Arabella's New Year
Arabella was lying in bed on New Year's Eve, thinking over the happenings of the past twelve months, and making her Resolutions.
Suddenly a queer feeling ran down her spine. What was that strange patch on the wall near the head of her bed? She switched on the electric torch which she kept under her pillow, and saw to her amazement that there was a door in the wall, which had certainly never been there before! She slid out of bed, put on her dressing gown, and cautiously turned the handle. The door opened easily, and she went through.
Beyond the door was a softly-carpeted passage, which led to the foot of a magnificent flight of steps. A bright light shone down from above, and she could hear subdued voices. Feeling very brave now, she tip-toed up the steps, and found herself at the entrance to a kind of Public Library. Looking in through the windows, she could see endless rows of bookshelves, full of leather-bound volumes; and wooden tables at which sat a large number of people, reading.
She entered timidly, and approached a gentleman behind a counter.
"What name?" he asked.
He wrote it on a card, which he handed to a young woman in a white overall. She smiled at Arabella, and said, "This way, please". The two set off down an avenue of book-shelves. Arabella was very shy, especially on account of her dressing-gown and bare feet. But most of the other people in the library were also dressed in sleeping attire, and no-one took any notice of her.
"Here we are," said the guide. "A, AR, ARABELLA. There! Here is your book. Let's open it on this table."
"But - what book is it?" asked the girl, mystified.
"Your Book of Life, of course. Didn't you want to see it?"
"My Book of Life?" gasped Arabella. She had once heard a sermon on the Book of Life, and had often thought about it. "Do you mean the Book kept by the Recording Angels, showing my good and evil deeds? Can that be here, in this library?"
The young woman smiled. "Yes; this is the Records Office; and we are called the Recording Angels. But we are only librarians, you know. We don't write the books; you people write your own books. Now, sit down at this empty table, and I'll show you last year's page. There's a page for every year; and, at midnight on New Year's Eve, we turn over a new leaf."
When the great leather cover opened, Arabella was more surprised than ever, as the book was full of her own hand-writing: just baby scribble on the first three or four pages, then a few straggling childish sentences, and so on - down to the thirteenth page, which was closely packed with pencil notes in her present neat school-girl script.
"When did I write all this?" she gasped.
"You are doing it nearly all the time," explained the librarian. "Whenever you have a thought and wish to bring it into action, you record that thought in this book."
Arabella examined the page that was open before her. "How is it that some of the writing is much darker and plainer than the rest?"
"Whenever you think the same thought twice, it gets written in on top of where you thought it before. Some of these very black sentences have been written and rewritten over and over again."
Arabella began to read, and was horrified to discover that the thoughts she had written most plainly were unkind and nasty and selfish. She went red in the face, and put her hand over one deeply-written sentence which was really too awful to repeat.
"It's no use covering it up!" laughed the librarian. "You wrote it, and there it is!"
She grew nervous as her eyes fell on other dreadful sentences, written and rewritten in her own tell-tale hand. "How soon will it be," she asked, "before I can turn over a new leaf?"
The librarian glanced at the big clock on the wall. "Only a few minutes to midnight now. But don't be too upset, dear. Not all the things you have written are bad. Here, for instance, is a lovely thought."
"Yes, but it hasn't come out so clearly!"
Soon the clocks of the town began to strike, and the church bells to chime. People in the street were firing crackers and beating dustbin-lids to welcome in the New Year. The librarian took the book from Arabella and turned another page. The girl sighed with relief to see it all white and blank. She would take more care in future what she wrote.
But, wait a minute! The new page was not so clear as she had imagined. It was indeed, covered with little indentations and grooves. She could read them quite easily when the light was in the right position.
"Yes," nodded the librarian. "The words have come through rather, haven't they? You see, the sheets are very thin. If you press heavily when you write, it's bound to score the pages underneath."
Great tears started into Arabella's eyes. "What can I do about it?" she sobbed.
"Don't worry, dear!" said the librarian, kindly. "The indentations will soon get pressed out, so long as you don't write over them again. The trouble will be that your pencil will tend to slip along the old grooves and blacken them in. Here, for instance. I can read this clearly on the new sheet: Miss Perkins is a cat, I'd like to smack her face.
"She's our school teacher," muttered Arabella.
"I know. Well, you've written those words so many times that the paper is almost cut right through! It will be difficult for you to avoid following the same grooves this year. But, if you try hard and force your pencil to write something different - something much nicer, then, in time, these old indentations will get pressed flat, and the nice new sentence will take their place."
"None of my kindest thoughts seem to have come through," moaned Arabella.
Then an idea struck her. "How many more pages have I to go?" she asked.
The librarian looked serious. "That I cannot tell you. But the final page will bear the impression of all the thoughts you have written deeply on all the former pages. This will be the record of your character, and everybody will be able to read it."
Arabella was all excitement. "Will you lend me a pencil please?" she asked.
"I want to write a beautiful thought down now, and press so deeply that it will score right through the next eighty pages. (I'm sure to die before I'm ninety-three!) It will be a nice thought. I shall write: Arabella loves everybody in the world, even Miss Perkins."
"No," answered the librarian, sadly. "I'm afraid you can't do anything like that up here in the Records Office. All writing must be done down stairs. That's where a lot of people make a big mistake. They swarm up here on New Year's Eve, determined to write all sorts of wonderful things on the new page of their Book of Life. But, well, it can't be done, except during their daily lives in the world. Now, hurry along back to your bedroom, there's a good girl. Have a decent night's sleep; and then tomorrow you can start writing your beautiful sentence. But you will have to write it a great number of times if it is to mark through eighty pages! Now, good-bye, and don't forget to shut the door after you."