THE FIRST INTENTION
The wood was green and cool and silent. Janet and I sat on a fallen log, enjoying the softness of the vine twining so thickly over its surface.
How long had we rested there? It was difficult to say. For a long time we had not spoken. Before that we had been sleeping on a couch of crisp, golden leaves. Before that? Our memories failed. A mist seemed to hang before our minds as we sought to measure the time.
As usual, our minds revolved together, without the spoken word, sinking more deeply into those hidden places so little understood by men. As we thought, sitting quietly with hands linked, a bird came to hop over the hem of Janet’s robe. Its warm brown contrasted exquisitely with the translucent green of the material and my eyes followed it absently. From Janet’s robe it hopped to mine and then it fluttered to my knee and stood gazing at its reflection in the silver seal on my breast.
“I think we have been here for half of eternity,” Janet said dreamily, stretching out a hand to touch the feathers of the bird. “I wonder why our angel is so long?”
“Our angel?” I queried in surprise, and then, receiving her thought, “Why, of course! He went to meet some travellers on the fringe of the wood and to guide them on their way. I wonder if he has really been absent long?”
“Many years have rolled away on the earth-plane,” Janet replied, “and even in this realm time has passed. Do you remember that when we came here first we looked up at the trees from our couch of leaves and watched this bird learning to fly?”
“And now he is fully grown, with a nest in the branches,” I marvelled. “Imagine the activity that has taken place on earth, yet this long time has passed away in a flash to us.”
“How comforting it would be if people knew this when they lose their dear ones on earth.” Janet had taken the bird into her lap now and was fondling it softly. “If people knew that years of separation seemed but a moment here, so that memory and love-ties are always fresh.”
We fell silent again and my eyes wandered over the scene. Here and there the sun filtered through the leaves, dappling the ground, and paths wound among the tall trunks. The music of birdsong came and went entrancingly.
Presently the sound of voices came to us. We looked up expectantly and then sprang to our feet to greet our Ruby Angel. He came swiftly into the little clearing, his robe splashing the brown trees and fallen leaves with brilliant colour. Behind him came a tall young man robed in golden brown, whose shoulders were crossed with purple bands and sealed on the breast with bronze. His skin was smooth and creamy, his hair long and curling under at the nape of the neck, his eyes were deeply blue, the gaze clear and straight. “This is Derek,” said our angel.
He came and took our hands, bowing slightly and smiling. His touch was firm and cool. “I am very glad to be here,” he told us when we welcomed him.
“It has seemed a long journey but now the Ruby Angel has guided me and my path is clear.” “Which way do you go now? “Janet asked.
“Between those two great trees,” said Derek, “and down the hill into the valley. Th
ere,” and his eyes were bright with joy, “I have a friend waiting.” “The golden sash?” I queried softly.
“Yes.” He stooped and touched the fringe of mine to his lips and did the same to Janet’s. Then, with a long, smiling look towards the angel, he was gone.
“Angel,” Janet said, as we all sat down on the log again, “I thought there were a number of people you had to guide?”
“Nearly a hundred,” the Ruby Angel replied soberly.
“But where are they?
“I met them all and they all agreed to come,” he explained. “First of all they started off gladly for the way led over a meadow where the grass was springy to the feet and flowers grew everywhere. Then a few of the party wanted to pause and gather the flowers.”
“You could not wait?” I asked as the angel paused.
“No, there was a long way to go. But some of them stayed, and we left them in the meadow. Then our path led up a hillside and the stones were sharp and loose. They stumbled as they went and some of the people grew tired. They asked to rest but again I had to insist on going on. So more of them fell back and by the time we reached the hill-top only half the number were with me.”
“Then our path led by a winding way through long grasses and one of them suggested we should scramble straight down for the sake of speed. When I went on, he took this ‘short cut’ as he thought it, and many followed him. Others fell back at different points all the way until only Derek was left. He knew.”
“What did Derek know? “Janet asked sadly.
“He knew that the way I led him was the only sure path,” the angel explained.
“What will happen to the others?” I asked.
“They will lose their way and wander for a long time until they find their way back to the starting-point again. There they will wait until another angel is sent to lead them.”
“Then they will all follow,” Janet finished happily.
“No-even then some of them will turn aside from the path,” our angel said. “You see, it depends on the first intention.”
“The first intention?” I echoed when he paused. “What is that?”
“It governs all the ways of life, even to eternity,” the Ruby Angel said solemnly. “The first intention is the most important of all. A man may set forth upon a wise path in life and say to himself, ‘I hope to tread this path until the end.’ Another man may start and say, ‘I would like to be able to tread this path always.’ Still another may falter almost at the beginning, saying, ‘I wish I could follow, but I am so weak.’ Only the man who thinks it all out beforehand and states firmly to himself, ‘ I intend to walk this path’ reaches his destination. You see, the first intention is all important.”
I thought of Derek with his firm mouth and steady eyes. “Derek had the first intention.” ”Yes.”
“What of the others?” Janet asked. “Will they acquire the right intention eventually?”
“Oh yes,” and our angel smiled. “One day they will all reach this clearing in the wood and will all rejoice in the peace of it. But before this they have many wanderings, many tears, many strivings.”
“How sad,” Janet and I said together as our eyes rested on the beauty of the scene before us.
“Yet almost all sadness is that of turning from the way,” said our angel. “There is so much joy, even on earth, for those who walk in the way intended for them. There is always an angel waiting, unseen by earth-eyes, to guide their steps, but they have not the first intention you see. Children,” he turned to us and smiled, “always have the first intention. Say to yourselves, ‘I intend to walk this way’ and your way shall be a way of joy. Joy is the heritage of man; it is his natural way. It is only when man lacks the first intention that he walks the way of sorrow.”
Janet stretched out and took my hand, pressing it firmly. “We will remember, dear Angel.”
Then the Ruby Angel stood up and raised his hands, palms towards us. We stood, too, and from his fingers there came rays of golden light, pouring upon us. The points of the rays touched our foreheads between the eyes and we felt the warmth of them. Almost in a dream the angel’s deep voice came to us. May your wills be strengthened!” he said solemnly.