“No. My views in the main are unchanged. I dislike seeing God put on a commercial basis.”

“Even by a commercial people in a commercial age? Do we not always bring to God the fruits in season?”een the two men there was already a curious sense of intimacy which had, indeed, existed from the first moment of their meeting. It was as though the fact that neither of them had anything in common with the other-nationality, upbringing, way of life, beliefs-made them therefore ready to accept each other without the usual barriers of reticence or conventionality. They were like men marooned together on a desert island, or afloat on a raft for an indefinite period. They could speak to each other frankly, almost with the simplicity of children.

He was a good talker, with a wide range of subjects. Not only had he travelled extensively, and in many unknown parts of the globe, but he had the gift of making all he himself had seen and experienced equally real to the person who was listening to him.

If you wanted to go to the Gobi Desert, or to the Fezzan, or to Samarkand, when you had talked of those places with Richard Wilding, you had been there.

It was not that he lectured, or in any way held forth. His conversation was natural and spontaneous.

Quite apart from his enjoyment of Wilding’s talk, Llewellyn found himself increasingly interested by the personality of the man himself. His charm and magnetism were undeniable, and they were also, so Llewellyn judged, entirely unself-conscious. Wilding was.not exerting himself to radiate charm; it was natural to him. He was a man of parts, too, shrewd, intellectual without arrogance, a man with a vivid interest in ideas and people as well as in places. If he had chosen to specialise in some particular subject-but that, perhaps, was his secret: he never had so chosen, and never would. That left him human, warm, and essentially approachable.

And yet, it seemed to Llewellyn, he had not quite answered his own question-a question as simple as that put by a child. “Why do I like this man so much?”

The answer was not in Wilding’s gifts. It was something in the man himself.

And suddenly, it seemed to Llewellyn, he got it. It was because, with all his gifts, the man himself was fallible. He was a man who could, who would, again and again prove himself mistaken. He had one of those warm, kindly emotional natures that invariably meet rebuffs because of their untrustworthiness in making judgments.

Here was no clear, cool, logical appraisal of men and things; instead there were warm-hearted impulsive beliefs, mainly in people, which were doomed to disaster because they were based on kindliness always rather than on fact. Yes, the man was fallible, and being fallible, he was also lovable. Here, thought Llewellyn, is someone whom I should hate to hurt.

They were back again now in the library, stretched out in two big arm-chairs. A wood fire had been lit, more to convey the sense, of a hearth, than because it was needed. Outside the sea murmured, and the scent of some nightbloom.

“Not from you. You wonder about your fellow human beings because you care for them and are therefore interested in them.”

“Yes, that’s true.” He paused. Then he said: “If one can help a fellow human being, that seems to me the most worthwhile thing in the world.”

“If,” said Llewellyn.

The other looked at him sharply.

“That seems oddly sceptical, coming from you.”

“No, it’s only a recognition of the enormous difficulty of what you propose.”

“Is it so difficult? Human beings want to be helped.”

“Yes, we all tend to believe that in some magical manner others can attain for us what we can’t-or don’t want to-attain for ourselves.”

“Sympathy-and belief,” said Wilding earnestly. “To believe the best of someone is to call the best into being. People respond to one’s belief in them. I’ve found that again and again.”

“For how long?”

Wilding winced, as though something had touched a sore place in him.

“You can guide a child’s hand on the paper, but when you take your hand away the child still has to learn to write himself. Your action may, indeed, have delayed the process.”

“Are you trying to destroy my belief in human nature?”

Llewellyn smiled as he said:

“I think I’m asking you to have pity on human nature.”

“To encourage people to give of their best-“

“Is forcing them to live at a very high altitude; to keep up being what someone expects you to be is to live under a great strain. Too great a strain leads eventually to collapse.”

“Must one then expect the worst of people?” asked Wilding satirically.

“One should recognise that probability.”

‘Be still and know that I am God.’

Behind the normal fac,ade of daily life, a fear, a dread of something that he himself did not understand. He was more conscious of this fear when he was alone, and he had, therefore, thrown himself eagerly into community life.

“I don’t know really-anything about myself.”

He knew now that something he had always known would happen was about to happen. He knew fear again, but not the fear he had felt before, that had been the fear of resistance. This time he was ready to accept-there was emptiness within him, swept and garnished, ready to receive a Presence. He was afraid only because in all humility he knew what a small and insignificant entity he was.

It was not easy to explain to Wilding what came next.

“Because, you see, there aren’t any words for it. But I’m quite clear as to what it was. It was the recognition of God. I can express if best by saying that it was as though a blind man who believed in the sun from literary evidence, and who had felt its warmth on his hand, was suddenly to open his eyes and see it.

“I had believed in God, but now I knew. It was direct personal knowledge, quite indescribable. And a most terrifying experience for any human being.

I understood then why, in God’s approach to man, He has to incarnate Himself in human flesh.

“I didn’t know what I was going to say. I didn’t think-or expound my own beliefs. The words were there in my head. Sometimes they got ahead of me, I had to speak faster to catch up, to say them before I lost them. I can’t describe to you what it was like-if I said it was like flame and like honey, would you understand at all? The flame seared me, but the sweetness of the honey was there too, the sweetness of obedience. It is both a terrible and a lovely thing to be the messenger of God.”

“Man cannot be trusted with power. It rots him-from within. How much longer could I have gone on without the taint creeping in? I suspect that already it had begun to work. Those moments when I spoke to those vast crowds of people-wasn’t I beginning to assume that it was I who was speaking, I who was giving them a message, I who knew just what they should or should not do, I who was no longer just God’s messenger, but God’s representative? You see? Promoted to Vizier, exalted, a man set above other men!” He added quietly: “God in His goodness has seen fit to save me from that.”