by Hans Christian Andersen
As soon as a good little child dies, one of God's angels descends to the earth, takes the dead child in his arms, spreads out his large white wings, and flies over all the places that were dear to the little one when alive; and on the way he gathers a handful of flowers, which he then carries to Heaven, in order that they may bloom still more beautifully there than they did here on Earth. The loving God presseth all these flowers to His bosom; but the flower that He loveth best He kisseth; and then it receives a sweet clear voice, so that it can sing and rejoice with the happy hosts around.
An Angel of God related this as he bore a dead Child to Heaven; and the Child heard as in a dream; and they flew over all the spots around the home where the little one had played in its lifetime, and they passed through gardens with the loveliest flowers.
Which flower shall we take with us and plant afresh in Heaven ? asked the Angel.
And a beautiful slender rose-tree was standing there; but a rude hand had wantonly broken the stem, so that all the branches, that a short time before were so fair and green, and which were full of large half open rose-buds, now hung down quite withered and sad, upon the soft, smooth carpet of turf.
The poor tree! said the Child;
take it, so that it may bloom again on high with the loving God.
And the Angel took it, and kissed the Child; and the little one half-opened his eyes. They gathered some of the superb flowers; but they took the despised daisy and the wild pansy, too.
Now we have flowers, said the Child, and the Angel nodded, as if to say,
yes; but they did not yet fly up to Heaven.
It was night: it was quite still. They stayed a while in the great city, near which the child had lived, they floated to and fro in one of the narrowest streets, where great heaps of straw, of ashes and rubbish, lay about: there had been a removal. The streets looked disordered and dirty. There lay broken pots and plates, plaster figures, rags, the crowns of old hats; nothing but things that were displeasing to the sight.
And amidst the devastation the Angel pointed to the fragments of a flower-pot, and to a clod of earth that had fallen out of it, and which was only held together by the roots of a great withered wild flower; but it was good for nothing now, and was therefore thrown out into the street.
We will take that one with us, said the Angel,
and I will tell you about it while we are flying.
And now they flew on; and the Angel related:
Down yonder, in the narrow street, in the low cellar, lived once a poor sickly boy. He had been bedridden from his very infancy, for an incurable disease had seized upon his tender frame. When he was very well indeed, he could just go a few times up and down the little room on his crutches; that was all. Some days in summer the sunbeams fell for half an hour on the little cellar-window; and then, where the boy sat there, and let the warm sun shine upon him, and saw the red blood through his small thin fingers, then it was said, 'Yes, he has been out to-day.' All he knew of the wondrously beautiful spring-time, the green and beauty of the woods, was from the first bough of a beech-tree that a neighbor's son once brought him as a May-day token; and he held it over his head, and dreamed he was under the green shelter of the beech trees, where the sun shone and the birds were singing around him.
One day in spring his neighbor's son brought him some wild flowers also, and among them was by chance one with a root; it was therefore planted in a flower-pot and placed in the window close by his bedside. And a fortunate hand had planted the flower; it thrived, put forth new shoots, and every year it bore sweet-smelling flowers. To the eyes of the sick boy it became the the most beautiful garden -- his little treasure upon earth: he watered and tended it, and took care that it got every sunbeam, to the very last that glided by on the lowest pane. And the flower grew up in his very dreams, with its colors and its fragrance; it was overlooked by others, and for him alone it bloomed and smelt so sweetly: to it he turned in dying, when the loving God called him to Himself. He has now been a year with God -- a year has the flower stood in the window withered and forgotten, and now, at the removal, it has been thrown among the rubbish into the street: And that is the flower, the same poor faded flower, which we have taken into our garland; for this flower has caused more joy than the rarest flower in the garden of a queen.
But how do you know all this? asked the Child whom the Angel was carrying up to Heaven.
I know it, said the Angel;
I was myself the little sick boy that went on crutches; I must surely know my own flower again.
And the Child opened his eyes and looked in the beautiful calm face of the Angel; and at the same moment they were in Heaven, where was only joy and blessedness.
And God pressed the dead Child to His bosom: thereon it became winged like the other Angel, and flew hand in hand with him; and God pressed all the flowers to His bosom, but the poor withered flower He kissed; and a voice was given to it, and it sang a song of triumph with all the angels that moved around God in Heaven, some sweeping on their bright wings quite near to him, others round these in larger circles, always further away in immensity, but all equally blessed.
And they all sang, great and small; the good, innocent little child, who once limped about on his toilsome crutches, and the poor field-flower that had lain withered among the sweepings in the narrow, dingy street.
Allen Brothers, New York