- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XXVII RUIN.
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DELVILLE'S store, usually the busiest on the street, was closed. For two days it had given no signs of life: dark, deserted, no customers, no clerks, the show windows empty.
The passers-by shook their heads. Some of the bolder went to the door as if to enter: then they stopped, hesitated, and passed on to the new store--the Lord's store.
The street gossips drew nearer together to discuss the question of Delville's ruin.
"He's squelched," said one.
"I'm mighty glad, for he gave himself no end of airs."
"It's a just judgment for his share in that Mountain Meadows business."
"Do you think he had anything to do with that?"
"'Tain't always best to tell one's thoughts; but I wouldn't have his conscience for all the gold mines in the world."| | 262
"Well, he wasn't alone in the business; and I'd stick it out with the old lion if it were me."
"Yes, and get chewed up for your pains."
"Tut, tut: those days are gone by."
"Don't be too sure o' that. Any how, old Del is ruined: he's in a pretty tight fix, I can tell ye."
The gossips were right, as they often are. Mr. Delville was ruined. Relying upon his excellent business, he had expended beyond his means in building and speculations. Debt, the evil genius of the business man, held him.
But how is it that Mr. Delville, the pillar of the Church, the right hand of the chief, is in this condition? In his boastfulness, he had acted independently of the Church; and the Church crushed him. In the Tabernacle, before all the people, he had been cursed by name, for daring to be a rival of the Lord; and all the Saints were forbidden to enter his store, under peril of going across lots t an ultra-tropical region. Across lots signifies a short cut. It was, on account of its forcibleness, a favorite phrase of the saintly leaders.
The anathema had crushed Mr. Delville. He sat in his deserted store trembling, stunned by the awful blow. It was not only the dread of being cast off, the pain of public censure; more than this, ruin stared him in the face.
He had visited Oreana in the hope of obtaining her influence. He found that influence rapidly waning, if not dead. He appealed to the chief; but the stony indifference of the latter crushed the hopes of the presumptuous Delville. His boasts had turned against him. Ruin, nothing but ruin. And in the silence of | | 263 his loneliness, the curse rang in his ears, the curse he had tried to forget in the noise of gold-seeking and pleasure.
Stanly tried in vain to cheer his father.
"Father," said he, "be a man. Resume your business. They have declared war upon you, now declare war upon them. It will be a tough contest, but it will not last long. The people will favor you, if you are only brave. Many of them are exceedingly indignant at the attack made upon you in the Tabernacle. Open the store in spite of the Co-op."
"I can't do it. I dare not. Satan would claim me."
"Nonsense; who cares for Satan when conscience is clear and the will honest?"
Mr. Delville winced at this home thrust, so innocently made by Stanly, who never dreamed of his father's blood-stained career. The wretched man trembled at the thought that the Church might repudiate her debts. God might revoke her promise; then who could save him from perdition?
"No, Stanly, I can't go against the Lord. If I am cut off my soul is lost."
Stanly was about to reply when Brother X., accompanied by a clerk, entered, and informed Mr. Delville that the Co-op committee had sent him to negotiate the sale off the stock.
When Stanly heard this he drew his father aside to make one last appeal.
"Father, don't be driven in this way. Think of that which you have at stake. Here's my plan. Sell the things that won't do to keep, but don't part with the rest. We can move away, open in some other | | 264 place, or, if that don't answer, wait just a little, and you can do splendidly here. Gentiles are coming here fast, and as soon as the railroad unites us with the outside world, the power of that old Fraud will be gone, and your fortune will be made because you had the courage to defy him. Father, mark my words, in a very short time Zion will be free like any other city, and that insolent priest will fetch up in a jail, where of right he belongs. This cursing business is played out. Hold your own, Father; don't let them steal it from you; and all will be right. Look at others who have not the slightest intention of closing. Father, you are worried and ill; let me see to this business for you. I think I can manage the rascals. Come, what do you say?"
Mr. Delville hesitated; his son's words impressed him. Were he only untrammeled, unstained as this young man--but, alas! he had sold himself to the enemy. The compact was written in blood. He must submit.
"You are brave and energetic, Stanly, but it won't do, it won't do. I must have money immediately. Then the President wants me to sell out. If I submit perhaps the Lord will reinstate me in favor."
Stanly left the store: he could not stay to see his father swindled; for he knew that the offer of the Church would amount to a swindle. This ruin sorely affected the young man, for he had looked forward to a partnership which would enable him to marry Elsie. Now the ruthless hand of avarice and jealousy was to destroy all his hopes.
However, he did not lose courage. He would get work, he would succeed.| | 265
When he returned, he found Brother X. and the clerk busy taking an inventory. Mr. Delville had accepted the offer--not daring to refuse--although it involved a ruinous loss.
"Well," exclaimed Stanly, when his father told him the terms, "if I wanted to rob in that wholesale fashion I would go on the highway, I would break boldly into houses, I would declare myself an enemy of man and work under the devil's banner. I wouldn't sneak in with a saintly smile and make God father my sins."
Mr. Delville groaned. The honest bravery of the young man shamed him.
All through the long day he sat in the deserted office alone with ruin and the specter-haunted past. Scenes forgotten in prosperity re-appeared with startling vividness; for adversity clears the mental vision in a most wonderful manner. Again he heard the doom pronounced against him. The ruin, the curse had come. Would the rest follow? Again he saw Julian fall. But it was all for God: why need he tremble? Why did he groan? Was it because of the memory of the faithful companion of his happy, stainless, early manhood, the partner of all his joys, sorrows and toil, the mother of his noble son, stricken with madness and death at the sight of his first victim?
He prayed; he shuddered while he prayed. Did he repent? No, for it was all done for God. His sufferings were not of repentance, but of trial. Thus he consoled himself: the past must be forgotten. The Church could not cast him off: one of its strongest pillars, whose tithings and gifts had done so much to sustain it in its struggling years, whose dagger was | | 266 ever ready, who feared no danger. And yet the chief, who owed him so much, had held him up to public scorn. Oh! the ingratitude of man! This was the wound that tortured him most. Where could he turn for comfort? Home, wife! he had forfeited these blessings. His purse supported several establishments, each one presided over by a woman who called herself his wife; yet no home had he.
Home is like God--one, indivisible, non-multipliable. One God, one love, one home!
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