THE blind basket-maker knew someone had stopped outside his door. His ears were very sharp and not a sound that echoed through the busy streets ever escaped him. Sometimes people felt that he really saw, so keen was his hearing, so dependable his memory. Then there were his baskets, shelves of them, deftly woven of colored reeds. It was hard to believe that they came from the hands of a man who could not see.
“It’s the baker,” he called out cheerfully. “Why don’t you come inside, John?”
There was a deep laugh and the baker entered, a great hulk of a man, squeezing his way through the narrow entrance with difficulty.
“Some day I’ll come so quietly that you’ll never guess I’m here, Peter. But not today. Today I couldn’t be quiet if I tried.”
The blind man looked up curiously, while his thin fingers stopped their accustomed task of weaving reeds. “You sound as though you had good news, old friend. What is it?”
The baker put two loaves of bread on a nearby table, then clapped the blind man on the back. “My boy came home last night, Peter! What do you think of that?”
“Philip came home?”
“That’s right. You know how we’ve all thought him dead these past five years. Well, he’s not dead, Peter. He’s very much alive. And he’s made a tidy little fortune as a merchant in Algiers. Ah, if you only knew what it means to have him back again!”
The blind man smiled. He understood how his old friend had suffered. Young Philip, a boy of daring and rash spirits, had run away from home five years ago. No word had ever been heard of him since, and those in the city of Bologna who knew the baker were convinced the lad had come to no good.
“I’m very glad for you,” said Peter simply. “I have no family but I can understand how you love Philip. And I’m quite sure….”
“That Philip is back only because of prayer.”
A blank look struck the baker’s face and he made a devout Sign of the Cross. “May God forgive me that I forgot to thank Him!” he murmured. “Of course, Peter. What else but prayer brought Philip back? Yours and mine. And perhaps there were others who thought of me in my trouble.”