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God’s Fool
by [?]

I

The great God endows His children variously. To some He gives intellect–and they move the earth. To some He allots heart–and the beating pulse of humanity is theirs. But to some He gives only a soul, without intelligence–and these, who never grow up, but remain always His children, are God’s fools, kindly, elemental, simple, as if from His palette the Artist of all had taken one colour instead of many.

The Dummy was God’s fool. Having only a soul and no intelligence, he lived the life of the soul. Through his faded, childish old blue eyes he looked out on a world that hurried past him with, at best, a friendly touch on his shoulder. No man shook his hand in comradeship. No woman save the little old mother had ever caressed him. He lived alone in a world of his own fashioning, peopled by moving, noiseless figures and filled with dreams–noiseless because the Dummy had ears that heard not and lips that smiled at a kindness, but that did not speak.

In this world of his there was no uncharitableness–no sin. There was a God–why should he not know his Father?–there were brasses to clean and three meals a day; and there was chapel on Sunday, where one held a book–the Dummy held his upside down–and felt the vibration of the organ, and proudly watched the afternoon sunlight smiling on the polished metal of the chandelier and choir rail.

* * * * *

The Probationer sat turning the bandage machine and watching the Dummy, who was polishing the brass plates on the beds. The plates said: “Endowed in perpetuity”–by various leading citizens, to whom God had given His best gifts, both heart and brain.

“How old do you suppose he is?” she asked, dropping her voice.

The Senior Nurse was writing fresh labels for the medicine closet, and for “tincture of myrrh” she wrote absently “tincture of mirth,” and had to tear it up.

“He can’t hear you,” she said rather shortly. “How old? Oh, I don’t know. About a hundred, I should think.”

This was, of course, because of his soul, which was all he had, and which, having existed from the beginning, was incredibly old. The little dead mother could have told them that he was less than thirty.

The Probationer sat winding bandages. Now and then they went crooked and had to be done again. She was very tired. The creaking of the bandage machine made her nervous–that and a sort of disillusionment; for was this her great mission, this sitting in a silent, sunny ward, where the double row of beds held only querulous convalescent women? How close was she to life who had come to soothe the suffering and close the eyes of the dying; who had imagined that her instruments of healing were a thermometer and a prayer-book; and who found herself fighting the good fight with a bandage machine and, even worse, a scrubbing brush and a finetooth comb?

The Senior Nurse, having finished the M’s, glanced up and surprised a tear on the Probationer’s round young cheek. She was wise, having trained many probationers.

“Go to first supper, please,” she said. First supper is the Senior’s prerogative; but it is given occasionally to juniors and probationers as a mark of approval, or when the Senior is not hungry, or when a probationer reaches the breaking point, which is just before she gets her uniform.

The Probationer smiled and brightened. After all, she must be doing fairly well; and if she were not in the battle she was of it. Glimpses she had of the battle–stretchers going up and down in the slow elevator; sheeted figures on their way to the operating room; the clang of the ambulance bell in the courtyard; the occasional cry of a new life ushered in; the impressive silence of an old life going out. She surveyed the bandages on the bed.