- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XXV. STANLY RETURNS.
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THE Thursday after Conference, Elsie was returning from her lessons in a very impatient mood with the world in general, and Stanly in particular.
This young gentleman has been absent for more than ten days, and Elsie was anxious for his return. Not that she cared to see him! Oh! dear, no. Young ladies never care to see young gentlemen; it would be improper; but Elsie wanted to hear from home. Stanly had business at Smithville; and before leaving he had promised to call upon Brother Menly. Then too, there was the missionary call to be discussed. The idea of Stanly being a missionary was exceedingly comical. Supposing Stanly should refuse; it would be just like him. These subjects were very important, and even proper people would sympathize with Elsie's impatience.
The young girl walked slowly; her eyes kept watch for somebody; and her heart whispered: "Will he come to-day?"
"Why! Elsie, where do you keep yourself? I do believe you are growing proud."
Elsie started at the voice, and could not conceal her annoyance; for it was not the one.
"Oh! Kleena, is that you? Indeed, I am not | | 254 proud, but I have so much to do; lessons to learn, and practising; you know I am learning to play the organ."
"Oh, my! how grand you're getting; but you mustn't go back on your friends; and then, too, you owe me something."
"Of course, I owe you friendship."
"Lots more than that; you have to make up to me for that proposal I lost through you."
"A proposal? I don't understand."
"Oh! so you've forgotten our beau, Brother Smith."
"Kleena, don't say 'our.' I had nothing to do with him."
"That's all very fine; but when he couldn't get you--he wanted you for the school--he came to town to get a learned wife, and came back with two. Not that I care, for I am going to marry brother-in-law; but then it is nice to have a proposal; it makes one feel kinder good. But I'm making up to brother-in-law, and Em and Min are doing all they can. You should just see how happy those two are; you would never say a word against plurality, not you. But there! I forgot, have you heard the latest Smithville news? Menly's wife was shot dead last Sunday."
"Oh," gasped Elsie, "shot! Where is Brother Menly? Who did it? Is the murderer caught? The wretch!"
"It was done by some tramps. One can never catch those tramps; they are off before you can say Jack Robinson. Officers have been down, but can't find nothing. Everybody says it was a just judgment on her, for her rebelliousness. Why, she was always | | 255 a-doubting and a-talking against plurality; and the Lord just sent those tramps to get rid of her. Those are the very words Brother Smith said; he was in yesterday."
"But Brother Menly!" sobbed Elsie.
"Oh, as for him, who knows and who cares! Ain't the Church dropped him? Brother Smith said we should think more of our salvation than to go in the devil's way."
There was silence, broken only by Elsie's sobs. She loved the Menlys. The news brought back all the old misery. If Kleena would only go away. She thought of several excuses, but none succeeded in dismissing Kleena, who deemed it her duty to cheer Elsie by saying the worst she could think of against the Menlys. And Stanly, who might come at any moment. Elsie and Stanly had reached that stage when a third person is always one too many. The girl grew desperate and broke out:
"Kleena, I won't have my friends spoken of in that way. If you can't talk differently, go away."
"Don't be cross; we won't say any more about it. Here is something nicer. Look, Elsie, Stanly Delville. I like him very much, and if it was not for principle, which speaks for brother-in-law, I would set my cap for him. Oh, don't be jealous, he could marry you all the same, and you could be first. Now, ain't I good?"
At that moment Elsie hated Kleena for daring to be there, and making her blush before Stanly. But as she could not annihilate the intruder, nor appear unconcerned, she took refuge in sulky crossness, scarcely noticing Stanly when he spoke. Kleena was all smiles. | | 256 That was too much for Elsie, who, not knowing what to do or say, abruptly left them and ran home.
"What is the matter with Elsie?" inquired Stanly.
"Oh, I just told her about Menly's wife, and she feels awfully. Can't see what she can find in such people to care about. But, la! you are going to Norway on a mission. Don't you feel proud?"
"It will be time enough to talk about that when I am ready to go. It is a pity you said anything about the Menlys to Elsie. Bad news always travels fast enough. Good afternoon."
"Well, some people are queer," was Kleena's comment as she walked on.
Stanly hurried after Elsie, and overtook her before she reached home. The girl was very angry with herself, and when she heard Stanly's step she stopped, ready to make apologetic advances. But Stanly attributed her brusqueness to grief, and hastened to condole with her.
"I am so sorry you heard of this so suddenly; it is horrible!"
"It is worse than horrible. Oh, Stanly! can't they catch the wretches who did it?"
"They could do it so easily that they won't try."
"What do you mean?"
"Elsie, did you never hear of blood-atonement? Great God! I can see before me now the body of my cousin, Julian Bellew, a fine, noble young fellow as ever lived. He was the first victim. Sister Menly is our last. Who will be the next? Hundreds have been killed within the last ten years."
"Stanly, you make me shudder. Suppose--but there! are you going to be a missionary?"| | 257
"Not I; although I would like to go out to the world, and tell them a few facts. How I could expose the wicked system! Julian's wounds, and my mother's broken heart, would inspire me. But I cannot afford to go. I must look after my father and--"
The young man hesitated. Elsie looked up, and read in his glance the little word his lips dared not utter.
Elsie blushed, and Stanly took courage.
"May I take care of you, Elsie?"
"If you don't get tired of the responsibility; you know I am awful wicked," replied Elsie, archly.
Stanly's answer is not recorded. No doubt it was very foolish, but all insane demonstrations were checked by the publicity of the situation. People who despise foolishness will find that the busy street is just the right place for a matter-of-fact business-like proposal; but it is very awkward for such as Stanly and Elsie. However, it was done. There followed a few moments' silence, when Stanly exclaimed:
"I had nearly forgotten! I have a package for you."
"For me! Is it from Mother?"
"No; first Brother Menly. He gave it to me with the injunction that I was to place it in your hands, unseen by anyone. I don't think anyone will notice it now, for there is too much going on. It is a very small one--but he seemed very mysterious about it."
"What can it be?" said Elsie, taking it. "I will leave you now to find out, for I see you are half dead with curiosity. Good-bye."
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