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A Worker In Stone
by [?]

At the beginning he was only a tombstone-cutter. His name was Francois Lagarre. He was but twenty years old when he stepped into the shop where the old tombstone-cutter had worked for forty years. Picking up the hammer and chisel which the old man had dropped when he fell dead at the end of a long hot day’s labour, he finished the half-carved tombstone, and gave the price of it to the widow. Then, going to the Seigneur and Cure, he asked them to buy the shop and tools for him, and let him pay rent until he could take the place off their hands.

They did as he asked, and in two years he had bought and paid for the place, and had a few dollars to the good. During one of the two years a small-pox epidemic passed over Pontiac, and he was busy night and day. It was during this time that some good Catholics came to him with an heretical Protestant suggestion to carve a couplet or verse of poetry on the tombstones they ordered. They themselves, in most cases, knew none, and they asked Francois to supply them–as though he kept them in stock like marble and sand-paper. He had no collection of suitable epitaphs, and, besides, he did not know whether it was right to use them. Like all his race in New France he was jealous of any inroads of Protestantism, or what the Little Chemist called “Englishness.” The good M. Fabre, the Cure, saw no harm in it, but said he could not speak for any one’s grief. What the bereaved folk felt they themselves must put in words upon the stone. But still Francois might bring all the epitaphs to him before they were carved, and he would approve or disapprove, correct or reject, as the case might be.

At first he rejected many, for they were mostly conventional couplets, taken unknowingly from Protestant sources by mourning Catholics. But presently all that was changed, and the Cure one day had laid before him three epitaphs, each of which left his hand unrevised and untouched; and when he passed them back to Francois his eyes were moist, for he was a man truly after God’s own heart, and full of humanity.

“Will you read them to me, Francois?” he said, as the worker in stone was about to put the paper back in his pocket. “Give the names of the dead at the same time.”

So Francois read:

“Gustave Narrois, aged seventy-two years-“

“Yes, yes,” interrupted the Cure, “the unhappy yet happy Gustave, hung by the English, and cut down just in time to save him–an innocent man. For thirty years my sexton. God rest his soul! Well now, the epitaph.”

Francois read it:

“Poor as a sparrow was I,
Yet I was saved like a king;
I heard the death-bells ring,
Yet I saw a light in the sky:
And now to my Father I wing.”

The Cure nodded his head. “Go on; the next,” he said.

“Annette John, aged twenty years–“

“So. The daughter of Chief John. When Queen Anne of England was on the throne she sent Chief John’s grandfather a gold cup and a hundred pounds. The girl loved, but would not marry, that she might keep Chief John from drinking. A saint, Francois! What have they said of her?”

Francois smoothed out the paper and read:

“A little while I saw the world go by
A little doorway that I called my own,
A loaf, a cup of water, and a bed had I,
A shrine of Jesus, where I knelt alone:
And now alone I bid the world good-bye.”

The Cure turned his head away. “Go on,” he said sadly. “Chief John has lost his right hand. Go on.”

“Henri Rouget”

“Aged thirty years,” again interrupted the Cure. “Henri Rouget, idiot; as young as the morning. For man grows old only by what he suffers, and what he forgives, and what he sins. What have you to say for Henri Rouget, my Francois?”