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    Chapter XIV

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    Chapter 17
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    Mr. Street was very busy with his telegraphic matters--and considering
    that he had eight or nine hundred miles of rugged, snowy, uninhabited
    mountains, and waterless, treeless, melancholy deserts to traverse with
    his wire, it was natural and needful that he should be as busy as
    possible. He could not go comfortably along and cut his poles by the
    road-side, either, but they had to be hauled by ox teams across those
    exhausting deserts--and it was two days' journey from water to water, in
    one or two of them. Mr. Street's contract was a vast work, every way one
    looked at it; and yet to comprehend what the vague words "eight hundred
    miles of rugged mountains and dismal deserts" mean, one must go over the
    ground in person--pen and ink descriptions cannot convey the dreary
    reality to the reader. And after all, Mr. S.'s mightiest difficulty
    turned out to be one which he had never taken into the account at all.
    Unto Mormons he had sub-let the hardest and heaviest half of his great
    undertaking, and all of a sudden they concluded that they were going to
    make little or nothing, and so they tranquilly threw their poles
    overboard in mountain or desert, just as it happened when they took the
    notion, and drove home and went about their customary business! They
    were under written contract to Mr. Street, but they did not care anything
    for that. They said they would "admire" to see a "Gentile" force a
    Mormon to fulfil a losing contract in Utah! And they made themselves
    very merry over the matter. Street said--for it was he that told us
    these things:

    "I was in dismay. I was under heavy bonds to complete my contract in a
    given time, and this disaster looked very much like ruin. It was an
    astounding thing; it was such a wholly unlooked-for difficulty, that I
    was entirely nonplussed. I am a business man--have always been a
    business man--do not know anything but business--and so you can imagine
    how like being struck by lightning it was to find myself in a country
    where written contracts were worthless!--that main security, that sheet-
    anchor, that absolute necessity, of business. My confidence left me.
    There was no use in making new contracts--that was plain. I talked with
    first one prominent citizen and then another. They all sympathized with
    me, first rate, but they did not know how to help me. But at last a
    Gentile said, 'Go to Brigham Young!--these small fry cannot do you any
    good.' I did not think much of the idea, for if the law could not help
    me, what could an individual do who had not even anything to do with
    either making the laws or executing them? He might be a very good
    patriarch of a church and preacher in its tabernacle, but something
    sterner than religion and moral suasion was needed to handle a hundred
    refractory, half-civilized sub-contractors. But what was a man to do?
    I thought if Mr. Young could not do anything else, he might probably be
    able to give me some advice and a valuable hint or two, and so I went
    straight to him and laid the whole case before him. He said very little,
    but he showed strong interest all the way through. He examined all the
    papers in detail, and whenever there seemed anything like a hitch, either
    in the papers or my statement, he would go back and take up the thread
    and follow it patiently out to an intelligent and satisfactory result.
    Then he made a list of the contractors' names. Finally he said:

    "'Mr. Street, this is all perfectly plain. These contracts are strictly
    and legally drawn, and are duly signed and certified. These men
    manifestly entered into them with their eyes open. I see no fault or
    flaw anywhere.'

    "Then Mr. Young turned to a man waiting at the other end of the room and
    said: 'Take this list of names to So-and-so, and tell him to have these
    men here at such-and-such an hour.'

    "They were there, to the minute. So was I. Mr. Young asked them a
    number of questions, and their answers made my statement good. Then he
    said to them:

    "'You signed these contracts and assumed these obligations of your own
    free will and accord?'

    "'Yes.'

    "'Then carry them out to the letter, if it makes paupers of you! Go!'

    "And they did go, too! They are strung across the deserts now, working
    like bees. And I never hear a word out of them.

    "There is a batch of governors, and judges, and other officials here,
    shipped from Washington, and they maintain the semblance of a republican
    form of government--but the petrified truth is that Utah is an absolute
    monarchy and Brigham Young is king!"

    Mr. Street was a fine man, and I believe his story. I knew him well
    during several years afterward in San Francisco.

    Our stay in Salt Lake City amounted to only two days, and therefore we
    had no time to make the customary inquisition into the workings of
    polygamy and get up the usual statistics and deductions preparatory to
    calling the attention of the nation at large once more to the matter.

    I had the will to do it. With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I
    was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here--until
    I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my
    head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically "homely"
    creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I
    said, "No--the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian
    charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their
    harsh censure--and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of
    open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered
    in his presence and worship in silence."

    [For a brief sketch of Mormon history, and the noted Mountain Meadow
    massacre, see Appendices A and B. ]
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