"Little flower, little flower," said the birdie, "why are you so silent and sad?"
"I am not sad, sweet sister," whispered the flower gently; "ah! no, but I have seen an angel. Yestere'en, as I slept, my birdie, being all aweary with gazing up into your bird-land home among the branches, and watching the merry sunlight come and go, and strike shafts of golden flame among the green, I dreamt of heaven and of the holy angels; and lo! when I awoke, one there was who stood beside me, beautiful even as is the sunlight or the dawn, and her voice, when she spoke, was low and tender, like the restful ripple of the rain. And to the flowers, as you know, my birdie, the hearts of the pure lie ever open and unsealed, and I saw into her heart, that the thought of it was white and spotless as a lily, and I saw that her thought was a prayer, and that she said, 'Dear Lord, I thank Thee for making this little flower so fair and lovely, and I ask Thee that I may be, in heart, as pure and holy as she!'"
"Wake up, little flower, and hear what I have to tell you," said the bird gaily, "for I, too, have seen your angel—and angel is she none, but the fairest maiden from the town beyond the hillside."
And to her the flower made low reply:
"Can any one as fair as she be found out of heaven? And, moreover, I looked into her heart, and saw that the thought of it was white, and pure as the morning."
"It is only the flowers that can see into hearts," said the bird gravely; "but this I know, that your angel is of earth, not heaven." So saying, she spread her silken wings and flew away.
But the flower said, "Is there, in all heaven, anything more fair than a maiden?"
"I would not pluck you to please my idle fancies, dear blossom," said the maiden gently, "for I cannot bear to see the wild flowers wither and fade! But I know of one who lies ill and dying, to whom the scent and sight of a wild flower may bring some passing moment of peace. Tell me, then, you who are so pure and lovely, will not you spare a space of your slender life, that so you may make happy the heart of a sorrowing one?"
Then the flower said, "Dear maiden, I will"; but inasmuch as it spake not the maiden's language, it breathed forth all its perfume, like sweet music, in consent. And, though the maiden knew not that the flower had heard her words, and had answered her, yet at heart she was strangely though sweetly saddened. "Even in heaven I should long for the earth-flowers!" she said, as she drank in the fragrance. "Is there anything, in all heaven, more fair than a flower?"
Then the maiden plucked the flower, and bore it away from the birds and the sunshine, away from the wind and the trees, to a squalid court in a great city, where a dying woman lay, haggard and wan, upon a bed. And as the flower looked into the soul of the dying woman, its fair leaves seemed to wither and wilt, as though some foul breath had come forth upon it, for therein it could see nothing because of the blackness and the sin. And at first the flower shrank into itself, and would fain have gathered up its perfume, but it thought of the prayer in the maiden's heart, and, opening out its snowy petals to their full, it breathed forth a fragrance which filled the foul room as with music and light. And as the dying woman looked upon the flower, she thought of the white lilies which she had gathered and placed upon her dead mother's bosom—many, ah! so many weary years ago; and she thought of the days when she too was pure and beautiful, and had knelt at that mother's knee, to whisper, after her, the hallowed words to the Father in heaven.
Then the flower saw that in the woman's heart there was some strange and sudden commotion, as though the light were seeking to win in its way, and to drive out the darkness and sin.
And, folding her wasted hands together, the dying woman turned to the light, and said, "Dear Lord Jesus, make me—even me—white and pure as this lily, and wash away all my sins in Thy precious blood. Amen."
And when the dawn came, the flower lay withered and drooping; but, ere it died, it saw into the woman's heart that it was white and pure as the snow-flake.
And there passed from that room a shining angel, and lo! on her bosom lay a little flower.