- part: MY QUEEN;
- CHAPTER XXVII. DEAD! DEAD!
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THE Zionites, who lived in daily expectation of an invading army, were much alarmed at the approach of the Arkansas train, and the leaders, objecting to the passage of Babylonish Gentiles through their sacred dominion, exerted all their influence to increase the general alarm.
Rumors were circulated that these emigrants were emmissaries of the army; that among them were the murderers of the prophets. This was enough to inflame, with hate and revenge, the half-crazed people. The Saints declared it would be a heinous crime to hold any communication with the enemies of God, and all, even the children, were strictly forbidden to speak with them.
Two days before the caravan encamped upon the hills of Zion, Danite scouts brought full particulars to the priestly council, and Silvertung well knew the name of that stranger who traveled with the train. He had expected him. Elsie's confidences to Kitty had not been whispered softly enough to escape Silvertung's quick ear. But the news did not disturb his equanimity; he made his plans and waited.
The stranger, who was no other than Edward Lascelle, soon reached Main street. The suspicious glances of the passers-by somewhat surprised him; still more the curt, "Don't know," with which they answered his inquiries about Julian. He walked about seeking, but not obtaining, information. A store, larger and finer | | 129 than the others, with a sign-board announcing that Robert Delville dealt in general merchandise, attracted his attention. Delville! that was the name of Oreana's relatives. He entered; a stout man received him.
"Can you tell me where to find Miss Brentford--Oreana Brentford?"
"Sister Young, she is now; and she lives in that fine house up there on the hill."
"And Julian Bellew?"
"Dead and buried."
"Yes. Did you expect him to live forever?"
The rough tone jarred upon Lascelle. He must hide his sorrow from this cruel jester.
"And Oreana is married?"
"The thirteenth wife of our president. She is the favorite. No wonder; magnificent girl, my cousin."
The look of disgust with which this news was received delighted Delville, who knew full well who his questioner was, and framed his answers accordingly.
"Where is Elder Silvertung?"
Lascelle jerked out the name as if it tortured him to utter it.
"His house is two blocks round the corner. Anyone will show it to you. Where the elder is just now I can't say. And, now, who are you?"
"My name is Lascelle."
"Ah, yes; I have heard Oreana speak of you,--yes,--well,--come in again,--yes, the ways of the Lord are past finding out. When he speaks, we must obey; that's what our president says, and he is right. Yes, the Lord--"| | 130
Lascelle did not wait for the end of the phrase; he thanked Delville, and hurried out of the store. What did Delville mean by his strange, hesitating words? Julian was dead, Oreana in a harem. Had anything, more than he already knew of, happened to his Elsie? A dread suspense grew within him. He talked aloud to reassure himself.
"In a few minutes I shall see my Elsie; I shall clasp her in my arms. They can't hide her from me. My darling shall be saved."
He reached Silvertung's house. It was closed--deserted. He inquired of the neighbors, but they knew nothing. Sick with disappointment, he sought the house upon the hill.
Oreana was in the garden.
The sight of her maddened him. Her father's grave, those desolate homes, his own dishonored hearth, the dead Julian,--he saw them all, accusing her, crying but against her: and there she stood, so gloriously beautiful, calmly smiling at the misery she had wrought. His long pent-up agony and passion burst forth; he rushed towards her, he clutched her arm.
"Fiend, not woman, cruel daughter, false friend, murderess, parricide, how dare you live?"
For the first time, perhaps, in her life, Oreana screamed; she would have fallen but for Lascelle's terrible grasp.
"Ah! you may well tremble. I've come for my wife and child, the wife whom you enticed to dishonor, the child you so treacherously stole from me. Where are they? Give them up. Where's the false priest? Where? I will know."| | 131
Oreana was frightened into dumbness. She had expected Lascelle's arrival; but this, fierce man, wrinkled and gray-haired, was not the Lascelle of her memory. His conversations disturbed her slumbering conscience. She could find no words to answer this awful accuser, before whom she quailed a thrice guilty woman.
"Speak, answer me. If this cursed creed has left you any spark of humanity, tell me where are my child, my lost wife?"
The insult to her creed nerved Oreana to action. She looked at Lascelle, and said: "Ask them of the Lord, not of me. He it is who giveth and taketh."
"Ask them of the Lord? What do you mean? I don't understand, can't,--are they living or--"
"Dead, yes, dead!" solemnly answered Oreana.
"Dead," repeated Lascelle dropping Oreana's arm, and retreating a few steps, "Dead--perhaps it is well,--she could not survive dishonor. But Elsie, is--"
"Dead. Seek them both in the grave."
"No, it cannot be. Elsie, my little flower!"
"Death loves to gather flowers. Mary prayed for you to the last, Edward, that the Lord would enlighten you to see the heroism of her conduct. She only obeyed the commands of God,--and He exalted her by celestial marriage."
A fierce gleam in Lascelle's eyes warned Oreana. She stopped suddenly, then added: "I have something to give you."
She entered the house, and soon returned with a small envelope. Inside were bright curl, and a thick clustering ring of dark-brown hair. Oreana gave them to Lascelle. "I cut them off for you."| | 132
"Dead, dead," repeated Lascelle, mechanically. At that moment some people came into the garden. "Dead, dead," he repeated, too stunned to ask questions; then suddenly he turned upon Oreana: "It is your work! May their blood be upon your head." The next moment he was gone.
He staggered on his way as if drunk,--drunk with grief and misery. At length, a ray of hope illumined the darkness. Perhaps Oreana had deceived him, as she had done on that never-to-be-forgotten night, when he kissed his little ones for the last time. He stopped and looked around him; the camp was near, and a man was slowly coming from it. Although it was dusk, yet Lascelle recognized Delville.
Delville could tell him.
"Friend, you are a father, a husband?"
"I should say so. Two of the prettiest girls in Zion call me husband; am looking out for a third."
This speech grated on Lascelle. He could not bandy words with this coarse jester. He spoke sternly:
"Tell me, did Oreana deceive me? Are they dead?"
"Who are dead? Lots of people die."
"My little Elsie,--Elsie Lascelle and her mother."
"Yes, yes, poor little Elsie; yes, I remember it all. Oreana's words are the words of the gospel. It is pretty rough on you, but become a Saint, and I'll find you plenty of wives, and children will come as a matter of course. My wife died not long ago: bless you, I didn't miss her, the others were so affectionate."
"When was it?"| | 133
"About two months ago. Silvertung felt awfully cut up. He is South."
"South, is he? Thank you. Good night."
Delville looked back at Lascelle, who was slowly climbing the hill to the camp.
"Didn't he take that bait nicely? Only let us get you down South, my fierce fellow, and you won't care much who's dead or alive."
Delville laughed at his joke.
Lascelle reached the camp. Captain Fancher and Hero were taking a last look.
"Captain," said Lascelle, "you go South?"
"I go with you. My heart is dead. I live not but for vengeance."
That night, while the emigrants slumbered peacefully on the hills, the destroyers plotted in the city below.
Early the next morning, Delville, mounted on a fleet footed horse, took the road to the south-west, crying aloud, as he rode through farms and settlements:
"The murderers of our prophet approach. Sell them no grain, no food. Cursed be he who gives the stores of the Saints to the enemies of God."
To the right, the left, the watch-word flew, and the emigrants, as they passed along, wondered at the evil looks, the sullen answers they met with everywhere.
They had been disappointed in replenishing their stores in Salt Lake City. No one there had anything to sell them, but they hoped that in the country it would be different. A vain hope, as the result proved. | | 134 In the farm-yards they saw barns full to bursting, they passed through towns whose store-houses were overflowing, yet everywhere they met the same answer: "We have nothing to sell you." Double, triple prices were offered, but the Saints would not sell. This strange conduct made the emigrants uneasy; they felt themselves in an enemy's country, and longed for the wilderness.
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