OTHER," said the child; "are there really angels?"
"The Good Book says so," said the mother.
"Yes," said the child; "I have seen the picture. But did you ever see one, mother?"'
"I think I have," said the mother; "but she was not dressed like the picture."
"I am going to find one!" said the child. "I am going to run along the road, miles, and miles, and miles, until I find an angel."
"'That will be a good plan!" said the mother. "And I will go with you, for you are too little to run far alone."
"I am not little any more!" said the child. "I have trousers; I am big."
"So you are!" said the mother. "I forgot. But it is a fine day, and I should like the walk."
"But you walk so slowly, with your lame foot."
"I can walk faster than you think!" said the mother.
So they started, the child leaping and running, and the mother stepping out so bravely with her lame foot that the child soon forgot about it.
The child danced on ahead, and presently he saw a chariot coming towards him, drawn by prancing white horses. In the chariot sat a splendid lady in velvet and furs, with white plumes waving above her dark hair. As she moved in her seat, she flashed with jewels and gold, but her eyes were brighter than her diamonds.
"Are you an angel?" asked the child, running up beside the chariot.
The lady made no reply, but stared coldly at the child: then she spoke a word to her coachman, and he flicked his whip, and the chariot rolled away swiftly in a cloud of dust, and disappeared.
The dust filled the child's eyes and mouth, and made him choke and sneeze. He gasped for breath, and rubbed his eyes; but presently his mother came up, and wiped away the dust with her blue gingham apron.
"That was not an angel!" said the child.
"No, indeed!" said the mother. "Nothing like one!"
The child danced on again, leaping and running from side to side of the road, and the mother followed as best she might.
By and by the child met a most beautiful maiden, clad in a white dress. Her eyes were like blue stars, and the blushes came and went in her face like roses looking through snow.
"I am sure you must be an angel!" cried the child.
The maiden blushed more sweetly than before. "You dear little child!" she cried. "Some one else said that, only last evening. Do I really look like an angel?"
"You are an angel!" said the child.
The maiden took him up in her arms and kissed him, and held him tenderly.
"You are the dearest little thing I ever saw!" she said. "Tell me what makes you think so!" But suddenly her face changed.
"Oh!" she cried. "There he is, coming to meet me! And you have soiled my white dress with your dusty shoes, and pulled my hair all awry. Run away, child, and go home to your mother!"
She set the child down, not unkindly, but so hastily that he stumbled and fell; but she did not see that, for she was hastening forward to meet her lover, who was coming along the road. (Now if the maiden had only known, he thought her twice as lovely with the child in her arms; but she did not know.)
The child lay in the dusty road and sobbed, till his mother came along and picked him up, and wiped away the tears with her blue gingham apron.
"I don't believe that was an angel, after all," he said.
"No!" said the mother. "But she may be one some day. She is young yet."
"I am tired!" said the child. "Will you carry me home, mother?"
"Why, yes!" said the mother. "That is what I came for."
The child put his arms round his mother's neck, and she held him tight and trudged along the road, singing the song he liked best.
Suddenly he looked up in her face.
"Mother," he said; "I don't suppose you could be an angel, could you?"
"Oh, what a foolish child!" said the mother. "Who ever heard of an angel in a blue gingham apron?" and she went on singing, and stepped out so bravely on her lame foot that no one would ever have known she was lame.