BESIDE ME, kneeling on the grass, was a young woman, clad in a white tunic as my own. She did not see me at first for she was absorbed in a little brown spaniel which sat before her. She was hanging a daisy chain about his neck and she laughed merrily as she gave him a little pat and he bent to lick her hand.
“You look grand, Bimbo!” she cried gaily. My guide gave me a small push and I stepped forward and spoke.
“Is that his name—Bimbo? He is a nice little dog.” She looked up.
“Yes, isn’t he? We only met again this morning after six weeks of separation. He was happy, and so was I.” Then, rising, “Have I met you before?”
“On earth,” I assured her, “but not here. I have only just come.”
“Oh, then you are in for a treat. The animals are so happy. They have such a lot of space to play in and no fences at all. Then there is plenty of cool, clear, running water, and everywhere, on bushes, grow a kind of fruit, something like a meaty biscuit, which they can bite off. So they never have to wait for meal-time but eat whenever they like.”
“Are they lonely for their masters and mistresses?”
“Just at first; but we make them understand that it will not be for long, and there are so many people here who love them and play with them. They quite forget to be lonely.”
“That is good news. Who are the people?”
“Oh, they are of two kinds. The first are those who come here to seek for their pets or just because they love animals so much. These stay as long as they like. The others are here to make reparation. They have been unkind to animals while on earth but are sorry now, and so they come here to look after the animals as a means of making amends. They are happy, too, because they know that all is forgiven.”
“You have learned a lot if you only came this morning,” I said admiringly.
“Was it only this morning? I am not sure. You see, the light is always like this here, and it resembles an early spring morning on earth. Besides, one learns things so quickly because everyone speaks openly of their lives on earth, their faults, and what they hope to do in Heaven. But even I have not yet visited the interior.”
“It is the place where all the wild animals live in their natural state. Here, those who have been caught and caged and made to perform tricks for the amusement of men regain all the dignity of freedom and wander at their will in great content.”
“But don’t any of them come out?” I queried, glancing a little apprehensively over my shoulder.
“Oh, they never attack people,” she laughed. “You see, they are learning too. And of course,” she added thoughtfully, “now they have plenty to eat, the dignity of perfect freedom and nothing at all to fear, why should they attack anything or anyone?”
“True,” I agreed; and just then came a little whine.
“Oh, that’s Bimbo’s friend. Come and see.” Bimbo eagerly led the way, and, following, we came upon a cosy little nest of grass under a bush, and lying in the nest a tiny spaniel puppy. He looked up at us mutely, feebly wagging his tail.
“Isn’t he sweet?” Taking the little bundle into her arms. “Bimbo found him just now. He’s a wee bit scared because he was only just born when he came here and he hasn’t even got a master yet.” She looked up at me appealingly. “Will you look after him?”
“Of course.” And then I knew how I could serve her. “But you will have to teach me exactly what to do.”
“Now, first of all, suppose you take him from me,” suggested my new friend. “If you are going to be his master you had better become acquainted at once.”
“Steady,” I warned, taking the quivering bundle into my arms, “who said I was to be his master? I only agreed to look after him for a while!”
“You won’t be able to resist keeping him always once you get to know the little darling.” I looked down and met the wide gaze, felt the pink tongue curl on my palm.
“No. I think you must be right!” Beside me Bimbo thumped his tail hard.
“I think he must be hungry and thirsty, don’t you?” said my friend. “Carry him down to the stream, Bernard.”
“Hallo,” I exclaimed, stopping to stare at her. “How did you know my name? Did my guide—?” For the first time I began to look searchingly about me but there was no one else to be seen. My companion laughed.
“Have I been here such a short time and yet know so much more than you?”
“I suppose so,” I admitted humbly. “You do seem to have acquired a lot of information—”
“Well, what is my name?”
“How can I know if—” I began, and then stopped suddenly. She laughed at my astonished face.
“There, you do know, you see.” She was right. In that moment a name seemed to press lightly on my mind.
“Is it Marie?”
“But how did I know?” (I could not resist a quick thought of the usefulness of such a gift on earth! )
“You knew in the same way as I knew your name,” she explained. “You see, knowledge comes to us here as soon as we desire it—that is, if we are able to bear it. As we become conscious of a desire to know something, our desire-thought goes out and seeks the knowledge that is there already and can be shared by all. That is how I have learned so much already. When you want to know anything, just pause a moment and the truth will come into your mind.”
“I say, this is great.” Always I had wondered about so many things that puzzled me; to have the answers to my questions seemed a heaven in itself! As we talked, we had been walking swiftly over the springing grass; it was amazing how quickly one could cover the ground at will, or just how slowly one could linger. All the way I had carried the puppy in my arms while Bimbo ran ahead, occasionally giving a short bark or darting into some bushes so that his wagging tail was all that we could see. I looked down at my little charge. He was curled into a brown and white ball, his silky coat curling slightly and gleaming in the mellow light.
“He’s gone to sleep,” I whispered. “Dear little Rainbow!”