REG’S FIRST CHARGE
It was in solemn mood that we set off on our return journey. We were not unhappy; far from it, but a new aspect of the tremendous plan had been shown to us. The upward climb of the learning, developing soul had been revealed as of such vast proportions that we could not follow it, even in imagination, more than a little way.
Again, the purple and green degrees which had seemed to us quite exalted had been transformed before our eyes into the first wavering steps of the kindergarten ! As we sped on our way over the Halls, our thoughts intermingled, and Reg summed it all up by saying at last:
‘Of course, it could not be otherwise! How could we reach swiftly to the Heights, or touch easily the fringe of the glory of such a mighty Creator?’
The new aspect had an invigorating effect on us all, however. It made us more keenly desirous of progress for there is nothing so dull to the true adventurer as the knowledge that he has almost reached his goal! Presented so vividly with a vast distance of unknown ground before us, we pressed toward those hidden glories with a zest which had multiplied a thousand fold. No wonder we were silent on the way!
At last, as we almost reached the end of our journey, verses of a Psalm began to come into my mind, and simultaneously we all began to sing them with a gladness and exultation that we had never known before:
“0 give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, because His mercy endureth for ever
The Lord is my strength and song and He is become my salvation
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it
Thou art my God and I will praise Thee; Thou art my God, T will exalt Thee
0 give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever.”‘
Singing, we arrived at the Hall of Reception and before we could begin to make any plans, an angel came to us, smiling in sympathy with our joy.
‘There is a charge needing your attention,’ he told us. ‘A newcomer who cannot yet reconcile himself to Heaven’s realm.’ He looked directly at Reg and asked, ‘Will you look after him for a while?’
‘I?’ Reg was quite taken by surprise and cast a deprecating glance at us.
‘I know your friends are of higher degree,’ said the angel, ‘but you must start sometime, you know! You are now in the King’s service, PurpleGowned.’
Reg drew himself up, saying quickly:
‘Of course I am ready to serve my King. What will you have me do?’
Your charge will explain himself,’ the angel assured him, ‘and of course Bernard and Janet will accompany you. ‘However’ and he gave him a searching glance you must be the leader !’
Janet and I exchanged a delighted smile at this, and as the angel led the way, we dropped a little behind so that the two could walk together.
Presently we came upon a meadow where the trees formed a peaceful grove on either side. The ground narrowed between them at one end and through this gap an intriguing glimpse of hill and valley could be seen. Here a tall, dark man was pacing, looking around somewhat vaguely at his surroundings. With a swift blessing the angel was gone. We hastened our steps to Reg’s side and the three of us went forward together.
Reg says, ‘isn’t this great?’ Reg exclaimed with his usual enthusiasm. ‘I did not know I should be accepted for service as soon as this. You will chip in if I don’t know what to say?’
‘We will,’ I assured him, and Janet said:
‘We wish you a great success.’
The man saw us coming and waited for us to catch up. He looked a little more hopeful when he saw we had noticed him and offered us his hand in earth fashion. We each shook it and Reg asked: ‘Can we be of any service to you?’
Well, I am certainly glad to see you,’ the man said. ‘An angel was here before. It quite embarrassed me. After all, who has ever had any personal dealing with angels?’
‘We have,’ Reg said, smiling.
‘Eh?’ he jerked, and then, ‘Oh, I see what you mean.’ He smiled uncertainly at us. ‘You mean that you have been here some time. Do you get on fairly well with them now?’
‘Perfectly. Why, didn’t you?’
‘Well, he was so unworldly’ We laughed at that and he joined in ruefully. ‘Yes, I know that sounds absurd, but he kept on talking about learning as though I have not learned enough already! And he actually said he had never heard of me.’
‘Have we?’ Reg queried, unimpressed
‘Of course you have, my dear fellow!’ He mentioned the name of a high government official which was familiar in many lands, adding testily, ‘Obviously, in my position, I am not going to be taught by an angel – said he was of the lowest class, too !’
‘I shall call you Bertram,’ Reg announced calmly, ‘and the angel was of the lowest order, not class.’
‘What is the difference?’ he demanded. ‘And my name is not Bertram. I have just told you what it is.’
‘I know,’ Reg smiled, ‘but it is just as well for you to forget it right away.’
‘Forget it !’ he spluttered. ‘I have worked for that position all my life. I have toiled and studied and saved. Is it all to no purpose?’
‘The only advantage it has is if it fitted you to serve others?’
‘Serve!’ Bertram almost choked in his wrath. ‘I am not a servant, but a leader.’ He broke off to look angrily upon us. ‘What are your two friends staring like that for? Have they no tongues in their heads?’
Reg was just about to reply when I intervened, for I saw that he was in danger of speaking heatedly.
‘My friend,’ I said calmly, and my voice rang with the authority of Heaven’s realm. ‘Everyone serves here and you will do well to alter your standards. Have you forgotten who is the Master here? Hear, then, His own words on this matter!
‘”When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him, and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee: Give this man place, and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room, that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee: Friend, go up higher; for whoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”‘
There was an astonished silence, and then Janet said gently:
‘The Master was Himself willing to serve, in as much as He washed His disciples’ feet.’
Bertram sunk down on the ground and when we had settled our selves beside him, he said brokenly:
‘What is left to me if all my earthly power is taken away? I am frightened really. That is why I spoke as I did. I thought if I could make people recognise my position’ he broke off, looking piteously at us, and Reg said:
‘Earthly power and position is the treasure on earth. What of your treasure in Heaven?’
‘I have no treasure in Heaven,’ Bertram said mournfully, but Reg interrupted.
‘Of course you have ! Think, man. Have you never offered a kindness to another?’
‘Yes. There was my old nurse. She always said she could not have enjoyed her old age if it were not for me. But that was long ago. She died when I was only middle-aged.’
‘And has probably been praying for you ever since,’ Reg declared. ‘Any more?’
‘Well, there was an employee of mine, a clerk. He had been a faithful fellow, and when his health broke down I gave him a little pension. He had a wife and child, you see. I made arrangements for him to go on receiving the money after I came here.’
‘There,’ Janet declared, ‘another treasure !’
‘I did a good few things like that,’ he went on more hopefully. ‘Do you think they will really make any difference?’
‘I’ll say they will!’ Reg cried, adding, ‘The great thing, old fellow, is to forget all about your position on earth. Look at yourself bravely and think how the Master will value you. That is all that counts.’
‘I will try.’
‘Another thing. Do not think that all the things you learned to do in the world are useless. If you have powers of leadership to offer and you can offer them humbly in the service of the King, they will be accepted by and by.’
‘Really?’ Bertram began to smile. ‘I feel so much better now. Still unfamiliar, though. I wish there was someone I knew to talk to. Once I can get adjusted I will be ready to learn, I promise you !’
‘Good!’ I said heartily, and Janet asked:
‘What about that old nurse? Could you talk to her?’
‘Could I !’ Bertram’s face had lost its strain in a moment and he looked quite young. ‘Dear old Biddy ! I could talk to her for ever. She was so wise for all she was almost unlettered . . ‘His voice trailed off as he mused on the days that were gone.
‘I could give a good guess where she is now?’ Janet said gaily. ‘In the Hall of Children !’
‘Anywhere where children are,’ Bertram agreed. ‘She loved them.’
We held a quick consultation and then Janet and I sent Reg off to take his charge to the Hall of Children. We shook hands warmly and I must say Bertram apologised handsomely for his former anger! Of course, we forgave him at once, and then went exploring over the hills while we awaited Reg’s return.
When at last he came tip to us, he was laughing.
‘You should have seen that meeting !’ he cried. ‘They were happy. Bertram is rightBiddy is wise. She will take charge of him from now on.