- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XLII. DEFYING COUNSEL.
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CHAPTER XLII. DEFYING COUNSEL.
THAT afternoon Sister Dinly and Silea came to talk over matters. Elsie had no peace; even Mrs. Dinly joined the enemy.
"My child," she whispered, "we have been punished. That suicide was a judgment upon us. You must submit: it is your duty, both to your mother and to the Church." Then she added aloud, "See how kind and considerate the elder is: you ought to be thankful."
"Well, they can't drag me to the Endowment House, can they?"
"Not exactly, dear; for of course you will go."
"The idea of a chit of a girl defying the elder: it is ridiculous," said Mrs. Lucy, who knew by experience the value of defiance.
"It is not so much the elder, as it is the Church," replied Sister Dinly. "No one can rebel without being terribly punished, even in this world. Elsie, you must pray for a good spirit."
"Ah! Elsie does not know yet all the sacrifices | | 336 God requires us women to make. It's a heavy cross; but we must bear it cheerfully."
"Well, that is just as you choose to take it, Sister Mary. As for me, I never found it so hard. I think celestial marriage is the only plan that will free woman."
"A strange kind of freedom," muttered Elsie, "I think death is kinder."
"It certainly is not kind of you, Elsie, to speak so of celestial marriage, when your mother and all your friends practise it."
This remark came from Sister Silea, who always found a way to insinuate herself into family councils of an interesting nature.
"Excuse me," said Elsie, "not all my friends; there are the Menlys and the Brownlows."
"You lost girl!" exclaimed the trio of good Saints, while Mrs. Mary sobbed.
"The Menlys are apostates," cried Sister Dinly, in horror.
"And did not God send tramps to kill the rebellious woman? I should think such a lesson would suffice you, Elsie," continued Sister Silea.
"And as for those Brownlows, they are Gentiles. It is strange how that girl has always managed to pick up with such company. There was that Stanly Delville, a very doubtful character. I'm sure it wasn't my fault," said Sister Lucy.
Elsie did not wait to hear more. She left the room. Sister Dinly followed her. "Elsie, my child, you know I like you ever so much: in fact, I think so much of your interests, that to promote them, I am ready to sacrifice any personal feelings. I did think I | | 337 never could consent that the elder should take a sixth wife, as he had promised me Lucy should be the last. But dear, I have got over that now, and I do think it is best for you to marry him. You see, dear, Stanly has proved faithless--nay, don't interrupt me. I understand men better than you do, my child; they only look out for their own interests. Anyway, if he has not proved faithless, he has disappeared. His father killed himself the very night before he was to take you away. Don't you see the finger of God in all this? I do: it is His will that you marry the elder. It will make it so comfortable for your mother. It will give her a nice home. Why, by this time next year, you will bless me for having thus advised you."
Elsie was weeping. The allusion to her lover had opened the floodgates. Leaving Mrs. Dinly rather brusquely, she ran to hide herself in her room.
In the silence of her little room, Elsie meditated. She thought of those she loved. How few there were who loved her. Her mother would sacrifice her. Her father--where was he? She was worse than an orphan. And Stanly, where was he? Could he be false? No she would not believe it. He, her friend, her companion, her lover, her affianced husband, he who loved her, who understood her so well. The thought of their meetings, their plans for future happiness; of how they reveled in the joy of that unreal future, with all the sanguine faith of youth that foresees no obstacle, doubts not, fears not, because it never looks beyond itself. Like the little peas in the pod, who said, "The stalk that holds us is green, its leaves are green, the pods are green, we are green; therefore, all the world is green,"--so it is with the young. | | 338 Even the experience of Elsie's life had not taught her wisdom. As soon as she was happy, all seemed happy and good; but when misery came, all the world seemed wretched and wicked. How black and ugly it was, now that all her loves and hopes were crushed!
How hateful and mocking seemed the sunlight.
Why was she thus tortured? Why were her loved ones so punished? Elsie felt as if a horrible fate pursued all she loved. Brother Menly was an outlaw. Oreana, lost to reason, to hope, was a human wreck. Mr. Delville a suicide, and Stanly gone without a word, no trace of him left. Is it surprising that the teachings thundered out at the Tabernacle, reiterated continually by those around her, should at this moment find an echo in her heart? Was God punishing her for rebellion?--punishing her through those she loved? The bravest, the strongest, have their moments of fear, of weakness. Elsie was only an untaught child.
Her mother had sacrificed husband and home, while from her was demanded nothing more than the sacrifice of her feelings. Perhaps she ought to submit. For a few moments she contemplated her fate as the sixth wife of her mother's husband. As the picture took distinct form and color in her mind, her soul recoiled. "Never, never, it never shall be! Death is preferable. Stanly must be dead or he would be here. I may as well die, and I will die," cried the girl, as she paced the floor. Then memory recalled to her mind the ring. Hope revived at the thought. She ran to the bureau in which she had concealed it. She drew it forth and sighed: "Perhaps this will save me: shall I write?"| | 339
Elsie hesitated a moment, then she wrote upon the piece of paper in which she enfolded the ring, these words: "I am to be sealed to Elder Silvertung. Save me." She did not put the day fixed for the sacrifice, because she could not bring herself to think of it. She wrote the address in a large hand, so that nothing might be suspected; then, quickly putting on her hat, she slipped out unperceived, and took a back street to the post-office, trembling all the time lest some one should see her and discover her errand. Fortune smiled upon her. She reached the office, and mailed the package without being seen by any one. All fear of detection removed, her thoughts began a query as to this mysterious friend named Jim Tracy. Who was he? what was he? where was he? And why should he take an interest in her? How was he going to save her? Suppose he were dead? She shuddered at the thought.
When Elsie reached home she found two teachers awaiting her. It is the duty of the teachers to go round to the houses of the Saints to spur the inmates to greater zeal, and also to adjust any minor difficulties that may arise. They had heard of Elsie's resistance and considered it their duty to call. Their admonitions to rebellious Elsie were a repetition of the counsels already given her, with the addition of a eulogy on the elder, and a discourse upon the honor, and the exaltation that Elsie would receive from this alliance; with hints also, as to the punishments the Lord must in justice inflict upon any one so blind and ungrateful as to refuse such grant gifts. Elsie sat through the long visit, silent. In truth, she scarcely heard what was said, so busy was her mind with Jim | | 340 Tracy and the ring. Mrs. Dinly and Mrs. Lucy did all the answering, with an occasional sigh or a weak "just what I have told her," from Mrs. Mary.
The teachers rose to go, congratulating themselves upon the success of their visit; for they construed Elsie's meek silence into assent. Then one, for greater certainty, asked her if she did not feel happy in thus being chosen by the elder. The question was direct, and necessitated a reply.
"No," answered Elsie, "the thought of such a union horrifies me, but it never will be; for of my free will I never will marry him." Elsie spoke quietly but firmly; and immediately left the room.
The teachers looked at each other aghast. "What a bad spirit! Such depravity! We must report her to the Bishop: We are very sorry for you, Sister Mary; this must be a sore trial to you."
"Indeed, it must, but we hope counsel will prevail. It always does, you know."
Sister Mary sobbed some inaudible reply. Sister Dinly raised her eyes to Heaven, as if to testify to the truth of the last remark, while Sister Lucy laughed to think how the elder, the teachers, all were defied by quiet, simple Elsie, whom she had always looked upon as a mere child. It was really becoming quite interesting, and curiosity was impatient as to the result.
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