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Authors: Susan Howatch

The Wonder Worker

BOOK: The Wonder Worker
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More praise for
The Wonder Worker

“Enthralling … For fans of Howatch’s earlier novels about the Church of England, this is familiar and juicy territory.… In those novels, Howatch captivated readers with beautifully told struggles between earthly and spiritual forces. She does it again in
The Wonder Worker.”


The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[A] compelling story … After seventeen novels, including the acclaimed series about the Church of England, Howatch continues to write impressive fiction imbued with moral questions.… Howatch engrosses the reader in this splendidly wrought, provocative novel of spiritual ideas.”


Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“A look at the ways and means of healing, both spiritual and physical … A good cup of hot tea and reading
The Wonder Worker
is a sure cure for a dreary winter.”


Florida Times Union

“This book is so well written that readers will race through it.”


Library Journal

Also by Susan Howatch

Absolute Truths

Mystical Paths

Scandalous Risks

Ultimate Prizes

Glamorous Powers

Glittering Images

The Wheel of Fortune

Sins of the Fathers

The Rich Are Different

Cashelmara

Penmarric

The Devil on Lammas Night

April’s Grave

The Shrouded Walls

Call in the Night

The Waiting Sands

The Dark Shore

A Fawcett Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group

Copyright © 1997 by Leaftree Limited
Reader’s Guide copyright © 1998 by The Random House Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Fawcett Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

FAWCETT is a registered trademark and the Fawcett colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

Originally published in Great Britain as
A Question of Integrity
by Little, Brown, London.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.:
Excerpts from
A Question of Healing
by Gareth Tuckwell and David Flagg. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., London.
Music Sales Corporation:
Excerpt from “We’ll Meet Again” by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, copyright 1939 (renewed) by Irwin Dash Music Co., Ltd. All rights for the Western Hemisphere controlled by Music Sales Corporation (ASCAP). International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Music Sales Corporation.

www.ballantinebooks.com

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 98-96533

eISBN: 978-0-307-80536-2

This edition published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

v3.1

Contents
Part One
A L I C E
The Romantic Dream

Life is a pilgrimage. It is a pilgrimage to health. It is also a pilgrimage of health. We have it on our journey, always partially, always imperfectly, always with an admixture of that illness which is its opposite or the mark of its imperfections.

CHRISTOPHER HAMEL COOKE

“Health and Illness, Pastoral Aspects,”

an entry in
A Dictionary of Pastoral Care

1

We all have our favourite addictions to which we turn when we are under stress. For you it is food, while for others it can range from chemical substances to spending money or constant contact with others in order to avoid alone-ness.

GARETH TUCKWELL AND DAVID FLAGG

A Question of Healing

I

I can remember
exactly when the miracles began. It was when I first met Nicholas Darrow and fell in love with him. Can I write that and avoid sounding like a romantic schoolgirl? No, so I must start again. I’m not a schoolgirl and being romantic is pointless. What had romance ever done for me, I often asked myself, and the answer was always the same: zilch.

So let me reject any statement which reeks of romance and write instead: I can remember exactly when my life began to change out of all recognition. It was when I first saw Nicholas Darrow and glimpsed a life-style I had never encountered before.

That’s better. That’s more truthful, and truth matters. I suppose in the end it’s all a question of integrity.

The meeting with Nicholas was quite unplanned. No doubt religious people would speak of divine providence, but I wasn’t religious—not after slogging my guts out to look after Aunt. What had God ever done for me, I might have asked myself, and the answer would always have been the same: zilch.

It was the March of 1988. I was trying to get a permanent job because I needed extra money to pay for more nursing, but I’d messed
around with temporary work for so many months that all the shine had been stripped from my
curriculum vitae
, and when I explained about Aunt I could see my would-be employers thinking: family problems, unreliable, forget her. However, if Aunt was to stay out of the geriatric ward she had to be cared for by a rota of nurses from a private agency, and I had to earn the largest possible salary to—no, not to make ends meet; that was impossible, since the nursing care was so expensive, but at least I could postpone the evil day when Aunt’s savings finally ran out and I had no choice but to consign her to one of the National Health dumping-grounds.

On that particular morning in March I had unsuccessfully tried to flim-flam my way through an interview with a personnel officer who had behaved like a sadist. Trudging away from the hideous office block which housed her, I felt in a mood to jump off Tower Bridge.

I was in the City, that square mile of London’s financial district which always seems a world away from what I call Tourist London: the grand West End streets crammed with monuments of our Imperial past, and the grand department stores crammed with frenzied shoppers. On London Wall, that wide, bleak highway just south of the Barbican, I paused to work out which was my nearest tube station but by that time I was so overpowered by the desire to binge on a high-calorie lunch (mushroom quiche, chocolate-chip cookies, rum raisin ice cream) that I was incapable of coherent thought. To make matters worse the heavens then opened, the rain bucketed down and I realised I’d left my umbrella in the office of the sadist. In disgust I looked around for shelter, but there were no shops to be seen, only office blocks, and no buses, only taxis which I couldn’t afford. I hurried towards the nearest side-street but when I turned the corner I found no sandwich-bar where I might have sheltered but only older, grimier office buildings. The street was narrow and soon became cobbled. I started to slither in the vile high heels I’d worn for the interview, and the next moment I wrenched my ankle. It was then, as I leaned against the nearest wall to take the weight off my throbbing foot, that I glanced further down the street and saw the church.

It was washed, shining, serene, an oasis in the midst of a desert. Automatically I limped on over the cobbles towards it.

I knew I had never seen the building before but I guessed it was one of the City’s many Wren churches. As I drew nearer, the roar of the traffic on London Wall receded. I heard the birds singing in the churchyard and saw the daffodils blooming among the ancient graves.

Suddenly I forgot the misery of the morning. I forgot the sadistic
personnel officer, and I forgot my dread that all the well-paid boardroom cooking jobs in the City would nowadays be awarded to girls called Caroline or Sophie who looked like the Princess of Wales, possessed Porsche-driving merchant-banker boyfriends and lived in the fabled streets around golden Sloane Square. I even ceased to be aware of the slapping, slashing rain. I was remembering the day long ago when Aunt had taken me on a tour of some of the City churches. They had strange names such as St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, St. Botolph Aldgate and St. Lawrence Jewry—and this church, I had just discovered, was called St. Benet’s-by-the-Wall; I glimpsed the name as I stumbled past the painted board outside. On reaching the outer door, which stood open, I plunged into the shelter of the porch. The relief of escaping from the downpour was considerable. Breathing hard I smoothed my wet hair, gave my spectacles a quick polish and prepared to take refuge in what I assumed would be a quiet, deserted interior.

I heaved open the inner door and stopped dead. The church was packed. I gazed open-mouthed, jaw sagging. What was all this? What could possibly be going on? I’d thought nothing happened in the City churches any more. I’d thought they were mere clerical museums maintained for their architectural interest. During all the times I’d done temporary work in the City I’d never realised the churches were still active … But of course my work as a cook meant that I was never around in the lunch-hour to witness such a phenomenon.

This particular church was obviously very active indeed. The whole building seemed to be pulsating. Automatically I stood on tiptoe to try to glimpse what was going on, but I was too short to see past the forest of suits. Surely men didn’t go to church any more? Maybe the building had been hired for some sort of yuppie rally … I pictured an American guru holding forth on the wonders of capitalism before hosting a buffet lunch in the crypt. (Californian wine, barbecued nibbles, chicken-with-everything, coleslaw in tubs.)

I had just realised I’d forgotten I was hungry when more people came in behind me and I was propelled towards a dark, pretty woman of about forty who was wearing a badge inscribed:
ST. BENET’S: FRANCIE.
I muttered an apology as I bumped into her, but she merely whispered with a smile: “Welcome!”, a reaction which astonished me so much that I found I had the courage to ask what was going on.

She said: “It’s our Friday healing service. It’s just started. Stick close and I’ll get you behind the wheelchairs so that you can see.”

BOOK: The Wonder Worker
11.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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