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    Chapter XII

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    Chapter 14
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    Just beyond the breakfast-station we overtook a Mormon emigrant train of
    thirty-three wagons; and tramping wearily along and driving their herd of
    loose cows, were dozens of coarse-clad and sad-looking men, women and
    children, who had walked as they were walking now, day after day for
    eight lingering weeks, and in that time had compassed the distance our
    stage had come in eight days and three hours--seven hundred and ninety-
    eight miles! They were dusty and uncombed, hatless, bonnetless and
    ragged, and they did look so tired!

    After breakfast, we bathed in Horse Creek, a (previously) limpid,
    sparkling stream--an appreciated luxury, for it was very seldom that our
    furious coach halted long enough for an indulgence of that kind. We
    changed horses ten or twelve times in every twenty-four hours--changed
    mules, rather--six mules--and did it nearly every time in four minutes.
    It was lively work. As our coach rattled up to each station six
    harnessed mules stepped gayly from the stable; and in the twinkling of an
    eye, almost, the old team was out, and the new one in and we off and away
    again.

    During the afternoon we passed Sweetwater Creek, Independence Rock,
    Devil's Gate and the Devil's Gap. The latter were wild specimens of
    rugged scenery, and full of interest--we were in the heart of the Rocky
    Mountains, now. And we also passed by "Alkali" or "Soda Lake," and we
    woke up to the fact that our journey had stretched a long way across the
    world when the driver said that the Mormons often came there from Great
    Salt Lake City to haul away saleratus. He said that a few days gone by
    they had shoveled up enough pure saleratus from the ground (it was a dry
    lake) to load two wagons, and that when they got these two wagons-loads
    of a drug that cost them nothing, to Salt Lake, they could sell it for
    twenty-five cents a pound.

    In the night we sailed by a most notable curiosity, and one we had been
    hearing a good deal about for a day or two, and were suffering to see.
    This was what might be called a natural ice-house. It was August, now,
    and sweltering weather in the daytime, yet at one of the stations the men
    could scape the soil on the hill-side under the lee of a range of
    boulders, and at a depth of six inches cut out pure blocks of ice--hard,
    compactly frozen, and clear as crystal!

    Toward dawn we got under way again, and presently as we sat with raised
    curtains enjoying our early-morning smoke and contemplating the first
    splendor of the rising sun as it swept down the long array of mountain
    peaks, flushing and gilding crag after crag and summit after summit, as
    if the invisible Creator reviewed his gray veterans and they saluted with
    a smile, we hove in sight of South Pass City. The hotel-keeper, the
    postmaster, the blacksmith, the mayor, the constable, the city marshal
    and the principal citizen and property holder, all came out and greeted
    us cheerily, and we gave him good day. He gave us a little Indian news,
    and a little Rocky Mountain news, and we gave him some Plains information
    in return. He then retired to his lonely grandeur and we climbed on up
    among the bristling peaks and the ragged clouds. South Pass City
    consisted of four log cabins, one if which was unfinished, and the
    gentleman with all those offices and titles was the chiefest of the ten
    citizens of the place. Think of hotel-keeper, postmaster, blacksmith,
    mayor, constable, city marshal and principal citizen all condensed into
    one person and crammed into one skin. Bemis said he was "a perfect
    Allen's revolver of dignities." And he said that if he were to die as
    postmaster, or as blacksmith, or as postmaster and blacksmith both, the
    people might stand it; but if he were to die all over, it would be a
    frightful loss to the community.

    Two miles beyond South Pass City we saw for the first time that
    mysterious marvel which all Western untraveled boys have heard of and
    fully believe in, but are sure to be astounded at when they see it with
    their own eyes, nevertheless--banks of snow in dead summer time. We were
    now far up toward the sky, and knew all the time that we must presently
    encounter lofty summits clad in the "eternal snow" which was so common
    place a matter of mention in books, and yet when I did see it glittering
    in the sun on stately domes in the distance and knew the month was August
    and that my coat was hanging up because it was too warm to wear it, I was
    full as much amazed as if I never had heard of snow in August before.
    Truly, "seeing is believing"--and many a man lives a long life through,
    thinking he believes certain universally received and well established
    things, and yet never suspects that if he were confronted by those things
    once, he would discover that he did not really believe them before, but
    only thought he believed them.

    In a little while quite a number of peaks swung into view with long claws
    of glittering snow clasping them; and with here and there, in the shade,
    down the mountain side, a little solitary patch of snow looking no larger
    than a lady's pocket-handkerchief but being in reality as large as a
    "public square."

    And now, at last, we were fairly in the renowned SOUTH PASS, and whirling
    gayly along high above the common world. We were perched upon the
    extreme summit of the great range of the Rocky Mountains, toward which we
    had been climbing, patiently climbing, ceaselessly climbing, for days and
    nights together--and about us was gathered a convention of Nature's kings
    that stood ten, twelve, and even thirteen thousand feet high--grand old
    fellows who would have to stoop to see Mount Washington, in the twilight.
    We were in such an airy elevation above the creeping populations of the
    earth, that now and then when the obstructing crags stood out of the way
    it seemed that we could look around and abroad and contemplate the whole
    great globe, with its dissolving views of mountains, seas and continents
    stretching away through the mystery of the summer haze.

    As a general thing the Pass was more suggestive of a valley than a
    suspension bridge in the clouds--but it strongly suggested the latter at
    one spot. At that place the upper third of one or two majestic purple
    domes projected above our level on either hand and gave us a sense of a
    hidden great deep of mountains and plains and valleys down about their
    bases which we fancied we might see if we could step to the edge and look
    over. These Sultans of the fastnesses were turbaned with tumbled volumes
    of cloud, which shredded away from time to time and drifted off fringed
    and torn, trailing their continents of shadow after them; and catching
    presently on an intercepting peak, wrapped it about and brooded there--
    then shredded away again and left the purple peak, as they had left the
    purple domes, downy and white with new-laid snow. In passing, these
    monstrous rags of cloud hung low and swept along right over the
    spectator's head, swinging their tatters so nearly in his face that his
    impulse was to shrink when they came closet. In the one place I speak
    of, one could look below him upon a world of diminishing crags and
    canyons leading down, down, and away to a vague plain with a thread in it
    which was a road, and bunches of feathers in it which were trees,--a
    pretty picture sleeping in the sunlight--but with a darkness stealing
    over it and glooming its features deeper and deeper under the frown of a
    coming storm; and then, while no film or shadow marred the noon
    brightness of his high perch, he could watch the tempest break forth down
    there and see the lightnings leap from crag to crag and the sheeted rain
    drive along the canyon-sides, and hear the thunders peal and crash and
    roar. We had this spectacle; a familiar one to many, but to us a
    novelty.

    We bowled along cheerily, and presently, at the very summit (though it
    had been all summit to us, and all equally level, for half an hour or
    more), we came to a spring which spent its water through two outlets and
    sent it in opposite directions. The conductor said that one of those
    streams which we were looking at, was just starting on a journey westward
    to the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean, through hundreds and
    even thousands of miles of desert solitudes. He said that the other was
    just leaving its home among the snow-peaks on a similar journey eastward
    --and we knew that long after we should have forgotten the simple rivulet
    it would still be plodding its patient way down the mountain sides, and
    canyon-beds, and between the banks of the Yellowstone; and by and by
    would join the broad Missouri and flow through unknown plains and deserts
    and unvisited wildernesses; and add a long and troubled pilgrimage among
    snags and wrecks and sandbars; and enter the Mississippi, touch the
    wharves of St. Louis and still drift on, traversing shoals and rocky
    channels, then endless chains of bottomless and ample bends, walled with
    unbroken forests, then mysterious byways and secret passages among woody
    islands, then the chained bends again, bordered with wide levels of
    shining sugar-cane in place of the sombre forests; then by New Orleans
    and still other chains of bends--and finally, after two long months of
    daily and nightly harassment, excitement, enjoyment, adventure, and awful
    peril of parched throats, pumps and evaporation, pass the Gulf and enter
    into its rest upon the bosom of the tropic sea, never to look upon its
    snow-peaks again or regret them.

    I freighted a leaf with a mental message for the friends at home, and
    dropped it in the stream. But I put no stamp on it and it was held for
    postage somewhere.

    On the summit we overtook an emigrant train of many wagons, many tired
    men and women, and many a disgusted sheep and cow.

    In the wofully dusty horseman in charge of the expedition I recognized
    John -----. Of all persons in the world to meet on top of the Rocky
    Mountains thousands of miles from home, he was the last one I should have
    looked for. We were school-boys together and warm friends for years.
    But a boyish prank of mine had disruptured this friendship and it had
    never been renewed. The act of which I speak was this. I had been
    accustomed to visit occasionally an editor whose room was in the third
    story of a building and overlooked the street. One day this editor gave
    me a watermelon which I made preparations to devour on the spot, but
    chancing to look out of the window, I saw John standing directly under it
    and an irresistible desire came upon me to drop the melon on his head,
    which I immediately did. I was the loser, for it spoiled the melon, and
    John never forgave me and we dropped all intercourse and parted, but now
    met again under these circumstances.

    We recognized each other simultaneously, and hands were grasped as warmly
    as if no coldness had ever existed between us, and no allusion was made
    to any. All animosities were buried and the simple fact of meeting a
    familiar face in that isolated spot so far from home, was sufficient to
    make us forget all things but pleasant ones, and we parted again with
    sincere "good-bye" and "God bless you" from both.

    We had been climbing up the long shoulders of the Rocky Mountains for
    many tedious hours--we started down them, now. And we went spinning away
    at a round rate too.

    We left the snowy Wind River Mountains and Uinta Mountains behind, and
    sped away, always through splendid scenery but occasionally through long
    ranks of white skeletons of mules and oxen--monuments of the huge
    emigration of other days--and here and there were up-ended boards or
    small piles of stones which the driver said marked the resting-place of
    more precious remains.

    It was the loneliest land for a grave! A land given over to the cayote
    and the raven--which is but another name for desolation and utter
    solitude. On damp, murky nights, these scattered skeletons gave forth a
    soft, hideous glow, like very faint spots of moonlight starring the vague
    desert. It was because of the phosphorus in the bones. But no
    scientific explanation could keep a body from shivering when he drifted
    by one of those ghostly lights and knew that a skull held it.

    At midnight it began to rain, and I never saw anything like it--indeed, I
    did not even see this, for it was too dark. We fastened down the
    curtains and even caulked them with clothing, but the rain streamed in in
    twenty places, nothwithstanding. There was no escape. If one moved his
    feet out of a stream, he brought his body under one; and if he moved his
    body he caught one somewhere else. If he struggled out of the drenched
    blankets and sat up, he was bound to get one down the back of his neck.
    Meantime the stage was wandering about a plain with gaping gullies in it,
    for the driver could not see an inch before his face nor keep the road,
    and the storm pelted so pitilessly that there was no keeping the horses
    still. With the first abatement the conductor turned out with lanterns
    to look for the road, and the first dash he made was into a chasm about
    fourteen feet deep, his lantern following like a meteor. As soon as he
    touched bottom he sang out frantically:

    "Don't come here!"

    To which the driver, who was looking over the precipice where he had
    disappeared, replied, with an injured air: "Think I'm a dam fool?"

    The conductor was more than an hour finding the road--a matter which
    showed us how far we had wandered and what chances we had been taking.
    He traced our wheel-tracks to the imminent verge of danger, in two
    places. I have always been glad that we were not killed that night.
    I do not know any particular reason, but I have always been glad.
    In the morning, the tenth day out, we crossed Green River, a fine, large,
    limpid stream--stuck in it with the water just up to the top of our mail-
    bed, and waited till extra teams were put on to haul us up the steep
    bank. But it was nice cool water, and besides it could not find any
    fresh place on us to wet.

    At the Green River station we had breakfast--hot biscuits, fresh antelope
    steaks, and coffee--the only decent meal we tasted between the United
    States and Great Salt Lake City, and the only one we were ever really
    thankful for.

    Think of the monotonous execrableness of the thirty that went before it,
    to leave this one simple breakfast looming up in my memory like a shot-
    tower after all these years have gone by!

    At five P.M. we reached Fort Bridger, one hundred and seventeen miles
    from the South Pass, and one thousand and twenty-five miles from St.
    Joseph. Fifty-two miles further on, near the head of Echo Canyon, we met
    sixty United States soldiers from Camp Floyd. The day before, they had
    fired upon three hundred or four hundred Indians, whom they supposed
    gathered together for no good purpose. In the fight that had ensued,
    four Indians were captured, and the main body chased four miles, but
    nobody killed. This looked like business. We had a notion to get out
    and join the sixty soldiers, but upon reflecting that there were four
    hundred of the Indians, we concluded to go on and join the Indians.

    Echo Canyon is twenty miles long. It was like a long, smooth, narrow
    street, with a gradual descending grade, and shut in by enormous
    perpendicular walls of coarse conglomerate, four hundred feet high in
    many places, and turreted like mediaeval castles. This was the most
    faultless piece of road in the mountains, and the driver said he would
    "let his team out." He did, and if the Pacific express trains whiz
    through there now any faster than we did then in the stage-coach, I envy
    the passengers the exhilaration of it. We fairly seemed to pick up our
    wheels and fly--and the mail matter was lifted up free from everything
    and held in solution! I am not given to exaggeration, and when I say a
    thing I mean it.

    However, time presses. At four in the afternoon we arrived on the summit
    of Big Mountain, fifteen miles from Salt Lake City, when all the world
    was glorified with the setting sun, and the most stupendous panorama of
    mountain peaks yet encountered burst on our sight. We looked out upon
    this sublime spectacle from under the arch of a brilliant rainbow! Even
    the overland stage-driver stopped his horses and gazed!

    Half an hour or an hour later, we changed horses, and took supper with a
    Mormon "Destroying Angel."

    "Destroying Angels," as I understand it, are Latter-Day Saints who are
    set apart by the Church to conduct permanent disappearances of obnoxious
    citizens. I had heard a deal about these Mormon Destroying Angels and
    the dark and bloody deeds they had done, and when I entered this one's
    house I had my shudder all ready. But alas for all our romances, he was
    nothing but a loud, profane, offensive, old blackguard! He was murderous
    enough, possibly, to fill the bill of a Destroyer, but would you have any
    kind of an Angel devoid of dignity? Could you abide an Angel in an
    unclean shirt and no suspenders? Could you respect an Angel with a
    horse-laugh and a swagger like a buccaneer?

    There were other blackguards present--comrades of this one. And there
    was one person that looked like a gentleman--Heber C. Kimball's son, tall
    and well made, and thirty years old, perhaps. A lot of slatternly women
    flitted hither and thither in a hurry, with coffee-pots, plates of bread,
    and other appurtenances to supper, and these were said to be the wives of
    the Angel--or some of them, at least. And of course they were; for if
    they had been hired "help" they would not have let an angel from above
    storm and swear at them as he did, let alone one from the place this one
    hailed from.

    This was our first experience of the western "peculiar institution," and
    it was not very prepossessing. We did not tarry long to observe it, but
    hurried on to the home of the Latter-Day Saints, the stronghold of the
    prophets, the capital of the only absolute monarch in America--Great Salt
    Lake City. As the night closed in we took sanctuary in the Salt Lake
    House and unpacked our baggage.
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    Chapter 14
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