I hope you enjoyed my short tale, Nuggets, yesterday. Here is the follow-on.
A GOOD MAN
You ask me what is he like?
The Father is a good man. I have worked for five masters in my life and the Father is the best of them. All the masters that I knew before treated their servants badly. Unkind words and blows to the head were our daily bread.
But the Father, the Father is different. You may think that this is because he is a man of the cloth. But let me tell you, all of my masters have been men of the cloth. And the worst, absolutely the worst, the most cruel, the most tyrannical, was a Cardinal.
How is the Father good?
He is good in his daily life. In the morning he asks me how I feel, did I sleep well, have my prayers left me more calm? He asks about my mother, is her back better, how is her cough? And when I serve his breakfast he thanks me for doing so, although it is my duty and there is no need for thanks. And he does not thank me in words only. His dark eyes rest upon mine and a sense of joy wells up in me.
I spoke of breakfast. Here I must stress that the Father is abstemious. Others of my masters have been worse than pigs. Their noses were forever in the trough, throating the finest foods like so much swill, pouring wine down themselves as if they sought to drain the oceans dry.
But the Father eats little, particularly in the morning before he goes to his work. A small bread roll, drizzled with honey is sufficient for him.
Sometimes I worry that he will waste away, that he will fade into pure spirit instead of flesh. If this is God’s will then so be it, although daily I pray that it will not be so. He has so much to do in this world, so much that he can give to those who are not treading the right path.
Some people have said that they fear the Father. I cannot understand this. But maybe this is because I love him.
For I am privileged to know the whole man, to see him in the small things of daily life. I know his gentleness, his kindness, his nobility.
And yes, I know his quirks also. I know his little foibles and the things that he must have just so. And if they are not, then everyone had better watch out.
For me that is one of the best parts of him. If it were not for these foibles then he would be too perfect, and there would be distance between him and us lesser folk. I could not bear such a distance.
He does the work of the Lord. It is necessity.
Do we criticise the rat-catcher for his traps, the fisherman for his hooks, the butcher for his knives? Do we criticise Our Saviour Jesus Christ for overturning the tables of the moneylenders in theTemple? No.
Then let no one dare to criticise the Father in his work.
Perhaps the thing I like best is seeing him when he is unaware that anyone is watching. I watch him a great deal.
When he thinks he is quite, quite alone, his face takes on a rapt expression, as if drenched with the Holy Spirit. And containing this spirit, like a frame contains a painting, is his beautiful and noble face. It is the face of a king.
I long to reach out and skim my fingers along his flesh. Sometimes, secretly, I do this to the marble tomb figures in the cathedral and dream that it is he. I know that his skin will be warmer and that the blood that warms it comes from a heart big enough to inflame the whole world.
There is a small portrait of the Father in the hall. One evening he came upon me as I held this in my hands. I did not know he was there. I pressed the portrait to my lips and bathed his face with the most tumultuous of kisses. I heard a footfall behind me and turned.
He looked upon me sternly and took the portrait from me. I bent my face in shame. Then he lifted my head gently, one finger upon my chin and one upon my neck.
‘You do me honour,’ he said quietly.
I tried to bow my head but his fingers held me firm. I gazed into his eyes which were like the darkest of forests. Then he leant towards me and whispered so softly I could barely hear the words.
‘Perhaps one day, Theresa, I will do you honour.’
I wait at night for his summons. I wait.