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The Stone-cutter's Story

The Stone-cutter's Story image
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He was whisthng overliis work, oarctass, from long custom, of the solemn fiíiíficance of the letters he was cutting in the white niarble. The June san was nearly at the end of the day's journey, sinking slowly to rest upon the boBom of the broad Atlantic, whose waves washed the shores of the little seauort town of Monkton. A atranger, handsomely dressed in gray, with large, lustrou.s brown eyes, canie to the fence that was around the place where the stone-cutter worked, and read the lettering, almost completed, upon the tombstone : HIBAM GOLDBY, AgedS5. I.O8T AT SEA, JANUAKY, 1866. The last six was nearly completed. A strange pallor gathered for a moment upun the stranger's face, and then he drew a long, deep breath and said, - " Is not ten years a long time to be cutting letters on a tombstone, friend?" "Eh, sir?" The stone-cutter looked, shading his eyes with his brown hand, as he turned his face to the setting sim. " This is 1876," was the grave reply, and Hiram Goldby must have been ten years under the waves." " Well, sir, that's the question- is he there?" "Is he there? Your stone tells us he is, and bas been for ten years. "Yes, sir, it does - so it does. And yet she has ordered it. She carne over a week or so back with a worried look upon her weet face, that I have never seen anyliing but patiënt in ten long years, and he said to me, ' You may cut a stone, )avy,' she says, 'and put it up ia the hurch-yard, and I don't want to see t. '11 pay you whatever you choose to ask, )avy, she says, 'but ho's not dead, and on't want a tombstone.' 'Lor, mum,' jys I, 'he'd a turned up in all these years ' he was not dead.' But she shook her retty head, the prettiest I ever saw, and be said, "My heart never told me he was ead, Davy, and 111 never believe it till my heart tulls me nn.' " "His sweetheart?" questioned the straner. "His wife, sir,- his loving, faithful wife, nat'a had poverty, and loneliness, and misery her full share, and luight ha' betered herself." "How was that?" ' Mr. Miles, sir, the richest. shipowne hereabouts, ho waited patiently for seve long years, trying to win her. Then h said that she was free even if Hiram did come back." "Enoch Arden," muttered the stranger "What did you say, sir?" "Notbine, nothing. What answer did she make Mr. Milos?" "'If Hiram's dead,' said she, Tin hi faithful widow while I live. If Hiram' living, I'm his faithful wife.' Maybe you are from the city, sir, and have uot hean the story of our Pearl?" jWhat story is that?" " Well, sir, ita been told many times more particularly in the last year, bu you're welcome to what I know of it There, that six is done, and 111 leave the scripture text till morning. lf you'll come to the gateway aud take a seat on some o the stones, I'll teil you, that is, if you care to hear it." "I do care," was the grave reply ; " want very much to hear the story." "Maybe you're some kin to the Pearl o Monkton- that's wbut they cali Mrs. Gold by hereabouta. It's a matter of thirty three years back, sir, that there was a wreek off Monkton rocks, that you can see fron herc, Hr, now tide's low. Cruel rocks thcy are, aud luany a wreek they've eeen, thi more pity. You see then,, sir ? "I see them." " Well, sir, this one wrtck, thirty three years ago, there was nothin? washed ashorc but a bit of a girl-baby, three or foor years oíd, with a skin like a lilly leaf, and grea black eyes. Hiram Goldby found her on the rocks. He was a boy of twelve years strong and t all, and he cairied the child in bis anus to his moiher. You uiay see the cottage, sir, the second white one on the bide of the hill." "Well, Hiram took tlie baby there, and Mrs. Golby was the same as a motber to her- a good woiuan, God bless her soul - tin: widow Golby." "Ls she dead, then?" "Aye, sir, six years agone. The baby I was telling you of, sir, talked a foreign lingo, and was dressod in rich clothes that must have cot a power of monev. Hut never would lliraui or the widow sell them, putting theui up carefully in case the child was ever looked for. She was that pretty, sir, and that dainty, that everybody called her Peail, though she was not like our girls, but afraid, always deidly afraid of the sea. I have :-een her clench her mite of a hand and strike at it, for she had a bit of temper in her, though uothing to harni. ,' When llirain mado his first voyage, for they were all seafaiïng men hereabouts, and there was nothing for a lad to do but ship, the Pearl was just a little washedout lily, fretting until he come home again. And it was so whenever he went, for they were sweetheaits from the first time he nestled her baby face on his breast, when he picked her up from the wreek. She was sixteen wheu they were married, as uear as we could guess ; Hiram was a man of' twenty-four. She prayed him to stay borne then, and he staid a year, but he fretted for the sea, and he went again, thinking, I s'iiose, tbat his wife would get used to it, as all wives hereabouts must do. But she never did - never. It was juat pitiable to see her go about, white as a corpse, when Hiram went away, never looking at the sea without a shudder like a death chili. All through the war it was just awlül, for Hiram enlisted on board a inan-o'-war, anil Pearl was just a shadow when he carne homo the last time." "Afterthe war?" "Yes, sir; but he made no money of any account, and so he went again, afier staying at home a long spell. Well, he never carne back. 'Twasn't no manner of use atelling Pearl be was lost ; she'd just shake her pretty head and say : ' He'll come back.' Not a iiiile of mourning would she wear, even after his own niother gave him up and put on black ; for, uir, it stands to reason he's dead years ago." "It loóks so." "Of course it does; nobody else doubts it but Mrs. Goldl.y. Old Mrs. Goldby's last words were: Tin going to meet Hiram,' and they say the dying know. But even then that didu't make Pearl think so. She wore monrning for her who haa been the only mother she knowed of, but no wteds. Weeds was for widows, she said, and she wasn't a widow." "But the btone?" "Well, sir, I'm coming to that. A year ago, sir, a fine gentleman from France carne here hunting for a child lost on this coast. He'd heard of Pearl by happen chances, if there is such, and cauie heic. When he saw the clothes he just fuinted like a woraan." "She was related, then?" The stranger's voice was husky, but the sea air was growing chili. "Her father, sir." "f Ie took her away?" "He tried to. He told her of a splendid home he had in New York, for he'd followed his wife and child, sir, to a city they bad never reached. He was rich and lonely. He begged his child to go, but ghe would not. 'Hiram will come here for me,' she said, 'aud he will fiud me where be left me.' " "On what has sholi ved?" "Sewing, sir, mostly. The cottage was old Mrs. Colby's, and bless you, Pearl did not eat much more than a bird, and her dresáes cost to nothing. But there's no donying she was very poor, - very, and yet the grand house and big fortune never Lempted her. So her father came on and on to sec her, until April. And he died, i-ir, and left our Pearl all bis fortune and the grand house in New York. But she'll not go, air, she'll die here, waiting for Hiram, who'U never come." The stranger lifted his faco that had been mil' bidden in his hand and said: "There was a shipwreck in the Pacific ocean, Davy, years and years ago, and one naii only was saved- saved, Davy, by savages, who made him a slave, the wori-t of slaves ! But one day this sailor saved the ife of the chief's daughter, who was in the coils of a huge snake, and the chief released lirn. More than that, he gave him choice spices and woods and sent him aboard the irst passing ship. So the sailor landed in agreatcity, sold bis preseuts aud put the gold in saté keeping. Then he traveled ill he reachod the seaport town where he ias bom, and coming theie at sunset, leard the story of his life from the lips of a man cutting his tombstone." Not a word spoke Davy. Standing erect, ie seized an immense sledge hammer, and with powerful blows from strong, uplifted Rrms, dashed the marble into fragments. ['hen, panting with exertion, he held out lis hand to the stranger - a stranger no onger. 'Tve done no better work in my life han I've done in the last five minutes, liram. Go home, man, and make Pearl's leart glad. She don'tneed it, Hiram - she ion't need it. Yuu asked me about the tone. The neighbors drove her to orderng it, twitting her that now she was rich, he grudged the stone to her husband's memory. So she told me to cut it, but ays, 'Don't put dead upon it, Davy- put ost at sea ; for lliram's lost, but he'll be bund and come baok to me.' She nevor ooked at it, üiram, uever. Aud thure'ii not an hour, nor uasn't been for ton years, hat she hasn' t been looking for you to come ack. Go to her, man, and the Lord's )lessings be upon both of you." So, grasping the hard, brown hand, Hiraui Goldby took the path to the little white cottage in which he had been born törty five years before. The sun had set and the darkness was gathering, but a little gleam of light streamed froin the window of his cottage. Hb drew near eoftly, and standing on the seat of the porch, looked over the half curtain into the neat, but poor sitting-room. It was not the grand home, Pearl's heritage in New York, but Peatl herself was there. A slender woman, with a palé, sweet face, and black hair smoothly hamled and gathered into rich braids at the back of' her shapely head. Her dress was a plain dark one, with white ruffles, cuffs, and an apron. She has been sewing, but her work was put aside, and presently she came to the open window and drew aside the curtain. She did not see the tall figure drawn closely against the wall in the narrow porch ; but the dark eyes looked mournf 'ully toward the sea, glimtnering in the half light. "'My darling !" she whispered, "areyou dead, and has your spirit come to take mine where we shall part no more 't" Ooly the wash of the waves below answered hor. Sighing softly, she said : "Is my darling coming ? I f'eel him so near to me, I could almost grasp him." 8he stretched out her aruis over the low window sil!, and a low voice answered her' "l'earl! Pearl!" The arms that so long grasped only empty air, were filled then, as Hiramstood under the low window. "Ho not move, love," she whispered, pressing her soft lips to his; "1 always wake when you move." "But now," he said, "you are already awakc. See, Pearl, your trust was heavengiven. It is myself, your fond, true husband, little one, who will never leave you again." "Is it truel You have ooiue !" phecried at last bursting into a torrent of happy tears. "I knew you were not dead. You could Dot be dead and my heart not teil me." It was long before they could think of anything but the happiness of re-union after the many years of separation, but at last, drawiug l'earl cloBor, Hiram whispered : "I walked frotn J , love, and am enormously hungry." And l'earl's nierry laugh cha.od the last shadows from her happy faoe, and she bustled about the room preparing Mipper. "Supper lor twol" she cried gleefully. The grand house in New York is tenanted by its owners, and Hiram goes to sea no more ; but in the suminer time two happy people come for a quiet month to the little white cottage at Monkton, and have always to listen to Davy's tale of the evening when he was eutting Hiram Goldby' s tombstone, and ended by smashing it into atoms. "For," is the invariable ending of the tale, "Pearl was right and we were wrong, all of us ; for Hiram Goldby was lost at sea, sure enough, but he was not dead, and he came to her raithful love as she always said he would."


Old News
Ann Arbor Courier