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Barbara Who Came Back
by [?]



This is the tale of Barbara, Barbara who came back to save a soul alive.

The Reverend Septimus Walrond was returning from a professional visit to a distant cottage of his remote and straggling parish upon the coast of East Anglia. His errand had been sad, to baptise the dying infant of a fisherman, which just as the rate was finished wailed once feebly and expired in his arms. The Reverend Septimus was weeping over the sorrows of the world. Tears ran down his white but rounded face, for he was stout of habit, and fell upon his clerical coat that was green with age and threadbare with use. Although the evening was so cold he held his broad-brimmed hat in his hand, and the wind from the moaning sea tossed his snow-white hair. He was talking to himself, as was his fashion on these lonely walks.

“I think that fresh milk would have saved that child,” he said, “but how was poor Thomas to buy fresh milk at fourpence a quart? Laid up for three months as he has been and with six children, how was he to buy fresh milk? I ought to have given it to him. I could have done without these new boots till spring, damp feet don’t matter to an old man. But I thought of my own comfort–the son that doth so easily beset me–and so many to clothe and feed at home and poor Barbara, my darling Barbara, hanging between life and death.”

He sobbed and wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, then began to pray, still aloud.

“O God of pity, in the name of the loving and merciful Christ, help me and poor Thomas in our troubles.”

“I ought to have put Thomas’s name first–my selfishness again,” he ejaculated, then went on:

“Give consolation to Thomas who loved his baby, and if it pleases Thee in Thy infinite wisdom and foresight, spare my dearest Barbara’s life, that she may live out her days upon the earth and perhaps in her turn give life to others. I know I should not ask it; I know it is better that she should go and be with Thee in the immortal home Thou hast prepared for us unhappy, suffering creatures. Yet–pity my poor human weakness–I do ask it. Or if Thou decreest otherwise, then take me also, O God, for I can bear no more. Four children gone! I can bear no more, O God.”

He sobbed again and wiped away another tear, then muttered:

“My selfishness, always my selfishness! With six remaining to be looked after, that is counting Barbara if she still lives, I dare to ask to be relieved of the burdens of the flesh! Pitiful Christ, visit not my wickedness on me or on others, and O Thou that didst raise the daughter of Jairus, save my sweet Barbara and comfort the heart of poor Thomas. I will have faith. I will have faith.”

He thrust his hat upon his head, pulling it down over his ears because of the rough wind, and walked forward quite jauntily for a few yards.

“What a comfort these new boots are,” he said. “If I had stepped into that pool with the old ones my left foot would be wet through now. Let me thank God for these new boots. Oh! how can I, when I remember that the price of them should have been spent in milk for the poor baby? If I were really a Christian I ought to take them off and walk barefoot, as the old pilgrims used to do. They say it is healthy, and I tried to think so because it is cheap, though I am sure that this was the beginning of poor little Cicely’s last illness. With her broken chilblains she could not stand the snow; at any rate, the chill struck upwards. Well, she has been in bliss three years, three whole years, and how thankful I ought to be for that. How glad she will be to see Barbara too, if it pleases God in His mercy to take Barbara; she always was her favourite sister. I ought to remember that; I ought to remember that what I lose here I gain there, that my store is always growing in Heaven. But I can’t, for I am a man still. Oh! curse it all! I can’t, and like Job I wish I’d never been born. Job got a new family and was content, but that’s their Eastern way. It’s different with us Englishmen.”