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among the obstructions of this earth. Her little heart, so noble and so helpless, perishes before the smallest of its many beauties is unfolded ; and all its loves, and thoughts, and longings, do but add another pang to death, and sink to silence, utter and eternal. The history of Mignon runs like a thread of gold through the tissue of 'the narrative, connecting with the heart much that were else addressed to the head.
CHARLES DICKENS. The work by which this popular writer was first made known to the world was entitled Sketches by Boz; it was written in numbers, for a periodical, and published about 1836, at which time the author was about twenty-six years of age. Afterwards appeared, in succession,
The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, and Master Humphrey's Clock. After writing these tales, Mr. Dickens made a visit to America, of which he published an account, in 1842, under the title of American Notes, for General Circulation. He has written several works since, and is now engaged in publishing a literary periodical. His power as a graphic delineator of human character, and the warm current of humanity which flows through all 'his works, are too well known to require a notice here.
[From the "American Notes."] INCIDENT ON BOARD A CANAL-BOAT. THERE was a little woman on board, with a little baby; and both little woman and little child were cheerful, good-looking, bright-eyed, and fair to see. The little woman had been passing a long time with her sick mother, in New York. The baby was born in her mother's house, and she had not seen her husband, — to whom she was now returning, — for twelve months, having left him a month or two after their marriage. Well, to be sure, there never was a little woman so full of hope, and tenderness, and love, and anxiety, as this little woman was; and all day long she wondered whether “he” would be at the wharf; and whether “he” had got her letter; and whether, if she sent the baby ashore by somebody else, "he" would know it, meeting in the street; which, seeing that he had never set eyes upon it in his life, was not very like in the abstract, but was probable enough to the young mother. She was such an artless little creature, and was in such a sunny, beaming, hopeful state, and let out all the matter clinging closely about her heart so freely, that all the other lady passengers entered into the spirit of it as much as she; and the captain, who heard all about it from his wife, was wondrous sly, I promise you, inquiring, every time we met at table, as in forgetfulness, whether she expected anybody to meet her at St. Louis, and whether she would want to go ashore the night we reached it, – but he supposed she would n't, - and cutting many other dry jokes of that nature. There was one little weazen, driedapple-faced old woman, who took occasion to doubt the constancy of husbands, in such circumstances of bereavement; and there was another lady, with a lap-dog, old enough to moralize on the lightness of human affections, and yet not so old that she could help nursing the baby now and then, or laughing with the rest, when the little woman called it by its father's name, and asked it all manner of fantastic questions concerning him, in the joy of her heart.
It was something of a blow to the little woman, that when we were within twenty miles of our destination, it became clearly necessary to put this baby to bed. But she got over it with the same good humor, tied a handkerchief round her head, and came out into the little gallery with the rest. Then, such an oracle as she became, in reference to the localities ! and such facetiousness as was displayed by the married ladies, and such sympathy as was shown by the single ones, and such peals of laughter as the little woman herself — who would just as soon have cried — greeted every jest with! At last, there were the lights of St. Louis, and here was the wharf, and those were the steps; and the little woman, covering her face with her hands, and laughing, or seeming to laugh, more than ever, ran into her own cabin, and shut herself up. I have no doubt, but, in the charming inconsistency of such excitement, she stopped her ears, lest she should hear whim” asking for her ; but I did not see her do it. Then a great crowd of people rushed on board, though the boat was not yet made fast, but was wandering about among the other boats, to find a landing-place; and everybody looked for the husband, and nobody saw him, when, in the raidst of us all, - Heaven knows how she ever got there, there was the little woman, clinging with both arms tight round the neck of a fine, good-looking, sturdy young fellow; and clag ping her little hands for joy, as she dragged him through ti small door of her small cabin, to look at the baby, as he la asleep. ing youth, and helpless infancy, poured forth — on crutches, in the pride of strengthened 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; grand. mothers 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. What was the death it would shut in, to that which still would crawl and creep above it!
(From “ Master Humphrey's Clock."}
DEATH OF LITTLE NELL. For she was dead! There, upon her little bed, she lay a rest. The solernn stillness was no marvel now.
She was dead! No sleep so beautiful and calm, so free from tears 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 forever.
Where were the traces of her early cares, her sufferings and fatigues ? All gone. His was the true death before their weeping eyes. 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
ok. So shall we know the angels, in their majesty, after ath.
The old man held one languid arm in his, and the small hand ght folded to his breast for warmth. It was the hand she had retched out to him with her last smile— the hand that had led im on through all their wanderings. Ever and anon he ressed it to his lips; then hugged it to his breast again, Turmuring that it was warmer now; and, as he said it, he boked in agony to those who stood around, as if imploring hem to help her.
She was dead, and past all help, or needing it! The ancient boms she had seemed to fill with life, even while her own was vaning fast — the garden she had tended — the eyes she had gladdened - the noiseless haunts of many a thoughtful hour — he paths she had trodden, as it were, but yesterday - will know her no more.
* * 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 day-break. They had read and talked to her in the earlier portion of the night; but as the hours crept on, she sunk 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 fervor. Waking, she never wandered in her mind but once, and that was at 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 know that she was dead, at first. * * * *
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 voice — rang its remorseless toll for her, so young, so beautiful, so good. Decrepit age, and vigorous life, and bloom
Along the crowded path they bore her now, pure as the newly-fallen snow that covered it - whose day on earth had been as fleeting. Under that porch, where she had sat when Heaven, in its mercy, had 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 and many a time sat musing, and laid their burden softly on the pavement. The light streamed on it through the colored 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.
The service done, the mourners stood apart, and the villagers closed round to look into the grave before the pavement-stone should be replaced. One called to mind how he had seen her sitting on that very spot, and how her book had fallen on her lap, and she was gazing, with her pensive face, upon the sky. Another told how he had wondered much that one so delicate as she should be so bold; how she had never feared to enter the church alone at night, but had loved to linger there when all was quiet; and even to climb the tower-stair, with no more light than that of the moon-rays stealing through the loopholes in the thick old wall. A whisper went about among the oldest there, that she had seen and talked with angels; and