- part: MY QUEEN;
- CHAPTER XXXIII. BY THE LAKE.
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BY THE LAKE.
THE desert sea lay asleep in its mountain cradle, hushed to rest by the dreamy Indian summer. A sapphirine haze, flecked with gold, vailed the slumbering waves, vailed their cradle of rocks. Through its vapory sheen, sky, mountain, and lake, seemed to blend in soft tremulous tints, sweet, vague, changeful, harmonious. No resonant chords, no haunting undertones--none of these voices of life, voices of victory joy, or sadness, broke the spell.
Nature dreamed, and nothing, not even a bird on restless wing, disturbed her revery.
Upon a rocky promontory a man stood gazing upon the vast expanse of shimmering lake, upon tinted mountain rising upon mountain till they dissolved into the ether. A shadow rested on his brow, but as he gazed it vanished.
"Yes, this is Zion," he exclaimed, "Zion, seated on the everlasting hills. I will not doubt,--man is ever inclined to evil, but God and His covenant are holy. They must be holy."
The man who thus tried to convince his doubting | | 149 mind, was the preacher Menly, with whom Julian and Lascelle once held prophetic converse.
He had reached Zion at last; but alas! he found discord, sorrow, grossness and despotism where he had hoped to find peace, love, spirituality and freedom. He heard whispered, hints of dark deeds done; those whom he had expected to see disgraced (such as Silvertung), were in high favor. Doubt assailed him. He thought of Lascelle's prophecy: "When you become acquainted with Zion and Zion's ruler, you will abjure Mormonism." Would the prophecy be realized? Menly trembled. He had sacrificed much for this creed, which seemed to him to contain truth and freedom. But that was not the worst: his conscience was uneasy, for if he was deceived, then he had been the means of deceiving thousands of others. The thought was torture. In his trouble he sought the wilds of the lake-shore to commune with himself and with God, whose voice is best heard in solitude. The charm of nature so peacefully dreaming, calmed him as by a spell, doubts vanished, peace returned; and Brother Menly dreamed glorious dreams of Zion, and the wonderful plan of salvation, revealed in the Latter Days. He lifted his voice and sang jubilant hymns, as he walked on the shore of the Desert Sea, when suddenly he stopped in amaze; there on the sand, partially sheltered by a bowlder, two children lay asleep.
The eldest, a fair-haired boy, might have seen ten summers; we say might, for he was one of those children whose well-developed frame and features make them appear older than they are. He evidently considered himself the protector of the wee maiden whose head lay pillowed upon his arm, for he had placed | | 150 himself so as to shield her from the fresh breeze of the lake, and had, moreover, wrapped his jacket around her. This little girl was a delicate, elf-like child, with glossy raven curls, among which gleamed a few half-withered mountain pinks. Her dress, once a pretty rose-color, was stained and torn, her shoes, cut and worn into holes, exposed her baby feet, all sore and bruised. The boy's clothes, being more substantial, were whole, but so dust-stained that color and texture were doubtful.
The children's faces were haggard and pinched, and their slumber seemed more like the stupor produced by hunger and fatigue than the smiling sleep of happy childhood.
The noise of Brother Menly's approach disturbed the sleepers The little girl moved uneasily, opened her eyes, and, seeing Brother Menly, said:
"Are we in heaven? Please, Mr. Angel, take us to Papa; we are so hungry."
Hush, Elsie, we ain't in heaven. That is a man, not an angel," whispered Stanly, who rose quickly to confront the stranger. "Please, sir, can you tell us where to get something to eat?"
"I think, my little friends, I have something in one of my pockets. Yes, here is some bread and meat and apples. But now, tell me how did you get here? Where is your home?"
The children eagerly took the food, but they remained silent and confused at these questions.
"What made you think you were in heaven just now, little one?" said Brother Menly, addressing the girl.
Oh! 'cause me and Stanny were so hungry, so | | 151 tired, and we wanted to go to heaven, so we laid down, like the little boy and girl in my picture book, that the birds covered all up with leaves. Then we went to sleep like they did, and I thought we were in heaven."
"And would you leave your father and mother?"
"My papa's in heaven and Stanny's mother's there. All the nice people go to heaven. Grandma's there, and Dudie. Dudie said Papa would come, and I watched by the window every day, so long, so long, and he didn't come. He went to heaven, and I want to go to."
"Yes, but your mamma--is she in heaven, too? and Stanny's father?"
"My father has two wives; he don't care for me. Nobody cares for me, but Elsie."
"But Elsie's mamma!" inquired Menly, growing more and more surprised, and hoping by these indirect questions, to find out whence came the wanderers.
"She is Elder Silvertung's fourth wife," added Stanly.
"Yes, and he whips me, and Mamma scolds, and Mamma cries. I tried to run away long time ago, but Dudie took me home."
"He is a very naughty man to whip you. He shall not do it any more. And so Stanny and you ran away and got very hungry."
"It was great fun though, wasn't it, Stanny?"
"Oh, yes," exclaimed Stanly, won over by Brother Menly's sympathetic words. "It was grand fun. We've talked about it ever so long, that Zion's the hatefullest place. Well, just think, father went away, and the elder and Elsie's mamma went away, there was nobody to watch, so we ran away. If we didn't | | 152 get so hungry,--but there, I'm going to make lots of money like my father does, one of these days."
"How are you going to make it?" asked Menly, amused.
"That's a secret; but you seem good, perhaps I'll tell you some time."
"Thank you, my lad, I'll try and be very good. Now tell me, what is your name?"
"Stanly Delville, and this is Elsie Lascelle."
"Lascelle!" repeated Brother Menly.
"Yes, my name is Elsie Lascelle; that nasty elder ain't my papa. My papa is gone to heaven, and I want to go too," and the wee maiden began to cry.
Brother Menly walked away to hide his emotion. That name recalled painful thoughts. It brought back doubts and fears lulled to rest by nature's sweet lullaby. He stood some time, absorbed in these sad reflections. At length the sound of the children's voices aroused him. They must be taken home. He returned to them. "Elsie, dear, don't cry. Just think, I knew your papa, and also your mother, Stanly."
"Did you? How nice! Wasn't Papa nice?"
"He was very nice; but he would be very, very, sorry, and so would Stanly's mother, to see you children running away like this. You must let me take you home."
"No, we won't go," cried both the children.
"They will whip me," sobbed Elsie.
"They are wicked people; they killed mother and cousin Julian," exclaimed the boy. "No, I won't go; don't let him take you, Elsie. I can make lots of money getting the salt out of the lake, and selling it; everybody eats salt; we'll get along famously."| | 153
Brother Menly could not repress a smile at the boy's courage and enterprise.
"You are a brave lad, but you can't get the salt out of the lake without a bucket; and a bucket costs money. Then, too, it will take a long time to get enough salt to sell; in that time you will die of hunger and thirst. I must return to-night. I cannot stay with you. Then, when winter comes, with its snow and ice, where will you sleep? You had better put off this enterprise. I promise you that you shall not be whipped nor scolded. Come back with me."
Stanly looked thoughtful, and Elsie's tears flowed afresh. They still remained a little obstinate, but they could not long resist Brother Menly's persuasive tact. He knew how to act upon the childish mind and heart. In less than an hour Stanly and Elsie renounced (though with many a sigh), their mad project, promised to stay at home in the future, and allowed him to lead them back Zionward.
"Never mind, Elsie," said Stanly, choking down a sob; "never mind; wait till I'm a man,--you bet I'll get out of that hateful place, and I'll take you with me. Only wait."
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