Again it was long ere Phaon, for his only answer, could repeat softly:
They were trivial words, but they expressed the deep wretchedness which only a child’s heart can feel.
Scarcely had they found their way over the boy’s lips when he pressed his left hand also over his eyes, his breast heaved convulsively, and a torrent of burning tears coursed down his cheeks.
Both children still had their fathers, but they forgot them in this hour.
Who, if the warm sun were extinguished, would instantly remember that the moon and stars remain?
As Phaon wept so violently, Xanthe’s tears began to flow more slowly, and she gazed at him a long time with ardent sympathy, unperceived by the lad, for he still covered his eyes with his hands.
The child had met a greater grief than her own, and, as soon as she felt that she was less sorrow-stricken than her playfellow, a desire to soothe his sorrow arose.
As the whole plant, with its flowers and fruit, is contained in the sprouting seed, so, too, in the youngest girl lives the future mother, who dries all tears, cheers and consoles.
As Phaon remained in the same attitude, Xanthe rose, approached him, timidly pulled his cloak, and said:
“Come down to our house; I will show you something pretty: four young doves have come out of the shell; they have big, wide bills, and are very ugly.”
Her playmate removed his hands from his eyes and answered kindly:
“No, let me alone, please.”
Xanthe now took his hand and drew him away, saying:
“Yes, you must come; the pole of my cart is broken.”
Phaon had been so accustomed to be always called upon whenever there were any of the little girl’s playthings to mend that he obeyed, and the next day allowed her to persuade him to do many things for which he felt no inclination.
He yielded in order not to grieve her, and, as he became more cheerful and even joined in her merry laugh, Xanthe rejoiced as if she had released him from his sorrow. From that time she claimed his services as eagerly as before, but in her own heart felt as if she were his little mother, and watched all his actions as though specially commissioned to do so.
When she had grown up she did not hesitate to encourage or blame him, nay, was often vexed or grieved about him, especially if in the games or dances he paid more attention than she deemed reasonable to other girls, against whom there was much or little objection, nay, often none at all. Not on her own account, she said to herself, it could make no difference to her, but she knew these girls, and it was her duty to warn him.
She willingly forgave many things, but on this point was extremely rigid, and even allowed anger to carry her to the verge of rudeness.
Now, as she stood beside the sepulchre, she thought of the hour when she had comforted him, of her care for him and how it had all been vain, for he spent his nights in rioting with flute-playing women. Yes, Semestre had said so. He seemed to Xanthe lost, utterly lost.