I was particularly pleased with our coming visit for I had long had a plan in my mind for acquiring one of the houses in the Plane Between. Remembering the happiness of Stephen and James there, I thought that Janet and I could perhaps secure a house nearby. The mother, whose name was Doris, was too happy to need much attention on the journey, so Janet and I occupied ourselves in talking over plans. Janet thought all the houses near Stephen’s were taken, but she described a similar ‘village’ on the other side of the wood where she had stayed while waiting to be united to me.
“It is every bit as lovely, and if our houses are a little apart, we can exchange visits with Stephen and James, and they with us.”
“Why, that will be fine,” I agreed. “It is like having a country estate on earth.”
“More like a country cottage!” Janet laughed. “For all the vastness of the land, no-one keeps large portions for himself.” When we reached the Plane Between, we had the happiness of seeing Doris re-united to her child, and then left her in the care of one who was returning immediately to the Halls. Now that her anxiety for her daughter was dispelled, she was very eager to visit the Hall of Friends. So she bade us goodbye with many expressions of gratitude. At last Janet and I felt free to seek our house.
We set off eagerly into the wood behind the clearing, and here we could not refrain from lingering often on the way. The light fell in shafts through the trees like earth-sunlight, the ground was carpeted in grasses flecked with pale-hued flowers. These flowers were so dainty and so delicate of colour that they gave the impression that bluebells do. Here one could look closely, lifting the cuplike blossoms in the fingers, and still the outlines would be blurred and ethereal. When I remarked on this, Janet said wisely, “Distance does not lend enchantment to the view here, because all things have beauty.” All the trees were laden with fruit and I saw many of the bread-stems that grew also in the Hall of Sleep.
When we reached the next clearing we were immediately welcomed by one of Janet’s friends. He introduced himself as Robert and explained that he had received word of our coming. While we talked, we strolled up and down the green and I looked around. It was very like the first village I had seen, except that the green sloped at one side toward a beach. As we paused nearby, the great waves came rolling up with their organ-note so familiar on earth, and the spray flecked our faces refreshingly.
“This is grand,” I cried. “How good to have a little house in sight of all this. . . I suppose we can have a house?” I added anxiously to Robert. He laughed.
“Yes, if you fulfil the conditions!”
“Conditions?” we both echoed in surprise.
“It is a kind of rent. Anyone who has a house here must undertake to give hospitality to a visitor from earth—a traveller in sleep, you know.”
“What do we have to do?” I asked in astonishment. It seemed a stupendous idea.
Robert explained in a matter-of-fact tone, “You must welcome the visitor and make him feel at home, answer all his questions and generally familiarise him with the thought of leaving his body so that he is prepared for death.”
“You mean he will die soon if he comes here in sleep?” Janet asked.
“Oh no,” said Robert, “he may live for many years; but you must always be ready to welcome him when he comes, and to teach him Heaven’s truth. Of course, he will not come every night—they never do.”
“How will we know when he is coming?” I queried.
“By thought. You will know in plenty of time, and sometimes one of you can come here while the other continues some task in the higher realm. You see, you are always in contact in your minds. . . Now,” he added, “do you like the idea? It is very important work, you know.”
I thought of that text about sleep again, and said soberly, “Yes, it is.” For a while Janet and I communed in silence; then she said, “We accept gladly!”
“Good,” said Robert, “then come and see your house.” And he led the way without more ado.
“I have always wanted to live within sight of the sea,” Janet said. “Think of being able to go swimming in the early mornings!” I turned to Robert doubtfully.
“Can one go swimming here?” Robert smiled at us.
“Heaven is fulfilment.” I took a couple of strides to catch him up. “How is it,” I queried, “that you use these words? They are favourite words of Janet’s.”
“They are favourite words of Heaven’s,” he countered. “Some of these phrases of truth, having been passed on to newcomers for so long, are impressed as it were, upon the atmosphere. They become like a melody of earth, lingering and rising up here and there. . . Well, here is your house!” he finished.
It was at the extreme end of the row, facing of course, the green, but its side flanked the sea. It was composed of the same pearly substance as the others we had seen and the tree which brooded over it was a pink chestnut. Janet cried out in delight at the sight of the blossoms.
“Will they fall?” she asked. Robert shook his head. “The Master has stayed them with His Word.” Inside, the floor was carpeted with the same downy material as Stephen’s, and I was reminded of the Hall of Sleep. Stooping, I pressed my fist down, and sure enough, my wrist was quickly covered. At one side of the room was a low shelf and on this were standing several bowls, gleaming like burnished copper in the green-hued light.
“Those are for fruit,” explained Robert. “One of the artists built them in the Hall of Metal-Workers.”
“Do they need cleaning?” Janet asked practically, and Robert laughed.
“Dirt is a kind of surface-decay! How could that be here? All is enduring beauty.”
“It is marvellous,” Janet said, touching the bowls with a reverent finger, for we knew Whose plan they had been. All the time we had been speaking, the sound of the waves had come to us like the accompaniment to a song. The slow hiss of the sea drew back and the hushing-sound as the waves came up the beach.
Standing in the house, where the front was entirely open, we could see a vast expanse of ocean, and to our left, where the coast line curved, a tiny cove. The cliffs rose above it and were the deep red that is sometimes seen on earth. They were topped with green, and a tree bent over the edge, its brown trunk outlined against the sky.
“How happy we shall be, sitting on the sands with our backs against those rocks,” murmured Janet.
“Yes.” Robert came and stood beside her. “There you will watch for your visitor.”
“How will he come?”
“Your visitor is a woman,” he corrected. “She will be timid at first, but she is a sweet creature—very earnest and sincere.”
“Then I shall love her,” Janet said decidedly. She stood musing, and as she did not repeat her question, I asked it for her.
“How will she come, Robert?” At that he turned round to face me and I saw that he looked almost embarrassed.
“I am sorry to give you a shock, old man,” he said at last, and yet there was a twinkle in his eye, “but she will walk in on the sea.”