For the Story Teller: Story Telling and Stories to Tell, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey is part of HackerNoon Books Series . You can jump to any chapter in this book here. The Great Stone Face
You had only to lift your eyes, and there it was plainly to be seen, though miles away, with the sunshine brightening all its features.
What was the Great Stone Face?
It seemed as if an enormous giant had sculptured his own likeness on a mountain side. There was the broad arch of the forehead, a hundred feet in height; the nose, with its long bridge; and the vast lips, which, if they could have spoken would have rolled in thunder from one end of the valley to the other. True it was that if you came too near, you lost the outline of the Face and could see only a heap of ponderous rocks, but when you retraced your steps, the wondrous features could be seen again, and the people who lived below it believed that their valley was so fertile because the Great Stone Face looked down upon it lighting up the clouds, and giving tenderness to the sunshine.
Now there was a little boy named Ernest who lived in the valley, and his mother had told him a story that her mother had told to her; a story so very old that even the Indians did not know who had first told it, unless it had been murmured by the mountain streams, and whispered by the wind among the tree tops. This was the story—that, sometime, a child should be born who would become the greatest and noblest person of his time, and his face, in manhood, should be the exact likeness of the Great Stone Face. But though the people had watched and waited until they were weary, no man greater and nobler than his neighbors had they yet beheld.
“Oh, mother, dear mother!” cried Ernest. “I do hope I shall live to see him.”
“Perhaps you may,” said his mother doubtfully.
And Ernest never forgot the story. It was always in his mind whenever he looked upon the Great Stone Face. He grew up in the log cottage, and was dutiful to his mother, and helped her with his little hands and more with his loving heart. From a lad he became a quiet youth, sunbrowned from work in the fields, and well learned, though he never had any teacher except that Great Stone Face which smiled down upon him at night when his work was done.
About this time there went a rumor through the valley that the great man who was to bear a resemblance to the Great Stone Face, had appeared at last. His name was Gathergold, and he was a very rich merchant and owned a whole fleet of ships. All the countries of the world had added to his wealth. The cold regions of the North had sent him furs; hot Africa had gathered the ivory tusks of her great elephants out of the forests; the East had brought him spices and teas and diamonds and pearls. Mr. Gathergold had become so very rich that it would have taken him a hundred years to count his money so he decided to go back and end his days in the valley where he was born.
He ordered a wonderful palace of marble so dazzlingly white that it seemed as if it would melt in the sunshine. When the mansion was done, the upholsterers came with magnificent furniture, and then a whole troop of black and white servants who said that Mr. Gathergold would arrive at sunset.
“Here he comes,” cried the people who were waiting to see him. “Here comes the great Mr. Gathergold!”
A carriage, drawn by four horses, dashed round the turn of the road. Within it sat a little old man with a skin as yellow as his own gold.
“The very image of the Great Stone Face!” shouted the people, but Ernest, who had been watching, too, turned sadly and looked up the valley, where, in the gathering mist, he could see the wonderful Face, and the lips seemed to say:
“He will come! Fear not, Ernest; the man will come.”
The years went on, and Ernest was a young man, still good, and true, and kind. Poor Mr. Gathergold died and was buried, and the oddest part of the matter was that his wealth all disappeared before he died, leaving nothing of him but a skeleton covered with a wrinkled yellow skin; and every one decided that he had never borne the slightest resemblance to the Great Stone Face.
Then a warworn veteran, who had won great honors on the battlefield and was named Old Blood-and-Thunder decided to come back to the valley where he had been born. His neighbors resolved to welcome him with a salute of cannon and a public dinner, for they were all quite sure Old Blood-and-Thunder would bear the likeness of the Great Stone Face.
On the day of his arrival Ernest and all the others left their work and went out to meet Old-Blood-and-Thunder.
“’Tis the same face, to a hair!” cried one man.
“Wonderfully like,” cried another.
Then Ernest saw him. There he was, over the shoulders of the crowd with glittering epaulets and an embroidered collar and there, too, through the vista of the forest appeared the Great Stone Face.
“This is not he,” thought Ernest.
More years passed. Ernest was now an older man. He still laboured for his bread, but he had done so much for his neighbors that it seemed as if he had been talking with the angels and had gotten a portion of their wisdom unawares.
The people of the Valley had found out—after a while—that Old Blood-and-Thunder’s face had not the gentleness of the Great Stone Face and now they said, again, that its likeness was to appear upon the broad shoulders of a great statesman.
Old Stony Phiz, he was called, and while his friends were doing their best to make him President, he set out on a visit to the valley where he had been born.
Ernest and all the others went out to meet him. A cavalcade came prancing along the road, with a clattering of hoofs. There was a band of music, and while the people were throwing up their hats and shouting, an open barouche came by, drawn by four black horses. Inside with his massive head uncovered sat the great statesman, Old Stony Phiz, himself.
“Confess it,” cried some one to Ernest. “The Great Stone Face has met its equal.”
But Ernest turned away disappointed. The eyes and brow of the great man had none of the nobleness of the Face on the mountain side.
And Ernest grew to be an old man, but a strange thing happened. He was no longer an obscure husbandman. Men from the cities began coming to see him to learn from him the things that he had learned from the Great Stone Face, things not put down in books, and he was suddenly become famous.
One day a great Poet came to the Valley and stopped at Ernest’s cottage to ask shelter for the night.
It was Ernest’s custom each evening to talk to the assemblage of neighbors in a small nook among the hills near his cottage. To this spot he and the Poet went at sunset. All about was the pleasant foliage of many creeping plants, while Ernest’s friends sat in the grove at his feet and in another direction could be seen the Great Stone Face with heavy mists about it, like the white leaves around the brow of Ernest.
At that moment Ernest’s face, as he began to speak, grew wonderfully grand, and the Poet threw his arms aloft and shouted,
“Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face.”
Then all the people looked and saw that what the poet said was true. The prophecy was fulfilled.
Through the courtesy of Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin Company, authorized publishers of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works.
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Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin. 2018. For the Story Teller: Story Telling and Stories to Tell. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/58107/58107-h/58107-h.htm#Page_98
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