“If one of the gods had said that,” he replied, “I should have operated upon him. As a mortal, you are privileged to say unpleasant things, just as a child may say things to his elders with impunity which merit extreme punishment. Christian Science is all right when you are truly well—in good physical condition. It is a sure cure for imaginary troubles, but when you are really sick, it is not of Olympus, but of Hades.”
AEsculapius spoke with all the passion of a mortal, and I was embarrassed. “I did not mean to say anything unpleasant, doctor,” said I.
“That’s all right, my lad,” said AEsculapius, patting me on the back. “I knew that. If I hadn’t known it, you’d have been on the table by this time. And now, good-bye. Curb your imagination. Think about others. Don’t worry about yourself without cause, and never send for a doctor unless you know there’s something wrong. If I had my way you mortals would be deprived of imagination. That is your worst disease, and if at any time you wish yours amputated, come to me and I’ll fix you out.”
“Thanks, doctor,” I replied; “but I don’t think I’ll accept your offer, because I need my imagination in my business.”
And then, realizing that I had received my conge, I prepared to depart.
“How much do I owe you, doctor?” I asked, putting my hand into the pocket of my gown, confident of finding whatever I should need.
“Nothing,” said he. “The real physician can never be paid. He either restores your health or he does not. If he restores your health, he saves your life, and he is entitled to what your life is worth. If he does not restore your health—he has failed, and is entitled to nothing. All you have will never pay your doctor for what he does for you. Therefore, go in peace.”
I stood abashed in the presence of this wise man, and, as I went forth from his office, I realized the truth of what he had said. In our own world we place a value upon the service of the man who carries us over the hard and the dark places. Yet who can really repay him for all that he does for us when by his skill alone we are rescued from peril?
I re-entered my sedan-chair and set the blackies off again, with something potent in my mind—how much I truly owed to the good man who has taken at times the health of my children, of my wife, of myself, in his hands and has seen us safely through to port. I have not yet been able to estimate it, but if ever he reads these lines, he will know that I pay him in gratitude that which the world with all its wealth cannot give.
“Now for the Zoo, boys,” I cried. “AEsculapius has fixed me up.”
And we scampered on.
At the Zoo