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Once upon a time a lowly Pilgrim went forth into the world to look upon the children of men. And as he journeyed staff in hand, with the red dust upon his sandals, and his travel-stained mantle wrapped about him, it chanced that he met a man upon the highway. The man was young and strong, and walked with much self-confidence. In his train were many servants and attendants; many of them carried books beautifully bound in silk and leather, and stamped in gold letters upon the covers were the names of all the great philosophers of our own and ancient times, as well as the names of the world’s Saviors. Others carried Rules and Regulations not a few; Catechisms and Creeds; while some flourished trumpets while they walked. Truly it was a wonderful procession that accompanied the young man, for there was no lack of learning, of color, of sound, or of self-confidence; and all men stood to gaze as it passed by, and the lowly Pilgrim stood to gaze also.

But he—the Pilgrim—being very close to the young man, so close that the fringe of his silken robe brushed the hem of the Pilgrim's mantle, he ventured to speak to him, asking the simple question, “I pray you, sir, tell me, whence comest and whither goest thou?”

And the young man answered with much condescension, "I come from the halls of Learning and the courts of Knowledge, and I, so Well equipped, go forth to search for Opportunity.”

Even as he answered he moved on, speaking the last words over his shoulder. But the Pilgrim stood and looked after the young man, and a strange smile played upon his face as he looked; then he sighed heavily, gathered his mantle around him, and passed on.

Presently he came upon a young man sitting by the Wayside, with bowed head, and clasped hands lying idly upon his knees. And many who hurried by in pursuit of Work or pleasure looked curiously at the man who sat through the burden and heat of the day with idle hands, but none stayed to ask him why. Some wondered Why he sat there, in such a crowded thoroughfare in the very heart of the city, where Pleasure and Woe, Laughter and Lamentation, Work and Play, the Preyer and the preyed upon, passed by every hour of the day. Sometimes the little bare-footed children, with those large sad eyes that seem to hold the sorrow of ages (so young and yet so old), came close to him and smiled into his face; but he did not see them, and they ran away again to play in the gutter, making believe that they were fine ladies and gentlemen. Once a woman passed him so closely that her frayed garments touched his feet; but he did not hear the dry sobs that broke from her heaving breast, nor did he notice what she held so tightly in the rags that covered her bosom.

And men with hard pale faces passed, men whose lips were set in lines of grim determination, but in Whose deep eyes glowed the fire of God; but he sat on and heeded not.

Then the Pilgrim drew near and said to him, “Young man, I pray thee tell me why sittest thou here all the day?”

And the young man answered, “I wait for Opportunity. Pass on, I pray thee, and question me not, lest that for which I wait pass by and I see it not.”

Then the Pilgrim smiled a sad, sad smile, as he stooped to comfort and to dry the tears of a little child that had fallen close by the young man’s feet before passing on his way. But the young man sat still and waited.

Then the Pilgrim passed into that part of the city where men toiled mightily all through the long day. He wandered about the quays and harbor where great ships unloaded their freight, wiped the sweat of labor from their brows. He passed through the crowded factories where the deafening roar of machinery throbbed on the heated atmosphere hour after hour, and strong men and women sang at their work, and merry men and maidens joked and laughed with one another while they toiled; and where the weak and weary, striving to keep pace with their companions, fainted where they stood, and were ministered unto by their stronger-limbed but gentle-hearted workmates.

So the Pilgrim passed on looking upon the children of men.

After a While he came upon a man with rough hands who worked with heavy tools in the midst of the roaring furnaces, and the glare of the great white fires played upon his earnest face as he toiled. He was young and yet he seemed old; at one moment looking like a youth in the prime of early manhood, but that was when the light from the great furnace fell upon his strong and and stalwart frame; but when he lifted his deep-set glowing eyes-eyes in which one caught the light of an internal fire—he seemed to be an older man. He spake little, and that only when spoken to, though often his lips moved as though he held converse with his own heart or with some unseen presence. There were many others also who toiled in the glare of the great fires, but they were different somehow, and the Pilgrim passed them by in silence till he stood over against the old-young man with the earnest face, and the inward light in his eyes. After looking at him for some time in silence he spake, saying, “Friend, what doest thou?”

And the man lifted his beautiful eyes, and he smiled as he answered, “I prepare for Opportunity.”

And the Pilgrim smiled back into the man's eyes, and he touched him and said, “Follow me!”

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Lily L. Allen

  • Born on December 30th, 1867 at Burrishoole, Eire
  • Wife of author James Allen
  • Wrote many books of her own

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