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In the King’s Service: Chapter 2

THE MISTY SCREEN

When we at last reached our destination we moved forward over the parkland at its entrance with intense interest. It was laid out like a pleasant garden with walks, flowerbeds and seats set here and there.

‘It looks as though there has been a visitor from the Hall of Gardens,’ Reg exclaimed.

‘Yes,’ I told him, ‘that is one of the joys People come from the Hall of Gardens and visit many places, laying out the ground and tending it so that there is beauty everywhere.’

‘Do you see that mist?’ Janet enquired, and we all looked ahead to the end of the pathway. A swirling, pulsating mist seemed to hang like a screen before us. It was sparkling with many colours and reminded me of the curtain I had seen in the hallway of the Orators.

‘That is strange,’ Reg commented, and Janet said eagerly:

‘Shall we explore?’

‘Well, we will not solve the mystery by standing here,’ I agreed. ‘Let us go nearer and look through.’

We walked on slowly, unconsciously lowering our voices in the presence of this mystery. As we drew near the colourful mist seemed to swirl to meet us, to enfold us, and suddenly I realised that we were not looking through it at all but were surrounded by it. Glancing back I found that the mist hid the garden too.

‘Is this not like the mist in the Hall of Audience?’ Janet asked.

‘Or like the screen before the gates?’ Reg suggested.
Before I could reply a friendly voice reached our ears.

‘Do not be disturbed, my friends.’
Out of the mist loomed a tall figure. We saw it was a man and that he wore a gown of exquisite goldbrown, ornamented with an edging of green and silver.
‘Is this the Hall of Reporters?’ I asked doubtfully.

‘Yes’

‘Then why the mist?’ Reg demanded.

‘It is the screen which always hangs before the entrance,’ he explained, adding, ‘Walk back with me and we will sit down in the garden to talk awhile.’

He led us out of the mist to one of the seats we had seen before, and very soon we were settled beside him.
As soon as we looked at him in the clear light of the garden we were all amazed, for a light shone in his face as though a lantern hung within; it poured through the fabric of his robe and even surrounded him. We stared wordlessly for a while and then Reg blurted:

‘Are you an angel? Just now I thought you were a man.’

‘I am a man,’ he answere’d calmly. Such an atmosphere of peace surrounded him that we instinctively drew closer.

‘Then why the light?’ Janet asked diffidently. ‘I hope you will not mind us asking questions.’

‘Ask as many as you like, my children,’ he invited with a hint of tender indulgence in his firm, resonant tones. He was silent a moment and then he said, ‘You are thinking, of course, that this is a strange robe that I am wearing one of high degree, but I tell you truly that all wear an identical robe in Heaven’s realm.’

There was a moment of pure astonishment. I looked down at my green robe with its golden sash, and at Janet’s; my eyes travelled to the rich purple of Reg’s robe and then returned to the glowing splendour of our new friend. He followed our glances smilingly for we had all reacted in exactly the same way.

‘I repeat,’ he said slowly, ‘all the robes are identical in Heaven.’

‘But how?’ Reg breathed.

‘When the Great Mother first clothes us at the dawning of our life,’ he began, ‘our robes are all alike, being pure and perfect. Gradually, as we grow and begin to live consciously in the world, we sin (or make mistakes) and so stains appear on our robes. As life progresses, the early purity is very much marred, for the shadows of forgotten and unrepented errors cling about us. Then, through the merit of Christ we enter into Heaven’s realm clothed in the plain white tunic. This is to enable us to examine the robe and to help in its cleansing. When the Term of Reparation is done, the robe is purple. . .’ He broke off to smile at Reg.
‘As we progress on our upward journey through Heaven’s realm,’ he continued, ‘we receive the degrees which mark our progress, with the accompanying colours. But still it is the same robe.’

Understanding was beginning to dawn upon me and I asked:
‘Do you mean that the colours shine through the original robe?’

‘Yes. Our progress is marked by these shining colours which grow in splendour until we reach the Heights.’

‘And what is the final colour?’ Janet asked. He smiled upon us anticipating our surprise.

‘White.’

‘White?’ We all exclaimed together. ‘But that is the first colour !’

‘And the last,’ he affirmed, adding solemnly; ‘but the last is as far above the first in splendour as Heaven is above the earth.’

We were so taken up with these amazing thoughts that a long silence passed between us. Presently Reg asked:
‘What of the mist, and why is it hung there as a screen before the entrance?’

‘It is to prevent people of lower degree from entering the Purple and Green Gowned,’ he replied, looking at us quizzically.

‘Oh !’ Reg looked so taken aback that we all laughed. ‘But I hoped to be accepted as a Reporter !’

‘Perhaps you will be, one day,’ our friend said soothingly. ‘Only those whose robes correspond exactly to the texture of the mist can pass through it. It is like mingling water with water; that is simple. But to mingle water with oil’ he spread out his hands’impossible !’

‘What is the need for this barrier?’ I asked, for this had puzzled me from the first. Our host explained:

‘No one is allowed to be trained as a Reporter until he is completely detached from earth. You see, he goes to observe and return with information. If he is liable to be caught up in the distractions of earth, or hindered in his upward journey in Heaven, he may not go. For the same reason, noone is accepted who has any relatives or friends still on earth. You see, it is a disinterested collection of facts and a review of happenings which he has to bring back. It is not a personal visit at all.’

‘I thought it would be a grand adventure,’ Reg confessed.

‘There speaks the PurpleGowned!’ smiled our friend. ‘Do you realise the wisdom of it now?’

‘Yes,’ Janet and I said together.

‘And you?’ he asked Reg.

Reg was drawing a pattern on the ground with his foot and looking a little glum, but he glanced up at the question.
‘Yes, I understand only too well !’ He leaned forward and asked urgently: ‘How long do you think it will be before I may be accepted?’

‘Perhaps a hundred perhaps a thousand years,’ our host said calmly; and Reg almost choked in his amazement, ‘Time has no measure here,’ We are all too busy learning and teaching, being served and serving, and climbing up toward the Heights to notice it, you know!’

‘Yes, I suppose so.’ Reg had quite thrown off his disappointment for he had caught the spirit of the adventure of the climb. ‘I say !’ he exclaimed with that boyish enthusiasm which made us all smile, ‘what a busy place Heaven is and how thrilling !’

‘It is indeed.’    Our new friend stood up, then, and raised his hand in a brief blessing. I must bid you farewell, my children.’
He clasped each of us on the shoulder and in a moment was lost once more in the mist.