Vanishing Roads and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 329 pages of information about Vanishing Roads and Other Essays.

My copy of the Great King’s Wisdom was of no particular bibliographical value, but it was one of those thick-set, old-calf duodecimos “black with tarnished gold” which Austin Dobson has sung, books that, one imagines, must have once made even the Latin Grammar attractive.  The text was the Vulgate, a rivulet of Latin text surrounded by meadows of marginal comments of the Fathers translated into French,—­the whole presided over, for the edification of the young novice, to whom my copy evidently belonged, by a distinguished Monseigneur who, in French of the time of Bossuet, told exactly how these young minds should understand the wisdom of Solomon, told it with a magisterial style which suggested that Solomon lived long ago—­and, yet, was one of the pillars of the church.  But what particularly interested me about the book, however, as I turned over its yellow pages, was a tiny thing pressed between them, a thing the Fathers and the Monseigneur would surely have regarded as curiously alien to their wisdom, a thing once of a bright, but now of a paler yellow, and of a frailer texture than it had once been in its sunlit life—­a flower, I thought at first, but, on looking closer, I saw it was, or had once been, a yellow butterfly.

What young priest was it, I wondered, that had thus, with a breaking heart, crushed the joy of life between these pages!  On what spring morning had this silent little messenger hovered a while over the high garden-walls of St. Sulpice, flitting and fluttering, and at last darted and alighted on the page of this old book, at that moment held in the hands of a young priest walking to and fro amid the tall whispering trees—­delivering at last to him on the two small painted pages of its wings a message he must not read....

The temptation was severe, for spring was calling all over Paris, and the words of another book of the Great King whose wisdom he held in his hand said to him in the Latin that came easily to all manner of men in those days:  Lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land....  Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

The little fluttering thing seemed to be saying that to him as it poised on the page, and, as his eyes went into a dream, began to crawl softly, like a rope-walker, up one of his fingers, with a frail, half-frightened hold, while, high up, over the walls of the garden the poplars were discreetly swaying to the southern wind, and the lilac-bushes were carelessly tossing this way and that their fragrance, as altar-boys swing their censers in the hushed chancel,—­but ah! so different an incense.

The flowers appear on the earth, he repeated to himself, beguiled for a moment, the flowers appear on the earth; and the time of the singing of birds is come....

But, suddenly, for his help against that tiny yellow butterfly there came to him other stern everlasting words: 

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Vanishing Roads and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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