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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 267 pages of information about Vanishing Roads and Other Essays.

And with this thought in my mind, I set about preparing to take my leave, but at that moment I was startled—­almost superstitiously—­startled by a touch on my shoulder.  I was not to leave those once familiar halls without one recognition, after all.  It was our old waiter of all those years ago, who, with an almost paternal gladness, was telling me how good it was to see me again, and, with consolatory mendacity, was assuring me that I had hardly changed a bit.  God bless him—­he will never know what good it did me to have his honest recognition.  The whole world was not yet quite dead and buried, after all, nor was I quite such an unremembered ghost as I had seemed.  Dear old Jim Lewis!  So some of the old guard were still on deck, after all!  And, I was thinking as I looked at him:  “He, too, has looked upon her face.  He it was who poured out our wine, that last time together.”  Then I had a whim.  My waiter had been used to them in the old days.

“Jim,” I said, “I want you to give this half-sovereign to the bandmaster and ask him to play Chopin’s Funeral March.  There are not many people in the place, so perhaps he won’t mind.  Tell him it’s for an old friend of yours, and in memory of all the happy dinners he had here long ago.”

So to the strains of that death music, which so strangely blends the piercing pathos of lost things with a springlike sense of resurrection, a spheral melody of immortal promise, I passed once more through the radiant portals of my necropolitan restaurant into the resounding thoroughfares of still living and still loving humanity.

XIX

THE NEW PYRAMUS AND THISBE

There never was a shallower or more short-sighted criticism than that which has held that science is the enemy of romance.  Ruskin, with all the April showers of his rhetoric, discredited himself as an authoritative thinker when he screamed his old-maidish diatribes against that pioneer of modern romantic communication, the railroad.  Just as surely his idol Turner proved himself a romantic painter, not by his rainbows, or his Italian sunsets, but by that picture of Storm, Rain, and Speed—­an old-fashioned express fighting its way through wind, rain, and of course rainbows—­in the English National Gallery.

With all his love of that light that never was on sea or land, Turner was yet able to see the romance of that new thing of iron and steam so affrighting to other men of his generation.  A lover of light in all its swift prismatic changes, he was naturally a lover of speed.  He realized that speed was one of the two most romantic things in the world.  The other is immobility.  At present the two extremes of romantic expression are the Sphinx and—­the automobile.  Unless you can realize that an automobile is more romantic than a stage-coach, you know nothing about romance.  Soon the automobile will have its nose put out by the air-ship, and we shall not need to be long-lived to see the day when we shall hear old-timers lamenting the good old easy-going past of the seventy-miles-an-hour automobile—­just as we have heard our grand-fathers talk of postilions and the Bath “flyer.”

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