In the Country of the Saints
In the centre of North America there is a large desert, which for a long time stopped people crossing the continent. No one could live in the desert, many people died trying to cross it to reach more fertile lands.
In the year 1847, a traveller stood on a rocky cliff, looking across this empty land. All he could see were the bones of other people who had tried to reach the West. The man was dying from hunger and thirst. With him he had a small child, a girl, who he was carrying in a blanket. They were the only ones left of a group of twenty-one people who tried to travel to a better life, the others, including the little girl’s mother, were dead. The man’s name was John Ferrier, and as the little girl had no one else, he adopted her, and called her Lucy Ferrier. John knew that if he did not find food and water soon, both of them would die.
But he was very tired. He and Lucy sat down on the cliff above the desert. Before long both of them were asleep.
In the distance there was a cloud of dust. The cloud became bigger as it got nearer, until it was clear that it was made by a large group of moving creatures. It was a huge group of carts, men and women, children, horses and animals, who were travelling across America to find a new place to live. One of the men saw Lucy and John, high up on their cliff. The great trail of wagons, men and women stopped while some of the men climbed up to see who they were. John Ferrier woke up and was shocked to see the empty desert now full of people and life. The men took the man and the little girl to the wagons.
‘Who are you?’ asked John Ferrier. ‘There are so many of you.’
‘There are nearly ten thousand of us,’ said one of the young men. ‘We’re the Mormons.’
‘Where are you going?’ asked John Ferrier.
‘We don’t know. The hand of God is leading us through our Prophet. You must come before him. He’ll decide what to do with you.’
The Prophet, a man called Brigham Young, was in a large, brightly painted wagon, with six horses pulling it. Lucy and John stood before him.
‘If we take you with us,’ he said, ‘you must become believers in our religion. Will you do that?’
‘I don’t think we have a choice,’ said Ferrier. ‘If we stay here, we’ll die.’
‘Take them then, Brother Stangerson,’ said the Prophet ‘and give them food and drink. It’s your job to teach these two the way of the Mormons. Now let’s move on!’
After a long and difficult journey the group of Mormons arrived in Utah, where they built Salt Lake City. The Prophet gave each person a piece of land to farm and to build on. He gave the biggest pieces of land to the two Elders of the Mormon religion; their names were Stangerson and Drebber.
He also gave land to John and Lucy Ferrier. On the journey, John proved he was very useful, he was a hard worker and a good hunter. John built a fine house for himself and Lucy and worked hard on his land and farm. Over twelve years he became rich and well known in the area.
There was just one thing that the Mormons did not like about John Ferrier. The Mormons practised polygamy; that is, having more than one wife. They wanted John to have many wives but John did not agree with this practice and preferred to stay unmarried.
As the years passed and John became rich, Lucy was also growing up. She became a very beautiful young woman, and this soon started to cause problems for the Ferriers.
One day, Lucy was riding into town to do some business for her father. She found herself surrounded by a herd of cattle.
Her horse became frightened and nearly threw Lucy to the ground. But at this moment a strong brown hand grabbed the reins of the frightened horse and brought the horse and Lucy to safety.
‘I hope you’re not hurt, Miss,’ said the young man.
‘I was very frightened,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
‘I guess you’re the daughter of John Ferrier,’ said the young man. ‘Ask him if he remembers Jefferson Hope from St Louis. He and my father were good friends.’
‘Why don’t you come and ask him yourself?’ said Lucy.
After Lucy left, Jefferson Hope realised that he had fallen in love with the beautiful young girl. He was determined to marry her and visited John Ferrier that same night. He visited the farm many times, telling stories of hunting, mining for silver and working on ranches. It was clear that Lucy, too, had fallen in love with the young man who had saved her.
One night, he came to the farm.
‘I must go, Lucy,’ he said. ‘I won’t ask you to come with me now, but will you be ready to come when I’m here again?’
‘When will that be?’ she asked.
‘About two months. Your father’s happy for us to get married, if I can make enough money to look after you.’
‘If you and Father have arranged it all, there’s nothing more to say,’ she said, resting her head on his chest.
He kissed her. ‘Goodbye my darling — in two months you’ll see me again.’ She watched him ride away, the happiest girl in all of Utah.
Three weeks passed before the trouble began. Brigham Young came to visit John Ferrier.
‘Brother Ferrier,’ said Brigham Young, ‘we’ve been very good to you. You’ve grown rich with our help. In return, we asked you to become a true believer in our faith. But you’ve failed us. You haven’t taken any wives, and now I hear that Lucy’s going to be married to a man who isn’t one of us. This can’t be allowed.’
Ferrier was nervous at these words. Brigham Young continued.
‘We the Elders want Lucy to marry one of our sons, either Stangerson’s or Drebber’s. They’re both young and rich. Lucy must choose between them.’
Ferrier was silent for some time. At last he said, ‘You must give us time. My daughter’s very young.’
‘Lucy can have a month to choose,’ said Brigham Young. ‘After that she must give us an answer.’ He turned and left.
Lucy came into the room. Her frightened face showed that she knew what the Prophet planned for her.
‘What can we do?’ she asked. ‘There are such terrible stories of what happens to people who don’t do what the Prophet asks.’
‘We’ll send a message to Jefferson,’ said her father. ‘He’ll help us to escape from Utah and the Mormons.’
‘Leave Utah?’ cried Lucy.
‘We have no choice,’ said John. ‘We’ll wait for Jefferson to come back and then we’ll leave.’
‘But they won’t let us leave!’ said Lucy.
‘Wait until Jefferson comes. There’s nothing to be afraid of and there’s no danger.’
That night, John Ferrier very carefully locked all the doors and cleaned and loaded his old gun.