Amid the starry realms there lived an old philosopher, a man deep in wisdom, who had two daughters, named Truth and Error, whom he sent to earth to perform a mission to its people; and though he knew that their labors must be united, he could not explain to them why two so dissimilar should have to roam so many years on earth together. Well he knew that, though Truth would in the end be accepted by the people, she must suffer greatly. His life experience had taught him that she must go often unhonored and unloved, while Error, her sister, would receive smiles, gifts, and welcome from the majority. It was a sacrifice to part with his much-loved daughter Truth, and a great grief to be obliged to send Error with her. He placed them, with words of cheer and counsel, in the care of Hyperion, the father of the Sun, Moon, and Dawn, who accompanied them in his golden chariot to the clouds, where he left the two in charge of Zephyr, who wafted them from their fleecy couch to the earth.
One bleak, chilly day, the two were walking over a dreary road dotted here and there with dwellings. The most casual observer might have seen their striking dissimilarity, both in dress and manners. Truth was clad in garments of the plainest material and finish, while Error was decked in costly robes and jewels. The step of the former was firm and slow, while that of the latter was rapid and nervous. The bleak winds penetrated their forms as they turned a sharp angle in the road, when there was revealed to them, on an eminence, a costly and elegant building.
“I shall certainly go in there for the night, and escape these biting blasts,” said Error to her sister.
“Although, the house is large and grand,” answered Truth, “it does not look as though its inmates were hospitable. I prefer trying my luck in yonder cottage on the slope of that hill.”
“And perhaps have your walk for naught,” answered Error, who bade a hasty good-by to her sister and entered the enclosure, which must have been beautiful in summer with its smooth lawns, fine trees and beds and flowers. She gave the bell a sharp ring, and was summoned into an elegant drawing-room full of gaily dressed people. Error was neither timid nor bashful, and she accepted the offered courtesies of the family as one would a right. She seated herself and explained to them the object of her call, dwelling largely on the grandeur of her elegant home amid the stars, and tenderly and feelingly upon her relationship with the gods and goddesses, and the numerous feasts which she had attended, so that at her conclusion her hostess felt that herself and family were receiving rather than bestowing a favor.
The evening was spent amid games and pastimes till the hour for retiring, when they conducted her to a warm and elegantly furnished room, so comfortable that it made her long, for a moment, for her sister to share it with her; for, despite the difference in their natures, Error loved her sister. The soft couch, however, soon lulled her to sleep. She, slumbered deeply, and dreamed that Truth was walking all night, cold and hungry, when suddenly a lovely form came out of the clouds. It was none other than Astrea, whom she had seen often in her starry home, talking with Truth. She saw her fold a soft, delicate garment about the cold form of her sister, at the same time saying, in reproving tones, to herself, “This is not the only time you have left your sister alone in the cold and cared for yourself. The sin of selfishness is great, and the gods will succor the innocent and punish the offender.”
She closed, and was rising, with Truth in her arms, to the skies, when Error gave such a loud shriek that Astrea dropped her, and a strong current of air took the goddess out of sight. It was well for the earth, which might have been forever in darkness, that Truth was dropped, though hard for her.
Error awoke from her dream, which seemed more real than her elegant surroundings, and resolved to go in search of Truth when the morning came; but a blinding storm of snow and sleet, and the remonstrance of the family, added to her own innate love of ease, left Truth uncared for by one whose duty it was to seek her.
The days glided into weeks, and yet Error remained, much to the wonder of the poorer neighbors around, that Mrs. Highbred should encourage and keep such a companion for her daughters. They could see at a glance that Error was superficial, that she possessed no depth of thought or feeling; and their wonder grew to deep surprise when they saw all the gentry for miles around giving parties in honor of her. Everywhere she was flattered and adored, until she became, if possible, more vain and full of her own conceit.
“You should see the feasts of the gods in our starry realms,” she would say, as each one vied with a preceding festivity to outshine its splendor.
After Error left her sister, Truth walked slowly and thoughtfully towards the cottage on the hill-side. She went slowly up the path, which wound in summer by beds of roses, to the door, and rapped gently. It was opened by a fair and beautiful woman, who bade her “walk in” in tones which matched the kindness of her features. The next moment Truth felt her gentle hands removing her hood and cloak, and felt that she was welcome. A table covered with a snowy cloth stood in the centre of the room, on which was an abundant supply of plain, substantial food, more attractive to a hungry traveler than more costly viands. A chair was placed for her by the bright fire, while the air of welcome entered her soul and drew tears from her deep, sad eyes. It was so seldom she was thus entertained—so often that the manner of both high and low made the highway pleasanter than their habitations. How often had she walked alone all night unsheltered, while Error, her sister, reposed on beds of down! The sharp contrast of their lives was the great mystery yet unrevealed. It cost her many hours of deep and earnest thought.
It was so rare that any one gave her welcome that her gratitude took the form of silence. For an instant the kind woman thought her lacking; but when her grateful look upturned to hers, as she bade her sit at the table and partake of the bounties, all doubt of her gratitude departed.
Truth slept soundly all night, and arose much refreshed by her slumbers. The storm of the day would not have detained her from continuing her journey; but the warm and truthful appeal of the woman, who felt the need of such a soul as Truth possessed with whom to exchange thoughts, induced her to remain that day, and many others, which slipped away so happily, and revealed to her that rest as well as action is needful and right for every worker.
Truth became a great favorite among the poorer classes of the neighborhood, as she always was whenever they would receive and listen to her words; and it was not long before people of thought, rank, and culture began to notice her and court her acquaintance.
Mrs. Highbred, hearing of her popularity, concluded to give a party and invite her.
Error had never spoken of the relationship between them until the day the invitations were sent. Then, knowing she could no longer conceal the past, she availed herself of the first opportunity to communicate the same to her hostess. Great was the surprise of Mrs. Highbred and her household to learn that the quiet stranger at the cottage was the sister of Error.
“My sister is very peculiar, and wholly unlike myself,” remarked Error to her hostess; “and I fear you will find her quite undemonstrative. Although it is my parent’s wish that I should be with her, you cannot imagine what a relief it has been to a nature like mine to mingle with those more congenial to my tastes, even for a brief period.”
“It must be,” answered Mrs. Highbred sympathizingly, and Error congratulated herself on having become installed in the good graces of so wealthy a person.
“Now,” she said to herself, “I need not go plodding about the world any longer. Truth can if she likes to; and, as she feels that she has such a mission to perform to the earth, she of course will not remain in any locality long. But, thanks to the gods, who, I think, favor me always, I shall not be obliged to roam any longer. Truth never did appreciate wealth or the value of fine surroundings. She’s cast in a rougher mold than I—”
“Ma sends you this set of garnets, and begs you will do her the favor to wear them on the night of the party,” said the bearer of a case of jewels, as she laid them on the table, and bounded out of the room before Error could reply. Indeed, her surprise was too great for words had the child remained. “I wonder what Truth will say when she sees them,” thought Error, as she glanced again and again at the sparkling gems.
Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between Truth and her sister, both in costume and manner, as they stood apart from the company a moment to exchange a few words.
Error was decked in a costly robe of satin of a lavender hue, to contrast with her gems; while Truth was arrayed in white, with a wreath of ivy on her brow, and the golden girdle around her waist which her father gave her at parting. She wore no gems save an arrow of pearl which Astrea gave her when they parted at the gate of clouds, kept by the goddesses named the Seasons, which opened to permit the passage of the celestials to earth and to receive them on their return.
The simple dress and manners of Truth won the admiration of a few, while the majority paid tribute to Error, who kept her admirers listening to her wonderful adventures amid the region of the stars. Truth spoke but seldom; but what she uttered was food for thought, instead of a constellation of merely dazzling words.
A careful observer might have seen that the elder members lingered, attracted by her simple charms, near Truth, as did also the youngest portion of the company, while youth and middle age could not divine her sphere of pure and earnest thought. The few who sought her would gladly have continued the acquaintance, and they invited her to their dwellings; but on the morrow she would set forth on her journey, feeling that she had implanted in the minds of a few the love of something beyond externals and mere materialisms.
Her earthly mission was to traverse hill and plain throughout the land, and sow seeds of righteousness which would spring up in blossoms of pearl long after her weary feet had traversed other lands and sown again in the rough places the finer seeds.
At early dawn Truth went forth from the cottage and the kind woman who had sheltered her. They had enjoyed much together in their mutual relation. Trust met trust, hope clasped hope, and each was stronger for the soul exchange.
When the sun rose in the heavens Truth was on her way, while Error, tossed in feverish dreams upon her bed, thought the Sun was angry with her, and was sending his fierce rays upon her head to censure or madden her. But he was only trying to waken her and urge her to go on with her sister. A sense of relief came when she opened her eyes and found it was, after all, only a dream. Yet the pleasure was brief; for a sharp pain shot through her temples, her brow was feverish, and her pulses throbbed wildly. “Oh, for the pure air and the cool, refreshing grass!” she cried. “Oh, better the highway with its friendly blossoms than this couch of down and this stifled atmosphere which I am breathing!” How she longed for Truth then, to cool her brow with the touch of her gentle hand. “Come back, oh, come to me, Truth!” she cried, so hard that the whole household heard and came to her bedside.
“She is ill and delirious!” they cried in one voice. The family physician was summoned, who pronounced the case fearful and her life fast ebbing.
“For whom shall we send?” said Mrs. Highbred, who was unused to scenes of distress and now longed to have her guest far from her dwelling.
“For her sister Truth,” said one.
“Truth—Truth,” said the physician. “Is it possible?” and he gazed from one to another for revelation.
“Truth is her sister,” said one of the younger members, and added, “I think she is far better and prettier than Error,—”
“Far better, far better,” continued the physician, looking only at the child, and inwardly saying, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings come words of wisdom.”
“I met her on the hill,—the one you call Truth,” he said, in answer to the searching look of Mrs. Highbred, who by manner and inquiry plainly manifested her desire to have an end of the unusual state of things.
“I will go for her. She will return with me,” continued the doctor, “and soon we will find some spot to which we can remove Error.”
A look of relief came over the face of the lady as he departed.
Truth heard not the sound of the horses, nor the rumbling of wheels as they approached, so intent were her thoughts on separation from her sister and her own strange mission to earth; and she scarce sensed whither she was going, when the kind man courteously lifted her into his carriage. But when she stood by the fevered, unconscious form of Error, a few moments later, all her clearness of thought was at her command.
“Carry her to the cottage on the hill-side,” she said, as she bound a cool bandage on her sister’s brow.
They bore her there, and, as though in mercy, a dark cloud shut off the sun’s rays, and their fierce glare was obscured during transit from the home of splendor to the humble cottage.
There for many weeks Truth nursed her sister, while the kind hostess and kind neighbors aided by words and deeds through the long night watches.
Error arose from her illness somewhat wiser, and firmly fixed in her determination to follow Truth and share her fate to their journey’s end.
Thus, reader, shall we ever find them together while we dwell on earth, and perchance in the regions above. Let us trust that they are wisely related; and, while we love, reverence, and admire the purity of Truth, let us seek also courteously to endure Error as an opposing force, which, though it may seem for a time to work our discomfort and hinder us in our progress, yet gives us strength, as the rower on the stream is made stronger by the counter currents and eddies with which he has to contend.
Truth and Error – J S Adams in Allegories of Life
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