- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XXX OREANA IS FORSAKEN.
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OREANA IS FORSAKEN.
SOME time passed, during which Oreana only saw her master at dinner, when he noticed her no more than be did the other women.
Already she perceived the commiserating glances of the household, she heard their whispers about Laima. The other wives and their friends began to treat her with a courtesy born of pity. Even the servants gazed at her sadly. It was maddening.
"Am I fallen so low that they should pity me?" she cried, and she carried her head higher, assumed gaiety, yea, even laughed at the chief's infatuation.
But out of her love (for she loved this man, even now that he had abandoned her) grew a hope that he | | 275 would return to her, that she would regain her influence, her place in his heart: his heart? This hope became a fixed idea. All her thoughts, her aims, centered in it. She must see him again before he was totally lost to her. She would be bold, she would ask him to visit her. The day she decided upon this course, she spent considerable time upon her toilette, in the hope of effacing the traces of suffering. As the hour of dinner drew near, she grew nervous. Alas! what a change! She now begged for that attention she had hitherto deemed her right. But her reflections of late proved to her that celestial marriage gives to women no right save that of suffering.
She hoped to prefer the request unheard by any but in this she was doomed to disappointment. The inhabitants of the Bee-Hive hummed assiduously round the pet lion who took such delight in crushing them.
If she asked, it must be before them all. For a moment she hesitated; but desperation spurred her on. Ask she must.
Assuming her pleasantest smile, she asked him to visit her that day or evening.
"I can't, I have an engagement."
"An engagement!" and with the freedom of a favorite, she asked, "What engagement?"
The words escaped her unconsciously. No sooner were they uttered than she would have given worldly for the power to recall them.
"That is my affair, not yours. Inquisitive women are odious," was the answer.
Oreana shivered. Her quick eye noted the look that passed from one lady to another. It was suffi- | | 276 cient to arm her ride. Recalling her smile she pretended to be amused at the rebuke, and added, in as playful a manner as she could assume:
"Then, perhaps, you can come to-morrow?"
"I shall come when I get ready," was the brusque reply.
It was galling, but nothing save a heightened color denoted her inward pain. Oreana withdrew, dignified, courteous, a very queen--dethroned--but still a queen.
But as the months passed on Oreana faded. Happiness is the beautifier, misery the defacer of man's countenance.
Sorrow, watching, and tears had done their marring work upon Oreana, furrowing the smooth brow, hollowing the cheek, and dimming the eye. The brilliant matron became an anxious, worn woman.
Her thoughts no longer afford her pleasure: she seeks distraction in work, in moving restlessly about the rooms.
A child enters.
"Mamma, Father says he is going to take you to the social to-night."
The abrupt message was sufficient to make any lady angry. A time was that Oreana would have felt incensed. Now it brought her unspeakable hope.
He was returning to his allegiance! the thought was an elixir. Oreana caught up in her arms the little messenger, and almost suffocated her with caresses.
The day passed in a flutter of excitement examining her different toilettes. As a favorite her wardrobe was ample; although Oreana, imbued with the spirit of the First Christians, affected a severe sim- | | 277 plicity in dress--a simplicity which harmonized well with her majestic beauty. For this night she must be lovely. Oreana had learned that beauty is potent, even over a prophet of the Lord.
But, although hope electrified her soul and made every fiber to thrill and glow; although she called to her aid every art to her known, the ravages of misery could not be effaced. The work of months could not be undone in a few hours.
Oreana sighed for the first time over her lost beauty. Still she was a handsome woman, far more beautiful to the cultivated eye than any in the city, not excepting Laima, whose highly-colored charms might win the sensual but not the aesthetic.
During the ride to the hall, Oreana asserted all her conversational powers to charm her escort. Not a reproach, not a sigh, escaped from her bruised heart. These efforts were received in silence; still undaunted, Oreana hoped.
Arrived at the hall, relieved of her wraps, Oreana entered the room leaning upon the arm of her lord, who, in the glare of the light, noticed for the first time the change in Oreana's looks.
"So you are going like the rest. You are not half as good-looking as you were. Quite time you dropped into the background--the fitting place for ugly women. Don't you think so, Brother Simpson? Why can't women keep handsome, like men, eh?"
The last part of this harangue was addressed to Brother S., and some others who came up to salute the great man.
"Well, at any rate we can replace the old stock by younger ones," replied Brother K--.| | 278
"That's good," said the President, laughing. "A Saint can always have a wife, young and handsome."
"Thanks to celestial marriage," added Brother Simpson.
Oreana boiled with indignation. Her ears had grown accustomed to coarse jokes, but she had never been their target. She tried to leave her husband's side, but he retained her arm, having no intention of allowing his victim to escape one iota of the torture. He paraded her round the room, till the entrance of Laima, when he left her, without making any excuse, and hurried to welcome the new-comer.
Almost fainting with humiliation, Oreana tried to hide herself in an obscure Seat. How she envied her sister wives, several of whom were there, seeking their own amusement, talking and laughing with their friends, oblivious, apparently, of the great man's presence, as if they owned no interest in him! They had never been distinguished by that debasing term, "The Favorite."
"The Favorite" of the Prophet is naturally the belle of every party. This dubious honor had for so long been enjoyed by Oreana, that she considered it as her right, and never dreamed that another could supplant her.
The Prophet opened the ball with Laima, which courtesy installed her the queen of the evening.
Oreana sat alone. A meaning look passed from one to the other of the company. The men smiled, the women sighed; thus expressing unconsciously their destinies as Saints. To the men pleasure, to the women pain.
Oreana had a few friends who tried to make | | 279 amends for the neglect of the One; and the ex-favorite, anxious to appear unconcerned, danced, laughed and talked while her heart was breaking.
It was over at last. All things must end; and Oreana prayed that life might end; but such mercy was not for her, doomed to expiate a double parricide.
After that night, grief benumbed her faculties. Her death-knell had sounded; for her hopes, her joys, her life, centered in that being who now threw her ruthlessly aside. Without him, she knew not how to live; for she had allowed her heart, mind, and soul, to be absorbed by him. Her children could not console her; for in Oreana maternal love was secondary. Her love demanded companionship, which as yet her children could not give. And the agony of crushed pride. Oreana was proud of her influence over the chief. An influence whose power and duration surprised the Mormon world.
In the days when enthusiasm was requisite to fire credulity, Oreana's influence was useful to the ambitious leader. Her spirit, ever soaring among the dizzy heights of fanaticism, drew up with it the common-place mind, that only dreamed of self-gratification and power. But when consolidated authority gave him a secure throne, and allowed full sway to his lower instincts, this influence became irksome.
Before Oreana, the second Moses had felt compelled to wear a mask. He had sought to hide his real nature, ashamed of its ugliness. To her he could not divulge all his schemes or the abject enslavement of the people. The woman's spirituality forced him upward to uncongenial heights.| | 280
The restraint chafed him. Had not Oreana been blinded by satisfied power she would have perceived his efforts to throw off her chains: efforts hitherto unsuccessful, for Oreana's beauty charmed him, her accomplishments flattered him; and he felt awed by a superior nature.
At length came Laima--beautiful, witty, unscrupulous, coarse. Her smile gave strength to his lower nature. The brute conquered the man.
In Laima he found a congenial spirit; before her no mask was needed. The deeper he sank in iniquity, in Laima greater depths attracted him. Together they gloated over massacres. No appealing to Scripture or to religious frenzy to justify the deed: no, only a laugh at the credulity, the weakness of mankind.
Skillfully Laima bound him in chains; her beauty, her wit flattered his passions, while, with subtle craft, she discovered his secrets. Every revelation was a scepter in Laima's hands--a scepter, whose power she knew well how to use when the opportunity should come. She despised him as much as he despised the people he misled; but she loved his position, his wealth, his fame. These must be hers. Once hers, she knew well how to keep them.
Oreana's fate gave her no fear. Love had made Oreana the slave of the man; passion should make the man the slave of Laima. No tender emotion could weaken her power over him, for the tender emotion did not exist. Laima was mistress of herself and of the man.
Oreana had fancied the brass gold. Laima took it for brass, and doubted whether the brass was not hollow.
For Laima there could be no disappointment; | | 281 neither did she fear the pain of abandonment. Love only feels this pain.
The polygamous chief might marry as many wives as he pleased. They should never keep him away from her, for these women would never possess her charms--charms impervious to grief or anxiety.
Thus Laima triumphed; thus Oreana sorrowed--sorrowed for the idol now broken, the idol she had worshiped, whose fragments she loved so much that she would gladly have spent her life in putting them together.
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