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Hans Christian Andersen

The Angel

Every time a good child dies, an Angel of God comes down to earth, takes the dead child in his arms, spreads his great white wings and flies with it to all the places the child had loved during his life. Then the angel plucks a handful of flowers which they carry with them up to God, there to bloom more brightly than ever upon earth. The good God presses all the flowers to His bosom, but those which He loves best He kisses, and in kissing them gives them voices, so that they can join in the great song of everlasting praise. Now all this was told by an angel as he carried a dead child away to Heaven, and the child listened as in a dream; then they soared over all those places in its home where the little one used to play, and they passed through gardens full of flowers.

"Which one shall we take with us to plant in Heaven?" asked the angel.

Close by stood a tall slender rose-bush, but an evil hand had broken the stem and all the branches full of large half open buds hung withering from it.

"That poor bush!" said the child; "take it so that it may bloom up there in God's garden."

The angel took it and kissed the child for its thought, and the little one half opened its eyes. They also plucked some gorgeous flowers, but did not forget the despised marigolds and pansies.

"Now we have enough flowers," said the child, and the angel nodded but still they did not rise to Heaven. It was night, and very still; they remained in the great town, and hovered over one of the narrowest streets which was encumbered with heaps of straw, ash, and refuse of all kinds. It was just after quarter-day, and there had been various removals in the street, and bits of broken crockery, rags, and old hats were scattered about in every direction, in fact everything which was unpleasing to the eye.

Among all the rubbish, the angel pointed to a broken flower pot and a few lumps of earth only held together by the roots of a large withered wild flower. It was no use and had therefore been thrown out of the window.

"We will take that with us," said the angel; "I will tell you about it as we fly along."

So as they flew the angel told this story.

"Down in that narrow street, in one of the dark cellars, lived a poor sick boy; he had been bed-ridden ever since he was quite small. When he was at his best, he could just hobble once or twice up and down the room on crutches; that was all. For a few days in summer the sunbeams shone into the front room, for half an hour or so. The little boy would sit here warming himself in the sunbeams, and looking at the red blood in his thin transparent fingers when he held them up before his face. Then it was said, 'he has been out to-day.' All he knew of the woods in the first freshness of spring was when a neighbour's son brought him home a few beech branches. These he held above his head, and dreamt that he was sitting under the beech trees where the sun shone and the birds sang. One day the boy also brought him some wild flowers, and among them, by chance, was one with a root. So it was planted in a pot, and put in the window near his bed. The flower was planted by a loving hand, and it grew, put out new shoots, and for several years it bore fine flowers. It was a lovely garden to the sick boy and his greatest treasure on earth. He watered and tended it, and saw that it got every sunbeam it could as long as a ray could reach the low window. It grew into his dreams, it flowered for him, and for him it spread around its fragrance and gladdened his eyes; towards it he turned in death when his Heavenly Father called him. He has had his place in the presence of God now for a year, and for a year the flower has stood forgotten in the window where it withered, and in the removal was thrown on to the rubbish heap in the street. It is that poor withered flower which we have added to our bouquet, for it has given more pleasure than any flower in the Queen's garden."

"But how do you know all this?" asked the child in the angel's arms.

"Because I was myself the little sick boy who used to hobble on crutches. I know my own flower, you may be sure."

The child opened its eyes wide and looked into the angel's beautiful happy face, and at this moment they found themselves in God's Heaven, where all was joy and gladness. The Heavenly Father pressed the dead child to His bosom, and it received wings like the other angel, and they flew hand in hand together. And God pressed all the flowers to His heart, but He kissed the poor withered wild flower, and it received a voice and joined the choir of angels who floated around the Almighty. Some were quite near, others again outside these in great circles extending to Infinity, but all equally happy. They all sang the glad song, great and small, the good child and the poor wild flower, which had lain upon the rubbish heap in the dark narrow street.