The Angel of Light
by Adrienne Foster Potter
Copyright Dec. 2001 by Adrienne Foster Potter
All rights reserved. May be copied for classroom use.
There once was an angel who missed her time on earth so dearly that she begged to return for just a little while...
A little girl lay sleeping on a cot just inches from a cold stone floor, in a small shack surrounded by snow. The fire of the lone log had burned itself out and the blanket slipped off the child, who was shivering in her sleep. The mother in her thin nightgown and the father in his faded nightshirt were sleeping soundly in a rusty steel bed with a sagging mattress, huddled close together for warmth under a thin blanket with a patch.
Suddenly a beam of light pierced through the ceiling and gently caressed the tired little mother's forehead. She started to stir and for a moment it seemed she saw a vision, but then the light was gone. She looked over at little Annie, saw she was uncovered, and immediately took her into her bed to keep her warm. She didn't know that if she had not awakened at that moment the child would soon have caught a cold which would have lead to pneumonia. The mother's name was Anabel, and she checked to see that the other children were covered and then went back to sleep with Annie, who was soon warm and comfortable next to her mother and Big Mike, her father.
The angel, watching overhead and seeing right through the thatched roof, smiled and then removed herself to a tall mansion on a hill. She was there instantly, as if she only thought it and it was so. There she entered a large bedroom with a four-poster bed, covered with warm velvet quilts and satin pillows with lace. A fire burned brightly in the fireplace and three dogs lay sleeping at the foot of the bed, warming the toes of the Mistress soundly sleeping there next to the Master. When the fire burned low a servant silently entered and added more logs, and once again the flames stretched upwards.
The angel, who was so bright that if you were to look at her you could barely make out her image in the light that surrounded her, moved to the Mistress and gently caressed her forehead. The mistress stirred in her sleep and then began to dream. In her sleeping mind she saw her stableman, Michael O' Sullivan, whom the other servants called Big Mike.
The name only partially described him. He was tall, but very thin from working hard and sharing his food with his four hungry children. She saw him standing alone on a faraway windy hill, shivering in the cold without a coat, about to bring in a horse who had wandered away. She saw a blizzard overtake him and the horse, saw him stumble in the snow, and saw the cold white waves cover him, as if in a grave. In her dream she wept, because Michael was a good man and a good servant, and she had wondered what to give him for Christmas, but now he was gone.
At that moment she awoke with a cry. The dream had seemed so real that there were actual tears in her eyes. Her husband sat up and took her in her arms.
"Have you had a bad dream dearest?" he gently asked.
"I saw Big Mike fall in a blizzard," she sobbed, "and he was dead."
"There, there," he comforted her. "It was only a dream."
"But it was as if I were there, and it was terribly cold, and I could do nothing to help him! What if it were real?!" She sobbed quietly into his shoulder.
The Master consoled her and gently rocked her back to sleep, but in the morning he went to the stable early, where Mike always was, and presented him with last year's coat. The Master had a new one but the old one was still warm and good. With the coat he gave him some warm gloves, a hat, a scarf, and some money to buy Wellington boots. Big Mike was overwhelmed by the sudden show of hospitality but accepted the gifts gratefully and went off with the carriage man to buy the boots. The next afternoon one of the horses jumped from the pasture and ran into the hills. Big Mike pulled on his new winter clothing and followed him as dark clouds hovered on the horizon. Later, snow began to fall as he stood on a tall hill miles from the stable and spotted the horse a short distance away.
He reached the horse and pulled him through the ever-stronger wind back to the estate. Then a blizzard began to blow fiercely, but Mike trudged on, warm and strong in his Wellington boots and his thick, fur-lined coat. Soon they were at the stable where he warmed, brushed, watered, and fed the horse. Above, a little angel of light smiled to herself and then flitted away. He and the Master would never know that without that warm clothing Big Mike would not have made it those many miles home that night, and the dream of the Mistress would have come true.
On Christmas Eve the Master and his wife visited Big Mike and Anabel's little shack and brought them warm apple cider, secretly laced with chamomile to make the family sleep. As they slept deeply servants stealthily entered, installed a Christmas tree with gay decorations, and placed many presents under the tree. On Christmas morning Big Mike, Anabel, little Annie and the other children awoke to a brilliant surprise! On the fire a turkey was roasting and potatoes bubbled in a pot. Fruit and cakes lay on the table on a bright red cloth, and outside the woodbin had been filled to overflowing from the Master's large woodshed.
Little Annie closed her eyes, rubbed them, and opened them again. Anabel simply stared in disbelief. The children scrambled to the tree and began examining the presents. There were warm nighties, thick blankets, coats, boots, hats, and gloves; dollies for the girls, and ships for the boys. Anabel received a warm cape with a muff and hat and a new dress since her old one was worn to a shine. And Big Mike received a stiff new walking stick and a sturdy new shirt and pants for working.
The little angel looked down at this scene and smiled warmly. She flitted back to the big mansion and saw the Master and Mistress around their huge tree with their children, opening their presents. She touched each of their hearts and at that moment they each felt a warm glow inside, for they had all helped with the Christmas of Mike and Anabel. Never had there been such warmth and comfort in their drafty mansion. They suspected, but did not know that without those warm coats and toys the little family would have had nothing but an apple each for Christmas, with no Christmas dinner. They would never know that without those warm coats and blankets two of the children would have died of influenza before Spring. As it now stood, when the coldest days and nights arrived, of the the coldest winter the country had ever known, they were warm and cozy inside or out and not one of them fell ill.
Not long afterwards Anabel was asked to work in the mansion's kitchen and Annie was allowed to come while the other children were in school. With the added income the family soon moved to a warm stone cottage with a plentiful wood supply and a large fireplace. If we could see into the future we would have learned that the children grew and learned trades, and one of the boys would later invent a new and better axle for carriages which made them safer and probably saved some lives.
The Angel of Light moved on to a distant place where a prison was carved into a stony mountain. A jail keeper sat snoring in a chair, oblivious to the cries of his charges, who had disagreed with the ruling Lord and were held captive by him to prevent them from starting an uprising. They were given little food or water and were held in chains. The fat jail keeper took half of the prisoner's food home for his fat wife and rounded children. He stirred from his chair only when the prisoner's moans kept him from sleeping and roughly poked them with sticks and told them to keep quiet. When one of them died he left him there chained to his comrades for two days before removing him.
The following morning as the jail keeper walked to the prison he stumbled due to his morning chug of rum and lost his balance as the Angel of Light looked on. She could have helped him but she chose not to, and he rolled a little and then fell off a steep cliff and crashed onto the rocks below. His wife put on a good show of mourning but actually felt the loss of his income much more than the loss of his company, for he had been rude and rough to her and the children. Then she moved in with her parents, who had plenty of room.
That night the Angel of Light visited a stone cottage where a man slept peacefully with his wife. A light caressed his forehead and he dreamed a dream where he held the key to a large door. Peeking through the keyhole he saw light, peace, love, and warmth, and so he opened the door and let it come flowing out. He was engulfed with an indescribable feeling of joy. Suddenly the door slammed shut in front of him and he was left in darkness with a feeling of despair. Once more he used the key and opened the door and was again filled with happiness. This time he stepped into the room and the door shut behind him, leaving him surrounded with light and comfort. When he awoke he pondered the dream, but did not understand it.
Soon he was hired to be the new jail keeper and he tended the inmates well, making sure they received plenty of food and water and leaving them unchained. He didn't enjoy his work and spent many hours talking with the prisoners, learning that their big crime was protesting very high taxes that kept them in poverty and fattened their greedy Lord. The jail keeper secretly passed letters from them to their families and allowed visitors to bring them bread and fruit. One night he quietly unlocked all the doors, hit himself with a jug, and entered a cell where he chained himself to the wall.
The prisoners escaped into the nearby forests and joined their families; and the jail keeper's story of being overpowered and deprived of his keys was believed. Somewhere up above, the Angel of Light smiled again and then flitted away. Not long after, the jail keeper left his employment and with his family, joined his former prisoners in the woods.
Christmas was again coming near and the young King of this country was gathered with his troops to do battle against fierce, barbarian pirates who had been plundering the coastline for years, causing pain and torment. They burned homes and beat and stole from their victims. As the King and his troops marched into the coastal city they saw that there were many pirate ships and they were greatly outnumbered. Unflinching, they marched towards the pier with grim determination.
The Angel of Light stretched out her arm and rays of light shot from it towards every little cottage. Seamen, villagers, and even young men began pouring out into the streets and saw their King about to do battle. They joined in the fight. Rays of light touched the soldiers and filled them with courage. They fought with great strength and began to drive the pirates out to sea. After years of struggling, on that day they were at last victorious.
The King had a huge bonfire built and celebrated with his people, but then he caused them all to kneel in prayer and give thanks for their victory. That Christmas was passed in peace and harmony, and the Angel of Light smiled again.
She made a visit to Father Nicholas one night, and forever after he gave gifts to the poor and suffering to celebrate Christmas. Then one day the little angel felt a light go into her, even brighter than her own light. It seemed to consume her with love and she felt it lifting her upwards, higher and higher. Soon she was surrounded by angels of light who embraced her and loved her. She shared her experiences with them and soon they were all begging for a chance to go back to the world where they had once suffered as some do now. They were allowed to go back, and so began the Rennaisance, a time of learning, peace, and harmony...
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