THE LEGEND OF THE DAISY
Good children, as you know, when they die, go to heaven and become angels. But it you have the least idea that there they do nothing the livelong day but fly about and play hide and seek behind the clouds, you are very much mistaken.
Angel children, like the boys and girls upon earth, are obliged to go to school, and on weekdays they have to sit three hours in the morning and two in the afternoon in the angel school. There they write with golden pencils on silver slates, and instead of A-B-C-books they have books of fairy tales with colored pictures. They do not study geography, for why should they in heaven learn about the earth? and they know nothing about the multiplication table in eternity. The teacher of the angel school is Dr. Faust. He was a professor on earth; and on account of a certain story, which cannot be repeated here, he has to keep school three thousand years longer in heaven before the long vacation begins for him. The little angels have Wednesday and Saturday afternoons for a half-holiday; then Dr. Faust takes them to play on the Milky Way. But Sundays they are allowed to play in the great meadow in front of the Heavenly Gate, and they look forward to this all through the week. The meadow is not green, but blue, and there grow thousands and thousands of silver and golden flowers. They shine in the night, and we people on earth call them stars. When the angels gambol before the Heavenly Gate, Dr. Faust is not with them, for he has so much trouble during the week that he must rest on Sunday. Then the holy Peter, who guards the Gate of Heaven, takes the oversight of them. He sees that they are very orderly in their play, and that none of them runs or flies away; but if it happen that one gets too far from the gate, then he whistles with his golden key: that means “Come back!”
Once, it was so very hot in heaven that Saint Peter fell asleep. As soon as the angels noticed it, they swarmed out hither and thither and were scattered over the whole meadow. The most enterprising started on a voyage of discovery, and finally came to the place where the world is shut off by a high fence. At first they sought for a crack somewhere to peep through; but when they found there was not a chink, they climbed and flew up on the fence and looked over.
Over there on the other side was Hades, and before the gate of Hades was just another throng of little imps roving about. They were black as coals, and had horns on their heads and long tails behind. One of them by accident looked up and saw the angels, and immediately besought them eagerly to let them into heaven for a little while:- they would be very proper and well-behaved.
This touched the angels; and as the little black fellows pleased them, they decided that they might grant the poor imps this innocent pleasure. One of them knew where Jacob's ladder was kept. They dragged it out of the lumber-room (Saint Peter was fortunately still asleep), lifted it over the fence, and let it down into Hades. The long-tailed imps climbed up the rounds like monkeys, the angels gave them their hands, and so the little scapegoats came into the heavenly meadow.
At first they behaved themselves very well. They went about properly, carrying their tails like trains in their arms, just as Satan's grandmother, who lays great stress upon good manners, had taught them. But it did not last long; they became lawless, turned summersaults and handsprings, and screamed like veritable devil-urchins. They teased the beautiful moon, who was looking peacefully out of one of the heavenly windows; they ran out their tongues and made long noses at her, and finally they began to pull up the flowers growing in the meadow and to throw them down on the earth.
Now the angels were sorry and repented bitterly of having let unclean guests into heaven. They besought and threatened; but the imps would not stop, and grew wilder and wilder.
Then the angels, in their anxiety, wakened Saint Peter, and confessed penitently what they had done. He threw his hands together over his head, when he became aware of the mischief that was going on. “March in!” he thundered; and the little ones stole back with drooping wings through the gate into heaven. Then Saint Peter called a couple of strong angels to him. They caught the little imps up together and carried them back where they belonged.
The little angels did not escape punishment. For three Sundays, one after another, they could not go to the Heavenly Gate; and when they went out to walk, they had to take off their wings and lay aside their halos, and it is a great disgrace for an angel to have to go without wings and halo.
But some good came of the affair, after all. The flowers which the imps tore up and threw down on the earth took root and multiplied year after year. To be sure, the star-flowers lost much of their heavenly beauty, but they are still lovely to see, with their golden yellow disks and crown of silver-white rays. And because they are of heavenly origin they possess a wonderful virtue. If a maid with doubt in her heart pulls off the white petals of the starry blossom one by one, and at the same time repeats a certain saying, she will know very truly by the last leaflet what she longs to find out.