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A Study in Scarlet

Chapter X
 John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet

   Three weeks had passed since Jefferson Hope and his comrades
had departed from Salt Lake City. John Ferrier's heart was sore
within him when he thought of the young man's 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, how-
ever, for to express an unorthodox opinion was a dangerous
matter in those days in the Land of the Saints.
  Yes, a dangerous matter -- so dangeous that even the most
saintly dared only whisper their religious opinions with bated
breath, lest something which fell from their lips might be mis-
construed, 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 ap-
peared in the harems of the Elders -- women 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 trepidation -- for he knew that such a visit boded him little
good -- Ferrier 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
  "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."
  John Ferrier groaned internally.
  "There are stories of her which I would fain disbelieve --
stories 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 tested -- so 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,
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 wil 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 Four!"
  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
  "Don't you scare yourself," he answered, drawing her to
him, and passing his broad, rough hand caressingly over her
chestnut hair. "We'll fix it up somehow or another. You don't
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 shouldn't care to hear you say you did.
He's a likely lad, and he's a Christian, which is morc than these
folks here, in spite o' all their praying and preaching. There's a
party starting for Nevada to-morrow, and I'll manage to send
him a message letting him know the hole we are in. If I know
anything o' that young man, he'll be back with a speed that
would whip electro-telegraphs."
  Lucy laughed through her tears at her father's description.
  "When he comes, he will advise us for the best. But it is for
you that I am frightened, dear. One hears -- one hears such
dreadful stories about those who oppose the Prophet; something
terrible always happens to them."
  "But we haven't 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."
  "Leave Utah!"
  "That's 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 isn't the first time I have thought of
doing it. I don't care about knuckling under to any man, as these
folk do to their damed Prophet. I'm a freeborn American, and
it's all new to me. Guess I'm 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 won't let us leave," his daughter objected.
  "Wait till Jefferson comes, and we'll soon manage that. In the
meantime, don't you fret yourself, my dearie, and don't get your
eyes swelled up, else he'll be walking into me when he sees you.
There's nothing to be afeared about, and there's no danger at
  John Ferrier uttered these consoling remarks in a very confi-
dent 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.
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