THE CHAMPION STONE-CUTTER
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 Monday 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
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
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
"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."