The Narrator begins his story in 1692 in a small village on the coast of England:
Let me tell you of Scarlettown. I was born there. Nothing much ever happened until last May when two young people died. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The most beautiful woman in the whole county lived there. When she walked down the street, teen age boys would melt if she condescended to smile at them. Young men vied for her favors. Her name was Barbara Allen.
In that merry month of May new life blossomed in the trees and flowers except in Lord William’s house. We all called him Sweet William because he was like the flower. He was kind, caring, and mild-mannered. He was in bed dying of a broken heart for the love of Barbara Allen. She could have cared less. He sent his servant, Old Tom, to plead his case and to have her come quickly or he would die.
When he got there he said, “Miss Barbara, he’s dying for the love of you. He may not last another day.”
She said, “Oh bother! What am I supposed to do? He’s a nice guy, but I’m looking for a real man. If he wants to die, that’s his problem. Don’t blame me.”
Tom said, “Please Miss Barbara, come and see how bad off he is. Maybe you’ll change your mind.”
Her mother said, “Girl, what’s wrong with you? You’ll never get a better man than Lord William. He’s got money and servants. If you keep flashing your eyes at that gambler in the tavern you’re gonna end up tending a passel of kids and scrubbing the barroom floor.”
Barbara said, “It’s my life. I want some fun and excitement. Sweet William is Dull William, but I’ll be nice and pay him a visit.”
She said to Tom, “Okay, okay, I’ll wander over there. It’ll be a while. I’ve got to fix my hair and make tea.”
She finally got to his bedside and all she said was, “Old Tom was right. Young man I think you’re dying.” She turned to leave.
He said, “I’m so very sick. Grief covers my soul. I’ll never get better unless you love me Barbara.”
She said, “You’ve got a short memory. Last week at the tavern you drank a health to all the ladies except me.”
“I didn’t include you because you are so wonderful and beautiful and far beyond all the others.”
She said, “Too late,” and left.
He turned his face to the wall and died. She was almost home when she heard the death-bell tolling. Every stroke said, “Cold-hearted Barbara Allen”.
He was no more in his grave when she repented. She said, “Mother, go make my bed. Sweet William died for me today. I’ll die for him tomorrow.”
They buried her next to William in the church-yard. In time, a red rose grew from William’s breast. From Barbara’s feet grew a briar. They grew and grew up to the steeple-top for all the town to see. At the top they grew into a lover’s knot with the rose wrapped round the briar. So you see, love won out. Sweet William has his arms wrapped around Barbara Allen for all eternity.
(This is a story version of the old English ballad “Barbara Allen”. I can’t sing it in print in the Sun, but I do sing it in the Bell County Detention Center. You are all invited to my singing.)