Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

My Queen, an electronic edition

by Sandette [Walsh, Marie A.]

date: 1878
source publisher: G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers; S. Low, Son & Co.
collection: Genre Fiction

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CHAPTER XXVI.
THE CARAVAN.

ONE bright evening in August, 1857, a goodly caravan of Arkansas families bound for the Golden State descended the low hills to the north-east of the city of Zion.

It was a goodly sight, that rich, well-equipped train of stout-hearted, well-to-do colonists, taking civilization to the summer land of the west.

First, drawn by strong-limbed horses, came comfortable, covered vehicles, which might be termed the family wagons, for in them sat the mothers, surrounded by their children, whose bright faces peered out eager and jubilant. Here and there a pet kitten nestled in the arms of its child-mistress; merry dogs gamboled around the horses, or leaped up to kiss baby hands, and in one of the wagons hung a bird cage, whence issued sweet notes and trills that filled the air with melody.

These wagons also carried the clothing, camping necessaries and provisions required for daily use. Nothing was wanting, for the leaders knew well what was needful for the comfort of the travelers, and the emigrants fortunately possessed the means to procure those comforts.

After the family wagons came others, larger and stronger, drawn by long teams of sturdy oxen and laden with household goods, implements, and provisions for the future use of the colony.

Then followed some hundred head of cattle, kept from straying by trained dogs.

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Horsemen galloped to and fro to maintain order. Youths and maidens walked along talking and laughing. Some couples absorbed in their own happiness sauntered behind the train.

All were happy! Ambitious youth dreamed golden dreams; men builded golden castles, and women wove chaplets of golden immortelles wherewith to crown their loved ones.

The captain of the band reined in his horse and gave a loud hurrah, then, pointing towards Zion, he said:

"Thank God, my friends, we are once more among our fellow men."

"Only they are Mormons, Cap."

"What does it matter? They are white men, their language is ours, they have been emigrants as we are now. A threefold tie binds us to them. It makes my heart glad to see that blue smoke curling up into the air; for it comes from a white man's home-like kitchen, not from the wigwam of a painted savage. Once more, hurrah!"

Men; women and children took up the cheer, the horses neighed, the dogs danced and barked, the bird carolled forth his gayest song.

But there was one whose voice did not shout hurrah,--one, whose brow grew dark at the sight of Zion,--a man who traveled with the train, but who was not one of them,--a moody, brooding man, whom they called "Stranger." The active youthful minds of the train, had imagined many a romance, having for its hero that gray-haired, care-worn man, aged by sorrow. But the stranger was reticent. He was going to Zion for his child; that was all they knew.

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"Hi, Stranger, don't hurry off like that; stop for supper. There'll be plenty o' time to-morrow."

"Thank you, Captain, but I must go on," replied the strange man, hastily striding on even as he spoke.

Did he see a little face growing sad and pale watching for his coming? Did he hear a child's voice wearily sighing, "The leaves came long ago, and Papa's not here."

"And now, friends, to supper."

A hundred voices shouted, supper! At the word, Hero, Capt. Fancher's dog, started to make his evening tour of inspection, for Hero was the guardian in chief, the head sentinel of the train; eye and ear ever watchful, he kept a strict lookout, and never was known to give a false alarm.

Supper was a very important event in the lives of the emigrants, and soon all hands were busy. The men attended to the horses and cattle, milked the cows, and ranged the wagons, the boys gathered fuel, or fetched water from the creek. Some of the girls improvised tables upon which to spread the viands, others brought from the wagons coffee-pots, gridirons, baking pans, and waited upon the neat housewives who skillfully prepared the evening meal. A dozen fires flamed upon the hill-side. Snowy biscuits, baked in ovens hidden under the coals, huge, juicy beefsteaks broiled upon the gridirons, long, skewered rolls composed of layers of rabbit and bacon, roasted themselves to a turn on cunningly-devised spits, savory stews simmered in their bright pans, potatoes steamed into flakey balls or fried into crispy golden brown morsels, fragrant coffee emitted streams of vapor, and pails of milk, frothy and warm, stood temptingly around. The | | 126 air was redolent with appetizing odors, most grateful to the hungry travelers.

After supper our travelers turned their attention to the infant city, with its tree-fringed streets and rural dwellings.It all seemed so quiet and peaceful that the emigrants declared it was rightly called Zion.

Ah! little did they dream that in that city madness reigned supreme, that the homes they so much admired were the abodes of terror, of crimes born of fanaticism,--that brother there feared brother, parents dreaded their children, and children their parents, that the destroying angels were ever on the wing with swords unsheathed ready to immolate victims. The air was heavy with woe. Could it have uttered its terrible secrets society would have risen in horror; but the wind floated by and spoke not, the sun shone with unvailed radiance, the mountains trembled not, for nature works out her laws, heedless of the misery of the ephemeral being--man.

But no such thoughts marred the happiness of the emigrants. Gaily they chatted about present pleasures and future projects, Utopian, as are all the visions that allure man to distant wilds. A fierce growl from Hero interrupted their conversation. Looking around, they saw a Zionite approaching the camp. It was Robert Delville, anxious to learn the condition and in tentions of this colony, whose rich equipment had excited Mormondom.

The emigrants were only too happy to have an attentive stranger to talk with, and Mr. Delville was soon acquainted with their history, condition and projects. Perhaps there was a little boastfulness in their manner when they emphatically declared:

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We ain't no needy adventurers, but honest folks from Arkansas going to California to make our ever-lasting fortunes. We want to show the world how this emigration business should be done. Just look at our train; nothing wanting there. Our flour and corn are getting rather low, for we didn't want to burden ourselves extra when we knew we could lay in a stock here in your country. That will make business lively for you, eh, stranger? But now, ain't we well fixed? Did you ever see anything completer?"

Delville gazed upon the heavily-laden wagons, upon the cattle and horses, as if he had never seen anything finer. He noted the comfortable appearance of the travelers, and their air of calm assurance which the sense of plenty gives. He compared the luxuries of these Gentiles with the poverty of the Saints, and his soul filled with wrath. Should this thing be? Should the children of Baal exult over the children of God? Should those revel in riches while these starved? Of what avail was the birthright of the Elect, to whom God had given the earth and the fullness thereof, if hirelings could thus rob them of the gift?

These thoughts so tormented Delville, that he was obliged to leave the camp in order to conceal his agitation. But again and again he paused to look back upon the caravan and curse it. Slowly a project took form in his brain; a project worthy of a Danite. He hastened back to counsel with his brethren.

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