The souls of the dead were ascending towards the Judgment Seat and the Gate of Heaven. The world soul pressed them on every side, just as the atmosphere presses upon rising bubbles, striving to vanquish them, to break their thin envelope of personality, to mingle their virtue with its own. But they resisted, remembering their glorious individual life on earth and hoping for an individual life to come.
Among them ascended the soul of a Mr. Andrews who, after a beneficent and honourable life, had recently deceased at his house in town. He knew himself to be kind, upright, and religious, and though he approached his trial with all humility, he could not be doubtful of its result. God was not now a jealous God. He would not deny salvation merely because it was expected. A righteous soul may reasonably be conscious of its own righteousness, and Mr. Andrews was conscious of his.
“The way is long,” said a voice, “but by pleasant converse the way becomes shorter. Might I travel in your company?”
“Willingly,” said Mr. Andrews. He held out his hand, and the two souls floated upwards together.
“I was slain fighting the infidel,” said the other exultantly, “and I go straight to those joys of which the Prophet speaks.”
“Are you not a Christian?” asked Mr. Andrews gravely.
“No, I am a Believer. But you are a Moslem, surely?”
“I am not,” said Mr. Andrews.”I am a Believer.” The two souls floated upwards in silence, but did not release each other’s hands.”I am broad church,” he added gently. The word “broad” quavered strangely amid the interspaces.
“Relate to me your career,” said the Turk at last.
“I was born of a decent middle-class family, and had my education at Winchester and Oxford. I thought of becoming a Missionary, but was offered a post in the Board of Trade, which I accepted. At thirty-two I married, and had four children, two of whom have died. My wife survives me. If I had lived a little longer I should have been knighted.”
“Now I will relate my career. I was never sure of my father, and my mother does not signify. I grew up in the slums of Salonika. Then I joined a band and we plundered the villages of the infidel. I prospered and had three wives, all of whom survive me. Had I lived a little longer I should have had a band of my own.”
“A son of mine was killed travelling in Macedonia. Perhaps you killed him.”
“It is very possible.”
The two souls floated upward, hand in hand. Mr. Andrews did not speak again, for he was filled with horror at the approaching tragedy. This man, so godless, so lawless, so cruel, so lustful, believed that he would be admitted into Heaven. And into what a heaven—a place full of the crude pleasures of a ruffian’s life on earth! But Mr. Andrews felt neither disgust nor moral indignation. He was only conscious of an immense pity, and his own virtues confronted him not at all. He longed to save the man whose hand he held more tightly, who, he thought, was now holding more tightly on to him. And when he reached the Gate of Heaven, instead of saying,” Can I enter?” as he had intended, he cried out, “Cannot he enter?”
And at the same moment the Turk uttered the same cry. For the same spirit was working in each of them.
From the gateway a voice replied, “Both can enter.” They were filled with joy and pressed forward together.
Then the voice said, “In what clothes will you enter?”