AT THE WELL
Presently our new friend closed his shop door and we set off up the street. He walked between us, eager to show us everything. The angel followed a little way behind. It seemed strange that nobody noticed him as we passed.
Some of the people were standing at their shop doors and they all greeted us warmly. We took the opportunity to peep into some of the windows. All the shops were beautifully kept. Our teacher pressed into our minds that this was because it was their heart’s desire.
We caught a glimpse of stocks of household things – crockery, furniture and the like. There were also bales of cloth and many things for sports and pastimes.
Do not think you will he bored here,” said the little shopkeeper. “At first it was very strange, but wait until you discover the homeliness!”
“Have you been here long?” Janet asked. He turned a bright face towards her. “I came last Wednesday week.”
At this we felt quite a shock of surprise. I glanced back at my angel, and he murmured:
“They like to keep their days and nights. It gives them a sense of security. Actually this little brother has been here for very long. Whole life-times have been lived on earth since he passed through death’s door.”
Slowly, we passed up the street and came on an avenue of trees. This led to a grassy field, very smooth and green, and our new friend went at once to a shady spot fringed with flowering bushes. This is the first well.”
He sat down on the stone wall of it, inviting its to do the same. I would have made room for the angel, but he signed to me, then sat on the grass, facing us.
“Since you said this was the first well,” Janet said, “Are there many here?”
The little man shifted his position so that he could see the flowing skirts of his coloured tunics against the white stone. “They are all over the place!”
He spoke with such evident pride and satisfaction that I put in quickly, “Tell its all about them.”
“They are wonderful,” he began earnestly. “When I first came here I was very troubled. I had been fond of the drink on earth, you see. I knew quite well, it was wrong, because my poor wife never had enough money for the kiddies’ clothes, let alone her own! Then, although it used to make me feel grand at the time, I was ill afterwards. Lost my job, too. I used to serve in a shop down there, and how I longed for a business again! At first I was going to save but this liking for drink got hold of me, so you see why I was so scared to find myself here.”
“Tell us,” Janet said quietly and gently.
“Well, I knew that if it had been wrong to drink so much down there, they would not let me do it up here! I knew how it had weakened me, trying to do without it from time to time. It seemed like being in hell.”
“Was it, old, fellow? ” I asked.
“Well, it need not have been! There is a man here who runs the town. Sort of Chief, you know. We call him a Mayor. He came to meet me and told me everything would be all right, but I wouldn’t believe him. I was just plain scared, I guess! I went away on my own and just wandered about, trying to find a shop where there was some drink. All they had was fruit juice. It was awfiul!”
His face shadowed and he grew thoughtful so I said, hoping to dispel his sadness “Then what happened?”
“Well, one day I saw a man I had known on earth walking up the street. We had been great friends and he had been a heavy drinker too. It was Heaven to see him! He was walking fast, with great swinging strides as though he was in fine health. I just ran as hard as I could to catch him up. Of course, he was overjoyed to see me, but he seemed surprised that I looked so miserable.
‘What is the matter with you?’ he asked, ‘Don’t you know that this is Heaven?
What is the good of that?’ I said angrily, ‘ when you can’t get a drink? I feel awful already.’ But you can get a drink!’ he cried.
“Then I felt so happy I just did not know what to do. I laid hold of his arms and began to tremble. ‘Quick!’ I whispered. ‘Take me there.’
“Without another word he took me through the avenue of trees to this well, and as I saw him beginning to pull up the bucket, I began to get angry again.” It is water!’ I cried. ‘How could you be so cruel?’
He just stood there, smiling at me. ‘Do I look as though I have been drinking water?’
“Well that sobered me. I took the cup without a word and began to drink. It looked like water – but oh, the difference! It was like fire running through my blood, stimulating and strengthening me. From that moment I began to live again. I went to find the Mayor, told him all about myself. Very soon I had my little shop! But – and here comes the surprise. This morning the Mayor was here by the well when I arrived. He told me that it is water
He seemed to be expecting a comment so I said; “Really? How is that?”
“He said it is charged with prayer-power. Of course, that is beyond me. He might be talking Greek. All I know, is that the water does for me all the drink ever did, and more.”
“Did he tell you anything else?” Janet asked.
“Yes, he said that men on earth do not drink because of the taste. Many do not like it and it often makes them, sick. He said they like it because it seems to make their dreams come true. Now isn’t that surprising?”
“It certainly is.” I was leaning forward now, listening with quiet interest.
He explained that men drink to forget they are tired, or worried, or ill, to make them ‘feel good.’ When I asked why they felt good, he said it was because they had a feeling of power. Now let me recall his actual words. Oh yes they ‘forget their limitations and get a glimpse of their hidden talents.’
“Now that is very interesting.” I stood up and leant on the stone wall. “Did the Mayor say how they are helped to ‘feel good’ here?”
“Yes!” he cried eagerly, “and I have experienced it, too. We are encouraged to use our hidden talents, and in using them to forget our limitations entirely. Having a shop has done that for me. Then there are all kinds of things for people to do. Some of them do handicrafts which others buy-make furniture, build homes and the like. Some of the women make dresses and tunics.” (He looked down proudly at his own). Then there are all kinds of sports. Oh, it is glorious I had no idea Heaven would be so grand as this.”
We remained talking for some time after that, and were introduced to some of the happy people there. Then we rose to go, wishing the little shopkeeper a cordial farewell.
“We shall meet again soon,” he insisted. ” Whether you keep a shop or go in for handicrafts, we are sure to come across each other. Heaven is a smaller place than I thought it would be.” Well, just in case we do not meet, I wish you eternal happiness.”
“I, too,” Janet said, shaking his hand. Our angel rose up, then, and stood beside us while we watched the little man out of sight.
Just as he reached the trees he turned and cheerily waved his hand.