THE MORMON PREACHER.
HIS FIGHT WITH COL. TURK.
When the Mormons settled in Missouri ir. 1833, an enthusiastic young man named Mills was their most popular and admired preacher. Indeed, so great was his fame, that whenever he held meet-ings, a crowd of the saints were sure to be present.
A strong and violent mob of lynchers was about thistime organized to put down the Mormons under the command of Col. Turk one of the most despe-rately dangerous men that Missouri, or, in truth, any other country ever produced. Some of the Mor- mons were tarred and feathered, some were scourg-ed with long, knotty hickories till they fainted from excess of torture and loss of blood—others were for-cibly deprived of their property, and reduced in a day to the condition of beggars—while others shared a doom of more mercy, and were shot down on the prairie like so many wolves. At last Turk resolv-ed to take some of the conceit out of the young preacher, Mills, and he gave notice to his men ac-cordingly.
It was a dreadfully cold night in mid-winter 1833 and although the sky was cloudless, and the full moon shone out in all her splendor, the earth lay- in that pearly radiance, chill and dreary as a fro-zen tomb; for a thick sheet of snow crusted its sur-face, and the north wind howled over it a dismal dirge. It was a night to drive even thieves and out-laws into barns and stables for shelter, and to keep honest people by the blaze of their own roaring hearths.
And yet, strange to say, in a large log cabin with-in three hundred yards of the Missouri river, then frozen from shore to shore, at least one hundred people had assembled to hold a religious meeting. They were Mormons, you may be sure. No fanat-ics of an old faith would have turned out on such a night; they must be fresh zealots, with some new idea, but at its birth, in their hearts, and flaming like a meteor in their imagination, or they never could have ventured to face such an icy blast as that, The congregation included men and women in about equal numbers, and many of the former carried rifles, which they grasped with one hand, even when they kneeled down in prayer; such was the imminence of peril, either real or imagined, as they deemed pending over them
The preacher—the enthusiast, Mills—had advan-ced to a thrilling head of his eloquent discourse, and was painting in terrible, fire language the bitter persecution which has ever followed the footsteps of all great reformers, since the beginning of time. Never before had he been half so animated or half so affecting. His blue eye gleamed like a star—his voice pealed like a trumpet, shrill as the wind that whistled over the housetop; and his lips seem-ed literally loaded with music. Groans, tears and wild shrieks from the audience, proved the despotic power of his utterance.
Suddenly three rifles exploded in quick succes-sion before the door, and three sentinels, shaking with terror, rushed into the room, crying out, "the mob! the mob!—Save yourself from Col. Turk's mob!"
No pen can depict the scene of dismay and con-fusion that ensued. The females screamed aloud, as if all hope had departed. Several of the men sprang out of the windows and fled as if pursued by a legion of devils, whilst most of those who remain-ed appeared stupefied and totally powerless, either to escape or make ready for resistance, Indeed, there was very little space allowed for preparation. In a few moments a mob amounting to hundreds had surrounded the building, and the muzzles of fifty cocked guns and pistols were thrust in through the doors and windows. Still none within lifted a finger for defence—fear seemed to have turned them into stone. Persecution had not yet hardened the "Latter Day Saints " into veterans, and the after-wards famous "Mormon Legion " existed then only in the imagination of the Prophet.
Presently the lynchers, headed by the all dreaded and gigantic Col. Turk, rushed in, and began to beat the people furiously with the iron ramrods of their rifles, with very little distinction of mercy as to age or sex. The cries and entreaties of the poor sufferers swelled to a wail wilder than the howling of the wind without. At length Col. Turk roared out—
"Turn out the women and seize the men, and let us have the hickory switches and the tar and feathers!"
And the drunken mob shouted, and hastened to execute the brutal mandate.
Up to this time young Mills had continued stand-ing with the Bible of their prophet in his hand, but unearthly pale and strangely excited, his lip writh-ing, his teeth clenched, and his bright eyes swim-ming in a halo of fire. Suddenly he made a bound for an adjacent window and notwithstanding more than twenty endeavored to seize him, he effected his escape from the house.
"Chase him—shoot him! take him, alive or dead!" cried Turk, in a transport of rage, setting the example by commencing the pursuit himself.
The flight of Mills was directed in a stright line for the river, and his marvellous agility added to the start he had first got, soon placed him at some distance ahead. They fired both rifles and shot guns at him as he ran, but happily without effect. When he came to the river side he stooped down and hastily asftened on a pair of skates, which he had carried in his pocket for the last few days, to be ready for any extraordinary emergency; and then taking the ice, skimmed over the frozen stream with the swiftness of the wind.
"Has nobody a pair of skates?" shouted Turk, striking his forehead with a gesture of wrath and vexation.
"I have," answered one of the mob, "but I shall not try them on the ice such a night as this."
"Be quiet—give them to me!" exclaimed Turk, impatience.
were produced; the eager Colonel and then swearing a dreadful oath bring back the preacher's scalp, or , he began the perilous chase. Oh! ring like the courage inspired by the evenge!
Meanwhile Mills had approached the op-posite when he discovered the startling appa- armed men on the bank. He knew at a it meant. The mob, to prevent any Mormons from escaping, had stationed a ond the river. He instantly turned his down the stream, when a whole platoon let rifles, but the distance was too considera-ble A hail of bullets rattled on the ice around him, without doing him injury.
"I will foil the fiends yet," he said to himself; and put forth all his strength. He fled away; but soon became conscious that some one was pursuing him. He slackened his velocity, and wheeled about so often as to obtain a view of his enemy. But the latter was still too remote for an accurate survey and the Mormon uttered aloud a mad prayer—"God grant me that it be Col. Turk, and I am willing to die!"
On rushed the pursuer—on, still on, like an ava-lanche. The noise of his iron skates could be heard above the roar of the northern blast, and his dark form loomed in the glittering moonbeams, large in stature as a giant. As he drew nearer, the young preacher smiled venomously. He recognized the arch-persecutor, Col. Turk, and he laughed outright a laugh that rang over the frozen river like the wild scoff of some demon, when he saw the other unsheath his gleaming knife. Mills immediately pulled his own from its scabbard, and started off, so as to avoid the coming shock, which might oth-erwise, through the mere force of the collision, prove fatal to both.
And then began a series of rapid and cunning evolutions to secure the advantage in this terrible method of combat the most terrible ever conceived. The marked the smooth surface of the ice with circles, elipsis, angles, squares, par-alelograms, and almost every possible figure of plain geometry; but each seemed a perfect skater, and could not find the other at fault, or take him unprepared. They passed repeatedly within three feet of each other, and made quick thrusts, which pierced to the bone. And still the cold grew more intense, and the wrathful wind howled on, while their manoevres and flights somehow carried them farther down the river, where the crusted ice was thinner, and cracked fearfully beneath their tread.
Finally the Mormon took the desperate resolve to terminate the strife by sacrificing his own life so as to make sure of that of his foe et the same time. In the following rush he no longer turned aside to avaid a direct collision, and frustrated the attempt of the lyncher to that end by swerving slightly in-wards from a straight line.
They met at full speed, and the shock was like the crash of two adverse comets. At the moment of their fall the quaking ice split beneath their weight, with a deafenening roar, and the wild wa-ters, boiling and hissing like a hell, swallowed them forever—the persecutor and his victims, both vic-tims now!
But the river still rolled on its way to the sea; the stars all shone as bright and beautiful as of old, in the morning of creation, when the angels of God chanted their birth song; and the wrathful wind of winter howled on over the icy grave of the ene-mies— enemies no more!
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