They sprang up at once and were soon swimming strongly up the silver pathway of the moon. Rose and I sat and dreamed, letting the lovely scene entrance us, until at last the swimmers ran gaily up the beach. Guy and Paul said goodbye at once, for they were now quite anxious to return to the world “which is not so bad after all”, as they laughingly told me.
I began to feel most delightfully sleepy, then, and announced my intention of retiring to our little house. The others all said, in rather surprised tones, that they were tired, too, so we broke up into three groups. We took Elizabeth to our house; Stephen and James invited Reg and Robbie to theirs. Greig and Rose, we learned to our delight, had already acquired a house just beyond the wood, and they departed happily, taking Arthur and David.
How luxurious it was, sinking down into the yielding softness of our verandah “couch”. We lay listening to the murmur of the sea and talking lazily until, gradually, we all fell into a deep, refreshing sleep.
When I awoke I thought at first that it was raining. Something wet had splashed on the end of my nose! I opened my eyes, just in time to see Reg leaning over me, holding a large jug of fruit juice. His eyes were dancing with merriment, but when he saw I was fully awake, he hastily put down the jug and fled to the water’s edge. With a shout of pretended wrath, I was after him. We both plunged into the sea, but he was soon far beyond my reach, cleaving through the water like a speedboat of earth. When he saw I had abandoned the chase, he came back to me, and we ran back to the house, laughing.
“Come on!” Janet called. “We have some delicious fruit and such sweet, cool juice.”
“I have already sampled the latter,” I protested. “On my nose, too. What indignity!”
We were all there for that friendly meal, and as it proceeded, Stephen suggested that we should all go on an expedition together. “Right into the interior,” he insisted.
“The interior,” I echoed. “Why, I did not know there was one here.”
“Now, Bernard,” Janet said in mock severity, “you must know that everything has an interior.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” I laughed, “but seriously, Stephen, what is in the interior ?”
“You know how the Halls converge toward the centre in Heaven’s realm?” Stephen asked. “Well, here it is all arranged in a similar way. This is the outermost fringe. There are all kinds of places for us to visit as we go toward the centre.”
“Are they called Halls?” Robbie asked.
“No-‘circles’ “, James put in. “Stephen and I have not visited many of them, yet, but there is, we have heard, a Circle of Learning A Circle of Lesser Brethren, a Circle of Singing-oh, and a number of others.”
“It sounds delightful,” Rose said.
“Especially the Circle of Lesser Brethren,” Janet added. “I wonder if they will be friendly and tame?”
“Judging by a bird I encountered on the beach-yes,” I assured her. “Do you know what is in the centre, Stephen?”
“The Circle of Prayer,” he said promptly. “There, all who desire to pray for those still on earth, gather together, and the angels strengthen the prayers with their own.”
“So there are angels here,” David commented.
“Everywhere,” said James. “They are the teachers, except for a few assistants. How did you come to be teaching here, Elizabeth?”
“I was invited by one of the angels to help her in the Circle of Acting,” she explained. “That is the only Circle I have seen, as yet.”
“Is there a Circle of Books?” Arthur demanded suddenly.
“Yes, Mr. Bookworm!” Stephen laughed. “I have never been there, however. I think it will be better if we separate and explore. Then we can meet in the Circle of Prayer. Do you all agree?”
We thought this an excellent idea and soon Janet and I were wheeling off together.
We rose to a great height almost at once, for we both wished to see the land over which we passed. The vast distance almost made us gasp, even accustomed to it as we had been in Heaven’s realm. It stretched away and away, each “horizon” melting as we sped so swiftly towards it, resolving itself into yet a further valley or another range of hills. The colours were, as usual, exquisite. That faint, blue haze that is so attractive on earth lightly clothed the far mountains, and a white mist hung over a river or lake. Woods were everywhere, smooth green fields abounded, and here and there were little villages of houses such as we had left beside the sea.
Although we passed over many Circles, the boundaries were not apparent, one Circle merging imperceptibly into another. On and on we travelled. What delighted us particularly was that we were so near the white, fluffy clouds Who has not gazed up while standing on the ground of earth, thinking how good it would be to reach up and touch the snowy clouds sailing overhead? Well, here they were within reach. They swirled about us, caressing us with their cool, refreshing dampness, or sailed just over our heads before a background of deep, deep blue.
Janet and I were thrilled. So great was my zest and vigour that I constantly cried aloud to her: “Look! Look!”
She, turning eagerly to admire, would then smile radiantly at me, sighing as though she could not support so great a happiness.
“Oh, Bernard,” she said many times, “what a joy this is! How often we have stood together on some cliff or hilltop, looking out over the distant scenery of earth, having field-glasses, perhaps, to help our feeble vision. But this! Not only do we see for miles and miles, but we have the freedom of birds and angels, and fly wherever we will. . .”
I nodded to her, near to tears with the wonder of it. Somehow, in Heaven’s realm it had not seemed so stupendous-to travel like this. There is such a high, spiritual atmosphere and so much wisdom to be learned, that lesser things grow dim before it. But here, in this plane between earth and Heaven, it seemed almost as though we had taken the strength of Heaven and, matching it against the feebleness of earth, were breathless with awe. Unable any longer to contain myself, I lifted up my voice and sang aloud:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour . . . For He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His Name!”
Of course, Janet joined her voice to mine. We felt like kings as we sped among the clouds, singing our songs above the vast plane opening up beneath us.