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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| | 191

CHAPTER X.
THE ELDER MAKES A MOVE.

ELSIE was slow in obeying her mother's call. Instinct warned her of coming evil; and when she reached her mother's apartment her fears were realized.

In the only arm-chair sat the elder, smiling more blandly than usual. This smile is a distinctive trait, characterizing the future gods. It might be called the polygamous smile, for its blandness increases at every sealing.

"Come, come, Elsie, Elder Silvertung is waiting to speak with you."

Elsie's heart stood still. Had it come so soon? Mrs. S. seemed agitated. Tears filled her eyes; yet she smiled as she drew Elsie into the house. Could she smile, thought Elsie, if he had spoken?

"Mary, tell the child our decision."

The elder spoke in a tone that none of his household ever dreamed of disobeying.

"Elsie, dear, the elder and I think it best that you go to town for a little while.

"And leave you, Mother?"

"Oh! I know I shall miss you terribly, but it is for your good." Here the mother burst into tears.

"I cannot imagine why women must always cry just as if they were babies. Of course it is for the girl's good. She is running wild here; in town she will learn something. Besides, at Lucy's she will be removed from all bad influences; and I can look after her myself."

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The tone in which the elder said this revived the horrors of the preceding night. Elsie felt certain that he was taking her to town in order to marry her. What could she do?

"I don't want to go without Mother."

"What you want is not the point in consideration. We know what is the best for you. You will be ready to start with me to-morrow morning. No more nonsense, if you please. As for you, Mrs. Silvertung, you do very wrong to allow your daughter to be so self-willed. Obedience is the only virtue a woman needs. You must answer for this to the Lord; but we will speak of it at a more convenient time. Do not forget to-morrow morning."

The elder said this in a no-appeal manner, and then walked out.

"See, Elsie," pleaded Mrs. S., "how you get me into trouble with your self-will! The elder will not forget, and it is I who must suffer. Ah! but it is a heavy cross. And Elsie, I want you to go to town; it will do you so much good."

"Then, Mother, I will not say another word against it. But"--

"No buts, Elsie; I know what you would say--that I shall miss you. Indeed I shall. Still, dear, I must make the sacrifice for your good. It is a kindness on the elder's part."

"Kindness! It is not kindness."

"Then what else is it, you strange girl?"

Elsie longed to tell her mother all; but she felt that even a hint of such infamy must never come first from her lips.

Answer me, Elsie; what other motive can he have?"

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Elsie knew not what to say. Then a bright thought came to her. She answered:

"To take me away from my only friend, my dear Brother Menly. But we won't say anything more about it. What shall I do to get ready?"

There was but little preparation to make, yet that little kept Elsie very busy. Whenever she tried to steal away to say good-bye to her mentor, she was always recalled by her mother or by the elder, who seemed to be continually watching her movements.

Another sleepless night. Black circles formed under Elsie's eyes.

She rose at the first glimpse of dawn, in the hope of finding Brother M. at the Retreat; but early as it was she found her mother up and the breakfast in preparation. Elsie's assistance was required for numberless services, then the elder came in, and Elsie was forced to abandon all hopes of seeing her friend.

As the moment of separation drew near, the hearts of mother and child grew heavy; yet it was not so much the parting as the terror of the future that made Elsie cling to her mother in tearful agony.

The sound of wagon-wheels told them that the last moment had arrived.

"My child, what shall I do without you?" cried the mother, as she clasped Elsie in her arms.

"Come, come, you women; don't make fools of yourselves. I have no time to waste in silliness."

The sound of the elder's voice iced all Elsie's affection. She drew away from her mother, and, immobile as a statue, awaited the next order.

"Now, then, jump in, Elsie, You will soon see | | 194 your mother; so there's no use to spoil your eyes with crying about her."

Elsie obeyed. The horses started--the girl turned to take one last look. As she did so, she caught sight of a dust-stained, rough-looking tramp, who seemed to be watching the departure with uncommon interest. Elsie started involuntarily.

The elder's family of four wives and seventeen children were assembled to see Elsie start. The good-byes were prolonged till the sound of the voices died away in the distance. Still Elsie gazed. One spot especially attracted her. It was the ravine of the torrent--the sacred retreat in her memory,--and near the retreat, standing out in bold relief against the gray rocks, was the solitary figure of a man. It was Brother Menly.

Elsie waved him a farewell.

Often in after years the scene would burst upon her with the vividness of reality. Again she would see every detail of that picture--the mountains, so grim and stern--the gray, desolate plain--the isolated, sorrowful figure of Brother Menly--the forlorn adobe house before which stood her weeping mother--the crowd of white-faced, dirty children--the ragged, desperate-looking tramp--the living misery intensified by the mocking garish sunlight, by the verdure and bloom of orchard and meadows.

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