The great road stretched for miles in both directions and was very crowded. Groups of people on foot traveled steadily onward. Donkeys, heavy-burdened, passed along. A long train of camels, with great bulky loads high on their backs, plodded by.
The boy, David, standing by the side of the road, watched everything with eager eyes. "Someday, I'll follow this road for a long, long way" he thought. "I'll follow it all the way down to the Great Sea, and I'll not stop even there."
His eye fell upon a single figure, walking alone, along the crowded road. "He's a Roman soldier," thought David. "I can tell by the way he's dressed. How I hate the Romans! If it weren't for them we Jews would be free again. Then we wouldn't have to pay their taxes or obey their laws. I hate them all!"
He stared at the Roman soldier who was almost opposite him now in the road. Suddenly, the soldier stopped. He shifted the heavy pack he carried, and eased it down to the ground. Then he straightened up again and stood resting a moment. David still stared at him, thinking angry thoughts. Then, just as the soldier turned to pick up his pack once more, he noticed David standing not far off. "Hey, boy!" he called. "Come here!"
David wanted to turn and run, but he stood frozen in his tracks. No one dared to disobey one of the soldiers of Rome. David went nearer, slowly. The soldier motioned to his pack. "You will carry it for me," he said.
The soldier had already turned away and had started on along the road. He did not even bother to look back to see that David was following him. He knew that he would not dare do anything else.
David followed. The pack was heavy, but David was strong. He swung along easily, but his thoughts were angry. He wanted to throw the soldier's pack down in the dirt and stomp on it. He wanted to shout and rage at that hated Roman soldier striding easily ahead of him. But he could do nothing except follow along, keeping his bitter thoughts to himself. "Just one mile. He can't make me go a step further. Only one mile." The words made a sort of song in his mind in time to his steps. "One mile, one mile..."
Then, as he was plodding along, David suddenly remembered another day when he had walked along this very same road. One day he had gone out a little ways from the city with some of his friends, to find a young teacher of whom they had heard about. They had found him out on a hill side among a large crowd of people. David had stopped with the others to listen to what he said.
"What made me think of him now?" wondered David with one part of his mind. Another part was still repeating over and over, "One-mile-one-mile-one-mile-"
"Of course," he remembered suddenly. "The Master used those very same words. What was it He said about one mile?" He walked on frowning for a moment before he could remember. Then he said the words to himself: "Whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two." That was what He said! David had not paid very much attention to it at the time. He remembered now other things the Master had said. "Love your enemies." "Do good to them that hate you." Then once more David found himself repeating the strangest of them all, "Whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two." "Does he mean--could he mean--like, now?" David puzzled. "But why? Why should I go more than one mile?"
David was so busy thinking that he did not notice that the soldier had stopped, and so he almost ran into him. "You have come one mile," said the soldier. "Give the pack to me."
"I will go on," said David. He did not know why he said it. "It has not been far, and I am not tired."
The Roman soldier stared at him in surprise, and for the first time David really looked into his face. He saw that the soldier was very young. He saw, too, that he was very, very tired, in spite of the straight soldierly way in which he stood.
"You have come a long way," said David.
"Yes," said the other, "a weary way of many miles."
"Have you far to go?"
"I go to Rome."
"So far!" said David. "Then let me carry your pack for another mile.
"You are very kind," said the soldier, but his face was still full of surprise.
So they went on, only now, the Roman soldier waited for David and walked beside him along the road. And suddenly, David found himself talking to the soldier as if they had known each other for a long time, and he told him all about his home and his family. And David listened while the soldier talked of his travels in far away places. They were so busy talking that the distance seemed very short.
"Tell me," said the soldier at last, "how did it happen that you offered to come this second mile?"
David hesitated. "I hardly know," he said. "It must have been what the Master said, I think." Then he told the soldier all that happened out on the hill and all that he could remember of the Master's teaching.
"Strange," said the soldier thoughtfully. "Love your enemies. Do good to those that hate you. That's a hard teaching. I should like to know this Master."
They had come now to the top of a hill and the end of the second mile. David looked back along the road toward his home.
"I must go back," he said. "The hour is late, and my parents will wonder where I have gone."
The soldier took his pack and shouldered it again. The two clasped hands. "Farewell, friend," said the soldier.
"Farewell, friend," answered David, smiling up into the soldier's eyes. Then the two parted.
As David strode back along the road, the words of the Master kept running through his mind: "Whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two." And as he repeated the words he found himself adding, with a strange, deep joy, "It works! It really works!"
It's so very true! I walked one mile with an enemy -- I walked the second mile with a friend."