[Frontispiece: LIFTING OFF HIS BROAD-BRIMMED HAT TO HER IN A GRACIOUS SWEEP]
THE LIONS OF THE LORD
A Tale of the Old West
By HARRY LEON WILSON
Author of "The Spenders"
Illustrated by ROSE CECIL O'NEILL
Published June, 1903
TO MY WIFE
In the days of '49 seven trails led from our Western frontier into the Wonderland that lay far out under the setting sun and called to the restless. Each of the seven had been blazed mile by mile through the mighty romance of an empire's founding. Some of them for long stretches are now overgrown by the herbage of the plain; some have faded back into the desert they lined; and more than one has been shod with steel. But along them all flit and brood the memory-ghosts of old, rich-coloured days. To the shout of teamster, the yell of savage, the creaking of tented ox-cart, and the rattle of the swifter mail-coach, there go dim shapes of those who had thrilled to that call of the West;—strong, brave men with the far look in their eyes, with those magic rude tools of the pioneer, the rifle and the axe; women, too, equally heroic, of a stock, fearless, ready, and staunch, bearing their sons and daughters in fortitude; raising them to fear God, to love their country,—and to labour. From the edge of our Republic these valiant ones toiled into the dump of prairie and mountain to live the raw new days and weld them to our history; to win fertile acres from the wilderness and charm the desert to blossoming. And the time of these days and these people, with their tragedies and their comedies, was a time of epic splendour;—more vital with the stuff and colour of life, I think, than any since the stubborn gray earth out there was made to yield its treasure.
Of these seven historic highways the one richest in story is the old Salt Lake Trail: this because at its western end was woven a romance within a romance;—a drama of human passions, of love and hate, of high faith and low, of the beautiful and the ugly, of truth and lies; yet with certain fine fidelities under it all; a drama so close-knit, so amazingly true, that one who had lightly designed to make a tale there was dismayed by fact. So much more thrilling was it than any fiction he might have imagined, so more than human had been the cunning of the Master Dramatist, that the little make-believe he was pondering seemed clumsy and poor, and he turned from it to try to tell what had really been.
In this story, then, the things that are strangest have most of truth. The make-believe is hardly more than a cement to join the queerly wrought stones of fact that were found ready. For, if the writer has now and again had to divine certain things that did not show,—yet must have been,—surely these are not less than truth. One of these deductions is the Lute of the Holy Ghost who came in the end to be the Little Man of Sorrows: who loved a woman, a child, and his God, but sinned through pride of soul;—whose life, indeed, was a poem of sin and retribution. Yet not less true was he than the Lion of the Lord, the Archer of Paradise, the Wild Ram of the Mountains, or the gaunt, gray woman whom hurt love had crazed. For even now, as the tale is done, comes a dry little note in the daily press telling how such a one actually did the other day a certain brave, great thing it had seemed the imagined one must be driven to do. Only he and I, perhaps, will be conscious of the struggle back of that which was printed; but at least we two shall know that the Little Man of Sorrows is true, even though the cross where he fled to say his last prayer in the body has long since fallen and its bars crumbled to desert dust.
Yet there are others still living in a certain valley of the mountains who will know why the soul-proud youth came to bend under invisible burdens, and why he feared, as an angel of vengeance, that early cowboy with the yellow hair, who came singing down from the high divide into Amalon where a girl was waiting in her dream of a single love; others who, to this day, will do not more than whisper with averted faces of the crime that brought a curse upon the land; who still live in terror of shapes that shuffle furtively behind them, fumbling sometimes at their shoulders with weak hands, striving ever to come in front and turn upon them. But these will know only one side of the Little Man of Sorrows who was first the Lute of the Holy Ghost in the Poet's roster of titles: since they have lacked his courage to try the great issue with their God.
New York City, May 1st, 1903.
I. THE DEAD CITY
II. THE WILD RAM OF THE MOUNTAINS
III. THE LUTE OF THE HOLY GHOST BREAKS HIS FAST
IV. A FAIR APOSTATE
V. GILES RAE BEAUTIFIES HIS INHERITANCE
VI. THE LUTE OF THE HOLY GHOST IS FURTHER CHASTENED
VII. SOME INNER MYSTERIES ARE EXPOUNDED
VIII. A REVELATION FROM THE LORD AND A TOAST FROM BRIGHAM
IX. INTO THE WILDERNESS
X. THE PROMISED LAND
XI. ANOTHER MIRACLE AND A TEMPTATION IN THE WILDERNESS
XII. A FIGHT FOR LIFE
XIII. JOEL RAE IS TREATED FOR PRIDE OF SOUL
XIV. HOW THE SAINTS WERE BROUGHT TO REPENTANCE
XV. HOW THE SOULS OF APOSTATES WERE SAVED
XVI. THE ORDER FROM HEADQUARTERS
XVII. THE MEADOW SHAMBLES
XVIII. IN THE DARK OF THE AFTERMATH
XIX. THE HOST OF ISRAEL GOES FORTH TO BATTLE
XX. HOW THE LION OF THE LORD ROARED SOFT
XXI. THE BLOOD ON THE PAGE
XXII. THE PICTURE IN THE SKY
XXIII. THE SINNER CHASTENS HIMSELF
XXIV. THE COMING OF THE WOMAN-CHILD
XXV. THE ENTABLATURE OF TRUTH MAKES A DISCOVERY AT AMALON
XXVI. HOW THE RED CAME BACK TO THE BLOOD TO BE A SNARE
XXVII. A NEW CROSS TAKEN UP AND AN OLD ENEMY FORGIVEN
XXVIII. JUST BEFORE THE END OF THE WORLD
XXIX. THE WILD RAM OF THE MOUNTAINS OFFERS TO BECOME A SAVIOUR ON MOUNT ZION
XXX. HOW THE WORLD DID NOT COME TO AN END
XXXI. THE LION OF THE LORD SENDS AN ORDER
XXXII. A NEW FACE IN THE DREAM
XXXIII. THE GENTILE INVASION
XXXIV. HOW THE AVENGER BUNGLED HIS VENGEANCE
XXXV. RUEL FOLLETT'S WAY OF BUSINESS
XXXVI. THE MISSION TO A DESERVING GENTILE
XXXVII. THE GENTILE ISSUES AN ULTIMATUM
XXXVIII. THE MISSION SERVICE IN BOX CANON IS SUSPENDED
XXXIX. A REVELATION CONCERNING THE TRUE ORDER OF MARRIAGE
XL. A PROCESSION, A PURSUIT, AND A CAPTURE
XLI. THE RISE AND FALL OF A BENT LITTLE PROPHET
XLII. THE LITTLE BENT MAN AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS
XLIII. THE GENTILE CARRIES OFF HIS SPOIL
Lifting off his broad-brimmed hat to her in a gracious sweep
"Her goal is Zion, not Babylon, sir—remember that!"
"I'm the one will have to be caught"
"But you're not my really papa!"
Full of zest for the measure as any youth
"Oh, Man ... how I've longed for that bullet of yours!"
THE LIONS OF THE LORD
The Dead City
The city without life lay handsomely along a river in the early sunlight of a September morning. Death had seemingly not been long upon it, nor had it made any scar. No breach or rent or disorder or sign of violence could be seen. The long, shaded streets breathed the still airs of utter peace and quiet. From the half-circle around which the broad river bent its moody current, the neat houses, set in cool, green gardens, were terraced up the high hill, and from the summit of this a stately marble temple, glittering of newness, towered far above them in placid benediction.
Mile after mile the streets lay silent, along the river-front, up to the hilltop, and beyond into the level; no sound nor motion nor sign of life throughout their length. And when they had run their length, and the outlying fields were reached, there, too, was the same brooding spell as the land stretched away in the hush and haze. The yellow grain, heavy-headed with richness, lay beaten down and rotting, for there were no reapers. The city, it seemed, had died calmly, painlessly, drowsily, as if overcome by sleep.
From a skiff in mid-river, a young man rowing toward the dead city rested on his oars and looked over his shoulder to the temple on the hilltop. There was something very boyish in the reverent eagerness with which his dark eyes rested upon the pile, tracing the splendid lines from its broad, gray base to its lofty spire, radiant with white and gold. As he looked long and intently, the colour of new life flushed into a face that was pinched and drawn. With fresh resolution, he bent again to his oars, noting with a quick eye that the current had carried him far down-stream while he stopped to look upon the holy edifice.
Landing presently at the wharf, he was stunned by the hush of the streets. This was not like the city of twenty thousand people he had left three months before. In blank bewilderment he stood, turning to each quarter for some solution of the mystery. Perceiving at length that there was really no life either way along the river, he started wonderingly up a street that led from the waterside,—a street which, when he had last walked it, was quickening with the rush of a mighty commerce.
Soon his expression of wonder was darkened by a shade of anxiety. There was an unnerving quality in the trance-like stillness; and the mystery of it pricked him to forebodings. He was now passing empty workshops, hesitating at door after door with ever-mounting alarm. Then he began to call, but the sound of his voice served only to aggravate the silence.
Growing bolder, he tried some of the doors and found them to yield, letting him into a kind of smothered, troubled quietness even more oppressive than that outside. He passed an empty ropewalk, the hemp strewn untidily about, as if the workers had left hurriedly. He peered curiously at idle looms and deserted spinning-wheels—deserted apparently but the instant before he came. It seemed as if the people were fled maliciously just in front, to leave him in this fearfullest of all solitudes. He wondered if he did not hear their quick, furtive steps, and see the vanishing shadows of them.
He entered a carpenter's shop. On the bench was an unfinished door, a plane left where it had been shoved half the length of its edge, the fresh pine shaving still curling over the side. He left with an uncanny feeling that the carpenter, breathing softly, had watched him from some hiding-place, and would now come stealthily out to push his plane again.
He turned into a baker's shop and saw freshly chopped kindling piled against the oven, and dough actually on the kneading-tray. In a tanner's vat he found fresh bark. In a blacksmith's shop he entered next the fire was out, but there was coal heaped beside the forge, with the ladling-pool and the crooked water-horn, and on the anvil was a horseshoe that had cooled before it was finished.
With something akin to terror, he now turned from this street of shops into one of those with the pleasant dwellings, eager to find something alive, even a dog to bark an alarm. He entered one of the gardens, clicking the gate-latch loudly after him, but no one challenged. He drew a drink from the well with its loud-rattling chain and clumsy, water-sodden bucket, but no one called. At the door of the house he whistled, stamped, pounded, and at last flung it open with all the noise he could make. Still his hungry ears fed on nothing but sinister echoes, the barren husks of his own clamour. There was no curt voice of a man, no quick, questioning tread of a woman. There were dead white ashes on the hearth, and the silence was grimly kept by the dumb household gods.
His nervousness increased. So vividly did his memory people the streets and shops and houses that the air was vibrant with sound,—low-toned conversations, shouts, calls, laughter, the voices of children, the creaking of wagons, pounding hammers, the clangour of many works; yet all muffled away from him, as if coming from some phantom-land. His eyes, too, were kept darting from side to side by vague forms that flitted privily near by, around corners, behind him, lurking always a little beyond his eyes, turn them quickly as he would. Now, facing the street, he shouted, again and again, from sheer nervousness; but the echoes came back alone.
He recalled a favourite day-dream of boyhood,—a dream in which he became the sole person in the world, wandering with royal liberty through strange cities, with no voice to chide or forbid, free to choose and partake, as would a prince, of all the wonders and delights that boyhood can picture; his own master and the master of all the marvels and treasures of earth. This was like the dream come true; but it distressed him. It was necessary to find the people at once. He had a feeling that his instant duty was to break some malign spell that lay upon the place—or upon himself. For one of them was surely bewitched.
Out he strode to the middle of the street, between two rows of yellowing maples, and there he shouted again and still more loudly to evoke some shape or sound of life, sending a full, high, ringing call up the empty thoroughfare. Between the shouts he scanned the near-by houses intently.
At last, half-way up the next block, even as his lungs filled for another peal, he thought his eyes caught for a short half-second the mere thin shadow of a skulking figure. It had seemed to pass through a grape arbour that all but shielded from the street a house slightly more pretentious than its neighbours. He ran toward the spot, calling as he went. But when he had vaulted over the low fence, run across the garden and around the end of the arbour, dense with the green leaves and clusters of purple grapes, the space in front of the house was bare. If more than a trick-phantom of his eye had been there, it had vanished.
He stood gazing blankly at the front door of the house. Was it fancy that he had heard it shut a second before he came? that his nerves still responded to the shock of its closing? He had already imagined so many noises of the kind, so many misty shapes fleeing before him with little soft rustlings, so many whispers at his back and hushed cries behind the closed doors. Yet this door had seemed to shut more tangibly, with a warmer promise of life. He went quickly up the three wooden steps, turned the knob, and pushed it open—very softly this time. No one appeared. But, as he stood on the threshold, while the pupils of his eyes dilated to the gloom of the hall into which he looked, his ears seemed to detect somewhere in the house a muffled footfall and the sound of another door closed softly.
He stepped inside and called. There was no answer, but above his head a board creaked. He started up the stairs in front of him, and, as he did so, he seemed to hear cautious steps across a bare floor above. He stopped climbing; the steps ceased. He started up, and the steps came again. He knew now they came from a room at the head of the stairs. He bounded up the remaining steps and pushed open the door with a loud "Halloo!"
The room was empty. Yet across it there was the indefinable trail of a presence,—an odour, a vibration, he knew not what,—and where a bar of sunlight cut the gloom under a half-raised curtain, he saw the motes in the air all astir. Opposite the door he had opened was another, leading, apparently, to a room at the back of the house. From behind it, he could have sworn came the sounds of a stealthily moved body and softened breathing. A presence, unseen but felt, was all about. Not without effort did he conquer the impulse to look behind him at every breath.
Determined to be no longer eluded, he crossed the room on tiptoe and gently tried the opposite door. It was locked. As he leaned against it, almost in a terror of suspense, he knew he heard again those little seemings of a presence a door's thickness away. He did not hesitate. Still holding the turned knob in his hand, he quickly crouched back and brought his flexed shoulder heavily against the door. It flew open with a breaking sound, and, with a little gasp of triumph, he was in the room to confront its unknown occupant.
To his dismay, he saw no one. He peered in bewilderment to the farther side of the room, where light struggled dimly in at the sides of a curtained window. There was no sound, and yet he could acutely feel that presence; insistently his nerves tingled the warning of another's nearness. Leaning forward, still peering to sound the dim corners of the room, he called out again.
Then, from behind the door he had opened, a staggering blow was dealt him, and, before he could recover, or had done more than blindly crook one arm protectingly before his face, he was borne heavily to the floor, writhing in a grasp that centered all its crushing power about his throat.
The Wild Ram of the Mountains
Slight though his figure was, it was lithe and active and well-muscled, and he knew as they struggled that his assailant was possessed of no greater advantage than had lain in his point of attack. In strength, apparently, they were well-matched. Twice they rolled over on the carpeted floor, and then, despite the big, bony hands pressing about his throat, he turned his burden under him, and all but loosened the killing clutch. This brought them close to the window, but again he was swiftly drawn underneath. Then, as he felt his head must burst and his senses were failing from the deadly grip at his throat, his feet caught in the folds of the heavy curtain, and brought it down upon them in a cloud of dust.
As the light flooded in, he saw the truth, even before his now panting and sneezing antagonist did. Releasing the pressure from his throat with a sudden access of strength born of the new knowledge, he managed to gasp, though thickly and with pain, as they still strove:
"Seth Wright—wait—let go—wait, Seth—I'm Joel—Joel Rae!"
He managed it with difficulty.
"Joel Rae—Rae—Rae—don't you see?"
He felt the other's tension relax. With many a panting, puffing "Hey!" and "What's that now?" he was loosed, and drew himself up into a chair by the saving window. His assailant, a hale, genial-faced man of forty, sat on the floor where the revelation of his victim's identity had overtaken him. He was breathing hard and feeling tenderly of his neck. This was ruffled ornamentally by a style of whisker much in vogue at the time. It had proved, however, but an inferior defense against the onslaught of the younger man in his frantic efforts to save his own neck.
They looked at each other in panting amazement, until the older man recovered his breath, and spoke:
"Gosh and all beeswax! The Wild Ram of the Mountains a-settin' on the Lute of the Holy Ghost's stomach a-chokin' him to death. My sakes! I'm a-pantin' like a tuckered hound—a-thinkin' he was a cussed milishy mobocrat come to spoil his household!"
The younger man was now able to speak, albeit his breathing was still heavy and the marks of the struggle plain upon him.
"What does it mean, Brother Wright—all this? Where are the Saints we left here—why is the city deserted—and why this—this?"
He shook back the thick, brown hair that fell to his shoulders, tenderly rubbed the livid fingerprints at his throat, and readjusted the collar of his blue flannel shirt.
"Thought you was a milishy man, I tell you, from the careless way you hollered—one of Brockman's devils come back a-snoopin', and I didn't crave trouble, but when I saw the Lord appeared to reely want me to cope with the powers of darkness, why, I jest gritted into you for the consolation of Israel. You'd 'a' got your come-uppance, too, if you'd 'a' been a mobber. You was nigh a-ceasin' to breathe, Joel Rae. In another minute I wouldn't 'a' give the ashes of a rye-straw for your part in the tree of life!"
"Yes, yes, man, but go back a little. Where are our people, the sick, the old, and the poor, that we had to leave till now? Tell me, quick."
The older man sprang up, the late struggle driven from his mind, his face scowling. He turned upon his questioner.
"Does my fury swell up in me? No wonder! And you hain't guessed why? Well, them pitiful remnant of Saints, the sick, the old, the poor, waitin' to be helped yender to winter quarters, has been throwed out into that there slough acrost the river, six hundred and forty of 'em."
"When we were keeping faith by going?"
"What does a mobocrat care for faith-keepin'? Have you brought back the wagons?"
"Yes; they'll reach the other side to-night. I came ahead and made the lower crossing. I've seen nothing and heard nothing. Go on—tell me—talk, man!"
"Talk?—yes, I'll talk! We've had mobs and the very scum of hell to boil over here. This is Saturday, the 19th, ain't it? Well, Brockman marched against this stronghold of Israel jest a week ago, with eight hundred men. They had cannons and demanded surrender. We was a scant two hundred fightin' men, and the only artillery we had was what we made ourselves. We broke up an old steamboat shaft and bored out the pieces so's they'd take a six-pound shot—but we wasn't goin' to give up. We'd learned our lesson about mobocrat milishies. Well, Brockman, when he got our defy, sent out his Warsaw riflemen as flankers on the right and left, put the Lima Guards to our front with one cannon, and marched his main body through that corn-field and orchard to the south of here to the city lines. Then we had it hot. Brockman shot away all his cannon-balls—he had sixty-one—and drew back while he sent to Quincy for more. He'd killed three of our men. Sunday and Monday we swopped a few shots. And then Tuesday, along comes a committee of a hundred to negotiate peace. Well, Wednesday evening they signed terms, spite of all I could do. I'd 'a' fought till the white crows come a-cawin', but the rest of 'em wasn't so het up with the Holy Ghost, I reckon. Anyway, they signed. The terms wasn't reely set till Thursday morning, but we knew they would be, and so all Wednesday night we was movin' acrost the river, and it kept up all next day,—day before yesterday. You'd ought to 'a' been here then; you wouldn't wonder at my comin' down on you like a thousand of brick jest now, takin' you for a mobocrat. You'd 'a' seen families druv right out of their homes, with no horses, tents, money, nor a day's provisions,—jest a little foolish household stuff they could carry in their hands,—sick men and women carried on beds, mothers luggin' babies and leadin' children. My sakes! but I did want to run some bullets and fill my old horn with powder for the consolation of Israel! They're lyin' out over there in the slough now, as many as ain't gone to glory. It made me jest plumb murderous!"
The younger man uttered a sharp cry of anguish. "What, oh, what has been our sin, that we must be proved again? Why have we got to be chastened?"
"Then Brockman's force marched in Thursday afternoon, and hell was let loose. His devils have plundered the town, thrown out the bedridden that jest couldn't move, thrown their goods out after 'em, burned, murdered, tore up. You come up from the river, and you ain't seen that yet—they ain't touched the lower part of town—and now they're bunkin' in the temple, defacin' it, defilin' it,—that place we built to be a house of rest for the Lord when he cometh again. They drove me acrost the river yesterday, and promised to shoot me if I dast show myself again. I sneaked over in a skiff last night and got here to get my two pistols and some money and trinkets we'd hid out. I was goin' to cross again to-night and wait for you and the wagons."
"My God! and this is the nineteenth century in a land of liberty!"
"State of Illinois, U.S.A., September 19, 1846—but what of that? We're the Lord's chosen, and over yender is a generation of vipers warned to flee from the wrath to come. But they won't flee, and so we're outcasts for the present, driven forth like snakes. The best American blood is in our veins. We're Plymouth Rock stock, the best New England graft; the fathers of nine tenths of us was at Bunker Hill or Valley Forge or Yorktown, but what of that, I ask you?"
The speaker became oratorical as his rage grew.
"What did Matty Van Buren say to Sidney Rigdon and Elias Higbee when they laid our cause before him at Washington after our Missouri persecutions—when the wicked hatred of them Missourians had as a besom of fire swept before it into exile the whipped and plundered Saints of Jackson County? Well, he said: 'Gentlemen, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.' That's what a President of the United States said to descendants of Mayflower crossers who'd been foully dealt with, and been druv from their substance and their homes, their wheat burned in the stack and in the shock, and themselves butchered or put into the wilderness. And now the Lord's word to this people is to gether out again."
The younger man had listened in deep dejection.
"Yes, it's to be the old story. I saw it coming. The Lord is proving us again. But surely this will be the last. He will not again put us through fire and blood."
He paused, and for a moment his quick brown eyes looked far away.
"And yet, do you know, Bishop, I've thought that he might mean us to save ourselves against this Gentile persecution. Sometimes I find it hard to control myself."
The Bishop grinned appreciatively.
"So I heer'd. The Lute of the Holy Ghost got too rambunctious back in the States on the subject of our wrongs. And so they called you back from your mission?"
"They said I must learn to school myself; that I might hurt the cause by my ill-tempered zeal—and yet I brought in many—"
"I don't blame you. I got in trouble the first and only mission I went on, and the first time I preached, at that. When I said, 'Joseph was ordained by Peter, James, and John,' a drunken wag in the audience got up and called me a damned liar. I started for him. I never reached him, but I reached the end of my mission right there. The Twelve decided I was usefuller here at home. They said I hadn't got enough of the Lord's humility for outside work. That was why they put me at the head of—that little organisation I wanted you to join last spring. And it's done good work, too. You'll join now fast enough, I guess. You begin to see the need of such doin's. I can give you the oath any time."
"No, Bishop, I didn't mean that kind of resistance. It sounded too practical for me; I'm still satisfied to be the Lute of the Holy Ghost."
"You can be a Son of Dan, too."
"Not yet, not yet. We must still be a little meek in the face of Heaven."
"You're in a mighty poor place to practise meekness. What'd you cross the river for, anyway?"
"Why, for father and mother, of course. They must be safe at Green Plains. Can I get out there without trouble?"
The Bishop sneered.
"Be meek, will you? Well, mosey out to Green Plains and begin there. It's a burned plains you'll find, and Lima and Morley all the same, and Bear Creek. The mobbers started out from Warsaw, and burned all in their way, Morley first, then Green Plains, Bear Creek, and Lima. They'd set fire to the houses and drive the folks in ahead. They killed Ed Durfee at Morley for talkin' back to 'em."
"But father and mother, surely—"
"Your pa and ma was druv in here with the rest, like cattle to the slaughter."
"You don't mean to say they're over there on the river bank?"
"Now, they are a kind of a mystery about that—why they wa'n't throwed out with the rest. Your ma's sick abed—she ain't ever been peart since the night your pa's house was fired and they had to walk in—but that ain't the reason they wa'n't throwed out. They put out others sicker. They flung families where every one was sick out into that slough. I guess what's left of 'em wouldn't be a supper-spell for a bunch of long-billed mosquitoes. But one of them milishy captains was certainly partial to your folks for some reason. They was let to stay in Phin Daggin's house till you come."
"And Prudence—the Corsons—Miss Prudence Corson?"
"Oh, ho! So she's the one, is she? Now that reminds me, mebbe I can guess the cute of that captain's partiality. That girl's been kind of lookin' after your pa and ma, and that same milishy captain's been kind of lookin' after the girl. She got him to let her folks go to Springfield."
"But that's the wrong way."
"Well, now, I don't want to spleen, but I never did believe Vince Corson was anything more'n a hickory Saint—and there's been a lot of talk—but you get yours from the girl. If I ain't been misled, she's got some ready for you."
"Bishop, will there be a way for us to get into the temple, for her to be sealed to me? I've looked forward to that, you know. It would be hard to miss it."
"The mob's got the temple, even if you got the girl. There's a verse writ in charcoal on the portal:—
"'Large house, tall steeple, Silly priests, deluded people.'
"That's how it is for the temple, and the mob's bunked there. But the girl may have changed her mind, too."
The young man's expression became wistful and gentle, yet serenely sure.
"I guess you never knew Prudence at all well," he said. "But come, can't we go to them? Isn't Phin Daggin's house near?"
"You may git there all right. But I don't want my part taken out of the tree of life jest yet. I ain't aimin' to show myself none. Hark!"
From outside came the measured, swinging tramp of men.
"Come see how the Lord is proving us—and step light."
They tiptoed through the other rooms to the front of the house.
"There's a peek-hole I made this morning—take it. I'll make me one here. Don't move the curtain."
They put their eyes to the holes and were still. The quick, rhythmic, scuffling tread of feet drew nearer, and a company of armed men marched by with bayonets fixed. The captain, a handsome, soldierly young fellow, glanced keenly from right to left at the houses along the line of march.
"We're all right," said the Bishop, in low tones. "The cusses have been here once—unless they happened to see us. They're startin' in now down on the flat to make sure no poor sick critter is left in bed in any of them houses. Now's your chance if you want to git up to Daggin's. Go out the back way, follow up the alleys, and go in at the back when you git there. But remember, 'Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward!' In Clay County we had to eat up the last mule from the tips of his ears to the end of the fly-whipper. Now we got to pass through the pinches again. We can't stand it for ever."
"The spirit may move us against it, Brother Seth."
"I wish to hell it would!" replied the Bishop.
The Lute of the Holy Ghost Breaks His Fast
In his cautious approach to the Daggin house, he came upon her unawares—a slight, slender, shapely thing of pink and golden flame, as she poised where the sun came full upon her. One hand clutched her flowing blue skirts snugly about her ankles; the other opened coaxingly to a kitten crouched to spring on the limb of an apple-tree above her. The head was thrown back, the vivid lips were parted, and he heard her laugh low to herself. Near by was a towering rose-bush, from which she had broken the last red rose, large, full, and lush, its petals already loosened. Now she wrenched away a handful of these, and flung them upward at the watchful kitten. The scarlet flecks drifted back around her and upon her. Like little red butterflies hovering in golden sunlight, they lodged in her many-braided yellow hair, or fluttered down the long curls that hung in front of her ears. She laughed again under the caressing shower. Then she tore away the remaining petals and tossed them up with an elf-like daintiness, not at the crouched and expectant kitten this time, but so that the whole red rain floated tenderly down upon her upturned face and into the folds of the white kerchief crossed upon her breast. She waited for the last feathery petal. Her hidden lover saw it lodge in the little hollow at the base of her bare, curved throat. He could hold no longer.
Stepping from the covert that had shielded him, he called softly to her.
She had reached again for the kitten, but at the sound of his low, vigorous note, she turned quickly toward him, colouring with a glow that spread from the corner of the crossed kerchief up to the yellow hair above her brow. She answered with quick breaths.
She laughed aloud, clapping her small hands, and he ran to her—over beds of marigolds, heartsease, and lady's-slippers, through a row of drowsy-looking, heavy-headed dahlias, and past other withering flowers, all but choked out by the rank garden growths of late summer. Then his arms opened and seemed to swallow the leaping little figure, though his kisses fell with hardly more weight upon the yielded face than had the rose-petals a moment since, so tenderly mindful was his ardour. She submitted, a little as the pampered kitten had before submitted to her own pettings.
"You dear old sobersides, you—how gaunt and careworn you look, and how hungry, and what wild eyes you have to frighten one with! At first I thought you were a crazy man."
He held her face up to his eager eyes, having no words to say, overcome by the joy that surged through him like a mighty rush of waters. In the moment's glorious certainty he rested until she stirred nervously under his devouring look, and spoke.
"Come, kiss me now and let me go."
He kissed her eyes so that she shut them; then he kissed her lips—long—letting her go at last, grudgingly, fearfully, unsatisfied.
"You scare me when you look that way. You mustn't be so fierce."
"I told him he didn't know you."
"Who didn't know me, sir?"
"A man who said I wasn't sure of you."
"So you are sure of me, are you, Mr. Preacherman? Is it because we've been sweethearts since so long? But remember you've been much away. I've seen you—let me count—but one little time of two weeks in three years. You would go on that horrid mission."
"Is not religion made up of obedience, let life or death come?"
"Is there no room for loving one's sweetheart in it?"
"One must obey, and I am a better man for having denied myself and gone. I can love you better. I have been taught to think of others. I was sent to open up the gospel in the Eastern States because I had been endowed with almost the open vision. It was my call to help in the setting up of the Messiah's latter-day kingdom. Besides, we may never question the commands of the holy priesthood, even if our wicked hearts rebel in secret."
"If you had questioned the right person sharply enough, you might have had an answer as to why you were sent."
"What do you mean? How could I have questioned? How could I have rebelled against the stepping-stone of my exaltation?"
His face relaxed a little, and he concluded almost quizzically:
"Was not Satan hurled from high heaven for resisting authority?"
She pouted, caught him by the lapels of his coat and prettily tried to shake him.
"There—horrid!—you're preaching again. Please remember you're not on mission now. Indeed, sir, you were called back for being too—too—why, do you know, even old Elder Munsel, 'Fire-brand Munsel,' they call him, said you were too fanatical."
His face grew serious.
"I'm glad to be called back to you, at any rate,—and yet, think of all those poor benighted infidels who believe there are no longer revelations nor prophecies nor gifts nor healings nor speaking with tongues,—this miserable generation so blind in these last days when the time of God's wrath is at hand. Oh, I burn in my heart for them, night after night, suffering for the tortures that must come upon them—thrice direful because they have rejected the message of Moroni and trampled upon the priesthood of high heaven, butchering the Saints of the Most High, and hunting the prophets of God like Ahab of old."
"Oh, dear, please stop it! You sound like swearing!" Her two hands were closing her ears in a pretty pretense.
He seemed hardly to hear her, but went on excitedly:
"Yet I have done what man could do. I am never done doing. I would gladly give my body to be burned a thousand times if it would avail to save them into the Kingdom. I have preached the word tirelessly— fanatically, they say—but only as it burned in my bones. I have told them of visions, dreams, revelations, miracles, and all the mercies of this last dispensation. And I have prayed and fasted. Just now coming from winter quarters, when I could not preach, I held twelve fasts and twelve vigils. You will say it has weakened me, but it has weakened only the bonds that the flesh puts upon the spirit. Even so, I fell short of my vision—my tabernacle of flesh must have been too much profaned, though how I cannot dream—believe me, I have kept myself as high and clean as I knew. Yet there was promise. For only last night at the river bank, the spirit came partially upon me. I was taken with a faintness, and I heard above my head a sound like the rustling of silken robes, and the spirit of God hovered over me, so that I could feel its radiance. All in good time, then, it shall dwell within me, so that I may know a way to save the worthy."
He grasped her wrist and bent eagerly forward, with the same wild look in his eyes that had before disquieted her.
"Mark what I say now—I shall do great works for this generation; I am strangely favoured of God; I have felt the spirit quicken wondrously within me, and I know the Lord works not in vain; what great wonder of grace I shall do, what miracle of salvation, I know not, but remember, it shall be transcendent; tell it to no one, but I know in my inner secret heart it shall be a greater work than man hath yet done."
He stopped and drew himself up, shaking his head, as if to shrug off the spell of his own feeling.
"Now, now! stop it at once, and come to the house. I've been tending your father and mother, and I'm going to tend you. What you need directly is food. Your look may be holy, but I prefer full cheeks. Not another word until you have eaten every crumb I put before you."
With an air of captor, daintily fierce, she led him toward the house and up to the door, which she pushed open before him.
"Come softly, your mother may be still asleep—no, your father is talking—listen!"
A querulous voice, rough with strong feeling, came from the inner room.
"Here, I tell you, is the prophecy of Joseph to prove it, away back in 1832: 'Verily thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will terminate in the death and misery of many souls. The days will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at that place; for behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called.' Now will you doubt again, mother? For persecuting the Saints of the most high God, this republic shall be dashed to pieces like a potter's vessel. But we shall be safe. The Lord will gather Israel home to the chambers of the mountains against the day of wrath that is coming on the Gentile world. For all flesh hath corrupted itself on the face of the earth, but the Saints shall possess a purified land, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh. Then shall the heavens open—"
He broke off, for the girl came leading in the son, who, as soon as he saw the white-haired old man with his open book, sitting beside the wasted woman on the bed, flew to them with a glad cry.
They embraced him and smoothed and patted him, tremulously, feebly, with broken thanks for his safe return. The mother at last fell back upon her pillow, her eyes shining with the joy of a great relief, while the father was seized with a fit of coughing that cruelly racked his gaunt frame and left him weak but smiling.
The girl had been placing food upon the table.
"Come, Joel," she urged, "you must eat—we have all breakfasted, so you must sit alone, but we shall watch you."
She pushed him into the chair and filled his plate, in spite of his protests.
"Not another word until you have eaten it all."
"The very sight of it is enough. I am not hungry."
But she coaxed and commanded, with her hands upon his shoulders, and he let himself be persuaded to taste the bread and meat. After a few mouthfuls, taken with obvious disrelish, she detected the awakening fervour of a famished man, and knew she would have to urge no more.
As the son ate, the girl busied herself at the mother's pillow, while the father talked and ruminated by intervals,—a text, a word of cheer to the wasted mother, incidents of old days, memories of early revivals. In 1828, he had hailed Dylkes, the "Leatherwood God," as the real Messiah. Then he had been successively a Freewill Baptist, a Winebrennerian, a Universalist, a Disciple, and finally an eloquent and moving preacher in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now he was a wild-eyed old dreamer with a high, narrow forehead depressed at the temples, enfeebled, living much in the past. Once his voice would be low, as if he spoke only to himself; again it would rise in warning to an evil generation.
"The end of the world is at hand, laddie," he began, after looking fondly at his son for a time. "Joseph said there are those now living who shall not taste of death till Jesus comes. And then, oh, then—the great white day! There is strong delusion among the wicked in the day in which we live, but the seed of Abraham, the royal seed, the blessed seed of the Lord, shall be told off to its separate glory. The Lord will spread the curtains of Zion and gather it out to the fat valleys of Ephraim, and there, with resurrected bodies it shall possess the purified earth. I shall be away for a time before then, laddie—and the dear mother here. Our crowns have been earned and will not long be withheld. But you will be there for the glory of it, and who more deserves it?"
"I pray to be made worthy of the exaltation, Father."
"You are, laddie. The word and the light came to me when I preached another faith—for the spirit of Thomas Campbell had aforetime moved me—but you, laddie, you have been bred in the word and the truth. The Lord, as a mark of his favour, has kept you from the contamination of doubters, infidels, heretics, and apostates. You have been educated under the care of the priesthood, close here in Nauvoo the Beautiful, and who could more deserve the fulness of thrones, dominions, and of power—who of all those whose number the after-time shall unfold?"
He turned appealingly to the mother, whose fevered eyes rested fondly upon her boy as she nodded confirmation of the words.
"Did he not march all the way from Kirtland to Missouri with us in '34—the youngest soldier in the whole army of Zion? How old, laddie?—twelve, was it?—so he marched a hundred miles for every one of his little years—and so valiant—none more so—begging us to hasten and give battle so he could fight upon the Lord's side. Twelve hundred miles he walked to put back in their homes the persecuted Saints of Jackson County. But, ah! There he saw liberty strangled in her sanctuary. Do you mind, laddie, how in '38 we were driven by the mob from Jackson across the river into Clay County? how they ran off our cattle, stole our grain? how your poor old mother's mother died from exposure that night in the rain and sleet? how we lived on mast and corn, the winter, in tents and a few dugouts and rickety huts—we who had the keys of St. Peter and the gifts of the apostolic age? Do you mind the sackings and burnings at Adam-Ondi-Ahman? Do you mind the wife of Joseph's brother, Don Carlos, she that was made by the soldiers to wade Grand River with two helpless babes in her arms? They would not even let her warm herself, before she started, at the flames of her own hut they had fired. And, laddie, you mind Haun's mill. Ah, the bloody day!—you were there, and one other, the sister, happy, beautiful as her in the Song of Songs, when the brutes came—"
"Don't, father—stop there—you are making my throat shut against the food."
"Then you came to Far West in time to see Joseph and his brethren sold to the mobocrats by that devil's traitor, Hinkle,—you saw the fleeing Saints forced to leave their all, hunted out of Missouri into Illinois—their houses burned, the cattle stolen, their wives and daughters—"
"Don't, father! Be quiet again. You and mother must be fit for our journey, as fit as we younger folk."
He glanced fondly across the table, where the girl had leaned her chin in her hands to watch him, speculatively. She avoided his eyes.
"Yes, yes," assented the old man, "and you know of our persecutions here—how we had to finish the temple with our arms by our sides, even as the faithful finished the walls of Jerusalem—and how we were driven out by night—"
"Yes, yes. Ah, this gathering out! How far shall we go, laddie?"
"Four hundred miles to winter quarters. From there no one yet knows,—a thousand, maybe two thousand."
"Aye, to the Rockies or beyond, even to the Pacific. Joseph prophesied it—where we shall be left in peace until the great day."
The young man glanced quickly up.
"Or have time to grow mighty, if we should not be let alone. Surely this is the last time the Lord would have us meek under the mob."
"Ho, ho! As you were twelve years ago, trudging by my side, valiant to fight if the Lord but wills it! But have no fear, boy. This time we go far beyond all that may tempt the spoiler. We go into the desert, where no humans are but the wretched red Lamanites; no beasts but the wild ones of four feet to hunger for our flesh; no verdure, no nourishment to sustain us save the manna from on high,—a region of unknown perils and unnamed deserts. Truly we make the supreme test. I do not overcolour it. Prudence, hand me yonder scrap-book, there on the secretary. Here I shall read you the words of no less a one than Senator Daniel Webster on the floor of the Senate but a few months agone. He spoke on the proposal to fix a mail-route from Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River in that far-off land. Hear this great man who knows whereof he speaks. He is very bitter. 'What do we want with this vast, worthless area—this region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts, of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie-dogs? To what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts or those endless mountain ranges, impenetrable and covered to their very base with eternal snows? What can we ever hope to do with that Western coast, a coast of three thousand miles, rock-bound, cheerless, uninviting, and not a harbour on it. Mr. President, I will never vote one cent from the public treasury to place the Pacific Coast one inch nearer to Boston than it now is!'"
The girl had been making little impatient flights about the room, as if awaiting an opportunity to interrupt the old man's harangue, but even as she paused to speak, he began again:
"There, laddie, do you hear him?—arid deserts, shifting sand, snow and ice, wild beasts and wilder men—that is where Israel of the last days shall be hidden to wait for the second coming of God's Christ. There, having received our washings and anointings in the temple of God on earth, we shall wait unmolested, and spread the curtains of Zion in due circumspection. And what a migration to be recorded in another sacred history ages hence! Surely the blood of our martyred Prophet hath not smoked to heaven in vain. Where is there a parallel to this hegira? They from Egypt went from a heathen land, a land of idolatry, to a fertile home chosen for them by the Lord. But we go from a fair, smiling land of plenty and pretended Christianity into the burning desert. They have driven us to the edge; now they drive us in. But God works his way among the peoples of earth, and we are strong. Who knows but that we shall in our march throw up a highway of holiness to the rising generation? So let us round up our backs to the burden!"
"Amen!" replied the young man fervently, as he rose from the table.
"And now we must be about our preparations for the journey. The time is short—who is that?"
He sprang to the door. Outside, quick steps were heard approaching. The girl, who had risen in some confusion, stood blushing and embarrassed before him. The mother rose feebly on her elbow to reassure him.
"'Tis Captain Girnway, laddie. Have no alarm—he has befriended us. But for him we should have been put out two days ago, without shelter and without care. He let us be housed here until you should come."
There was a knock at the door, but Joel stood with his back to it. The words of Seth Wright were running roughshod through his mind. He looked sharply at Prudence.
"A mobocrat—our enemy—and you have taken favours from him—a minion of the devil?—shame!"
The girl looked up.
"He was kind; you don't realise that he has probably saved their lives. Indeed, you must let him in and thank him."
The mother interposed hurriedly.
"Yes, yes, laddie! You know not how high-handed they have been. They expelled all but us, and some they have maltreated shamefully. This one has been kind to us. Open the door."
"I dare not face him—I may not contain myself!"
The knock was repeated more loudly. The girl went up to him and put her hands on his shoulders to draw him away.
"Be reasonable," she pleaded, in low tones, "and above all, be polite to him."
She put him gently aside and drew back the door. On the threshold smiled the young captain he had watched from the window that morning, marching at the head of his company. His cap was doffed, and his left hand rested easily on the hilt of his sword. He stepped inside as one sure of his welcome.
"Good morning, Miss Prudence, good morning, Mr. Rae, good morning, madam—good morning—"
He looked questioningly at the stranger. Prudence stepped forward.
"This is Joel Rae, Captain Girnway."
They bowed, somewhat stiffly. Each was dark. Each had a face to attract women. But the captain was at peace with the world, neatly uniformed, well-fed, clean-shaven, smiling, pleasant to look upon, while the other was unshaven, hollow-cheeked, gaunt, roughly dressed, a thing that had been hunted and was now under ban. Each was at once sensible of the contrast between them, and each was at once affected by it: the captain to a greater jauntiness, a more effusive affability; the other to a stonier sternness.
"I am glad to know you have come, Mr. Rae. Your people have worried a little, owing to the unfortunate circumstances in which they have been placed."
"I—I am obliged to you, sir, in their behalf, for your kindness to my father and mother and to Miss Corson here."
"You are a thousand times welcome, sir. Can you tell me when you will wish to cross the river?"
"At the very earliest moment that God and the mob will let us. To-morrow morning, I hope."
"This has not been agreeable to me, believe me—"
"Far less so to us, you may be sure; but we shall be content again when we can get away from all your whiggery, democratism, devilism, mobism!"
He spoke with rising tones, and the other flushed noticeably about the temples.
"Have your wagons ready to-morrow morning, then, Mr. Rae—at eight? Very well, I shall see that you are protected to the ferry. There has been so much of that tone of talk, sir, that some of our men have resented it."
He turned pleasantly to Prudence.
"And you, Miss Prudence, you will be leaving Nauvoo for Springfield, I suppose. As you go by Carthage, I shall wish to escort you that far myself, to make sure of your safety."
The lover turned fiercely, seizing the girl's wrist and drawing her toward him before she could answer.
"Her goal is Zion, not Babylon, sir—remember that!"
She stepped hastily between them.
"We will talk of that to-morrow, Captain," she said, quickly, and added, "You may leave us now for we have much to do here in making ready for the start."
"Until to-morrow morning, then, at eight."
He bowed low over the hand she gave him, gracefully saluted the others, and was gone.
A Fair Apostate
She stood flushed and quick-breathing when the door had shut, he bending toward her with dark inquiry in his eyes. Before she spoke, he divined that under her nervousness some resolution lay stubbornly fixed.
"Let us speak alone," she said, in a low voice. Then, to the old people, "Joel and I will go into the garden awhile to talk. Be patient."
"Not for long, dear; our eyes are aching for him."
"Only a little while," and she smiled back at them. She went ahead through the door by which they had first entered, and out into the garden at the back of the house. He remembered, as he followed her, that since he had arrived that morning she had always been leading him, directing him as if to a certain end, with the air of meaning presently to say something of moment to him.
They went past the rose-bush near which she had stood when he first saw her, and down a walk through borders of marigolds. She picked one of the flowers and fixed it in his coat.
"You are much too savage—you need a posy to soften you. There! Now come to this seat."
She led him to a rustic double chair under the heavily fruited boughs of an apple-tree, and made him sit down. She began with a vivacious playfulness, poorly assumed, to hide her real feeling.
"Now, sobersides, it must end—this foolishness of yours—"
She stopped, waiting for some question of his to help her. But he said nothing, though she could feel the burning of his eyes upon her.
"This superstitious folly, you know," she blurted out, looking up at him in sudden desperation.
"Tell me what you mean—you must know I'm impatient."
She essayed to be playful again, pouting her dimpled face near to his that he might kiss her. But he did not seem to see. He only waited.
"Well—this religion—this Mormonism—"
She shot one swift look at him, then went on quickly.
"My people have left the church, and—I—too—they found things in Joseph Smith's teachings that seemed bad to them. They went to Springfield. I would have gone, too, but I told them I wanted first to see you and—and see if you would not come with us—at least for awhile, not taking the poor old father and mother through all that wretchedness. They consented to let me stay with your parents on condition that Captain Girnway would protect them and me. He—he—is very kind—and had known us since last winter and had seen me—us—several times. I hadn't the heart to tell your father; he was so set on going to the new Zion, but you will come, won't you?"
"Wait a moment!" He put a hand upon her arm as if to arrest her speech. "You daze me. Let me think." She looked up at him, wondering at his face, for it showed strength and bitterness and gentleness all in one look—and he was suffering. She put her hand upon his, from an instinct of pity. The touch recalled him.
"Now—for the beginning." He spoke with aroused energy, a little wistful smile softening the strain of his face. "You were wise to give me food, else I couldn't have solved this mystery. To the beginning, then: You, Prudence Corson, betrothed to me these three years and more; you have been buried in the waters of baptism and had your washings and anointings in the temple of the most high God. Is it not so? Your eyes were anointed that they might be quick to see, your ears that they might be apt at hearing, your mouth that you might with wisdom speak the words of eternal life, and your feet that they might be swift to run in the ways of the Lord. You accepted thereby the truth that the angel of God had delivered to Joseph Smith the sealing keys of power. You accepted the glorious articles of the new covenant. You were about to be sealed up to me for time and eternity. Now—I am lost—what is it?—your father and mother have left the church, and because of what?"
"Because of bad things, because of this doctrine they practise—this wickedness of spiritual wives, plural wives. Think of it, Joel—that if I were your wife you might take another."
"I need not think of it. Surely you know my love. You know I could not do that. Indeed I have heard at last that this doctrine so long gossiped of is a true one. But I have been away and am not yet learned in its mysteries. But this much I do know—and it is the very corner-stone of my life: Peter, James, and John ordained Joseph Smith here on this earth, and Joseph ordained the twelve. All other churches have been established by the wisdom or folly of man. Ours is the only one on earth established by direct revelation from God. It has a priesthood, and that priesthood is a power we must reverence and obey, no matter what may be its commands. When the truth is taught me of this doctrine you speak of, I shall see it to be right for those to whom it is ordained. And meantime, outside of my own little life—my love for you, which would be always single—I can't measure the revealed will of God with my little moral foot-rule. Joseph was endowed with the open vision. He saw God face to face and heard His voice. Can the standards of society in its present corruption measure and pass upon the revelations of so white-souled a man?"
"I believe he was not white-souled," she replied, in a kind, animated way, as one who was bent upon saving him from error. "I told you I knew why you were sent away on mission. It was because you were my accepted lover—and your white-souled Joseph Smith wanted me for himself."
"I can't believe it—you couldn't know such a thing"—his faith made a brave rally—"but even so, if he sought you, why, the more honour to you—and to me, if you still clung to me."
"Listen. I was afraid to tell you before—ashamed—but I told my people. It's three years ago. I was seventeen. It was just after we had become engaged. My people were then strong in the faith, as you know. One morning after you had left for the East, Brigham Young and Heber Kimball came to our house for me. They said the Prophet had long known me by sight, and wished to talk with me. Would I go with them to visit him and he would bless and counsel me? Of course I was flattered. I put on my prettiest frock and fetchingest bonnet and set off with them, after mamma had said yes. On the way they kept asking me if I was willing to do all the Prophet required. I said I was sure of it, thinking they meant to be good and worshipful. Then they would ask if I was ready to take counsel, and they said, 'Many things are revealed unto us in these last days that the world would scoff at,' but that it had been given to them to know all the mysteries of the Kingdom. Then they said, 'You will see Joseph and he will tell you what you are to do.'"
He was listening with a serious, confident eagerness, as if he knew she could say nothing to dim the Prophet's lustre.
"When we reached the building where Joseph's store was, they led me up-stairs to a small room and sent down to the store for the Prophet. When he came up they introduced me and left me alone in the little room with him. Their actions had seemed queer to me, but I remembered that this man had talked face to face with God, so I tried to feel better. But all at once he stood before me and asked me to be his wife. Think of it! I was so frightened! I dared not say no, he looked at me so—I can't tell you how; but I said it would not be lawful. He said, 'Yes, Prudence, I have had a revelation from God that it is lawful and right for a man to have as many wives as he wants—for as it was in the days of Abraham, so it shall be in these days. Accept me and I shall take you straight to the celestial Kingdom. Brother Brigham will marry us here, right now, and you can go home to-night and keep it secret from your parents if you like.' Then I said, 'But I am betrothed to Joel Rae, the son of Giles Rae, who is away on mission.' 'I know that,' he said—'I sent him away, and anyway you will be safer to marry me. You will then be absolutely sure of your celestial reward, for in the next world, you know, I am to have powers, thrones, and dominions, while Brother Joel is very young and has not been tried in the Kingdom. He may fall away and then you would be lost.'"
The man in him now was struggling with his faith, and he seemed about to interrupt her, but she went on excitedly.
"I said I would not want to do anything of the kind without deliberation. He urged me to have it over, trying to kiss me, and saying he knew it would be right before God; that if there was any sin in it he would take it upon himself. He said, 'You know I have the keys of the Kingdom, and whatever I bind on earth is bound in heaven. Come,' he said, 'nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let me call Brother Brigham to seal us, and you shall be a star in my crown for ever.'
"Then I broke down and cried, for I was so afraid, and he put his arms around me, but I pushed away, and after awhile I coaxed him to give me until the next Sabbath to think it over, promising on my life to say not one word to any person. I never let him see me alone again, you may be sure, and at last when other awful tales were told about him here, of wickedness and his drunkenness—he told in the pulpit that he had been drunk, and that he did it to keep them from worshipping him as a God—I saw he was a bad, common man, and I told my people everything, and soon my father was denounced for an apostate. Now, sir, what do you say?"
When she finished he was silent for a time. Then he spoke, very gently, but with undaunted firmness.
"Prudence, dearest, I have told you that this doctrine is new to me. I do not yet know its justification. But that I shall see it to be sanctified after they have taught me, this I know as certainly as I know that Joseph Smith dug up the golden plates of Mormon and Moroni on the hill of Cumorah when the angel of the Lord moved him. It will be sanctified for those who choose it, I mean. You know I could never choose it for myself. But as for others, I must not question. I know only too well that eternal salvation for me depends upon my accepting manfully and unquestioningly the authority of the temple priesthood."
"But I know Joseph was not a good man—and they tell such absurd stories about the miracles the Elders pretend to work."
"I believe with all my heart Joseph was good; but even if not—we have never pretended that he was anything more than a prophet of God. And was not Moses a murderer when God called him to be a prophet? And as for miracles, all religions have them—why not ours? Your people were Methodists before Joseph baptised them. Didn't Wesley work miracles? Didn't a cloud temper the sun in answer to his prayer? Wasn't his horse cured of a lameness by his faith? Didn't he lay hands upon the blind Catholic girl so that she saw plainly when her eyes rested upon the New Testament and became blind again when she took up the mass book? Are those stories absurd? My father himself saw Joseph cast a devil out of Newell Knight."
"And this awful journey into a horrid desert. Why must you go? Surely there are other ways of salvation." She hesitated a moment. "I have been told that going to heaven is like going to mill. If your wheat is good, the miller will never ask which way you came."
"Child, child, some one has tampered with you."
She retorted quickly.
"He did not tamper, he has never sought to—he was all kindness."
She stopped, her short upper lip holding its incautious mate a prisoner. She blushed furiously under the sudden blaze of his eyes.
"So it's true, what Seth Wright hinted at? To think that you, of all people—my sweetheart—gone over—won over by a cursed mobocrat—a fiend with the blood of our people wet on his hands! Listen, Prue; I'm going into the desert. Even though you beg me to stay, you must have known—perhaps you hoped—that I would go. There are many reasons why I must. For one, there are six hundred and forty poor hunted wretches over there on the river bank, sick, cold, wet, starving, but enduring it all to the death for their faith in Joseph Smith. They could have kept their comfortable homes here and their substance, simply by renouncing him—they are all voluntary exiles—they have only to say 'I do not believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God,' and these same Gentiles will receive them with open arms, give them clothing, food, and shelter, put them again in possession of their own. But they are lying out over there, fever-stricken, starving, chilled, all because they will not deny their faith. Shall I be a craven, then, who have scarcely ever wanted for food or shelter, and probably shall not? Of course you don't love me or you couldn't ask me to do that. Those faithful wretched ones are waiting over there for me to guide them on toward a spot that will probably be still more desolate. They could find their way, almost, by the trail of graves we left last spring, but they need my strength and my spirit, and I am going. I am going, too, for my own salvation. I would suffer anything for you, but by going I may save us both. Listen, child; God is going to make a short work on earth. We shall both see the end of this reign of sin. It is well if you take wheat to the mill, but what if you fetch the miller chaff instead?"
She made a little protesting move with her hands, and would have spoken, but he was not done.
"Now, listen further. You heard my father tell how I have seen this people driven and persecuted since I was a boy. That, if nothing else, would take me away from these accursed States and their mobs. Hatred of them has been bred into my marrow. I know them for the most part to be unregenerate and doomed, but even if it were otherwise—if they had the true light—none the less would I be glad to go, because of what they have done to us and to me and to mine. Oh, in the night I hear such cries of butchered mothers with their babes, and see the flames of the little cabins—hear the shots and the ribaldry and the cursings. My father spoke to you of Haun's mill,—that massacre back in Missouri. That was eight years ago. I was a boy of sixteen and my sister was a year older. She had been left in my care while father and mother went on to Far West. You have seen the portrait of her that mother has. You know how delicately flower-like her beauty was, how like a lily, with a purity and an innocence to disarm any villainy. Thirty families had halted at the mill the day before, the mob checking their advance at that point. All was quiet until about four in the afternoon. We were camped on either side of Shoal Creek. Children were playing freely about while their mothers and fathers worked at the little affairs of a pilgrimage like that. Most of them had then been three months on the road, enduring incredible hardships for the sake of their religion—for him you believe to be a bad, common man. But they felt secure now because one of the militia captains, officious like your captain here, had given them assurance the day before that they would be protected from all harm. I was helping Brother Joseph Young to repair his wagon when I glanced up to the opposite side of Shoal Creek and saw a large company of armed and mounted men coming toward our peaceful group at full speed. One of our number, seeing that they were many and that we were unarmed, ran out and cried, 'Peace!' but they came upon us and fired their volley. Men, women, and little children fell under it. Those surviving fled to the blacksmith's shop for shelter—huddling inside like frightened sheep. But there were wide cracks between the logs, and up to these the mob went, putting their guns through to do their work at leisure. Then the plundering began—plundering and worse."
He stopped, trembling, and she put out her hand to him in sympathy. When he had regained control of himself, he continued.
"At the first volley I had hurried sister to a place of concealment in the underbrush, and she, hearing them search for the survivors after the shooting was over, thought we were discovered, and sprang up to run further. One of them saw her and shot. She fell half-fainting with a bullet through her arm, and then half a dozen of them gathered quickly about her. I ran to them, screaming and striking out with my fists, but the devil was in them, and she, poor blossom, lay there helpless, calling 'Boy, boy, boy!' as she had always called me since we were babies together. Must I tell you the rest?—must I tell you—how those devils—"
"Don't, don't! Oh, no!"
"I thought I must die! They held me there—"
He had gripped one of her wrists until she cried out in pain and he released it.
"But the sight must have given me a man's strength, for my struggles became so troublesome that one of them—I have always been grateful for it—clubbed his musket and dealt me a blow that left me senseless. It was dark when I came to, but I lay there until morning, unable to do more than crawl. When the light came I found the poor little sister there near where they had dragged us both, and she was alive. Can you realise how awful that was—that she had lived through it? God be thanked, she died before the day was out.
"After that the other mutilated bodies, the plundered wagons, all seemed less horrible to me. My heart had been seared over. They had killed twenty of the Saints, and the most of them we hurried to throw into a well, fearful that the soldiers of Governor Boggs would come back at any moment to strip and hack them. O God! and now you have gone over to one of them!"
"Joel,—dear, dear Joel!—indeed I pity and sympathise—and care for—but I cannot go—even after all you say. And don't you see it will always be so! My father says the priesthood will always be in trouble if it sets itself above the United States. Dear Joel, I can't go, indeed I can't go!"
He spoke more softly now.
"Thank God I don't realise it yet—I mean, that we must part. You tell me so and I hear you and my mind knows, but my heart hasn't sensed it yet—I can feel it now going stupidly along singing its old happy song of hope and gladness, while all this is going on here outside. But soon the big hurt will come. Oh, Prue—Prue, girl!—can't you think what it will mean to me? Don't you know how I shall sicken for the sight of you, and my ears will listen for you! Prudence, Prue, darling—yet I must not be womanish! I have a big work to do. I have known it with a new clearness since that radiance rested above my head last night. The truth burns in me like a fire. Your going can't take that from me. It must be I was not meant to have you. With you perhaps I could not have had a heart single to God's work. He permitted me to love you so I could be tried and proved."
He looked at her fondly, and she could see striving and trembling in his eyes a great desire to crush her in his arms, yet he fought it down, and continued more calmly.
"But indeed I must be favoured more than common, to deserve that so great a hurt be put upon me, and I shall not be found wanting. I shall never wed any woman but you, though, dear. If not you, never any other."
He stood up.
"I must go in to them now. There must be work to do against the start to-morrow."
"May the Lord deafen my ears to you, darling!" and squaring his shoulders resolutely away from her, he left her on the seat and went in.
The old man looked up from his Bible as his son entered.
"It's sore sad, laddie, we can't have the temple for your sealing-vows."
"Prudence will not be sealed to me, father." He spoke dazedly, as if another like the morning's blow had been dealt him. "I—I am already sealed to the Spirit for time and eternity."
"Was it Prudence's doings?" asked his mother, quickly.
"Yes; she has left the church with her people."
The long-faced, narrow-browed old man raised one hand solemnly.
"Then let her be banished from Israel and not numbered in the books of the offspring of Abraham! And let her be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan in the flesh!"
Giles Rae Beautifies His Inheritance
By eight o'clock the next morning, out under a cloudy sky, the Raes were ready and eager for their start to the new Jerusalem. Even the sick woman's face wore a kind of soft and faded radiance in the excitement of going. On her mattress, she had been tenderly installed in one of the two covered wagons that carried their household goods. The wagon in which she lay was to be taken across the river by Seth Wright,—for the moment no Wild Ram of the Mountains, but a soft-cooing dove of peace. Permission had been granted him by Brockman to recross the river on some needful errands; and, having once proved the extreme sensitiveness, not to say irritability, of those in temporary command, he was now resolved to give as little eclat as possible to certain superior aspects of his own sanctity. He spoke low and deferentially, and his mien was that of a modest, retiring man who secretly thought ill of himself.
He mounted the wagon in which the sick woman lay, sat well back under the bowed cover, clucked low to the horses, and drove off toward the ferry. If discreet behaviour on his part could ensure it there would be no conflict provoked with superior numbers; with numbers, moreover, composed of violent-tempered and unprincipled persecutors who were already acting with but the merest shadow of legal authority.
On the seat of the second wagon, whip in hand, was perched Giles Rae, his coat buttoned warmly to the chin. He was slight and feeble to the eye, yet he had been fired to new life by the certainty that now they were to leave the territory of the persecuting Gentiles for a land to be the Saints' very own. His son stood at the wheel, giving him final directions. At the gate was Prudence Corson, gowned for travel, reticule in hand, her prettiness shadowed, under the scoop of her bonnet, the toe of one trim little boot meditatively rolling a pebble over the ground.
"Drive slowly, Daddy. Likely I shall overtake you before you reach the ferry. I want but a word yet with Prudence; though"—he glanced over at the bowed head of the girl—"no matter if I linger a little, since Brother Seth will cross first and we must wait until the boat comes back. Some of our people will be at the ferry to look after you,—and be careful to have no words with any of the mob—no matter what insult they may offer. You're feeling strong, aren't you?"
"Ay, laddie, that I am! Strong as an ox! The very thought of being free out of this Babylon has exalted me in spirit and body. Think of it, boy! Soon we shall be even beyond the limits of the United States—in a foreign land out there to the west, where these bloodthirsty ones can no longer reach us. Thank God they're like all snakes—they can't jump beyond their own length!"
He leaned out of the wagon to shake a bloodless, trembling fist toward the temple where the soldiers had made their barracks.
"Now let great and grievous judgments, desolations, by famine, sword, and pestilence come upon you, generation of vipers!"
He cracked the whip, the horses took their load at his cheery call, and as the wagon rolled away they heard him singing:—
"Lo, the Gentile chain is broken! Freedom's banner waves on high!"
They watched him until the wagon swung around into the street that fell away to the ferry. Then they faced each other, and he stepped to her side as she leaned lightly on the gate.
"Prue, dear," he said, softly, "it's going hard with me. God must indeed have a great work reserved for me to try me with such a sacrifice—so much pain where I could least endure it. I prayed all the night to be kept firm, for there are two ways open—one right and one wrong; but I cannot sell my soul so early. That's why I wanted to say the last good-bye out here. I was afraid to say it in there—I am so weak for you, Prue—I ache so for you in all this trouble—why, if I could feel your hands in my hair, I'd laugh at it all—I'm so weak for you, dearest."
She tossed her yellow head ever so slightly, and turned the scoop of her bonnet a little away from his pain-lighted face.
"I am not complimented, though—you care more for your religion than for me."
He looked at her hungrily.
"No, you are wrong there—I don't separate you at all—I couldn't—you and my religion are one—but, if I must, I can love you in spirit as I worship my God in spirit—"
"If it will satisfy you, very well!"
"My reward will come—I shall do a great work, I shall have a Witness from the sky. Who am I that I should have thought to win a crown without taking up a cross?"
"I am sorry for you."
"Oh, Prue, there must be a way to save the souls of such as you, even in their blindness. Would God make a flower like you, only to let it be lost? There must be a way. I shall pray until I force it from the secret heavens."
"My soul will be very well, sir!" she retorted, with a distinct trace of asperity. "I am not a heathen, I'd thank you to remember—and when I'm a wife I shall be my husband's only wife—"
He winced in acutest pain.
"You have no right to taunt me so. Else you can't know what you have meant to me. Oh, you were all the world, child—you, of your own dear self—you would have been all the wives in the world to me—there are many, many of you, and all in a heavenly one—"
"Oh, forgive me, dearest," she cried, and put out a little gloved hand to comfort him. "I know, I know—all the sweetness and goodness of your love, believe me. See, I have kept always by me the little Bible you gave me on my birthday—I have treasured it, and I know it has made me a better girl, because it makes me always think of your goodness—but I couldn't have gone there, Joel—and it does seem as if you need not have gone—and that marrying is so odious—"
"You shall see how little you had to fear of that doctrine which God has seen fit to reveal to these good men. I tell you now, Prue, I shall wed no woman but you. Nor am I giving you up. Don't think it. I am doing my duty and trusting God to bring you to me. I know He will do it—I tell you there is the spirit of some strange, awful strength in me, which tells me to ask what I will and it shall be given—to seek to do anything, how great or hard soever, and a giant's, a god's strength will rest in me. And so I know you will come. You will always think of me so,—waiting for you—somehow, somewhere. Every day you must think it, at any idle moment when I come to your mind; every night when you waken in the dark and silence, you must think, 'Wherever he is, he is waiting for me, perhaps awake as I am now, praying, with a power that will surely draw me.' You will come somehow. Perhaps, when I reach winter quarters, you will have changed your mind. One never knows how God may fashion these little providences. But He will bring you safe to me out of that Gentile perdition. Remember, child, God has set his hand in these last days to save the human family from the ruins of the fall, and some way, He alone knows how, you will come to me and find me waiting."
"As if you needed to wait for me when I am here now ready for you, willing to be taken!"
"Don't, don't, dear! There are two of me now, and one can't stand the pain. There is a man in me, sworn to do a man's work like a man, and duty to God and the priesthood has big chains around his heart dragging it across the river. But, low, now—there is a little, forlorn boy in me, too—a poor, crying, whimpering, babyish little boy, who dreamed of you and longed for you and was promised you, and who will never get well of losing you. Oh, I know it well enough—his tears will never dry, his heart will always have a big hurt in it—and your face will always be so fresh and clear in it!"
He put his hands on her shoulders and looked down into the face under the bonnet.
"Let me make sure I shall lose no look of you, from little tilted chin, and lips of scarlet thread, and little teeth like grains of rice, and eyes into which I used to wander and wonder so far—"
She looked past him and stepped back.
"Captain Girnway is coming for me—yonder, away down the street. He takes me to Carthage."
His face hardened as he looked over his shoulder.
"I shall never wed any woman but you. Can you feel as deeply as that? Will you wed no man but me?"
She fluttered the cherry ribbons on the bonnet and fixed a stray curl in front of one ear.
"Have you a right to ask that? I might wait a time for you to come back—to your senses and to me, but—"
"What, will you go that way—not kiss me? He is still two blocks away."
"I am so weak for you, sweet—the little boy in me is crying for you, but he must not have what he wants. What he wants would leave his heart rebellious and not perfect with the Lord. It's best not," he continued, with an effort at a smile and in a steadier tone. "It would mean so much to me—oh, so very much to me—and so very little to you—and that's no real kiss. I'd rather remember none of that kind—and don't think I was churlish—it's only because the little boy—I will go after my father now, and God bless you!"
He turned away. A few paces on he met Captain Girnway, jaunty, debonair, smiling, handsome in his brass-buttoned uniform of the Carthage Grays.
"I have just left the ferry, Mr. Rae. The wagon with your mother has gone over. The other had not yet come down. Some of the men appear to be a little rough this morning. Your people are apt to provoke them by being too outspoken, but I left special orders for the good treatment of yourself and outfit."
With a half-smothered "thank you," he passed on, not trusting himself to say more to one who was not only the enemy of his people, but bent, seemingly, on deluding a young woman to the loss of her soul. He heard their voices in cheerful greeting, but did not turn back. With eyes to the front and shoulders squared he kept stiffly on his way through the silent, deserted streets to the ferry.
Fifteen minutes' walk brought him to the now busy waterside. The ferry, a flat boat propelled by long oars, was landing when he came into view, and he saw his father's wagon driven on. He sped down the hill, pushed through the crowd of soldiers standing about, and hurried forward on the boat to let the old man know he had come. But on the seat was another than his father. He recognised the man, and called to him.
"What are you doing there, Brother Keaton? Where's my father?"
The man had shrunk back under the wagon-cover, having seemingly been frightened by the soldiers.
"I've taken your father's place, Brother Rae."
"Did he cross with Brother Wright?"
"Yes—he—" The man hesitated. Then came an interruption from the shore.
"Come, clear the gangway there so we can load! Here are some more of the damned rats we've hunted out of their holes!"
The speaker made a half-playful lunge with his bayonet at a gaunt, yellow-faced spectre of a man who staggered on to the boat with a child in his arms wrapped in a tattered blue quilt. A gust of the chilly wind picked his shapeless, loose-fitting hat off as he leaped to avoid the bayonet-point, and his head was seen to be shaven. The crowd on the bank laughed loud at his clumsiness and at his grotesque head. Joel Rae ran to help him forward on the boat.
"Thank you, Brother—I'm just up from the fever-bed—they shaved my head for it—and so I lost my hat—thank you—here we shall be warm if only the sun comes out."
Joel went back to help on others who came, a feeble, bedraggled dozen or so that had clung despairingly to their only shelter until they were driven out.
"You can stay here in safety, you know, if you renounce Joseph Smith and his works—they will give you food and shelter." He repeated it to each little group of the dispirited wretches as they staggered past him, but they replied staunchly by word or look, and one man, in the throes of a chill, swung his cap and uttered a feeble "Hurrah for the new Zion!"
When they were all on with their meagre belongings, he called again to the man in the wagon.
"Brother Keaton, my father went across, did he?"
Several of the men on shore answered him.
"Yes"—"Old white-whiskered death's-head went over the river"—"Over here"—"A sassy old codger he was"—"He got his needings, too"—"Got his needings—"
They cast off the line and the oars began to dip.
"And you'll get your needings, too, if you come back, remember that! That's the last of you, and we'll have no more vermin like you. Now see what old Joe Smith, the white-hat prophet, can do for you in the Indian territory!"
He stood at the stern of the boat, shivering as he looked at the current, swift, cold, and gray under the sunless sky. He feared some indignity had been offered to his father. They had looked at one another queerly when they answered his questions. He went forward to the wagon again.
"Brother Keaton, you're sure my father is all right?"
"I am sure he's all right, Brother Rae."
Content with this, at last, he watched the farther flat shore of the Mississippi, with its low fringe of green along the edge, where they were to land and be at last out of the mob's reach. He repeated his father's words: "Thank God, they're like all snakes; they can't jump beyond their own length."
The confusion of landing and the preparations for an immediate start drove for the time all other thoughts from his mind. It had been determined to get the little band at once out of the marshy spot where the camp had been made. The teams were soon hitched, the wagons loaded, and the train ready to move. He surveyed it, a hundred poor wagons, many of them without cover, loaded to the full with such nondescript belongings as a house-dwelling people, suddenly put out on the open road, would hurriedly snatch as they fled. And the people made his heart ache, even to the deadening of his own sorrow, as he noted their wobegoneness. For these were the sick, the infirm, the poor, the inefficient, who had been unable for one reason or another to migrate with the main body of the Saints earlier in the season. Many of them were now racked by fever from sleeping on the damp ground. These bade fair not to outlast some of the lumbering carts that threatened at every rough spot to jolt apart.
Yet the line bravely formed to the order of Seth Wright as captain, and the march began. Looking back, he saw peaceful Nauvoo, its houses and gardens, softened by the cloudy sky and the autumn haze, clustering under the shelter of their temple spire,—their temple and their houses, of which they were now despoiled by a mob's fury. Ahead he saw the road to the West, a hard road, as he knew,—one he could not hope they should cross without leaving more graves by the way; but Zion was at the end.
The wagons and carts creaked and strained and rattled under their swaying loads, and the line gradually defined itself along the road from the confused jumble at the camp. He remembered his father again now, and hurried forward to assure himself that all was right. As he overtook along the way the stumbling ones obliged to walk, he tried to cheer them.
"Only a short march to-day, brothers. Our camp is at Sugar Creek, nine miles—so take your time this first day."
Near the head of the train were his own two wagons, and beside the first walked Seth Wright and Keaton, in low, earnest converse. As he came up to them the Bishop spoke.