man died yesterday with your name in his thoughts.
No, he was not a friend of yours, but someone you have never
seen. Back in England last year he read the former book which I wrote
through your hand, and was intensely interested in it. For months he wanted
to meet you, but being a modest man he waited.
Then the war broke out, and he went with the army to Belgium.
Day and night since the first fighting he has been meditating
the facts and possibilities of that book. Is there a future life continuous
with that of earth? Can a man return as I claimed to return, and can he give
to a woman still in the land of the living a record of his experiences among
the dead? Had I really seen the things I reported, and did I go to the
pattern world and the heaven world, where I saw the Saviour of men with a
lamb on his arm, etc., etc.?
One thing this man never questioned, and
that was the sincerity of the scribe. Of that he was convinced by instinct
and by a kind of Anglo-Saxon chivalry difficult for the men of some races to
He was always talking to his trench-mates about the future life.
He would sit smoking his pipe in silence and gazing off into space, and when
other soldiers asked him what he was thinking of so busily, he would often
say: “I am thinking of a book I read last summer, and wondering if it was
true.” When they asked him what book he referred to, he would tell them
about the Letters of a Living Dead Man, and quote to them whole sentences
from it, and give them the outlines of its stories, and explain to them the
philosophical propositions scattered through the book. Whole evenings have
been taken up with these discussions.
You have not been to the wars, either as a soldier or as a
nurse; but you have been to the wars.
It was a curious coincidence that that book should have been
published only a few months before the greatest taking-off of human souls in
the history of the world. Had you thought of that? I had not, until the
Teacher pointed it out to me.
There was one question which particularly
interested our friend who died yesterday with your name in his thoughts: the
question whether, if he should go out of life at the hands of the enemy, he
could prepare such a “little home in heaven” as we wrote about, for a girl
whom he loved back in England; and if he should prepare it and wait for her,
whether she would be true to him after his death, and meet him there in a
few years, and dwell with him in the little home.
This young man had read certain writings of an American mystic
on the theory of counterpartal souls, and he believed that in the girl back
in England he had found his counterpartal soul, as I hinted of the man in my
story who built the little home in heaven.
But no word of this did he speak to his trench-mates. To them he
spoke about the other stories in the book, not about that one. It is curious
that we never mention to others the favorite subject of our thoughts–that
is, most of us do not.
Another thing in the book which interested
our friend was the story of the woman in the invisible who made a journey
into Egypt with her still-living husband. He used to wonder whether, if he
should die, he could go in the spirit, as he said, to the little place in
North Wales which he had once visited with his sweetheart, and which they
had selected as the future scene of their wedding journey.
One night he wrote her a long letter asking her, in case of his
death, to go there this summer, and saying he would try to meet her there.
Then after reflection he destroyed the letter, fearing it might make her
When I saw about him a peculiar light which the indwelling
spirit throws round its vehicle when that vehicle is about to be destroyed,
I waited, knowing there would soon be work to do.
Suddenly I saw his body fall to the ground, and saw the tenuous
bodies exuding themselves. I waited but a moment, then went forward and
lifted the spirit out of the sleep into which it would have drifted. I
breathed on the forehead of the astral–for astrals have foreheads, make no
mistake about that–I breathed on the astral forehead of the man who had paid
our book the compliment of thinking about it and about us in the last moment
of his life.
He opened his eyes on my face.
“Hello, ‘X’!” he said. “I hoped you would meet me here. You’re a
good fellow not to disappoint me.”
“Oh, I was always a good fellow!” I answered. “How did you know
so quickly that you had come out?”
“Because I saw you.”
“And how did you know me?”
“By your photograph, which I saw in a magazine.”
“But do I still look like that old hulk?” I asked; for I rather
prided myself on the recovery of a certain part of my original youth and
“Why,” he said, “you do look like the photograph.”
“That is strange,” I replied. Then I remembered that my very
knowledge of the man’s thoughts of me, as being the old Judge of the story,
might have made my body transform itself to meet the demands of his
recognition, even without the intervention of my will.
“Do you want to take a nap?” I asked,
though there was no sleepiness in his eyes.
“No, thank you, ‘X.’ I should like to go to England. But perhaps
you have something to do besides indulging my wants and wishes.
“Your wants and wishes are just as important as mine,” I said.
“I’ll go to England with you.”
Crossing the Channel we passed a transport laden with troops.
“I wish all those fellows knew as much as I do,” my friend said.
“Maybe they would fight with renewed vigor if they could see what a good
companion I have found out here.”
Do not be startled, you clergymen who say, “Ashes to ashes, dust
to dust,” and draw solemn faces as you preside over the passing of souls! Do
not be startled or shocked by the jolly conversation of my newly-arrived
soldier-boy. He knew that he was with an old friend, and he knew also that
death is no more sacred than life, and need not be any more solemn.
We went to call on a girl. I often went
courting in my youth, but never did I feel more interest in such a visit
than when I went with this soldier to see his girl. The fact that she
could not see us made no difference. I am used to that now.
She was combing her hair when we arrived, beautiful long hair,
and on the mantel before her and under the mirror was a photograph of my
friend. As her eyes rested on it lovingly, suddenly he passed between her
and the photograph, and she cried out:
“Why, the eyes are alive!” and dropped the comb on the floor.
Then, as the truth flashed through her mind, she said, very
“My dear, if it is really you, and if you have come to me in
this strange way, know that I love you and shall always love you, and that I
will meet you in heaven.”
Then she sat down in a little chair and began to cry.
I left him with her; but I shall return occasionally to see how
my charge is getting along, and by and by I shall teach him some of the
lessons on which his future welfare depends. I do not wish him to return to
the neighborhood of the battlefields. Why should he? He has served, and has
earned his reward.
Perhaps later I may tell you something more about the man who
died with your name–and mine–in his thoughts.