- part: MY QUEEN;
- CHAPTER XIII. DESPAIR CHANGED TO GLADNESS.
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DESPAIR CHANGED TO GLADNESS.
DAYS passed; each day brought fresh suffering; each day death visited the emigrant band. The pilgrims have become familiarized with the dread presence. The grave appalls them no more.
They have reached the mountains, but the steep, rocky paths are more toilsome than the alkali plain, as barren and desolate, and Zion is still so far.
One afternoon, about a week after the sow storm, the emigrants found themselves upon a small plateau, | | 67 which to the north-west opened into a steep canyon, through which the road passed.
At the entrance of the canyon was a sheltered spot with abundance of brush wood, and here the pilgrims resolved to pass the night. Before they could reach it, two men, who had been long suffering from a malady induced by cold and privation, sank by the way, unable to go any further. As the camping-place was near, their friends arranged a camp and then left them, feeling perfectly secure as to their safety. The wife of one of the men remained to nurse them.
Supper had been eaten some time; most of the pilgrims were asleep; the camp fires almost dead, when menacing howls filled the air. The sounds came nearer and nearer, growing louder and more ominous. The terrified pilgrims, rudely awakened from their sleep, clung to each other, trembling with dread.
A voice cried "The wolves, the wolves!" The hideous howlings answered, "We are the wolves!"
The pilgrims were panic-stricken. Their minds classed wolves with lions and tigers, and brave hearts, that had nobly endured hunger, fatigue, and storm, quailed before this new horror.
In vain Brother Simms assured them that wolves were too cowardly to attack a multitude, that only stragglers need fear. His words fell unheeded; men and women rushed madly about, trying to rekindle the fires, to find their weapons and to make a barricade of the carts. Nearer, nearer, came the savage pack, their fiery eyes and gleaming fangs lighting up the darkness. The excited emigrants imagined themselves surrounded by thousands of ferocious beasts, and the men fired recklessly; the women struck aim- | | 68 less blows with anything they could find to wield. The onslaught was fierce, but ill-directed. The wolves at first recoiled, but they soon returned to the fight as if they knew their advantage. Perhaps instinct told them of the exhausted condition of their opponents; perhaps hunger emboldened them, for they evinced no wolfish cowardice.
Many of the women had fainted. The wolves sprang towards the prostrate forms, and could with difficulty be beaten back.
One seized Mrs. Delville, his fangs sinking deep into her shoulder; but a blow from Julian's gun laid the wolves prostrate.
Suddenly the wolves retreated.
The pilgrims began to breathe freely, when a cry of, "The sick! the sick!" alarmed the camp.
In the fright and confusion, the sick men and their nurse had been forgotten. Instantly Julian, Brother Simms, and a few of the stoutest, started to the rescue, armed with brands, guns and knives. They fought their way through a cordon of wolves frightening, burning, killing, the savage animals.
In a few minutes they came in sight of the little camp. The strong men turned in horror from the scene revealed to them by the moonbeams. They were too late: the wolves had preceded them.
All through the dreary hours of darkness the pilgrims watched. The wolves did not return; but the mountains re-echoed with their howlings,--a paean of ghosts to which the wind moaned a dirge-like accompaniment.
The dawn came at last; the pilgrims continued their march in silence. Their hearts benumbed,--hope | | 69 and courage dead,--still they moved onwards, impelled by the instinctive love of life common to all that breathe and move.
In vain Oreana tried to rekindle enthusiasm. In vain she sang songs of Zion. Lips were mute, eyes vacant, souls paralyzed. Despair had conquered Hope.
Finding her efforts useless, Oreana asked Julian to accompany her to the rear in order to help on those who should drop behind.
The march had become one of agony. Many were lamed from frost-bite. Some had lost the use of their feet, and had to be helped along by their stronger companions. Every one suffered from swollen and blistered feet and hands, so that every step was torture. Provisions were almost gone, and they were yet many a dreary mile from Zion. To augment the gloom, the sun was obscured by heavy clouds, harbingers of another snow storm.
The pilgrims struggled on, walking by day, watching through the night; for the wolves followed them.
The snow storm came. Still a little while the pilgrims fought the storm; but resistance died at last.
"God has forsaken us: let us die down and die," cried exhausted nature.
"No; He has not forsaken us. He only tries us," exclaimed Oreana. "Let us pray to Him. He is our father. He will hear us;" and the mountains echoed, "Hear us."
The pilgrims stopped; they fell on their knees; and a prayer went up to the Eternal,--a prayer of death agony. From the midst of those desert mountains borne on the wings of the storm, arose that | | 70 prayer,--the cry of hundreds of hearts, bleeding victims of faith: a cry mightier than that of Rachel, mourning for her children. A cry that ascended to the throne of the Father.
"Hush! Hush! What is that sound?"
"O God! hast Thou remembered us?"
"Hush! It comes again, and nearer, nearer."
Heads are raised to catch the sound, and hands outstretched as if to retain it. Eyes wild with despairing fear gaze upon eyes burning with feverish hope, faces blanch with the sickening dread of disappointment, and hearts stand still with maddening suspense.
They listen in awful silence--a silence that makes audible the falling of the snow-flakes--for a word might break the spell, and hope might vanish for ever.
Hush!--hark--the rumbling of carts--the tramp of oxen--the hum of voices. The voices are singing--"Yes,"--"no,"--"it is,"--"it is a song of Zion."
Then through the canyon rings the glad cry:
"God has heard us--help is near--we are saved!"
Then tears of gladness gush forth from hearts frozen by despair.
Spirits who had bravely endured the agonies of that terrible march, sink; overwhelmed with sudden joy.
Mothers press their children to their bosom, friend clasps friend, misery is forgotten.
The mountains re-echo with prayers of thanksgiving.
"Praise be unto our Father who sends succor to His children."*| | 71
The succor came in time to save a part of the hand-cart band; but two hundred and seventeen graves mark their pathway across the desert. Two hundred and seventeen victims of religious fanaticism and the avarice of the modern Mohammed.
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