For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Bandits And Angels

Listen. Here is a little story. A little story about something lost and something found. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Once upon a night in my simple lodgings on the long and winding road called the Chemin de Saint-Jacques or the Camino de Santiago or simply the Way, someone stole €50 from me. I knew who he was. He was not a true pilgrim. I never saw him again.

The very next day, as I was ambling along, thinking idle, inconsequential thoughts, delighting in the mild autumn weather (nights were freezing cold, mornings often frosty and/or misty, but usually by lunchtime the sun was out, the sky was blue and it was warm), wondering how soon I dared eat my packed lunch (it was always advisable to eat this as late as possible as 1 km before lunch invariably seemed like 2 km after)... Hey, where was I? I've lost my thread. Ah, yes, I remember. I was ambling along, doing all those things - when suddenly I came upon a lady in distress.

She looked distraught. She looked disconsolate. She looked distractedly in the vegetation beside the path, searching this way and that. When she saw me approaching she hurried to meet me. "I lost my car key while walking the dog," she explained. "I've been looking for ages but I can't find it. It's hopeless. My dog's lying by my car back there - she gestured behind her - utterly exhausted. She can't possibly walk home. And we live miles from here. Have you a mobile phone?"

I said I had and put it in her hand. She phoned her neighbour but her neighbour did not answer. She gave me back the phone in despair. "I really don't know what to do" she wailed. I thought for a few moments. I scanned the grass. It was an impossible task. Then I thought again. I tried to think logical thoughts. I realized that this lady was just a little neurotic, a bit haphazard, slightly vague. So I said to her: "Just turn out your pockets in case your key's in there. You never know." With a sigh she tumbled out the contents of her jacket's right-hand pocket - chewing gum, cigarettes, tissues, dog biscuits, lipstick... and a car key.

She squealed with joy. She hugged me. She kissed and embraced me. She said it was a stroke of fate I had passed by at that moment. She said I was a manifestation of her guardian angel. And other such things. And we both returned to her car and she placed the key in the lock and it fitted perfectly and she thanked me again. Her expression had transformed itself into one of pure happiness and relief.

Then she took her wallet from the left-hand pocket of her jacket and she pressed a €20 note into my hand, insisting absolutely that I took it, she would not take it back if I refused it, in fact she would be insulted, it could pay for my night's lodging etc etc; and she gave me her address and telephone number, and said that, if I was ever in the area on holiday next year or the year after or the year after that, I must look her and her husband up, and they would welcome me, and make me a meal.

So I lost €50 and I gained €20 within the space of 2 days. I don't quite know the meaning of this story except to say, as I've said before, that there are bandits as well as angels, angels as well as bandits on the Chemin or the Camino or the Way, just as there are in 'real life'...

3 comments:

am said...

I love stories within stories. Thanks so much, solitary walker!

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I love stories too. It's what we do, as human beings. Tell stories, that is. Each day is a story in itself. And, incidentally, all my Camino stories are true stories. Which may matter, or may not...

dritanje said...

Oh, this is wonderful! My thoughts are with the poor distracted lady, as well as with the amazingly cool and logical and compassionate angel who solved her problem - you! As well as the way it worked - that you lost money and then received some, such mysterious ways of the world.