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In the King’s Service: Chapter 4

PUZZLED

Now I am going to decide the next journey.’ As I spoke we began to speed off over the valley. We travelled so swiftly that we had reached the highest mountain before Reg replied.

‘Where is it this time?’ He looked down with interest on the snow covered peak.

‘That is a secret!’ I firmly drew my mental veil and Reg, after a vain effort to reach my thought, laughed appreciatively.

‘Well, I must confess I like surprises.’

Janet already knew our destination for she and I had discussed it while Reg was in the Hall of Children. We talked of many things as we went on our way, especially of Reg’s favourite subject, which was the difference and similarity of the Halls. He never tired of asking questions concerning the appearance of each, the plan followed, and the people there. When Janet and I confessed that we had not visited any particular Hall, he would impress the name upon his mind and ask us to be sure to visit it with him later on.

‘You are going to keep us busy I see,’ Janet teased, and Reg said:

‘Have we not all eternity to enjoy it in?’ He was silent a moment, and then he mused aloud, ‘You know, I have not grasped that yet – eternity! It is so vast that it is impossible to realise. No time limit no end or beginning. Heaven without end! No, I still cannot understand.’

‘Can you think of a time when you could cease to be?’ I asked. ‘Think of the Hall of Reception in your mind’s eye. One moment you are sitting with us under a tree and the next moment you are gone. Can you picture that?’

‘Of course I can,’ Reg declared.

‘Describe it then,’ Janet challenged, and Reg began.

‘I can see you and Bernard sitting under the tree with the valley before us and the river just visible below. We are all talking and then suddenly I disappear. You look round to speak and see only an empty space’

‘Then what happens?’ I interrupted.

‘Why,’ he cried triumphantly, ‘I can see you and Janet jump up and start to look around. You think I am hiding behind a tree’

‘And you are!’ I exulted. He looked bewildered.

‘No. You told me to picture a time when I ceased to be when I just dissolved away’

‘Then what are you doing, looking on and describing our reactions?’ I demanded. He looked so astounded that Janet and I laughed heartily.

‘Well !’ He joined with our mirth ruefully. ‘I never thought of that.’

‘Don’t you see, old man,’ I explained, ‘that you cannot imagine yourself as ceasing to be? You can imagine all kinds of “disappearances” vanishing away, dissolving in a mist, falling down flat on the ground and “passing out” anything! But you are always there, looking on. Try it !’

He was silent for a long time, after that. We watched his expressive face as test after test failed. Then he admitted:
‘You are right. I tried hard to keep myself out of it but I was always there!’

‘And you will be, always,’ I affirmed. ‘That is man’s proof of eternity. He is, eternally.’

‘It is a glorious thought,’ Janet mused. ‘I never grow tired of it.’

‘When you said “passing out” just now, it made me think of something,’ Reg said thoughtfully. ‘Can that expression have any connection with that of the soul leaving the bodily plane in sleep?’

‘Oh yes,’ I agreed, ‘there are many such expressions. Men use them carelessly and do not see their clear teaching. Sometimes in pain or strong excitement man ceases to be master of his lower power “king of his castle” as it were. He “passes out”. See if you can think of any more expressions.’

‘Yes, let us think hard,’ urged Janet. She loved puzzles.
‘”Beside himself” ‘,Janet added.

‘”Knocked out”‘. (Reg again)

Janet said tentatively: “Not quite all there?”

‘Yes,’ I conceded. ‘I suppose that does have a connection. Any more?’

‘What about “dead to the world”?’ Reg suggested.

‘Yes.’

‘There’s “lost control of himself”‘Janet offered.

‘What of a man who loses himself in sleep”?’ Reg asked.

‘Splendid! So you see that in life a man may temporarily cease to control the lower powers of his body “passes out” but he is still “himself”. In death a man permanently ceases to control his body “passes on” and still remains “himself.”

We had been so interested in our conversation that we had paid little attention to our surroundings. Now we became aware of drifting white clouds and a blue light. I knew we could no longer keep our secret from Reg.

‘Why, this is the Void !’ he exclaimed. ‘Then we are going to the Plane Between?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh good. I love that place. Shall we be near the sea again?’

‘Yes,’ I assured him, and Janet cried;

‘No wonder Bernard called you “Mister Fish”!’

‘You should have seen him in the Hall of Adventure,’ I told her.

‘There, he not only walked on the sea but swam in it, and dived right down to the ocean bed.’

‘He did?’ Janet was all interest. ‘Tell me about it, Reg !’

For the rest of the way Reg eagerly described his adventures, the strange, new world under the sea and the friendly fish that had played with him. He had just finished when we alighted on the hilltop. We all gazed delighted over the flowery hillside and into the valley which held our little house.

‘It is good to be here,’ Reg breathed.

‘Others think so, too,’ I commented, nodding to my left. They followed my glance. Running toward us over the brilliant flowers, leaping, laughing and pummelling each other, were Reg’s mates from earth; Guy, Ronald, Greig and Paul. Reg let out a whoop of joy and I said, ‘There is our secret, old man. We wanted to surprise you.’

‘It is a grand surprise !’ Reg broke from us and plunged down to meet his friends. Immediately there was a gay tumult of greeting and then the five came back to continue the journey together. We went down the hillside in an untidy group, and in the process Janet and I talked to the visitors. They were thrilled with their surroundings, constantly looking about them and asking innumerable questions.

‘What I cannot understand,’ Paul said suddenly in his strong, deep voice, ‘is that, looking back to my life since I came here last, I see that I have not once thought of this place. Yet look at the joy we had!’

At once the others, who had overheard the question, stopped talking. They each declared the same and expressed a desire for the solution to the puzzle. Laughingly, I pointed to Reg who was walking on the outside of the group.
‘There is your leader, boys! Reg will answer all your questions.’

‘All!’ Reg protested as they gathered round him. ‘Why, I am only Purple Gowned.’

‘We don’t know what you mean by that,’ Greig declared, linking a hand through his arm. ‘What has the colour you are wearing to do with it?’

‘He’s going all artistic,’ Ronald teased, and Guy put in diffidently: ‘All the same, if Bernard says you can answer the question’

‘I can answer that one,’ Reg agreed, but…’

He was interrupted by a chorus of demands.
‘All right, then, tell us !’
‘Yes, how is it that we cannot remember?’
‘It seems such a waste.’ And Guy’s voice asked urgently:
‘Will you tell us, Reg?’

‘Well you see,’ Reg began, ‘you cannot remember what you do when you come here because you leave the earthplane in sleep. You know how quickly a dream slips away when you wake? Even if you can remember, ten to one it is a silly, jumbled affair that has nothing to do with your visit here.’

‘Probably cheese, eaten late,’ Ronald suggested, and the others “shushed” him to silence.

‘You have to be very deeply asleep before you can come all this way,’ Reg went on, smiling at the irrepressible Ronald. ‘That means it is not possible to rememberbut it is not a waste, all the same.’

‘Why not?’ Greig demanded. He was always interested in facts and followed the explanation keenly.
‘Because you keep the wisdom you gained.’

‘How can one be sure of that?’ Greig persisted.

‘Never heard of “sleeping on” a problem?’ Reg smiled.

‘Yes, does it mean that?’ Paul asked in astonishment.

‘Of course. Sometimes you wake up as foggy as ever, and sometimes you know just what to do. Wellyou have gained some wisdom if you do know the answer to your problem.’

‘So it is not wasted after all,’ Guy said wonderingly, ‘even if we cannot remember any details.’

They seemed so amazed about it all that I said:
‘It is not so unusual as you think! Do you not recall people in the Bible being taught in sleep?’

‘Oh you mean that old man, Eli,’ Ronald said, and they all laughed.

‘It was Samuel who was taught when Eli told him to sleep,’ Greig explained with a quizzical glance at the blushing Ronald.

‘I refer to Abram, when a “deep sleep” fell on him,’ I explained. ‘Then there was Jacob who awaked out of sleep and said, “Indeed the Lord is in this place.” Then Daniel was taught much in sleep – there are many of them!’

They gathered about me, offering suggestions. In this way we finished our journey and arrived in the pleasant valley.