether this time. I am not
a bit what you think."

"Yes, you are. But you are not a bit what you think," she retorted.

"Yes, I am. You, in the kindness and goodness of your heart, imagine
that I am younger than I am, because I look younger - at least, so my
friends tell me, but I am really old, my child, and in a few years'
time - when you are in the full glory of your womanhood - I shall be very
old indeed." This I felt to be neatly put, as showing Fay - without my
saying it - that I was too old to ask her to marry me, much as I might
wish it. It cut me to the heart to put voluntarily from me even the
off-chance of a happiness which far exceeded my wildest dreams; but I
felt in honour bound to do it. How dare I take advantage of my
darling's youth and inexperience to tie her to a man old enough to be
her father? If I did such a thing as that, I could never respect
myself again. I had never longed for youth as I longed for it now, but
wishing a thing is so, does not make it so, and the sooner that men and
women realise this hard truth the better for them and for all
concerning them.

I knew that it was possible to make Fay love me - or rather, to make her
imagine that she loved me. At present she saw no men of her own class,
save myself and Blathwayte, and, without, I think, undue vanity on my
part, I could not help realising that I was more attractive
than - though in every other way infinitely inferior to - Arthur. But
when she grew older and went out into the world and saw more men of her
own age whom she could really love, she would never forgive me - as I
could never forgive myself - if through my selfishness she had lost the
substance for the shadow.

I had been a failure in every other walk of life, but I made up my mind
that I would not be a failure as a lover. Though I had failed in
everything else, I would not fail in my love for Fay. Because I loved
her so much, I would sternly forego any possibility of her ever loving
me and spoiling her young life thereby. Then when the time came for
her to be awakened by the Fairy Prince who was somewhere waiting for
her, she would bless and thank me (if she remembered me at all) for
having left her free to enjoy the happiness that was her due; while as

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Online LibraryEllen Thorneycroft FowlerTen Degrees Backward → online text (page 6 of 22)