Chapter XVII: The Hallelujah Strand
From the surroundings in which I move I am so conscious of the value of character built upon accurate information that a strong desire prompts me to linger over every detail of my narrative, lest I miss some apparent triviality upon which a mighty issue should afterwards be found to hang. But my difficulty lies in the certain fact that upon every point I am constrained to mention almost infinite possibilities are centred. The germ life in a single grain of wheat is inestimable. Life knows no such differentiation as greater and lesser, these distinctions apply only to its powers of selection and assimilation controlling growth and production. One grain draws the sustenance upon which it feeds and thrives from one source, another from another; and where all have to be equally provided for duty demands that all shall be considered.
This is the terribly startling truth we can never lose sight of. It is this that makes me so frequently reiterate that with us there is nothing small or great, or perhaps I should rather say everything is great and nothing small. Every suggestion I use is weighted with inestimable significance, because I speak of truth, and would gladly tarry to open every seed I scatter and show the potential value of its contents. But my duty is to sow and leave the increase to the future and to God. Still I wish I could sow my thoughts with a pen of living fire, that they might burn and bury themselves deep in the lives of all to whom I speak.
Under the most favourable conditions the law of growth is a wearily slow process, and when we look back to ascertain honestly how much we have already accomplished of our pilgrimage towards God we tremble to speculate as to how long it will take us to reach perfection. The powers of God repose in the nature of God, but we find little of them in ourselves at present. It is the continual recurrence of this fact as I look back from my higher vantage ground that would make me pause, but duty calls me forward, and I must needs obey.
As an illustration that it is simply an environment and not the soul that is changed in the process of discarnation, I may very usefully here introduce the awakening of our little ‘Dandy.’ It is a case of peculiarly marked characteristics, well exhibiting many of the definite points of interest respecting which earth is somewhat anxiously doubtful. It was also the first occasion upon which I had watched the process from both sides, and I was therefore specially desirous to trace how much was remembered and how much forgotten before the little fellow touched the point of recollection where all would become perfectly clear to his memory.
Vaone notified me of the impending event, and when I arrived I found Eilele (the poetess, whose acquaintance we have already made), who was present with Jack, as the nearest friend to offer the first congratulations.
Dandy was still sleeping peacefully, but what an astonishing change had taken place in his appearance since we last saw him! The pinched and haggard look had passed away, and in its place we saw the rounded healthy face of a well-developed lad. There was the suspicion of a smile playing around his mouth, and a kind of nervous tremor as if his naturally vivacious precocity was impatient to exercise itself in new and more favourable surroundings. In the days of the past the preternatural humour of the lad had been mercifully granted as an offset to hardship and suffering, and in his sleep he already seemed to understand or anticipate that he was about to wake and find the shadow had passed away, leaving the sunshine with a brighter sparkle than he had known before.
I looked from the sleeper to Jack, who was actively impatient for his friend to open his eyes and learn that his one great wish had been actually granted. In Jack I saw the first-fruits of Eilele’s devoted training. His still mobile character had yielded splendidly to the moulding of her Christ-like mind, and the lad in every way represented the possible transformation Paradise can effect by its system of adaptive culture. It was only a crude block of individuality Arvez carried to her home when I first met her, but Eilele had worked upon it with skill and genius until the outline of the angel form could already be fairly well discerned. Ah! this divine study of soul sculpture is glorious work indeed!
From Jack my eyes wandered to his instructress, whose face shone with the soft glow of one of her far-away contemplations, but at the moment she raised her head, and our eyes met.
“Is it not beautiful,” she inquired, “to watch the unfolding of such treasures in the garden of the Lord?”
“I wish it were possible clearly to understand the whole of the beauty,” I replied. “As it is we lose so much because we can appreciate so little.”
“I have given up the idea of ever being able to understand the all. My cup runneth over; and I try to be satisfied if I can add to the sweetness of my life’s contents some new, if only faint, idea of the music contributed by each new experience.”
“Can you be satisfied?” I asked.
“No, no! I think mine must be a very restless, daring, aspiring soul.” Then, with one of her meditative outstretches of reverence, she added: “And yet it is not that so much as God’s great love, drawing me ever nearer to Him at a rate that refuses to allow my slowly expanding soul to keep pace with His wonderful developments. Oh, Aphraar, who is able to understand this incomprehensible life into which you and I are but just unfolding?”
“I wish you would grant me an opportunity of speaking to you on these things,” I ventured to ask, encouraged by her inquiry.
“In your earth-life you were so active in the cause of the Master, whereas I scarcely gave a disinterested thought to Him. I see my error now, and when I hunger to know so much of Him, I know of no one, save perhaps Myhanene, who could help me as you might do.”
“Come home with me, when our little friend awakes,” she answered, “and we will help each other to understand more of the Father’s love than we know at present.”
“Yes, I will gladly come, and thus gratify another of my long deferred desires.”
“Is that really so?” and a softly indeterminate smile lighted her face as she spoke. “The pleasures of His service are more than passing sweet, especially where the ministry is so personally remunerative.”
“Then Shakespeare spoke by inspiration when he said that Mercy
‘is twice blest;
It blesses him that gives and him that takes.’
“It must needs be so with all the gifts of God,” she replied; “they exhale a blessing on every receptive soul they pass.”
As she spoke Mynanene with a company of attendants arrived to give the lad a welcome from the hardships he had so patiently and unselfishly borne. No longer was the benign young ruler dressed in the neutral robe he wore when last I saw him, but in the resplendent raiment with which he came to kiss those sleepers in the Magnetic Chorale back to life. He had again the self-same office to perform, and with more than a royal welcome awakened a soul whose body earth had already hurried unnoticed and unwept into a pauper’s grave.
Carry him hence, at the public cost,
Bury, dissect him, or do as you may;
Nobody knows him, no one will miss him,
Homeless and friendless, take him away.
Back of the death-veil, hidden by shadows
Angels were waiting in regions of light,
Anxiously waiting to bid him ‘good-morning’
Who passed from the earth without a ‘good night’.
Such was actually the difference in the conditions of the lad—between ignorance and knowledge, humanity and divinity. Values at sight are not always faultlessly accurate. Tell a connoisseur the name and subject of an old master and he will fairly estimate its real value in hundreds or thousands, but the ignorant boor win turn disdainfully from the dirty canvas for which he would not give five shillings.
Just so in the merchandise of souls; the highly-coloured St. Dives is hung on the line, in most favourable light, even in a church exhibition, while Lazarus is left to the care of the dogs. Poor Dives! Happy Lazarus! Mistaken ecclesiastics! Ignorant humanity!
What an absolute necessity exists that a court of justice should be established where righteousness reigns.
Myhanene took Jack by the hand and led him to that side of the couch towards which the face of the sleeper was turned, then bending over he gently kissed the lips that had been already twitching as if impatient to give utterance to the lad’s surprise.
The body stretched to its full length, the head half-turned, a faint “Oh dear” escaped the lips, then the eyes opened, and the bewildered lad jumped into a sitting posture.
“Wheer am I? ’Ello, Jack! Why! Wheer ’as I got to?”
“You are at home now,” said Myhanene.
“Yes, Dandy, you are dead now, and have come to be where I am,” cried the delighted Jack.
“Dead, Jack? Get out! I look like a dead un, don’t I?” In his astonishment his eyes roamed round the place and the company surrounding him; then he asked: “Ere, what are they bin doin’ to the ’orspickle?”
“Don’t you remember me?” asked Myhanene. The lad looked at him doubtfully for an instant.
“Yes. Worn’t you the doctor?”
“No. Think again.”
“Oh, yis! I remember now. Yer said yer wouldn’t leave me; didn’t yer?”
“Yes. Then you went to sleep, and I brought you here.”
“Is this another ’orspickle then?”
“Yes, this is one of God’s hospitals, where everyone gets well.”
“You are better now, Dandy, ain’t you?” asked his little friend.
“Yes, I’m better. But Jack, am I dead, straight?”
“Why, don’t you feel dead?”
“No, I’m better. Slep’ mysel’ better, I s’pose; an’ I didn’t want ter.”
“Well, you know I am dead, don’t you?”
“Yes, you’re dead enough, but what about me—I ain’t.”
“Then how can you see me? Do you think you are asleep?”
“No, I ain’t asleep”—and he looked bewilderedly around as if searching for some explanation—“becos somebody wakened me.” Then he turned appealingly to Myhanene. “Say; you know. Tell me what’s the matter?”
“Yes, I will tell you all about it. You remember the hospital?”
“Yis, an’ I was so bad!”
“Do you remember asking me if I was the angel who was going to kill you?”
“I think I does, but I was so bad, yer knows.”
“You remember Bully Peg?”
“Yis. Did ’e get my money?”
This enabled him to touch the first point of recollection, and a portion of his memory became clear, so that without Myhanene reminding him of more he went on:
“Oh, I know all about it now. ’E ’ad a tanner from the doctor, didn’t ’e? An’ then yer said I’d got ter go back, an’ it wouldn’t ’urt me; but miss said I was to go to sleep, didn’t she?”
“Well, then, wheer am I now? ‘Ave I got to go back agen?”
“No, it is all over now.”
“But I ain’t dead yet.”
“Are you not? Why the nurse and doctors say you are.”
“But I ain’t, am I?”
“Of course you are, Dandy; all the dead there is for you,” said Jack.
“Am I tho’?” he doubtfully appealed to Myhanene.
“Yes, I think you may take your little friend’s word for it. You know all of death you ever will know.”
“But I doan know anythin’ about it. It didn’t ’urt a bit.”
“I told you it would not.”
“An’ can I get up?”
“Yes, we want you to go home now. Jack is going with you for a little while.”
“An’ when you go to th’ College, yer’ll take me wi’ yer, won’t yer, Jack?”
“Yes, I will take you everywhere I can.”
“An’ we must see Bully Peg, becos I want ter know ’ow ’e’s goin, on.”
How long the enumeration of his first desires would have taken it is difficult to say, but Jack told him they would arrange everything presently; then, Myhanene led the little fellow on to the terrace, where a host of new friends gave him a welcome that I am afraid was mostly lost upon him in the delight of the thousand beauties that surrounded him. Especially was this noticeable when Myhanene, having finished his part in the proceedings, took his departure, accompanied by his companions from his higher home. Their course through the air rendered Dandy absolutely speechless with astonishment, and he looked from one to the other of us as if begging for some explanation of the uncanny phenomenon.
It would be interesting, did space and necessity permit, to follow the course of these two boys for a while, and trace the ministry of the one who had so wonderfully improved under the instruction of Eilele, in his effort to enlighten his newly-arrived friend in regard to the initial features of this new and surprising existence. Jack already knew enough to be of valuable service at the outset, and Dandy would accept his assurances with far more unquestioning faith than those of a stranger, while the information imparted would always be within the knowledge of others near at hand to correct or explain if necessary. Thus we see how the law of Heaven condescends to accept even the most feeble service as competent to take part in the work of a soul’s salvation. For the present the little initiate would have to be led gently forward until his bewildered mind was able to touch the final point of recollection and he could intelligently connect the present with the clearly recalled memories of the past, which I have already referred to in my own experience. Jack was quite competent to do this even better than an older teacher, and therefore his choice for the work, which we must content ourselves to imagine rather than follow in detail.
In recording this incident I have kept my attention fixed on the three central figures, simply because all the interest for myself was confined to that little group, and the surrounding accessories were not consciously in existence for the time. Myhanene’s presence was official, and his duty to wake and welcome the little pilgrim to the new sphere of existence. This accomplished, he returned, and Eilele at once assumed control by reason of her more advanced condition.
The lad’s eyes were still riveted on the ascending company who had just left us, when she knelt beside him and gently laid her head beside his.
“I say!” he asked, scarcely daring to turn his eyes for an instant lest he should lose the vision; “is they really hangels?”
“Yes, God sent them to bid you welcome home.”
“Well, wheer’s their wings, then?”
“They have none.”
“Then they ain’t real hangels.”
“Yes, they are God’s real angels.”
“Then they ought to ha’ wings. I never seed a hangel wi’out ’em before.”
“You have only seen pictures of angels before; and in pictures they give them wings so that we might know them from men.”
“That’s why I didn’t know ‘em. But I don’t think they’re reg’lar real hangels now.”
“Becos they didn’t sing a welcome ‘ome to me as we allus sung about at th’ mission.”
“But they kissed you and bade you welcome.”
“That ain’t it. I wanted ’em to—
stand at th’ ’allelujah in the Strand
an’ sing me a welcome ’ome.’
I likes singin’ better’n kissin’.”
Dandy had seized on an orthodox idea of Heaven for himself, and unless the programme was strictly carried out according to preconceived plans he was somewhat dubious about its genuineness. It was the ignorance and suspicion of an unlettered lad, but since his time I have watched the arrival of scores of educated adults, who have raised the same ignorant objection and even insisted that they were not suitably received.
Such souls, however, were mostly of those who arrived empty-handed, the weary ones from the harvest fields were seeking rest and found it.