Many years ago, two visitors were sent from realms above, to enter the homes of earth’s inhabitants, and see how much of true happiness and real sorrow there were in their midst. Hand in hand they walked together, till they entered a pleasant valley nestled among green hills. At the base of one of these stood a cottage covered with roses and honeysuckles, which looked very inviting; and the external did not belie the interior.
The family consisted of a man and wife somewhat advanced in years, an aged and infirm brother, and two lovely young girls, grandchildren of the couple.
The pleasant murmur of voices floated on the air,—pleasant to the ear as the perfume of the roses climbing over the door was to the sense of smell. It chimed with the spell of the summer morning, and the sisters knew that harmony was within.
“Let us enter,” said Joy.
Sorrow, who was unwilling to go into any abode, lingered outside.
Within, all was as clean and orderly as one could desire: the young girls were diligently sewing, while before them lay an open volume, from which they occasionally read a page or so, thus mingling instruction with labor.
Joy entered, and accosted them with, “A bright morning.”
“Very lovely,” answered the girls, and they arose and placed a chair for their visitor.
“We have much to be grateful for every day, but very much on such a day as this,” remarked the grandmother.
“You’re a busy family,” said Joy.
“Yes, we all labor, and are fond of it,” answered the woman, looking fondly at the girls. “We have many blessings, far more than we can be grateful for, I sometimes think.”
“Yes, I tell mother,” broke in the husband, “that we must never lose sight of our blessings; in fact, they are all such, though often in disguise.”
At that moment Sorrow looked in at the open door. It was so seldom that she was recognized that she longed to enter.
“You have a friend out there: ask her in,” said the woman.
Joy turned and motioned her sister to enter. She came in softly, and sat beside Joy, while the woman spoke of her family, at the desire of each of the sisters to know of her causes of happiness.
“Yes, they are all blessings in disguise,” she said, “though I could not think thus when I laid my fair-eyed boy in the grave; nor, later, when my next child was born blind.”
“Had you none other?” asked Joy.
“One other, and she died of a broken heart.”
Sorrow sighed deeply, and would rather have heard no more; but Joy wished to hear the whole, and asked the woman to go on.
“Yes, she died heart-broken; and these two girls are hers. It was very hard that day to see the hand of God in the cloud when they brought the body of her husband home all mangled, and so torn that not a feature could be recognized; and then to see poor Mary, his wife, pine day by day until we laid her beside him.”
“But the blessing was in it, mother: we have found it so. They have only gone to prepare the way, and we have much left us.”
The words of the old man were true, and it was beautiful to see the face of his wife as it glowed with recognition.
At that moment the sisters threw back their veils. Such a radiant face was never seen in that cottage as the beaming countenance of Joy; while that of her sister was dark and sad to look upon.
“Oh, stay with us,” exclaimed the girls to Joy, as the sisters rose to depart.
“Most gladly would I, but I have a work to perform in your village; and, beside, I cannot leave my sister.”
“But she is so dark and sad, why not leave her to go alone?” said the youngest girl, who had never seen Sorrow nor heard of her mission to earth before.
Sorrow was standing in the door and heard her remark. She hoped the day would never come when she should have to carry woe to her young heart; but her life was so uncertain she knew not who would be the next whom she would have to envelop in clouds. She sighed, plucked a rose, and pressed it to her nostrils, as though it was the last sweetness she would ever inhale.
“How I pity her!” said the grandmother, her warm, blue eyes filling with tears, as she looked at the bowed form in the doorway.
“Ah, good woman, she needs it; for few recognize her mission to them. She is sent by our master to administer woes which contain heavenly truths, while I convey glad tidings. I shall never leave my sister save when our labors are divided.”
Thus spoke Joy, while tears filled the eyes of all.
Then the kind woman went and plucked some roses and gave them to Sorrow, who was weeping.
“I did not half know myself,” she said, addressing the sad form; “I thought I could see God’s angels everywhere, but this time how have I failed! Forgive me,” she said to Sorrow, “and when you are weary and need rest, come to our cottage.”
Sorrow gave her a sad but heavenly smile, and the sisters departed to the next abode.
“Did you ever see them before?” asked the children of their grandparents after the sisters had gone.
“Often: they have been going round the world for ages,” answered their grandparents.
“But Joy looks so young, grandpa.”
“That’s because she has naught to do with trouble. She belongs to the bright side. She carries good tidings and pleasure to all; while Sorrow, her sister, administers the woes.”
“But Joy is good not to leave her sister.”
“She cannot,” said the grandparent.
“Because Providence has so ordered it that Joy and Sorrow go hand in hand,—pleasure and pain. No two forces in nature which are alike are coupled. Day and night, sunshine and shadow, pleasure and pain, forever.”
“But I should like to have Joy stay with us,” said Helen, the youngest, to her grandparent.
“We shall ever be glad to see her; but we must never treat her sister coldly or with indifference, as though she had no right to be among us; because, though in the external she is unlovely, within she is equally radiant with her sister,—not the same charm of brilliancy, but a softer, diviner radiance shines about her soul.”
“Why, grandpa, you make me almost love her,” said Marion, the eldest, while Helen looked thoughtful and earnest.
The seeds of truth were dropped which at some future time would bear fruit.
It was a large and elegant house at which the sisters stopped next. A beautiful lawn, hedged by hawthorne, sloped to the finely-graded street; while over its surface beds of brilliant flowers were blooming, contrasting finely with the bright green carpet. They ascended the granite steps which led to the portico, and rang the bell. A servant answered the summons, and impatiently awaited their message.
“We would see the mistress of the mansion,” said Joy.
They were shown into an elegant drawing-room, so large they could scarcely see the farther end. It was furnished in a most dazzling style, and gave none of that feeling of repose which is so desirable in a home. After what seemed a long time, the lady of the mansion appeared, looking very much as though her visitors were intruders.
“A lovely day,” said Joy.
“Beautiful for youth and health,” she answered curtly; “but all days are the same to me.”
“You are ill, then,” said Joy, sympathetically.
“Ill, and weary of this life. Nothing goes well in this world: there is too much sorrow to enjoy anything. But,” she added after a brief silence, “you are young, and cannot enter into my griefs.”
“I have come for the purpose of bringing you comfort and hope if you will but accept it,” answered Joy, modestly.
“A stranger could scarcely show me what I cannot find. Be assured, young maiden, if I had the pleasures you suppose I possess, I should not be tardy in seeing them. No, no: my life is a succession of cares and burdens.”
Joy was silent a moment, and then said, “But you have health, a home, and plenty to dispense to the needy, which must be a comfort, at least, in a world of so much need.”
“My home is large and elegant, I admit; but, believe me, the care of the servants is a burden too great for human flesh.”
Joy thought how much better a cottage was, with just enough to meet the wants of life, than a mansion full of hirelings; and she said, hopefully, “Our blessings ever outnumber our woes. If we but look for them, we shall be surprised each day to see how many they are. I am on a visit to earth,” continued Joy, “to see how much real happiness I can find, and help, if possible, to remove obstacles that hinder its advancement. This is my sister, Sorrow,” she continued, turning to her, “who, like myself, has a mission, though by no means a pleasant one.”
The sisters unveiled their faces.
A flush of pleasure stole over the sallow face of the woman as she gazed upon the brightness of Joy’s countenance; but the look quickly faded at the sight of Sorrow’s worn and weary features.
“My sister must tarry here,” said Joy, as she rose to leave.
“Here! With me? Why! I can scarcely live now. What can I do with her added to my troubles?”
“It is thus decreed,” answered Joy. “You need the discipline which she will bring to you.”
And she departed, leaving her sister in the elegant but cheerless mansion.
The mistress of the luxurious home had one fair daughter, whom she was bringing up to lead a listless, indolent, and selfish life,—a life which would result in no good to herself or others.
Sorrow grew sadder each day as she saw the girl walking amid all the beauties with which she was surrounded, careless of her own culture. She felt, also, that she must at some time, and it might be soon, be removed from her luxuries, or they from her. Each hour the fair girl’s step grew heavier, till at last she was too weak to walk, or even rise from her bed.
“All this comes of having that sad woman here,” exclaimed the weeping mother as she bent over her daughter. “I’ll have her sent from the house this day.” And she rang for a servant to send Sorrow away.
After delivering her message to her maid, she felt somewhat relieved.
The servant went in search of Sorrow, but could not find her either in the house, garden, on the lawn, or among the dark pines where she often walked.
Whither had she fled?
All the servants of the house were summoned to the search; but Sorrow was not to be found, and they reported to the mistress their failure to find her.
“No matter,” she replied, “so long as she is no longer among us. Go to your labors now, keep the house very quiet, and be sure, before dark, to lock all the doors, that she may not enter unperceived.”
They need not have bolted nor barred her out; for her work was done, and she had no cause to return.
She was sent to the house of wealth to carry the blight of death. Her mission was over, and she was on her way, seeking Joy.
The young girl faded slowly and died.
The mother mourned without hope, and was soon laid beside her daughter. The home passed into the hands of those who felt that none must live for themselves alone; that sorrows must be borne without murmur; and joys appreciated so well that the angel of sorrow may not have to bear some treasure away to uplift the heart and give the vision a higher range.
Sorrow met Joy on the road that night. There was no moon, even the stars were dim; but for the shining face of her sister, she would have passed her. They joined hands, and walked together till morning broke. They came in sight of a low cottage just as the day dawned.
“Oh, dear!” said Sorrow, as they approached the familiar spot, “how often have I been there to carry woe! Do you go now, Joy, and give them gladness!”
“If it is the master’s hour I will most gladly,” said Joy, looking tenderly on the weary face of her sister, who sat by the roadside to rest awhile while she lifted her heart to heaven, asking that she might no more carry woe to that humble home; and her prayer was answered.
“I feel to go there,” said Joy, as Sorrow wiped her tears away. “Wait here till I return;” and she ran merrily on.
She entered the humble home with gladness in her beaming eyes, and, as she bore no resemblance to her sister, they welcomed her with much greeting; nor did they know but for Sorrow, Joy would not have been among them. She talked with them a long time, and listened patiently to the story of their woes.
Sickness, death, and adversity had been their part for many years.
“But they are passing away,” said Joy, confidently, “and health and prosperity shall yet be among you.”
“We shall know their full value,” whispered a voice from the corner of the room which Joy’s eyes had not penetrated. On a low cot lay an invalid, helpless and blind.
The tears fell from her own eyes an instant, and then sparkled with a greater brilliancy than before, as she said, “And this, too, shall pass away.”
The closed eyes, from which all light had been shut out for seven long years, now slowly opened; the palsied limbs relaxed; life leaped through the veins once more; and she arose from her bed, while the household gathered round her.
A son, who was supposed to have been lost at sea, after an absence of many years returned at that moment, laden with gold and other treasures far greater, than the glittering ore,—lessons of life, which, through suffering, he had wrought into his mind.
Joy departed, amid their tumult of rejoicing, and joined her sister.
The happy family did not miss her for a time; yet when their great and sudden happiness subsided into realization they sought her, but in vain.
They needed her not; for the essence of her life was with them, while she was walking over the earth, carrying pleasure and happiness to thousands; yet doing the work of her father no more than her worn and sad-eyed sister.
Joy and Sorrow by J S Adams in Allegories of Life