« VorigeDoorgaan »
TOM PINCH'S JOURNEY TO LONDON.
of modest admiration gives a new charm to the beauties it is spread before : as real gauze has done ere now, and would again, so please you. Yoho! Why now we travel like the moon herself. Hiding this minute in a grove of trees; next minute in a patch of vapour; emerging now upon our broad clear course; withdrawing now, but always dashing on, our journey is a counterpart of hers. Yoho! A match against the Moon !
The beauty of the night is hardly felt, when Day comes leaping up. Yoho! Two stages, and the country roads are almost changed to a continuous street. Yoho, past market-gardens, rows of houses, villas, crescents, terraces, and squares; past waggons, coaches, carts; past early workmen, late stragglers, drunken men, and sober carriers of loads; past brick and mortar in its every shape; and in among the rattling pavements, where a jaunty-seat upon a coach is not so easy to preserve! Yoho, down countless turnings, and through countless mazy ways, until an old Inn-yard is gained, and Tom Pinch, getting down, quite stunned and giddy, is in London !
Five minutes before the time, too!' said the driver, as he received his fee of Tom.
It is no fiction, but plain, sober, honest truth to say-so suggestive and distinct is it at this hour—that, for a moment, actually in passing in, they who will, may have the whole great pile before them, as it used to be, with thousands of eager faces staring down into the arena, and such a whirl of strife, and blood, and dust, going on there, as no language can describe. Its solitude, its awful beauty, and its utter desolation, strike
the stranger, the next moment, like a softened sorrow; and never in his life, perhaps, will he be so moved and overcome by any sight, not immediately connected with his own affections and afflictions.
To see it crumbling there, an inch a year; its walls and arches overgrown with green ; its corridors open to the day; the long grass growing in its porches; young trees of yesterday, springing up on its ragged parapets, and bearing fruit-chance produce of the seeds dropped there by the birds who build their nests within its
chinks and crannies; to see its Pit of Fight filled up with earth, and the peaceful Cross planted in the centre; to climb into its upper halls, and look down on ruin, ruin, ruin, all about it; the triumphal arches of Constantine, Septimus Severus, and Titus; the Roman Forum ; the Palace of the Cæsars; the temples of the old religion, fallen down and gone; is to see the ghost of Old Rome-wicked wonderful old city !_haunting the very ground on which its people trod. It is the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand, majestic, mournful sight, conceivable. Never, in its bloodiest prime, can the sight of the gigantic Coliseum, full and running over with the lustiest life, have moved one heart, as it must move all who look upon it now- -a ruin. God be thanked-a ruin !
As it tops the other ruins--standing there a mountain among graves—so do its ancient influences outlive all other remnants of the old mythology and old butchery of Rome, in the nature of the fierce and cruel Roman people. The Italian face changes as the visitor approaches the city; its beauty becomes devilish ; and there is scarcely one countenance in a hundred, among the common people in the streets, that would not be at home and happy in a renovated Coliseum to-morrow.
Here was Rome, indeed, at last; and such a Rome as one can imagine in its full and awful grandeur! We wandered out upon . the Appian Way, and then went on, through miles of ruined tombs and broken walls, with here and there a desolate and uninhabited house; past the Circus of Romulus, where the course of the chariots, the stations of the judges, competitors, and spectators, are yet as plainly to be seen as in old time; past the tomb of Cecilia Metella; past all inclosure, hedge or stake, wall or fence; away upon the open Campagna, where on that side of Rome, nothing is to be beheld but Ruin. Except where the distant Apennines bound the view upon the left, the whole wide prospect is one field of ruin : broken aqueducts, left in the most picturesque and beautiful clusters of arches; broken temples; broken tombs : a desert of decay, sombre and desolate beyond all expression ; and with a history in every stone that strews the ground.
DEATH OF LITTLE NELL.
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 favour. “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. Sn 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 had 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 gladdenedthe noiseless haunts of many a thoughtful hour—the paths she had trodden as it were but yesterday—could know her no 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 it is compared with the World to which her young spirit has winged its early flight, and say, if one deliberate wish expressed in solemn tones above this bed could call her back to life, which of us would utter it!'
She had been dead two days. They were all about her at the time, knowing that the end was drawing on. She died soon after daybreak. They had read and talked to her in the earlier portion of the night, but as the hours crept on, she supk to sleep. They could tell, by what she faintly uttered in her dreams, that they were of her journeyings with the old man; they were of no painful scenes, but of those who had helped and used them kindly, for she often said 'God bless you!' with great fervour. Waking, she never wandered in her mind but once, and that was of beautiful music which she said was in the air. God knows. It may have been.
Opening her eyes at last, from a very quiet sleep, she begged that they would kiss her once again. That done, she turned to the old man with a lovely smile upon her face—such, they said, as they had never seen, and never could forget—and clung with both her arms about his neck. They did not kuow that she was dead, at first.
She had never murmured or complained ; but, with a quiet mind, and manner quite unaltered-save that she every day became more earnest and more grateful to them-faded like the light upon a summer's evening.
DEATH OF LITTLE NELL—continued.
THE child who had been her little friend came there almost as soon as it was day, with an offering of dried flowers which he begged them to lay upon her breast.
He told them of his dream again, and that it was of her being restored to them, just as she used to be. He begged hard to see her, saying that he would be very quiet, and that they need not fear his being alarmed, for he had sat alone by his young brother all day long, when he was dead, and had felt glad to be so near him. They let him have his wish ; and indeed he kept his word, and was in his childish way a lesson to them all.
DEATH OF LITTLE NELL,
Up to that time, the old man had not spoken once-except to her-or stirred from the bedside. But when he saw her little favourite, he was moved as they had not seen him yet, and made as though he would have him come nearer. Then pointing to the bed, he burst into tears for the first time, and they who stood by, knowing that the sight of this child had done him good, left them alone together.
Soothing him with his artless talk of her, the child persuaded him to take some rest, to walk abroad, to do almost as he desired him. And when the day came on, which must remove her in her earthly shape from earthly eyes for ever, he led him away, that he might not know when she was taken from him. They were to gather fresh leaves and berries for her bed.
And now the bell—the bell she had so often heard by night and day, and listened to with solemn pleasure almost as a living voicerung its remorseless toll for her, so young, so beautiful, so good. Decrepit age, and vigorous life, and blooming youth, and helpless infancy, poured forth—on crutches, in the pride of strength and health, in the full blush of promise, in the mere dawn of life-to gather round her tomb. Old men were there, whose eyes were dim and senses failing-grandmothers, who might have died ten years ago, and still been old—the deaf, the blind, the lame, the palsied, the living dead in many shapes and forms, to see the closing of that early grave.
Along the crowded path they bore her now; pure as the newlyfallen snow that covered it; whose day on earth had been as fleeting. Under that porch, where she had sat when Heaven in its mercy brought her to that peaceful spot, she passed again, and the old church received her in its quiet shade. They carried her to one old nook, where she had many
many a time sat musing, and laid their burden softly on the pavement. The light streamed on it through the coloured window—a window, where the boughs of trees were ever rustling in the summer, and where the birds sang sweetly all day long. With every breath of air that stirred among those branches in the sunshine, some trembling, changing light, would fall upon her grave.
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Many a young hand dropped in its little wreath, many a stifled sob was heard. Some—and they were not a few-knelt down. All were sincere and truthful in their sorrow.