- part: MY QUEEN;
- CHAPTER XIV. THE CHIEF.
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IS transmigration a reality? or do the Spirit Principles of particular virtues and passions become incarnate from time to time in the course of ages, to teach or to destroy, or to deceive mankind?
These thoughts suggest themselves as we approach the sanctum of the Modern Man of the Mountain,--the genius of Mormonism; the center around which revolve Polygamy, Blood Atonement, Theocracy; the Despot Priest; the Chief of the Destroying Angels; the Moses of the Nineteenth Century; the Prophet, Seer, Revelator of the Latter Day Saints. A low room, lighted by two square windows, the walls unadorned, the furniture of dark wood, upholstered in somber, austere horse-hair.
In one of the arm-chairs sits a man of about fifty years. His head is large and well developed--the back brain particularly so--the forehead has great breadth, the eyebrows are heavy and near together. Eyes of grayish blue, piercing, uncomfortable eyes, gleaming with the metallic lustre of steel-eyes that can read the | | 72 hearts of men, while the drooping lids effectually conceal their own secrets.
The nose is of the aquiline order, slightly curved inwards; the lips of medium fullness, but so tightly compressed that they appear thin; the mouth large, the corners drawn in, the muscles of expression locked so that no twitch may betray the interior man. Hair and beard are abundant, of a light shade just turning gray. Tall and very thick-set-a personification of massive strength.
The man is a marvelous expression of power. Command is in his glance, in the wave of his hand-it asserts itself in his demeanor, it is heard in his step. He wants no silver vail to envelop him in mystery, no rich robes to dazzle the beholders, no armed guards to give him prestige.
Encircled with the aura of an indomitable, unscrupulous will, he boldly stands forth, utters his fiat, and thousands of deluded votaries obey.
Such, twenty years ago, was this autocrat of a barbaric creed, who, enthroned on the mountains of the "Land of Liberty and Progress," endeavored in the name of God to force mankind back to ancient barbarism.
No religious enthusiast was he, overpowering souls by the sublimity of his ideas, carrying them wheresoever he would on the wings of inspiration; but an astute, self-made despot, conquering by force of will and crafty foresight, making all things, even the name of God, subservient to his own selfish ends.
But although not an enthusiast like the prophet, Joseph, he had that which the prophet lacked--a firm, unalterable faith in himself. He was Mormonism; | | 73 therefore Mormonism was true, and the revelations that supported it were of God, true. Mankind must accept Him or be lost. In this faith he never faltered. In defeat, as well as in triumph, he regarded himself as a Napoleonic Moses,--the genius of the age,--the mouth-piece of the Lord. This conviction made him what he was-great. For whatever his crimes, his selfish meanness, the man has carved his name in capital letters on the pillars of Time. Only a few years ago, the people he now governed were fleeing in confusion and terror from an avenging mob. Homeless, moneyless, without a future, they cried to the Lord, out of their desolation, to send them a Moses. Instantly this man sprang into a cart and cried: "Attention! O ye camps of Israel."
This happy phrase made him master of the people. His judgment made him master of the situation.
He conducted them safely over unknown deserts to the Great Salt Lake. Under his direction the desert became fruitful, settlements sprang up, projects shadowed forth by the castle-building Joseph became tangible realizations. In a few years this ostracized creed attained an organizing power almost equal to that of Catholicism. His people saw this and exclaimed:
"Verily the Lord has given unto us a second Moses."
Then ambition whispered to selfishness; together they dreamed dreams, wherein this desert chief saw himself ruler of a mighty people, a conqueror, a king. But how to attain this end? The ordinary means of immigration and increase were too slow. Besides, the immigrants were mostly women. Craft hinted polygamy. Sensuality applauded, and a polygamous decree went forth--forged in God's name.| | 74
What did it matter if women's hearts bled, what did it matter if humanity became degraded? He, the chief, would rule a mighty people, ready to conquer the world.
Success smiled on his ambition. Already the feeble colony had become a strong, self-supporting people.
The hand-cart failure was the first check. The sight of the human skeletons, of the handless, footless beings that met him on the streets, worried him. Not that he reproached himself with their misery; but the lie direct they gave to revelation and prophesy, threatened him in two very delicate points---his ambition and his avarice. It might deter immigration!
A cloud rested on the great man's brow. But there was another cause for his displeasure. Elder Silvertung's wife-conquest angered him from the first, and that morning's mail brought him papers which showed up, in strong colors, the means the elder had taken to win her. Now this would not do at all. Not only would such conduct bring odium on the cause, but it was encroaching upon his privileges. Silvertung had robbed him of a lovely wife; for, of course, he could have taken possession of Mary Lascelle, if Silvertung had not forestalled him. Mary would have looked so lovely in his harem; she would have just filled the vacant spot in his affections.
It is true these affections were claimed by a dozen wives; but what were a dozen in his elastic heart? Besides, like other great princes, policy, not fancy, had hitherto ruled his choice; but now his position allowed him more liberty. He intended to give himself the pleasure of wooing beauty and elegance; but | | 75 his would be a sorry chance if his emissaries made use of their better opportunities to rob him thus.
As these thoughts passed through his mind, the frown upon his brow grew darker---he stamped---he prayed in wrath.
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