The Two Roads
It was New Year’s Night. An aged man was standing at a window. He raised his mournful eyes towards the deep blue sky, where the stars were floating like white lilies on the surface of a clear calm lake. Then he cast them on the earth, where few more hopeless people than himself now moved towards their certain goal — the tomb. He had already passed sixty of the stages leading to it, and he had brought from his journey nothing but errors and remorse. Now his health was poor, his mind vacant, his heart sorrowful, and his old age short of comforts.
The days of his youth appeared like dreams before him, and he recalled the serious moment when his father placed him at the entrance of the two roads — one leading to a peaceful, sunny place, covered with flowers, fruits and resounding with soft, sweet songs; the other leading to a deep, dark cave, which was endless, where poison flowed instead of water and where devils and poisonous snakes hissed and crawled.
He looked towards the sky and cried painfully, “O youth, return! O my father, place me once more at the entrance to life, and I’ll choose the better way!” But both his father and the days of his youth had passed away.
He saw the lights flowing away in the darkness. These were the days of his wasted life; he saw a star fall down from the sky and disappeared, and this was the symbol of himself. His remorse, which was like a sharp arrow, struck deeply into his heart. Then he remembered his friends in his childhood, who entered on life together with him. But they had made their way to success and were now honoured and happy on this New Year’s Night.
The clock in the high church tower struck and the sound made him remember his parents’ early love for him. They had taught him and prayed to God for his good. But he chose the wrong way. With shame and grief he dared no longer look towards that heaven where his father lived. His darkened eyes were full of tears, and with a despairing effort, he burst out a cry: “ Come back, my early days! Come back!”
And his youth did return, for all this was only a dream which he had on New Year’s Night. He was still young though his faults were real; he had not yet entered the deep, dark cave, and he was still free to walk on the road which leads to the peaceful and sunny land.
Those who still linger on the entrance of life, hesitating to choose the bright road, remember that when years are passed and your feet stumble on the dark mountains, you will cry bitterly, but in vain: “O youth, return! Oh give me back my early days!”