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Chapter Six: My First Lesson

“Is that his name?” Marie asked gravely. “How do you know?” I looked up to reply and then saw the twinkle in her eyes. “Go on,” she laughed, “you tell me this time.”

“Well,” I began, feeling a trifle embarrassed at my first advance knowledge, “when he has had some water and something to eat, he will want to run about and play with Bimbo. Then, when he hears you calling and sees Bimbo running to you, he will follow, thinking that is his name too; so if I call him ‘Rainbow’ it will sound very much the same and he will not have to unlearn one name and learn another.”

“Bravo,” she cried. “As you saw it in your mind, I saw it in mine—just like that!”

“It is pretty useful,” I agreed, grinning proudly.

“It is one of the Laws of Love,” she answered. We were silent as we knelt beside the stream cupping some cool water in our hands for Rainbow. He did not know what to do with it at first until Bimbo slid down the shallow bank and drank noisily as though to show off! Immediately the puppy put out his little red tongue and dipped it into the water in my hand.

“You know,” said Bimbo, “he wants some other young ones to play with. I’ll go and find them.”

“All right,” I agreed; and then I nearly dropped my burden as I stared after Bimbo’s swiftly-retreating form. “He…he spoke,” I gasped. “Did you hear him?”

“Spoke?” Marie answered unconcernedly, “No, I didn’t hear anything.”

“But you must have done,” I protested, beginning to feel foolish, and then I saw the twinkle in her eyes again! “You tell me this time,” I suggested.

“Well,” she began, sitting down by the water’s edge and taking Rainbow into her lap, where he instantly fell asleep, “when men and women talk together here they can do it in two ways. If they like they can just think their conversations and it presses on the other’s mind. But because we are accustomed to speak with words on earth, we usually do so here—”

“But isn’t it very confusing, to have everyone’s thoughts hurled at you when you are in a crowd?”

“It isn’t a bit like that, or we should get confused, I admit. Also all knowledge could be given to our minds at the same time, whether we wanted it or not, and that would not be freedom, would it?”

“No,” I admitted. “I had not thought of that. How does it work then?”

“Just as we consciously ‘reach out’ for any knowledge we want, so we ‘reach out’ for the thoughts of others. When we want to be alone or quiet, in order to think, we draw a kind of mental veil over ourselves and this shuts us off from all but spoken words.”

“I see. But would it not be possible for someone to shut himself off and have evil thoughts without others being any the wiser?” She looked at me solemnly for a moment and then her thoughts pressed upon my mind.

“The Father knoweth. . .” Of course; how could anything be hidden from Him?

“I understand. Of course, that would not be possible.”

“No. Any evil thought would be seen at once and immediately the wrong-doer would find himself separated from his friends and back in a very low plane. There he would receive lessons in charity and be encouraged to work his way back to his old position again.”

“Now tell me about Bimbo talking,” I begged.

“He did not talk; but animals are able to convey their thoughts to our minds if we are in special sympathy with them. I mean by this,” she added, “if we are accustomed to being with them and they with us. They can only understand the simplest of our words to them and none of our higher thoughts, but they receive a kind of impression of our meaning or attitude towards them.”

“So when Bimbo said he would go to find some young friends for the puppy, I ‘heard’ him because I was in sympathy with his idea?”

“Yes. So you see there can be definite though limited conversation between animals and men.” Then Rainbow sat up suddenly and opened his eyes. He began to look about him, wagging his baby tail. I followed his glance, and there was Bimbo! He was walking very, very slowly, carrying a tiny black kitten in his mouth; beside him ran a brown field mouse, and in front frisked a young tawny rabbit!

“Well,” I exclaimed, “you have done well, Bimbo.” But this time Bimbo only grinned and laid his kitten friend on the grass. With a shrill yelp of joy Rainbow scrambled off Marie’s lap and began to roll about in the grass with the kitten and the rabbit, while the mouse ran up and down their backs, squeaking. Bimbo sat down and looked on with a satisfied smirk.

“All the animals are friendly here,” Marie said. “That is the loveliness of it. Those who have been enemies on earth learn the brotherhood of charity. That is why so many people are drawn to this place to look after the animals and be their friends. Seeing the friendliness of all, they drop their earth-ideas of antagonism and competition, and begin to feel a kinship with every man who lives. Watching the animals, they too learn the brotherhood of charity.”

“It’s wonderful.” For a while I sat watching the antics of the young ones on the grass and it seemed to me that Bimbo gave me a solemn wink. Then a new thought occurred to me. “Did you say that many people are drawn to this place? Then why do we seem to be alone? I have seen no other but you.”

“You tell me this time,” she laughed. “I had not thought of that before. What is the reason?”

“We-ell,” I began, as thoughts flowed into my mind, “for one thing this place is so vast that it could hold millions of people without being crowded. Then, those who come here first need to adjust themselves to it, to learn how to draw answers to their own questions. If they could always ask others, they would not know they had this power.”

“Ah, that is a wise precaution. That is why you had to meet me, I suppose?”

“And lastly,” I hurried on, remembering my guide’s warning, “people often have to come here to meet others and make reparation. When they have done that and have been through the gates they can return and meet as many others as they like.”

“I am certainly glad you came along,” said Marie. “What would I have done with poor little Rainbow? I could not have taken him with me because of Bimbo. We are only able to take one in and out with us.” She smiled and reached out to touch my hand. “So you see how glad I am that we met, Bernard.”

“I am glad also,” I said, more fervently than she knew. “Shall we feed these young rascals now? What do they have—the biscuit-fruit I suppose?”

“The biscuit-fruit!” she echoed scornfully, “for babies!”

“Well, what else?” I asked in confusion.

“What do babies usually have?”

“Why, milk of course; but we do not happen to have any.”

“What is this then?” She rose and went to one of the food-bushes, broke off a thick stalk that bore no fruit and brought it to me. “Now take Rainbow on your knees,” she directed, “and put the end of this in his mouth.” I did so, and to my great wonder he instantly began to suck; I saw sap-like milk running down the stem into his greedy little mouth. We fed the other babies in the same way and then they all curled up together for a nap.

“It is wonderful,” I mused. “Even milk for the babies.”

“He is so good; He is Love.”

For a long time we stayed together after that. Rainbow began to grow and get very strong and active. I saw that he was almost big enough to be taken on my journey. Marie saw it, too, and we began to make plans for meeting in the future.

“You know,” she murmured once, her voice a blend of hesitation and wonder, “I begin to have a great hunger to be. . . where He is. And yet. . . dare I go to seek Him yet?” She did not seem to want my answer so I sat beside her in silence. At last there came a time when she ceased to play with the animals and sat by the water’s edge, gazing away into the far distance. Even Bimbo seemed to understand for he came and rested his head on her knee, breathing softly. I lay on the grass nearby, waiting…

I knew it would soon be time to part and at the thought that one stain was cleansed from my robe, I was filled with joy. After one of those times of quietness she suddenly turned to me and laid a hand on my arm.

“Goodbye, Bernard!” she whispered. “It has been such a happiness to know you, but I seek a greater happiness now.”

“Goodbye. We will meet again someday.” With my eyes and mind I followed her as she walked over the fields. My last view of her was as she crested a hill, quickening her pace, with Bimbo walking at her heels. I turned away and saw my guide beckoning to me.