Chapter Eleven: The Hall of Books
“Arthur”, murmured my mind, “may I have a talk with you?” I did not speak the words in order that the others should not be disturbed, but directed the thought into his mind. At once I saw him rise and withdraw from the others. In a moment he was beside me, gripping my shoulder in a warm clasp.
“Greetings, Bernard! I think you are the one I have been awaiting.” He was a tall, thin man with a sensitive face and light brown hair.
“Why do you suppose that?”
“Because I desire a companion to help me in some work I am doing and up to now have not found him. That never lasts long here!”
“But those others—could they not help you?” He shook his head.
“They had not the knowledge I wanted—or the experience on earth. Come, let us walk back to my place together and we will talk as we go.”
“Your place?” He linked his arm in mine and we began to pace slowly over the grass. “I thought there were no buildings here?”
“Oh, it isn’t a building,” he laughed, “It is just a beauty spot that is specially dear to me; there I have chosen to do my work.”
“Well, tell me about it,” I invited eagerly.
“It is a book I wanted to write on earth—such a splendid theme! Somehow,” and his face clouded for a moment, “I did not even begin it there. But perhaps that was just as well—books on earth and books here are very different.”
“Why is that?” I was watching his glowing face and wondering how I could ever have been so indifferent as to refuse to listen to his story.
“Well, books on earth are just—books, as you know! They are born of a man’s brain, are printed and circulated, read by some, passed by others, and finally, in the majority of cases, forgotten and lost for ever. But here, with the ‘stuff’ at our disposal and the Father’s pattern to follow, they live for ever if they please Him.”
“Do you mean you use the creative substance to make books? The pages and covers, perhaps, but how the ideas?”
“That is the Father’s wonderful plan. When He has put a pattern into the mind we take some of the ‘stuff’ and seek a quiet place in which to think. Then we impress our thoughts upon the substance. If our work is imperfect it dissolves and is lost immediately, but if it pleases the Father, He gives it life.”
“How do you know when He has done that?”
“Its form remains,” he explained. “Page after page begins to pile up until it is all complete and then you know that you have fulfilled the desire of the Father; that it will live for ever.”
“Can anyone read the finished books?” I asked.
“Oh, no one reads them,” he said composedly. “There is nothing to be seen on the pages at all.”
“Nothing to be seen!” I cried in amazement. “And if no one reads them what is the use of all the work?” He laughed delightedly.
“It does seem a mystery at first, I own! But let me explain more clearly. When these books are finished they remain in the Hall. There is a great collection of them there.”
“There must be,” I marvelled. “Keeps a few people busy classifying them, I suppose?”
“Oh,” he smiled, “they are not classified either. They just remain in the Hall until needed. It happens in this way. Suppose a man was resting in one of the other Halls and he desired to read a book on a subject that interested him. His thought would draw the appropriate book toward him and it would begin to impress itself upon his mind, much as though it were being read to him. At any time he could stop ‘reading’ by a mere desire to do so, and then the book would be recalled to the Hall until it was wanted again.”
“Suppose two people wanted it at the same time?”
“It can multiply itself an infinite number of times, if necessary. You see, it is composed of the ‘stuff’. Now,” he went on, “I want to tell you about the ‘pattern’ that has been given to me. You will not mind?”
“No indeed!” I cried heartily, feeling that my act of reparation was giving me great joy, “Tell me all about it from the very beginning.”
“This book,” he began, “was outlined in my mind while on earth, and it was to be called ‘Fifty-two Stories for Saturday Nights’. Of course, it was intended to be read by children.”
“What a pity the title will have to be altered,” I said regretfully, “for of course there are no nights here, Saturday or otherwise.”
“Ah, there you are wrong, for my book is intended for the Hall of Children.”
“Are there days and nights there?”
“Yes! Everything to make the children feel ‘at home’. You see,” he added, “Many of these little ones die suddenly, often before they have received any teaching on Heaven at all. Some have never even heard of the One Who said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me. . .’ So you see, they have to be treated very gently and taught very gradually, or their little minds would grow bewildered.”
“I can quite see that. And so they have day and night…”
“And meal-times and play-times,” he put in, “and lesson-times and treats—and, of course, devoted people to look after them.”
“It is wonderful!” I exclaimed, “and what a privilege to be allowed to write a book to be read to them.”
“Yes, that is why I am glad now that I did not fulfil the Father’s plan on earth. I shall be able to get it perfect here—think of that! It may take me a long time, but oh, what joy I shall have working over it. Now I have met you and you are willing to help me, I have no regrets left.” What happiness swept over me when my companion said that!
“Tell me how I can help you and we will begin right away,” I offered.
“Yes, in a moment; but we have arrived at my place now, so let us make ourselves comfortable.”
I had been so intent on our talk that I had not noticed the scenery, but now I realised that we had been climbing steadily, for we were on a great height. Looking back, I saw the long path winding down, far below, and merging into a belt of trees.
“Is it possible we could climb so high without noticing it?” I asked in surprise.
“Oh yes.” Arthur stood by my side, looking down also.
“Here, where we are so strong and the air so stimulating, a steep climb is almost as easy as walking on the level.” I took a few deep breaths of the delicious air.
“Well, now you come to mention it, I do feel a sense of extraordinary lightness—just as I used to feel on earth when I left off my top coat on early spring mornings. It used to seem a little bit chilly at first, but soon there was such a sense of lightness and tingling health!” We stood breathing deeply for a while in silence, and then Arthur laid a hand on my arm.
“Come and see my place! I think you are going to like it.” He led me over the crest of the hill and round a clump of trees, stretching out a hand in the opposite direction to which we had come. “Look; this is the view from my balcony!”
It was a beautiful prospect, and Arthur, who was watching my face, seemed very pleased with the surprise he had given me. Certainly I had never expected to see such a wide sweep, nor such beauty crowded into it. The land sloped gently down from where we were standing, the grass sprinkled with a most beautiful profusion of flowers. On either side of us, tall trees provided a kind of sheltering wall, and following the slope with my eyes, I saw that it widened out, fan-wise, stretching away into the far, far distance, and merging eventually into the pearly sky. At the bottom of the first slope a little stream ran across; then took a wide curve and followed the line of trees to our left.
Below, was a scene which reminded me of a park on a private estate on earth, with its green lawns, flower-beds, shady trees, rustic seats and silver-gleaming ponds fringed with rushes. The flowers in their variety of colours, and the splendour of their grouping and shading, would have captivated an earth-gardener! Using my ‘heaven-sight’, which could adjust itself, I discovered, to take in details at a great distance, I saw that there were countless scenes of beauty making up the whole, little places of retreat planned with evidently loving care. In one corner was a paved square sheltered on three sides by a tall hedge, and in the centre was a well where the water dripped, at intervals, with a strange, sonorous note soothing and pleasing to the ear.
As my eye wandered over all this beauty it seemed as though the very fragrance of the flowers drifted up to us, as though the glorious colouring soothed the senses, inducing a feeling of peace beyond description. I could only stand and gaze and breathe, wondering at the sight, until Arthur once more drew my attention to himself.
“Come and sit down; you can look into the valley while we talk.” I followed him, throwing myself down in the shelter of a fringe of trees, and in that moment a vivid remembrance of Stephen came to me, for the trees were ‘dripping’ the wondrously lovely ‘stuff’ almost to the ground. It was the first time I had seen it here.
“You certainly have found a beauty spot for your work!”
“It is the Hall of Gardens,” he explained, stretching himself out on the grass and folding his arms under his head. “There, many people build to the pattern of the Father, and it is a place of great happiness. There are some folk down there who have lived in cities all their earth-life, and though longing to grow flowers, have had to be content with a window-box. Others, with the instinct for landscape gardening, have had a tiny patch of backyard between two fences! You can imagine their joy—especially when they succeed and the Father gives it life.
“Then this is a kind of boundary line?”
“Yes, if there are boundaries. I came across this place almost as soon as I arrived and it seemed ideal for a study.”
“Well, now you must show me the contents of the study!”
“Yes, of course, for I do want your help. I have already completed the first story.”
“Oh; so you will be able to read it to me?”
“Tell it to you,” he corrected, smiling. “There,” and he indicated a little piled-up drift of the ‘stuff’ nearby, “is the rough draft. Of course I shall have to put in a good deal of work on it yet, and even then I shall not be sure of perfecting it; but I am very happy. I have all Eternity to work in if I will.”
“Good. Then tell me the story,” I invited, rolling over so that I could look down into the lovely valley. “I will not say a word until you have finished.”
“All right. As I said, this book is called ‘Fifty-two Stories for Saturday Nights’, and this story will merely be headed ‘First Saturday’. Here goes, then!”