- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XXXIII. ELDER SILVERTUNG PROPOSES.
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ELDER SILVERTUNG PROPOSES.
SUMMER reigns once more in beauty bright; and the city of the mountains appears all radiant in her mantle of verdure. The Mormon chief had one virtuous love. He cherished trees--trees, the purifiers of the atmosphere, the home of joyous birds, those embodiments of praise and love--trees that woo from the clouds sweet rain drops to refresh and fertilize the earth, trees whose leafy branches form mystical ladders inviting man heavenward.| | 294
With her books under her arm Elsie wended her way homeward, feeling very happy, yet very sad. Happy because the future looked bright. In a few months Stanly would be able to take her away. Mr. Delville was regaining confidence, drank less, and as soon as he could arrange his affairs he intended to leave, Zion was not a safe place for him or for Stanly. The railroad had put them in easy communication with the outside world, and through the friendship of one of the apostates, Stanly heard of a position which promised well. The thought of escape from polygamy made Elsie happy. But she was sad. Two things gave her sorrow. She had just said good bye to school,--and Elsie loved school--and she knew now that rumor was true, and that Oreana, her loved ideal, was killing herself with opium.
She had been to say good bye, and the sunken, blood-shot eyes, the wrinkled, yellowish skin, the moody abstraction of the woman once so beautiful and brilliant, struck Elsie most painfully.
It was the beginning of the end. In the beginning Elsie had brought the fatal drug to her friend and protectress. The thought forced tears to her eyes.
When she came in sight of the house she saw the elder walking up and down the garden, apparently watching for her.
Elsie trembled. The sight of this man always annoyed her, although she had tried lately to feel kindly towards him for gratitude's sale. But Elsie's efforts were failures: the elder was her antipathy.
As she entered the gate she fancied that the elder eyed her peculiarly; he spoke to her with that sneering amiability infinitely worse than anger. Her heart | | 295 sank, and it was with difficulty she could answer his numerous questions about her studies and progress.
He kept her talking, evidently enjoying her embarrassment, until supper was announced.
At supper the elder appeared very jocular.
"Lucy, my dear, have you noticed how pretty our Elsie is growing? and so ladylike. We must get her a husband."
The look which accompanied these words brought to Elsie's mind those words she overheard at Smithville in the Long Ago.
"I don't think she will give you that trouble," retorted Lucy, who did not like the beauty of others to be praised. "Young ladies now-a-days manage that business for themselves, and Elsie ain't no ways backward."
"I should be very sorry to hear of any such presumption upon Elsie's part: it would almost kill her mother. Ah! that reminds me, Mary will be in tomorrow. I sent for her to-day."
"Indeed! How did you know that it is convenient? You ought to have asked me," said Lucy, bridling up.
"My dear, it is always convenient for a wife to submit amiably to her husband's wishes. Only the rebellious do otherwise. I know it will be a great pleasure to you to receive Mary. Dear me, how delighted a woman must be to know that her husband has the power to win such wives as the ladies I possess. The Lord has been good to me, and who knows what blessings of love and beauty he has yet in store for me?"
The elder addressed these words to Elsie, and ac- | | 296 companied them with such a leering smile that it attracted Lucy's attention, making that lady so indignant that she jumped up and flounced out of the room. Elsie was trying to join her, when the elder asked her to bring him a book.
She could not do otherwise than obey.
"Ha," he said, as she gave him the book; "how nice to be waited upon by such a pretty maiden! No, you must not leave me yet."
He saw she was trying to escape; to prevent it he seized hold of her.
"Elsie, my dear, you are so lovely and well-behaved that I think I must marry you myself. Won't you be happy to be my wife? Come, give me a kiss, my bride elect."
"Never!" half screamed Elsie; "never!"
"Control yourself, dear; you need not be so vehement. I know you will be glad to be my wife. There, you need not act so furiously. A lady's 'no' always means 'yes.' Oh! I understand you, my little coy damsel. So a kiss."
Never since that terrible day, never to be forgotten by Elsie, had the elder essayed a caress. Since that day, Elsie had learned to love. A pure, natural love now lived in her heart, giving her strength and dignity. She struggled, fought to free herself. Her resistance seemed to amuse her tormentor. He laughed a cold, mocking laugh, and stroked her cheek.
"The pretty dear! how modest and proper she is. Ah, well, I can wait. When you are my wife you will not be so shy. You can go now, and remember Stanly Delville is nothing, shall be nothing to you. | | 297 let him beware, for I can crush him as easily as I can crush a fly."
He hissed these words in her ear, then released her. The poor child ran to her room, and buried her face in her pillow as if anxious to hide away from herself, from her fate.
The dread that had haunted her for so long, the secret she dared not put into words, was at last an outspoken reality. What could she do? Then hope whispered, "Stanly." Yes, he might find some means of saving her. And the mysterious friend? All was not yet lost. These thoughts somewhat reassured Elsie, and she began to think how she could keep her tryst with Stanly (for they were to meet that evening) unseen by her enemy.
While she was planning how to compass this, she heard the sound of angry voices. Aunt Lucy lecturing the elder. Poor woman! as well might she have beaten herself against a jagged rock. Soon the noise subsided; the elder went out. Elsie watched him out of sight, then glided noiselessly down-stairs, out of the gate, and hurried to the trysting place.
She arrived some five minutes before Stanly. These minutes seemed to her an eternity; a multitude of bewildering thoughts, perplexities, horrible possibilities distracted her mind.
"Why, Elsie, am I late?" exclaimed Stanly, very much surprised to find her awaiting. "I am so sorry, but, my darling, what is the matter?"
"O, Stanly! I shall go mad. We must escape, now, this very night."
"Alas! we cannot. We should be discovered, and | | 298 brought back--at least you would. What is the matter? What has happened?"
In detached sentences, interspersed with sobs and ejaculations Elsie told him of the designs of the elder.
Accustomed as the young man was to the horrors of the Mormon system, he was overwhelmed by Elsie's story. Were it not that they would be certainly discovered, he would have carried her away that very night.
We will go tomorrow, Elsie. When you are my wife, they shan't touch you, the monsters!" and the young man gesticulated as if he were destroying those monsters at one blow.
"And you will save me from this horrid man?"
"Never fear that, Elsie. We will get away to Nevada, where any minister or justice of the peace will marry us."
"And such a marriage is punishable by law, everyway illegal. Allow me to inform you, sir, that Miss Lascelle is a minor, consequently subject to my authority as holding the place of her father."
The first sound of that smooth voice frightened the lovers into dumbness. And there was truth in Silvertungs remarks. Elsie was in fact, a minor, subject to her mother and the elder. The young people could not deny it, had they tried, but they were too bewildered to think, much less to act. The sudden appearance of the elder,--for they had not heard a footfall,--his knowledge of their designs--his evil look, made him appear to their imagination, tinged with superstition, as supernatural being.
"Ha, ha! you cannot answer me; the conscious- | | 299 nes of wrong-doing makes cowards of you. Elsie, come home with me."
"I won't. I can go home myself," said Elsie, who was the first to recover.
Elsie's resistance nerved Stanly to action.
"Mr. Silvertung," said the young man, "this young lady has promised to be my wife. We are young and we love each other. Will you not consent? My family and position you well know."
"Too well, Mr. Delville, to wish to make any alliance with you. Rebellious, disgraced by the Church, your father a drunkard, and yet you dare lift your eyes to Elsie. I wish you to understand that we have other designs for this young lady's future."
"Sir!" cried Stanly indignantly, advancing.
"The less you say young man, the better. A word or an act might injure yourself more than anyone else. I could crush you as easily as it you were a fly. Come, Elsie. What would your mother say to see you thus disgracing yourself?" Saying this, the elder tried to take the young girl's hand; but, seeing his intention, she turned with bird-like swiftness, and ran home.
She found the door fastened. Before it could be opened the elder came up. He smilingly remarked upon the fineness of the evening and complimented Elsie upon her fleet-footedness.
He evidently wished to propitiate her; but Elsie was mute. As soon as they entered, the young girl darted towards her room; but here the elder was too quick for her. He took her by the arm, and led her to the sitting-room. Then addressing Mrs. Lucy, he inquired if the room leading from hers was ready | | 300 for an occupant. On being answered in the affirmative, he ordered that Elsie should occupy it for that night. The young girl obeyed without demur. She knew a battle, or a long contest, was inevitable, and she kept her strength for the latter. They might kill her, but never would she marry that man.
Mrs. Lucy was indignant. She had thought that he would never take another wife, and therefore, her reign was secure. But here he was, about to marry a chit of a girl, whose beauty Lucy had been often forced to acknowledge, much against her will. She never dreamed that the girl would resist.
Elsie slept but little that night, her mind being busy, devising some means of communicating with Stanly.
The next day was Sunday.
Elsie soon found that the elder's keen eyes watched her movements closely. She sat at the window watching for Stanly, but he came not. Elsie felt disappointed; if he had passed by it would have seemed as though he were bestirring himself in her behalf--it would have been a satisfaction; a foolish, one no doubt, as she was virtually a prisoner, but despair yearns so madly for hope, that it hails gladly the faintest reflection from the bright star.
About 11 A.M. a message came for the elder. The message seemed to please him. Re-entering the sitting-room he said:
"I am called away for a little while; shall be back, no doubt, within an hour. Elsie, your mother may be here any minute. I hope your filial affection is sufficiently strong to keep you here to receive her. Lucy, youth is sometimes wayward; I shall look to you for | | 301 Elsie's safe keeping. I do not wish her to go out or to speak with any one; and, by the way, the window is not a fit place for a modest young lady wishing to retrieve past errors. Sit over here."
He placed Elsie as far as possible from window, reiterated his command to Lucy, and pass out into the hall, where one of his sons, a five-year-old likeness of the father, was playing at ball.
A bright thought came to the elder in the form of the adage: "Fools and children tell the truth."
He called the child and promised him lots of candy if he would watch Elsie, and tell if she spoke to any one or went out. The child readily promised, and rushed into the room, saying:
"I'm going to tell on Elsie and get candy."
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