صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

“I do; I do. I think of nothing else.”

“I would have you think of nothing else to-night, -of nothing but those things which will soften your heart, dear friend, and open it to old affections and old times. It is so that she would speak to you herself; and in her name it is that I speak now."

“You do well to speak softly,” said the old man. “We will not wake her. I should be glad to see her eyes again, and to see her smile. There is a smile upon her young face now; but it is fixed and changeless. I would have it come and go. That shall be in Heaven's good time. We will not wake her.”

“Let us not talk of her in her sleep, but as she used to be when you were journeying together, far away; as she was at home, in the old house from which you fled together; as she was in the old cheerful time,” said the schoolmaster.

“ She was always cheerful, very cheerful,” cried the old man, looking steadfastly at him." There was ever something mild and quiet about her, I remember, from the first; but she was of a happy nature.”

“We have heard you say," pursued the schoolmaster, " that in this, and in all goodness, she was like her mother. You can think of and remember her?

He maintained his steadfast look, but gave no answer. “ Or even one before her?” said the bachelor.

“ It is many years ago, and affliction makes the time longer; but you have not forgotten her whose death contributed to make this child so dear to you, even before

you knew her worth, or could read her heart? Say that you could carry back your thoughts to very distant days, — to the time of your early life, when, unlike this fair flower, you did not pass your youth alone. Say that you could remember, long ago, another child who loved you dearly; you being but a child yourself

. Say that you had a brother, long forgotten, long unseen, long separated from you, who now at last, in your utmost need, came back to comfort and console you".

“ To be to you what you were once to him,” cried the younger, falling on his knee before him; “to repay your old affection, brother dear, by constant care, solicitude, and love; to be, at your right hand, what he has never ceased to be when oceans rolled between us; to call to witness his unchanging truth, and mindfulness of bygone days,

whole years of desolation. Give me but one word of recognition, brother; and never — no, never in the brightest moment of our youngest days, when, poor silly boys, we thought to pass our lives together — have we been half as dear and precious to each other as we shall be from this time hence.”

The old man looked from face to face, and his lips moved; but no sound came from them in reply.

“ If we were knit together then," pursued the younger brother, “ what will be the bond between us now! Our love and fellowship began in childhood, when life was all before us; and will be resumed when we have proved it, and are but children at the last. As many restless spirits who have hunted fortune, fame, or pleasure, through the world, retire in their decline to where they first drew breath, vainly seeking to be children once again before they die; so we, less fortunate than they in early life, but happier in its closing scenes, will set up our rest again among our boyish haunts, and going home with no hope realized that had its growth in manhood, carrying back nothing that we brought away but our old yearnings to each other, saving no fragment from the wreck of life but that which first endeared it, may be, indeed, but children as at first. And even," he added in an altered voice, — “even if what I dread to name has come to pass, - even if that be so, or is to be, (which Heaven forbid spare us!) still, dear brother, we are not apart, and have that comfort in our great affliction.”

By little and little, the old man had drawn back towards the inner chamber while these words were spoken. He pointed there as he replied with trembling lips, —

“ You plot among you to wean my heart from her. You never will do that; never while I have life! I have no relative or friend but her; I never had; I never will have. She is all in all to me. It is too late to part us now.”

Waving them off with his hand, and calling softly to her as he went, he stole into the room. They who were left behind drew close together, and, after a few whispered words (not unbroken by emotion, or easily uttered), followed him. They moved so gently, that their footsteps made no noise; but there were sobs from among the group, and sounds of grief and mourning.

For she was dead. There, upon her little bed, she lay at rest. The solemn stillness was no marvel now.

She was dead. No sleep so beautiful and calm, so free from trace of pain, so fair to look upon. She seemed a creature fresh from the hand of God, and waiting for the breath of life; not one who had lived, and suffered death.

Her couch was dressed with here and there some winter-berries and green leaves gathered in a spot she had been used to favor. “When I die, put near me something that has loved the light, and had the sky above it always.” Those were her words.

She was dead. Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell was dead. Her little bird, a poor slight thing the pressure of a finger would have crushed, was stirring nimbly in its cage; and the strong heart of its child-mistress was mute and motionless for ever.

Where were the traces of her early cares, her sufferings, and fatigues? All gone. Sorrow was dead indeed in her; but peace and perfect happiness were born, imaged in her tranquil beauty and profound repose.

And still her former self lay there, unaltered in this change. Yes; the old fireside had smiled upon that same sweet face; it had passed, like a dream, through haunts of misery and care. At the door of the poor schoolmaster on the summer evening, before the furnace-fire upon the cold, wet night, at the still bedside of the dying boy, there had been the same mild, lovely look. So shall we know the angels in their majesty after death.

The old man held one languid arm in his, and had the small hand tight folded to his breast for warmth. It was the hand she had stretched out to him with her last smile, — the hand that led him on through all their wanderings. Ever and anon, he pressed it to his lips; then hugged it to his breast again, murmuring that it was warmer now; and, as he said it, he looked in agony to those who stood around, as if imploring them to help her.

She was dead, and past all help, or need of it. The ancient rooms she had seemed to fill with life, even while her own was waning fast; the garden she had tended; the eyes she had gladdened; the noiseless haunts of many a thoughtful hour; the paths she had trodden as it were but yesterday, - could know her never more.

“It is not,” said the schoolmaster, as he bent down to kiss her on the cheek, and gave his tears free vent, — “it is not on earth that Heaven's justice ends. Think what earth is compared with the world to which her young spirit has winged its early flight; and say, if one deliberate wish expressed in solemn terms above this bed could call her back to life, which of us would utter it ?”



MR. PICKWICK's apartments in Goswell Street, although on a limited scale, were not only of a very neat and comfortable description, but peculiarly adapted for the residence of a man of his genius and observation. His sitting-room was the first floor front; his bed-room was the second floor front; and thus, whether he was sitting at his desk in the parlor, or standing before the dressing-glass in his dormitory, he had an equal opportunity of contemplating human nature in all the numerous phases it exhibits in that not more populous than popular thoroughfare.

His landlady, Mrs. Bardell, - the relict and sole executrix of


a deceased custom-house officer, a comely woman of bustling manners and agreeable appearance, with a natural genius for cooking, improved by study and long practice into an exquisite talent. There were no children, no servants, no fowls. The only other inmates of the house were a large man and a small boy, — the first a lodger, the second a production of Mrs. Bardell's. The large man was always at home precisely at ten o'clock at night, at which hour he regularly condensed himself into the limits of a dwarfish French bedstead in the back parlor; and the infantine sports and gymnastic exercises of Master Bardell were exclusively confined to the neighboring pavements and gutters. Cleanliness and quiet reigned throughout the house; and in it Mr. Pickwick's will was law.

To any one acquainted with these points of the domestic economy of the establishment, and conversant with the admirable regulation of Mr. Pickwick's mind, his appearance and behavior on the morning previous to that which had been fixed upon for the journey to Eatansvill would have been most mysterious and unaccountable. He paced the room to and fro with hurried steps, popped his head out of the window at intervals of about three minutes each, constantly referred to his watch, and exhibited many other manifestations of impatience very unusual with him. It was evident that something of great importance was in contemplation; but what that something was, not even Mrs. Bardell herself had been enabled to discover.

“ Mrs. Bardell,” said Mr. Pickwick at last, as that amiable female approached the termination of a prolonged dusting of the apartment. Sir,"

." said Mrs. Bardell. * Your little boy is a very long time gone.” –“Why, it's a good long way to the borough, sir," remonstrated Mrs. Bardell. “Ah!" said Mr. Pickwick,

very true : so it is.” Mr. Pickwick relapsed into silence; and Mrs. Bardell resumed her dusting.

“Mrs. Bardell,” said Mr. Pickwick at the expiration of a few minutes. “Sir," said Mrs. Bardell again. “Do you think it's a much greater expense to keep two people than to keep one ?”. “ La, Mr. Pickwick !” said Mrs. Bardell, coloring up to the very border of her cap as she fancied she observed a species of matrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger, ' la, Mr. Pickwick, what a question !” —"Well, but do you?” inquired Mr. Pickwick. “That depends," said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very near to Mr. Pickwick's elbow, which was planted on the table, “that depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it's a saving and careful person, sir." - “That's very true,” said Mr. Pickwick. “But the

I have in my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell), I think, possesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable


[ocr errors]

knowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell, which may be of material use to me.”

"La, Mr. Pickwick!” said Mrs. Bardell, the crimson rising to her cap-border again.

"I do," said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of a subject which interested him, —“I do indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.” “Dear me, sir!" exclaimed Mrs. Bardell. “You'll think it not very strange now," said the amiable Mr. Pickwick with a good-humored glance at his companion, " that I never consulted you about this matter, and never mentioned it till I sent your little boy out this morning, eh?”

Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshiped Mr. Pickwick at a distance; but here she was, all at once, raised to a pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant hopes had never dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwick was going to propose: a deliberate plan too, sent her little boy to the borough to get him out of the way. How thoughtful! how considerate! “Well,” said Mr. Pickwick, “what do you think?" —“O Mr. Pickwick ! ” said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, “you're very kind, sir.” –“It will save you a great deal of trouble, won't it?” said Mr. Pickwick. “Oh! I never thought any thing of the trouble, sir,” replied Mrs. Bardell; " and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you then than ever: but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for

my loneliness!” “Ah! to be sure,” said Mr. Pickwick : “I never thought of that. When I am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with

you. To be sure, so you will.”—“I'm sure I ought to be a very happy woman,” said Mrs. Bardell. “And your little boy," said Mr. Pickwick. “Bless his heart !” interposed Mrs. Bardell with a maternal sob. “He, too, will have a companion,” resumed Mr. Pickwick; "a lively one, who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a week than he would ever learn in a year." And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

“Oh, you dear!” said Mrs. Bardell. Mr. Pickwick started. "Oh, you kind, good, playful dear!” said Mrs. Bardell; and, without more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick's neck with a cataract of tears and a chorus of

“ Bless my soul !” cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick. “Mrs. Bardell, my good woman !- dear me, what a situation ! pray, consider. Mrs. Bardell, don't — if anybody should come" "Oh! let them come," exclaimed Mrs. Bardell frantically. “I'll never leave you, dear, kind, good soul!” and with these words Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.

“Mercy upon me!” said Mr. Pickwick struggling violently. “I hear somebody coming up the stairs. Don't, don't, there's a


« السابقةمتابعة »