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Image copyright Tess Kincaid
The stonemason breathed a sigh of relief that his task was finished. He wiped his brow and brushed the dust from his work clothes. As he cleaned his work space and packed away his chisels and mallet and his stonemason’s hammer he thought about the figure he had just completed. He knew it was not the best work he had done, but he was getting old – nearly forty-five now and a master mason for twenty years. These days he accepted only small commissions – this one had taken just two weeks – his twisted hands and aching back no longer allowing him to tackle more ambitious projects. His pay reflected that.
No matter, his children were grown and out in the world and now he was on his own he had few needs. He was glad his wife had not lived to see his decline – she had taken such delight in his skill and indeed so had he. Maybe he was being punished for his pride. He sighed. No good thinking like that.
He gazed critically at his work. The face was good, the cheek bones truly chiselled and the mouth delicately cut. The arch of the eyebrows accentuated the sensitivity of the eyes and balanced the long, elegant nose but the rest of the figure had caused him problems. By the time he reached them he was tiring, the arthritis in his hands and spine forcing him to stop again and again to rest.He had intended to return to the hands and the doves, to give them greater finesse, but feared his growing tiredness and clumsiness would do damage rather than good.
Finally he convinced himself that the face was the most important part of the whole, expressing the gentle, selfless spirit of the saint. He hoped his benefactor would agree. It was a pity about the whiskers, though. His chisel had slipped at a crucial moment, giving Saint Francis a cleft chin and matching bifurcated beard. He whispered a prayer of thanksgiving to Saint Stephen, the patron saint of stonemasons, that his wages had already been paid, and heaving his cloth bag of tools over his shoulder, made his weary way out of the chapel.