“Oh, yes! know her very well!”
A moment after, — “The Irish are a dear people. My Irish wife is among the best I’ve got.”
Again, — “I love the Germans! Got a Dutch wife, too! Know Katrine, Brother Spudge? Remember she couldn’t scarcely talk a word o’ English when she come, — eh, Brother Spudge?”
Brother Spudge remembered, and Brother Heber continued to trot out the members of his marital stud for discussion of their points with his more humble fellow polygamist of the hammer; but when I happened to touch upon the earliest Mrs. Heber, whom I naturally thought he would by this time regard as a forgotten fossil in the Lower Silurian strata of his connubial life, and referred to the interview I had enjoyed with her on the afternoon before entering the city, his whole manner changed to a proper husbandly dignity, and, without seeking corroboration from the carpenter, he replied, gravely,
“Yes! that is my first wife, and the best woman God ever made!”
The ball to which I have referred was such an opportunity for studying Mormon sociology as three months’ ordinary stay in Salt Lake might not have give me. Though Mormondom is disloyal to the core, it still patronizes time Fourth of July, at least in its phase of festivity, omitting the patriotism, but keeping the fireworks of our Eastern celebration, substituting “Utah” for “Union” in the Buncombe speeches, and having a ball instead of the Declaration of Independence. All the saints within half a day’s ride of the city come flocking into it, to spend the Fourth. A well to do Mormon at the bead f his wives and children, all of Whom are probably eating candy as they march through the metropolitan streets in solid column, looks to the uninitiated like the principal of a female seminary, weak in its deportment, taking out his char for an airing.
Last Fourth of July, it may be remembered, fell on a Saturday. In their ambition to reproduce ancient Judaism (and this ambition is the key to their whole puzzle) the Mormons are Sabbatarians of a strictness, which would delight Lord Shaftesbury. Accordingly, in order that their festivities might not encroach on the early hours of the Sabbath, they had the ball on Fourth of July eve, instead of the night of the Fourth. I could not realize the risk of such an encroachment when I read the following sentence printed on my billet of invitation
“Dancing to commence at 4 P.M.”
Bierstadt, myself, and three gentlemen of our party were the only Gentiles whom I found invited by President Young to meet in the neighborhood of three thousand saints. Under these circumstances I felt like the three-thousandth homeopathic dilution of monogamy. Morality in this world is so mainly a matter of convention that I dreaded to appear in decent polygamic society, lest respectable women, owning their orthodox tenth of a husband, should shrink from the pollution of my presence, whispering, with a shudder, “Ugh! Well, I never! How that one-wifed reprobate can dare to show his face!” But they were very polite, and received me with as skilfully veiled disapprobation as is shown by fashionable Eastern belles to brilliant seducers immoral in our sense. Had I been a woman, I suppose there would have been no mercy for me.
I sought out our entertainer, Brigham Young, to thank him for the flattering exception made in our Gentile favor. He was standing in the dress circle of the theatre, looking down on the dancers with an air of mingled hearty kindness and feudal ownership. I could excuse the latter, for Utah belongs to him of right. He may justly say of it, “Is not this great Babylon which I have built?” His sole executive tact and personal fascination are the keystone of the entire arch of Mormon society. While he remains, eighty thousand (and increasing) of the most heterogeneous souls that could be swept together from the byways of Christendom will continue builded up into a coherent nationality. The instant he crumbles, Mormondom and Mormonism will fall to pieces at once, irreparably. His individual magnetism, his executive tact, his native benevolence, are all immense; I regard him as Louis Napoleon, plus a heart; but these advantages would avail him little with the dead-in-earnest fanatics who rule Utah under him, and the entirely persuaded fanatics whom they rule, were not his qualities all coordinated in this one absolute sincerity of belief and motive. Brigham Young is the farthest remove on earth from a hypocrite; he is that grand, yet awful sight in human nature, a man who has brought the loftiest Christian self-devotion to the altar of the Devil, who is ready to suffer crucifixion for Barabbas, supposing him Christ. Be sure, that, were he a hypocrite, the Union would have nothing to fear from Utah. When he dies, at least four hostile factions, which find their only common ground in deification of his person, will snatch his mantle at opposite corners. Then will come such a rending as the world has not seen since the Macedonian generals fought over the coffin of Alexander, and then Mormonism will go out of Geography into the History of Popular Delusions. There is not a single chief, apostle, or bishop, except Brigham, who possesses any catholicity of influence. I found this tacitly acknowledged in every quarter. The people seem like citizens of a beleaguered town, who know they have but a definite amount of bread, yet have made up their minds to act while it lasts as if there were no such thing as starvation. The greatest comfort you can afford a Mormon is to tell him how young Brigham looks; for the quick, unconscious sequence is, “Then Brigham may last out my time.” Those who think at all have no conjecture of any Mormon future beyond him, and I know that many Mormons (Heber Kimball included) would gladly die today rather than survive him and encounter that judgment day and final perdition of their faith which must dawn on his new made grave.
Well, we may give them this comfort without any insincerity. Let us return to where ho stands gazing down on the parquet. Like any Eastern partygoer, he is habited in the “customary suit of solemn black,” and looks very distinguished in this dress, though his daily homespun detracts nothing from the feeling, when in his presence, that you are beholding a most remarkable man. He is nearly seventy years old, but appears very little over forty. His height is about five feet ten inches; his figure very well made and slightly inclining to portliness. His hair is a rich curly chestnut, formerly worn long, in supposed immitation of the apostolic coiffure, but now cut in our practical Eastern fashion, as accords with the man of business, whose métier he has added to apostleship with the growing temporal prosperity of Zion. Indeed, he is the greatest businessman on the continent, the cashier of a firm of eighty thousand silent partners, and the only auditor of that cashier, besides. If I today signified my conversion to Mormondom, tomorrow I should be baptized by Brigham’s hands. The next day I should be invited to appear at the Church Office (Brigham’s) and exhibit to the Church (Brigham) a faithful inventory of my entire estate. I am a cabinetmaker, let us say, and have brought to Salt Lake the entire earnings of my New York shop, twenty thousand dollars. The Church (Brigham sole and simple) examines and approves my inventory. It (Brigham alone) has the absolute decision of the question whether any more cabinet-makers are needed in Utah. If the Church (Brigham) says, “No,” it (Brigham again) has the right to tell me where labor is wanted, and set me going in my new occupation. If the Church (Brigham) says, “Yes,” it further goes on to inform me, without appeal, exactly what proportion of the twenty thousand dollars on my inventory can be properly turned into the channels of the new cabinet shop. I am making no extraordinary or disproportionate supposition when I say that the Church (Brigham) permits me to retain just one-half of my property. The remaining ten thousand dollars goes into the Church Fund, (Brigham’s Herring-safe,) and from that portion of my life’s savings I never hear again, in the form either of capital, interest, bequeath. able estate, or dower to my widow. Except for the purposes of the Church, (Brigham’s unquestionable will,) my ten thousand dollars is as though it had not been. I am a sincere believer, however, and go home light hearted, with a certified check written by the Recording Angel on my conscience for that amount, passed to my credit in the bank where thieves break not through nor steal, it being no more accessible to them than to the depositor, which is a comfort to the latter. The first year I net from my chairs and tables two thousand dollars. The Church (Brigham) sends me another invitation to visit it, make a solemn averment of the sum, and pay over to that ecclesiastical edifice, the Herring safe, two hundred dollars. Or suppose I have not sold any of my wares as yet, but have only imported, to be sold by and by, five hundred Boston rockers. On learning this fact, the Church (Brigham) graciously accepts fifty for its own purposes. — Being founded upon a rock, it does not care, in its collective capacity, to sit upon rockers, but has an immense series of warehouses, omnivorous and eupeptic, which swallow all manner of tithes, from grain and horseshoes to the less stable commodities of fresh fish and melons, assimilating them by admirable processes into coin of the realm. These warehouses are in the Church (Brigham’s own private) inclosure. If success in my Cabinet-making has moved me to give a feast, and I thereat drink more healths than are consistent with my own, the Church surely knows that fact the very next day; and as Utah recognizes no impunitive “getting drunk in the bosom of one’s family,” I am again sent for, on this occasion to pay a fine, probably exceeding the expenses of my feast. A second offence is punished with imprison It as well as fine; for no imprisonment avoids fine, this comes in every case. The hand of the Church holds the souls of the saints by inevitable purse strings. But I cannot waste time by enumerating the multitudinous lapses and offences which all bring revenue to the Herring-safe.