“What is this in between the leaves of the old book?”
The query came from a small boy who stood by, watching curiously while the choreman and the scrubwoman pursued their reckless path through the peaceful and long untroubled upper shelves in a neglected alcove of the library.
“That is a bookmark, an old-fashioned bookmark,” Aunt Tabitha responded, pausing a moment in her task of superintending and admonishing.
The small boy carefully inspected the decorated bit of cardboard, with its faded background of brocaded ribbon fluttering from either end.
“Why don’t they have them nowadays?” he questioned; but his aunt had vanished, to reprimand the choreman for putting back some twenty volumes of the British Essayists upon the shelves, with titles upside down.
The small boy put the bookmark back and shut it up again in the old musty volume, remarking, —“I guess it is because the people nowadays don’t read such great big books, or if they do, they have n’t time to care about where they leave off, and so it does n’t matter where they begin again.”
“Little books,” — what a multitude of them do yearly make their entry into the reader’s universe. And if one puts them down, how very little it does matter just where one takes them up again. When bookmarks were in vogue, there was no rapid distribution of each season’s “new books,” and the great tidal wave of periodicals had not submerged the reading public. From time to time, grandfather purchased a few new books; he bought them, after careful deliberation and anxious consultation with my grandmother, because they were the best and not because they were the latest publications. When these books made their entry into grandfather’s household, they were received with all the deference due to distinguished and most welcome guests. They were inspected tenderly and critically, and suitable positions assigned them among the other volumes in the library. Then, one by one, they were read with deliberation and thought. They were not skimmed, or tossed aside, to make place for some still more recent comer; they were read slowly and enjoyed; in the calm of those leisure hours which followed the active labors of the day, these literary guests furnished amusement and pleasant recreation. Grandmother read two or three chapters and then put in her bookmark and laid the volume aside.
What did the bookmark indicate ? Perchance it marked something besides the place where grandmother stopped reading. Perchance it marked an epoch in which the word “serenity” was widely understood, and in which readers opened their books with a restful tranquillity. And with the passing of the bookmark, has not the whole attitude towards the book world changed ?