All day, where the sunlight played
on the sea-shore, Life sat.
All day the soft wind played with
her hair, and the young, young face looked out across
the water. She was waiting-she was
waiting; but she could not tell for what.
All day the waves ran up and up on
the sand, and ran back again, and the pink shells
rolled. Life sat waiting; all day, with the sunlight
in her eyes, she sat there, till, grown weary, she
laid her head upon her knee and fell asleep, waiting
Then a keel grated on the sand, and
then a step was on the shore-Life awoke
and heard it. A hand was laid upon her, and a
great shudder passed through her. She looked
up, and saw over her the strange, wide eyes of Love-and
Life now knew for whom she had sat there waiting.
And Love drew Life up to him.
And of that meeting was born a thing
rare and beautiful-Joy, First-Joy was it
called. The sunlight when it shines upon the merry
water is not so glad; the rosebuds, when they turn
back their lips for the sun’s first kiss, are
not so ruddy. Its tiny pulses beat quick.
It was so warm, so soft! It never spoke, but
it laughed and played in the sunshine: and Love
and Life rejoiced exceedingly. Neither whispered
it to the other, but deep in its own heart each said,
“It shall be ours for ever.”
Then there came a time-was
it after weeks? was it after months? (Love and Life
do not measure time)-when the thing was
not as it had been.
Still it played; still it laughed;
still it stained its mouth with purple berries; but
sometimes the little hands hung weary, and the little
eyes looked out heavily across the water.
And Life and Love dared not look into
each other’s eyes, dared not say, “What
ails our darling?” Each heart whispered to itself,
“It is nothing, it is nothing, tomorrow it will
laugh out clear.” But tomorrow and tomorrow
came. They journeyed on, and the child played
beside them, but heavily, more heavily.
One day Life and Love lay down to
sleep; and when they awoke, it was gone: only,
near them, on the grass, sat a little stranger, with
wide-open eyes, very soft and sad. Neither noticed
it; but they walked apart, weeping bitterly, “Oh,
our Joy! our lost Joy! shall we see you no more for
The little soft and sad-eyed stranger
slipped a hand into one hand of each, and drew them
closer, and Life and Love walked on with it between
them. And when Life looked down in anguish, she
saw her tears reflected in its soft eyes. And
when Love, mad with pain, cried out, “I am weary,
I am weary! I can journey no further. The
light is all behind, the dark is all before,”
a little rosy finger pointed where the sunlight lay
upon the hill-sides. Always its large eyes were
sad and thoughtful: always the little brave mouth
was smiling quietly.
When on the sharp stones Life cut
her feet, he wiped the blood upon his garments, and
kissed the wounded feet with his little lips.
When in the desert Love lay down faint (for Love itself
grows faint), he ran over the hot sand with his little
naked feet, and even there in the desert found water
in the holes in the rocks to moisten Love’s lips
with. He was no burden-he never weighted
them; he only helped them forward on their journey.
When they came to the dark ravine
where the icicles hang from the rocks-for
Love and Life must pass through strange drear places-there,
where all is cold, and the snow lies thick, he took
their freezing hands and held them against his beating
little heart, and warmed them-and softly
he drew them on and on.
And when they came beyond, into the
land of sunshine and flowers, strangely the great
eyes lit up, and dimples broke out upon the face.
Brightly laughing, it ran over the soft grass; gathered
honey from the hollow tree; and brought it them on
the palm of its hand; carried them water in the leaves
of the lily, and gathered flowers and wreathed them
round their heads, softly laughing all the while.
He touched them as their Joy had touched them, but
his fingers clung more tenderly.
So they wandered on, through the dark
lands and the light, always with that little brave
smiling one between them. Sometimes they remembered
that first radiant Joy, and whispered to themselves,
“Oh! could we but find him also!”
At last they came to where Reflection
sits; that strange old woman who has always one elbow
on her knee, and her chin in her hand, and who steals
light out of the past to shed it on the future.
And Life and Love cried out, “O
wise one! tell us: when first we met, a lovely
radiant thing belonged to us-gladness without
a tear, sunshine without a shade. Oh! how did
we sin that we lost it? Where shall we go that
we may find it?”
And she, the wise old woman, answered,
“To have it back, will you give up that which
walks beside you now?”
And in agony Love and Life cried, “No!”
“Give up this!” said Life.
“When the thorns have pierced me, who will suck
the poison out? When my head throbs, who will
lay his tiny hands upon it and still the beating?
In the cold and the dark, who will warm my freezing
And Love cried out, “Better
let me die! Without Joy I can live; without this
I cannot. Let me rather die, not lose it!”
And the wise old woman answered, “O
fools and blind! What you once had is that which
you have now! When Love and Life first meet, a
radiant thing is born, without a shade. When
the roads begin to roughen, when the shades begin
to darken, when the days are hard, and the nights cold
and long-then it begins to change.
Love and Life will not see it, will not
know it-till one day they start up suddenly,
crying, ’O God! O God! we have lost it!
Where is it?’ They do not understand that they
could not carry the laughing thing unchanged into
the desert, and the frost, and the snow. They
do not know that what walks beside them still is the
Joy grown older. The grave, sweet, tender thing-warm
in the coldest snows, brave in the dreariest deserts-its
name is Sympathy; it is the Perfect Love.”