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.

          bright with her past presence yet—­

I, who had fortunately, and fearfully, sat by her side was aware that the book she had been reading was lying forgotten on the seat.  It was mine by right of accident,—­treasure-trove.  So I picked it up, braving the glares of the four sad men facing me.

Naturally, I had wondered what book it was; but its being bound in tooled and jewelled morocco, evidently by one of the great bookbinders of Paris, made it unprofitable to hazard a guess.

I leave to the imagination of lovers of books what book one would naturally expect to find in hands so fair.  Perhaps Ronsard—­or some other poet from the Rose-Garden of old France.  No! it was a charmingly printed copy of The New Testament.

The paradox of the discovery hushed me for a few moments, and then I began to turn over the pages, several of which I noticed were dog eared after the manner of beautiful women in all ages.  A pencil here and there had marked certain passages. Come unto me, ran one of the underlined passages, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,—­and I thought how strange it was that she whose face was so calm and still should have needed to mark that.  And another marked passage I noted—­He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.  Then I put down the book with a feeling of awe—­such as the Bible had never brought to me before, though I had been accustomed to it from my boyhood, and I said to myself:  “How very strange!” And I meant how strange it was to find this wonderful old book in the hands of this wonderful young beauty.

It had seemed strange to find that butterfly in that old copy of the Proverbs of King Solomon, but how much stranger to find the New Testament in the hands, or, so to speak, between the wings, of an American butterfly.

I found something written in the book at least as wonderful to me as the sacred text.  It was the name of the butterfly—­a name almost as beautiful as herself.  So I was enabled to return her book to her.  There is, of course, no need to mention a name as well-known for good works as good looks.  It will suffice to say that it was the name of the most beautiful actress in the world.

There is a moral to this story.  Morals—­to stories—­are once more coming into fashion.  The Bible, in my boyhood, came to us with no such associations as I have recalled.  There were no butterflies between its pages, nor was it presented to us by fair or gracious hands.  It was a very grim and minatory book, wielded, as it seemed to one’s childish ignorance, for the purpose which that young priest of St. Sulpice had used the pages of his copy of the Proverbs of King Solomon, that of crushing out the joy of life.

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