When I returned to the Hall of Reception I knew at once where I should go, for a man’s need had called me to his side. He was walking up and down on the grass, now pausing to gaze down into the valley, now shading his eyes—quite unnecessarily—to scan the distant hills. He was a tall man, of middle-age when he left earth, and he would have been handsome had it not been for his anger. An angry man cannot look attractive, and he certainly looked far from it as he swung along, glaring about him.
“Hallo, friend!” I greeted him, falling in by his side. He spun round.
“Where is this place?” he asked fiercely.
“Do you not know?” I countered, watching his face. I saw it change at that, grow darker still. It seemed to me that he guessed, but was too angry and too fearful to admit it. He stretched out a hand to grip my wrist.
“Listen, chum. I don’t know where I am, see? I want to get out of this place—to go home. I want to see my own folks.”
“You shall see some of them if you wish ,” I soothed him.
“I want to see the ones I’ve just left,” he hissed, his nervousness increasing. “Besides, I was ill. Listen!” and his voice rose, “I want to go back to bed; I might die.” At these last words his voice broke. I looked at him pitifully. The poor fellow had been afraid to die while on earth! I searched deeply into his mind and saw the whole miserable story. He had been an earnest follower of Truth until a few years before. Then his little son had died. The hated prospect of death touching him so nearly and the loss of his child had caused him to rebel. Oh, the pity of rebellion! Had I been an angel I could have seen what this man might have been; the steady climbing though the years into greater strength and wisdom, the joy at the end. . . But this man had been prejudiced by fear. He had held his own idea about death, had decided that it was something to be feared, so when his little son left him, bitterness poisoned his mind. Poor fellow; I yearned to comfort him. In the silence I turned to my Master. . . Slipping my hand through his arm, I began to pace beside him. “You have no need to think of dying,” I said. “All that is over.” He stopped to stare at me.
“How can it be over when I still have this body?” But I saw the light of hope in his eyes, and understood fully, at last. It was the process of dying that he feared, not death itself.
“Why should you not have a body?”
“But how can I be—be dead, and still have the same body?”
“Not the same body,” I corrected.
“But it is.” He looked down at himself, perplexedly. He slapped his thigh, adding half-defiantly, “There, you see! It is just as solid as when I was—home!”
“Of course it is just as solid!” Now I began to follow his train of thought. “An earthly body is used on earth all the time that you live there, in conjunction with earthly objects. Its solidity is measured against that of earth. In this realm, a spiritual body is used in conjunction with spiritual surroundings, and so it is just as solid here as a physical body is there. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” he owned, but his expression was still one of puzzlement and reluctance. “All the same, I thought people in Heaven looked like steam, or mist, or something like that!”
“If you take earth and steam together,” I pointed out, “one is much more solid than the other, but if you measure earth with earth and steam with steam, they are equal.”
“Are you trying to tell me it is all steam, mist, illusion?” he burst out. “I have come to a nice place!” He had quickened his pace still more and I strode out beside him. For a while there was silence while we each gathered our forces. Then I turned to him with a sudden resolve.
“You like gardening, Hubert?”
“Yes,” he growled, “but how did you know my name, anyway?”
“Never mind about that. You will be able to learn many things when you have let go of preconceived ideas. That is what keeps earth-people ignorant.” (I quoted my angel.) “Now suppose I were to show you a garden—a garden more lovely than any you had seen before? Would you believe then?” For the first time he smiled at me.
“Good. Then let us go!” In a moment we were on our way. I wondered fleetingly if Arthur would be on his ‘balcony’, if he had built his story of flying-fish, or if it had dissolved. In any case, he would instantly begin again—dear Arthur.
“Now!” I commanded. We stood on a hill, adjoining Arthur’s ‘place’. Below us stretched the vast expanse of flower-land. “This is the Hall of Gardens”. Hubert stood wordlessly beside me, but I heard him draw in his breath. His eyes travelled slowly over the ground, coming to rest every now and then as though halted by wonder, then hurrying on.
At last he whispered, “It cannot be; it just cannot be.”
“What cannot be?”
“All those flowers.” He made a wide sweep with his arm. “There are flowers of all seasons, all countries. How can it be?”
“Do you believe now?” I queried. In a moment he had turned from me and was stumbling away.
“It’s the climate,” he burst out furiously. “Why do you trick me? It is just a place I know nothing of!”
“You certainly know nothing of it,” I said pitifully, “but I do not trick you. I have other work to do here.” He turned with a quick apology and I caught sight of the attractive being he could be if he were happily relaxed.
“I am sorry! Oh, I know you are doing the best you can, but why bother with me? Wherever this place is, I don’t like it. It is all very well for you fellows—angels, fairies, or whatever you are! He said the last words with a slight sneer and for a moment I began to feel annoyed. Then I brought myself up sharply. A Purple-Gowned being angry with a newcomer! That would indeed be wrong. Vividly I recalled the patience of my guides with me—and yet they could see my mystic robe. . .
“I am just an ordinary fellow like yourself,” I assured him, “only I died earlier.”
“Died!” he muttered. “If this was really the other side of dying. . . all over. . .”
“Listen!” I cried gladly, seizing his arm. “Will you believe that it is all over, that you are safely in Heaven, and that this is a place of joyful fulfilment if I take you to see your boy?” He was so amazed that he could not speak. I too wondered why I had not thought of this before. Then I reflected that the Master could have given the command at the beginning if He so willed. Yes, even in Heaven the ways of Love are often hidden from our sight, until we rise, and learn, and draw nearer to the fringe of the Light. . . Hubert and I were already journeying on our way before he spoke.
“Where is he? Can I really see Jack?”
“He is in the Hall of Children.”
“Oh! I expect he has grown. Let me see, he was six when he died, and that was—”
“Time passes slowly here,” I explained. “You cannot measure it by earth-time. He will still be ‘little Jack’ to you.”
“Really?” He was fast becoming comforted, yet with that wistful eagerness which revealed a lingering doubt. “When I see him all will be well.”
As we arrived, Jack was playing a game of ball with some other youngsters. He was a sturdy child, very like his father in his dark, intent look, but how happy he was! His laugh rang out and leaping high, he caught the ball, shouting gleefully, “You’re out!”
“There is my boy,” whispered Hubert in a tone of wondering pride.
“Yes.” Then Jack turned round and saw his father. He smiled warmly, but by no means excitedly.
“Oh, hallo Daddy! We are having a fine game. I’m in next.” He turned casually away and I had to restrain Hubert from dashing forward to seize him.
“But what does it mean?” he asked in bewilderment. “Doesn’t the child care for me now?”
“Of course he does. Did you not see his smile? But you see, he saw you only last night.”
“Last night?” Hubert echoed. He was staring at me fiercely again. “How can that be? I told you the child died several years ago.” I took him by the arm.
“Let us walk up and down while we talk. Now Hubert, set betwixt earth and Heaven is a kind of island in the universal sea. It is called the Plane Between. Here, when you have longed particularly for Jack, you have travelled in your sleep, and Jack has left here to visit you.”
“All these years?” Hubert marvelled.
“Yes. You and he often talked and walked and romped together. You were together last night, just before you died.”
“I was thinking of him,” he admitted, “when I was so ill. No wonder Jack was not surprised just now! May I go to him?” In a little while I strolled up to where those two were talking animatedly together. Hubert was kneeling before his son, his hands on the boy’s arms, and the child was laughing down into his father’s face. “How jolly that you are going to live here always now,” he was saying.
“I am so glad I told you all the things my teacher taught me about the Father loving us. Jesus telling us stories made me so brave. Every night when I first went to see you, you were cross when I talked about Heaven, but afterwards you got to like it.”
“Did I?” Hubert looked amazed.
“Don’t you remember?” queried the child. “Just before you came here you said you did believe. I am so glad for now we will both be able to visit Mummie!”
I faded quickly away from the happy scene. Another task was done!