In the Place of Spirits, where many come seeking a home, and all who earn shall find one, a band of child-spirits played about their door, singing, and crowning one another with flowers. And as they played, there drifted by a gray Shape, and stayed beside the gate, and wrung its shadowy hands.
Said the eldest child to the Angel who was their guardian; "Dear, there is one seeking a home; shall we call her in?"
"Oh, hush! oh, hush!" said the Angel. "You may not speak to her."
"But," said the second child, "she stops at our gate, and gazes at us with mournful eyes. Let us call her in!"
"Oh, hush! oh, hush!" said the Angel. "You may not look at her."
"Nay!" cried the youngest; "but she holds out her arms, and makes a moan like the wind at night. Why may we not call her in?"
Then the Angel wept, for she had been a woman.
"Must I tell you?" she cried. "It is she who should have been your mother, and she would not."
The children gazed, with calm, bright eyes. "What is a mother?" they asked.
"Alas! alas!" said the Angel; and her tears fell down like rain.
"Alas! alas!" moaned the gray Shape at the gate, and beat the shadow that was her breast, and trailed away in the gathering dusk.
When the Little Sister went away, it was in such haste that she left her convent robes behind; and this troubled her so that she spoke of it to the Angel at the Gate. "You see," she said, "I had no idea that I was coming; I fell asleep in my cell, and woke up in this beautiful homelike place. But these white garments are not suitable for me; could I find a black robe, do you think?"
"Oh no!" said the Angel; "we all wear white here, and it is so much prettier and more becoming. Besides, you must make haste, for they have been waiting long for you."
"Who have been waiting?" asked the Little Sister in wonder.
"The children, to be sure!" said the Angel. "See! there they come, running to meet you."
The Little Sister looked, and there came hastening toward her a lovely band, little children and older ones, with floating locks and starry eyes, and all the eyes fixed on her with looks of love, and all the arms stretched out to her with gestures of longing.
"Oh, the darling, darling children!" cried the Little Sister. "Oh, the little angels! Now I know that this is heaven indeed."
She fell on her knees, and the children clustered round her, caressing her, and murmuring sweet words in her ear; and all in a moment the hunger that had been at her heart through the years was stilled, and she opened her arms and gathered the children to her breast and wept; happy tears were those!
"Sweethearts," cried the Little Sister; "dear loves, tell me, whose light and joy and blessing are you?"
"Yours, of course!" answered the children.
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