A fantasy of life and death, and of love that endures even unto the bitter end
W. REDVERS DENT
THE great reformer was dying, and all humanity metaphorically waited for the final pronouncement of his death. In the reception room of his residence several reporters sat in a row, whispering among themselves and wishing they could smoke. Secretaries and other servants stood about in postures denoting high tragedy, assumed for the special benefit of these modern gossips of civilization.
John Jordan was dying in the nth degree of modern standardization. The absolutely correct group of doctors
stood in the precise positions called for on such occasions, the consultants being easily distinguishable by their attempts to look like the three wise men of the East.
Even though it was a great reformer who lay dying, the hard lines of class distinction between doctor and doctor, nurse and nurse, still held true to the line laid down by the latest gospel of the medical profession.
The senior nurse, smelling in quite the orthodox manner, stood at the head of the bed beside the chief consultant, holding the patient’s wrist and impatiently looking at her watch—given to her on her graduation by an interne who had loved her wisely. The junior nurse, still too young to be entrusted with such a vital task, stood on the opposite side of the bed with the reformer’s private physician and
lesser consultants, keeping an eager eye on the patient's respiration.
The private physician secretly thought he had never really seen a more authentic death. Even the private bedroom of the great reformer had taken on that odor which is a legitimate part of a hospital’s stock-in-trade. He looked approvingly at the brightly efficient expression of his colleagues; then, as his eyes widened their survey, a slight cloud passed over his features.
Not that he objected—oh. no; certainly not. But still the great reformer’s wife did create a slight flaw in the scene. She should really be upstairs in her bedroom having hysterics, with a further nurse in attendance. That would have given the newspaper boys an extra paragraph.
He scru'inized her attentively as she stood unobtrusively in a corner of the room, her body slumped despairingly, her hair and dress showing only too plainly that her mind no longer dwelt on such things. Her once youthful face shone Dallidly. indicating a lack of water and powder. Her eyes— the doctor shivered slightly as he watched her eyes—were like those of some hunted animal deprived of its young.
She must have loved her husband. No. love was too weak a word as a description. She must have blindly adored him.
No man is a hero to his valet. The physician forced down a grin that almost bubbled to the surface. This was not so in the present case, for there was no doubt that the wife still saw her husband as a great personage. Even in his short experience, the doctor had learned that hysterics and all such signs of a broken heart at a funeral frequently mean remarriage within six months.
Somehow he had never visualized her as playing a very important part in the great man's life. Why, this man had not been meant for love!
For him to have any intimacy with a woman seemed almost too blasphemous to conceive of. And yet...
rT'HE figure on the bed moved
slightly, and immediately every eye and mind concentrated on the patient. Everyone's except the wife’s, for her mind had not ceased to focus upon that lonely figure.
He was dying, actually dying.
The thought reiterated itself in her mind. John, her man. the man whom she had esoterically loved as a girl of eighteen, and still worshipped as a mystic would some sacred shrine.
Now he was dying and she could do nothing. Ever since they had been married she had quietly, unobtrusively and slavishly protected him. His slightest whim or fancy had been echoed in her heart. Now her use as a sounding-board was drawing to a close.
Her life had been devoted to service of him ; the greatest moments of her existence had been when she could do for him the intimate things that were hers alone to do.
She remembered as in a dream the occasion when he had run for a great office and failed, and that night had turned to her for comfort. Although no cry or whimper had come from his lips, she knew and understood.
He knew that she knew. He had nestled close to her, content, and had gone to sleep, while she stared, dry-eyed, into the darkness, cursing those who had made her man unhappy.
Now he was going to die, and what made her body quiver as with ague was the thought that there was nothing she could do. He would go to heaven, of course. Even the angels would lxproud of such a companion as he. For had he not, as one newspaper expressed it. been a great benefactor to mankind?
Her slight body slunqxd against the wall. That would lx the worst of it. for when she died the yawning gates of hell would open wide to receive her. She remembered the church service—"left undone those tilings which we ought to have done." She straightened and looked as defiant as such a puny creature
"I supjxise I have been selfish. 1 3 supixise 1 have not tried to help humanity. I may even have hated it at times. I don’t care."
What did she care about the world. She loved John and him
She stared at the figure on the Ixd.
THERE are certain things that even in this age of materialism carry on as they have done through the ages. Unseen and unheard, their work goes on always, and even at
the death of a magnate they are there, unseen and unheard.
This man had once been born by the travail of a woman. He had sprung from the unrelated incoherent into the related coherent, and was now at death going through another form of travail wherein he bore himself as an individual from himself.
Which is why Raphael and Jeremiel. angels of the lowest degree, hovered over the bed. For just as doctors preside at the birth of an infant, so do heavenly physicians, invisible,
attend the second birth, which is the birth of the spirit.
Raphael and Jeremiel were watching the scene intently. What kind of a being would be born? That was their question. For, although they could see the whole scene, they could not see the spiritual body until it had left the earthly one. Would it be a healthy, normal spiritual being, or would it be deformed, stunted and broken as physical bodies so often are?
They waited somewhat impatiently.
AS THE sick man tossed restlessly a dim flame stirred and sputtered within his wife, and then died. Her mind, tired and worn with continual watchfulness, was almost deadened to any sign, but as the patient moved feverishly the flame suddenly burst into a brilliant glare, for she noticed that the sick man's hands were seeking for something that should be on the other pillow of the great double bed.
He wanted her! Her and her alone. He needed her. He didn't want the doctors and nurses. His hand was groping for her !
Her body quivered and straightened perceptibly; and then as her mind grasped the significance of her husband's action, her personality— the overwhelming all-possessive personality of a loving womanswamped the room with her presence, so that all eyes were drawn to
Her voice came vibrantly, “Will everyone please leave the room."
The consultant turned arrogantly. “But, my dear Mrs. Jordan—”
She went to the door, opened it. “Get out!” she said tensely. “Get out!”
For a second her eyes clashed with the chief consultant’s. He read something in hers that caused him to turn and motion to the others.
The wife stixid in silence as they trooped out; then she closed the door, locked it, and turned toward the bed.
“Oh, my darling!"
The man's hand fluttered feebly, and then the eyes—no longer the eyes of a great reformer but those of a child seeking life at its very fount—looked pleadingly at her. A torrent of power bubbled within her. She felt strong, vibrant, filled with all-conquering energy. She clutched him to her breast, laughed, cooed as he clung to her.
The hand stopixd fluttering, the body gently relaxed.
The great reformer was dead.
HOW is he coming?” asked Raphael, professionally inter-
"Hard, very hard,” replied Jeremiel. "He seems to have an inhesion.’
“Sime woman holding on to him,
"1 have never heard of any other reason,” answered Jeremiel rather shortly, for he always hated this job.
"Is he alive?” asked Raphael, too curious to bother alxjut Jeremiel's irritability.
"Oh, yes. He's alive all right; and he’s all ego, too.”
"Remember the last one we had? You had a hard lime with him before he came to life.”
"Yes. All these critics are the same when they are being born. Their ego is so huge.”
"f le isn't as had as that, though?" "Oh, no; he is just fair. I should judge he must have been a politician or a critic. Here he is.”
At that instant the great reformer became alive as he had never lived before. His mind, now free of the body, blossomed like a flower from a bud
He found that he did not have to
Continued on paie 55
Continued from page 4
speak. As soon as he thought, the thought was communicated to the others. Rather awkward, he pondered.
There were Raphael and Jeremiel—already he knew their names—but there was still another figure, not like those two at all, evidently of much higher rank. John Jordan looked at Raphael questioningly.
“We are angels, just a little higher than yourself. As soon as you are bom, you become simply spirit. Then it depends upon yourself to what degree you are admitted.” “Just like entering a lodge,” he thought. “But here is a Dominion—he is higher than we, for we are only archangels—and he will look after you,” Raphael went on. “Oh, I see. And what is his work?”
“He places you—look out; he is speaking.” John turned and immediately became aware of the other’s speech, for in the abode of departed spirits one is not aware of any communication from behind.
“John Jordan, henceforth your name will be Uriel.”
As the great member of the hierarchy of angels spoke the name. John Jordan merely gaped. His preconceived notions of heaven and hell were receiving some nasty shocks.
TN THE first place, he had not expected graduated ranks of angels. In the next, he had expected that the angels would have wings and the aura that the occultists talk about; but nothing was farther from the truth. This angel was not a man in the ordinary sense of the word at all. and yet he had a body; one that was totally dissimilar to man or beast.
The two angels he had seen gave him an indefinable impression of a liquid mass that changed its shape according to the thoughts of the person. He had seen them only in about thirty different shapes as yet, not in anger or any similar emotion.
This angel reminded him of a beautiful
sunset that was sprinkled with mauve, pink and scarlet. He remembered seeing a wonderful opal once, with its liquid, changing colors. The Dominion’s body was like that. When he smiled, his whole body smiled, and his heart warmed and reddened with a most comforting glow.
He who had been John Jordan looked at his surroundings, but there was nothing except purplish mist.
“I am quite aware how you feel, Uriel,” said the higher angel, “but you will have plenty of time to understand these things later on. I am empowered by the Thrones to see you into your proper sphere.”
Uriel felt as if he were being welcomed to a great hotel, but at last he managed to ejaculate: “Sphere?”
“Certainly. You are aware, of course, that in the particular world from which you have come, each man found his own level spiritually. We carry on that tradition here. It is simply a matter of finding where you
Continued on page 58
Continued from page 55
"I don’t believe that. ’ said Uriel. "As a well-known reformer, I know that men are sometimes forced into a different sphere.”
“Then he belongs to the station of pons asinorum, for no man should allow his soul to he affected by earthly things."
"I can quite believe that every man who lacks sympathy is cut off from others, but I cannot understand any other qualifications." said Uriel belligerently.
"There are only two simple classes, ’ Michael for that was his name continued ; "love and ego. We simply lind out which of the two you fall into, and then, if it is ego, you must go through the Cloaca If, on the other hand, it is love, you would go into the realm of archangels. In the other sphere you may also grow greater or shrink into nothing, as you wish."
I riel tried to look intelligent.
"That is all very nice, and it is more than probable that I shall go into the realm of archangels, but how long do I remain like that?”
"That depends upon yourself But let us go on. I must warn you that all hinges on your answer (o one question, and that question you must consider very carefullj before answering."
Uriel braced himself and brought all his faculties to bear.
"What is the question?"
"Why did you do the many so-called gixxl things that are found in your life?”
Uriel was not to be caught napping. He remembered his catechism and replied instantly:
“To inherit eternal life.’’
The angel before him grew to immense projyirtions, a huge grey va|xir surrounded him, and no longer was the red warmth of welcome visible to Uriel.
"I am sorry.” said the voice of the now unseen Michael, "but you must go through the Cloaca.”
“Why?” asked the alarmed Uriel,
"All the acts of your life, whether gtxxi or bad, were prompted by selfishness. You helped people, gave money to the JXKJT and visited the sick because it would help you gain eternal life, and not for the love of the people you helped and pitied for their plight.”
The voice thinned and died, and now I riel kxiked and saw millions of other beings like himself None of them paid him any attention. Each one seemed so interested in I
admiring himself that they had no eyes for the forlorn figure of Uriel.
The only other time he had found himself in the same predicament was when the red light had come on one day on Yonge Street when he was only halfway across.
He called aloud for the Dominion, but the answer that came was neither helpful nor comforting.
"Your whole life has been one complete ego, and so you are relegated to that degree where you will leam the folly of such a course. The company you are with are all men who once were politicians, critics or reformers like yourself.”
The voice died away.
There came a great cry of heavenly voices. ‘‘Vidimus," they said, and Uriel disappeared.
THE great reformer’s wife held her husband’s lifeless body close to her. After what seemed eons of time, when her own body was as chill as that she held, she roused at the sound of continuous knocking upon the door.
Once more she became a pathetic, drooping figure. Her great surge of life left her weak, shivering, and this time alone.
Shrinking instinctively against the coming glances of the doctors and nurses, she walked feebly toward the door and opened it. leaning against the frame for protection as they entered.
Their aspect declared that this was simply outrageous. All the orthodox tenets of modern dying had been violated. The great man had actually died alone with his wife. The doctors and nurses could not help casting scornful looks at such a person.
She was just about to slink from the room when her eyes caught the hypodermic. It had been used to inject adrenalin, and she knew what an overdose of that substance would do. In one tremendous instant, she saw how bleak and desolate life would be without her man. Fascinated as by a snake, she gazed, her brain rousing. They were all busy at the bedside.
She slipped past them, grasped the syringe firmly, then almost ran from the room.
Servants, secretaries and newly arrived morticians stared as she fled down the passage. But none intercepted her.
She arrived, breathing hard, at the nursery, the nursery of a boy long since dead, which was kept as when he lived.
The bright yellows and blues of the decorative scheme cheered her. The room reminded her of the heaven her husband had so often pictured.
She stood in the doorway and stared at the ceiling and the floor. It was so cheerful, so restful. This would be as near to heaven as she would ever get, for didn’t suicides go to hell? Weren’t they buried in unconsecrated ground? Yet she could not live, could not think of living, without John.
She knelt down and prayed; then carefully, calmly, she inserted the needle in her arm and pushed it home.
CUICIDES considerably interrupt the even tenor of the lower angels’ ways. They cannot be aware of what man will do until it is done, and it upsets their routine as a doctor’s is upset when he is called out in the middle of the night.
It was the wife’s own guardian angel who gave the alarm. Raphael and Jeremiel turned hurriedly when they received the guardian angel’s message and hastened back to earth.
“I’ll bet it is that woman who held so hard on to Uriel,” gasped Raphael. “Women
aren’t what they used to be. They don’t seem to stand things so well.”
“It’s this modern way of living,” answered Raphael. "If she had only had half a dozen children, her mind wouldn’t have become so wrapped up in one man.”
They arrived barely in time.
“She is the smallest soul I have seen since the wife of Byron,” said Raphael as he surveyed her.
“Yes, and she is barely alive. She is just an incoherent.”
rT'HE hazy, greyish aura of the wife of the great reformer showed some signs of life when Michael arrived on the scene.
"Have no fear of me,” said Michael gently to her, for already he knew which sphere would receive her.
"Henceforth your name is Amoel,” he continued.
“Amoel?” she said dully.
“Amoel,” he repeated. “And now I must warn you that before we can assign you to a sphere I must ask you one question.”
"Yes?” Amoel was very tired, so tired. And she wanted to rest, just to go anywhere and sleep and sleep.
“Why did you do the things you did?”
“I didn’t do anything,” she answered, womanlike.
Michael shrugged. "Well, then, have it your way. Why didn’t you do more good in the world?”
“I had no desire to.”
Michael looked slightly peevish. “You have sinned then, and now please give a direct answer. Why did you sin?”
“Because I loved him.”
“Did you realize that such love may have given you endless torment?”
Michael looked slightly nonplussed. “Flease let us get back to the original question : Why did you do all the things you did
"I don’t know,” Amoel answered hurriedly. “That is, I didn't know until I got married, and then I—I loved him.”
“You had no hope of reward?”
"Loving him was enough,” she answered dejectedly.
Suddenly Michael’s face changed. He glowed like some radiant fire on a stormy night, and far in the distance Amoel heard a heavenly choir singing softly.
“Amoel, because you did all these for love, whether they were good or bad, you showed that you were neither a self-seeker nor one who fears. Thus you are entitled to dwell among the highest and all heaven will welcome you.”
Amoel's face became radiant. “That is where my husband will be.”
“You mean Uriel?”
For a second Michael hesitated. But Amoel had already seen his thoughts, for Michael had forgotten to turn.
"You mean he is not there?”
“I am afraid not.”
Amoel hesitated, and then her weary form seemed to glow with new and unquenchable energy.
"I must go where he is,” she said. "I
“You do not wish to be one of us?”
"It is done—go!” And Amoel rushed whizzingly downward to join her husband.
Michael turned wearily to Jeremiel and shrugged his shoulders.
“These women.” he said, “never did like anything once they got it.”