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 XXI
OREANA MEETS HER RIVAL.

IN the reception-room of the Lion House are assembled the elite of the Saints, to celebrate the birthday of the favorite. But the reigning lady appears ill at ease; a cloud rests upon her brow. It is caused by the presence of Laima. The favorite is eclipsed by the brilliancy of the new star.

It was the President's wish that the young lady should be invited. His wish was a command. Oreana obeyed, but she inwardly rebelled, for without any apparent reason she dislike Laima. It was an intuitive antagonism; and intuition is prophetic.

This reunion was more brilliant than Mrs. Dinly's | | 235 party. Rivalry was less apparent, for the chief would not allow it.

"No scratching around here," he preached and practised; but if the faces were gayer, and the tongues merrier, the hearts were no lighter. Society is much the same everywhere. However, there is one peculiar feature about the Mormon society. The men are all and always matrimonially eligible. Only the women are married and settled.

After politics and finance had been discussed among the men, and church matters and household duties among the women, the President, whose eye had been wandering towards Laima, made a move to include the sisters. The sisters smiled and twittered, delighted at the condescension. Sister Silea was more than usually talkative: she attached herself particularly to Oreana, playfully reproaching her for indifference to the societies. Oreana was not given to active benevolence: she preferred remaining perdu, and from behind her domestic screen, turning, or fancying she turned, the wheels of government. Once she aspired to the role of prophetess; but the chief allowed no woman to infringe upon his special rights; and Oreana schooled herself to be content with silent influence.

"Sister Oreana, don't you think we shall soon have the happiness of receiving another sister? See how attentive the President is to Laima."

Oreana winced, and made an effort to turn the conversation. A futile attempt. Sister Silea was too tenacious of purpose: she drew some of ladies around Oreana and herself, and whispered the thought to | | 236 them with laughs and witticisms, all pointed at Oreana's heart.

The position was becoming unendurable.

It was a relief when refreshments diverted the company. But here a painful surprise awaited her. The President, who considered himself superior to etiquette, escorted Laima to supper.

It was a shock to Oreana, the beginning of woe. She shuddered at the thought of what might be: she sensed the approach of humiliation, and the smile she had summoned to hide her chagrin died away. Oreana looked as she felt--gloomy.

It was a moment of triumph for Laima, and she exerted herself to secure a victory. Nature had bestowed upon her a ready wit, sparkling as her eyes, and the chief, who prided himself upon his jokes, found he had a rival in Laima. It gave new zest to the game. Her beauty fascinated, her wit dazzled, her strong, unscrupulous will enchained the leader of Zion. He who had enslaved woman, was himself to become a slave to woman's wiles.

His arm thrown over the back of Laima's chair, he toyed with her curls, he joked and laughed at her bright repartee. What was Oreana, what were all of his wives, compared to this charming novelty? This thought caused him to glance at Oreana. He noticed her sad face. He must put an end to that. Touching Laima's shoulder, and pointing to Oreana, he said, loud enough to be heard by all:

"Ain't she jealous of you, my beauty?" Then speaking to Oreana, he said roughly: "Come, old lady, don't look so glum. You've had your day, and there must be no jealousy among the Saints."

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"That's the beauty of plural marriage," remarked one of the brothers; "it kills all jealousy. Why, before the Gospel was revealed to me, my one wife was more bother than all my wives to-day. One wife is more bother than a dozen. Isn't that so, Brother President?"

"Yes, that it is. I pity the monogamists."

"How young and mirthful the dear President is," remarked Sister Silea, in a loud whisper.

Oreana quivered at the insult, but her pride came to the rescue, and she smiled--smiled in spite of her agony. Elsie's question, "Are the other wives happy?" rang in her ears above the noise of the conversation.

But perhaps she was deceiving herself. Her husband might have reasons for so acting. The coarseness of his sermons, his treachery, his lies--yea, worse crimes than those--had been excused, justified under the plea of necessity--as the most potent weapons wherewith to fight the enemies of the Gospel. Nay, had he not induced her, for the same reasons, to commit many an act that her better nature abhorred? Yes, perhaps he could explain all by and by. With these thoughts she endeavored to quiet her heart--anything for hope. But her heart would not be still. Her pride, her love, was insulted, and a woman will forgive anything but an insult to her love. That is, to her, the only unpardonable offense in the dark category of sin.

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