Was it Heaven? Or Hell?
By Mark Twain
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, 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!"
Nearer to Thee,
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me.
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