New angels are like the militia - never shed the uniform - always fluttering and floundering around in their wings, butting people down, flapping here, and there, and everywhere, always imagining they are attracting the admiring eye - well, they just think they are the very most important people in heaven. And when you see one of them come sailing around with one wing tipped up and t'other down, you make up your mind he is saying to himself: 'I wish Mary Ann in Arkansaw could see me now. I reckon she'd wish she hadn't shook me.' No, they're just for show, that's all - only just for show."
"I judge you've got it about right, Sandy," says I.
"Why, look at it yourself," says he. "YOU ain't built for wings - no man is. You know what a grist of years it took you to come here from the earth - and yet you were booming along faster than any cannon-ball could go. Suppose you had to fly that distance with your wings - wouldn't eternity have been over before you got here? Certainly. Well, angels have to go to the earth every day - millions of them - to appear in visions to dying children and good people, you know - it's the heft of their business. They appear with their wings, of course, because they are on official service, and because the dying persons wouldn't know they were angels if they hadn't wings - but do you reckon they fly with them? It stands to reason they don't. The wings would wear out before they got half-way; even the pin-feathers would be gone; the wing frames would be as bare as kite sticks before the paper is pasted on. The distances in heaven are billions of times greater; angels have to go all over heaven every day; could they do it with their wings alone? No, indeed; they wear the wings for style, but they travel any distance in an instant by WISHING. The wishing-carpet of the Arabian Nights was a sensible idea - but our earthly idea of angels flying these awful distances with their clumsy wings was foolish.
"Our young saints, of both sexes, wear wings all the time - blazing red ones, and blue and green, and gold, and variegated, and rainbowed, and ring-streaked-and-striped ones - and nobody finds fault. It is suitable to their time of life. The things are beautiful, and they set the young people off. They are the most striking and lovely part of their outfit - a halo don't BEGIN."
"Well," says I, "I've tucked mine away in the cupboard, and I allow to let them lay there till there's mud."
"Yes - or a reception."
"Well, you can see one to-night if you want to. There's a barkeeper from Jersey City going to be received."
"Go on - tell me about it."
"This barkeeper got converted at a Moody and Sankey meeting, in New York, and started home on the ferry-boat, and there was a collision and he got drowned. He is of a class that think all heaven goes wild with joy when a particularly hard lot like him is saved; they think all heaven turns out hosannahing to welcome them; they think there isn't anything talked about in the realms of the blest but their case, for that day. This barkeeper thinks there hasn't been such another stir here in years, as his coming is going to raise. - And I've always noticed this peculiarity about a dead barkeeper - he not only expects all hands to turn out when he arrives, but he expects to be received with a torchlight procession."
"I reckon he is disappointed, then."
"No, he isn't. No man is allowed to be disappointed here. Whatever he wants, when he comes - that is, any reasonable and unsacrilegious thing - he can have. There's always a few millions or billions of young folks around who don't want any better entertainment than to fill up their lungs and swarm out with their torches and have a high time over a barkeeper. It tickles the barkeeper till he can't rest, it makes a charming lark for the young folks, it don't do anybody any harm, it don't cost a rap, and it keeps up the place's reputation for making all comers happy and content."
"Very good. I'll be on hand and see them land the barkeeper."
"It is manners to go in full dress.