We had a fine supper, of the freshest meats and fowls and vegetables--a
< BackForward >
great variety and as great abundance. We walked about the streets some,
afterward, and glanced in at shops and stores; and there was fascination
in surreptitiously staring at every creature we took to be a Mormon.
This was fairy-land to us, to all intents and purposes--a land of
enchantment, and goblins, and awful mystery. We felt a curiosity to ask
every child how many mothers it had, and if it could tell them apart; and
we experienced a thrill every time a dwelling-house door opened and shut
as we passed, disclosing a glimpse of human heads and backs and
shoulders--for we so longed to have a good satisfying look at a Mormon
family in all its comprehensive ampleness, disposed in the customary
concentric rings of its home circle.
By and by the Acting Governor of the Territory introduced us to other
"Gentiles," and we spent a sociable hour with them. "Gentiles" are
people who are not Mormons. Our fellow-passenger, Bemis, took care of
himself, during this part of the evening, and did not make an
overpowering success of it, either, for he came into our room in the
hotel about eleven o'clock, full of cheerfulness, and talking loosely,
disjointedly and indiscriminately, and every now and then tugging out a
ragged word by the roots that had more hiccups than syllables in it.
This, together with his hanging his coat on the floor on one side of a
chair, and his vest on the floor on the other side, and piling his pants
on the floor just in front of the same chair, and then comtemplating the
general result with superstitious awe, and finally pronouncing it "too
many for him" and going to bed with his boots on, led us to fear that
something he had eaten had not agreed with him.
But we knew afterward that it was something he had been drinking. It was
the exclusively Mormon refresher, "valley tan."
Valley tan (or, at least, one form of valley tan) is a kind of whisky,
or first cousin to it; is of Mormon invention and manufactured only in
Utah. Tradition says it is made of (imported) fire and brimstone. If I
remember rightly no public drinking saloons were allowed in the kingdom
by Brigham Young, and no private drinking permitted among the faithful,
except they confined themselves to "valley tan."
Next day we strolled about everywhere through the broad, straight, level
streets, and enjoyed the pleasant strangeness of a city of fifteen
thousand inhabitants with no loafers perceptible in it; and no visible
drunkards or noisy people; a limpid stream rippling and dancing through
every street in place of a filthy gutter; block after block of trim
dwellings, built of "frame" and sunburned brick--a great thriving orchard
and garden behind every one of them, apparently--branches from the street
stream winding and sparkling among the garden beds and fruit trees--and a
grand general air of neatness, repair, thrift and comfort, around and
about and over the whole. And everywhere were workshops, factories, and
all manner of industries; and intent faces and busy hands were to be seen
wherever one looked; and in one's ears was the ceaseless clink of
hammers, the buzz of trade and the contented hum of drums and fly-wheels.
The armorial crest of my own State consisted of two dissolute bears
holding up the head of a dead and gone cask between them and making the
pertinent remark, "UNITED, WE STAND--(hic!)--DIVIDED, WE FALL." It was
always too figurative for the author of this book. But the Mormon crest
was easy. And it was simple, unostentatious, and fitted like a glove.
It was a representation of a GOLDEN BEEHIVE, with the bees all at work!
The city lies in the edge of a level plain as broad as the State of
Connecticut, and crouches close down to the ground under a curving wall
of mighty mountains whose heads are hidden in the clouds, and whose
shoulders bear relics of the snows of winter all the summer long.
Seen from one of these dizzy heights, twelve or fifteen miles off, Great
Salt Lake City is toned down and diminished till it is suggestive of a
child's toy-village reposing under the majestic protection of the Chinese
On some of those mountains, to the southwest, it had been raining every
day for two weeks, but not a drop had fallen in the city. And on hot
days in late spring and early autumn the citizens could quit fanning and
growling and go out and cool off by looking at the luxury of a glorious
snow-storm going on in the mountains. They could enjoy it at a distance,
at those seasons, every day, though no snow would fall in their streets,
or anywhere near them.
Salt Lake City was healthy--an extremely healthy city.
They declared there was only one physician in the place and he was
arrested every week regularly and held to answer under the vagrant act
for having "no visible means of support." They always give you a good
substantial article of truth in Salt Lake, and good measure and good
weight, too. [Very often, if you wished to weigh one of their airiest
little commonplace statements you would want the hay scales.]
We desired to visit the famous inland sea, the American "Dead Sea," the
great Salt Lake--seventeen miles, horseback, from the city--for we had
dreamed about it, and thought about it, and talked about it, and yearned
to see it, all the first part of our trip; but now when it was only arm's
length away it had suddenly lost nearly every bit of its interest. And
so we put it off, in a sort of general way, till next day--and that was
the last we ever thought of it. We dined with some hospitable Gentiles;
and visited the foundation of the prodigious temple; and talked long with
that shrewd Connecticut Yankee, Heber C. Kimball (since deceased), a
saint of high degree and a mighty man of commerce.
We saw the "Tithing-House," and the "Lion House," and I do not know or
remember how many more church and government buildings of various kinds
and curious names. We flitted hither and thither and enjoyed every hour,
and picked up a great deal of useful information and entertaining
nonsense, and went to bed at night satisfied.
The second day, we made the acquaintance of Mr. Street (since deceased)
and put on white shirts and went and paid a state visit to the king.
He seemed a quiet, kindly, easy-mannered, dignified, self-possessed old
gentleman of fifty-five or sixty, and had a gentle craft in his eye that
probably belonged there. He was very simply dressed and was just taking
off a straw hat as we entered. He talked about Utah, and the Indians,
and Nevada, and general American matters and questions, with our
secretary and certain government officials who came with us. But he
never paid any attention to me, notwithstanding I made several attempts
to "draw him out" on federal politics and his high handed attitude toward
Congress. I thought some of the things I said were rather fine. But he
merely looked around at me, at distant intervals, something as I have
seen a benignant old cat look around to see which kitten was meddling
with her tail.
By and by I subsided into an indignant silence, and so sat until the end,
hot and flushed, and execrating him in my heart for an ignorant savage.
But he was calm. His conversation with those gentlemen flowed on as
sweetly and peacefully and musically as any summer brook. When the
audience was ended and we were retiring from the presence, he put his
hand on my head, beamed down on me in an admiring way and said to my
"Ah--your child, I presume? Boy, or girl?"