The Champion Stone-cutter
: LABOR DAY
: Good Stories For Great Holidays
BY HUGH MILLER
David Fraser was a famous Scotch hewer. On hearing that it had been
remarked among a party of Edinburgh masons that, though regarded as the
first of Glasgow stone-cutters, he would find in the eastern capital
at least his equals, he attired himself most uncouthly in a long-tailed
coat of tartan, and, looking to the life the untamed, untaught,
conceited little Celt, he presented himself on M
nday morning, armed
with a letter of introduction from a Glasgow builder, before the foreman
of an Edinburgh squad of masons engaged upon one of the finer buildings
at that time in the course of erection.
The letter specified neither his qualifications nor his name. It had
been written merely to secure for him the necessary employment, and the
necessary employment it did secure.
The better workmen of the party were engaged, on his arrival, in hewing
columns, each of which was deemed sufficient work for a week; and David
was asked somewhat incredulously, by the foreman, if he could hew.
"Oh, yes, HE THOUGHT he could hew."
"Could he hew columns such as these?"
"Oh, yes, HE THOUGHT he could hew columns such as these."
A mass of stone, in which a possible column lay hid, was accordingly
placed before David, not under cover of the shed, which was already
occupied by workmen, but, agreeably to David's own request, directly
in front of it, where he might be seen by all, and where he straightway
commenced a most extraordinary course of antics.
Buttoning his long tartan coat fast around him, he would first look
along the stone from the one end, anon from the other, and then examine
it in front and rear; or, quitting it altogether for the time, he would
take up his stand beside the other workmen, and, after looking at them
with great attention, return and give it a few taps with the mallet, in
a style evidently imitative of theirs, but monstrously a caricature.
The shed all that day resounded with roars of laughter; and the only
thoroughly grave man on the ground was he who occasioned the mirth of
all the others.
Next morning David again buttoned his coat; but he got on much better
this day than the former. He was less awkward and less idle, though not
less observant than before; and he succeeded ere evening in tracing,
in workmanlike fashion, a few draughts along the future column. He was
evidently greatly improving!
On the morning of Wednesday he threw off his coat; and it was seen that,
though by no means in a hurry, he was seriously at work. There were no
more jokes or laughter; and it was whispered in the evening that the
strange Highlander had made astonishing progress during the day.
By the middle of Thursday he had made up for his two days' trifling, and
was abreast of the other workmen. Before night he was far ahead of them;
and ere the evening of Friday, when they had still a full day's work
on each of their columns, David's was completed in a style that defied
criticism; and, his tartan coat again buttoned around him, he sat
resting himself beside it.
The foreman went out and greeted him.
"Well," he said, "you have beaten us all. You certainly CAN hew!"
"Yes," said David, "I THOUGHT I could hew columns. Did the other men
take much more than a week to learn?"
"Come, come, DAVID FRASER," replied the foreman, "we all guess who you
are. You have had your week's joke out; and now, I suppose, we must give
you your week's wages, and let you go away!"
"Yes," said David, "work waits for me in Glasgow; but I just thought it
might be well to know how you hewed on this east side of the country."