The Number’s Game (from The God Chronicle)
Jenkins, the gardener in Port Royal, has something to say to the Jansenists: ‘Man was naturally good in the Garden of Eden. It was only when we began to think…’. If the Jansenists allowed themselves to laugh, they would have. Blaise Pascal enjoyed the fruits of his orchard, particularly the plums, but wasn’t sure he should.
Jenkins hands him a rose. ‘Everything in my garden is rosy. Sniff that seven times and a sneeze will put yourself in contact with a better world.’
‘It’s too late’, says Pascal. ‘And now I feel Christ’s
‘Seven Last Words’ coming on again. I’m on the Cross and feeling let down,
bleeding to death and everybody is mocking me. My God, my God why hast thou
‘That’s nine words.
‘You’re right, Jenkins. Seven it must be. It’s a tragic number’.
‘Or the lucky number in a game of chance. And life, I believe you believe, is all about chancing it.
‘Not life but belief in God. It’s a wager’.
‘’You mean a toss-up. Drop the repeat ‘My God’. And that makes seven words. But why assume that it was seven? Christ didn’t speak in translation’.
‘No, in Aramaic, and it was four. Ella, Ella, lama, sabach.
‘It sounds Welsh’.
would it be in in Welsh, then?’
‘I’m half Irish and French. I assumed the Welsh name to neutralize that disastrous misalliance. In Gaelic it’s A athair maith doibh mar ni fios doibh cad a dheinid. Eleven. In French it is Pere remets-leur car il ne savent ce qu’il font. Nine.
In Latin Pater dimitte illis non enim scuint quid faciunt it comes to
seven. Which no doubt is why that number has stuck.’
‘All that sacred music. But Jesus would never have spoken a dead language.’
wasn’t dead then. But I agree. He wouldn’t have been trying to impress Pilot.
So, it was probably a short and sweet four words in his native tongue.
‘Also, seven could be confused with the number of Deadly Sins’.
‘Only seven, Jenkins, you’re an innocent’
‘Name them and I’ll give you a peach. Blaze
‘I confess I always forget them. Not ever having committed many, even to memory. Pride, covetousness, envy, lust, greed, sloth. It makes me so angry not to get all seven.’
done very well. Anger, according to Cardinal Richelieu is the vice of the
virtuous. My problem is remembering the Four Cardinal Virtues. I’ve never
possessed any of them. Prudence, courage, temperance, and I just can’t recall
‘Justice. It’s the one that covers all the other three. Not many cardinals have that one. They’ve got into bad habits. I fear one day they will crucify me…’
‘But back to your dernier mots. The Last Words, seven or not, contain Jesus’s proof of the existence of God? If God has abandoned him, He must have existed.’
‘That’s the spirit, Jenkins. More an Irish than a Papal Bull. Your French half would add a ‘peut-etre’
‘Perhaps. I don’t suppose I can offer you an apple’.
‘I could be tempted. But it’s a little too early’.
‘It’s a pippin’.
‘As in the song?’
Pippa. All’s right with the world’.