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

The Lion of the Lord Sends an Order

They reached home in very different states of mind.  The girl was eager for the solitude of her favourite nook in the canon, where she could dream in peace of the wonderland she had glimpsed; but the little bent man was stirred by dread and chilled with forebodings.  To him, as well as to the girl, the change in the first city of Zion had been a thing to wonder at.  But what had thrilled her with amazed delight brought pain to him.  Zion was no longer held inviolate.

And now the truth was much clearer to him.  Not only had the Lord deferred His coming, but He had set His hand again to scatter Israel for its sin.  Instead of letting them stay alone in their mountain retreat until the beginning of His reign on earth, He had brought the Gentiles upon them in overwhelming numbers.  Where once a thousand miles of wilderness lay between them and Gentile wickedness, they were now hemmed about with it, and even it polluted the streets of the holy city itself.

Far on the east the adventurous Gentile had first pushed out of the timber to the richly grassed prairies; then, later, on to the plains, scorched brown with their sparse grass, driving herds of cattle ahead, and stopping to make farms by the way.  And now on the west, on the east, and on the north, the Lord had let them pitch their tents and build their cabins, where they would barter their lives for gold and flocks and furs and timber, for orchard fruits and the grains of the field.  Little by little they had ventured toward the outer ramparts of Israel, their numbers increasing year by year, and the daring of their onslaughts against the desert and mountain wastes.  With the rifle and the axe they had made Zion but a station on the great highway between the seas; a place where curious and irreverent Gentiles stopped to gaze in wonder at and perhaps to mock the Lord’s chosen; a place that would become but one link in a chain of Gentile cities, that would be forced to conform to the meretricious customs of Gentile benightedness.

It had been a fine vengeance upon them for their sin; one not unworthy of Him who wrought it.  It had come so insidiously, with such apparent naturalness, little by little - a settler here, a settler there; here an acre of gray desert charmed to yellow wheat; there a pouch of shining gold washed from the burning sands; another wagon-train with hopeful men and faithful women; a cabin, two cabins, a settlement, a schoolhouse, a land of unwalled villages, - and democracy; a wicked government of men set up in the very face and front of God-governed Israel.

At first they had come with ox-teams, but this was slow, and the big Kentucky mules brought them faster; then had come the great rolling Concord stages with their six horses; then the folly of an electric telegraph, so that instant communication might be had with far-off Babylon; and now the capstone in the arch of the Lord’s vengeance, - a railway, - flashing its crowded coaches over the Saints’ old trail in sixty easy hours, - a trail they had covered with their oxen in ninety days of hardship.  The rock of their faith would now be riven, the veil of their temple rent, and their leaders corrupted.

Even of Brigham, the daring already told tales that promised this last thing should come to pass; how he was become fat-souled, grasping, and tricky, using his sacred office to enlarge his wealth, seizing the canons with their precious growths of wood, the life-giving waterways, and the herding-grounds; taking even from the tithing, of which he rendered no stewardship, and hiding away millions of the dollars for which the faithful had toiled themselves into desert graves.  Truly, thought Joel Rae, that bloody day in the Meadows had been cunningly avenged.

One morning, a few weeks after he had reached home from the north, he received a call from Seth Wright.

“Here’s a letter Brother Brigham wanted me to be sure and give you,” said this good man.  “He said he didn’t know you was allowing to start back so soon, or he’d have seen you in person.”

He took the letter and glanced at the superscription, written in Brigham’s rather unformed but plain and very decided-looking hand.

“So you’ve been north, Brother Seth?  What do you think of Israel there?”

The views of the Wild Ram of the Mountains partook in certain ways of his own discouragement.

“Zion has run to seed, Brother Rae; the rank weeds of Babylon is a-goin’ to choke it out, root and branch!  We ain’t got no chance to live a pure and Godly life any longer, with railroads coming in, and Gentiles with their fancy contraptions.  It weakens the spirit, and it plays the very hob with the women.  Soon as they git up there now, and see them new styles from St. Looey or Chicago, they git downright daft.  No more homespun for ’em, no more valley tan, no more parched corn for coffee, nor beet molasses nor unbolted flour.  Oh, I know what I’m talkin’ about.”

The tone of the good man became as of one who remembers hurts put upon his own soul.  He continued: 

“You no sooner let a woman git out of the wagon there now than she’s crazy for a pink nubia, and a shell breastpin, and a dress-pattern, and a whole bolt of factory and a set of chiny cups and saucers and some of this here perfumery soap.  And that don’t do ’em.  Then they let out a yell for varnished rockin’-cheers with flowers painted all over ’em in different colours, and they tell you they got to have bristles carpet - bristles on it that long, prob’ly!” The injured man indicated a length of some eighteen or twenty inches.

“Of course all them grand things would please our feelings, but they take a woman’s mind off of the Lord, and she neglects her work in the field, and then pretty soon the Lord gets mad and sics the Gentiles on to us again.  But I made my women toe the mark mighty quick, I told ’em they could all have one day a week to work out, and make a little pin-money, hoein’ potatoes or plantin’ corn or some such business, and every cent they earned that way they could squander on this here pink-and-blue soap, if they was a mind to; but not a York shilling of my money could they have for such persuasions of Satan - not while we got plenty of soap-grease and wood-ashes to make lye of and a soap-kittle that cost four eighty-five, in the very Lord’s stronghold.  I dress my women comfortable and feed ’em well - not much variety but plenty of, and I’ve done right by ’em as a husband, and I tell ’em if they want to be led away now into the sinful path of worldliness, why, I ain’t goin’ to have any ruthers about it at all!  But you be careful, Brother Rae, about turning your women loose in one of them ungodly stores up there.  That reminds me, you had Prudence up to Conference, and I guess you don’t know what that letter’s about.”

“Why, no; do you?”

“Well, Brother Brigham only let a word or two drop, but plain enough; he don’t have to use many.  He was a little mite afraid some one down here would cut in ahead of him.”

Joel Rae had torn open the big blue envelope in a sudden fear, and now he read in Brighams well-known script: -

DEAR BROT.  JOEL: -

“I was ancus to see more of your daughter, and would of kept her hear at my house if you had not hurried off.  I will let you seal her to me when I come to Pine valle next, late this summer or after Oct. conference.  If anything happens and I am to bisy will have you bring her hear.  Tell her of this and what it will mean to her in the Lord’s kingdom and do not let her company with gentiles or with any of the young brethren around there that might put Notions into her head.  Try to due right and never faint in well duing, keep the faith of the gospel and I pray the Lord to bless you.  BRIGHAM YOUNG.”

The shrewd old face of the Bishop had wrinkled into a smile of quiet observation as the other read the letter.  In relating the incident to the Entablature of Truth subsequently, he said of Joel Rae at the moment he looked up from this letter:  “He’ll never be whiter when he’s dead!  I see in a minute that the old man had him on the bark.”

“You know what’s in this, Brother Seth - you know that Brigham wants Prudence?” Joel Rae had asked, looking up from the letter, upon which both his hands had closed tightly.

“Well, I told you he dropped a word or two, jest by way of keeping off the Princes of Israel down here.”

“I must go to Salt Lake at once and talk to him.”

“Take her along; likely he’ll marry her right off.”

“But I can’t - I couldn’t - Brother Seth, I wish her not to marry him.”

The Bishop stared blankly at him, his amazement freezing upon his lips, almost, the words he uttered.

“Not - want - her - to marry - Brother Brigham Young, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all the world!”

“I must go up and talk to him at once.”

“You won’t talk him out of it.  Brother Brigham has the habit of prevailing.  Of course, he’s closer than Dick’s hat-band, but she’ll have the best there is until he takes another.”

“He may listen to reason -

“Reason? - why, man, what more reason could he want, - with that splendid young critter before him, throwing back her head, and flashing her big, shiny eyes, and lifting her red lips over them little white teeth - reason enough for Brother Brigham - or for other people I could name!”

“But he wouldn’t be so hard - taking her away from me -

Something in the tones of this appeal seemed to touch even the heart of the Wild Ram of the Mountains, though it told of a suffering he could not understand.

“Brigham is very sot in his ways,” he said, after a little, with a curious soft kindness in his voice, - “in fact, a sotter man I never knew!”

He drove off, leaving the other staring at the letter now crumpled in his hand.  He also said, in his subsequent narrative to the Entablature of Truth:  “You know I’ve always took Brother Rae for jest a natural born not, a shy little cuss that could be whiffed around by anything and everything, but when I drove off he had a plumb ornery fighting look in them deep-set eyes of his, and blame me if I didn’t someway feel sorry for him, - he’s that warped up, like an old water-soaked sycamore plank that gits laid out in the sun.”

But this look of belligerence had quickly passed from the face of Joel Rae when the first heat of his resentment had cooled.

After that he merely suffered, torn by his reverence for Brigham, who represented on earth no less a power than the first person of the Trinity, and by the love for this child who held him to a past made beautiful by his love for her mother, - by a thousand youthful dreams and fancies and wayward hopes that he had kept fresh through all the years; torn between Brigham, whose word was as the word of God, and Prudence who was the living flower of her dead mother and all his dead hopes.

Could he persuade Brigham to leave her?  The idea of refusing him, if he should persist, was not seriously to be thought of.  For twenty-five years he, in common with the other Saints, had held Brigham’s lightest command to be above all earthly law; to be indeed the revealed will of God.  His kingship in things material no less than in things spiritual had been absolute, undisputed, undoubted - indeed, gloried in by the people as much as Brigham himself gloried when he declared it in and out of the tabernacle.  Their blind obedience had been his by divine right, by virtue of his iron will, his matchless courage, his tireless spirit, and his understanding of their hearts and their needs, born of his common suffering with them.  Nothing could be done without his sanction.  No man could enter a business, or change his home from north to south, without first securing his approval; even the merchants who went east or west for goods must first report to him their wishes, to see if he had contrary orders for them!  From the invitation list of a ball to the financing of a corporation, his word was law; in matters of marriage as well - no man daring even to seek a wife until the Prophet had approved his choice.  The whole valley for five hundred miles was filled with his power as with another air that the Saints must breathe.  In his oft-repeated own phrase, it was his God-given right to dictate all matters, “even to the ribbons a woman should wear, or the setting up of a stocking.”  And his people had not only submitted blindly to his rule, but had reverenced and even loved him for it.

Twenty-five years of such allegiance, preceded by a youth in which the same gospel of obedience was bred into his marrow - this was not to be thrown off by a mere heartache; not to be more than striven against, half-heartedly, in the first moment of anguish.

He thought of Brigham’s home in the Lion House, the score or so of plain, elderly women, hard-working, simple-minded; the few favourites of his later years, women of sightlier exteriors; and he pictured the long dining-room, where, at three o’clock each afternoon, to the sound of a bell, these wives and half a hundred children marched in, while the Prophet sat benignantly at the head of the table and blessed the meal.  He tried to fix Prudence in this picture, but at every effort he saw, not her, the shy, sweet woman, full of surprised tenderness, but a creature hardened, debased, devoid of charm, dehumanised, a brood-beast of the field.

And yet this was not rebellion.  His mind was clear as to that.  He could not refuse, even had refusal not been to incur the severest penalties both in this world and in the world to come.  The habit of obedience was all-powerful.

Presently he saw Prudence coming across the fields in the late afternoon from the road that led to the canon.  He watched her jealously until she drew near, then called her to him.  In a few words he told her very gravely the honour that was to be done her.

When she fully understood, he noted that her mind seemed to attain an unusual clearness, her speech a new conciseness; that she was displaying a force of will he had never before suspected.

Her reply, in effect, was that she would not marry Brigham Young if all the angels in heaven came to entreat her; that the thought was not a pretty one; and that the matter might be considered settled at that very moment.  “It’s too silly to talk about,” she concluded.

Almost fearfully he looked at her, yielding a little to her spirit of rebellion, yet trying not to yield; trying not to rejoice in the amused flash of her dark eyes and the decision of her tones.  But then, as he looked, and as she still faced him, radiant in her confidence, he felt himself going with her - plunging into the tempting wave of apostasy.