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    Chapter XV

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    Chapter 18
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    It is a luscious country for thrilling evening stories about
    assassinations of intractable Gentiles. I cannot easily conceive of
    anything more cosy than the night in Salt Lake which we spent in a
    Gentile den, smoking pipes and listening to tales of how Burton galloped
    in among the pleading and defenceless "Morisites" and shot them down, men
    and women, like so many dogs. And how Bill Hickman, a Destroying Angel,
    shot Drown and Arnold dead for bringing suit against him for a debt.
    And how Porter Rockwell did this and that dreadful thing. And how
    heedless people often come to Utah and make remarks about Brigham, or
    polygamy, or some other sacred matter, and the very next morning at
    daylight such parties are sure to be found lying up some back alley,
    contentedly waiting for the hearse.

    And the next most interesting thing is to sit and listen to these
    Gentiles talk about polygamy; and how some portly old frog of an elder,
    or a bishop, marries a girl--likes her, marries her sister--likes her,
    marries another sister--likes her, takes another--likes her, marries her
    mother--likes her, marries her father, grandfather, great grandfather,
    and then comes back hungry and asks for more. And how the pert young
    thing of eleven will chance to be the favorite wife and her own venerable
    grandmother have to rank away down toward D 4 in their mutual husband's
    esteem, and have to sleep in the kitchen, as like as not. And how this
    dreadful sort of thing, this hiving together in one foul nest of mother
    and daughters, and the making a young daughter superior to her own mother
    in rank and authority, are things which Mormon women submit to because
    their religion teaches them that the more wives a man has on earth, and
    the more children he rears, the higher the place they will all have in
    the world to come--and the warmer, maybe, though they do not seem to say
    anything about that.

    According to these Gentile friends of ours, Brigham Young's harem
    contains twenty or thirty wives. They said that some of them had grown
    old and gone out of active service, but were comfortably housed and cared
    for in the henery--or the Lion House, as it is strangely named. Along
    with each wife were her children--fifty altogether. The house was
    perfectly quiet and orderly, when the children were still. They all took
    their meals in one room, and a happy and home-like sight it was
    pronounced to be. None of our party got an opportunity to take dinner
    with Mr. Young, but a Gentile by the name of Johnson professed to have
    enjoyed a sociable breakfast in the Lion House. He gave a preposterous
    account of the "calling of the roll," and other preliminaries, and the
    carnage that ensued when the buckwheat cakes came in. But he embellished
    rather too much. He said that Mr. Young told him several smart sayings
    of certain of his "two-year-olds," observing with some pride that for
    many years he had been the heaviest contributor in that line to one of
    the Eastern magazines; and then he wanted to show Mr. Johnson one of the
    pets that had said the last good thing, but he could not find the child.

    He searched the faces of the children in detail, but could not decide
    which one it was. Finally he gave it up with a sigh and said:

    "I thought I would know the little cub again but I don't." Mr. Johnson
    said further, that Mr. Young observed that life was a sad, sad thing--
    "because the joy of every new marriage a man contracted was so apt to be
    blighted by the inopportune funeral of a less recent bride." And Mr.
    Johnson said that while he and Mr. Young were pleasantly conversing in
    private, one of the Mrs. Youngs came in and demanded a breast-pin,
    remarking that she had found out that he had been giving a breast-pin to
    No. 6, and she, for one, did not propose to let this partiality go on
    without making a satisfactory amount of trouble about it. Mr. Young
    reminded her that there was a stranger present. Mrs. Young said that if
    the state of things inside the house was not agreeable to the stranger,
    he could find room outside. Mr. Young promised the breast-pin, and she
    went away. But in a minute or two another Mrs. Young came in and
    demanded a breast-pin. Mr. Young began a remonstrance, but Mrs. Young
    cut him short. She said No. 6 had got one, and No. 11 was promised one,
    and it was "no use for him to try to impose on her--she hoped she knew
    her rights." He gave his promise, and she went. And presently three
    Mrs. Youngs entered in a body and opened on their husband a tempest of
    tears, abuse, and entreaty. They had heard all about No. 6, No. 11, and
    No. 14. Three more breast-pins were promised. They were hardly gone
    when nine more Mrs. Youngs filed into the presence, and a new tempest
    burst forth and raged round about the prophet and his guest. Nine
    breast-pins were promised, and the weird sisters filed out again. And in
    came eleven more, weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth. Eleven
    promised breast-pins purchased peace once more.

    "That is a specimen," said Mr. Young. "You see how it is. You see what
    a life I lead. A man can't be wise all the time. In a heedless moment I
    gave my darling No. 6--excuse my calling her thus, as her other name has
    escaped me for the moment--a breast-pin. It was only worth twenty-five
    dollars--that is, apparently that was its whole cost--but its ultimate
    cost was inevitably bound to be a good deal more. You yourself have seen
    it climb up to six hundred and fifty dollars--and alas, even that is not
    the end! For I have wives all over this Territory of Utah. I have
    dozens of wives whose numbers, even, I do not know without looking in the
    family Bible. They are scattered far and wide among the mountains and
    valleys of my realm. And mark you, every solitary one of them will hear
    of this wretched breast pin, and every last one of them will have one or
    die. No. 6's breast pin will cost me twenty-five hundred dollars before
    I see the end of it. And these creatures will compare these pins
    together, and if one is a shade finer than the rest, they will all be
    thrown on my hands, and I will have to order a new lot to keep peace in
    the family. Sir, you probably did not know it, but all the time you were
    present with my children your every movement was watched by vigilant
    servitors of mine. If you had offered to give a child a dime, or a stick
    of candy, or any trifle of the kind, you would have been snatched out of
    the house instantly, provided it could be done before your gift left your
    hand. Otherwise it would be absolutely necessary for you to make an
    exactly similar gift to all my children--and knowing by experience the
    importance of the thing, I would have stood by and seen to it myself that
    you did it, and did it thoroughly. Once a gentleman gave one of my
    children a tin whistle--a veritable invention of Satan, sir, and one
    which I have an unspeakable horror of, and so would you if you had eighty
    or ninety children in your house. But the deed was done--the man
    escaped. I knew what the result was going to be, and I thirsted for
    vengeance. I ordered out a flock of Destroying Angels, and they hunted
    the man far into the fastnesses of the Nevada mountains. But they never
    caught him. I am not cruel, sir--I am not vindictive except when sorely
    outraged--but if I had caught him, sir, so help me Joseph Smith, I would
    have locked him into the nursery till the brats whistled him to death.
    By the slaughtered body of St. Parley Pratt (whom God assail!) there
    was never anything on this earth like it! I knew who gave the whistle to
    the child, but I could, not make those jealous mothers believe me. They
    believed I did it, and the result was just what any man of reflection
    could have foreseen: I had to order a hundred and ten whistles--I think
    we had a hundred and ten children in the house then, but some of them are
    off at college now--I had to order a hundred and ten of those shrieking
    things, and I wish I may never speak another word if we didn't have to
    talk on our fingers entirely, from that time forth until the children got
    tired of the whistles. And if ever another man gives a whistle to a
    child of mine and I get my hands on him, I will hang him higher than
    Haman! That is the word with the bark on it! Shade of Nephi! You don't
    know anything about married life. I am rich, and everybody knows it. I
    am benevolent, and everybody takes advantage of it. I have a strong
    fatherly instinct and all the foundlings are foisted on me.

    "Every time a woman wants to do well by her darling, she puzzles her brain
    to cipher out some scheme for getting it into my hands. Why, sir, a
    woman came here once with a child of a curious lifeless sort of
    complexion (and so had the woman), and swore that the child was mine and
    she my wife--that I had married her at such-and-such a time in such-and-
    such a place, but she had forgotten her number, and of course I could not
    remember her name. Well, sir, she called my attention to the fact that
    the child looked like me, and really it did seem to resemble me--a common
    thing in the Territory--and, to cut the story short, I put it in my
    nursery, and she left. And by the ghost of Orson Hyde, when they came to
    wash the paint off that child it was an Injun! Bless my soul, you don't
    know anything about married life. It is a perfect dog's life, sir--a
    perfect dog's life. You can't economize. It isn't possible. I have
    tried keeping one set of bridal attire for all occasions. But it is of
    no use. First you'll marry a combination of calico and consumption
    that's as thin as a rail, and next you'll get a creature that's nothing
    more than the dropsy in disguise, and then you've got to eke out that
    bridal dress with an old balloon. That is the way it goes. And think of
    the wash-bill--(excuse these tears)--nine hundred and eighty-four pieces
    a week! No, sir, there is no such a thing as economy in a family like
    mine. Why, just the one item of cradles--think of it! And vermifuge!
    Soothing syrup! Teething rings! And 'papa's watches' for the babies to
    play with! And things to scratch the furniture with! And lucifer
    matches for them to eat, and pieces of glass to cut themselves with!
    The item of glass alone would support your family, I venture to say, sir.
    Let me scrimp and squeeze all I can, I still can't get ahead as fast as I
    feel I ought to, with my opportunities. Bless you, sir, at a time when I
    had seventy-two wives in this house, I groaned under the pressure of
    keeping thousands of dollars tied up in seventy-two bedsteads when the
    money ought to have been out at interest; and I just sold out the whole
    stock, sir, at a sacrifice, and built a bedstead seven feet long and
    ninety-six feet wide. But it was a failure, sir. I could not sleep.
    It appeared to me that the whole seventy-two women snored at once.
    The roar was deafening. And then the danger of it! That was what I was
    looking at. They would all draw in their breath at once, and you could
    actually see the walls of the house suck in--and then they would all
    exhale their breath at once, and you could see the walls swell out, and
    strain, and hear the rafters crack, and the shingles grind together.
    My friend, take an old man's advice, and don't encumber yourself with a
    large family--mind, I tell you, don't do it. In a small family, and in a
    small family only, you will find that comfort and that peace of mind
    which are the best at last of the blessings this world is able to afford
    us, and for the lack of which no accumulation of wealth, and no
    acquisition of fame, power, and greatness can ever compensate us.
    Take my word for it, ten or eleven wives is all you need--never go over
    it."

    Some instinct or other made me set this Johnson down as being unreliable.
    And yet he was a very entertaining person, and I doubt if some of the
    information he gave us could have been acquired from any other source.
    He was a pleasant contrast to those reticent Mormons.
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    Chapter 18
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