The Two Elsies by Martha Finley
"Next stood hypocrisy, with holy leer, Soft smiling and demurely looking down, But hid the dagger underneath the gown." --DRYDEN.
While old mammy told her story to her three listeners in the veranda at Ion, a train was speeding southward, bearing Edward and Zoe on their homeward way.
Zoe, in charmingly becoming and elegant traveling attire, her fond young husband by her side, ready to anticipate every wish and gratify it if in his power, was extremely comfortable, and found great enjoyment, now in chatting gaily with him, now sitting silent by his side watching the flying panorama of forest and prairie, hill, valley, rock, river and plain.
At length her attention was attracted to something going on within the car.
"Tickets!" cried the conductor, passing down the aisle, "Tickets!"
Edward handed out his own and his wife's. They were duly punched and given back.
The conductor moved on, repeating his call, "Tickets?"
Up to this moment Zoe had scarcely noticed who occupied the seat immediately behind herself and Edward, but now turning her head, she saw there two young women of pleasing appearance, evidently foreigners. Both were looking anxiously up at the conductor who held their tickets in his hand.
"You are on the wrong road," he was saying; "these are through-tickets for Utah."
"What does he say? something is wrong?" asked the younger of the two girls, addressing her companion in Danish.
"I do not understand, Alma," replied the other, speaking in the same tongue. "Ah, did we but know English! I do not understand, sir; I do not know one word you say," she repeated with a hopeless shake of the head, addressing the conductor.
"Do you know what she says, sir?" asked the man, turning to Edward.
"From her looks and gestures it is evident that she does not understand English," replied Edward, "and I think that is what she says. Suppose you try her with German."
"Can't, sir; speak no language but my mother tongue. Perhaps you will do me the favor to act as interpreter?"
"With pleasure;" and addressing the young woman, Edward asked in German if she spoke that language.
She answered with an eager affirmative; and he went on to explain that the ticket she had offered the conductor would not pay her fare on that road; then asked where she wished to go.
"To Utah, sir," she said. "Is not this the road to take us there?"
"No, we are traveling south, and Utah lies toward the northwest; very far west."
"O sir, what shall we do?" she exclaimed in distress. "Will they stop the cars and let us out?"
"Not just here; the conductor says you can get off at the next station and wait there for a train going back to Cincinnati; it seems it must have been there you made the mistake and left your proper route, and there you can recover it."
She sat silent, looking sadly bewildered and distressed.
"I feel very sorry for you," said Zoe kindly, speaking in German; "we would be glad to help you, and if you like to tell us your story, my husband may be able to advise you what to do."
"I am sure you are kind and good, dear lady, both you and the gentleman, and I will gladly tell you all," was the reply, after a moment's hesitation; and in a few rapid sentences she explained that she and Alma, her younger sister, had been left orphaned and destitute in Norway, their native land, and after a hard struggle of several months had fallen in with a Mormon missionary, who gave them glowing accounts of Utah, telling them it was the paradise of the poor; that if they would go with him and become members of the Mormon Church, land would be given them, their poverty and hard toil would become a thing of the past, and they would live in blissful enjoyment among the Latter-day Saints, where rich and poor were treated alike--as neighbors and friends.
She said that at first they could scarce endure the thought of leaving their dear, native land; but so bright was the picture drawn by the Mormon, that at length they decided to go with him.
They gathered up their few possessions, bade a tearful farewell to old neighbors and friends, and set sail for America in company with between two and three hundred other Mormon converts.
Their expectation was to travel all the way to Salt Lake City in the company; but, as they neared the end of the voyage, Alma fell ill, and when they landed was so entirely unfit for travel that they were compelled to remain behind for several weeks, and at an expense that so rapidly diminished their small store of money that when, at last, they set out on their long journey across the country, they were almost literally penniless.
They had, however, the through-ticket to Utah--which the Mormon missionary had made them buy before leaving them, and knowing no choice, and believing all his wily misrepresentations, they rejoiced in its possession as the passport to an earthly paradise.
"But we have lost our way," concluded Christine, with a look of distress, "and how are we to find it? how make sure of not again straying from the right path? Kind sir, can you, will you, give us some advice? Could I in any way earn the money to pay for our travel on this road? I know how to work, and I am strong and willing."
Edward mused a moment, then said, "We will consider that question presently; but let us first have a little more talk.
"Ah, what can be the matter?" he exclaimed in English, starting up to glance from the window; for the train had come to a sudden standstill in a bit of woods where there seemed no occasion for stopping. "What is wrong?" he asked of a man hurrying by toward the engine.
"A wreck ahead, sir," was the reply.
Every man in the car had risen from his seat, and was hastening to alight and view the scene of the disaster.
"Oh, Ned, is there any danger?" asked Zoe.
"No, dear, I think not. You won't mind if I leave you for a moment to learn how long we are likely to be detained here?"
"No, I won't, if you promise to be careful not to get into danger," she said, with some hesitation; and he hurried after the others.
Alma and Christine, looking pale and anxious, asked Zoe what was the matter.
She explained that there had been an accident--collision of cars--and that the broken fragments were lying on the track, and would have to be cleared away before their train could go on.
Then Edward came back with the news that there would be a detention of an hour or more.
Zoe uttered a slight exclamation of impatience.
"Let us not grumble, little wife," he said, cheerily, "but be thankful that things are no worse. And, do you know, I trust it will prove to have been a good providence; inasmuch as it gives us an opportunity to make an effort to rescue these poor dupes from the Mormon net."
"Oh, yes," she said, her countenance brightening; "I do hope so! Let us tell them all about it, and try to persuade them not to go to Utah."
"I shall do my best," he said; then addressing Christine again--in German as before--you tell me what are the teachings of Mormonism, according to your missionary?"
"They believe the Bible," she answered; "they preach the gospel of Christ as the Bible teaches it; else how could I have listened to him? how consented to go with him? for I know the Bible is God's word, and that there can be no salvation out of Christ."
"Did he not tell you that they teach and practice polygamy?"
"No, sir; no indeed! It surely cannot be true?"
"I am sorry to say it is only too true," said Edward, "that the Mormon priesthood do both teach and practice it. One of them, Orson Pratt, in a sermon preached August 29, 1852, said: 'The Latter-day Saints have embraced the doctrine of a plurality of wives as a part of their religious faith. It is incorporated as a part of our religion, and necessary for our exaltation to the fullness of the Lord's glory in the eternal world.'"
Christine looked inexpressibly shocked. "Oh, sir, are you quite sure of it?" she cried. "Not a word of such a doctrine was spoken to us. Had it been we would never have set out for Utah."
"It is a well-established fact," replied Edward; "and it is well known also that they conceal this doctrine from those whom they wish to catch in their net; to them they exalt the Bible and Christ; but when the poor dupes reach their promised paradise, and are unable to escape, they find the Bible kicked into a corner, the book of Mormon substituted for it, and Joe Smith exalted above the Lord Jesus Christ."
"Dreadful!" exclaimed Christine.
Alma too looked greatly shocked.
"But women may remain single if they choose?" she said, inquiringly.
"No, indeed!" replied Edward; "Mormon theology teaches that those who are faithful Mormons, living up to their privileges, and having a plurality of wives will be kings in the celestial world, and their wives queens; while those who have but one wife--though they will reach heaven, if they are faithful to the priesthood and in paying tithes--will not have a place of honor there; and those who are not married at all will be slaves to the polygamists.
"For this reason, among others, they desire to have many wives, and will have them, willing or unwilling.
"They send their missionaries abroad to recruit the Mormon ranks and supply wives for those who want them.
"The missionaries procure photographs of the single women whom they have persuaded to embrace Mormonism, and these are sent on in advance of the parties of emigrants. The Mormon men who want wives are then invited to look at the photographs and select for themselves.
"They do so, and when the train comes in, bringing the originals of the pictures, they are there to meet it; each man seizes the girl he has chosen by photograph, and drags her away, often shrieking for help, which no one gives. I have this on the testimony of an eyewitness, a minister of the Presbyterian Church, who has lived for years in Utah."
Alma grasped her sister's arm, her cheek paling, her eyes wild with affright.
"Oh, Christine! you know he has our likenesses; you know we gave them to him, suspecting no harm. Oh, what shall we do?"
"Be calm, sister; God has preserved us from that dreadful fate," said Christine, with quivering lips. "I know not what is to become of us, penniless in a strange land, but we will never go there; no not if we starve to death."
"You need not do that," exclaimed Zoe; "no one who is willing to work need starve in this good land; and my husband and I will befriend you, and find you employment."
"Oh, thanks, dear lady!" cried the sisters in a breath; "it is all we ask; we are able and willing to work."
"What can you do?" asked Edward; "what were you expecting to do in Utah?"
"We were to have some land," said Christine; that was the promise, and we thought to raise vegetables and fruits; fowls, too, and perhaps bees; but we can cook, wash the clothes, keep the house clean, spin, and weave, and sew."
"Oh," said Zoe, "if you know how to do all those things well, there will be no trouble in finding employment for you."
"But where, dear lady?" Christine asked with hesitation. "We have no money to pay our way to travel far; we must find the work near at hand, or not at all."
Zoe gave her husband a look, half inquiring half entreating; but he seemed lost in thought, and did not see it.
He was anxious to help these poor strangers, yet without wounding the pride of independence, which he perceived and respected. Presently he spoke.
"My wife and I live at some distance from here; we are not acquainted in this vicinity, but know there is plenty of such work as you want in our own. If you like, I will advance your travelling expenses, and engage to find employment for you; and you can repay the advance when it suits you."
The generous offer was accepted with deep gratitude.
The detention of their train lasted some time longer, and presently the talk about Mormonism was renewed.
It was Alma who began it, by asking if a Mormon's first wife was always willing that he should take a second.
"Oh, no, no!" Zoe exclaimed; "how could she be?"
"No," said Edward; "but she is considered very wicked if she refuses her consent, or even ventures upon a remonstrance.
"One day a Mormon and his family, consisting of one wife and several children, were seated about their table taking a meal, when the husband remarked that he thought of taking a second wife.
"His lawful wife--the mother of his children sitting there--objected. Upon that he rose from his seat, went to her, and, holding her head, deliberately cut her throat from ear to ear."
"And was executed for it?" asked Christine, while she shuddered with horror."
"No," said Edward; "he was promoted by the Mormon priesthood to a higher place in the church, as one who had done a praiseworthy deed."
"Murder a praiseworthy deed!" they cried in astonishment and indignation. "How could that be?"
"They have a doctrine that they call 'blood-atonement,'" replied Edward. "Daring to teach, contrary to the express declarations of Scripture, that the blood of Christ is insufficient to atone for all sin, they assert that for some sins the blood of the sinner himself must be shed or he will never attain to eternal life, and that therefore it is a worthy deed to slay him.
"That terrible, wicked doctrine has been made the excuse for many assassinations, and was the ground for not only excusing the horrible crime of which I have just told you, but for also rewarding the wretched criminal.
"Polygamy is bad enough--especially as instances are not wanting of a man being married at the same time to a mother and her daughters, or several sisters, and in at least one instance to mother, daughter, and granddaughter; and Mormon theology teaches, too, that a man may lawfully marry his own sister. Yet it is not the worst of their crimes; we have it upon the testimony of credible witnesses--Christian citizens of Salt Lake City--that their temples and tithing-houses are 'built up by extortion and cemented with the blood of men, women, and children whose only offence was that they were not in sympathy with the unrighteous decrees of this usurping priesthood.' And 'that all manner of social abominations and domestic horrors, and mutilations, and blood-atonings, and assassinations and massacres have been perpetrated in the name and by the authority of the Mormon priesthood.'"
"Oh, sir, how very dreadful!" exclaimed Christine. "Are they not afraid of the judgments of God against such fearfully wicked deeds?"
"It seems not," said Edward. "The Bible speaks of some whose consciences are seared as with a hot iron."
"But why is such terrible wickedness and oppression allowed by your government?"
"There you have asked a question that many of our own people are asking, and which is difficult to answer without bringing a heavy charge against our law-makers at Washington; a charge of gross neglect, whether induced by bribery or not I do not pretend to decide."
"But it makes us blush for the honor of the land we love!" cried Zoe, with heightened color and flashing eyes.