My books and I are good old pals:
My laughing books are gay,
Just suited for my merry moods
When I am wont to play.
Bill Nye comes down to joke with me
And, Oh, the joy he spreads.
Just like two fools we sit and laugh
And shake our merry heads.
When I am in a thoughtful mood,
With Stevenson I sit,
Who seems to know I've had enough
Of Bill Nye and his wit.
And so, more thoughtful than I am,
He talks of lofty things,
And thus an evening hour we spend
Sedate and grave as kings.
And should my soul be torn with grief
Upon my shelf I find
A little volume, worn and thumbled,
For comfort just designed.
I take my little Bible down
And read its pages o'er,
And when I part from it I find
I'm stronger than before.
- Edgar A Guest
Never having read after Billy Nye, I cannot comment on his books and though I have read poems by a Stevenson, it may not be the Stevenson in this poem. Nonetheless, my books and I are good ol’ pals.
My brother used to tease me about my book friends. After reading a book, I often told him all the humorous parts or talked over some of the sober portions. If there was a series of books, he became familiar with the names of the characters. One evening he came bounding up the stairs calling, “What are you doin-” He stopped mid-word when he saw me reading and said, “Oh, you are visiting Millie again. How is Charles doing today?” Well, tease as he will, books and animals can be the best of friends.
Recently, I made some new acquaintances, in The Hidden Hand by E. D. E. N. Southworth. The Hidden Hand is the most captivating book I have read in a long time. So captivating that in front of a crackling fire, I scarcely noticed, much less cared about, the dreary, un-welcoming, cold winter day outside. (That is saying a lot for me!) At times, Capitola had me laughing, at other times, one of the others had me soberly pondering.
One funny part was when Capitola was summoned to court to testify against the villains and she said, “Oh, won’t I tell all I know. Yes, and more too!” As funny as it was for Capitola to say this, it is not so humorous that too many people have the nefarious habit of telling more than they know.
Traverse, when he would doctor the poor without getting paid much, would say that he was lending the Lord because he, “liked the security.” I really liked that phrase. So often in youth, money is saved in banks, funds, trusts, and insurances, only to find in mid-life that money sunk into life (or death) polices are dissipating, insurances are not paying bills, and in other ways the money thought to be secured is not secure. But when we lend to the Lord, it is always safe; it is a trust which will never collapse, a security that is forever secure in our old age. Yes, I had rather give to the Lord because I “like the security.”
There were parts of drama as when Capitola, to save her young friend from a forced marriage, dressed in disguise and took her place. I was afraid she was going to go through with the vows which would have been in-pardonable. Instead, when asked, “Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband,” etc., etc., She yanked off the mourning veil reviling her identity and exclaimed, “No! not if he were the last man and I the last woman on the face of the earth . . .”
In the end when Herbert marries Capitola, the author writes, “For Herbert understood well that tranquility could only come from a soft answer to Cap’s sharp-edged tongue. He was not only wise, but a man who loved his wife for who she was and not who he wanted her to be.” This crowned him the wisest character in the whole book. (Unless his wisdom could be questioned in marrying Capitola!)
The book is not without its drawbacks. Old Hurricane has some colorful language, not to be emulated (he reminded me of the young man in the story of Abigail who said Nabal was such “a son of Belial”), and Capitola certainly has some un-desirable character traits. However, there are wonderful little nuggets in the book for the careful reader.
The entire working of the book might be claimed as too much coincident in the average fiction. In this book, the author tries to show it is all arranged by the Hidden Hand - God’s providence. After nearly two decades filled with the deepest sadness and loneliness one of the characters tells Traverse, “I was sinking into an apathy when one day I opened the little Bible that lay upon the table. . .I fixed upon the last three chapters in the gospel of John. That narrative of meek patience and divine sacrificial love! It did for me what no power under that of God could have done. It saved me! It saved me from madness! It saved me from despair!. . .From that hour, this book has been my constant companion and comfort. I have learned from its pages how little it matters how or where this fleeting, mortal life is passed, so that it answers its purpose of preparing the soul for another. I have learned patience with sinners, forgiveness of enemies, and confidence in God. In a word, I have learned the way of salvation, and in that have learned everything. . .”
My head acknowledges the truth that how earthly life is passed means little, whether it be full of trials or otherwise, yet the heart is slow in embracing this at times. Christianity in theory is easier than Christianity in practice.
The book closes with James 5:11, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
The last page has only these words, “To those who have suffered in this life and have borne your pain in silence - there is yet hope.” In the end, it is still fiction; hope, as we think it, may never be realized on this earth, even after eighteen or more years of patient waiting. Yet through it all, God’s un-seen hand directs the course of life. For the Christian, heaven is our home; this world, just a place we are passing through.