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.
a challenge to the musty, outworn, proprieties to frown upon her all they please.  From the humblest shop-girl to the greatest lady, there is apparent an intention to be beautiful, sweet maid, and let who will be hum-drum, at whatever cost, by whatever means.  This, of course, at all periods, has been woman’s chief thought, but till recently, in our times, she has more or less affected a certain secrecy in her intention.  She has hinted rather than fully expressed it, as though fearing a certain flagrancy in too public an exhibition of her enchantments.  It has hardly seemed proper to her heretofore to be as beautiful in the public gaze as in the sanctuary of her boudoir.  But now, bless you, she has no such misgivings, and the flower-like effect upon the city streets is as dazzling as if, some fine morning in Constantinople, all the ladies of the various harems should suddenly appear abroad without their yashmaks, setting fire to the hearts and turning the heads of the unaccustomed male.  Or, to make comparison nearer home, it is almost as startling as if the ladies of the various musical comedies in town should suddenly be let loose upon our senses in broad daylight, in all the adorable sorceries of “make-up” and diaphanous draperies.  I swear that it can be no more thrilling to penetrate into that mysterious paradise “behind the scenes,” than to walk up Fifth Avenue one of these summer afternoons, in the present year of grace,—­humming to one’s self that wistful old song, which goes something like this: 

The girls that never can be mine! 
In every lane and street
I hear the rustle of their gowns,
The whisper of their feet;
The sweetness of their passing by,
Their glances strong as wine,
Provoke the unpossessive sigh—­
Ah! girls that never can be mine.

So audacious has Beauty become in these latter days, so proudly she walks abroad, making so superb an appeal to the desire of the eye, thighed like Artemis, and bosomed like Aphrodite, or at whiles a fairy creature of ivory and gossamer and fragrance, with a look in her eyes of secret gardens; and so much is the wide world at her feet, and one with her in the vanity of her fairness—­that I sometimes fear an impending dies irae, when the dormant spirit of Puritanism will reassert itself, and some stern priests thunder from the pulpit of worldly vanities and the wrath to come.  Indeed, I can well imagine in the near future some modern Savonarola presiding over a new Bonfire of Vanities in Madison Square, on which, to the droning of Moody and Sankey’s hymns, shall be cast all the fascinating Parisian creations, the puffs and rats, the powder and the rouge, the darling stockings, and all such concomitant bewitcheries that today make Manhattan a veritable Isle of Circe, all to go up in savage sectarian flame, before the eyes of melancholy young men, and filling all the city with the perfume of beauty’s holocaust.  At street corners too will stand great books in which weeping maidens will sign their names, swearing before high heaven, to wear nothing but gingham and bed-ticking for the dreary remainder of their lives.  Such a day may well come, as it has often come before, and certainly will, if women persist in being so deliberately beautiful as they are at present.

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