The funeral is over now—over two days ago. She lies in Tempest church-yard, at her own wish. The blinds are drawn up again; the sun looks in; and life goes on as before.
Already there has grown a sacredness about the name of Barbara—the name that used to echo through the house oftener than any other, as one and another called for her. Now, it is less lightly named than the names of us live ones.
I shall always wince when I hear it. Thank God! it is not a common name. After a while, I know that she will become a sealed subject, never named; but as yet—while my wound is in its first awful rawness, I must speak of her to some one.
I am talking of her to Roger now; Roger is very good to me—very! I do not seem to care much about him, nor about anybody for the matter of that, but he is very good.
“You liked her,” I say, in a perfectly collected, tearless voice, “did not you? You were very kind and forbearing to them all, always—I am very grateful to you for it—but you liked her of your own accord—you would have liked her, even if she had not been one of us, would not you?”
I seem greedy to hear that she was dear to everybody.
“I was very fond of her,” he answers, in a choked voice.
“And you are sure that she is happy now?” say I, with the same keen agony of anxiety with which I have put the question twenty times before —“well off—better than she was here—you do not say so to comfort me, I suppose; you would say it even if I were talking—not of her—but of some one like her that I did not care about?”
He turns to me, and clasps my dry, hot hands.
“Child!” he says, looking at me with great tears standing in his gray eyes—“I would stake all my hopes of seeing His face myself, that she has gone to God!” I look at him with a sort of wistful envy. How is it that he and Barbara have attained such a certainty of faith? He can know no more than I do. After a pause—
“I think,” say I, “that I should like to go home for a bit, if you do not mind. Everybody was fond of her there. Nobody knew any thing about her, nobody cared for her here.”
So I go home. As I turn in at the park-gates, in the gray, wet gloom of the November evening, I think of my first home-coming after my wedding-tour.
Again I see the divine and jocund serenity of the summer evening—the hot, red sunset making all the windows one great flame, and they all, Barbara, Algy, Bobby, Tou Tou, laughing welcome to me from the opened gate. Tonight I feel as if they were all dead. I reach the house. I stand in the empty school-room!—I, alone, of all the noisy six. The stains of our cookery still discolor the old carpet; there is still the great ink-splash on the wall, that marks the spot where the little inkstand, aimed by Bobby at my head, and dodged by me, alighted.
How little I thought that those stains and that splash would ever speak to me with voices of such pathos! I have asked to be allowed to sleep in Barbara’s and my old room. I am there now. I have thrown myself on Barbara’s little white bed, and am clasping her pillow in my empty arms. Then, with blurred sight and swimming eyes, I look round at all our little childish knick-knacks.