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slumber those were, when my head would nod like that
of a porcelain mandarin, and my eyelids droop as if weighted with lead,
and when, after a few minutes, I would start up, broad awake, as my mustang
stumbled over broken ground. Once—it was while 'Demus Blake was still with me—I
had a long and most delicious period of slumber, uninterrupted by jerks or
concussions ; and when I awoke quite a new man, and revived to an extent at
which I now wonder, I found myself supported by the strong patient arm of my
conductor, who had been galloping by my side for miles, managing both bridles
with his disengaged hand. " I thought it would fresh you up, Colonel!"
said the brave fellow.
Not all my mentors throughout that phantom ride across prairieland were as frank
as Blake, nor as merry as Shem. But the mail-bag riders turned out good fellows
in all main points, and I can safely say that I found but two or three surly or
ill-natured persons among all those who garrisoned the block-houses ; while
fortunately it fell to my lot on no occasion to be accompanied by one of these.
In the prairie, as in the world at large, I
found good-feeling the rule, cynicism or malice the exception, though I
am bound to say that the ill-conditioned individuals made twice as much noise
and stir as their more amiable mates. The first start had been difficult, but at
each succeeding station I received my remount without much delay or parley. The
"privilege of the post" was conceded to me, while I was always welcome to a
share of the rations in each little community. On the whole, I found the men
cheerful in their strange isolation. They were liberally paid and not ill-fed,
and they looked forward to a pension in the event of becoming crippled by some
Indian hatchet-stroke or arrow-shot. Planted in the wilderness, with the
prospect of being presently encompassed by deep drifts of snow, over whose
frozen surface the wolves would come
to howl and scratch at their doors, like dogs seeking admittance, they
were in fair spirits and undismayed. Their habitual talk was of the wild
adventures that formed the everyday life of that frontier of Christendom ; of
Indian stratagems and cruelty, of panthers and "grizzlies," pronghorns and
buffaloes. Several of them had consorted familiarly with the painted tribes of
the desert, and spoke sundry Indian dialects as fluently as their mother tongue.
I found these hardy men kind hosts enough; they would hush their talk, not to
disturb me as I lay down on a heap of skins and blankets to sleep, while the
guide saddled the horses : and they soon ceased to ridicule my apparently
capricious refusal of whisky. "Mebbe the Colonel's right"—Colonel is the Western
title of courtesy—they would say in their blunt politeness. Once I found the
inmates of a station, built on swampy ground, quite helpless and prostrate with
fever. The fever had abated when the healthy norther began to blow, but the poor
fellows were cramped with pains and very
feeble, and only one of the party could crawl about to cook and feed the
fire. I had need to fix my mind on the reward of success, on the distant goal
glittering far ahead, for it was no light task that I had undertaken. The
thought of Emma nerved me, and I felt an Englishman's dogged resolve to will, to
fight on, and to break sooner than bend. But the fatigues of that journey
surpassed all my conceptions. By day and night, under a glaring sun or through
the frost and cutting northerly winds, on we pressed, fording streams, threading
the way through marshes, stumbling among the burrows of prairie dogs, or dashing
across boundless plains. I almost learned to hate the long terraces of turf, the
illimitable sweeps of dark-green surface, the blue horizons, the swells of
gently sloping earth, smooth enough for the passage of wheeled carriages. On we
went, till the long grass, mixed with flowers and wild tufts of the flax-cotton,
gave place to a shorter and crisper herbage, the true " buffalo grass" that the
bisons love ; or till water became scarce, and the sage plant replaced the
blossomed shrubs of the west, and the springs were brackish, and here and there
our horses' hoofs went cranching over a white stretch of desert, strewn with
crystals of salt that glittered in the sun. We saw little of Indians, and of
game still less. The latter, my guides told me, had been chiefly scared away by
the constant passage of emigrants. As for the savages, we sometimes saw the
plumed heads, the tapering lances, and the fluttering robes of a troop of wild
horsemen against the crimson sky of evening; but they offered us no molestation,
and the riders said they were Utahs on the look-out for "buffler droves"
returning from the south. Of the fatigue of that interminable ride, the aching
joints, the stiffened sinews, the pains that racked my overstrained muscles, I
can give no just idea. Still less can I convey any sense of the continual strain
upon the intellect and the perceptive faculties, or how my brain grew as weary
as my limbs.
I shall never forget the evening of my arrival in Salt Lake City, the capital of
Utah Territory, and New Jerusalem of the Mormons. I had been encouraged by the
guides to look upon this town
in the deserts as a turning point in the journey, beyond which I should
be in less peril from Indians,
and after which a comparatively short ride would carry me to more civilized
regions. But, to my
surprise, I found the inmates of the station at Salt Lake City quite as lonely
as, and more suspicious and moody than, in the far-off posts among the prairies.
They were Gentiles in the midst of a fanatic population, wholly swayed by the
hierarchy of that strange creed whose standard had been set up in the lawless
wastes of the West. Nor was it long before I heard the cause of their dark looks
and low spirits.
" Where's Josh Hudson ?" asked the rider who had come with me, when the first
greetings had been exchanged.
" Who knows?" answered the man addressed ;
"I don't. Seth said he went to the town, while I were in the corral with
the hosses. If so, all I can say is, he never come back."
" When was that, Seth ?" asked the newly-arrived rider.
days agone," answered Seth,
as he scraped the surface of a half-exhausted quid of tobacco with his
long sharp bowie-knife, "jest afore sundown."
"He's not desarted. Josh was too honorable to make tracks that way," said the
" Desarted ! Not he. But that's what'll have to be put in the report-leastways,
missin'," said Seth. The rider looked Seth in the face, and drew his forefinger,
with a meaning look, slowly across his own throat. Seth nodded.
" Least said, safest," said Seth,
looking dubiously at me.
"Colonel's safe. You may speak afore him, same as myself, boys!" cried the
mail-bag rider, who had come with me
; "do ye mean them bloodthirsty Mormons—?"
" Whist, Jem! Whew ! You'll get all our throats cut," cried the oldest man,
starting up in great alarm ; "there may be one of the brutes within ear-shot."
He looked through the window, and opened the door, to satisfy himself that no
eaves-droppers were near.
apologized Jem; "but about Josh Hudson ?"
" I'm afeard," answered Seth, in a voice dropped
almost to a whisper, "that he's
gone for good. Josh was troubled about his sister, Nell Hudson, that jined the
Mormons last winter, up in Illinoy, and was coaxed off, and is here, somewhere."
"Ah," said the listener, "I
heerd as much."
" It's my belief," continued Seth, "that Josh got on this station a purpose to
seek the gal out, and get her to go
home to the old folks and the Church she were bred in. Mormons won't
"Ah !" said the guide Jem again.
" So, in short, Seth and me some think, we do," said the oldest of the group,
"that Josh has been at his scoutin' onst too often, and met 'shanpip.' " ''
Shanpip !" I repeated ; "what is that?"
The man eyed me curiously. "Never heerd of 'Shanpip Brethren,'
then, harn't ye, mister? So much the best for you. P'raps you've heerd tell of
vaguely and obscurely, of that spiritual
police of Mormondom, of those fierce zealots
who obey their Prophet blindly.
" Then you have reason to fear that your comrade is-"
" Is lyin' under the salt mud of one
o' them briny pools nigh to
hand," interrupted the man, "
and not alone, nouther. Theer's been a many missin', that never went back to
settlements nor on to Californey. And theer they'll lie hid, I reckon, till the
Day of Judgment, when Great Salt Lake shall give up its dead, like the rest of
the airth and waters."
I asked if an appeal could not be made to the Mormon elders themselves ?
" 'Twouldn't answer, Colonel. Suppose I goes to-morrow to Brigham's own house,
or Kimball's, or any of their big
men—elders, or angels, or high-priests, or what not—and asks after Josh
Hudson. Brigham's very mealy-mouthed, afraid the man's run away; what could be
expected from a benighted Gentile, and that ; gives his own account of it in
preachment next Sabbath. P'raps one of
'em gives me a glass of wine or a julep, and mebbe it disagrees with me,
and I die of it. You may stare, but didn't the States Treasurer die that way,
after takin' refreshment at Angel Badger's house ? And a pretty angel
he be. P'raps I don't drink under a Mormon roof, and then, mebbe, I walk
home late, and lose my way, or some other accident happens me-true as death,
mister, on'y last week, as I passed Big Lick, I saw a dead woman's face looking
up at me, all white and still, at bottom of the salt pool."
Thus far the elder man had spoken, but now Seth, who had evinced great
uneasiness, jumped up with an oath, and cautiously opened the door. No one was
"Tell'ee what," said Seth, "We'd best keep this discoorse close
till we're outside the territory. They're that sharp, Mormons, blessed if
I don't think they're all ear. And if they get's a notion what we're sayin',
the Colonel won't never see New York, and I sha'n't never happen home to
Montgomery agin. Indian Walker and his pesky Utahs mostly got a knack of
as Mormons don't much like. And mebbe
we'd meet other Indians, with blankets and red paint on their faces, jest like
the real Utahs, and pretty sharp knives in their belts."
"Seth's right," said my former guide ; "we don't want to set up any chaps to
paint Injun on our account, as Angel Brown and Young Harris and the
Danites did, when Martha Styles and Rachel Willis
chose to go home to Illinoy—so, Colonel, you get.
a snooze, and Seth, you needn't hurry about saddlin' —we've
rode awful quick."
I was not sorry when day-dawn found me, after a hard gallop by moonlight,
approaching the confines of the Mormon territory. The rest of the journey was
unmarked by adventure. Hardships there were, but no great perils. We traversed a
route on which the bleached bones of many horses and mules lay white and
ghastly, and on which many a low
turfen mound marked the last resting-place
of an emigrant, or his wife or child, never to reach the Promised Land of
But provisions were more plentiful now, and water more regularly stored and easy
of access, than when the expelled Mormons made their famous march across the
desert, marking the untrodden route with graves. We narrowly escaped
being smothered in the snow, in passing the outlet
in the Rocky Mountains, and this was our last semblance of peril.
Previous to this, it had been my sad duty to tell old Amos Grindrod, whom I
found at the Round Pond Station, of
his son's death, and to
commit to his care the bit of ensanguined ribbon that was to be returned
to poor Sheen's sweet-heart. The old man tried to bear the tidings with the
stoicism of those Indians among whom he had passed much of his life, and
expressed great pleasure at hearing that Shem had "died like a Kentucky man,
clear grit," and that I had come up in time to save his scalp. But in a few
minutes nature conquered. The old
man's bronzed features worked and twitched, and tears trickled from his
aged eyes as he sobbed out, " Shem ! dear boy Shem ! 'twas I that oughter be
dead, not he."
At last the weary ride was over : we had passed outlying farms guarded by a
strong stockade, then the farms grew thicker and the stockades were dispensed
with, and at last the roofs of a village, called by courtesy a town, came in
view. Gladly did I dismount, gladly did I shake the hard hand of the last rider
of the Express Company! Leaving that honest fellow puzzling over the cabalistic
flourishes of a ten-dollar note I presented to him, I hired a pair-horse wagon
of light build, and set off at once. The wagon bore me on until I exchanged it
for a coach, the coach did me the same good office until I heard the snort of
the steam-horse, and took my ticket by railway. How delicious, how snug and
luxurious was such a mode of travel,
after so much hard saddle-work! Corduroy roads seemed smooth, and
American railroads not in the least addicted to cause the trains to jerk or
rock. The gliding motion was charming, and I made amends for lost time, by
sleeping in a manner which provoked more than one fellow-traveler, eager to know
my business and station in life.
I had already telegraphed to New York briefly thus :
"Has the California mail, via Panama, arrived ?"
Briefer still was the answer :
That was right, so far. My toil was not yet purposeless. I might hope to be in
New York before Dr., or Colonel, Joram Heckler. The victory, to be sure, was not
yet won. The valuable papers remained in the scoundrel's keeping. But my
presence in New York would be unsuspected by him,
and any overt act on my part would have the effect of a surprise. I was
too exhausted to devote myself to spinning air-drawn schemes for outwitting the
intriguer. I should have need of all my faculties when the tug of war began, and
I must sleep now. Sleep I did, over miles and miles, over leagues and leagues,
of the iron way : resting obstinately, and being as passive as possible.
" Massa get out ? Dis New York, Sare."
Some one was shaking me by the arm: some one else held a lantern to my face. A
black man and a white. The conductor and a negro porter.
"I'm going to the Metropolitan Hotel. I want a hack
: no luggage. Has the Californian mail arrived?"
"Yes, it has," said a news-vender, who stood by, with a heap of journals under
his arm ; "got all the news here. Herald, Tribune, Times. Which will you have ?"
I bought one of the papers, and glanced at the list of arrivals via Panama. So
much gold dust, so much bullion, distinguished European traveler,
Postmaster-general, Signora Cantatini, Colonels Tom, Heckler, etc. The driver of
the hackk-carriage was an Irishman, as usual, and, luckily, not a new arrival.
He readily conducted me (at that
late hour all other stores and shops were closed) to the emporium of a
Jew dealer in ready-made clothes, who was willing to turn a cent even at
irregular time. I purchased a new suit, linen, a portmanteau, and so forth, and
shaved off my
stubbly beard with razors supplied by the Jew, and before the Jew's private
looking-glass. My driver drove quite a trim, ordinary-looking gentleman to the
Metropolitan Hotel, instead of the shaggy, flannel-spirted Californian who had
first engaged him.
Before I engaged a room I civilly asked the book-keeper to let me look at the
addresses of guests: I was expecting my brother, I said, from Albany. I took
good care to say nothing of Heckler or California, and the book-keeper had no
suspicion that my voyages had commenced at any more remote spot than
Philadelphia or Baltimore, Yes—Heckler's name was down.
I had guessed he would put up at the Metropolitan, for I had heard him mention
the house approvingly in conversation. I hung about the bar
and the staircases until I happened to hear that he had gone to bed. Then
I withdrew to think over my own plan of operations. I own I was puzzled. I
tossed and tumbled uneasily on my pillow. While hurrying onward it had appeared
as if I had but to arrive in time, and the difficulty was at an end ; but now,
whet was I to do ? The battle had yet to be fought. What should I do? In the
morning, no doubt, Heckler would repair to the bank, to present the forged
check, if not to get the bills discounted. I must stop him. But how ? Should I
go to the police, and return with the police myrmidons ? Not to be thought of!
Scandal, exposure, must follow such a step ; nay, in the eyes of the law Heckler
might seem an innocent man, and I a false accuser. I next thought of confronting
him boldly, and forcing from him, with a pistol
at his head, if need be, the property of the firm.
But this was too Quixotic a proceeding to be adopted in a first-rate
hotel in New York. I was at my wit's end.
Heavens! What a smell of burning, and how stifling and thick the air! Smoke! The
house is on fire. Up I sprang, and flung on my clothes in hot haste. "It's an
ill wind that blows no one any good." I thought of Joram Heckler as I rang my
bell to alarm the people.
"Fire! fire!" The awful cry broke upon the ears of the sleepers like the trump
of doom. Dark clouds of volleying smoke poured along the corridors, flecked here
and there by thin ribbons of flange that licked the walls and floors like the
tongues of fiery serpents. Shrieks were heard; doors were burst open ; men,
women, children, rushed out, half-dressed and screaming. There was panic,
terror, and wild confusion. The fire gained ground, the smoke was blindingly
thick, and all fled before it—all but myself. I steadily groped my way toward
Joram Heckler's room. I knew the number, and where to find it. I knew that I
risked my life, but the stake was worth winning at such a risk. I was very
nearly suffocated as I pushed on, holding by the wall, into the thickest
of the smoke. Some man, half-dressed, and winged by fear, came rushing by
with extended arms, and nearly overturned me. He uttered a savage oath ; the red
glare of the fire fell on his face ; it was Joram Heckler.
He did not recognize me, but dashed on, only mindful of his danger. Had he the
papers with him ? I thought not. I hoped not. That was his room then, the door
of which was ajar, and into which the smoke was rolling. Not the smoke alone ; I
saw a thin red tongue of fire creeping in over the floor, beside the wainscot. I
dashed in. My eyes smarted with the smoke, and I gasped for breath, but smoke
and fire could not turn me now. Heckler's clothes and dressing-case were as he
had laid them ; the latter was open . no
papers! His valise, too, lay open : no papers ! I struck my forehead
despairingly. He had them about him then ! I was risking life idly. Emma was
lost to use ! The smoke choked me : the intolerably hot fire had gained the bed:
valance and curtains were flaring high in a tall yellow pillar of flame. The
subtle tongues of flame almost touched my feet. I must fly if I would not
perish. Outside I heard the noise of
the engines and the cheers of the mob, and then the dash of water, as
prodigious efforts were made to extinguish the fire.
I was staggering away when I saw, peeping from under the bolster of the bed, a
Russian-leather pocket-book. The rascal had forgotten it in his blind terror.
The blazing curtains fell in fragments upon me, and my hands were a good deal
scorched, but I rescued the precious prize. I tore it open. Yes, check and
bills, all were there ! Thrusting it
into my breast-pocket, I left the room, and struggled as I best could
down the passage. Dash after dash of water, flung from hand-buckets, had
partially subdued the flames, and the firemen were gaining the victory.
Half smothered, singed, blackened, but with a proudly-beating heart, I forced my
way down the heated and crowded staircase—reached the outer air, and fainted.
I have little more to tell. I am a partner in the firm: Emma is my wife; her
brother recovered from his illness, and is now, in another land, an altered and
penitent man. The horse of Spalding, Hausermann, and Co. (I am Co.) have granted
a pension to the poor girl who was to have been the bride of the luckless
Shem Grindrod. Of Heckler we heard no more.