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Fay. Annabel was really behaving splendidly, and Fay was totally
unconscious of it. With (I am bound to admit it) the hardness of
youth, Fay was absolutely blind to Annabel's suffering; but at the same
time she was quick to perceive and to resent any curtness of manner or
sharpness of speech which were really only the outward symptoms of that
suffering. I own I was disappointed at this, but it could not be
helped, and I decided in my own mind to make up to Annabel in every way
that I could for Fay's lack of appreciation, of my sister's sacrifice,
until the time came - as it surely would come when they grew to know
each other better - when Fay would learn to love Annabel as I loved her.
That Annabel would ever learn to love Fay as I loved my darling was
obviously beyond the realms of possibility, for surely no human being
ever loved another as I loved Fay; but I felt sure that as the child
grew older and Annabel recognised the beautiful and endearing qualities
which were hidden under the bewitchingly frivolous and off-hand manner,
she too would recognise Fay's charm and reverence her character. At
any rate, I felt it would not be my fault if these, my two dearest,
failed eventually to love and appreciate one another; for I meant to
make it the object of my life to bring them to a fuller mutual
understanding, and to enable each to see and admire the good qualities
of the other.

So I was confident that the one crumpled rose-leaf would soon be ironed
flat again, and that the one tiny cloud was only a passing summer one.

There was another thing, too, which made me very happy at that time,
and filled my already brimming cup of joy to overflowing.

One morning the wife of one of my labourers stopped me in the village.

"Beg pardon, Sir Reginald," said she, "but my boy, Willie, has twisted
his back, and the pain be something fearful. Something fearful it be."

"I am sorry for that, Mrs. Jackson," I said, "very sorry indeed. How
did he do it?"

"By doin' what he ought not, Sir Reginald, him bein' a boy and climbin'
on to one of the big ricks in the rick-yard and tumblin' off."

"Has Dr. Jeffson seen him?"

"Yes, Sir Reginald, that he has, but he don't seem to know what to do
to do him good. And Willie has taken it into his head that if you'd
come and lay your hands on him, like as you did on the young lady at
the Rectory, you'd stop the pain and make his back all right again, if
it wouldn't be too much trouble."

This request naturally caused me some astonishment. It had not
occurred to me that my gift of healing was a permanent possession. I
had imagined that my earnest prayer to God and my intense love for Fay
had made me, for that one occasion, a channel of the Divine Grace.
Then I remembered how St. Paul had said that among the diverse gifts of
the Spirit of God one is the gift of healing; and how Mr.
Henderson - who undoubtedly had himself been endowed with this gift - had
said that he believed it had been entrusted to me also. Therefore I
acceded to Mrs. Jackson's request, and accompanied her to her cottage.

Willie was lying in the parlour on a horse-hair sofa, groaning with
pain.

"Well, my boy," I said, "I am sorry to hear you have hurt yourself. Is
there anything that I can do for you?"

"Thank you for comin' to see me, Sir Reginald," replied the child,
pulling at his forelock in the absence of a cap; "I feel sartain that
if you'll lay your hands on me, like as you did on Miss Wildacre when
her was so bad, I'll get rid o' this dreadful pain, and be able to get
about again."

"I'll do what I can, Willie," I said, sitting down beside the sofa;
"but you must remember that I cannot cure you myself. There is only
one Person who can cure you, and that is Christ. I have no
power - neither has the doctor any power - except what Christ gives us.
He may choose to cure you by means of the doctor's medicine or by means
of my prayers; but whichever it may be, remember it is Christ's doing,
and not ours. We are only the means that He chooses to make use of."

"But some folks do seem to have what you might call the gift o'
healin', Sir Reginald," said Mrs. Jackson. "My mother was a
Scotchwoman, and she said there was allus healin' in the touch of a
seventh son. Many and many a time has she seen it for herself, and in
the place where she came from folks 'ud send all over the country for a
seventh son if they was in pain."

If Mrs. Jackson had said this to me a year earlier, I should probably
have laughed at it as an ignorant superstition. Now, I saw no
improbability in it at all. I have learnt that that is the way with
many old wives' tales: behind the superstition there lies a scientific
truth, but during the march of the centuries the truth has been lost,
while the superstition has remained. For instance, in many country
places there is a tradition that to carry a potato in one's pocket is a
cure for rheumatism, and modern medical science has discovered that one
of the best cures for rheumatic affections is the juice of the potato.
Again, it was a superstition of our great-grandmothers that if a cat
sneezed it was a premonition that colds were coming to all the
household; now we know that colds are infectious, and can be caught
from animals as well as from human beings. In the same way, doubtless,
most of the superstitions about plants had their origin in knowledge of
the medicinal properties of those plants, and the old idea that a maid
could make herself beautiful by bathing her face in dew on a May
morning was, after all, nothing but a testimony to the beneficial
effects on the complexion of early rising and soft water.

What the "seventh son" had to do with the matter - or whether he had
anything to do with it at all - I do not pretend to say; but the
tradition about him is a proof that through all ages there have been
certain persons endowed with a soothing and a healing touch, with a
certain fulness of vitality which they could impart to their fellow
creatures.

Then one is faced by a difficulty as to how much or this power is
natural and how much is supernatural, which to me is no difficulty at
all, as I simply decline to differentiate between the two. To me
everything in life is natural because everything is supernatural: there
is really no difference. The only difference I can discover - which is,
after all, only a superficial one - is between the usual and the unusual.

I have waded through countless books on the workings of the
subconscious mind - on the powers of the subliminal self - on the depth
of that mysterious thing we call personality - until my faith has
staggered before the demands made upon it. I found myself asked to
believe in impossibilities which would shake the credulity of a
child - to swallow camels which were too huge for the most efficient
digestion. So I humbly confessed that I had not sufficient faith to
accept these transcendental doctrines, and turned instead to the older
and simpler and more practical explanation of natural and spiritual
phenomena as set forth in the Four Gospels.

I do not aspire to the transcendental knowledge of the modern mystic,
nor to the blind and childlike faith of the pure materialist. Such
things are beyond me. To me, it is as inconceivable that the soul
should save and satisfy itself out of its own fulness as that the body
should create and form itself out of the floating atoms of a mechanical
cosmos. The only satisfactory answer that I have ever found to the
_Riddle of the Universe_ is the answer of the Living Christ. St. Paul
had prepared for himself a complete curriculum of necessary knowledge
when he said: "I am determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus
Christ and Him crucified."

So in the question of healing; when one realises that the only Healer
is Christ, it becomes a mere matter of detail whether He chooses to use
as His instrument the skill of a physician, the self-conquest of the
patient, or the power of a natural healer: just as in old times it was
a mere matter of detail whether He anointed with clay the eyes of the
blind, or laid His hand on the sick person, or spake the word only. It
was not the hem of the garment that healed, it was Christ Himself. The
hem was only the chosen channel of His Divine Power.

I knelt down beside Willie Jackson's sofa, and laid my hands upon him
as I had laid them on Fay, at the same time lifting up my soul in
prayer that the boy's pain might cease and his injury be cured. Again
I felt the Blessed Presence in the room, and the wonderful Power
rushing through me, and when at last I rose from my knees, Willie
exclaimed that the pain had gone.

And so it had for that day, but I had to lay my hands upon him in
prayer twice again before it disappeared altogether, and the doctor
pronounced him perfectly cured. Why this was I cannot explain, and
have never attempted to explain. It was enough for me - and quite
enough for Willie - that in three days' time he was absolutely well. We
left explanations to those less simple souls who worship the Law rather
than the Law-Giver.

But my healing experiences did not end here. Ponty, who was a martyr
to rheumatism, asked me to treat her as I had treated Willie Jackson,
which I did, with marked success. Her pain disappeared, and her limbs
grew much more supple. Gradually it became quite a custom in the
village for any one in pain or sickness to send for me, and I helped
them as far as I was able. Sometimes my ministrations were absolutely
successful, sometimes only partially so; but I do not think they ever
failed to bring a certain amount of relief to the sufferers. Again I
do not attempt an explanation: I only know that it was so.

People often ask me whether I consider this gift of healing a natural
or a spiritual gift. My answer is that there is no fundamental
difference between the two, since "every good gift and every perfect
gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." But of
this I am sure, that it is not a gift bestowed upon every one alike,
and those who have it not should not therefore conclude that they are
farther from the Kingdom of Heaven than are those who have it. We are
expressly told that there are diversities of gifts, but the same
Spirit, and it is not for us to choose which gift shall be ours.

I remember discussing this one day with Blathwayte when we were walking
home together from rabbit shooting.

"Although I agree with you, Reggie," he said, "that it saves a good
deal of needless confusion when once we realise that what we call the
natural and the supernatural are in reality one, and that the
distinction between them is purely artificial, that does not explain
why you are more successful at some times than at others. Christ's
Power is always the same."

"No, Arthur, it isn't, because He has chosen to limit His Power by our
faith. Remember 'He could do no mighty works there because of their
unbelief.' When I fail, it may be that either I or my patient is
lacking in faith at the time."

Arthur nodded. "That may be so. Faith is always the one condition
that He imposes."

"And there may be another reason," I said slowly, "though it is one
which I find rather difficult to put into words. I think that we human
beings are very apt to confuse two things which in God's eyes are
essentially different: I mean Prayer and Magic. They are both
mysterious connections with the Unseen Powers through the mediums of a
form of words, by which we induce those Powers to act in accordance
with our own desires. I think I may say without injustice that most
people who believe in either or both of them regard them as a spiritual
form of wirepulling."

Arthur smiled. "I fancy you are not far out there, old man."

"I am not an authority on these matters," I continued; "I am only
airing my own perhaps worthless opinions; but I do honestly believe
that there is such a thing as Magic, and that the earlier races of
mankind knew far more about it than we do; and by Magic I mean the
power to move or control by some mysterious ritual the great forces of
Nature."

"You believe that this really can be done?"

"I do. Whether it is right to do it is another matter, and one on
which I do not feel competent to express an opinion. But that it can
be done - and has been done - I have no doubt whatsoever. If Man was
made in the image of God, then surely some of the power of God is
inherent in him, even if he does not know how to wield it properly. My
only doubt is whether it is safe for him to try to wield it, as long as
his ignorance of it is as great as it is in the present stage of human
history."

"They knew more about it in ancient Egypt," Arthur said.

"And in earlier civilisations even than that," I added. "I believe
that in those far-away days men practised the rites and the mysteries
which brought them into contact with, and by which they controlled to
some extent, the Principalities and Powers of the vast universe which
for want of a better word we call Nature. Then Man - as is
unfortunately his habit - fell away from his first estate, and began to
worship the Principalities and the Powers instead of the God who made
him and them, and then God drew a veil between Man and the Great
Powers, so that Man should not be tempted by knowing them to worship
them. And that is where we are at present. But even now the veil
sometimes wears thin in places, and some stray mortal peeps through and
catches faint glimpses of the glories and the grandeurs on the other
side."

"Then you do not believe that Pan is dead?" said Arthur.

"No more dead than anybody else is dead," I answered, "only separated
from us, like all the other so-called dead people, until we are
sufficiently advanced in our spiritual life to meet them again. That
is really all that death amounts to, when you look it in the face."

"That is so," said Blathwayte in that quiet voice so right.

"I love to think of those early days," I went on, waxing garrulous and
tiresome, as I always do when I get on to this subject, "when Man was
conversant with the great forces of Nature; when he saw white presences
among the hills, and heard the message of the whirlwind and the fire,
and took his part in the chantings of the morning stars. It was only
when he began to worship these that the evil came. They were but the
choirs and the servers and the acolytes in the vast temple of his God,
and he did evil when he fell down and worshipped them. It was then
that the veil of the temple was let down between them and him."

"And will it soon be lifted again, I wonder?"

"It will be rent in twain when Man is once more in absolute harmony
with the Infinite. Don't you remember that in St. John's vision of the
Throne, in addition to the Spirits and the Elders, there were four
Beasts full of eyes, each with six wings? I believe that these
six-winged Beasts - which Isaiah speaks of as Seraphim - are the great
forces of Nature, the Powers of wind and water and earth and fire:
those Powers which the ancients set up as gods and worshipped."

"Then you believe in the old gods?"

I shook my head. "Not as gods, but as great forces; Man's initial
error lay in treating them as gods."

"And you believe that these strange Beings - these Principalities and
Powers - are not of evil?" asked Arthur.

"On the contrary, they are wholly of good when put in their proper
places, and regarded not as Man's masters, but as Man's
fellow-worshippers of the Most High. They rest not day or night,
crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy'; but Man is at present so stupid that he
hasn't ears to hear their _Sanctus_."

Arthur was silent for a moment, then he said: "I like these ideas of
yours, Reggie; they blow through one's dusty, stereotyped notions like
a strong wind from the mountains. That is a fine conception of yours
of a temple where the choristers are the constellations, and the
acolytes the powers of the air. It makes one feel that the universe is
so big and wide. But I don't quite see how all this explains your
original proposition that Magic must not be confounded with Prayer."

"I'm sorry," I said; "I fear I am generally more or less of a wandering
sheep where conversation is concerned. But what I mean - to put it
tersely - is that Magic is more or less of a command, while Prayer
altogether is a supplication. Both involve a mystical communion with
an unseen Power; but while we may command the lesser Powers, we can do
nothing but abase ourselves before the Highest Power of all."

"I see your point," said Arthur. "Since Magic is, so to speak, more or
less mechanical, certain results must necessarily follow certain
rituals; but with Prayer the final result lies with the Power to whom
the request is made, and is therefore what one might call optional."

"Exactly. And I believe the reason why Prayer is not invariably
answered at once - and not always in the way we expect - is to teach us
that we are not controlling a spiritual force but are supplicating a
living Person; therefore the final decision lies with Him and not with
us, and we must be content to leave it there. If, by uttering certain
words and performing certain ceremonies, I was invariably able to heal
a patient, I should be healing by Magic, a thing, mind you, which has
been done - and possibly still is done - in the history of the world; but
if I lay what natural and spiritual gifts I may possess at the
patient's service, and leave the result in Christ's hands, then Christ
does what He thinks fit in His love and His own way. In dealing with a
Person one must allow for the Personal Equation, even though that
Person be our Lord Himself."

"I am glad to hear you say this," said Blathwayte as we parted, "as I
was afraid that the idea of Magic - in conjunction with the healing
powers which you undoubtedly possess - might get hold of a man of your
peculiar temperament. But you seem to look at it as simply and
naturally as Henderson does."

A few days after this conversation with Arthur, Annabel startled me by
suddenly coming into the library, and saying without any preamble, as
she stood beside my chair at the writing-table: "Where do you think I
had better take a house, Reggie? somewhere near here or in London?"

"Take a house? What on earth do you mean?" I asked in amazement.

"Well, I must live somewhere, and I can't stay on very well here after
you are married."

"But why not? You simply _must_ stay on with us, and manage the house
as you have always done; I couldn't bear the Manor without you."

"It is very nice of you, Reggie, to want me to go on living here; but I
am sure Fay would not like it."

I was simply aghast at this revelation of the utterly absurd and untrue
ideas which even the nicest women get about each other. "My dear
Annabel, what utter nonsense! And most unjust to Fay, too! Why, there
is nothing that Fay would like so much as for you to live on here with
her and me after we are married: I know her well enough to answer for
that."

Annabel looked doubtful. "Are you sure, Reggie?"

"Absolutely certain. Not only for the unselfish reason that such an
arrangement would be the only really happy one for you and me, but also
for the selfish one - if anything that Fay did or thought could by any
possibility be selfish - that you would take all the bother of managing
this large household off her hands. Why, my dear Annabel, you yourself
have said that she is far too young to take on such a job as this."

Annabel looked thoughtful. "That is quite true. I'm afraid you
wouldn't be very comfortable with only Fay to look after things."

"I'm not thinking of myself," I replied, rather huffily; "I'm really
not such a selfish brute as you make out. I'm thinking of what a cruel
thing it would be to put such a lot of care and responsibility on the
shoulders of a child like Fay, for she is but a child as yet, though
she has all the depth and the charm of a woman."

Annabel was still doubtful. "She would learn."

"And why should she be bothered to learn, if you are willing to take
all the trouble off her hands? Let the darling be young as long as she
can! In spite of you and Arthur, I still have scruples as to whether
it is right to let her share such a dull, middle-aged lot as mine; but
at any rate I will strive my utmost to shield her from the cares and
burdens of married life, and to make her life as free and joyous as
possible. Therefore, Annabel, I beseech you to stay on here, and to
take all household and social duties off Fay's shoulders."

"Well, Reggie, if you put it like that - - "

"I do put it like that, and that closes the matter. I will go and tell
Fay how good you are in consenting to stay, as I know how relieved and
happy it will make her."

I straightway went in search of my darling, and found her curled up
with a book on one of the settees by the hall fire.

"I have got such a glorious piece of news for you, sweetheart," I said,
sitting down beside her and taking one of her dear hands in mine.
"Annabel has consented to live with us after we are married, and to
take all the trouble of managing the house off your hands. So that my
little darling will have no housekeeping or servants to worry her, but
will have nothing to do but enjoy herself and make love to her devoted
husband."

Now one of Fay's most compelling charms was her infinite variety: she
was a creature of a thousand moods - sometimes talkative, sometimes
silent, sometimes sad, and sometimes merry - but never the same two
hours together, and always utterly adorable. Her changes of mood had
nothing to do with outer circumstances: they were the outcome of her
own sweet variableness and versatility.

This morning she was evidently in a silent mood, for all she said was,
"Oh!"

I expatiated upon the advantages of Annabel's permanent support. "You
see, darling, it would have been an awful bother for you to have to do
all the tiresome old things that Annabel does. She is so used to them
that they are easy to her, but I couldn't have borne to see the burden
of them laid on your dear shoulders."

"I dare say I could have learnt to do them all right." How like my
darling not to spare herself in her readiness to serve me.

"So Annabel said, but I would not hear of it! Do you think that I am
marrying you, you lovely wild elfin thing, in order to turn you into a
staid housekeeper? It would be sacrilege to put so exquisite a
creature to such ignoble uses!"

Fay did not reply, so I continued: "And it will be so nice for you too,
dear heart, always to have a woman at hand to turn to in any trouble or
difficulty."

"I shall have you, and that is all I want."

"But I am only a stupid man, and could never understand and help you as
another woman could. I don't believe that any man is sufficiently fine
and subtle properly to understand a woman: especially when there is
such a difference between them in age, as there is, alas! between you
and me."

"There is more difference between Annabel and me: five years more."

"But she is a woman, and women can always understand each other."

"I see. Because there is too much difference between forty-two and
eighteen, you are trying to make forty-two plus forty-seven equal to
eighteen. You always had a wonderful head for sums, Reggie!" And with
a laugh Fay whisked herself off the settee, and went out of the hall.

I could not understand her present mood, and the fact that I could not
understand it filled me with an agony that after all I was too old and
dull and stupid ever to make her happy. Then, with a blessed sense of
relief, I remembered that I should not be alone in my sacred task of
perfecting and beautifying the young life that I had dared to take into
my keeping; Annabel would be always at hand to assist my clumsy
masculine attempts, and to correct my stupid masculine blunders. And I
thought that between us we could succeed in making my darling happy; at
any rate, we would try our best.

But a fresh feminine surprise awaited me. Surely women are the most
incomprehensible creatures, and on the time-honoured principle of "set
a thief to catch a thief," it is only a woman who can be expected to
fathom a woman. To my amazement Ponty - whom I expected to be lifted
into the seventh heaven of delight by the news that Annabel would stay
on at the Manor - raised strong objections to this admirable
arrangement. I really couldn't have believed such a thing of the
faithful Ponty, if I hadn't heard her with my own ears.

"I hear it is settled for Miss Annabel to go on living here after your
marriage, Master Reggie," she said to me on one of my frequent visits


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