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 V.
A MORMON WOMAN'S WORK.

ELDER SILVERTUNG was a wealthy man. He owned a large farm, numerous cattle, five wives, well stocked orchards, and gardens, a town house, several city lots, besides being interested, sub rosa, in mines--paying ones, be it well understood.

But with all this wealth the elder's house at Smith- | | 168 ville was a model of primitive simplicity. It consisted of a two-story center building, with a wing on each side. These wings were miserable huts with no other floor than the soil.

The main building was very little better; and uglier, more forlorn dwelling could with difficulty be imagined. Within its walls four wives and seventeen children ate, slept, drudged--we dare not say live for life implies something better.

The elder preached industry, and these wretched women doubly earned their miserable subsistence and that of their families, while making believe that they were happy and doing the will of God. Faint traces of beauty still remained to show that the elder was a connoisseur in good looks, but misery and toil effaced all charms.

The master of these women (husband is too sacred a name) seldom honored Smithville with his presence except on business. The time not employed traveling on church affairs, he spent in his house at Salt Lake City, where dwelt No. 5, the favorite, because the last.

There was a tradition that this house had been built for No. 8, then Mrs. Lascelle had reigned there a short time, and now another lived out her day of triumph.

As Elsie approached the gate she made an effort to shake off her gloomy feelings, but the wan smile only made more evident the sadness of her crushed youth. She looked in at the open door of the right wing. A group of dirty children were there playing, but the one she sought was absent.

Laying down her packages she went to the garden. | | 169 A sound of wood-chopping, the strokes feeble and unsteady, arrested her attention.

An angry flush crimsoned her cheek as she darted across the garden into the orchard, where she found a woman trying to fell a withered tree.

"Mother, mother, stop! Let me do that; you will kill yourself."

"So much the better, Elsie, if I do, for I only cumber the ground."

"Hush, mother, you must not talk so," replied Elsie, as she took the axe from her mother and commenced a vigorous attack. The quivering of her delicate frame told how painful was the effort. Her mother leaned against a tree, and, taking off her immense sun-bonnet, wiped from her brow the sweat of labor.

How changed is that face since we last gazed upon it! The eye of love could scarcely recognize in this gray-haired, wrinkled, tanned, hollow-eyed woman, of shrunken form and wasted features, the once lovely Mary Lascelle.

Hopeless endurance had placed its seal upon her brow, baffling all scrutiny.

Did she battle with despair?

No; for despair implies doubt, and this woman had never doubted, but accepted her condition as the will of God.

Did she suffer from remorse--remorse for sacrificing her child, remorse for wrecking her fond husband's happiness, yea, his life?

No. Remorse is the consciousness of evil doing, and the credulous woman firmly believed she had done right.

| | 170

Was she happy?

No--a thousand times no. Happy! She had almost forgotten the meaning of the word happiness. Each day brought some new misery to crush still more her woman's nature. Yet she knew neither despair nor remorse, only hopeless endurance.

"Oh, dear! I hate to see you work so, Elsie; but to-morrow is wash-day and we must have the wood--there isn't a speck in the house."

"Never mind, mother, we shall soon have some. It is hard, though. I don't see why women have such a terribly hard-life, I wish I were a man."

"Hush, Elsie, you must repress that rebellious spirit. The Lord has placed a heavy cross upon our shoulders; but it is His will, and He fits the back to the burden. Pray to the Lord, Elsie." Then the miserable woman and mother turned and entered the house.

Elsie paused and gazed at the retreating form. The child's eyes were, flashing and her lips compressed. "I don't believe the Lord has anything to do with it. If He has, He is wicked, and I don't like Him." Having relieved her mind by this emphatic declaration, Elsie returned to her labor of felling the tree.

It was a strange occupation for this child, whose ancestral civilization showed itself clearly in the gracefully-poised head, with its thoughtful brow, and delicate face, and the small shapely hands, albeit they were callous from toil. The tree was very hard. Her strokes scarcely made any impression. Her hands grew hot and blistered: her body ached: the tears welled up in her eyes.

"God does not care any more for His children, | | THE than our men do for theirs," muttered Elsie, as she rested a moment to recover breath. "Heaven, and the world, and everything is just as hard as that tree. But it shall come down."

She renewed her efforts. But tears and pains made her strokes inefficient.

"Good girl; Elsie; you are growing quite smart. I'm glad to see it. Girls must be industrious," said the oily voice of Elder Silvertung, who was leisurely making a tour of inspection. "You should aim your strokes better, my: girl; industry is nothing without skill." With this admonition he strolled away.

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