I. THE LOST JOY. 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 still.
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 ever?"
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....