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Indians, who formerly inhabited this valley, had heard it
from their forefathers, to whom, as they affirmed, it had been
mfjrmured by the mountain streams, and whispered by the
wind among the tree-tops. The purport was, that, at some
future day, a child should be bom hereabouts, who was
destined to become the greatest and noblest personage of
his time, and whose countenance, in manhood, should bear
an exact resemblance to the Great Stone Face. Not a few
old-fashioned people, and young ones likewise, in the ardour
of their hop>es, still cherished an enduring faith in this old
prophecy. But others who had seen more of the world
had watched and waited till they were weary, and had
beheld no man with such a face, nor any man that proved
to be much greater or nobler than his neighbours, concluded
it to be nothing but an idle tale. At all events, the great
man of the prophecy had not yet appeared.

" O mother, dear mother! "cried Ernest, clapping his hands
above his head, "I do hof)e that I shall live to see him!"

His mother was an affectionate and thoughtful woman,
and felt that it was wisest not to discourage the generous
hopes of her little boy. So she only said to him, "Perhaps
you may."



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The Great Stone Face 151

And Ernest never forgot the story that his mother told
him. It was alwa3rs in his mind, whenever he looked upon
the Great Stone Face. He spent his childhood in the log-
cottage where he was born, and was dutiful to his mother,
and helpful to her in many things, assisting her much with
his little hands, and more with his loving heart. In this
manner, from a happy yet often pensive child, he grew up to
be a mild, quiet, unobtrusive boy, and sun-browned with
labour in the fields, but with more intelligence brightening
his aspect than is seen in many lads who have been taught
at famous schools. Yet Ernest had had no teacher, save
only that the Great Stone Face became one to him. When
the toil of the day was over, he wovdd gaze at it for hoiurs,
until he began to imagine that those vast features recognised
him, and gave him a smile of kindness and encoturagement^
responsive to his own look of veneration. We must not
take upon us to affirm that this was a mistake, although the
Face may have looked no more kindly at Ernest than at all
the world beside. But the secret was, that the boy's tender
and confiding simplicity discerned what other people could
not see; and thus the love, which was meant for all, became
his peculiar portion.

About this time, there went a nunour throughout the
valley, that the great man, foretold from ages long ago, who
was to bear a resemblance to the Great Stone Face, had
appeared at last. It seems that, many years before, a young
man had migrated from the valley and settled at a distant
seaport, where, after getting together a little money, he had
set up as a shopkeeper. His name — ^but I could never learn
whether it was his real one, or a nickname that had grown
out of his habits and success in life — was Gathergold. Being
shrewd and active, and endowed by Providence with that
inscrutable facultv which develops itself in what the world



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1^2 Stories Every Child Should Know

calk luck, he became an exceedingly rich merchant, and
owner of a whole fleet of bulky-bottomed ships. All the
cotmtries of the globe appeared to join hands for the mere
purpose of adding heap after heap to the mountainous
accumulation of this one man's wealth. The cold regions of
the north, almost within the gloom and shadow of the Arctic
Circle, sent him their tribute in the shape of furs; hot Africa
sifted for him the golden sands of her rivers, and gathered
up the ivory tusks of her great elephants out of the forests;
the East came bringing him the rich shawls, and spices, and
teas, and the effulgence of diamonds, and the gleaming
purity of large pearls. The ocean, not to be behindhand
with the earth, yielded up her mighty whales, that Mr.
Gathergold might sell their oil, and make a profit on it. Ba
the original commodity what it might, it was gold within his
grasp. It might be said of him, as of Midas in the fable,
that whatever he touched with his finger immediately glis-
tened, and grew yellow, and was changed at once into sterling
metal, or, which suited him still better, into piles of coin.
And, when Mr. Gathergold had become so very rich that
it would have taken him a hundred years only to count his
wealth, he bethought himself of his native valley, and
resolved to go back thither, and end his days where he was
bom. With this purpose in view, he sent a skilful architect
to build him such a palace as should be fit for a man of his
vast wealth to live in.

As I have said above, it had already been rumoured in
the valley that Mr. Gathergold had turned out to be the
prophetic personage so long and vainly looked for, and that
his visage was the perfect and undeniable similitude of the
Great Stone Face. People were the more ready to believe
that this must needs be the fact, when they beheld the
SDlendid edifice that rose, as if by enchantment, on the site



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The Great Stone Face 153

of his father's old w.eather-beaten farmhouse. The ex-
terior was of marble, so dazzlingly white tUtit it seemed as
though the whole structure might melt away in the sunshine,
like those humbler ones which Mr. Gathergold, in his young
play-days, before his fingers were gifted with the touch ol
transmutation, had been accustomed to build of snow. It
had a richly ornamented portico, supported by tall pillars,
beneath which was a lofty door, studded with silver knobs,
and made of a kind of variegated wood that had been brought
from beyond the sea. The windows, from the floor to the
ceiling of each stately apartment, were composed, respective-
ly, of but one enormous pane of glass, so transparently pure
that it was said to be a finer medium than even the vacant
atmosphere. Hardly anybody had been permitted to see
the interior of this palace; but it was reported, and with
good semblance of truth, to be far more gorgeous than the
outside, insomuch that whatever was iron or brass in other
houses was silver or gold in this; and Mr. Gathergold's
bedchamber, especially, made such a glittering appearance
that no ordinary man would have been able to close his eyes
there. But, on the other hand, Mr. Gathergold was now so
inured to wealth, that perhaps he could not have closed his
eyes unless where the gleam of it was certain to find its way
beneath his eyelids.

In due time, the mansion was finished; next came the
upholsterers, with magnificent fumitiire; then, a whole troop
of black and white servants, the harbingers of Mr. Gather-
gold, who, in his own majestic person, was expected to arrive
at sunset. Our friend Ernest, meanwhile, had been deeply
stirred by the idea that the great man, the noble man, the
man of prophecy, after so many ages of delay, was at length
to be made manifest to his native valley. He knew, boy as
he was, that there were a thousand ways in which Mr.



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154 Stories Every Child Should J^naw

Gathergold, with his vast wealth, might transform himself
into an angel of beneficence, and assmne a control over
himian affairs as wide and benignant as the smile of the
Great Stone Face. Full of faith and hope, Ernest doubted
not that what the people said was true, and that now he was
to behold the living likeness of those wondrous features on
the moimtain-side. While the boy was still gazing up the
valley, and fancying, as he alwa3rs did, that the Great Stone
Face retiuned his gaze and looked kindly at him, the rum*
bling of wheels was heard, approaching swiftly along the
winding road.

"Here he comes!" cried a group of people who were
assembled to witness the arrival. "Here comes the great
Mr. Gathergoldl"

A carriage, drawn by four horses, dashed round the turn
of the road. Within it, thrust partly out of the window,
appeared the ph)rsiognomy of a little old man, with a skin
as yellow as if his own Midas-hand had transmuted it. He
had a low forehead, small, sharp eyes, puckered about with
innumerable wrinkles, and very thin lips, which he made
still thinner by pressing them forcibly together.

"The very image of the Great Stone Face!" shouted the
people. "Sure enough, the old prophecy is true; and here
we have the great man come, at last!"

And, what greatly perplexed Ernest, they seemed actually
to believe that here was the likeness which they spoke of.
By the roadside there chanced to be an old beggar-woman
and two little beggar-children, stragglers from some far-oflF
region, who, as the carriage rolled onward, held out their
hands and lifted up their doleful voices, most piteously
beseeching charity. A yellow claw — the very same that had
clawed together so much wealth — spoked itself out of the
coach-window, and dropt some copper coins upon the



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The Great Stone Face 155

ground; so that, though the great man's name seems to
have been Gathergold, he might just as suitably have been
nicknamed Scattercopper. Still, nevertheless, with an
earnest shout, and evidently with as much good faith as ever,
the people bellowed:
"He is the very image of the Great Stone Face!"
But Ernest turned sadly from the wrinkled shrewdness of
that sordid visage, and gazed up the valley, where, amid a
gathering mist, gilded by the last sunbeams, he could stiU
distinguish those glorious features which had impressed
themselves into his soul. Their aspect cheered him. What
did the benign lips seem to say?
"He will comel Fear not, Ernest; the man will come! "
The years went on, and Ernest ceased to be a boy. He
had grown to be a young man now. He attracted little
notice from the other inhabitants of the valley; for they saw
nothing remarkable in his way of life, save that, when the
labour of the day was over, he still loved to go apart and
gaze and meditate upon the Great Stone Face. According
to their idea of the matter, it was a folly, indeed, but par-
donable, inasmuch as Ernest was industrious, kind, and
neighbourly, and neglected no duty for the sake of indulging
this idle habit. They knew not that the Great Stone Face
had become a teacher to him, and that the sentiment which
was expressed in it would enlarge the young man's heart,
and fill it with wider and deeper sympathies than other
hearts. They knew not that thence would come a better
wisdom than could be learned from books, and a better life
than could be moulded on the defaced example of other
himian lives. Neither did Ernest know that the thoughts
and affections which came to him so natiunlly, in the fields
%nd at the fireside, and wherever he communed with himself,
^«rc of a higher tone than those which all men shared with



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156 Stories Every Child Should Know

him. A dmple soul — simple as when his mother first
taught him the old prophecy — ^hc beheld the marvellous
features beaming adown the valley, and still wondered that
their himian counterpart was so long in making his
appearance.

By this time poor Mr. Gathergold was dead and buried;
and the oddest part of the matter was, that his wealth which
was the body and spirit of his existence, had disappeared
before his death, leaving nothing of him but a living skeleton,
covered over with a Y^ikled, yellow skin. Since the melt-
ing away of his gold, it had been very generally conceded
that there was no such striking resemblance, after all,
betwixt the ignoble features of the ruined merchant and that
majestic face upon the mountain-side. So the people
ceased to honoiu: him during his lifetime, and quietly con-
signed him to forgetfidness after his decease. Once in a
while, it is true, his memory was brought up in connection
with the magnificent palace which he had built, and which
had long ago been turned into a hotel for the acconmiodation
of strangers, multitudes of whom came, every summer, to
visit that famous natmral curiosity, the Great Stone Face.
Thus, Mr. Gathergold being discredited and thrown into
the shade, the man of prophecy was yet to come.

It so happened that a native-bom son of the valley, many
years before, had enlisted as a soldier, and, after a great deal
of hard fighting, had now become an illustrious commander.
Whatever he may be called in history, he was known in
camps and on the battle-field under the nickname of Old
Blood-and-Thunder. This war-worn veteran, being now
infirm with age and wounds, and weary of the turmoil of a
military life, and of the roll of the drum and the clangour of
the trumpet, that had so long been ringing in his ears, had
lately signified a purpose of retpming to his native valley



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Tlie Great Stone Face 157

hoping to find repose where he remembered to have left it.
The inhabitants, his old neighbours and their grown-up
children, were resolved to welcome the renowned warrior
with a salute of cannon and a public dinner; and all the more
enthusiastically, it being afl&rmed that now, at last, the like-
ness of the Great Stone Face had actually appeared. An
aide-de-camp of Old Blood-and-Thunder, travelling through
the valley, was said to have been struck with the resemblance.
Moreover the schoolmates and early acquaintances of the
general were ready to testify, on oath, that, to the best of
their recollection, the aforesaid general had been exceedingly
like the majestic image, even when a boy, only that the idea
had never occurred to them at that period. Great, there-
fore, was the excitement throughout the valley; and many
people, who had never once thought of glancing at the Great
Stone Face for years before, now spent their time in gazing
at it, for the sake of knowing exactly how General Blood-
and-Thunder looked.

On the day of the great festival, Ernest, with all the other
people of the valley, left their work, and proceeded to the
spot where the sylvan banquet was prepared. As he ap-
proached, the loud voice of the Rev. Dr. Battleblast was
heard, beseeching a blessing on the good things set before
them, and on the distinguished friend of peace in whose
honour they were assembled. The tables were arranged in
a cleared space of the woods, shut in by the surrounding
trees, except where a vista opened eastward, and afforded a
distant view of the Great Stone Face. Over the general's
chair, which was a relic from the home of Washington, there
was an arch of verdant boughs, with the laurel profusely
intermixed, and surmounted by his country's banner,
beneath which he had won his victories. Our friend Ernest
raised himself on his tiptoes, in hopes to get a grlimpse of th#



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j$$ Stories Every Child Should Know

celebrated guest; but there was a mighty crowd about the
tables anxious to hear the toasts and speeches, and to catch
any word that might fall from the general in reply; and a
volunteer company, doing duty as a guard, pricked ruthlessly
with their bayonets at any particulariy quiet person among
the throng. So Ernest, being of an unobtrusive character
was thrust quite into the background, where he could see no
more of Old Blood-and-Thunder*s physiognomy than if it
had been still blazing on the battle-field. To console him-
self, he turned towards the Great Stone Face, which, like a
faithful and long-remembered friend, looked back and
smiled upon him through the vista of the forest. Meantime,
however, he could overhear the remarks of various indi-
viduals, who were comparing the features of the hero with
the face on the distant mountain-side.

"'Tis the same face, to a hair!" cried one man, cutting
a caper for joy.

** Wonderfully like, that's a fact!" responded another.
''Like! why, I call it Old Blood-and-Thunder himself,
in a monstrous looking-glass!" cried a third. "And why
not ? He's the greatest man of this or any other age, beyond
a doubt."

And then all three of the speakers gave a great shout,
which commimicated electricity to the crowd, and called
forth a roar from a thousand voices, that went reverberating
for miles among the mountains, until you might have sup-
posed that the Great Stone Face had poured its thunder-
breath into the cry. All these comments, and this vast
enthusiasm, served the more to interest our friend; nor did
he think of questioning that now, at length, the mountain-
visage had found its human counterpart. It is true, Ernest
had imagined that this long-looked-for personage would
appear in the character of a man of peace, uttering wisdom,



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The Great Stone Face 159

and doing good, and making people happy. But, taking
an habitual breadth of view, with all his simplicity, he con-
tended that Providence should choose its own method of
blessing mankind, and could conceive that this great end
might be effected even by a warrior and a bloody sword,
should inscrutable wisdom see fit to order matters so.

"The general! the general!" was now the cry. "HuA!
sDence! Old Blood-and-Thimder's going to make a speech."

Even so; for, the cloth being removed, the general's
health had been drunk amid shouts of applause, and he now
stood upon his feet to thank the company. Ernest saw him.
There he was, over the shoulders of the crowd, from the two
glittering epaulets and einbroidered collar upward, beneath
the arch of green boughs with intertwined laurel, and the
banner drooping as if to shade his brow! And there, too,
visible in the same glance, through the vista of the forest,
appeared the Great Stone Face! And was there, indeed,
such a resemblance as the crowd had testified ? Alas, Ernest
could not recognise it! He beheld a war-worn and weather-
beaten countenance, full of energy, and expressive of an iron
will; but the gentle wisdom, the deep, broad, tender sym^
pathies, were altogether wanting in Old Blood-and
Thunder's visage; and even- if the Great Stone Face had
assumed his look of stem command, the milder traits would
still have tempered it.

" This is not the man of prophecy," sighed Ernest, to himr
self, as he made his way out of the throng. " And must
the world wait longer yet ?"

The mists had congregated about the distant mountars?'
side, and there were seen the grand and awful features of
the Great Stone Face, awful but benignant, as if a might;
angel were sittmg among the hills, and enrobing himself in
a cloud-'^'^ture of gold and purple. As he looked, Ernest



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i6o Stories Every Child Should Know

could hardly believe but that a smile beamed over the whole
visage, with a radiance still brightening, although without
motion of the lips. It was probably the effect of the western
sunshine, melting through the thinly diffused vapours that
had swept between him and the object that he gazed at.
But — as it always did — ^the aspect of his marvellous friend
made Ernest as hopeful as if he had never hoped in vain.

"Fear not, Ernest," said his heart, even as if the Great
Face were whispering him — "fear not, Ernest; he will
come."

More years sped swiftly and tranquilly away. Ernest
still dwelt in his native valley, and was now a man of middle
age. By imperceptible degrees, he had become known
among the people. Now, as heretofore, he laboiured for
his bread, and was the same simple-hearted man that he
had always been. But he had thought and felt so much,
he had given so many of the best hours of his life to un-
worldly hopes for some great good to mankind, that it
seemed as though he had been talking with the angels, and
had imbibed a portion of their wisdom unawares. It was
visible in the calm and well-considered beneficence of his
daily life, the quiet stream of which had made a wide green
margin all along its course. Not a day passed by, that the
world was not the better because this man, humble as he
was, had lived. He never stepped aside from his own path,
yet would always reach a blessing to his neighbour. AU
most involuntarily, too, he had become a preacher. The
piure and high simplicity of his thought, which, as one of its
manifestations, took shape in the good deeds that dropped
silently from his hand, flowed also forth in speech. He
uttered truths that wrought upon and moulded the lives of
those who heard hinL His auditors, it may be, never sus-
pected that EcQe% their own neighbour and familiar friend,



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The Great Stone Face i6i

was more than an ordinary man; least of all did Ernest him«
self suspect it; but, inevitably as the murmur of a rivulet,
came thoughts out of his mouth that no other human lips
had spoken.

When the people's minds had had a little time to cool,
they were ready enough to acknowledge their mistake in
imagining a similarity between General Blood-and-
Thunder's truculent physiognomy and the benign visage
on the mountain-side. But now, again, there were reports
and many paragraphs in the newspapers, affirming that
the likeness of the Great Stone Face had appeared upon the
broad shoulders of a certain eminent statesman. He, like
Mr. Gathergold and Old Blood-and-Thunder, was a native
of the valley, but had left it in his early days, and taken up
the trades of law and politics. Instead of the rich man's
wealth and the warrior's sword, he had but a tongue, and it
was mightier than both together. So wonderfully eloquent
was he, that whatever he might choose to say, his auditors
had no choice but to believe him; wrong looked like right,
and right like wrong; for when it pleased him. he could
make a kind of illuminated fog with his mere breath, and
obscure the natural daylight with it. His tongue, indeed,
was a magic instrument: sometimes it rumbled like the
thunder; sometimes it warbled like the sweetest music.
It was the blast of war — ^the song of peace; and it seemed to
have a heart in it, when there was no such matter. In
good truth, he was a wondrous man; and when his tongue
had acquired him all other imaginable success — when it had
been heard in halls of state, and in the courts of princes and
potentates — after it had made him known all over the world,
even as a voice crying from shore to shore — it finally
persuaded his countrymen to select him for the Presidency.
Before this time — ^indeed, as soon as he began to grow



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i63 Stories Every Child Shotdd Knew

celebrated— his admirers had found out the resemblance
between him and the Great Stone Face; and so much were
they struck by it, that throughout the coimtry this distin-
guished gentleman was known by the name of Old Stony
Phiz. The phrase was considered as giving a highly favour-
able aspect to his political prospects; for, as is likewise the
case with the Popedom, nobody ever becomes President
without taking a name other than his own.

While his friends were doing their best to make him
President, Old Stony Phiz, as he was called, set out on a visit
to the valley where he was bom. Of course, he had no other
object than to shake hands with his fellow-citizens, and
neither thought nor cared about any effect which his progress
through the coimtry might have upon the election. Mag-
nificent preparations were made to receive the illustrious
statesman; a cavalcade of horsemen set forth to meet him at
the boundary line of the State, and all the people left their
business and gathered along the wayside to see him pass.
Among these was Ernest. Though more than once dis-
appointedj as we have seen, he had such a hopeful and con-
fiding natiu-e, that he was always ready to believe in what-
ever seemed beautiful and good. He kept his heart
continually open, and thus was sure to catch the blessing
from on high, when it should come. So now again, as
buoyantly as ever, he went forth to behold the likeness of
the Great Stone Face.

The cavalcade came prancing along the road, with a
great clattering of hoofs and a mighty cloud of dust, which
rose up so dense and high that the visage of the mountain-
side was completely hidden from Ernest's eyes. All the
great men of the neighbourhood were there on horseback;
militia officers, in uniform; the member of Congress; the
sheriff of the coimty; the editors of newspapers; and man^



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The Great SUme Face 163

a farmer, too, had mounted his patient steed, with his Sun-
day coat upon his back. It really was a very brilliant
spectacle, especially as there were numerous banners flaunt-
ing over the cavalcade, on some of which were gorgeous
portraits of the illustrious statesman and the Great Stone
Face, smiling familiarly at one another, like two brothers.


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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 12 of 22)