Read CHAPTER XXVII. of The Lions of the Lord A Tale of the Old West, free online book, by Harry Leon Wilson, on ReadCentral.com.

A New Cross Taken up and an Old Enemy Forgiven

Christina would now be left alone with the cares of the house, and he knew he ought to have some one to help her.  The fever of sacrifice was also upon him.  And so he found another derelict, to whom he was sealed forever.

At a time of more calmness he might have balked at this one.  She was a cross, to be sure, and it was now his part in life to bear crosses.  But there were plenty of these, and even one vowed to a life of sacrifice, he suspected, need not grossly abuse the powers of discrimination with which Heaven had seen fit to endow him.  But he had lately been on the verge of a seething maelstrom, balancing there with unholy desire and wickedly looking far down, and the need to atone for this sin excited him to indiscretions.

It was not that this star in his crown was in her late thirties and less than lovely.  He had learned, indeed, that in the game which, for the chastening of his soul, he now played with the Devil, it were best to choose stars whose charms could excite to little but conduct of a saintlike seemliness.  The fat, dumpy figure of this woman, therefore, and her round, flat, moonlike face, her mouse-coloured wisps of hair cut squarely off at the back of her neck, were points of a merit that was in its whole effect nothing less than distinguished.

But she talked.  Her tones played with the constancy of an ever-living fountain.  Artlessly she lost herself in the sound of their music, until she also lost her sense of proportion, of light and shade, of simple, Christian charity.  Her name was Lorena Sears, and she had come in with one of the late trains of converts, without friends, relatives, or means, with nothing but her natural gifts and an abiding faith in the saving powers of the new dispensation.  And though she was so alive in her faith, rarely informed in the Scriptures, bubbling with enthusiasm for the new covenant, the new Zion, and the second coming of the Messiah, there had seemed to be no place for her.  She had not been asked in marriage, nor had she found it easy to secure work to support herself.

“She’s strong,” said Brigham, to his inquiring Elder, “and a good worker, but even Brother Heber Kimball wouldn’t marry her; and between you and me, Brother Joel, I never knew Heber to shy before at anything that would work.  You can see that, yourself, by looking over his household.”

But, after the needful preliminaries, and a very little coy hesitation on the part of the lady, Lorena Sears, spinster, native of Elyria, Ohio, was duly sealed to, for time and eternity, and became a star forever in the crown of, Joel Rae, Elder after the Order of Melchisedek in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President of the Amalon Stake of Zion.

In the bustle of the start south there were, of necessity, moments in which the crown’s new star could not talk; but these blessed respites were at an end when at last they came to the open road.

At first, as her speech flowed on, he looked sidelong at her, in a trouble of fear and wonder; then, at length, absently, trying to put his mind elsewhere and to leave her voice as the muted murmur of a distant torrent.  He succeeded fairly well in this, for Lorena combined admirably in herself the parts of speaker and listener, and was not, he thankfully noted, watchful of his attention.

But in spite of all he could do, sentences would come to seize upon his ears:  “...  No chance at all back there for a good girl with any heart in her unless she’s one of the doll-baby kind, and, thank fortune, I never was that!  Now there was Wilbur Watkins - his father was president of the board of chosen freeholders - Wilbur had a way of saying, ’Lorena’s all right - she weighs a hundred and seventy-eight pounds on the big scales down to the city meatmarket, and it’s most of it heart - a hundred and seventy-eight pounds and most all heart - and she’d be a prize to anybody,’ but then, that was his way, - Wilbur was a good deal of a take-on, - and there was never anything between him and me.  And when the Elder come along and begun to preach about the new Zion and tell about the strange ways that the Lord had ordered people to act out here, something kind of went all through me, and I says, ’That’s the place for me!’ Of course, the saying is, ’There ain’t any Gawd west of the Missouri,’ but them that says it ain’t of the house of Israel - lots of folks purtends to be great Bible readers, but pin ’em right down and what do you find? - you find they ain’t really studied it - not what you could call pored over it.  They fuss through a chapter here and there, and rush lickety-brindle through another, and ain’t got the blessed truth out of any of ’em - little fine points, like where the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart every time, for why? - because if He hadn’t ‘a’ done it Pharaoh would ‘a’ give in the very first time and spoiled the whole thing.  And then the Lord would visit so plumb natural and commonlike with Moses - like tellin’ him, ’I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob by the name of God Almighty, for by my name Jéhovah was I not known unto them.’  I thought that was awful cute and friendly, stoppin’ to talk about His name that way.  Oh, I’ve spent hours and hours over the blessed Book.  I bet I know something you don’t, now - what verse in the Bible has every letter in the alphabet in it except ‘J’?  Of course you wouldn’t know.  Plenty of preachers don’t.  It’s the twenty-first verse of the seventh chapter of the book of Ezra.  And the Book of Mormon - I do love to git set down in a rocker with my shoes off - I’m kind of a heavy-footed person to be on my feet all day - and that blessed Book in my hands - such beautiful language it uses - that verse I love so, ’He went forth among the people waving the rent of his garment in the air that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent,’ - that’s sure enough Bible language, ain’t it?  And yet some folks say the Book of Mormon ain’t inspired.  And that lovely verse in Second Niphi, first chapter, fourteenth verse:  ’Hear the words of a trembling parent whose limbs you must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave from whence no traveller can return.’  Back home the school-teacher got hold of that - he’s an awful smarty - and he says, ’Oh, that’s from Shakespeare,’ or some such book, just like that - and I just give him one look, and I says, ’Mr. Lyman Hickenlooper, if you’ll take notice,’ I says, ’you’ll see those words was composed by the angel Moroni over two thousand years ago and revealed to Joseph Smith in the sacred light of the Urim and Thummim,’ I says, and the plague-oned smarty snickered right in my face - and say, now, what did you and your second git a separation for?”

He was called back by the stopping of her voice, but she had to repeat her question before he understood it.  The Devil tempted him in that moment.  He was on the point of answering, “Because she talked too much,” but instead he climbed out of the wagon to walk.  He walked most of the three hundred miles in the next ten days.  Nights and mornings he falsely pretended to be deaf.

He found himself in this long walk full of a pained discouragement; not questioning or doubting, for he had been too well trained ever to do either.  But he was disturbed by a feeling of bafflement, as might be a ground-mole whose burrow was continually destroyed by an enemy it could not see.  This feeling had begun in Salt Lake City, for there he had seen that the house of Israel was no longer unspotted of the world.  Since the army with its camp-followers had come there was drunkenness and vice, the streets resounded with strange oaths, and the midnight murder was common.  Even Brigham seemed to have become a gainsayer in behalf of Mammon, and the people, quick to follow his lead, were indulging in ungodly trade with Gentiles; even with the army that had come to invade them.  And more and more the Gentiles were coming in.  He heard strange tales of the new facilities afforded them.  There was actually a system of wagon-trains regularly hauling freight from the Missouri to the Pacific; there was a stage-route bringing passengers and mail from Babylon; even Horace Greeley had been publicly entertained in Zion, - accorded honour in the Lord’s stronghold.  There was talk, too, of a pony-express, to bring them mail from the Missouri in six days; and a few visionaries were prophesying that a railroad would one day come by them.  The desert was being peopled all about them, and neighbours were forcing a way up to their mountain retreat.

It seemed they were never to weld into one vast chain the broken links of the fated house of Abraham; never to be free from Gentile contamination.  He groaned in spirit as he went - walking well ahead of his wagon.

But he had taken up a new cross and he had his reward.  The first night after they reached home he took the little Bible from its hiding-place and opened it with trembling hands.  The stain was there, red in the candle-light.  But the cries no longer rang in his ears as on that other night when he had been sinful before the page.  And he was glad, knowing that the self within him had again been put down.

Then came strange news from the East - news of a great civil war.  The troops of the enemy at Camp Floyd hurried east to battle, and even the name of that camp was changed, for the Gentile Secretary of War, said gossip from Salt Lake City, after doing his utmost to cripple his country by sending to far-off Utah the flower of its army, had now himself become not only a rebel but a traitor.

Even Johnston, who had commanded the invading army, denouncing the Saints as rebels, had put off his blue uniform for a gray and was himself a rebel.

When the news came that South Carolina had actually flung the palmetto flag to the breeze and fired the first gun, he was inclined to exult.  For plainly it was the Lord’s work.  There was His revelation given to Joseph Smith almost thirty years before:  “Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina.”  And ten years later the Lord had revealed to Joseph further concerning this prophecy that this war would be “previous to the coming of the Son of Man.”  Assuredly, they were now near the time when other Prophets of the Church had said He would come - the year 1870.  He thrilled to be so near the actual moving of the hand of God, and something of the old spirit revived within him.

From Salt Lake City came news of the early fighting and of meetings for public rejoicing held in the tabernacle, with prophecies that the Gentile nation would now be rent asunder in punishment for its rejection of the divine message of the Book of Mormon and its persecution of the prophets of God.  In one of these meetings of public thanksgiving Brigham had said from the tabernacle pulpit:  “What is the strength of this man Lincoln?  It is like a rope of sand.  He is as weak as water, - an ignorant, Godless shyster from the backwoods of Illinois.  I feel disgraced in having been born under a government that has so little power for truth and right.  And now it will be broken in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

These public rejoicings, however, brought a further trial upon the Saints.  The Third California Infantry and a part of the Second Cavalry were now ordered to Utah.  The commander of this force was one Connor, an officer of whom extraordinary reports were brought south.  It was said that he had issued an order directing commanders of posts, camps, and detachments to arrest and imprison “until they took the oath of allegiance, all persons who from this date shall be guilty of uttering treasonable sentiments against the government of the United States.”  Even liberty of opinion, it appeared, was thus to be strangled in these last days before the Lord came.

Further, this ill-tempered Gentile, instead of keeping decently remote from Salt Lake City, as General Johnston had done, had marched his troops into the very stronghold of Zion, despite all threats of armed opposition, and in the face of a specific offer from one Prophet, Seer, and Revelator to wager him a large sum of money that his forces would never cross the River Jordan.  To this fair offer, so reports ran, the Gentile officer had replied that he would cross the Jordan if hell yawned below it; that he had thereupon viciously pulled the ends of a grizzled, gray moustache and proceeded to behave very much as an officer would be expected to behave who was commonly known as “old Pat Connor.”

Knowing that the forces of the Saints outnumbered his own, and that he was, in his own phrase, “six hundred miles of sand from reinforcements,” he had halted his command two miles from the city, formed his column with an advance-guard of cavalry and a light battery, the infantry and the commissary-wagons coming next, and in this order, with bayonets fixed, cannon shotted, and two bands playing, had marched brazenly in the face of the Mormon authorities and through the silent crowds of Saints to Emigrant Square.  Here, in front of the governor’s residence, where flew the only American flag to be seen in the whole great city, he had, with entire lack of dignity, led his men in three cheers for the country, the flag, and the Gentile governor.

After this offensive demonstration, he had perpetrated the supreme indignity by going into camp on a bench at the base of Wasatch Mountain, in plain sight of the city, there in the light of day training his guns upon it, and leaving a certain twelve-pound howitzer ranged precisely upon the residence of the Lion of the Lord.

Little by little these galling reports revived the military spirit in an Elder far to the south, who had thought that all passion was burned out of him.  But this man chanced to open a certain Bible one night to a page with a wash of blood across it.  From this page there seemed to come such cries and screams of fear in the high voices of women and children, such sounds of blows on flesh, and the warm, salt smell of blood, that he shut the book and hastily began to pray.  He actually prayed for the preservation of that ancient first enemy of his Church, the government of the United States.  Individually and collectively, as a nation, as States, and as people, he forgave them and prayed the Lord to hold them undivided.

Then he knew that an astounding miracle of grace had been wrought within him.  For this prayer for the hostile government was thus far his greatest spiritual triumph.