Suddenly my musings were interrupted by excited barking, and there was Rainbow, tearing down the last slope towards me! He did not pause in his headlong dash but leapt high in my arms where he wriggled enthusiastically, washing every inch of skin with his moist tongue ecstatically.
“How you have grown, Rainbow!” I cried at last, lifting him to the level of my eyes for inspection.
“Bark! Bark!” he continued shrilly. He was in fine condition, plump and silky, and I turned to my companion gratefully.
“You have looked after him well!”
“I gave him a caress from you every time I fed him,” she smiled. After that we finished our journey with Rainbow carried in my arms, but when my guide told me that I was nearly at my next visiting place he jumped down and gambolled on ahead, giving shrill little cries as though he were calling to friends.
“That is just what he is doing!” My angel answered my thoughts. “Some of those he played with were coming here, so they told him all about it and arranged a meeting.”
“Well, he will be happy enough! Where are we going now?”
“We have arrived—at the Hall of Books.”
“Oh good! Books have always fascinated me.”
“I know. Your Earth-Guide has often brought back to me a picture of you with a book in your hand, or kneeling before your bookshelves making a choice. Often he has helped you by indicating which one to read for the day.”
“Really? I had no idea that angels were as near to men as that!”
“That is a secret hidden from the majority of men! Now come,” she added, “for you have to meet a man in here to whom you owe a debt of kindness.”
“Of kindness!” I echoed. “Always I tried to be kind.”
“But man cannot always see what is the kind thing to do or how great is another’s need. In this case the man was longing for one with whom to share a Heavenly ‘pattern’—or, as it is called on earth, an ‘inspiration’. He was a writer and his brain was crowded with a wonderful idea. For many years he had toiled, and failed. The world seemed indifferent to the creations of his brain. At last, he had almost given up, and then this idea flashed into his mind. If only he could get it clear by discussing it with somebody! Then he met you—and you failed him.”
“How?” I queried sorrowfully.
“You would not listen to his explanations. Oh, you were not exactly rude, but you brushed his words aside and let him see that you were in a hurry to be gone. In that moment you represented to him the opinion of the world; if you were indifferent, so also would be the world. When you had gone, his hopes died; he gave up.”
“How terrible. If only I had known.”
“Ah,” said my guide, “how many men say that when they come here and see. But men do not have to know! They have only to care about their fellow-men as they care about themselves, to be interested, sympathetic, kindly. They do not need to know the circumstances; only to be kind. Men have been taught, but they will not heed.”
“Love thy neighbour as thyself,” I quoted.
“Yes,” she agreed, “the Master Christ taught men what to do to please the Father. They do not need to know the details. It is no excuse to moan afterwards, ‘If only I had known,’ for they did know what the Master had taught—and that should have been sufficient.”
“It was sufficient. Mine the fault entirely. Tell me how I can make amends.”
“He is working on his idea now,” she explained. “That was the desire that most of all he yearned to have fulfilled; and it was a good desire for it was a ‘pattern’ from the Father. Go to him and ask him to tell you about it but do not describe the circumstances that have brought you, for he is still clothed in white. Offer to help him. His name is Arthur.”was gone and I walked on in solemn thought.
Then I saw him! He was sitting with a group of men and women on the grass, and before them a meadow sloped down into the sunlit sea. On either side, stately trees rose up, gently waving their branches in the breeze with a restful, swishing sound. Behind, the ground sloped steeply to a broad sky-line. No one saw me, so I was able to stand still and observe. It was the first time I had seen a group of people since I came here and I must say I began to yearn somewhat to join them—especially as I knew that this was the Hall of Books! It would be so easy; I had only to approach and ask to stay with them for a while, to become ‘one of them’. Then, I knew, my angel-guides would meet again and agree sympathetically to wait until I had fulfilled my new desire. Of course they would be disappointed that the cleansing of the robe would be delayed—that was natural—but they would understand. Then, at the thought of the robe, my wavering ceased. I thought of its dark stains. True, I had been forgiven, but what had my guide said? “The child is instantly forgiven by its mother for scrawling on a newly-papered wall, because it is realised that the child knows no better—but the mark remains.” Yes, it was something like that. I thought, too, of the bliss within the gates, of the Purple Gown and of He Who would clothe me in it. Then I nearly laughed aloud! How could I have thought for a moment that I would like to stay? How could I truly be happy, knowing ‘the marks remain’? And could I not come back at will after my Term of Reparation was done? As I straightened my shoulders and took a new grip on myself, it seemed to me that my guide spoke into my mind, though I did not see her.
“You gave us a bad moment then,”” she seemed to say, “but we were almost certain that you would come through. You have forgotten one point in your decision; it is this. Your persistence and fidelity in going about the cleansing of your robe despite all desires to linger on the way, is your proof to the Master that you love Him more than all else besides. Be very sure that He knows and rejoices in you. Remember how He spoke, once, in the heart of a man on earth, urging him to value the Love of the Giver more than the gift of the Lover? Yes, He knows!”
At this, such a sense of exultation and mastery swept over me that it seemed as though I had never wavered, and could never waver until I had passed through the gates, learned all my lessons and climbed on and on to the Heights where wavering was no more. Ah, if all men of earth could stand where I stood now! If they could but see that all good effort helped to cleanse their robes; if they could but see their King, loving and patient, watching and approving, waiting to clothe them in purple, to welcome them and rejoice. How much easier would earth-victories be then!
“But when they are victorious in the darkness without seeing”, whispered my guide, “then they can offer Him a treasure that is denied to every angel, for angels see. Think of that!” Quickly I stepped forward toward the group.