Short Stories » Died on the Way...
Died on the Way...
THE emigrant train had come in, and so many were waiting, some at the depot with their own vehicles, watching for dear ones ; others hailed hacks or took the street-cars, and a few remained, who would, as soon as the throng cleared away a little, walk up to the house where homeless emigrants might stay for a few days.
A party of four by themselves attracted attention. A man of solemn countenance, with two little children that clung on either side of him, serious, frightened-looking little things, although they were healthy and neatly dressed. Beside them walked a pale woman with a babe in her arms. Oh, those sad dark eyes ! The group, followed by a few others, moved into the large yard, and when they entered the house, sobs and moans and the cries of little children broke forth. Men and women on the street had noticed and wondered, but no one liked to ask a question, and now well they had gone out of sight. The man who had charge of the house came to show them a room, and render assistance if needed and learned the sad story. The baby had been ailing a little, and just before they reached the city had died in convulsions. The parents must go on in the morning, and the precious one be laid among strangers. The father walked the floor in dumb wretchedness. One after another came in with heart-felt words. One whose heart is ever kind and thoughtful, provided a meal for the travelers and then went out for the little casket. His wife came in and saw that dainty clothes were in readiness, and the husband assumed the expense of the occasion, saying it was little enough he could do, for his own heart had known the loss of his first child only a short time before. The tears of strangers mingled with the mourners, and it may be that the sweet sympathy helped to assuage their grief.
A young girl came in and looked on, but what was there for her to do ? A sudden thought ! She went out and in a few moments returned with a handful of flowers and laid them upon the casket. The poor mother took one from the rest and laid it in her pocket-book. Brief services were held, and in a few moments the little casket was carried out, the family entered a carriage, and then the few who had gathered around dispersed to their own homes. The little Saint had reached his journey's end, the Zion of his parents hopes, and now endeared to them, by that little mound, their link between earth and heaven.
In early times, before the railroad was made, many yielded to the fatigues of travel by wagon. I knew of a young girl whose lover set out for Zion, having not means sufficient for both, but intending to earn money and send back for her. It happened soon after he had gone that means came to her family, and they joyfully set forth with the next company. They had reached "the plains," and one night the young lady, after walking about awhile, sat down to rest. They had seen, day after day, newly-made graves by the way- side. "Lily, dear, perhaps that is a grave you are sitting upon; there is a board at one end." Lily rose and bent over to read the name, then cried out, " Mother! " It was the grave of the young man who had left them in England so little while before. This was Lily's first trial in coming to Zion, and the journey from that day must have been a sorrowful one.
There was an old man so poor that he was obliged to go into an institution for the poor. The officers granted him the privilege of coming out on Sunday to attend his house of worship, and knew he was a Latter-day Saint too. This was perhaps his only solace, but he kept praying that God would bring him out of that prison life and to Zion. The matter was spoken of in meeting, and word reached Salt Lake City, where an old friend of his had lately come. Very soon it was written to a friend there that the money was forwarded to pay his passage here. On Sunday he was asked after meeting if he could make ready in three days to go to Utah. He was overjoyed, and the release from the house was obtained next day. With his possessions all tied up in one red cotton handkerchief, he left the prison-like walls and went among old acquaintances, bidding them a glad good-by. It so happened that some of these found themselves able to add a few gifts and comforts for the journey, which you may be sure he appreciated. Friends related how he enjoyed the ocean trip and the cities of America, then the cars for the long, swift ride. But, alas ! his feeble frame could not endure the constant excitement and change, and it was thought best to stop over a few days to give him rest. A good elder stayed with him and did all that could be done. One night the old man said, ''Brother, you can go on in the morning with my body. I want it buried in Zion ; but I shall be there in spirit, before you." He died happy, because he was free and on his way here.
Children who were born in Zion have no idea of the intense, prayerful longing in the hearts of those who desire to gather to God's appointed place. I know all about it, for I once lived out in the world. Can you realize the blessing of emigrating those who cannot otherwise get here ? How different all would have seemed if that poor man had died away back beyond the ocean!