By Helen Hinckley Jones
The Story So Far: Prudy and John Wayne have come from England to America with their Aunt and Uncle. Their parents, who expected to follow the children very soon, have been delayed because they haven’t money for the trip. Prudy and John decide to earn the money; but just when they have found work in Salt Lake City which will bring them in a little cash. Uncle Simon and Aunt Aggie decide to move to Arizona.
The children are very discouraged and almost decide to “lose themselves” until after the others have gone to Arizona and it is too late for their uncle and aunt to make the trip.
“Uncle Simon,” Prudy said, “I’ve been thinking that I ought to tell you something.”
Uncle Simon turned and smiled down at the girl on the wagon seat beside him. “What is it, Prudy? Both your Aunt Aggie and I knew that you young ones had something on your mind, and we’ve been wondering –”
Prudy looked down at her hands folded on her lap. “When you and Aunt Aggie first told us that you were coming to Arizona, John and I didn’t want to come at all. We even planned on – on losing ourselves until the rest of the wagons had started.”
“Prudy!” Uncle said, but his voice didn’t sound cross. “What made you change your mind?”
“Well, we asked Heavenly Father and the next day we – Well, we didn’t feel right about doing it. That’s all.”
Uncle Simon smiled.”I’m mighty glad you didn’t.” He waved his arm, pointing to the rolling yellow hills. “Isn’t it beautiful? Whether we’re going through a green valley or over yellow hills or through rough canyons. Always it’s beautiful.” He took a deep breath. “Aren’t you glad to be out of the city, Prudy?”
Prudy shook her head. “John and I wanted to stay in Salt Lake City. We – ”
The quick color came into Prudy’s face. “It’s a secret.” She thought of Father and Mother still in England and wondered if they’d ever be able to earn the money in Arizona. But of course they would. She and John had promised each other that they’d never give up their plan – not until Father and Mother were safely in America.
Uncle Simon held both lines loosely in one hand and put his other arm around her shoulder. “There’s hard times ahead for all of us, Prudy, but we all thrive on hard times.”
For a long time they were both silent. By looking through the back of the wagon Prudy could see Aunt Aggie and John bouncing on the seat of the wagon just behind them. It had taken two wagons to hold all of Uncle Simon’s and Aunt Aggie’s possessions. When the road curved she could see the six other wagons that were traveling in the same party, if she leaned back. Looking forward, the yellow hills rolled away to red bluffs and tan and red crags.
Suddenly a new sight caught her eye.”What’s that, Uncle Simon?” She pointed off to the southwest. Uncle Simon shaded his eyes with his hand and followed her outstretched arm. In the distance a great cloud of sand and dust was spiraling and whirling upwards.
“I never saw anything like it before, Prudy.” His voice was worried. “It seems to be moving this way. I’ve heard of American ‘twisters.’ I think I’ll pull up and ask somebody that knows more about this country than I do.”
He drew out of line and signaled for Aunt Aggie to pass him. “Look out to the southwest,” he called. “Think I’ll find out what we’re heading into.”
Brother Roly’s wagon had been following Aunt Aggie’s. He stopped at Uncle Simon’s signal.
“You’ve traveled this road many times before,” Uncle Simon called.”What’s that over to the –”
Brother Roly didn’t even look.”Why, that’s Boat Mountain. See how much like a boat she looks? We go right around the end of her and then the road leads – ”
“Yes, I see Boat Mountain,” Uncle Simon yelled again. “But look over there. Prudy just spotted something strange and –”
Brother Roly looked where Uncle Simon pointed and his jolly round face changed to a worried puzzled one. “It’s a storm a-coming up. A desert storm. We’re sure enough in for it.”
“I don’t understand –” Uncle Simon began.
“Well, I haven’t time to explain. All I hope is that we can find shelter somewhere. At this time of the year the wind starts funneling like that and then comes the snow and then– bluey – we’re in for a blizzard that’ll freeze man and beast.”
“You move up into the lead, Brother Roly,” Uncle Simon called. “You know this country. Is there any shelter you remember about?”
Brother Roly slapped his lines over his horses’ backs. “Yes, there’s a big old house ’round the point of Boat Mountain, if the weather hasn’t taken her down before now. Fall in and we’ll give full speed ahead.”
Uncle Simon’s hands trembled as he held the lines and waited for Brother Roly to move into the lead. Prudy’s face was troubled. “Will the folks behind us know about the storm?”
“We’re going to tell ’em.” He signaled for the wagons to pass him. “Storm coming up,” he shouted to each driver as the wagon came abreast. “Head for Boat Mountain. Round the point. May be shelter there.”
The drivers encouraged their horses to greater speed, and what had been a slow rolling cavalcade suddenly became an uneven line of running horses and lurching wagons.
“Some folks would say that taking the last place in the line was plain foolish,” Uncle Simon told Prudy. ”If the storm catches anybody, it’ll be us.”
Prudy laughed aloud. “I haven’t had so much fun for a long time, she cried over the rising noise of the wind in the canvas cover of the wagon. “We’ll beat the old storm.”
The two narrowed their eyes against the rushing dust. Looking through the cloud raised by the wind and the hurrying horses’ hoofs, they could still see great puffs of lemon colored dust spiraling upward, the tops of the whirling funnels as black as smoke.
“Brother Roly can’t be right,” Prudy shouted. “I don’t see how it can snow.” But even while she was shouting the words to Uncle Simon the first snow came, not a soft feathery blanket, but a shower of pellets as sharp as hail, driven with the wind. Like an icy shutter dropped from the sky to the earth it came, and Uncle Simon couldn’t see the heads of his own horses. The harsh snow, added to the flying sand made it impossible to face forward.
“I’ll have to give Bonny and Bay their heads,” Uncle Simon called. “Put your skirt over your face.”
“Will Aunt Aggie and John be all right?” Prudy shouted before she muffled her head in her skirt.
“They’re second wagon. They’ll be fine if there’s still shelter around the point!”
The wind was like thunder in the canvas and the snow and sand hit through Prudy’s thick hand-knit stockings as if they were the lace pair she wore for Sunday. How you doing, Prudy?” Uncle Simon’s voice came through the roaring.
“Fine. I feel sorry for Bonny and Bay, though.”
“Good animals.” A few minutes later he called, “It’s getting a mite lighter.” Then, with a world of relief in his voice, “The shelter still stands, Prudy. I can see a big barn or house in front of us. Thank God!”
The “Thank God” was like a prayer, and for the first time Prudy realized that they had really been in danger. She took her skirt down from her face and peered out. They could see the building, too. A great frame structure black with weathering.
Brother Roly was standing at the door when Bonny and Bay rushed to the front of the building. “Bring the beasts in,” he yelled to Uncle Simon. “The place is already nearly filled up. Party just ahead of us going to Tombstone saw the storm and got to the shelter before we did. There’ll be room in the back bedrooms for all of the animals, though.” His round face folded into a smile when he looked at Prudy. “You look pretty cold, child, dressed just in that denim apron. Your Aunt Aggie is over by the fire. Better join her.”
While Brother Roly talked, Uncle Simon had been freeing the horses from the wagon. Before he led them around to the back he lifted Prudy to the ground. She stumbled into the house, half blind from the cold and the blizzard.
When she cleared her eyes with her red, half frozen hands, she saw that she was in a very large room, lighted by a great blazing fire in a rock fireplace. The room was unfurnished and Aunt Aggie and the others sat on the floor. Almost at once Aunt Aggie began smoothing her wind-roughened curls. “I want you to look your neatest, Prudy,” she whispered loudly. “There’s a pack of other folks already here and we don’t want to look like something the cat dragged in.”
Prudy looked around. Most of the other folks were men. One of them was already tuning his guitar by the fire.
“John, let’s go over and see–”
Aunt Aggie laughed. “You never were one to keep away from music.” She patted Prudy’s hair again. “Run along, the both of you, but mind your manners.”
John remembered to be polite.” Are you coming with us, Aunt Aggie?”
“No, not now. Sister Roly and some of the rest of us are going to fix a meal for all of our folks and the strangers, too.”
Prudy and John hurried away, but when they got near the strangers, they were suddenly shy. The men didn’t look at all like the folks they were accustomed to. Some of them were rough looking fellows; others were very well dressed, with hair slick and mustaches well turned in spite of the storm.
It wasn’t until after supper that Prudy and John began to feel at home with the rest of the travelers. When everybody had finished eating, Brother Roly banged on the table – made from old planks and sawhorses – for silence. “I see one of you fellows has a ‘gaytar,’ and others can sing. I, myself, sing some and I’m no mean dancer, either. How about a little program?”
Everybody clapped, and the man with the guitar stepped out in front of the fire and began to play and sing. His songs were all about cowboys who loved women that didn’t love them. Prudy wished that he would sing some of the familiar songs that the Saints had sung on the long trip from England.
“Why doesn’t he sing something prettier?” she whispered to Aunt Aggie. The man sitting at her other side laughed, then he shouted, “Here’s a little Missy wants something prettier, Sam.”
Sam laughed good naturedly. “Let her sing it herself.”
All of the strangers clapped and several of the Saints urged. “Go on, Prudy. Go on.”
Prudy crowded close to Aunt Aggie’s knee. “Go on, child,” Aunt Aggie said.
“What would I sing?”
“One of the hymns, I’d say,” Aunt Aggie suggested.
Prudy’s knees felt weak as she stepped over to the fire. “Most times I’d rather sing than eat,” she said. “But now I’m so scared I don’t think my voice will come out at all.” For a moment she fumbled with her skirt, wondering what to sing. Then she thought of the blizzard roaring outside, the cold that was “like to kill man and beast,” and she thought of how wonderful it was that there happened to be a shelter here. She knew that Heavenly Father was taking care of them. Into her mind came a beautiful hymn that Mother had taught her way back in England.
“Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide,
The darkness deepens – Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.”
When she had finished, no one clapped and she thought that the strangers hadn’t liked her singing; but Sam put his hand out and touched her shoulder. “Sing again, child. It’s songs like that one–” he didn’t finish. Instead he wiped his handkerchief across his eyes.
“‘I Need Thee Every Hour,’” someone behind her suggested, and she sang:
“I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
I need Thee, O, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee!
O, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.”
By the time that she got to the second verse most of the Saints and several of the strangers were singing with her. Sam was chording on his guitar. “One more,” the crowd called.
“What shall it be?”
“Your favorite hymn song,” Sam suggested.
Prudy lifted her chin so that her eyes looked out above the heads of the crowd. She sang:
“O my Father, Thou that dwellest in the high and glorious place
When shall I regain Thy presence, and again behold Thy face?”
She sang all of the verses and when she had finished she turned to Sam. “Why didn’t you play that one with me?”
“It’s a mighty pretty hymn song, Missy, but I never heard it before.”
Prudy was surprised. “Never heard it before?”
“Not that I remember. I’d like to hear it again so I’d have something to think on. The folks that made up that song had a clearer idea of heaven than most of us.”
“Let’s have something lively, now,” Brother Roly called. “How about all joining in a good old-fashioned reel?” He began to whistle “Turkey in the Straw” and Sam picked it up on the guitar.
Prudy started back to Aunt Aggie, but she was stopped by one of the well-dressed strangers. “Where’s your party headed for?” he asked.
“Tuba, Arizona Territory.”
“I was hoping you’d be saying Tombstone. Think your folks would change their mind and head in that direction?”
“I don’t think so.”
“There’s a wonderful chance to get rich down that way.”
“They don’t want to get rich.”
The man laughed kindly, “Hold on, little Missy, everybody wants to get rich.”
Uncle Simon’s brother, Marcus, is down in Tuba and Uncle Simon and Aunt Aggie want to get away from crowded cities so –”
“Well, they might be interested in Tombstone. Chances are they haven’t heard of the Tombstone Lode.” He looked at her closely. “How old are you?”
“I’d have taken you to be a mite older. Well, I’d like to meet your folks.”
Prudy led the way to where Aunt Aggie and Uncle Simon were sitting together. “This gentleman wishes to meet you.”
“I’m Gilbert Treuman. I’m on my way to Tombstone to open a – well a sort of hotel – you know, to house and feed and entertain the men that have flocked there to get their share of the Tombstone Lode. Have you folks thought of going to Tombstone?”
Uncle Simon’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the stranger. “Why are you interested in us?”
“I don’t mind telling you that when this little girl lifted that sweet voice of hers and gave forth with those hymn songs, something happened inside of me. I thought, Gilbert Treuman, if you could take that child to Tombstone with you and have her sing evenings for the men, hundreds of them who haven’t thought of God for ages would be reminded of Him as I was tonight. They’d be reminded of God and they’d be happy. I know, because I felt that way when she sang.”
He stopped, but neither Uncle Simon nor Aunt Aggie spoke. “So I was in hopes that you were headed for Tombstone.” Again he waited, but Prudy’s aunt and uncle were still silent. “Or maybe you’d let the child come with me. I could promise that she’d not come to any harm. I’d give her board and keep and dress her as she should be dressed, and I wouldn’t wonder but what she’d make five hundred to a thousand dollars in a year. The men are pretty liberal, you know, and when someone pleases them they are apt to throw a regular shower of nuggets and coins.”
Prudy, who had been quietly watching Uncle Simon and Aunt Aggie, spoke for the first time. “Five hundred dollars!”she said and her voice was filled with awe. “Five hundred dollars!” Why, that would be enough to bring Father and Mother to America, she thought. Mr. Treuman’s offer seemed like a miracle.
Uncle Simon laughed. “We couldn’t consider it,” he said.
Aunt Aggie’s voice sounded awed by the thought of five hundred dollars, too, but she echoed Uncle Simon. “We couldn’t consider it. We’re Latter-day Saints, you know, and we couldn’t think of having the child–”
Mr. Treuman bowed. “Well, think it over. If you change your mind, you can tell me before the storm outside is over and we are all on our separate ways. Remember that she would be treated like my own daughter. Let me introduce you folks to my wife. She –”
“Thank you,” Uncle Simon said, bowing too, in his awkward, unaccustomed fashion. “Our decision is final.”
Prudy couldn’t believe that she had heard right. Five hundred dollars – maybe more – and Uncle Simon and Aunt Aggie were turning it down without even consulting her! She made herself wait until Mr. Treuman had walked away, then she ran to find John.
He was in the back room where the horses were being stabled away from the storm. “Oh, John,” she cried. “The most wonderful thing has happened.” Then she told him all about Mr. Gilbert Treuman. She finished, “And I’m going to do it, too. Tonight when Aunt Aggie and Uncle Simon are asleep I’m going to find him and tell him that I’ll go with him.”
John looked at her with narrowed eyes. “Prudy!”
“Well, I am. Five hundred dollars would be enough to –”
John took the lobe of his ear between his thumb and finger and rubbed it slowly. Then he said again, “Prudy!”
“Well, I am! You wait and see.”
“I’ll wait,” John answered quietly.