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The King Of Beaver, and Beaver Lights From "Mackinac And Lake Stories", 1899   By: (1847-1902)

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From "Mackinac And Lake Stories", 1899

By Mary Hartwell Catherwood


Success was the word most used by the King of Beaver. Though he stood before his people as a prophet assuming to speak revelations, executive power breathed from him. He was a tall, golden tinted man with a head like a dome, hair curling over his ears, and soft beard and mustache which did not conceal a mouth cut thin and straight. He had student hands, long and well kept. It was not his dress, though that was careful as a girl's, which set him apart from farmers listening on the benches around him, but the keen light of his blue eyes, wherein shone the master.

Emeline thought she had never before seen such a man. He had an attraction which she felt loathsome, and the more so because it drew some part of her irresistibly to him. Her spirit was kin to his, and she resented that kinship, trying to lose herself among farmers' wives and daughters, who listened to their Prophet stolidly, and were in no danger of being naturally selected by him. This moral terror Emeline could not have expressed in words, and she hid it like a shame. She also resented the subservience of her kinspeople to one no greater than herself. Her stock had been masters of men.

As the King of Beaver slowly turned about the circle he encountered this rebel defying his assumption, and paused in his speaking a full minute, the drowsy farmers seeing merely that notes were being shifted and rearranged on the table. Then he began again, the dictatorial key transposed into melody. His covert message was to the new maid in the congregation. She might struggle like a fly in a web. He wrapped her around and around with beautiful sentences. As Speaker of the State Legislature he had learned well how to handle men in the mass, but nature had doubly endowed him for entrancing women. The spiritual part of James Strang, King and Prophet of a peculiar sect, appealed to the one best calculated to appreciate him during the remainder of his exhortation.

The Tabernacle, to which Beaver Island Mormons gathered every Saturday instead of every Sunday, was yet unfinished. Its circular shape and vaulted ceiling, panelled in the hard woods of the island, had been planned by the man who stood in the centre. Many openings under the eaves gaped windowless; but the congregation, sheltered from a July sun, enjoyed freely the lake air, bringing fragrance from their own fields and gardens. They seemed a bovine, honest people, in homespun and hickory; and youth, bright eyed and fresh cheeked, was not lacking. They sat on benches arranged in circles around a central platform which held the Prophet's chair and table. This was his simple plan for making his world revolve around him.

Roxy Cheeseman, Emeline's cousin, was stirred to restlessness by the Prophet's unusual manner, and shifted uneasily on the bench. Her short, scarlet cheeked face made her a favorite among the young men. She had besides this attraction a small waist and foot, and a father who was very well off indeed for a Beaver Island farmer. Roxy's black eyes, with the round and unwinking stare of a bird's, were fixed on King Strang, as if she instinctively warded off a gaze which by swerving a little could smite her.

But the Prophet paid no attention to any one when the meeting was over, his custom being to crush his notes in one hand at the end of his peroration, and to retire like a priest, leaving the dispersing congregation awed by his rapt face.

The two cousins walked sedately along the street of St. James village, while their elders lingered about the Tabernacle door shaking hands. That primitive settlement of the early '50's consisted of a few houses and log stores, a mill, the Tabernacle, and long docks, at which steamers touched perhaps once a week. The forest partially encircled it. A few Gentiles, making Saturday purchases in a shop kept by one of their own kind, glanced with dislike at the separating Mormons... Continue reading book >>

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