- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XLIII. THE FUNERAL.
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ONCE more night came, but Elsie could not sleep. Her brain whirled with conjecture, and in her heart hope fought a battle with despair. Wednesday morning she arose, languid, weary. Her physical strength was failing from sleeplessness and want of nourishment; for since her trial commenced she could not eat. The excitement also began to tell painfully upon her system. Very little would bring on an illness. The child looked ill, her head ached as well as her heart; the slightest sound made her tremble and gasp; one moment she was burning, the next shivering, her pulse varied with her feelings.
Wednesday was the morning of the funeral. The elder wished all the family to go; and the elder's will was law. Elsie walked with her mother to the meeting-house. As they were about to cross Main street, Mrs. Silvertung stopped to speak with a friend. At the same time, a man close to them hailed a passing horseman. The latter reined in and drew near the sidewalk close by the spot where Elsie stood.
A short dialogue, replete with interest for her, ensued, although the speakers were strangers. "I say, Bob, are yer off to the mines?" "Off to Nevada, this very minute." "Going anywhere near where Jim Tracy is now?" "To the very place, without stopping; they have struck it rich. Got anything for Jim?" "Yes; here is a very small packet. It is very important. Jim spoke to me about it when he was here. He wants it delivered prompt and sure. I | | 342 thought if you were going you would be surer and quicker than the mail." "A deal quicker than those cross mails. I shall get there in two days and a half, I expect. Give it here. Well, it is a small one. It shall be delivered safe and sure. Good-bye."
The horseman galloped off. Elsie could scarcely stand. The ring was on its way. She had seen it; for it was the package done up by her fingers that the horseman had promised to deliver to Jim Tracy, that mysterious friend. But what chilled her to the heart, was the knowledge that it would be too late--too late. She stood as if turned to stone, till aroused by the efforts of her mother to move her.
"Why, Elsie, what is the matter with you? Here I have called you three times, and you stand staring as if you were deaf. What is the matter?"
"Nothing, Mother, I was thinking." Thinking, ah, yes! and repeating to herself the words: "Too late, too late!" unless she could do something to delay the sacrifice. If Stanly were only near to help! Perhaps he was. Yes, he might be at the funeral. He must be; she would see him. In vain she looked among the mourners; the one she sought was not there.
After the service, Elder Silvertung told Elsie that the bishop wished to see her. Elsie quaked; she knew what that meant, but it was useless to refuse. The elder led her into a small room adjoining the large meeting-hall. Here the bishop and his two counselors awaited them. Elsie quivered; she felt herself grow pale and blue. Her soul cried out to Heaven for help, for pity, for none could she find in man. The bishop's countenance was not one to inspire hope and confidence. Sensual and tyrannical--the rebellious met no | | 343 quarter from him. And women! Alas! This man enjoyed the unenviable reputation of being an excellent woman-driver. Many an indignant sister had gone to him with her woes, asking help; they always left him meek and submissive, asking help of no one except, perhaps, of death. His counselors were shadows of himself--cruel, sensual, unprincipled, greedy of gain. Elsie knew them, and detested them. The first salutations over, the bishop began: "My dear sister, or rather, child, for you are nothing more, I have heard some very sad accounts of you--that you are rebellious. Now rebellion leads to apostasy, and apostasy to eternal damnation."
"Amen," said the counselors.
"Bishop," said the elder, "I think that my ward's conduct is the result of bad influences, which, thank the Lord, are now removed. Still, she is naturally weak in the faith--so weak that I feel in duty bound to have her sealed to me, so that I may assure her salvation."
"Very virtuous and praiseworthy," said the bishop.
"For which kindness she ought to be most grateful," added the chief counselor.
"Instead of that she refuses me--nay, defies me."
"And her reasons for such rebellious conduct?"
"Ask her," said the elder, "she ought to know best."
"Give us your reasons for refusing Elder Silvertung, your guardian."
Elsie felt half dead with fear and shame. What could she say under the glare of those eight cruel eyes. Dared she say she loved another? But of what use would that be, even were it the true one. But it was not; for long before that "other" came, she hated this union. She hated polygamy; and then that other | | 344 reason, those horrible suspicions against the elder, the blood she saw upon his hands. If she mentioned either, it might draw down everlasting wrath, not only upon herself, but also upon her mother. She remained silent.
"Well, are you dumb? Women can generally talk enough. Speak when you are told to."
The tone angered Elsie. She quickly replied: "Because I do not wish to. I dislike him." The words sounded so foolish, that Elsie was not astonished, when they all burst out laughing.
"Don't wish to, eh! Well, that is the most childish reason; she dislikes him! Why, she talks like a Gentile. Perhaps you like some one else?" Elsie's pale face flushed at this taunt.
"You are right there," answered the elder, "and I am sorry to say the individual is an apostate."
"Worse and worse. This is a matter that the Church must attend to. These childish whims and fancies must be corrected in time, or this girl will go to hell, soul and body. Your plan for saving her is truly worthy of a Latter Day Saint; and if she persists in her stubbornness, we must treat her as we treat naughty children. Now, what do we do to them, eh? Brother Leifert, you ought to know, you are a famous family man."
"Yes, I'd oughter know, after bringing up fifty. Now I follers Solomon's rule; yer know what he says: 'Spare the rod and spoil the child.' Well, when any of mine gets fractious, I administers a little wholesome discipline. It soon cures 'em. Sometimes I diets 'em, I starves the bad spirit out. I tell yer a little rod, or a little hunger, is mighty healthy for rebelliousness."
"You are right, Brother Leifert, and if more followed your plan, there would not be such a falling off | | 345 from righteousness among our young girls. It must be stopped. Now, elder, if your ward don't come to reason pretty soon, bring her to us; but I think you can manage the business, now that you have Brother Leifert's excellent opinion. As for you, girl, I should advise you to submit gracefully to the inevitable."
Elsie bit her lips till they bled. The humiliation was horrible, and there was no hope.
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