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"Wings" from Ladies' World

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Ladies' World
by Ellis Parker Butler

Sunday school made a great impression on Billy Brad. Dotty, who was eleven and lived next door, first proposed the great adventure, urged thereto by the plea of the superintendent: "Now let us see if every little boy or girl in our Sabbath school cannot bring one little boy or girl next Sabbath!"

Dotty was altogether sweet and charming and reliable.

"Oh! Do, Mrs. Bradley! Please let me take Billy Brad!" she pleaded earnestly. "I'll be just as careful of him, and I know he'll be good."

William Bradley, Senior, being consulted, laughed.

The story of a little boy who did not get what he wanted for Christmas.

"Why not?" he asked. "If he cuts up he need not go again, you know. I'm willing to trust Dotty."

"Oh! Of course I trust Dotty," said Mrs. Bradley. "It isn't that --"

"How much cash will the young man have to take as a contribution to the good cause?" asked Mr. Bradley.

"Why, I gener'ly take a nickel," said Dotty, "but I guess a penny would be plenty for Billy Brad."

Sunday morning Billy Brad was a beautiful sight. For once he seemed transformed into something other than the rolling, tumbling boy the Bradleys knew as their child.

He even did not wriggle when his hat was carefully superimposed on all his Sabbath elegance and the tight rubber band snapped behind his ears and under his chin. And when his overcoat -- he was getting too big for it -- was put on top of his best suit, and his gloves on his hands, he was ready for Dotty. He seated himself on the lowest step of the hall stairs and waited in stiff patience. Mrs. Bradley viewed him with satisfaction.

"William!" she called. "Come and see how nice Billy Brad looks."

Mr. Bradley dropped his rustling Sunday paper and came into the hall. "Well! Well!" he exclaimed. "Is this my son?"

Billy smiled as if he was trying not to wrinkle his face, lest it have to be done over.

"And now for that penny!"

He dug into his pocket and from the jingling coins selected a penny that was brilliantly new. It fell from the gloved hand Billy Brad extended to receive it, and Mrs. Bradley rescued it and tucked it inside the palm of the glove, where it made a pleasant, uncustomary lump.

Dotty came to the front door. She was glorious in her array. She carried a Bible with a flexible cover, a lesson book, a leaflet, two cards, a Sunday school library book and a bright red leather purse.

"Is Billy Brad ready?" she asked.

"He never was so entirely ready in his life!" said Mr. Bradley.

"Of course you'll be careful crossing the streets," said Mrs. Bradley. "If he doesn't behave, or cries, you had better bring him home. He has his penny in his glove. Good-bye, Billy Brad; be a good boy."

"Good-bye, sport!" said Mr. Bradley.

"Good-bye," said Billy Brad.

"Well, good-bye," said Dotty.

"William," said Mrs. Bradley a moment later, "do come to the window and see how perfectly sweet Billy Brad looks."

Dotty, with the air of proprietorship every young girl assumes when in charge of a younger child, was holding Billy Brad's hand, bending her head toward him as much as her tippy Sunday hat permitted, and talking to him. Billy Brad walked sturdily at her side.

They returned in due time. Mrs. Bradley, glancing from the window, saw them coming. Billy Brad was waving a leaflet and lesson book aloft and making all the haste he could. His face beamed with excitement. Mrs. Bradley opened the front door and went to the edge of the verandah.

"Mamma!" yelled Billy Brad. "Mamma, I got a -- a somefing. I got a book."

He reached the steps and hurried up them, his face aglow with eagerness. Mrs. Bradley bent down and kissed him.

"Well! Well! And you've been to Sunday school, Billy Brad!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, and -- and -- and nobody wouldn't take my money," said Billy Brad, "and -- and -- and I putted it -- Where did I putted it?" he asked Dotty.

"He was just the dearest thing!" said Dotty. "He was just too cunning! Just the minute we got in the church he wanted to give his penny away and he offered it to everyone. Of course no one would take it. That was almost the only time he cried --"

"Why, Billy Brad!" said his mother. "Did you cry?"

"Yes. And -- and I sanged, and -- and I prayered, and -- and -- and where did I putted my penny?"

"He put it in the contribution envelope," said Dotty. "That was almost the only time he cried," said Dotty. "He put his penny in the envelope and then he wanted it back again. He walked around a good deal," she added, as if this was a thing she regretted to report but felt she must. "He walked around most of the time."

It was true. Billy Brad, full of the spirit of giving, had entered the church eager to dispose of his penny and had offered it to everyone he neared, beginning with the sexton at the door. The rebuffs he met hurt him. Little girls in blue silk refused the penny, and men in black refused the penny, and ladies in various colors refused the penny. Billy Brad wept. He threw the penny the full length of a pew and Dotty had to get it again, holding her hat on her head with one hand and bending stiffly lest she wrinkle something or snap a garter.

Once in the pew occupied by Dotty's own class, Billy Brad seemed safe. He submitted gracefully to the removal of his hat, overcoat and gloves, and allowed his chaperon to seat him on the soft cushion. His little legs struck straight out before him and he put his hand on the arm of the pew and looked around. He created quite a flutter of interest in their class and the teacher kissed him. She also suggested, immediately, that Billy Brad had better go to the infant class.

Billy Brad was game. He slid to the floor and took Dotty's hand and walked sedately at her side and permitted himself to be put in charge of Miss Minchin, who seated him in his place and began the lesson.

It was about angels. At least Miss Minchin, knowing her class, emphasized the angelic feature of the lesson. She mentioned the attributes and privileges of the angels. It was, indeed, a very nice lesson and well handled. She was explaining the method of flight used by the angels and dwelling on the downy softness of their wings when Billy Brad spoke. He spoke to the little girl next to him.

"I see a nangel, and -- and you don't not see a nangel!" he declared.

"I do, too! So there!" the little girl responded.

"Where do you see a nangel?" asked Billy Brad sweetly.

The little girl did not answer because she did not see an angel in fact.

"You don't see a nangel!" said Billy Brad. "Just me sees a nangel and it's my nangel, and -- and -- and I'm going to look at my nangel."

"Little boy! little boy!" exclaimed Miss Minchin, for Billy Brad slipped down from his seat and crowded past the little girl.

"I'm come back," said Billy Brad reassuringly. "I want to see my nangel."

Miss Minchin hesitated. Little boys and girls, on their first occasions at Sunday school, have to be handled diplomatically. Billy Brad walked into the aisle. He planted himself before one of the great, glowing, stained glass windows and looked up at it as if enthralled. Out of a beautifully deep blue stained glass sky an angel was shown gliding down with widespread white wings bearing a chalice. It was a noble window -- noble in composition and noble in color. The sweep of the angel's robe indicated well the gliding descent from the sky -- swift yet well controlled by the superb white pinions. Billy Brad stood and looked at it and was well pleased. He spread out his arms and imagined how it would be to swoop down from the sky like that. A boy with such wings could swoop down the front stairs and it would be twice the fun of sliding down the balustrade. He wandered back to the class.

"And if we are all good little boys and girls," said Miss Minchin, "we will all be angels some day and we can all have soft, feathery wings and --"

Billy Brad stood in the aisle and listened. Then he went back to the angel window and looked at it with greater satisfaction than ever.

It was the maid's Sunday out and Mrs. Bradley had dinner to get and Mr. Bradley was still deep in his newspaper, so Billy Brad had a full hour to himself after his return from Sunday school. He climbed the stairs and stood at the top considering how an angel would "flomp" its wings and sail to the floor below. He "flomped" his arms. He lowered his head and held his arms outstretched, imagining the manner in which he would swoop down when he had broad white pinions of his own. He wandered into his playroom and marshalled his Noah's ark animals into Sunday school classes and taught them to sing. Then he tired of this and went downstairs again.


"Yes, Billy Brad?"

"C'n I have --"

Mr. Bradley doubled a sheet of the wide newspaper.

"Nope! Nothing to eat until dinner is ready."

"But -- but -- but I don't not want something to eat. C'n I have --"

"You wait until Christmas," said Mr. Bradley. "You'll have plenty of things then, Billy Brad. I guess you'll get everything you want when Christmas comes. Nothing until Christmas."

The weeks until Christmas were three, and everyone knows how long three weeks are when Christmas is at the end of them.

"My goodness!" exclaimed Mrs. Bradley one day when she came upon Billy Brad on his knees before the lowest step of the stairs. His chubby little hands were pressed palm to palm.

"Prayering," said Billy Brad, solemnly. "I'm prayering for my nangel wings for Chris'mus."

"Well, you mustn't do that!" said Mrs. Bradley, not in the least aware what "nangel wings" were.

"But -- but -- but I want my nangel wings, I do. I want them the mostliest of anything I want."

"What is it? What is it you want?"

"Nangel wings, for to flomp up and down and fly with," explained Billy Brad. "Like the great big nangels."

"Oh, no. I'm afraid you can't have angel wings, sonny boy. Why don't you wish for a tricycle?"

"I do," said Billy Brad, "and -- and -- and a gun, and -- and -- and a pony, and -- and -- and some big, old nangel wings to flomp up and down and fly with."

But, somehow, a week before Christmas Billy Brad seemed to lose interest in the great day of presents. He sat all day on the lowest step of the stairs, listlessly, and his mother found him there with his head on the next step and his skin hot and too rosy. She sent for the doctor and put Billy Brad in bed, and the next day he was a very sick Billy Brad, and a trained nurse came and the bottles accumulated on the stand near his crib. He tossed and turned in his crib and muttered to himself.

The night before Christmas the doctor made no attempt to go home at all.

He stood beside the white crib and looked down at Billy Brad and Mr. Bradley stood beside him.

"What is it he's saying?" the doctor asked.

Billy Brad's palms were pressed together.

"And -- and -- and," the weak little voice was saying, "I want white nangel wings -- to flomp up and down --"

"It's one of his funny notions," said Mr. Bradley, huskily. "He wants angel wings for Christmas. To flop up and down. And fly with."

The doctor's lips closed tightly. "You see," whispered Mr. Bradley, "he's praying for them."

"White angel wings," said the doctor.

"His mother says they are all he has wanted," said Mr. Bradley, and then he turned away and looked out of the window.

The doctor gently pulled the two little hands apart, but they came together again immediately.

"Nangel wings," murmured Billy Brad.

The doctor was a big man with huge hands. He had refused to let Mrs. Bradley put a cot in the nursery and it proved he did not need one, for he did not sleep that night. He pulled off his coat and vest and rolled up his shirt sleeves and fought.

"Angel wings, hey," he said to himself. "And almighty near he is to getting them. Here, fill this ice bag. Only thing he wants, hey? Angel wings!"

When the sun arose on Christmas day the doctor let Mr. Bradley enter the nursery and then turned him out again. For a full minute Mr. Bradley stood outside the door, just trying to arrange his face so that it might be fit for a lady to see and then he went in to his wife.

"Well?" she asked with that tenseness only a mother's voice can hold.

"That kid is going to learn he can't have everything he wants for Christmas," said Mr. Bradley. "He can't have --"

"William!" exclaimed Mrs. Bradley.

"He don't get angel wings, thank God!"



Saturday, October 07 at 1:11:02am USA Central
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