But rave and cry as I may, she is dead. In smiling and sweetly speaking, even while yet I said “She is here!” yea, in that very moment she went.
Our Barbara is asleep!—to awake—when?—where?—we know not, only we altogether hope, that, when next she opens her blue eyes, it will be in the sunshine of God’s august smile—God, through life and in death, her friend.
“Then, breaking into tears, ‘Dear
God,’ she cried, ’and must we see,
All blissful things depart from us, or e’er we go to Thee;
We cannot guess Thee in the wood, or hear Thee in the wind:
Our cedars must fall round us e’er we see the light behind.
Ay, sooth, we feel too strong in weal to need Thee on that road;
But, woe being come, the soul is dumb that crieth not on God.’”
I am twenty years old now, barely twenty; and seventy is the appointed boundary of man’s date, often exceeded by ten, by fifteen years. During all these fifty—perhaps sixty—years, I shall have to do without Barbara. I have not yet arrived at the pain of this thought: that will come, quick enough, I suppose, by-and-by!—it is the astonishment of it that is making my mind reel and stagger!
I suppose there are few that have not endured and overlived the frightful novelty of this idea.
I am sitting in a stupid silence; my stiff eyes—dry now, but dim and sunk with hours of frantic weeping—fixed on vacancy, while I try to think exactly of her face, with a greedy, jealous fear lest, in the long apathy of the endless years ahead of me, one soft line, one lovely line, may become faint and hazy to me.
How often I have sat for hours in the same room with her, without one glance at her! It seems to me, now, monstrous, incredible, that I should ever have moved my eyes from her—that I should ever have ceased kissing her, and telling her how altogether beloved she was by me.
If all of us, while we are alive, could stealthily, once a year, and during a moment long enough to exchange but two words with them, behold those loved ones whom we have lost, death would be no more death.
But, O friends, that one moment, for whose sake we could so joyfully live through all the other minutes of the year, to us never comes.
I suppose trouble has made me a little light-headed. I think to-day I am foolisher than usual. Thoughts that would not tease other people, tease me.
If I ever see her again—if God ever give me that great felicity—I do not quite know why He should, but if—if—(ah! what an if it is!)—my mind misgives me—I have my doubts that it will not be quite Barbara— not the Barbara that knitted socks for the boys, and taught Tou Tou, and whose slight, fond arms I can—now that I have shut my eyes—so plainly feel thrown round my shoulders, to console me when I have broken into easy tears at some silly tiff with the others. Can even the omnipotent God remember all the unnumbered dead, and restore to them the shape and features that they once wore, and by which they who loved them knew them?