“I am waiting,” he said. “Will you tell me a story, Santa Claudia?”
“A story?” Her eyes were watching the curling flames. “What kind shall I tell you? I do not know the kind you like.”
“I would like any kind that you would tell me.”
She leaned her head back against the cushioned chair, and again her lashes seemed to touch her cheek. For a moment the soft silence was unbroken, then she turned her face toward him.
“Very well,” she said. “I will tell you a story. It will be about the man who did not know.”
THE MAN WHO DID NOT KNOW
“Once upon a time there was a man who had to make a journey. He did not want very much to make it; and, not knowing whether it was to be a long journey or a short one, he did not feel a great deal of interest in it. Still it had to be made, and at its end he was to find out whether he had been a good traveler, or a bad one.
“For a long time he did not notice very closely the road he was on. He had been so busy getting ready, first at school, where he studied a great many books that he might be better prepared for traveling, and then in business, where money must be made to give him comfort and pleasure on the way, that he did not have time to look around very much; but after a while he saw that the road was getting very dull and dusty, that most of the flowers were faded and the fruits were not sweet and the birds did not sing as they had sung when first he started out.
“A great many people had been traveling the same way he had. Though they seemed to be having a good time, he had soon seen that most of it was make-believe, and that much of their energy was spent in trying to find something to play with, that they might forget what kind of journey they were on. He did not like these people very specially. He did not know any others, however, and he had kept up with them because they had started out together; but, little by little, he had slipped away from them, and after a while he found that he was walking most of the time by himself. At first he did not mind. The things his friends cared for and talked about did not greatly interest him, and then it was he began to remember that a good many things he had been passing were ugly and cruel, and bitter and unjust. He could not understand why some should travel in luxurious ease while others could hardly get along, their burdens were so great; why some rode in carriages, and others, sick and hungry and tired and cold, could never stop lest they die upon the road; and why some sang and others wept.
“In groups and pairs, and sometimes one by one, they passed him, and as they went by he would look into their faces to see why they were traveling; but, like him, they did not know, they only knew they must keep on. And then one day he saw he had come back to where his journey had begun. He had been on the road to Nowhere—the road that wound round and round.”