All right! Yes, for Barbara it is all right. Friends, I no more doubt that than I doubt that I am sitting here now, with the hot tears on my cheeks, telling you about it; but oh! not—not for us!
“Much laughing will end in much crying.” The Brat was right. God knows the old saw has come true enough in my case. I exulted too soon. Too soon I said that the all-victor was vanquished. He might have left us our one little victory, might not he?—knowing that at best it was but a reprieve, that soon or late—soon or late, Algy—we all, every human flower that ever blossomed out in this world’s sad garden, must be embraced in the icy iron of his arms.
I always said that we were too many and too prosperous; long ago I said it. I always wondered that he had so long overlooked us. And now that he comes, he takes our choicest and best. With nothing less is he content. Barbara sickens. Not until the need for her tender nursing is ended, not until Algy can do without her, does she go; and then she makes haste to leave us.
On the morning after my mad and premature elation, it is but too plain that the fever has laid hold of her too, and in its parching, withering clasp, our unstained lily fades. We take her back to Tempest at her wish, and there she dies—yes, dies.
Somehow, I never thought of Barbara dying. Often I have been nervous about the boys; out in the world, exposed to a hundred dangers and rough accidents, but about Barbara—never^ hardly more than about myself, safely at home, scarcely within reach of any probable peril. And now the boys are all alive and safe, and Barbara is going. One would think that she had cared nothing for us, she is in such a hurry to be gone; and yet we all know that she has loved us well—that she loves us still—none better.
Alas! we have no long and tedious nursing of her. She has never given any trouble in her life, and she gives none now. Almost before we realize the reality and severity of her sickness, she is gone. Neither does she make any struggle. She never was one to strive or cry; never loud, clamorous, and self-asserting, like the boys and me; she was always most meek, and with a great meekness she now goes forth from among us—meekness and yet valor, for with a full and collected consciousness she looks in the face of Him from whom the nations shuddering turn away their eyes, and puts her slight hand gently into his, saying, “Friend, I am ready!”
And the days roll by; but few, but few of them, for, as I tell you, she goes most quickly, and it comes to pass that our Barbara’s death-day dawns. Most people go in the morning. God grant that it is a good omen, that for them, indeed, the sun is rising!
We are all round her—all we that loved her and yet so lightly—for every trivial thing called upon her, and taxed her, and claimed this and that of her, as if she were some certain common thing that we should always have within our reach. Yes, we are all about her, kneeling and standing in a hallowed silence, choking back our tears that they may not stain the serenity of her departure.