TALKS WITH THE PROPHET
THREE weeks had passed since Jefferson Hope and his comrades had
departed from Salt Lake City. John Ferriers heart was sore within him when he
thought of the young mans return, and of the impending loss of his adopted child.
Yet her bright and happy face reconciled him to the arrangement more than any argument
could have done. He had always determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing
would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such marriage he regarded as
no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace. Whatever he might think of the Mormon
doctrines, upon that one point he was inflexible. He had to seal his mouth on the subject,
however, for to express an unorthodox opinion was a dangerous matter in those days in the
Land of the Saints.
Yes, a dangerous matterso dangerous that even the most
saintly dared only whisper their religious opinions with bated breath, lest something
which fell from their lips might be misconstrued, and bring down a swift retribution upon
them. The victims of persecution had now turned persecutors on their own account, and
persecutors of the most terrible description. Not the Inquisition of Seville, nor the
German Vehmgericht, nor the secret societies of Italy, were ever able to put a more
formidable machinery in motion than that which cast a cloud over the state of Utah.
Its invisibility, and the mystery which was attached to it,
made this organization doubly terrible. It appeared to be omniscient and omnipotent, and
yet was neither seen nor heard. The man who held out against the Church vanished away, and
none knew whither he had gone or what had befallen him. His wife and his children awaited
him at home, but no father ever returned to tell them how he had fared at the hands of his
secret judges. A rash word or a hasty act was followed by annihilation, and yet none knew
what the nature might be of this terrible power which was suspended over them. No wonder
that men went about in fear and trembling, and that even in the heart of the wilderness
they dared not whisper the doubts which oppressed them.
At first this vague and terrible power was exercised only upon
the recalcitrants  who,
having embraced the Mormon faith, wished afterwards to pervert or to abandon it. Soon,
however, it took a wider range. The supply of adult women was running short, and polygamy
without a female population on which to draw was a barren doctrine indeed. Strange rumours
began to be bandied about rumours of murdered immigrants and rifled camps in regions
where Indians had never been seen. Fresh women appeared in the harems of the
Elderswomen who pined and wept, and bore upon their faces the traces of an
unextinguishable horror. Belated wanderers upon the mountains spoke of gangs of armed men,
masked, stealthy, and noiseless, who flitted by them in the darkness. These tales and
rumours took substance and shape, and were corroborated and recorroborated, until they
resolved themselves into a definite name. To this day, in the lonely ranches of the West,
the name of the Danite Band, or the Avenging Angels, is a sinister and an ill-omened one.
Fuller knowledge of the organization which produced such
terrible results served to increase rather than to lessen the horror which it inspired in
the minds of men. None knew who belonged to this ruthless society. The names of the
participators in the deeds of blood and violence done under the name of religion were kept
profoundly secret. The very friend to whom you communicated your misgivings as to the
Prophet and his mission might be one of those who would come forth at night with fire and
sword to exact a terrible reparation. Hence every man feared his neighbour, and none spoke
of the things which were nearest his heart.
One fine morning John Ferrier was about to set out to his
wheatfields, when he heard the click of the latch, and, looking through the window, saw a
stout, sandy-haired, middle-aged man coming up the pathway. His heart leapt to his mouth,
for this was none other than the great Brigham Young himself. Full of trepidationfor
he knew that such a visit boded him little goodFerrier ran to the door to greet the
Mormon chief. The latter, however, received his salutations coldly, and followed him with
a stern face into the sitting-room.
Brother Ferrier, he said, taking a seat, and
eyeing the farmer keenly from under his light-coloured eyelashes, the true believers
have been good friends to you. We picked you up when you were starving in the desert, we
shared our food with you, led you safe to the Chosen Valley, gave you a goodly share of
land, and allowed you to wax rich under our protection. Is not this so?
It is so, answered John Ferrier.
In return for all this we asked but one condition: that
was, that you should embrace the true faith, and conform in every way to its usages. This
you promised to do, and this, if common report says truly, you have neglected.
And how have I neglected it? asked Ferrier,
throwing out his hands in expostulation. Have I not given to the common fund? Have I
not attended at the Temple? Have I not ?
Where are your wives? asked Young, looking round
him. Call them in, that I may greet them.
It is true that I have not married, Ferrier
answered. But women were few, and there were many who had better claims than I. I
was not a lonely man: I had my daughter to attend to my wants.
It is of that daughter that I would speak to you,
said the leader of the Mormons. She has grown to be the flower of Utah, and has
found favour in the eyes of many who are high in the land.
Ferrier groaned internally.
There are stories of her which I would fain
disbelievestories that she is sealed to some Gentile. This must be the gossip of
idle tongues. What is the thirteenth rule in the code of the sainted Joseph Smith?
Let every maiden of the true faith marry one of the elect; for if she wed a Gentile,
she commits a grievous sin. This being so, it is impossible that you, who profess
the holy creed, should suffer your daughter to violate it.
John Ferrier made no answer, but he played nervously with his
Upon this one point your whole faith shall be
testedso it has been decided in the Sacred Council of Four. The girl is young, and
we would not have her wed gray hairs, neither would we deprive her of all choice. We
Elders have many heifers,1
but our children must also be provided. Stangerson has a son, and Drebber has a son, and
either of them would gladly welcome your daughter to his house. Let her choose between
them. They are young and rich, and of the true faith. What say you to that?
Ferrier remained silent for some little time with his brows
You will give us time, he said at last. My
daughter is very young she is scarce of an age to marry.
She shall have a month to choose, said Young,
rising from his seat. At the end of that time she shall give her answer.
He was passing through the door, when he turned with
flushed face and flashing eyes. It were better for you, John Ferrier, he
thundered, that you and she were now lying blanched skeletons upon the Sierra
Blanco, than that you should put your weak wills against the orders of the Holy
With a threatening gesture of his hand, he turned from the
door, and Ferrier heard his heavy steps scrunching along the shingly path.
He was still sitting with his elbow upon his knee, considering
how he should broach the matter to his daughter, when a soft hand was laid upon his, and
looking up, he saw her standing beside him. One glance at her pale, frightened face showed
him that she had heard what had passed.
I could not help it, she said, in answer to his
look. His voice rang through the house. Oh, father, father, what shall we do?
Dont you scare yourself, he answered,
drawing her to him, and passing his broad, rough hand caressingly over her chestnut hair.
Well fix it up somehow or another. You dont find your fancy kind o
lessening for this chap, do you?
A sob and a squeeze of his hand were her only answer.
No; of course not. I shouldnt care to hear you say
you did. Hes a likely lad, and hes a Christian, which is more than these folks
here, in spite o all their praying and preaching. Theres a party starting for
Nevada to-morrow, and Ill manage to send him a message letting him know the hole we
are in. If I know anything o that young man, hell be back with a speed that
would whip electro-telegraphs.
Lucy laughed through her tears at her fathers
When he comes, he will advise us for the best. But it is
for you that I am frightened, dear. One hearsone hears such dreadful stories about
those who oppose the Prophet; something terrible always happens to them.
But we havent opposed him yet, her father
answered. It will be time to  look
out for squalls when we do. We have a clear month before us; at the end of that, I guess
we had best shin out of Utah.
Thats about the size of it.
But the farm?
We will raise as much as we can in money, and let the
rest go. To tell the truth, Lucy, it isnt the first time I have thought of doing it.
I dont care about knuckling under to any man, as these folk do to their darned
Prophet. Im a free-born American, and its all new to me. Guess Im too
old to learn. If he comes browsing about this farm, he might chance to run up against a
charge of buckshot travelling in the opposite direction.
But they wont let us leave, his daughter
Wait till Jefferson comes, and well soon manage
that. In the meantime, dont you fret yourself, my dearie, and dont get your
eyes swelled up, else hell be walking into me when he sees you. Theres nothing
to be afeared about, and theres no danger at all.
John Ferrier uttered these consoling remarks in a very
confident tone, but she could not help observing that he paid unusual care to the
fastening of the doors that night, and that he carefully cleaned and loaded the rusty old
shot-gun which hung upon the wall of his bedroom.
1 Heber C. Kemball, in one of his sermons, alludes
to his hundred wives under this endearing epithet.