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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| | 195


"SAY, friend, is that Brother Hebson?"

The speaker was the tramp we have already noticed.

"That? No. It is Elder Silvertung," answered the person addressed.

"A pretty gal that he has with him. Wife or daughter?"

The tramp was inquisitive. Many of the Saints would have quickly informed him of the fact; but as it happened, the brother he addressed was very fond of talking.

"It just happens she ain't neither. She is a step-daughter; and you are the first one who ever called Elsie Lascelle pretty."

"Don't admire your taste, myself."

"That's nothing, Brother; there's no accounting for taste. I suppose that was the mother saying good-bye."

"Yes, that is her mother. She used to be pretty, and no mistake, just as pretty as a doll. But that's years ago. She came over about the time of the hand-cart expedition. Good-day, Brother."

The tramp appeared to be lost in thought, so much so that he did not return the parting salute of the gossipy brother.

The next movement of the tramp looked supicious. He walked up to the door of Mrs. Mary Silvertung's apartment, and knocked.

| | 196

"My good lady, will you give me a drink of water?"

Mrs. Silvertung, instead of replying, dropped into a chair, trembling from head to foot, just as if she had heard or seen a ghost. Perhaps she had. Many, many ghosts confront us during life--ghosts of dead hopes, dead aspirations, dead loves, and dead happiness.

"I'm feared I skeered ye, lady."

The tramp now spoke in a gruff voice, very different to the tone of his first speech. The gruffness seemed to reassure the frightened woman. She looked up and saw a rough-looking man, gray, grim, travel-stained, a battered hat was drawn over his eyes, a thick unkempt beard concealed mouth and chin, his face (all that remained visible) bore deep, terrible scars. He must have held a charmed life to have survived such wounds.

"I didn't mean to skeer ye. I know I ain't very handsome. The Indians spoiled my beauty long ago."

"Poor man. No, your looks didn't frighten me; but that voice," she continued as if speaking to herself, "that voice, but then he is dead, yes, dead." Then she said aloud, "I feel rather weak and fanciful this morning. You asked me for some water; I have never refused that yet--I will get some." Saying this, Mrs. Silvertung took up an empty pail.

"Just give me that ere bucket. No woman draws water for Jim Tracy while he has the use of his arms. Show me where to get it, I'll fill that there pail too" (pointing to another empty one), "cause ye'll want it all when ye come to do up the chores."

The tramp, directed by Mrs. Silvertung, returned with two pails of water brimming full. This kind act | | 197 won the woman's heart. She placed on the table a bowl of milk, with some fresh-made bread and butter, for the man's breakfast.

"Hard country this ere for women."

"Yes, it is hard for all; but I suppose the Lord knows what is best for us."

"Don't ye wish to get back to yer old home?"

"Go back to Babylon and be lost! That would be terrible," said the woman, shuddering.

"Excuse me, ma'am, I didn't know that ye belonged to the Church of these parts. No offense, I hope, ma'am."

"None at all."

"That were yer darter that went away just now?"

"Yes; her step-father has taken her to town."

"Is she a Mormon?"

"Yes, and I hope she will be a good Saint. Her step-father wants to put her to school. Is he not good? She was not learning anything here, and then, too, there were bad influences."

Mrs. Silvertung felt she was doing wrong to talk this way with a stranger, but she felt powerless to resist. A group of children came in, and eyed the tramp curiously.

"These yer children, ma'am?"

"Only two; the others belong to the other wives."

"My father has five wives," said a boy of ten, in a boastful tone, as if he had said five houses, "and," he continued, "Aunt Mary is the fourth, ain't you, Aunt Mary?"

The woman turned away and the tramp fancied he saw her wiping off a tear. It was all fancy, no doubt. This tramp was given to fancies; for as he looked at | | 198 the worn figure in its ill-made, dingy calico, looking as degraded as the bare, dirty walls and earth floor of the room, there rose before him a vision of a dainty parlor framing a graceful figure of a lovely woman, clad in trailing robes of shimmering blue, perfumed roses nestling in her hair and on her snowy bosom, by her side a bright-eyed, white-robed, laughing sprite, the sun and the sunbeam of a happy home.

A strange vision for a tramp; but he was a queer tramp, without even an appetite.

"Wall, I must be off on my journey. Many thanks, my good lady."

Yet the man lingered at the door as if loth to go. Again he spoke to Mrs. Silvertung:

"Excuse me speaking so; but wouldn't ye like to get out of this ere place, if ye had a good chance?"

"No, no. I am dead to the past--dead--dead," murmured Mrs. S., more to herself than to the man, who moved off slowly, muttering as he went, "Dead, dead!"

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