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Laura E. Richards

A Matter of Importance

dropcap image T happened one day that the Angel-who-attends-to-things was hastening along the street, with his wings tucked in and his robes tucked up, for he was in a hurry, when a Duke looked out of his castle window and called to him.

"Stop a moment, please!" said the Duke. "I wish to consult you about the succession to my dukedom. You know my grandfather, the Archduke—"

"I cannot attend to you this morning!" said the Angel. "I am engaged on business of importance: your affair must wait till another time." And he passed on.

"Dear me!" said the Duke. "What can be more important than the succession? I really must follow him, and see what this great matter is."

So he followed the Angel.

The Angel hurried along, and presently he passed by a Bishop's palace, and the Bishop put his head out of the window and called to him.

"Please come in a moment!" said the Bishop. "I wish to consult you about the Great Synod which is to be held—"

The Angel shook his head.

"I am on business of importance," he said. "I cannot attend to trifles this morning." And he passed on.

The Bishop looked after him. "What mighty business can this be," he said, "that makes the Great Synod seem a trifle? I really think I must go and see." And he followed the Angel and the Duke.

Presently the Angel passed by a King's palace, and the King looked out of the window and called to him.

"Please come in here!" said the King. "The enemy's forces have crossed the border, and threaten to besiege the capital. I wish to consult you at once on the steps to be taken."

"By and by!" said the Angel. "I am on business of importance now, and cannot stop for trifles." And he hurried on.

The King looked after him. "It must be something of world-wide importance," he said, "which can make the invasion of my kingdom seem a trifle. I must really go and see what it is." And he followed the Angel and the Duke and the Bishop.

The Angel turned from the wide street, and passed down a narrow lane, and into a dingy court, where poor clothes hung drying. In the middle of the court stood a little child, with its eyes tight shut and its mouth wide open, crying and roaring as if its heart would break.

The Angel ran to the child, and knelt down and took it in his arms.

"Hush! hush!" he cried. "It is all right, dear. You took the wrong turning, that was all. She is just round the corner. Quick, let me wipe the tears away! Look! there she comes this minute."

A woman came flying round the corner, wild-eyed and panting. The Angel put the child into her arms, and the two melted together, and sobbed and laughed themselves away out of sight.

The Angel drew a long breath, and rustled his wings a little, and turned to go back; and as he turned, he saw the Duke and the Bishop and the King, all out of breath and crimson, and staring with big round eyes.

"Oh! are you there?" said the Angel. "well, now I can attend to your little matters."