The Stone by
From The Pictorial Review
Martha Sloan is goin' the way o' Jim, said Deems Lennon to his
wife. See, and he pointed through the open window toward the
cemetery. I seen her before Jim's stone, beggin' on her knees an'
mumblin' with her hands stretched out. She been that way a number o'
times when I come upon her as I was fixin' up the graves.
Mrs. Lennon, a stout, pleasant-faced woman, looked in the direction
indicated by her husband. Together they watched Martha Sloan,
white-haired, thin, and bent, making her way up the cemetery path. She
was nervous and her walk was broken by little, sudden pauses in which
she looked about.
Poor soul, said Mrs. Lennon, she's afraid. She ain't been herself
sence Dorothy died. Losin' the two children right after Jim has broken
her up completely.
She's afraid for herself, said her husband. If you heard her up
there by that stone you'd have thought she was speakin' to some one
alive, to some one who could do her things.
Oh well, that's enough to make any one queer, Mrs. Lennon said.
Then she stopped, and watched the figure on the hillside.
Look, said Mrs. Lennon, look at her. She's down on her knees.
Deems stood by her near the window.
That's it, he exclaimed. That's exactly what she's been doing now
for some time. I heard her speak. I don't know where she got the idea.
She thinks Jim's following herreaching out for hertrying to grasp
her. I heard her plead. I don't know what'll come of it.
They were both startled when, as suddenly as Martha Sloan had knelt,
she rose from her place before the gravestone and, moving in nervous
haste, ran down the pathway.
Deems, we must go to her, said Mrs. Lennon. Maybe we can do
something for her. And as they both hurried into the kitchen and out
of the house, Martha Sloan, panting and white-faced with fright, rushed
to the house.
Deems, she gasped. Deems, it's Jim. He's reaching out. He's
reaching out to seize me.
Martha, calm yourself, said Deems, taking Martha Sloan's shaking
hand in his. That ain't right. You're sensible. You mustn't think so
much of it. You must keep your mind away.
That's right, Martha, Mrs. Lennon said, as she helped Martha Sloan
into the house. You mustn't keep thinking of Jim, and keep going up
there all the time. There's many things waiting for you at home, and
when you're through there why don't you come over to us?
But Martha Sloan, either not hearing or not heeding the words of
Deems and his wife, sat huddled, nervously whispering, more to herself
than to her friends. It's Jim. It's his hand reaching out to me. He
took Dorothy. He took Joseph, and he's reaching out now to me. He can't
stand having me living.
She was nervous and in the power of a fear that was stronger than
her will. She sat uneasily looking about her as if knowing that she was
safe in the house of friends, but as if feeling herself momentarily in
the presence of something strange and frightful. She cast frightened
looks about her, at the room, at Mrs. Lennon, and at Deems. She looked
at them in silence as if she did not know how to speak to them until,
prompted by great uneasiness, she spoke in a loud whisper, Take me
home. Take me home, Deems. I want to get away.
Deems slipped into his coat, said to his wife, I'll be back soon,
then, helping Martha from the chair, walked out with her.
Come now, Martha, you know us well enough. We're your friends,
aren't we? And we tell you there's nothing to fear. It's all your
believing. There's nothing after you. There's nothing you need fear.
You don't know. It was he took my two children. He took Dorothy.
When they laid her out in the parlor, I could just see him standing at
her head. He was cruel when he lived. He beat them; Dorothy and Joseph,
they hated him. And when they laid out Joseph after his fall, when the
bridge gave way, Jim was standing by his head, and his eyes were
laughing at me like he'd say, 'I took him, but now there's you.' And
he's trying for me now.
Deems was pleased that she was speaking. He hoped that in conversing
she would find respite from her thoughts.
No, Martha, he said, that wasn't Jim took Dorothy and Joseph. You
know there's a God that gives and takes. Their years were run. Can't
you see, Martha?
It was Jim who took. He couldn't see them living. When he lived he
couldn't see them growing up to be themselves. He took them like he
took me from you. D' you remember, Deems, how he came and in no time I
was his? He owned me completely.
Deems was silent. There was no arguing. Even now there was vividly
alive in his mind, and, he knew, in the minds of the other villagers,
the recollection of that sense of possession which went with Jim Sloan.
He recalled that William Carrol had hanged himself when he could not
pay Jim Sloan the debt he owed him. It was true that Jim Sloan had
owned his children as if they were pieces of property. The whole
village had learned to know this fact soon after these children had
grown up. Deems, recalling his feelings for Martha Sloan, remembered
now the amazement, the astonishment, with which he had viewed the
change that came over Martha immediately after her marriage to Jim
She had been light-hearted and joyful as if overflowing with the
vitality natural to the country about the village. There had been
gladness in her laugh. Immediately after her marriage all this had
Martha had been wont to run lightly about her father's house. Her
movements had become suddenly freighted with a seriousness that was not
natural to her. Her laughter quieted to a restrained smile which in
turn gave way to a uniform seriousness. The whole village noted and
remarked the change. He is older than she, they said, and is making
her see things as he does.
When they reached the house, Martha, without a word, left Deems and
hurried in. Deems turned away, looking back and shaking his head, the
while he mumbled to himself, There's no good in this. There's no good
He was struck motionless when suddenly he beheld Martha by the
window. He had thought her slightly composed when she had left him, for
her manner was more quiet than it had been. Now he was startled. Out of
the window she leaned, her eyes fastened on the distant
gravestonewhite, large, and dominatinga shaft that rose upright
like a gigantic spear on the crest of the hill. He watched her face and
head and saw that her movements were frightened. As she moved her
headit seemed she was following something with her eyes which, look
as closely as he could, he failed to make outthere was a jerkiness of
movement that showed her alert and startled.
From the musty, dark parlor Martha looked out on the cemetery.
There, clear in the evening light, stood the large white stonea
terrible symbol that held her. To her nervous mind, alive with the
creations of her fear, it seemed she could read the lines,
JAMES SLOAN BORN SEPT. 14, 1857 DIED NOV. 12, 1915
and below it, stamped clearly and illumined by her fright,
HIS FAITHFUL WIFE MARTHA SLOAN BORN AUG. 9, 1871. DIED
At the thought of the word Died, followed by the dash, she
recoiled. The dash reaching out to herreaching to herswept into her
mind all the graspingness of James which had squeezed the sweetness out
of lifeall the hardness which had marked his possession of her. Was
it her mind, prodded by terror, that visualized it? There, seeming to
advance from the hill, from the cemetery, from the very gravestone
which was beginning to blot and blurr in her vision, she saw a
handhis hand! It was comingcoming to her, to crush what of life was
left in her.
Even in her own mind, it was a miracle that she had survived Jim's
tenacity. When Jim had died, she began suddenly to recover her former
manner of life. She began to win back to herself. It was as if, the
siege of Winter having lifted, the breath and warmth of Spring might
now again prevail.
Then had come the horrors of uncontrollable dreams followed by the
death by fire of Dorothy. That had shaken her completely.
She recalled their rescuing Dorothy, how they had dragged her out of
the fire, her clothes all burned off. They had sought to nurse her back
to health, and in the week before her daughter died she had learned
something of what had happened the night of the fire. In her sleep
Dorothy had heard herself called and she thought it was her father's
voice. She had arisen when she seemed to see beside her her father as
he had looked in life.
She had followed him to the barn and suddenly he had told her that
he had come back to take her with him as he had promised to before his
death. In her struggle to escape him she had flung the lantern. In the
parlor they had laid out Dorothya blackened, burnt frame.
All her care and love and solicitude she concentrated on Joseph. She
thought that perhaps by an intenser, all embracing love for Joseph she
would be enabled to defeat the spell that she felt hanging over her
life. Then, when it seemed that life would begin anew to take on a
definite meaningJoseph, grown up, was giving purpose to itshe
remembered that some one had knocked timidly on the door and had
announced in a frightened voice: Mrs. Sloan! There's been a terrible
accident, the bridge fell? She remembered that she had screamed,
My Joseph! My boy! and then had found herself in the parlor, the body
laid out on the couch.
She remembered suddenly that the parlor had seemed to contain the
presence of Jim. She had looked up to see dimly what seemed the figure
and face of her dead husband. In the eyes that seemed to be laughing
she read the threat, I took him, but now there's you.
As these recollections flooded and flowed through her mind, a
frightened nervousness seized upon Martha, standing by the window.
Somehow she was being held by a fear to move. Something seemed to have
robbed her of the strength and resolution to turn from the window.
There came to her the impression that there was some one in the room
with her. The feeling grew subtly upon her and added to her fear of
turning around. So she kept her eyes looking out of the window up at
where the shaft of the gravestone stood. But, more clearly now than
before, she sensed something that seemed to reach out from the
gravestone and carry to her, and at the same time there grew the
feeling that the presence in the room was approaching her.
She was held in fright. All her nervous impulses impelled her to
flight. Like a whip that was descending over her head, came the mirage
from the gravestone until, in a mad, wild attempt to evade it, she
flung about in the room as if to dash across and away from the window.
Suddenly she was halted in her passage by the presence of Jim. The dim
parlor was somehow filled with a sense of his being there, and in the
dusk near the mantelpiece and at the head of the couch, there stood in
shadowy outline her husband, come back.
Jim! she uttered, in a frightened gasp, and threw her hands
outward to protect herself from his purpose. But she saw clearly the
shadowy face and eyes that said unmistakably, I have come for you.
She was terror-bound. There was no advance, for moving forward meant
coming closer to that presence, meant walking into his very grasp.
She was about to speak, to plead for herself, to beg, Jim, leave
In her terror and dread of his approach, she turned hastily to the
window and leaped down. Wildly she scrambled up, bruised and shaken,
and screaming hoarsely, while in unthinking terror she moved her hands,
as if beating off unwelcome hands, she ran pantingly up the road which
led to Deems's house.
The silence and the air of happy quietness that filled the house of
her friends seemed to lay a spell upon Martha. Caring for her as if she
were of the household, Deems and his wife were gratified by the change
that apparently was coming over their charge.
In their room, after Martha had bid them good night, Deems
questioned his wife.
And how is Martha behavin', now?
You couldn't tell she's the same woman. Remember how she was when
we found her at the door that nightall mumbling and frightened so she
couldn't talk? Well, now she's calm and happy like. What she needed was
being with some one.
The quietness of her surroundings had had its effect on Martha. They
showed in the calm self-possession with which she walked about,
persisting in her efforts to help Mrs. Lennon in her household work.
The atmosphere of bustling activityDeems's coming and going from the
village, from the cemetery, whither he went with his trowel and spade
to keep in repairs the many graves and plots on the hillsideall this
seemed to have drawn on some reservoir of unsuspected vitality and
composure within Martha.
These were the visible effects. In fact, however, there had grown in
Martha's mind a plana desire to cut herself forever free of Jim's
sinister possessionand this plan she fed from a reservoir of nervous
power that was fear and terror converted into cunning and despair. She
went about the house not as if relieved of fear of Jim, but cautiously,
as if somewhere in back of her mind was a way out, a way out, to win
which required care and watchfulness.
In this spirit she observed Deems's movements about the house until
she learned where he left his lantern and the box where he put away his
trowel and mallet and chisel. Now that the plan was clear in her own
mind, there was nothing to do but carry it out. She would cut the
dreadful tie that held her to Jimthe tie, the potency of which gave
to the dead man the power of holding her so completely. Reckoning thus,
she became wary of her companions as if fearing that they might in some
way interfere with her plans if they got wind of them. She knew that
her every move was watched, for she found that Mrs. Lennon had
constituted herself her guardian. Since her coming to the house, she
had never left its shelter, finding at first that companionship and
reassurance which gave her courage and resolution against Jim and the
power to survive the terror of thought of him, and finding finally
that, with the formation of her plan, she would have to conceal it from
Deems and his wife. She came to this conclusion in this wise.
One day, in the kitchen she came upon a newly sharpened cleaver, its
edge invisibly thin and its broad, flat side gleaming in the sun. Mrs.
Lennon was by the window and from without came the sounds of Deems
Her mind was filled with a sudden clearness of thought and, swinging
the cleaver in the air, she said to Mrs. Lennon:
You knowhere's how I can break away from Jim. When he reaches
outreaches out for me, I can just cut off his hand.
Mrs. Lennon stood motionless, startled by the unexpected words. She
had thought Martha's mind free of all fears of Jim. She was brought up
sharply by this sudden speech and gesture. Deems, she called, Deems,
Deems had taken the cleaver hastily from Martha's hands, and that
night told his wife that Martha would have to be watched closely. He
feared that Martha was becoming deranged.
Martha had discovered that she was watched when one night she left
her room. She heard the door open and instantly she felt the hands of
Mrs. Lennon on her arm and heard a gentle, persuasive voice asking her
to return to bed.
It was the next day, in the dusk of a turn in the hallway, that
Martha once more felt the presence of Jim. If her life in the peaceful
household of her friends had brought an outward calm, a mantle of
repose and quiet, this was instantly torn up by the vision that formed
before her eyes in the half dim hallway. Instantly she was the old
Martha, held in the grasp of terror. Her face was drawn in tense, white
lines, her lips were deformed, and with trembling gaunt hands she
thrust back the apparition. Her screams, Jim, let me be, let me be,
brought Mrs. Lennon running and called Deems from his work in the
They found her in a faint on the floor. They carried her to her room
and put her to bed, Mrs. Lennon speaking to her, soothing and trying to
bring her back to her former calm.
There followed a few days of rain which seemed in some way to make
Martha less uneasy and restless. Deems and his wife, seeing her silent
and apparently resting, felt that slowly the terror she had been
suffering was being washed out. Martha's attitude encouraged this
feeling. She rested in silence, attentive to the dropping of the rain
and learning once more to wear her old-time composure.
When Deems returned toward nightfall one day, it was with the news
that the incessant rains had done serious damage in the cemetery.
Dripping from the drenching he had received in his tour of inspection,
his boots muddy, and his hands dirty from holding to the precarious
bushes, he shook with cold as he reported on what he had found. In his
narrative he had quite forgotten the presence of Martha who sat by,
silent and waxen-faced.
And you ought to see, he said, turning to his wife, how the rain
has run down those graves. You know, it's loosened Jim Sloan's stone
so, I'm afraid it'll fall against the first heavy blow.
Martha's exclamation Oh! recalled to him her presence. He stopped
talking for a while, then hoping to blot out the effects of his
statement he began a lively story of the number of trees that had
fallen across the road, and how he had been told that over at Rampaco
the post-office had been struck by lightning.
He did not know it, but Martha was deaf to his reports. She had her
own thoughts. She felt herself curiously strong of will, and there
raced in her blood the high determination to act that very night. Not
for nothing had she spent the rain drenched days in terrified silence
in her room. All of her energies that were still capable of being
mustered to her resolve, she had converted in the crucible of her will,
and huddled in terror, she had forged the determination to go out when
the time came and to cut herself free of the fiendish power that was
searing her mind and slowly crushing her. She remembered that in her
faint, when she lay limp and inert, a thing of dread, she had felt
herself crumple up at the touch of JimJim reaching out to her. Now
she would cut herself free of him at the very source of his power over
her. She would go that very night.
She cast a glance toward the closet where Deems kept his trowel and
chisel. She would have need of them, she knew. She said Good night
rather more loudly and vehemently than she had intended, for she was
She was awakened by a feeling of cold. As she sat up she saw that
the door was open. What was it drew her eyes through the hallway and
out into the open and brought her up suddenly? There came upon her an
eeriness that startled and chilled her, and suddenly, as if it were
coming at her through the open door, fingers out-thrust, there appeared
She was out of bed on the instant. Somehow in her throat she
repressed the upstartled cry, Jim, by an effort that strained all her
nerves and made her face bloodless white. She could not, however,
repress completely the instinctive movement of her hands to ward off
the menacing hand. Suddenly a panic seized her and in terrified haste
she moved to the closet and, feeling a moment, took what she knew was
Do what she could, she could not stem the flow of panic, and
suddenly as she began to pant and breathe heavily with the strain of
terror, she began also to gasp her pleadings to Jim.
Don't, Jim. Don't take me, and, as if not at all of her own
volition, but at that of a guiding power, she moved out of the house,
ghastly in the night, mumbling and shivering.
She was still atrembleshe was now chilled by the dampness of
ground and airwhen she stood by Jim Sloan's gravestone. White it
gleamed against the sky, and now Martha's trembling and murmuring
turned into a furious industry as she raised the chisel to the stone.
Jimyou'll let me be, won't you? You'll let me be? I want 'a live
yet. She began a frenzied hacking at the gravestone, seeing nothing
but the play of her chisel, and the white, fearful stone towering over
her, hearing nothing but the rasp of the chiselnot even hearing the
rattle of the loosened gravel as it slid from under the stone.
Deems Lennon and his wife were awakened by a heavy crash. What can
it be? he asked his wife, and then left the bed and ran up to Martha's
room. She was gone. Instantly they were both fully awake.
It's Jim's grave she's gone to, ventured Deems. Remember the way
she said 'Oh!' that time I told how the rain loosened the stone? Come
on, we'll go see.
In the dark when they were near the spot where the stone used to
stand, they heard a moaning. They approached and found Martha caught
under the stone, her body crushed, her dying breath coming slowly and
heavily, carrying her words, Let me go! Jim, let me go!