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THE STATUE


A TRAVELER came to a certain great city, and as he entered through one of its wide gates a passer-by spoke to him.

"Welcome, sir," said the citizen. "I saw by your dress that you were a stranger, and make bold to accost you."

"Your welcome is most courteous," answered the traveler, "and I thank you for it."

"You must not fail to see the statue in our market-place," said the citizen. "We take great pride in it, and for my part I consider myself fortunate in being one of the community that owns so fine a work of art and so grand a memorial."

"I shall certainly take pains to see it," answered the traveler, bowing to the citizen as he passed on.

So when the traveler had made his way into the city, he paused for a moment, wondering in which direction the market-place lay. As he stood in doubt, another citizen presented himself, hat in hand.

"You seem unfamiliar with our city," said the new-comer, politely. " If you are seeking the market-place I can easily direct you to it."

"You are right in your supposition," said the traveler.

"Naturally," said the citizen, smiling. "All the world comes to see our great statue; and I have pointed out the way to many. It would be strange if I did not know it, for it was I who proposed the setting up of the statue in the market-place. I am fortunate enough to be one of the town council."

"My respects to you," said the traveler, saluting him.

"Follow this straight course," said the councilman, pointing, "and ask again when you come to the open park."

Bidding the citizen good day, the traveler proceeded upon his way; nor did he pause until he had come to the park. Then, as he had been instructed to do, he made further inquiry at the door of a little shop.

"Yes, indeed, I can tell you," said the woman who came to the door, "for it was my husband who designed the pedestal for it. John!—another stranger to see the statue."

"In a moment," said her husband, from the back of the shop. "How do you do, sir?" he asked, as he greeted the traveler. "Your face seems to me a familiar one. Where have I seen you? Never been here before? Ah, I must have been mistaken. A chance resemblance, no doubt! Turn to the right, and follow this wall, and you will soon reach the statue, for which I designed the pedestal, as the good people of this town will tell you."

The traveler withdrew, and walked leisurely along by the wall. At the first corner he met a workingman who was carving a bit of stonework on a fence-post.

"A stranger, sir?" inquired the workman, as the traveler approached. "To see the statue, no doubt?"

"Yes," said the traveler.

"A good bit of work, and well worth your time. Many 's the long day I have worked over it. I carved the block, and never did a better bit of work! Turn to the left—but, wait! Here is a man who can show you the way. Henry!"

As he spoke a man who was driving a heavy wagon drew up near the sidewalk.

"Can you show this gentleman the way to the statue?"

"Can I?—when you know well enough that I drew the statue to its place with this very horse and wagon. Come, my friend, follow me. Or, better still, get up on my wagon and I 'll take you there. You 're lighter than that hewed stone, I warrant!"

So the traveler mounted upon the wagon, and was soon at the market-place, and stood before the statue itself.

As he gazed up at it, another citizen addressed him:

"Admiring the statue, eh? Well, it's a noble bit of art, and a credit to the place. Every stranger says so."

"It seems well done and well kept," replied the traveler, quietly.

"Well kept? To be sure it is well kept! Would the council of the town have me here if I did n't attend to my duty? Perhaps you don't know that I'm the custodian of this work of art? No? Well, I am. Yes, you see before you the statue-keeper. It's a great responsibility; but there, there!—the townspeople don't complain, so I suppose my work is not so badly done."

"Who is it?" asked the traveler.

"Oh, I forget," said the man, unconcernedly. "Maybe I 've heard the name; but I 've forgotten it long since."

The traveler thanked the fellow and gave him a silver coin. Then he departed from out the city. But as he went through the gate in the city wall, there was a boy playing marbles near by, for now the school-hours were over. And as the traveler passed him, the boy looked to see whose shadow fell upon the wall; and then the boy sprang to his feet, and said:

"See! see! 'T is he—the man whose statue stands in the market-place!"

And so it was; but none else in the city knew anything beyond their stone image of the man.

"You were asleep and dreaming in the sun!" the people said, when the boy told his story. And as the traveler never came again, even the boy himself began as he grew older to think it was a dream, so real seemed the statue compared to his faint memory of the great one in whose honor it stood aloft.

 
 
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