Every year at this time, the peasants began their long religious pilgrimage to Geed-leh, to visit the church there, and to pray for God's help. They walked or rode in wagons; they crowded the roads leading to the holy town, for Geed-leh was famous in Poland as a place where God did miracles. The cool autumn days also brought many beggars to Geed-leh. The peasants gave away more of their money on such a religious holiday as this. Some of the beggars were blind, some had no feet or arms. Some were very old and seemed like lost children looking for their mothers.
There was one among them who was called "the Mute Singer". He was given this name because he could not speak. There was a time when he was able to sing, while playing his guitar. But he lost his voice. Now he played the guitar and sang, but no sounds came from his throat. His lips just moved with the music.
The Mute Singer was a tall, strange-looking man. His face and hands were brown, like the color of copper. He had white hair and a white beard: he looked like one of the wise men you read about in the Bible.
Early one morning I saw the Mute Singer washing himself at the river. He smiled and touched the ground with his hand, meaning that I should sit down. Then, he pointed his finger straight up, to tell me that he had a surprise for me.
No one ever saw the Mute Singer at night. Nobody even knew where he slept. But during the day he could be found at the same place, sitting near the church and playing his guitar while his lips moved silently with the music.
Everybody liked the Mute Singer-the peasants as much as the beggars. People threw their pennies into the cups of the beggars sitting on the ground, asking for help. But not so with the Mute Singer. Into his cup, they dropped their pennies gently. He used the shell of a turtle as a cup. He got much more money than the others, but this did not trouble any of the beggars.
At the end of the day, the beggars crowded around the Mute Singer in front of the church. He took a clean white handkerchief from the pocket of his old coat, and put it smoothly on the ground. He made it seem like a religious ceremony. Then he put all his money on the clean white cloth, he made all the beggars an equal share of the money but kept nothing for himself.
Sadly, he looked around at the beggars, covered with dirt and disease. The sun was sinking fast and the peasants had all left the church area. The Mute Singer lowered his head and started to pray; the beggars were on their knees, joining him in prayer.
Then the Mute Singer began to play his guitar, moving his lips with the music. The beggars sat still and listened. The music cut deep into their hearts. It cut through their years of pain and suffering and loss of hope. It made them feel human again. Many of them cried, and with dried old hands wiped away their tears.
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