- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XVI SISTER DINLY'S PARTY.
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SISTER DINLY'S PARTY.
MY dear Lucy," said Mrs. Dinly to her daughter, Mrs. Silvertung No. 5, "I do feel so happy. I have managed to make my eternal exaltation sure."
"Glad to hear it."
"I know you are, my dear, and we really should give a little party. Let me see, we will have that dear Brother Simpson and his wives--"
"Not all, Mother?"
"Oh, no, dear, only Emily and Alice; they live together, you know; then Brother Delville and my adopted daughter, his number three."
"If you invite her, the others in town must come, or Brother Delville will have to get a wig. His wives keep him in order, I can tell you."
"Well let them all come. There's Stanly Delville; he will be a nice beau for Elsie. There, child, you needn't blush, it is time you had a beau; and Stanly is a nice young man, a little serious and peculiar, but then you are peculiar too, Elsie; and bless me, why I had forgotten, didn't you and he run away together some ten years ago. Quite a little romance. Won't it be nice? You shall be a queen, my little Elsie, and I will teach you how to manage the other wives, for Stanly will make an excellent provider, he | | 215 ought at least to have six wives. So put down Stanly's name. There, never mind me, Elsie, it is only a joke; he won't so much as look at you--more's the pity; for this Stanly hates all our sex, especially girls: Doesn't he, Lucy?"
The match-maker gave a sly look at her daughter, as much as to say:
"Don't you see my trick?"
Mrs. Lucy understood, and was silent. She did not sympathize with her mother's mania.
"And Sister Silea, we must not forget her, the most gifted of our women. She will represent the President's family."
"We ought to invite Brother Lewis, who has just returned from a mission."
"Let him come, he will entertain us; and there's that beautiful new-comer, Sister Laima; and of course you will invite the elder; so that's all settled."
The invitations were given and accepted. In those good old times the Saints never dreamed of refusing an invitation.
The ladies, Brother Simpson, and the missionary, came early. In the afternoon, other gentlemen dropped in as early as business permitted. It was a very nice party; every one in the most amiable mood, that is, if smiling is any evidence of amiability. Still the pleasure was marred by a certain anxiety and preoccupation, which appeared in the manner of many of the guests.
The rival wives were engrossed in watching each other, so that no one should take more than her share of the attentions of the husband; and he, not daring to speak to one, for fear of offending the others, | | 216 ignored the wifely trio, and devoted himself to Elsie and Laima.
The hostess bestowed all her smiles and attentions upon Brother Simpson, to the evident discomposure of Mrs. Simpson No. 1, who no doubt thought that her friend ought to wait for the arrival of eternity. Brother Simpson seemed to enjoy this "time" demonstration, although his glances wandered in Laima's direction more than Mrs. Dinly considered allowable by the polygamic code.
The lady was troubled. She felt angry that she had invited this girl, who seemed to turn everyone's head; for there was the missionary, whose adventures ought to have been the capital stock of the conversation, entirely absorbed in Laima; and Sister Silea, the gifted, who was supposed to despise everything except mind, and who knew every interesting item of the past, present, and future of Desert, she also seemed wholly occupied with some great idea inspired by Laima's bright eyes.
And Laima certainly was very handsome--wickedly, saucily handsome. Her figure, slightly above the medium height, was beautifully framed, perhaps a shade too voluptuous; but in Zion this was a charm, not a fault. But Laima's greatest attraction was her rich coloring; half blonde, half brunette, every feature glowed and sparkled. Then she tossed her small shapely head with such a charming air of defiance; this toss, added to the infinitesimal celestial tendency of a pretty nose, gave to her beauty a piquancy altogether irresistible.
Women generally disliked Laima; and the moment she entered room Elsie hated her. But this antipathy | | 217 decreased when she found that Stanly was not bewitched by the glowing belle; for Elsie, piqued by Mrs. Dinley's remark about Stanly's non-susceptibility, had determined to make a conquest of him. Little she dreamed that he was already conquered, that the remembrance of little Elsie made him indifferent to the charms of Zion's belles.
Elsie's memories of Stanly were very vague, yet they were tender. Stanly was once her friend, her confidant; together they had watched for the one who never came, together they had sought escape from this hated place. Yes, Elsie remembered, but that was all so long ago, it seemed to her like a different existence.
Stanly, who hated parties, eagerly accepted Mrs. Dinly's invitation.
Was that tall, graceful, dignified girl little Elsie of old? And that moustached young athlete, could it be the boy playmate? For a few moments they stood dumbly looking at each other, bashful, embarrassed, then Sister Dinly went to the rescue.
"Well, Elsie, did you think that that nice little boy who used to play with your kitten would ever turn into such a fierce-looking creature who won't even smile when he meets a fair sister."
"Sister Dinly, please don't give me such a morose character to this young lady, who no doubt has forgotten all that passed ten years ago."
"I haven't quite forgotten," answered Elsie, laughing. That laugh put the young people somewhat at their ease. They chatted about old times, and found the party delightful.
When all were assembled, and the conversation | | 218 was flagging on account of the engrossing interest in Laima, gaiety was restored by the announcement of supper.
"And after supper we will have a dance," cried Mrs. Dinly.
Eating has a wonderful influence on the spirits. The Saints are not unlike other people in this respect, and they did ample justice to the very substantial repast, which in more pretentious circles would have been called dinner.
Among a people whose church includes politics, business, and every life interest, the conversation must necessarily be churchy; and if these people seem to talk in a canting style, it is because they could not do otherwise unless they avoided every subject of interest.
"Brother Delville," said Elder Silvertung, "this co-operative revelation is a grand thing. I suppose you are one of the chiefs in the business."
"Not I. I have too much to do to attend to my own affairs, and I don't think it will be a success."
"Why, Brother Delville, what's the matter with you? Why, of course it will be a success. Everything the Church does is a success. If the Lord does not know how to manage things I should like to know who does. I thought you would go right into it as Brother N. is talking of doing. I expect he will let his store to the Lord unless you forestall him in zeal."
"All right; let him show his zeal. It is time he did. I have shown mine for many a year. I'll stick to my own this time."
"But surely you wouldn't make an enemy of the Lord, and offend our dear President?" chimed in Sister Silea.| | 219
"No danger, my good sister; and as for offending the President, he couldn't afford to get angry with me. See what I have done for him. Then look at Oreana, who is like my own daughter. No woman ever influenced him as she does. Why, he adores the ground she walks on. I am all right in that quarter."
Sister Silea winced at this allusion to Oreana; the reign of the favorite was the drop of bitterness in Silea's cup of saintly joy.
Brother Delville knew it; it was an intentional wound, a little revenge on the sex for the domestic miseries he suffered.
Sister Silea, the gifted senior wife of the President, said nothing, but the look she gave her tormentor boded no good.
The elder saw this look, and smiled.
"Well," continued he, "I think the church can do without us."
"A mistake, brother; you, and Brother Simpson, and Brother Silvertung, in fact all of us, support the church; we are its pillars. I am a pillar, and a big one too."
Brother Delville said this pompously; showing the bull-dogism of his English nature, its disagreeableness intensified by prosperity.
"Come, my friends," cried the hostess, "the dance--you forget the dance; but before we go, what say you about getting up a pic-nic to the lake for next week."
"Delightful," exclaimed Stanly.
"So I say," replied Sister Dinly, "and I leave it in your hands, young man. Talk it over, but don't let it end in talk. Now, Brother Simpson, shall we set these young people a good example?"| | 220
"Certainly, my dear sister, a good, lively quadrille."
The couple walked off, followed by the company. Sister Simpson, number one, looked very black.
"I shall just tell Sister Dinly that this is time, not eternity," grumbled the lady, as she took a back seat.
The excitement of the dance did not prevent Sister Silea's cultivation of the belle of the evening. Before they separated, Laima promised to spend the next day with Sister Silea.
The conquest of this distinguished lady very much delighted Laima, who desired for many reasons to become a visitor at the Lion House.
The party broke up at ten o'clock. Such was the saintly custom; for the chief, though an advocate of dancing and theatrical amusements, insisted upon early hours.
Judging from the triumphant smiles of Sister Silea and Laima, the quiet joy of Elsie, and Stanly's happy whistle, the party was a very pleasant one to some of the guests.
It was an epoch in the lives of many in Zion.
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