On our return to the Land of Dawn, we met with a right royal welcome from our Brotherhood, and a festival was given in our honor.
On entering our own little rooms each of us found a new robe awaiting him. It was of a very light grey, almost white color, and the border, girdle, and device of our order an anchor and a star upon the left sleeve were in deep golden yellow.
I greatly prized this new dress because in the spirit world the dress symbolizes the state of advancement of the spirit, and is esteemed as showing what each one has attained. What I prized even more than this new dress, however, was a most beautiful wreath of pure white spirit roses which I found had clustered around and framed the magic picture of my beloved a frame that never withered, never faded, and whose fragrance was wafted to me as I reposed on the snow white couch and gazed out upon those peaceful hills behind which there shone the dawning day.
I was aroused from my reverie by a friend who came to summon me to the festival, and on entering the great hall I found my father and some friends of my wanderings awaiting me. We greeted one another with much emotion, and after we had enjoyed a banquet similar to the one I have described on my first entrance to this sphere, we all assembled at the lower end of the hall before a large curtain of grey and gold which completely covered the walls.
While we waited in expectation of what we were to see, a soft strain of music floated towards us as though borne upon some passing breeze. This grew stronger, fuller, more distinct, till a solemn majestic measure like the march of an army fell upon our ears. Not a march of triumph or rejoicing but one such as might be played by an army of giants mourning over a dead comrade, so grand, so full of pathos was this strain.
Then the curtains glided apart and showed us a huge mirror of black polished marble. And then the music changed to another measure, still solemn, still grand, but with somewhat of discordance in its tones. It wavered too and became uneven in the measure of its time, as though halting with uncertain step, stumbling and hesitating.
Then the air around us darkened till we could scarce see each other's faces; slowly the light faded, and at last all we could see was the black polished surface of the gigantic mirror, and in it I saw reflected the figures of two of the members of our expedition. They moved and spoke and the scenery around them grew distinct and such as I had seen in the Inferno we had left. The weird music stirred my soul to its inmost core, and looking upon the drama being enacted before my eyes I forgot where I was I forgot everything and seemed to be wandering once more in the dark depths of Hell.
Picture melted into picture, till we had been shown the varied experiences of each of our bank, from the lowest member to our leader himself the last scene showing the whole company assembled upon the hill listening to the farewell discourse of our commander; and like the chorus in a Greek Tragedy, the wild music seemed to accompany and explain it all, varying with every variation in the dramas, now sad and sorrowful, now full of repose or triumph, and again wailing, sobbing, shrieking or changing into a murmuring lullaby as some poor rescued soul sank to rest at last then again rising into wild notes of clamor, fierce cries of battle, hoarse curses and imprecations; now surging in wild waves of tumultous melody, then dying away amidst discordant broken notes. At last as the final scene was enacted it sank into a soft plaintive air of most exquisite sweetness, and died away note by note. As it ceased the darkness vanished, the curtains glided over the black mirror and we all turned with a sigh of relief and thankfulness to congratulate each other that our wanderings in that dark land were past.
I asked my father how this effect had been produced, was it an illusion or what?
"My son," he answered, "what you have seen is an application of scientific knowledge, nothing more. This mirror has been so prepared that it receives and reflects the images thrown upon it from a series of sheets of thin metal, or rather what is the spiritual counterpart of earthly metal. These sheets of metal have been so highly sensitized that they are able to receive and retain these pictures somewhat in the fashion of a phonograph (such as you saw in earth life) receives and retains the sound waves.
"When you were wandering in those dark spheres, you were put in magnetic communication with this instrument and the adventures of each were transferred to one of these sensitive sheets, while the emotions of every one of you caused the sound waves in the spheres of music and literature to vibrate in corresponding tones of sympathy.
"You belong to the spheres of Art, Music and Literature, and therefore you are able to see and feel and understand the vibrations of those spheres. In the spirit world all emotions, speeches, or events reproduce themselves in objective forms and become for those in harmony with them either pictures, melodies, or spoken narratives. The spirit world is created by the thoughts and actions of the soul, and therefore every act or thought forms its spiritually material counterpart. In this sphere you will find many things not yet known to men on earth, many curious inventions which will in time be transmitted to earth and clothed there in material form. But see! you are about to receive the Palm branch which is given to each of you as a reward of your victory."
At this moment the large doors of the hall were once more thrown open and our grand master entered, followed by the same train of handsome youths I had seen before, only this time each carried a branch of palm instead of a wreath of laurel. When the grand master had seated himself under his canopy of state we were each summoned to his presence to receive our branch of palm, and when we had all done so and returned to our places again a most joyous hymn of victory was sung by everyone, our palm branches waving in time to the music and our glad voices filling the air with triumphant harmony.
I now enjoyed a long quiet season of rest which much resembled that half-waking, half-sleeping state, when the mind is too much in repose to think and yet retains full consciousness of all its surroundings. From this state, which lasted some weeks, I arose completely recovered from the effects of my wanderings in the dark spheres.
And my first thought was to visit my beloved, and see if she could see me and be conscious of my improved appearance. I shall not, however, dwell upon our interview; its joy was for ourselves alone I only seek to show that death does not of necessity either end our affection for those we have left or shut us out from sharing with them our joys or sorrows.
I found that I was now much more able to communicate with her through her own mediumistic powers, so that we did not need any third person to intervene and help us, and thus were my labors lightened and cheered by her sweet affection and her conscious recognition of my presence and of my continued existence.
My work at this time was once more upon the earth plane and in those cities whose counterparts I had seen in Hell. I had to labor among those mortals and spirits who thronged them, and impress their minds with a sense of what I had seen in that dark sphere far below. I knew I could only make them dimly conscious of it, only arouse a little their dormant sense of fear of future retribution for their present misdeeds, but even that was something and would help to deter some from a too complete abandonment of themselves to selfish pleasure. Moreover, amongst the spirits who were earth-bound to those cities I found many whom I could assist, with the knowledge and strength which I had gained in my journey.
There ever is and ever must be ample work for those who work upon the earth plane, for multitudinous as are the workers there, more are always being wanted, since men are passing over from earth life every hour and every minute, who need all the help that can be given them.
Thus passed some months for me, and then I began once more to feel the old restless longing to rise higher myself, to attain more than I had yet done, to approach nearer to that sphere to which my beloved one would pass when her earthly life was ended, and by attaining which I could alone hope to be united to her in the spirit world. I used to at this time be tormented with a constant fear lest my darling should pass from earth before I had risen to her spiritual level, and thus I should again be parted from her.
This fear it was which had ever urged me on to fresh efforts, fresh conquests over myself, and now made me dissatisfied even with the progress I had made. I knew that I had overcome much, I had struggled hard to improve, and I had risen wonderfully fast, yet in spite of all I was still tormented by the jealous and suspicious feelings which my disposition and my earthly experience had gathered about me.
There were even times when I would begin to doubt the constancy of my beloved herself. In spite of all the many proofs of her love which she had given me, I would fear lest while I was away from her someone yet in the flesh should after all win her love from me.
And thus I was in danger of becoming earth-bound by reason of my unworthy desire to watch her continually. Ah! you who think a spirit has changed all his thoughts and desires at the moment of dissolution, how little you understand of the conditions of that other life beyond the grave, and how slowly, how very slowly we change the habits of thought we have cultivated in our earthly lives or how long they cling to us in the spiritual state.
I was then in character much what I had been on earth, only a little better, only learning by degrees wherein my ideas had been wrong and full of prejudice, a lesson we may go on learning through many spheres, higher than any I had attained to.
Even while I doubted and feared, I was ashamed of my doubts and knew how unjust they were, yet could I not free myself from them; the experiences of my earth life had taught me suspicion and distrust, and the ghosts of that earth life were not so easily laid.
It was while I was in this state of self-torment that Ahrinziman came to me and told me how I might free myself from these haunting shadows of the past.
"There is," said he, "a land not far from here called the Land of Remorse; were you to visit it, the journey would be of much service to you, for once its hills and valleys were passed and its difficulties overcome, the true nature of your earthly life and its mistakes would be clearly realized and prove a great means of progression for your soul. Such a journey will indeed be full of much bitterness and sorrow, for you will see displayed in all their nakedness, the actions of your past, actions which you have already in part atoned for but do not yet see as the eyes of the higher spiritual intelligences see them.
"Few who come over from earth life really realize the true motives which prompted their actions; many indeed go on for years, some even for centuries, before this knowledge comes to them. They excuse and justify to their own consciences their misdeeds, and such a land as this I speak of is very useful for enlightening them. The journey must, however, be undertaken voluntarily, and it will then shorten by years the pathway of progression.
"In that land men's lives are stored up as pictures which, mirrored in the wondrous spiritual atmosphere, reflect for them the reasons of many failures; and show the subtle causes at work in their own hearts which have shaped the lives of each. It would be a severe and keen self-examination through which you would pass a bitter experience of your own nature, your own self, but though a bitter it is a salutary medicine, and would go far to heal your soul of those maladies of the earth life which like a miasma hang about it still."
"Show me," I answered, "where this land is, and I will go to it."
Ahrinziman took me to the top of one of those dim and distant hills which I could see from the window of my little room, and leading me to where we looked down across a wide plain bounded by another range of hills far away, said:
"On the other side of those farther hills lies this wondrous land of which I speak, a land through which most spirits pass whose lives have been such as to call for great sorrow and remorse. Those whose errors have been merely trivial, daily weaknesses such as are common to all mankind, do not pass through it; there are other means whereby they may be enlightened as to the source of their mistakes. This land is more particularly useful to such as yourself, of strong powers and strong will, who will recognize readily and admit freely wherein you have done wrong, and in doing so arise to better things. Like a strong tonic this circle of the sphere would be too much for some weak erring spirits who would only be crushed and overwhelmed and disheartened by the too rapid and vivid realization of all their sins; such spirits must be taught slowly, step by step, a little at a time, while you who are strong of heart and full of courage will but rise the more rapidly the sooner you see and recognize the nature of those fetters which have bound your soul."
"And will it take me long to accomplish this journey?"
No, it will last but a short time two or three weeks of earth time for behold as I shadow it forth to you I see following it fast the image of your returning spirit, showing that the two events are not separated by a wide interval. In the spirit world where time is not reckoned by days or weeks or counted by hours, we judge of how long an event will take to accomplish or when an occurrence will happen by seeing how near or how far away they appear, and also by observing whether the shadow cast by the coming event touches the earth or is yet distant from it we then try to judge as nearly as possible of what will be its corresponding time as measured by earthly standards. Even the wisest of us may not always be able to do this with perfect correctness; thus it is as well for those who communicate with friends on earth not to give an exact date for foreseen events, since many things may intervene to delay it and thus make the date incorrect. An event may be shown very near, yet instead of continuing to travel to the mortal at the same speed it may be delayed or held in suspense, and sometimes even turned aside altogether by a stronger power than the one which has set it in motion."
I thanked my guide for his advice and we parted. I was so very eager to progress that a very short time after this conversation saw me setting forth upon my new journey.
I found my progress not so rapid as had been the case in my previous travels through the spirit land, for now I had taken upon me the full burden of my past sins, and like the load carried by the pilgrim Christian it almost weighed me down to the earth, making my movements very slow and laborious. Like a pilgrim, I was habited in a coarse grey robe, my feet were bare and my head uncovered, for in the spirit world the condition of your mind forms your clothing and surroundings, and my feelings then were as though I wore sackcloth and had put dust and ashes upon my head.
When I had at last crossed those dim far-off hills there lay before me a wide sandy plain a great desert in which I saw the barren sands of my earthly life lie scattered. No tree, no shrub, no green thing was there anywhere for the eye to rest upon, no water of refreshment to sparkle before us like hopes of happiness. There was no shade for our weary limbs should we seek for repose. The lives of those who crossed this plain in search of the rest beyond, had been barren of true, pure, unselfish affection and that self-denial which alone can make the desert to blossom like the rose and sweet waters of refreshment to spring up around their paths.
I descended to this dreary waste of sand, and took a narrow path which seemed to lead to the hills on the other side. The load I carried had now become almost intolerable to me and I longed to lay it down but in vain; I could not for one moment detach it. The hot sand seemed to blister my feet as I walked, and each step was so labored as to be most painful. As I passed slowly on there rose before me pictures of my past and of all those whom I had known. These pictures seemed to be just in front of me and to float in the atmosphere like those mirages seen by earthly travelers through the desert.
Like dissolving views they appeared to melt into one another and give place to fresh scenes. Through them all there moved the friends or strangers whom I had met and known, and the long forgotten unkind thoughts and words which I had spoken to them rose up in an accusing array before me the tears I had made others shed the cruel words (sharper and harder to bear than any blow) with which I had wounded the feelings of those around me. A thousand hard unworthy thoughts and selfish actions of my past long thrust aside and forgotten or excused all rose up once more before me, picture after picture till at last I was so overwhelmed to see what an array of them there was, that I broke down, and casting my pride to the winds I bowed myself in the dust and wept bitter tears of shame and sorrow. And where my tears fell on the hot dry sand there sprang up around me little flowers like white stars, each little waxy blossom bearing in its heart a drop of dew, so that the place I had sunk down upon in such sorrow had become a little oasis of beauty in that weary desert.
I plucked a few of those tiny blossoms and placed them in my bosom as a memorial of that spot, and then rose to go on again. To my surprise the pictures were no longer visible, but in front of me I beheld a woman carrying a little child whose weight seemed too much for her strength, and it was wailing with weariness and fear.
I hurried up to them and offered to carry the poor little one, for I was touched by the sight of its poor little frightened face and weary drooping head. The woman stared at me for a moment and then put the little one in my arms, and as I covered him over with a part of my robe the poor tired little creature sank into a quiet sleep. The woman told me the child was hers, but she had not felt much affection for it during its life. "In fact," said she, "I did not want a child at all. I do not care for children, and when this one came I was annoyed and neglected it. Then, as it grew older, and was (as I thought then) naughty and troublesome, I used to beat it and shut it up in dark rooms, and was otherwise hard and unkind. At last when it was five years old it died, and then I died not long afterwards of the same fever. Since I came to the spirit world that child has seemed to haunt me, and at last I was advised to take this journey, carrying him with me since I cannot rid myself of his presence."
"And do you even yet feel no love for the poor little thing?"
"Well, no! I can't say I have come to love it, perhaps I never shall really love it as some mothers do, indeed I am one of those women who should not be mothers at all the maternal instinct is, as yet at all events, quite wanting in me. I do not love the child, but I am sorry now that I was not kinder to him, and I can see that what I thought was a sense of duty urging me to bring him up properly and correct his faults, was only an excuse for my own temper and the irritation the care of him caused. I can see I have done wrong and why I did so, but I cannot say I have much love for this child."
"And are you to take him with you through all your journey?" I asked, feeling so sorry for the poor little unloved thing that I bent over him and kissed him, my own eyes growing dim as I did so, for I thought of my beloved on earth and what a treasure she would have deemed such a child, and how tender she would have been to it. And as I kissed him he put his little arms around my neck and smiled up at me in a half-asleep way that should have gone straight to the woman's heart. Even as it was her face relaxed a little, and she said more graciously than she had yet spoken:
"I am only to carry him a little farther I believe, and then he will be taken to a sphere where there are many children like him whose parents do not care about them and who are taken care of by spirits who are fond of children."
"I am glad to think that," I said, and then we trudged on together for a bit farther, till we reached a small group of rocks where there was a little pool of water, beside which we sat down to rest. Presently I fell asleep, and when I awoke the woman and the child had gone.
I arose and resumed my way, and shortly after arrived at the foot of the mountains, which pride and ambition had reared. Hard, rocky, and precipitous was the pathway across them, with scarce foothold to help one on, and ofttimes it seemed as though these rocks reared by selfish pride would prove too difficult to surmount. And as I climbed I recognized what share I had had in building them, what atoms my pride had sent to swell these difficulties I now encountered.
Few of us know the secrets of our own hearts. We so often deem that it is a far nobler ambition than mere self-aggrandisement which inspires our efforts to place ourselves on a higher level than our fellow men who are not so well equipped for the battle of life.
I looked back upon my past with shame as I recognized one great rock after another to be the spiritual emblems of the stumbling blocks which I had placed in the path of my feebler brothers, whose poor crude efforts had once seemed to me only worthy of prompt extinction in the interests of all true art, and I longed to have my life to live over again that I might do better with it and encourage where I had once condemned, help where I had crushed.
I had been so hard to myself, so eager ever to attain to the highest possible excellence, that I had never been satisfied with any of my own efforts even when the applause of my fellows was ringing in my ears, even when I had carried off the highest prizes from all competitors and so I had thought myself entitled to exact as high a standard from all who sought to study my beautiful art. I could see no merit in the efforts of the poor strugglers who were as infants beside the great master minds. Talent, genius, I could cordially admire, frankly appreciate, but with complacent mediocrity I had no sympathy; such I had had no desire to help. I was ignorant then that those feeble powers were like tiny seeds which though they would never develop into anything of value on earth, would yet blossom into the perfect flower in the great Hereafter. In my early days, when success first was mine, and before I had made shipwreck of my life, I had been full of the wildest, most ambitious dreams, and though in later years when sorrow and disappointments had taught me somewhat of pity for the struggles of others, yet I could not learn to feel true cordial sympathy with mediocrity and its struggles, and now I recognized that it was the want of such sympathy which had piled up high these rocks so typical of my arrogance.
In my sorrow and remorse at this discovery I looked around to see if there might be anyone near me weaker than myself, whom it may not be too late to assist upon his path, and as I looked I saw above me on this hard road a young man almost spent and much exhausted with his effort to climb these rocks, which family pride and an ambition to rank with the noble and wealthy had piled up for him a pride to which he had sacrificed all those who should have been most dear. He was clinging to a jutting-out portion of rock, and was so spent and exhausted he seemed almost ready to let go and fall.
I shouted to him to hold on, and soon climbed up to where he was, and there with some difficulty succeeded in dragging him up to the summit of these rocks. My strength being evidently double his, I was only too ready to help him as some relief to the remorse I now felt at thinking how many feeble minds I had crushed in the past.
When we reached the top and sat down to rest, I found myself to be much bruised and torn by the sharp stones over which we had stumbled. But I also found that in my struggles to ascend, my burden of selfish pride had fallen from me and was gone, and as I looked back over the path by which I had climbed I clothed myself anew in the sackcloth and ashes of humility, and resolved I would go back to earth and seek to help some of those feebler ones to a fuller understanding of my art. I would seek as far as I could to give them the help of my higher knowledge. Where I had crushed the timid aspiring soul I would now encourage; where my sharp tongue and keen wit had wounded I would strive to heal. I knew now that none should dare to despise his weaker brother or crush out his hopes because to a more advanced mind they seem small and trivial.
I sat long upon that mountain thinking of these things the young man whom I had helped going on without me. At last I rose and wended my way slowly through a deep ravine spanned by a broken bridge and approached by a high gate, at which many spirits were waiting, and trying by various means to open it in order that they might pass through. Some tried force, others tried to climb over, others again sought to find some secret spring, and when one after another tried and failed some of the others again would seek to console the disappointed ones. As I drew near six or seven spirits who still hovered about the gate drew back, curious to see what I would do. It was a great gate of what looked to me like sheets of iron, though its real nature I do not even now know. It was so high and so smooth, no one could climb it, so solid it was vain to dream of forcing it, so fast shut there appeared no chance of opening it. I stood in front of it in despair, wondering what I should do now, when I saw a poor woman near me weeping most bitterly with disappointment; she had been there some time and had tried in vain to open the gate. I did my best to comfort her and give her all the hope I could, and while I was doing so the solid gate before us melted away and we passed through. Then as suddenly I saw it rise again behind me, while the woman had vanished, and beside the bridge stood a feeble old man bent nearly double. As I was still wondering about the gate a voice said to me, "That is the gate of kind deeds and kind thoughts. Those who are on the other side must wait till their kind thoughts and acts for others are heavy enough to weigh the gate down, when it will open for them as it did for you who have tried so hard to help your fellows."
I now advanced to the bridge where the old man was standing, poking about with his stick as if feeling his way, and groaning over his helplessness. I was so afraid he would fall through the broken part without seeing it, that I rushed impulsively forward and offered to help him over. But he shook his head, "No! no! young man, the bridge is so rotten it will never bear your weight and mine. Go on yourself, and leave me here to do the best I can."
"Not so, you are feeble, and old enough to be my grandfather, and if I leave you you will most likely drop through the broken place. Now, I am active and strong, and it will go hard with us if I do not contrive somehow to get us both across."
Without waiting for his reply I took hold of him and hoisted him on to my back, and telling him to hold tight by my shoulders I started to cross the bridge.
Sapristi! what a weight that old man seemed! Sinbad's old man of the sea was a joke to him. That bridge, too, how it creaked, groaned and bent under our weight. I thought we must both be tumbled into the chasm below, and all the time the old man kept imploring me not to drop him. On I struggled, holding with my hands as well as I could, and crawling on all-fours when we reached the worst part. When we got to the middle there was a great ragged hole and only the broken ends of the two great beams to catch hold of. Here I did feel it a difficulty. I could have swung myself across I felt certain, but it was a different thing with that heavy old man clinging to me and half choking me, and a thought did cross my mind that I might have done better to leave him alone, but that seemed so cruel to the poor old soul that I made up my mind to risk it. The poor old man gave a great sigh when he saw how matters stood, and said:
"You had better abandon me after all. I am too helpless to get across and you will only spoil your own chance by trying it. Leave me here and go on alone."
His tone was so dejected, so miserable, I could never have so left him, and I thought to make a desperate effort for us both, so telling him to hold on tight I grasped the broken beam with one hand and, making a great spring, I swung myself over the chasm with such a will we seemed to fly across, and alighted upon the other side unharmed.
As I looked back to see what we had escaped, I cried out in astonishment, for there was no break in the bridge at all, but it was as sound a bridge as ever I saw, and by my side there stood not a feeble old man but Ahrinziman himself, laughing at my astonishment. He put his hand on my shoulder and said:
"Franchezzo, my son, that was but a little trial to test if you would be unselfish enough to burden yourself with a heavy old man when your own chance seemed so small. I leave you now to encounter the last of your trials and to judge for yourself the nature of those doubts and suspicions you have cherished. Adieu, and may success attend you."
He turned away from me and immediately vanished, leaving me to go on alone through another deep valley which was before me.
It lay between two precipitous hills, and was called "The valley of the phantom mists." Great wreaths of grey vapor floated to and fro and crept up the hill sides, shaping themselves into mysterious phantom forms and hovering around me as I walked.
The farther I advanced through the ravine the thicker grew these shapes, growing more distinct and like living things. I knew them to be no more than the thought creations of my earthly life, yet seen in this lifelike palpable form they were like haunting ghosts of my past, rising up in accusing array against me. The suspicions I had nursed, the doubts I had fostered, the unkind, unholy thoughts I had cherished, all seemed to gather round me, menacing and terrible, mocking me and taunting me with the past, whispering in my ears and closing over my head like great waves of darkness. As my life had grown more full of such thoughts, so did my path become blocked with them till they hemmed me in on every side. Such fearful, distorted, hateful-looking things! And these had been my own thoughts, these mirrored the state of my own mind towards others. These brooding spirits of the mist dark, suspicious, and bewildering contronted me now and showed me what my heart had been. I had had so little faith in goodness so little trust in my fellow man. Because I had been cruelly deceived I had said in my haste all men, and women too, are liars, and I had sneered at the weakness and the folly around me, and thought it was always the same thing everywhere, all bitterness and disappointment.
So these thought-creations had grown up, mass upon mass, till now that I sought to battle with them they seemed to overwhelm and stifle me, wrapping me up in the great vaporous folds of their phantom forms. In vain I sought to beat them off, to shake myself free of them. They gathered round and closed me in even as my doubts and suspicions had done. I was seized with horror, and fought as if they had been living things that were sweeping me to destruction. And then I saw a deep dark crevasse open in the ground before me, to which these phantoms were driving me, a gulf into which it seemed I must sink unless I could free myself from these awful ghosts. Like a madman I strove and wrestled with them, fighting as for dear life, and still they closed me in and forced me back and back towards that gloomy chasm. Then in my anguish of soul I called aloud for help to be free from them, and throwing out my arms before me with all my force I seemed to grasp the foremost phantom and hurl it from me. Then did the mighty cloud of doubts waver and break as though a wind had scattered them, and I sank overcome and exhausted upon the ground; and as I sank into unconsciousness I had a dream, a brief but lovely dream, in which I thought my beloved had come to me and scattered those foul thoughts, and that she knelt down beside me and drew my head to rest upon her bosom as a mother with her child. I thought I felt her arms encircle me and hold me safe, and then the dream was over and I fell asleep.
When I recovered consciousness I was resting still in that valley, but the mists had rolled away and my time of bitter doubt and suspicion was past. I lay upon a bank of soft green turf at the end of the ravine, and before me there was a meadow watered by a smooth peaceful river of clear crystal water. I arose and followed the windings of the stream for a short distance, and arrived at a beautiful grove of trees. Through the trunks I could see a clear pool on whose surface floated water-lilies. There was a fairy-like fountain in the middle, from which the spray fell like a shower of diamonds into the transparent water. The trees arched their branches overhead and through them I could see the blue sky. I drew near to rest and refresh myself at the fountain, and as I did so a fair nymph in a robe of green gossamer and with a crown of water-lilies on her head drew near to help me. She was the guardian spirit of the fountain, and her work was to help and refresh all weary wanderers like myself. "In earth life," said she, "I lived in a forest, and here in the spirit land I find a home surrounded by the woods I love so well."
She gave me food and drink, and after I had rested a while showed me a broad pathway through the trees, which led to a Home of Rest where I might repose for a time. With a grateful heart I thanked this bright spirit, and following the path soon found myself before a large building covered with honeysuckle and ivy. It had many windows and wide open doors as though to invite all to enter. It was approached by a great gateway of what looked like wrought iron, only that the birds and flowers on it were so life-like they seemed to have clustered there to rest. While I stood looking at the gate it opened as by magic, and I passed on to the house. Here several spirits in white robes came to welcome me, and I was conducted to a pretty room whose windows looked out upon a grassy lawn and soft fairy-like trees, and here I was bidden to repose myself.
On awakening I found my pilgrim dress was gone, and in its stead there lay my light grey robe, only now it had a triple border of pure white. I was greatly pleased, and arrayed myself with pleasure, for I felt the white to be a sign of my progression white in the spirit world symbolizing purity and happiness, while black is the reverse.
Presently I was conducted to a large pleasant room in which were a number of spirits dressed like myself, among whom I was pleased to recognize the woman with the child whom I had helped across the Plains of Repentance and Tears. She smiled much more kindly on the child, and greeted me with pleasure, thanking me for my help, while the little one climbed upon my knees and established himself there as an earthly child might have done.
An ample repast of fruits and cakes and the pure wine of the spirit land was set before us, and when we were all refreshed and had returned our thanks to God for all his mercies, the Brother who presided wished us all God's speed, and then with grateful hearts we bade each other adieu and set forth to return to our own homes.