It was Christmas night in the Castle of the Forest Sauvage, and all around length. It hung on the boughs of the forest trees in rounded lumps, even better than apple-blossom, and occasionally slid off the roofs of the village when it saw the chance of falling on some amusing character and giving pleasure to all. The boys made snowballs with it, but never put stones in them to hurt each other, and the dogs, when they were taken out to scombre, bit it and rolled in it, and looked surprised but delighted when they vanished into the bigger drifts. There was skating on the moat, which roared with the gliding bones which they used for skates, while hot chestnuts and spiced mead were served on the bank to all and sundry. The owls hooted. The cooks put out plenty of crumbs for the small birds. The villagers brought out their red mufflers. Sir Ector’s face shone redder even than these. And reddest of all shone the cottage fires down the main street of an evening,
Dr. Richard Selzer is a surgeon and a favorite author of mine. He writes the most beautiful and compassionate descriptions of his patients and the human dramas they confront. In his book Letters to a Young Doctor, he said that most young people seem to be protected for a time by an imaginary membrane that shields them from horror. They walk in it every day but are hardly aware of its presence. As the immune system protects the human body from the unseen threat of harmful bacteria, so this mythical membrane guards them from life-threatening situations. Not every young person has this protection, of course, because children do die of cancer, congenital heart problems, and other disorders. But most of them are shielded—and don’t realize it. Then, as years roll by, one day it happens. Without warning, the membrane tears, and horror seeps into a person’s life or into the life of a loved one. It is at this moment that an unexpected theological crisis presents itself.