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The Teacher

“I don’t know you, Sir,” said I, taking my seat beside him.

“My name is George,” he answered. “George MacDonald.”

“Oh!” I cried. “Then you can tell me! You at least will not deceive me.” Then, supposing that these expressions of confidence needed some explanation, I tried, trembling to tell this man all that his writings had done for me. I tried to tell how a certain frosty afternoon at Leatherhead Station when I first bought a copy of Phantastes (being then about sixteen years old) had been to me what the first sight of Beatrice had been to Dante: Here begins the New Life….

“Ye had started,” said my Teacher, “to talk of something more profitable.”

“Sir,” said I, “I had almost forgotten it, and I have no anxiety about the answer now, though I have still a curiosity. It is about these Ghosts. Do any of them stay? Can they stay? Is any real choice offered to them? How do they come to be here?”

“Did ye never hear of the Refrigerium? It means that the damned have holidays—excursions, ye understand.”

“But if they come here they can really stay?”

“Aye. Ye’ll have heard that the emperor Trajan did.”

“But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?”

“Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.”

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