The Boys' Heaven by L. Maria Child

Harry and Frank had a hearty cry when an ill-natured neighbor poisoned their dog. They dug a grave for their favorite, but were unwilling to put him in it and cover him up with earth.

"I wish there was one of the Chinese petrifying streams near our house," said Frank. "We could lay Jip down in it; and, after a while, he would become a stone image, which we would always keep for a likeness of him."

Harry, who had been reading about the ancient Egyptians, remarked that it was a great pity the art of embalming was lost.

But Frank declared that a mummy was a hideous thing, and that he would rather have the dead dog out of his sight forever, than to make a mummy of him.

"It seems very hard never to see him again," said Harry, with a deep sigh.

"But perhaps Jip has gone to some dog-heaven; and when we go to the boys' heaven, we may happen to see our old pet on the way."

"If he should get sight of us he would follow us," said Frank. "He always liked us better than dogs. O yes, he would follow us to the boys' heaven, of that you may be sure; and I don't think boys would exactly like a heaven without any dogs. Mother, what kind of a place is a boys' heaven?"

His mother, who had just entered the room, knew nothing of what they had been talking about; and, the question being asked suddenly, she hardly knew what to answer.

She smiled, and said, "How can I tell, Frank! You know I never was there."

"That makes no difference," said he. "Folks tell about a great many things they never saw. Nobody ever goes to heaven till they die; but you often read to us about heaven and the angels. Perhaps some people, who died and went there, told others about it in their dreams."

"I cannot answer such questions, dear Harry," replied his mother. "I only know that God is very wise and good, and that he wills we should wait patiently and humbly till our souls grow old enough to understand such great mysteries. Just as it is necessary that you should wait to be much older before you can calculate when the moon will be eclipsed, or when certain stars will go away from our portion of the sky, and when they will come back again. Learned men know when the earth, in its travels through the air, will cast its long dark shadow over the brightness of the moon. They can foretell exactly the hour and the minute when a star will go down below the line which we call the horizon, where the earth and the sky seem to meet; and they know precisely when it will come up again. But if they tried ever so hard, they could never make little boys understand about the rising and the setting of the stars. The wisest of men are very small boys, compared with the angels; therefore the angels know perfectly well many things which they cannot possibly explain to a man till his soul grows and becomes an angel."

"I understand that," said Harry. "For I can read any book; but though Jip was a very bright dog, it was no manner of use to try to teach him the letters. He only winked and gaped when I told him that was A. You see, mother, I was the same as an angel to Jip."

His mother smiled to see how quickly he had caught her meaning.

After some more talk with them, she said, "You have both heard of Martin Luther, a great and good man who lived in Germany a long time ago. He was very loving to children; and once, when he was away from home, he wrote a letter to his little son. It was dated 1530; so you see it is more than three hundred years old. In those days they had not begun to print any books for children; therefore, I dare say, the boy was doubly delighted to have something in writing that his friends could read to him. You asked me, a few minutes ago, what sort of a place the boys' heaven is. In answer to your question, I will read what Martin Luther wrote to his son Hansigen, which in English means Little John. Any boy might be happy to receive such a letter. Listen to it now, and see if you don't think so.

"To my little son, Hansigen Luther, grace and peace in Christ.

"My heart-dear little Son: I hear that you learn well and pray diligently. Continue to do so, my son. When I come home I will bring you a fine present from the fair. I know of a lovely garden, full of joyful children, who wear little golden coats, and pick up beautiful apples, and pears, and cherries, and plums under the trees. They sing, and jump, and make merry. They have also beautiful little horses with golden saddles and silver bridles. I asked the man that kept the garden who the children were. And he said to me, 'The children are those who love to learn, and to pray, and to be good.' Then said I, 'Dear sir, I have a little son, named Hansigen Luther. May he come into this garden, and have the same beautiful apples and pears to eat, and wonderful little horses to ride upon, and may he play about with these children?' Then said he, 'If he is willing to learn, and to pray, and to be good, he shall come into this garden; and Lippus and Justus too. If they all come together, they shall have pipes, and little drums, and lutes, and music of stringed instruments. And they shall dance, and shoot with little crossbows.' Then he showed me a fine meadow in the garden, all laid out for dancing. There hung golden pipes and kettle-drums and line silver crossbows; but it was too early to see the dancing, for the children had not had their dinner. I said, 'Ah, dear sir, I will instantly go and write to my little son Hansigen, so that he may study, and pray, and be good, and thus come into this garden. And he has a little cousin Lena, whom he must also bring with him.' Then he said to me, 'So shall it be. Go home, and write to him.'

"Therefore, dear little son Hansigen, be diligent to learn and to pray; and tell Lippus and Justus to do so too, that you may all meet together in that beautiful garden. Give cousin Lena a kiss from me. Herewith I recommend you all to the care of Almighty God."

The brothers both listened very attentively while that old letter was read; and when their mother had finished it, Frank exclaimed, "That must be a very beautiful place!"

Harry looked thoughtfully in the fire, and at last said, "I wonder who told all that to Martin Luther! Do you suppose an angel showed him that garden, when he was asleep?"

"I don't know," replied Frank. "But if there were small horses there with golden saddles for the boys, why shouldn't Jip be there, too, with a golden collar and bells?"

"Now, wouldn't that be grand!" exclaimed Harry. And away they both ran to plant flowers on Jip's grave.