home | authors | books | about

Home -> Arthur Conan Doyle -> A Study in Scarlet -> Chapter 3 - John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet

A Study in Scarlet - Chapter 3 - John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet

1. Part I. Chapter 1 - Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

2. Chapter 2 - The Science of Deduction

3. Chapter 3 - The Lauriston Garden Mystery

4. Chapter 4 - What John Rance Had to Tell

5. Chapter 5 - Our Advertisement Brings a Visitor

6. Chapter 6 - Tobias Gregson Shows What He Can Do

7. Chapter 7 - Light in the Darkness

8. Part II. Chapter 1 - On the Great Alkali Plain

9. Chapter 2 - The Flower of Utah

10. Chapter 3 - John Ferrier Talks with the Prophet

11. Chapter 4 - A Flight for Life

12. Chapter 5 - The Avenging Angels

13. Chapter 6 - A Continuation of the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D.

14. Chapter 7 - The Conclusion

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 a
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 matter -- so 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
Vehm-gericht, 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
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 re-corroborated, 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 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."

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 grey 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 their 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 knitted.

"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 Four!"

With a threatening gesture of his hand, he turned from the door,
and Ferrier heard his heavy step scrunching along the shingly path.

He was still sitting with his elbows upon his knees,
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?"

"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 was 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 more
than these folk 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 here 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 darned prophet. I'm a
free-born 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 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 shotgun
which hung upon the wall of his bedroom.

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary