The pilgrim was, by now, used to the pains and the joys, the prayers, victories, and defeats of the journey. More than one third of the way on the medieval route to Rome, he had been walking for a month when he entered the town. ``Where to get water?'' he asked himself.
A tow-path with a canal and fields on one side, wrought-iron fences, landscaped lawns, and pillared porches on the other. No people. ``I am thirsty, I need water!'' the pilgrim said again. This was swiftly followed by the recollection of why he was on the voyage. ``But, Thy will be done.'' Rome was the excuse, not the goal.
Just before the foot-bridge, the pilgrim spied a lunch-party about a hundred feet away, sitting at a table under a spreading oak. He stopped, unslung his pack, and removed a couple of empty water bottles. ``Eau, s'il vous plait.'' Shortly, a young, well-dressed lady detached herself from the rest. After repeating his request a couple more times (the pilgrims French was not only limited, but also very badly pronounced) she nodded her understanding.
When the lady returned, a boy, perhaps four years old, followed, hiding behind her skirts as they approached. She passed the now full water bottles back through the fence, the child's eyes following her hands. ``Mucho ..., er ..., merci, merci.'' The pilgrim took a quick drink, stowed the water, and hoisted his pack. ``Merci.''
As the pilgrim turned to go, the boy darted forward and rooted among the flowers. After a careful search, he stepped forward with a shy smile and held forth through the iron palisades a smooth stone about the size and shape of a robin's egg. ``Merci, merci beaucoup!'' the pilgrim replied.
And which of us, will he give him even a stone?