A FLIGHT FOR LIFE
ON THE morning which followed his interview with the Mormon Prophet,
John Ferrier went in to Salt Lake City, and having found his acquaintance, who was bound
for the Nevada Mountains, he entrusted him with his message to Jefferson Hope. In it he
told the young man of the imminent danger which threatened them, and how necessary it was
that he should return. Having done thus he felt easier in his mind, and returned home with
a lighter heart.
As he approached his farm, he was surprised to see a horse
hitched to each of the posts of the gate. Still more surprised was he on the entering to
find two young men in possession of his sitting-room. One, with a long pale face, was
leaning back in the rocking-chair, with his feet cocked up upon the stove. The other, a
bull-necked youth with coarse, bloated features, was standing in front of the window with
his hands in his pockets whistling a popular hymn. Both of them nodded to Ferrier as he
entered, and the one in the rocking-chair commenced the conversation.
Maybe you dont know us, he said. This
here is the son of Elder Drebber, and Im Joseph Stangerson, who travelled with you
in the desert when the Lord stretched out His hand and gathered you into the true
As He will all the nations in His own good time,
said the other in a nasal voice; He grindeth slowly but exceeding small.
John Ferrier bowed coldly. He had guessed who his visitors
We have come, continued Stangerson, at the
advice of our fathers to solicit the hand of your daughter for whichever of us may seem
good to you and to her.  As
I have but four wives and Brother Drebber here has seven, it appears to me that my claim
is the stronger one.
Nay, nay, Brother Stangerson, cried the other;
the question is not how many wives we have, but how many we can keep. My father has
now given over his mills to me, and I am the richer man.
But my prospects are better, said the other,
warmly. When the Lord removes my father, I shall have his tanning yard and his
leather factory. Then I am your elder, and am higher in the Church.
It will be for the maiden to decide, rejoined
young Drebber, smirking at his own reflection in the glass. We will leave it all to
During this dialogue John Ferrier had stood fuming in the
doorway, hardly able to keep his riding-whip from the backs of his two visitors.
Look here, he said at last, striding up to them,
when my daughter summons you, you can come, but until then I dont want to see
your faces again.
The two young Mormons stared at him in amazement. In their
eyes this competition between them for the maidens hand was the highest of honours
both to her and her father.
There are two ways out of the room, cried Ferrier;
there is the door, and there is the window. Which do you care to use?
His brown face looked so savage, and his gaunt hands so
threatening, that his visitors sprang to their feet and beat a hurried retreat. The old
farmer followed them to the door.
Let me know when you have settled which it is to
be, he said, sardonically.
You shall smart for this! Stangerson cried, white
with rage. You have defied the Prophet and the Council of Four. You shall rue it to
the end of your days.
The hand of the Lord shall be heavy upon you,
cried young Drebber; He will arise and smite you!
Then Ill start the smiting, exclaimed
Ferrier, furiously, and would have rushed upstairs for his gun had not Lucy seized him by
the arm and restrained him. Before he could escape from her, the clatter of horses
hoofs told him that they were beyond his reach.
The young canting rascals! he exclaimed, wiping
the perspiration from his forehead; I would sooner see you in your grave, my girl,
than the wife of either of them.
And so should I, father, she answered, with
spirit; but Jefferson will soon be here.
Yes. It will not be long before he comes. The sooner the
better, for we do not know what their next move may be.
It was, indeed, high time that someone capable of giving
advice and help should come to the aid of the sturdy old farmer and his adopted daughter.
In the whole history of the settlement there had never been such a case of rank
disobedience to the authority of the Elders. If minor errors were punished so sternly,
what would be the fate of this arch rebel? Ferrier knew that his wealth and position would
be of no avail to him. Others as well known and as rich as himself had been spirited away
before now, and their goods given over to the Church. He was a brave man, but he trembled
at the vague, shadowy terrors which hung over him. Any known danger he could face with a
firm lip, but this suspense was unnerving. He concealed his fears from his daughter,
however, and affected to make light  of
the whole matter, though she, with the keen eye of love, saw plainly that he was ill at
He expected that he would receive some message or remonstrance
from Young as to his conduct, and he was not mistaken, though it came in an unlooked-for
manner. Upon rising next morning he found, to his surprise, a small square of paper pinned
on to the coverlet of his bed just over his chest. On it was printed, in bold, straggling
Twenty-nine days are given you for amendment, and
The dash was more fear-inspiring than any threat could have
been. How this warning came into his room puzzled John Ferrier sorely, for his servants
slept in an outhouse, and the doors and windows had all been secured. He crumpled the
paper up and said nothing to his daughter, but the incident struck a chill into his heart.
The twenty-nine days were evidently the balance of the month which Young had promised.
What strength or courage could avail against an enemy armed with such mysterious powers?
The hand which fastened that pin might have struck him to the heart, and he could never
have known who had slain him.
Still more shaken was he next morning. They had sat down to
their breakfast, when Lucy with a cry of surprise pointed upwards. In the centre of the
ceiling was scrawled, with a burned stick apparently, the number 28. To his daughter it
was unintelligible, and he did not enlighten her. That night he sat up with his gun and
kept watch and ward. He saw and he heard nothing, and yet in the morning a great 27 had
been painted upon the outside of his door.
Thus day followed day; and as sure as morning came he found
that his unseen enemies had kept their register, and had marked up in some conspicuous
position how many days were still left to him out of the month of grace. Sometimes the
fatal numbers appeared upon the walls, sometimes upon the floors, occasionally they were
on small placards stuck upon the garden gate or the railings. With all his vigilance John
Ferrier could not discover whence these daily warnings proceeded. A horror which was
almost superstitious came upon him at the sight of them. He became haggard and restless,
and his eyes had the troubled look of some hunted creature. He had but one hope in life
now, and that was for the arrival of the young hunter from Nevada.
Twenty had changed to fifteen, and fifteen to ten, but there
was no news of the absentee. One by one the numbers dwindled down, and still there came no
sign of him. Whenever a horseman clattered down the road, or a driver shouted at his team,
the old farmer hurried to the gate, thinking that help had arrived at last. At last, when
he saw five give way to four and that again to three, he lost heart, and abandoned all
hope of escape. Singlehanded, and with his limited knowledge of the mountains which
surrounded the settlement, he knew that he was powerless. The more frequented roads were
strictly watched and guarded, and none could pass along them without an order from the
Council. Turn which way he would, there appeared to be no avoiding the blow which hung
over him. Yet the old man never wavered in his resolution to part with life itself before
he consented to what he regarded as his daughters dishonour.
He was sitting alone one evening pondering deeply over his
troubles, and searching vainly for some way out of them. That morning had shown the figure
2 upon the wall of his house, and the next day would be the last of the allotted time.
What was to happen then? All manner of vague and terrible fancies filled his imagination.
And his daughterwhat was to become of her after he was gone?  Was there no escape from the invisible network which was
drawn all round them? He sank his head upon the table and sobbed at the thought of his own
What was that? In the silence he heard a gentle scratching
soundlow, but very distinct in the quiet of the night. It came from the door of the
house. Ferrier crept into the hall and listened intently. There was a pause for a few
moments, and then the low, insidious sound was repeated. Someone was evidently tapping
very gently upon one of the panels of the door. Was it some midnight assassin who had come
to carry out the murderous orders of the secret tribunal? Or was it some agent who was
marking up that the last day of grace had arrived? John Ferrier felt that instant death
would be better than the suspense which shook his nerves and chilled his heart. Springing
forward, he drew the bolt and threw the door open.