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The Seven Misterious Gifts
THE ANGEL looked up and smiled as the boy approached. She was on her knees raking out a patch of soil near the far end of her cottage garden.
“How do you think the garden is looking?" she called out. The boy sighed ruefully. Nothing in life is ever straightforward, he thought. First the story; now the Angel. Why approach something directly when you can go round the houses; or perhaps the garden in this case. Any faint hopes he had held of the whole business being cancelled when he couldn't find the gift vanished. The Angel would coax it out of him if it took all of Eternity. The gift was in the story somewhere and she would make him find it. The thought was faintly amusing, almost.
“Very nice," he replied noncommittally. He glanced around. It was actually a rather interesting garden: untidy, unstructured, but curiously beautiful; with an air of something slightly mysterious about it; almost magical. He couldn't figure out why.
There seemed to be no order to the garden. Everything was just stuffed into the ground here and there, with no attempt at creating patterns of flowerbeds or complementary sweeps of colour. It was a shambles really, and yet strangely attractive. Some subtle structural notion of the Angel's no doubt lay behind it all. But he couldn't for the life of him see what it was. He walked over to where she was still grubbing around in the soil.
“What are you doing?" he asked. Keep cool, he thought. Let her raise the subject of the gifts.
“Someone gave me a geranium," she said, “and I thought I'd plant it over here where it'll get the sun." She pointed to a little red-petalled flower in a pot by the wall. “Pretty, isn't it?" The boy nodded.
“I think this will be a good place for it," she continued, “don't you?"
It was a casual question, such as anyone might lob into a conversation about plants. But the boy knew the Angel better than that. She was throwing him a line - and he caught it.
“So long as Coalhole Custer doesn't come along and blow it all to bits." He thought he detected the glimmer of a smile on the Angel's face; but she carried on raking the soil and spoke to him over her shoulder.
“Do you think he would?" she asked.
“Well ... I can't think of any reason why he should. But then I couldn't see why he wrecked the Snow Queen's palace either."
“But he didn't," said the Angel. “Why would he go to all that trouble when he could have simply put a bomb in it? And walked away unscathed."
“Well alright," the boy muttered, “he didn't; but his music did. He was responsible."
“Oh yes," agreed the Angel, “he was certainly responsible. But he had no idea of the effect his music was going to have. He had played there before without all that happening - during the time he had lived in the city. And by the time he found out, it was a bit late: his music had grown a life of its own. It responded to the feelings he had put in it.
“But," she finished off, “I think he half expected something to happen."
The boy agreed: “I think he did." Then he took the plunge. “But I don't know what the gift is."
The Angel was unperturbed. “You will," she said. Then she stood up and, taking his hand, walked him off down the garden past the vegetables and fruit trees, the flowers, herbs and shrubs that all mingled in an unexpected harmony.
“Doesn't it look lovely?" she said.
“Why does it look so nice?" he asked her. He sensed a clue here somewhere.
“I don't know," she said. “Look at it. Trees here, bushes there; flowers and vegetables all over the place and in amongst each other. It's a tangle of odds and ends, all mixed up and higgledy-piggledy. There's no order to it at all. I don't know why it looks so nice."
“Mmm," the boy muttered pensively. “There must be some sort of order to it. Order doesn't necessarily mean regimentation though, does it?"
“No," answered the Angel.
“Then presumably you have a good reason for putting everything where you have, even though it all seems haphazard and disorganised." He looked around for an example. “That celandine for instance. Why have you got it growing in amongst that old rubble by the pig sty?"
“That is the best place for it," said the Angel. “Besides, nothing else would grow so well there. The celandine likes rubbly old ground."
“Well, that's a good enough reason I suppose," said the boy. He looked around for more clues. “How about those herbs in under the wall there? It's a bit stony for plants, isn't it?"
“The thyme and the sage? They like stony ground and must be sheltered from the north winds. They don't like the cold."
“I see," said the boy thoughtfully. And he thought he was beginning to see. “You haven't planted the garden to suit yourself, you've planted it to suit itself." He paused and looked around to confirm that he was on the right track.
“It suits all of us," said the Angel. “It suits the garden for obvious reasons, and it suits me because I like to see it all grow to its fullest potential. Every individual plant in my garden is more important to me than the garden itself; yet if I care properly for each individual plant, they all seem to care for the garden. The result is most effective, as you have observed. You should remember that, because it doesn't work only with gardens."
The boy could see it now: the order in the way that the Angel had put her garden together. Everything was in the place best suited to it, regardless of tidiness. Snowdrops were spread in a white blanket under the trees; a mass of giant burdocks clustered closely around the manure heap and mustard had been planted all about the beehives. Or perhaps the beehives had been set down near the mustard. No matter; the principle was there. Now the new geranium was going in the sunshine.
Everything was in the right place and, because of it, the whole garden prospered. That was what gave the Angel's garden its strange and indefinable beauty. And a thought occurred to the young boy, which he immediately voiced: “Coalhole Custer's music wasn't in the right place, was it?"
The Angel smiled and said: “Go on.”
“Your garden is beautiful,” the boy continued, “and lives in harmony with itself, simply because everything is in the right place. The Snow Queen's palace was the wrong place for Coalhole Custer's music, and the imbalance generated some sort of destructive discord between the two. In the end Coalhole Custer's music was presumably the stronger because it grew out of spirit rather than matter.”
The Angel nodded her head slowly. “His music was born in the mountains," she explained. “It was created for the mountains out of the spirit of the mountains, and it should have stayed in those mountains where it belonged. In the right place it would have grown strong and beautiful, for it was honest music. It would have inspired and enriched itself and everything and everyone around it, for its honesty gave it great power. In the wrong place its energy was confined and frustrated, and ultimately destructive.
“Now I think you have found the first gift," she concluded.
“Space," said the boy confidently. “The right part of it. The guardian put the Earth in exactly the right place; and every thing on it - every rock, plant and animal - was given its own rightful place in the overall scheme of things. That is why and how the Earth works, isn't it?"
“Yes," affirmed the Angel. “SPACE was the first gift to the Earth."
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