Another day dawned, and grew, and spread its sunshine in the earth. Aunt Hannah brought comforting news to the failing mother, and a happy note, which said again, “We have but a little time to wait, darling mother, then we shall be together.”
The deep note of a bell came moaning down the wind.
“Aunt Hannah, it is tolling. Some poor
soul is at rest.
As I shall be soon. You will not let her forget me?”
“Oh, God knows she never will!”
“Do not you hear strange noises, Aunt Hannah? It sounds like the shuffling of many feet.”
“We hoped you would not hear it, dear. It is a little company gathering, for—for Helen’s sake, poor little prisoner. There will be music—and she loves it so. We thought you would not mind.”
“Mind? Oh no, no—oh, give her everything her dear heart can desire. How good you two are to her, and how good to me! God bless you both always!”
After a listening pause:
“How lovely! It is her organ. Is she playing it herself, do you think?” Faint and rich and inspiring the chords floating to her ears on the still air. “Yes, it is her touch, dear heart, I recognize it. They are singing. Why—it is a hymn! and the sacredest of all, the most touching, the most consoling. . . . It seems to open the gates of paradise to me. . . . If I could die now. . . .”
Faint and far the words rose out of the stillness:
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee,
E’en though it be a cross
That raiseth me.
With the closing of the hymn another soul passed to its rest, and they that had been one in life were not sundered in death. The sisters, mourning and rejoicing, said:
“How blessed it was that she never knew!”
At midnight they sat together, grieving, and the angel of the Lord appeared in the midst transfigured with a radiance not of earth; and speaking, said:
“For liars a place is appointed. There they burn in the fires of hell from everlasting unto everlasting. Repent!”
The bereaved fell upon their knees before him and clasped their hands and bowed their gray heads, adoring. But their tongues clove to the roof of their mouths, and they were dumb.
“Speak! that I may bear the message to the chancery of heaven and bring again the decree from which there is no appeal.”
Then they bowed their heads yet lower, and one said:
“Our sin is great, and we suffer shame; but only perfect and final repentance can make us whole; and we are poor creatures who have learned our human weakness, and we know that if we were in those hard straits again our hearts would fail again, and we should sin as before. The strong could prevail, and so be saved, but we are lost.”
They lifted their heads in supplication. The angel was gone. While they marveled and wept he came again; and bending low, he whispered the decree.