So, Phyllis knew just how desperate I was, and she had heard that the Healer had come to town. Him. She said she would tip me the wink when he was coming in to dinner, which being the confidential slave to the Lady of the House, of course she could do.
I knew it was a terrible long shot – I knew he could do it, of course he could. I just did not know if he would, him a Jew, and a man. But it was my daughter, my child. I would have risked anything, anything. And he had a reputation for – not exactly kindness, no, that is not the word. Too – outspoken for that, really. But unexpectedness. As well as healing.
So when Phyllis’s little son came to my door I was waiting, and I slipped into the dining room, and he came in. And as I looked at him, my heart began to sink. He was exhausted. I had imagined a healer would be bouncing with health, but he looked grey and drawn. He looked like a man who never wanted to give anything to anybody again.
Listen, I’m not a person to whom this kind of thing comes easily. I don’t like asking for myself at all, and I don’t like challenging important people. This was not easy for me. And I may have overdone it. I moved fast, I threw myself down at his feet like the beggar I was on this occasion and I said: ‘Sir, my daughter is very sick. She is in the grip of Evil. Please, please heal her.’
He looked at me and at the table, set out with bread for the meal. ‘I have bread,’ he said ‘but it is for the Children of Israel, the little children of my own family.’ Then he looked at me, not even unkind, just superior, ‘it is not for puppy dogs’ he said.
It was breathtakingly rude. It was Jewish and blokeish all over. He had what I wanted. He had the healing I needed, and he was holding it out of my reach. Anger and hopeless rose in my throat. And the next second I fought it down. I wanted to run, now, but I didn’t because it was my daughter, my daughter. I’m not a fool. I had heard how many of this bloke’s ‘children’ had spoken to him. I knew of the scorn, the controversies. The Jews were behaving like spoilt brats.
And I knew how spoilt over indulged brats behaved. ‘True sir,’ I said, ‘True. And what happens when the children throw their bread on the floor? Are we dogs free to eat it?’ I was fighting. Fighting him with clever words, fighting to keep the anger out of my voice. And I knew I was losing. No words were clever enough, and even a fool could hear my anger.
Then I saw something new. All his attention was bent on me. He was looking at me as though I was the only person in the room. He was looking at me as though I had said the most amazing thing in the world. The tiredness lifted – his face cleared. His eyes caught mine. He looked at me with wonder. It was as though he was seeing a new baby, his own child. He looked at me with such open love I was taken aback. I saw why crowds followed him, how he could heal.
‘Yes’ he said, ‘Oh yes. I see. That is a word, an argument indeed. Oh I see.’ He paused, his eyes still locked on mine, but his mind moving, moving. I was getting scared. I was way way out of my depth. Then he smiled, and his face lit with joy. He spoke like a blessing, warm, kind, ‘Go in safety. Your daughter is free of the evil.’
I went at once. I paused at the door. I looked back. He was sitting on the edge of the couch, grey, slumped, and the slaves stood by with water and towels. He looked too tired to lift his feet for them.