Saturday, January 21, 2006

Charles Dickens' Little Nell

The illustration above (by Jessie Willcox Smith) is of Little Nell and her grandfather, in Charles Dickens' fourth novel, "The Old Curiosity Shop". This is a story about human worth, lonliness, caregiving, death and dying, disability, poverty, spirituality - and more. Bubbie Dear sent me the image and her favorite quotes, below:

"Dear grandfather," she cried, "let us leave this sad place tomorrow and beg our way from door to door, if we must. Let us never set foot in dark rooms or melancholy houses any more, but wander up and down wherever we like; and I will beg for both of us," and she clung about his neck and wept upon his shoulder.

Her grandfather, now quite childish, easily agreed to her plans, and very early one fine morning they slipped away from the old shop...Neither of the fugitives had the least idea of where to go when they had once escaped. They had no plans, no destination in mind, but they hurried away from the noisy streets and were delighted when at last they reached a quiet green roadside where they could eat their scanty breakfast.

(later in the story) Nature herself seemed against them now, for rain fell, winds blew, and once the warm ashes beside a factory furnace had to serve as their couch and their bedding for the night. Nell felt every day that she grew weaker and could not long protect her grandfather, but what was to become of him without her, friendless and feeble as he was?

(later in the story) They found her calm and beautiful in her white robes, her couch decked with green leaves and winter berries and her grandfather weeping by her side. Life had been too hard for her gentle spirit; but she slept a happy sleep, and we know that her waking was "happier than tongue can tell or heart of man conceive."

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