- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER VII. MARRIAGE PROPOSALS.
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THAT day was destined to be an eventful one in Elsie's life.
In the evening, after the children had been put to bed, and the chores were done, Elsie coaxed her mother to take a walk.
That poor wreck of womanhood was her mother; | | 176 and to her Elsie turned for sympathy. Advice or guidance she did not expect--only sympathy.
As soon as they were out of hearing, Elsie began an indignant protest against the "dropping" of Brother Menly.
Mrs. Silvertung became alarmed.
"For God's sake, Elsie, be quiet. Don't let the trees hear you. I can scarcely move for fear. Did you not hear some one?"
The woman trembled violently. Her great dread silenced Elsie; but the girl's mind was too full to be thus easily repressed. Disappointed in her hope to gain sympathy, she tried to obtain information.
"All the world is not like this place, is it?"
"Why, no, Elsie. What a foolish question."
"And the people don't think as the Latter Day Saints do."
"No, child; are not missionaries continually going among them to convert them?"
"Well, if they are any worse off than we are it must be a horrid world. Were you a Gentile once?"
"Don't talk of these things, Elsie: you must like to torture me."
Elsie was too much absorbed in her thoughts to notice her mother's appeal.
"Yes," she continued, "that was before we entered that big ship--before that long journey that puts everything that went before out of my mind. Yet I remember sometimes. Mother, don't the Gentiles have beautiful houses, and gardens full of flowers, and all kinds of other lovely things? Have not the women white delicate hands? Don't they wear shining dresses, and the men seem kind and gentle? The | | 177 books Brother Menly lent me say so. But he told me not to believe all the books said. Is it really so, Mother?"
"Yes, Elsie, some of them have these things."
"Didn't we, Mother?"
"Yes; dear but these are foolish vanities that God condemns, and the Saints renounce."
"I don't see why. It seems to me that these vanities are very nice and pleasant. I wish I were a Gentile."
"Oh! my child, would you lose your part in the kingdom, and be lost with the Gentiles, whose days are numbered? Soon the wicked Gentiles will be swept from off the earth. Only last Sunday, Elsie, you heard those very words from the bishop."
"Mother, did God make the Gentiles?"
"Then it is very cruel in Him to destroy them."
"But if He sees that they are not good?"
"Why, if He made them, He should have made them good. Don't you think so, Mother?"
"I don't think at all, Elsie, and it frightens me to hear you talk so about thinking. People who think for themselves always apostatize, like Brother Menly: then they are lost."
"Will Elder Silvertung go to heaven?"
"Of course, Elsie; the elder is one of the chosen of the Lord."
"Then I don't want to go to heaven. I'd rather be lost in company with Brother Menly."
"Don't be frightened, mother, dear: we won't say | | 178 any wore about it. But tell me, was my father Mormon?
"Oh, Elsie! why all these questions?"
"Because I want to know about my father. Elder Silvertung is not my father. But why do you always seem so frightened when I speak of Father?"
The elder does not like me to talk of the past."
"Well he can't hear you know; so dear little mother, tell me all about him. I want to know if he had many wives, and made you cut wood, and work all day, while he did nothing. But there I am sure he was not like that. No! I dream of him sometimes, and I see him kind, like Brother Menly. Young, handsome, dark, like I am,--full of fun,--didn't he sing? It is indistinct but it is such a pleasant image. Come, mother, tell me why you shake. Are you ill?"
"Yes, yes,--let me go home. I hear the baby crying."
"Mother, do tell me."
"I can't,--I can't. You kill me with your questions;" and the poor woman, almost desperate, broke away from her daughter, and ran back to the house with her fingers in her ears, lest she should hear Elsie's voice.
Keenly disappointed, Elsie walked on, meditating upon the contrariness of all things, human and divine; when her attention was arrested by the sound of voices on the other side of the fence. These voices pronounced her name. She had a faint idea that listening was not quite the thing; but the idea was not strong enough to make her resist the temptation of hearing what Elder Silvertung and Brother Smith had to say about her.| | 179
"But Elsie is nothing more than a child," remarked the smooth voice of Silvertung.
"I know that; but does not the Lord command that the youthful maidens be married? Now the Spirit clearly spoke to me when he pointed out Elsie as the wife I should choose."
"Brother Smith, I am glad to find you are obedient to the dictate of the Spirit, and that you are zealous in the faith. Of course, your wives have given their consent?"
"Yes, certainly, Mary Hann, she's glad to 'ave some one to 'elp, and her consent, you know, being has she's the first, his the honly consent needed."
"Of course, of course. However, in courtesy, you know."
"Hexactly so; I prides myself on courtesy, so I asked the hothers. They don't care one way or t'other, hexcept Lucy, hand she his contrary by natur. Yet hi'm sure she has hall bay woman can possibly want. I'ad the hold barn fixed hup splendid for her, just because she didn't want to live with the hother women. Fine straw beds, and plenty hof milk, bread, potatoes and carrots. Can anything be 'elthier? Then she 'as heleven children to be proud on; hand I go to see 'er regular once or twice a month. But there, some women never are satisfied. I don't see how you manage, helder, to keep your women so quiet."
"It certainly does require tact; but I have a faculty for training, as you know. Now, to return to business. You are thinking of marrying Kleena as well as Elsie?"
"Yes; you see Kleena will be mighty useful as a | | 180 wife. She delights in work, is has strong as a hox. She will be no end of 'elp to the women. They are all pleased, but Lucy. She will be a little cantankerous, as she halways was. But the girls mustn't mind 'er. Before the cold weather comes on I hintend to put up two hextra rooms for the girls. As for Helsie, she hain't strong, and I don't want 'er to work. She can see to the school a little; that will be play. Hand she can live quite like a lady."
"Very considerate of you, Brother Smith."
"Hand now, helder, we comes to the point. Will ye consent that Helsie be sealed to me?"
Elsie could hardly repress a scream; and if the men had not been so engrossed in their conversation they might have heard the beatings of her heart.
"Come, now, Brother Silvertung, what d'ye say?"
"Give me a little time to reflect upon it, Brother. You are just the man of my choice. But, to be candid with you, I have been deeply impressed that it is my duty to make Elsie's salvation sure. You see, I feel somewhat responsible for the girl; and if she had been of proper age, I would have married her at the same time I did her mother.
This seems to me the will of the Lord. However, I will consult further the Holy Spirit in this matter."
"Ho, in that case I have nothing more to say. Hon second thought, it is more in haccordance with the law that you should marry Helsie. But we won't say hany more about it. Now--"
The rest of the conversation was lost in the distance, as the speakers moved on, leaving Elsie transfixed with horror at the revelation.
In the last few moments she had lived a lifetime. | | 181 Her childhood was buried. The idea of marrying that squint-eyed, monkey-headed Smith, to become No. 5 in his harem, was sufficiently repulsive; but to marry the husband of her mother--that cruel, detested man! O God! death would be preferable. The thought froze her blood--paralyzed her limbs. She fell to the earth unconscious.
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