IN WHICH PASSEPARTOUT UNDERGOES, AT A SPEED OF TWENTY MILES AN HOUR, <BR>
A COURSE OF MORMON HISTORY
During the night of the 5th of December, the train ran south-easterly
for about fifty miles; then rose an equal distance in a north-easterly
direction, towards the Great Salt Lake.
Passepartout, about nine o'clock, went out upon the platform to take
the air. The weather was cold, the heavens grey, but it was not
snowing. The sun's disc, enlarged by the mist, seemed an enormous ring
of gold, and Passepartout was amusing himself by calculating its value
in pounds sterling, when he was diverted from this interesting study by
a strange-looking personage who made his appearance on the platform.
This personage, who had taken the train at Elko, was tall and dark,
with black moustache, black stockings, a black silk hat, a black
waistcoat, black trousers, a white cravat, and dogskin gloves. He
might have been taken for a clergyman. He went from one end of the
train to the other, and affixed to the door of each car a notice
written in manuscript.
Passepartout approached and read one of these notices, which stated
that Elder William Hitch, Mormon missionary, taking advantage of his
presence on train No. 48, would deliver a lecture on Mormonism in car
No. 117, from eleven to twelve o'clock; and that he invited all who
were desirous of being instructed concerning the mysteries of the
religion of the "Latter Day Saints" to attend.
"I'll go," said Passepartout to himself. He knew nothing of Mormonism
except the custom of polygamy, which is its foundation.
The news quickly spread through the train, which contained about one
hundred passengers, thirty of whom, at most, attracted by the notice,
ensconced themselves in car No. 117. Passepartout took one of the
front seats. Neither Mr. Fogg nor Fix cared to attend.
At the appointed hour Elder William Hitch rose, and, in an irritated
voice, as if he had already been contradicted, said, "I tell you that
Joe Smith is a martyr, that his brother Hiram is a martyr, and that the
persecutions of the United States Government against the prophets will
also make a martyr of Brigham Young. Who dares to say the contrary?"
No one ventured to gainsay the missionary, whose excited tone
contrasted curiously with his naturally calm visage. No doubt his
anger arose from the hardships to which the Mormons were actually
subjected. The government had just succeeded, with some difficulty, in
reducing these independent fanatics to its rule. It had made itself
master of Utah, and subjected that territory to the laws of the Union,
after imprisoning Brigham Young on a charge of rebellion and polygamy.
The disciples of the prophet had since redoubled their efforts, and
resisted, by words at least, the authority of Congress. Elder Hitch,
as is seen, was trying to make proselytes on the very railway trains.
Then, emphasising his words with his loud voice and frequent gestures,
he related the history of the Mormons from Biblical times: how that, in
Israel, a Mormon prophet of the tribe of Joseph published the annals of
the new religion, and bequeathed them to his son Mormon; how, many
centuries later, a translation of this precious book, which was written
in Egyptian, was made by Joseph Smith, junior, a Vermont farmer, who
revealed himself as a mystical prophet in 1825; and how, in short, the
celestial messenger appeared to him in an illuminated forest, and gave
him the annals of the Lord.
Several of the audience, not being much interested in the missionary's
narrative, here left the car; but Elder Hitch, continuing his lecture,
related how Smith, junior, with his father, two brothers, and a few
disciples, founded the church of the "Latter Day Saints," which,
adopted not only in America, but in England, Norway and Sweden, and
Germany, counts many artisans, as well as men engaged in the liberal
professions, among its members; how a colony was established in Ohio, a
temple erected there at a cost of two hundred thousand dollars, and a
town built at Kirkland; how Smith became an enterprising banker, and
received from a simple mummy showman a papyrus scroll written by
Abraham and several famous Egyptians.
The Elder's story became somewhat wearisome, and his audience grew
gradually less, until it was reduced to twenty passengers. But this
did not disconcert the enthusiast, who proceeded with the story of
Joseph Smith's bankruptcy in 1837, and how his ruined creditors gave
him a coat of tar and feathers; his reappearance some years afterwards,
more honourable and honoured than ever, at Independence, Missouri, the
chief of a flourishing colony of three thousand disciples, and his
pursuit thence by outraged Gentiles, and retirement into the Far West.
Ten hearers only were now left, among them honest Passepartout, who was
listening with all his ears. Thus he learned that, after long
persecutions, Smith reappeared in Illinois, and in 1839 founded a
community at Nauvoo, on the Mississippi, numbering twenty-five thousand
souls, of which he became mayor, chief justice, and general-in-chief;
that he announced himself, in 1843, as a candidate for the Presidency
of the United States; and that finally, being drawn into ambuscade at
Carthage, he was thrown into prison, and assassinated by a band of men
disguised in masks.
Passepartout was now the only person left in the car, and the Elder,
looking him full in the face, reminded him that, two years after the
assassination of Joseph Smith, the inspired prophet, Brigham Young, his
successor, left Nauvoo for the banks of the Great Salt Lake, where, in
the midst of that fertile region, directly on the route of the
emigrants who crossed Utah on their way to California, the new colony,
thanks to the polygamy practised by the Mormons, had flourished beyond
"And this," added Elder William Hitch, "this is why the jealousy of
Congress has been aroused against us! Why have the soldiers of the
Union invaded the soil of Utah? Why has Brigham Young, our chief, been
imprisoned, in contempt of all justice? Shall we yield to force?
Never! Driven from Vermont, driven from Illinois, driven from Ohio,
driven from Missouri, driven from Utah, we shall yet find some
independent territory on which to plant our tents. And you, my
brother," continued the Elder, fixing his angry eyes upon his single
auditor, "will you not plant yours there, too, under the shadow of our
"No!" replied Passepartout courageously, in his turn retiring from the
car, and leaving the Elder to preach to vacancy.
During the lecture the train had been making good progress, and towards
half-past twelve it reached the northwest border of the Great Salt
Lake. Thence the passengers could observe the vast extent of this
interior sea, which is also called the Dead Sea, and into which flows
an American Jordan. It is a picturesque expanse, framed in lofty crags
in large strata, encrusted with white salt—a superb sheet of water,
which was formerly of larger extent than now, its shores having
encroached with the lapse of time, and thus at once reduced its breadth
and increased its depth.
The Salt Lake, seventy miles long and thirty-five wide, is situated
three miles eight hundred feet above the sea. Quite different from
Lake Asphaltite, whose depression is twelve hundred feet below the sea,
it contains considerable salt, and one quarter of the weight of its
water is solid matter, its specific weight being 1,170, and, after
being distilled, 1,000. Fishes are, of course, unable to live in it,
and those which descend through the Jordan, the Weber, and other
streams soon perish.
The country around the lake was well cultivated, for the Mormons are
mostly farmers; while ranches and pens for domesticated animals, fields
of wheat, corn, and other cereals, luxuriant prairies, hedges of wild
rose, clumps of acacias and milk-wort, would have been seen six months
later. Now the ground was covered with a thin powdering of snow.
The train reached Ogden at two o'clock, where it rested for six hours,
Mr. Fogg and his party had time to pay a visit to Salt Lake City,
connected with Ogden by a branch road; and they spent two hours in this
strikingly American town, built on the pattern of other cities of the
Union, like a checker-board, "with the sombre sadness of right-angles,"
as Victor Hugo expresses it. The founder of the City of the Saints
could not escape from the taste for symmetry which distinguishes the
Anglo-Saxons. In this strange country, where the people are certainly
not up to the level of their institutions, everything is done
"squarely"—cities, houses, and follies.
The travellers, then, were promenading, at three o'clock, about the
streets of the town built between the banks of the Jordan and the spurs
of the Wahsatch Range. They saw few or no churches, but the prophet's
mansion, the court-house, and the arsenal, blue-brick houses with
verandas and porches, surrounded by gardens bordered with acacias,
palms, and locusts. A clay and pebble wall, built in 1853, surrounded
the town; and in the principal street were the market and several
hotels adorned with pavilions. The place did not seem thickly
populated. The streets were almost deserted, except in the vicinity of
the temple, which they only reached after having traversed several
quarters surrounded by palisades. There were many women, which was
easily accounted for by the "peculiar institution" of the Mormons; but
it must not be supposed that all the Mormons are polygamists. They are
free to marry or not, as they please; but it is worth noting that it is
mainly the female citizens of Utah who are anxious to marry, as,
according to the Mormon religion, maiden ladies are not admitted to the
possession of its highest joys. These poor creatures seemed to be
neither well off nor happy. Some—the more well-to-do, no doubt—wore
short, open, black silk dresses, under a hood or modest shawl; others
were habited in Indian fashion.
Passepartout could not behold without a certain fright these women,
charged, in groups, with conferring happiness on a single Mormon. His
common sense pitied, above all, the husband. It seemed to him a
terrible thing to have to guide so many wives at once across the
vicissitudes of life, and to conduct them, as it were, in a body to the
Mormon paradise with the prospect of seeing them in the company of the
glorious Smith, who doubtless was the chief ornament of that delightful
place, to all eternity. He felt decidedly repelled from such a
vocation, and he imagined—perhaps he was mistaken—that the fair ones
of Salt Lake City cast rather alarming glances on his person. Happily,
his stay there was but brief. At four the party found themselves again
at the station, took their places in the train, and the whistle sounded
for starting. Just at the moment, however, that the locomotive wheels
began to move, cries of "Stop! stop!" were heard.
Trains, like time and tide, stop for no one. The gentleman who uttered
the cries was evidently a belated Mormon. He was breathless with
running. Happily for him, the station had neither gates nor barriers.
He rushed along the track, jumped on the rear platform of the train,
and fell, exhausted, into one of the seats.
Passepartout, who had been anxiously watching this amateur gymnast,
approached him with lively interest, and learned that he had taken
flight after an unpleasant domestic scene.
When the Mormon had recovered his breath, Passepartout ventured to ask
him politely how many wives he had; for, from the manner in which he
had decamped, it might be thought that he had twenty at least.
"One, sir," replied the Mormon, raising his arms heavenward —"one, and
that was enough!"