The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli

Brother Luke rescues Robin out of a dark and lonely place; he is lying crippled and weak in bed. He is in a deserted building in medieval London, a city currently held in the grip of the Bubonic plague. He is alone because he scorned Dame Ellen’s kindness offered in great sacrifice. He flings away the food she offers him, splashing her with the porridge, in fact. She has fallen ill with plague. She abandons him. Brother Luke comes to help him with more patience; he is an image of Jesus, the Good Physician of body and soul. He washes Robin, encourages him to eat, and carries him to safety.

Brother Luke also helps Robin by giving him the opportunity, the tools, and the time to carve wood. He sends Robin to swim in order to strengthen Robin’s weak legs. “He didn’t allow Robin to stay long in the water, but promised to bring him every day.” Brother Matthew helps Robin to learn wood-working in his carpenter’s shop; Robin even crafts his own crutches. Brother Luke guides Robin, very gradually, to the point where he is able to walk with the help of crutches and, more than only helping himself, is able to help others: the monks by turning hymnal pages, a little girl by carving a doll, boys his own age by carving them boats, Brother Luke and John-go-in-the-Wynd, and, finally, Sir Peter along with his Dame and an entire town by carrying a message for help out of the besieged castle.

Robin becomes a youth, a young man, as his father notes, through the guidance of the good men who help throughout the way. He needed humility and fortitude to benefit from their instruction. Robin has overcome his disability along with his immature character by helping others selflessly, even as he was helped. This is a wonderful lesson for readers of any age.

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