If Emma could have imagined the heartache and the horror, the tears and the triumph of marriage to Joseph when he first declared his intentions, she would have said no.
But, then again, she might have said yes.
ood evenin to you, Miss Emma. You be a sight for sore eyes, and ifn that dont be the Lords own truth, I dont know what else might be.
Good evening, Mr. Stowel, Emma replied, hiding her own pleasure at his remarks behind the chestnut ringlets that perfectly framed her oval face. Ladies of good breeding neither solicited nor expected compliments about their appearance no matter how pleasant the experience.
It was autumn 1825. Josiah Stowel and his party were arriving at the Hale homestead in Harmony,Pennsylvania, a small village of two hundred souls in the Allegheny foothills just over the New York state line. Emma, as always, appreciated the jovial countenance and polite manners of Old Man Stowel and his eligible—but sadly, dull-witted—son, Simpson, and she led them quickly to the warmth of the fire. The other two men were strangers. The older man was slightly bent over, apparently careworn from a life of hard labor and harder worries; the other was a smiling, tall, young rascal with golden hair, a strong build, and brilliant blue eyes. They appeared to be father and son. All four were eager to talk her father into joining them in a mining venture.
What kind of mine you gentlemen going to dig? bearish businessman-hunter Isaac Hale had inquired after the supper dishes had been cleared. Emma brought an ember from the fire to light her fathers pipe and then stood quietly in the doorway so as not to disturb the menfolks talk.
A silver mine, Josiah Stowels gray eyes twinkled, and we aint going to have dig it ourselves since it be already dug. Young Joseph here—he has the gift of finding treasure that be buried long ago—
Youre not telling me he peeps into a stone and sees visions of silver now, are you? Hales cynical laugh interrupted the genial mood around the table. He drew in on his pipe and blew out a puff of smoke as he stroked his beard. Why, theres one around these parts that carries a stick and claims to tell you exactly where to dig your well.
Dont be laughing at young Joseph, Isaac. Hes proven he has the gift—he described to the very last detail my house and outhouses back in South Bainbridge while he was still in Palmyra—over a hundred miles away! Josiah exclaimed, slamming his mug on the table before turning back to the subject at hand. The Spaniards, they did find the silver along the Susquehanna.
Hale stared curiously at the teenage mystic. Youve seen the mine in your stone then?
The boy returned the older mans look with equal intensity. Yes, sir. It is in the valley as Josiah says. The boys eyes were luminous in the lamplight. His gaze wandered from Hales weather-beaten brow to Emmas quiet and serious expression.
Although it was most improper to do so, Emma felt compelled to return his searching look. Eyes so blue and inviting, as lovely and deep as the Susquehanna River itself. Drowning . . . she was drowning in those intensely beautiful blue eyes . . . .
Emma! Her fathers rough voice broke her reverie. Fetch us some of that ale we brewed last winter.
Yes, Pa, Emma croaked. She quickly obeyed, all the while thinking, Who does he think he is? I am twenty-one years old, a grown woman and not a slave girl. But here I am in my fathers home, duty-bound to obey his orders. How I wish I could have a home of my own! But,being a proper and thoroughly modern early 19th century woman, she kept her feelings to herself and thought instead of those magical blue eyes.
Let us see your stone then, boy, Hale finally commanded. Ifn you can give an exact location of where this silver mine be, Ill consider giving my support to your search.
Emma was intrigued as to what the seer stone would look like, but kept her curiosity in check as she poured the ale. Joseph reached into a leather pouch attached to his belt and reverently lifted out a dark lump of rock. It really wasnt what she expected.
The stone itself, the size of a strong mans hand and blackish in color, appeared at first to have no magical properties at all. Emma thought it would have made a satisfactory doorstop and not much else. But as the boy held the mysterious relic in front of the lamplight, glints of color could be seen swirling on its surface. The rock no longer seemed cold and dead, but throbbing with life as the glow of the fire bounced off the stone and into the deep, blue-river eyes of the young seer, enduing them with an ancient and mystic power. The men instantly ceased talking.
I see trees— a large wood along the river bank, Joseph began slowly in a hushed tone. All eyes were focused on the stone, and in the silence of the room, Emma could hear her heart beating, louder and louder. She felt dizzy and weak. Slowly putting down the ale pitcher, she gripped the edge of the table for strength.
There is a bend in the river bank—and I see a stone bridge just about a half-mile beyond. It is not far from here, less than twenty miles—
The piercing hoot of a lone owl broke the boys spell. Emma felt she could breathe again.
I told ye that the boy had a true gift. Josiah smiled, shaking off the grip of the stone with a stout swig of ale. Are ye with us?
Oh, no, never, thought Emma. Her father was just too strong-willed to fall for such a performance and part with his hard-earned gold.
All right, Isaac Hale said in an unusually small voice. Keep me informed of your progress regularly and it is agreed. His eyes stayed fixed on the stone. Emmas eyes stayed fixed on the boy. There was something more to Joseph Smith than she had first realized, much more.
y November, and after the second report of failure to find the lost silver mine arrived, Isaac Hale was cursing the day he had decided to fund the Stowel expedition. Damn money-diggers! That Smith boy and his father were more than a nuisance—they were imposters and thieves! Why couldnt old Josiah see that? It was as if he had no mind of his own.
Well, no more money from Isaac Hale theyll be seeing, he announced with a satisfied grin, throwing the letter down on the table. And ifn that blasted fool Stowel wants to waste his time and goods letting that so-called Stone Seer stay and winter out at his place, then let him be damned for doing so!
Emma stopped in the middle of her sweeping. Hell be nearby. Maybe hell pay a call someday . . . .
as it his eyes, so blue, searching her placid visage for just a hint of encouragement that attracted her to him? Or was it his beautiful way with words, unusually sophisticated and persuasive for a poor farm boy from western New York State? Either way, Emma mused, there were worse things than marriage to a tall and handsome stranger with a most mysterious penchant for looking for buried treasure.
Joseph had called on her whenever he could get away from Old Man Stowels farm, and, most importantly, whenever Isaac Hale was off on a long hunting trip. His eagerness and devotion were genuine, Emma felt, but her father detested Joseph and had set his foot down after hearing of Josephs most recent run-in with the law.
Ill be damned if my daughter will consort with a known criminal! Hale cried with a fathers primitive fear of losing his daughter to another man, an avowed cheat and a swindler to boot. One of Stowels neighbors had had Joseph arrested on charges of being a disorderly person and an imposter. Joseph denied that he cheated people through the use of his peepstone and claimed to be only a simple farm laborer and an occasional student. But the court had thought otherwise and had fined him. Joseph had sworn toEmma that he had given up his peculiar avocation forever.
Oh, Pa, Emma had said in a half-prayer, half-whisper. You have told me to trust in my own feelings when it comes to judging others—
And your feelings tell you that this boy isnt a common criminal? Isaac Hale felt pity for his sheltered child, who knew so little of the world and of the ways of men. Trust the judge and the court on this one, Emma. I only want the best for you. Id never want to see you suffer heartache, but that is all this money-digger will ever give you. Consider my words, child, and fetch me my pipe.
Emma obeyed—not out of slavish obedience, but out of love and respect for her father. She knew his fears were not voiced out of a need to malign someone who may have cheated him, but were heartfelt and sincere. She drifted to a chair beside the fireplace and sat silently, gazing into the dancing flames. The image of the glowing seer stone filled her mind, bringing back happy memories of her last meeting with her tall and handsome, golden-haired beau.
Dear, thoughtful Emma, Joseph had said as they walked along a sun-dappled woodland path of a Pennsylvania spring. What lies behind those beautiful, dark, piercing eyes of yours? I feel you can see into my very soul at times . . .
Emma blushed and thought, Odd—it is his eyes that can look into my private thoughts and voice them aloud.
How could I, Joseph? A persons soul can only be known to God, and God I am not, she replied with a slight toss of her head, her bonnet hiding her face and her own confusion. You would know such things if you would attend church more often.
So says my dear mother as well. Alas, I can learn more in two hours alone studying the Holy Book than I ever could in two weeks worth of tent revivals from those pompous, long-winded, money-hungering jackals that call themselves men of the cloth.
Although shocking, Josephs reply was a common one; the number of sects led by eccentric and charismatic preachers—that had blossomed in great religious ecstasy only to be weeded out by the cynicism of religious exhaustion—were many.
Oh, Joseph! Emma cried, hiding her smile behind a work-callused, yet curiously delicate, hand. If you want to be a success in polite society you must keep such thoughts to yourself.
But you are most definitely polite society, dearest Emma. Am I not a success with you? he entreated with a doleful expression. Emma could never tell if he was being serious or teasing her with such a comment, and the tumult it caused within her brain sent her common sense spinning. She decided to change the topic to one she could safely handle.
How go your studies? she asked as she sat gracefully upon a fallen log beside the lane. Joseph, sensing that his bold remarks were altogether too much for his dear, sensitive Emma, gently sat down beside her and pulled a book from his satchel. Emma could make out the gold lettering on the leather-tooled cover: View of the Hebrews; or the Ten Tribes of Israel in America.
This is a most fascinating book, Joseph declared with the typical enthusiasm he had whenever discussing items of an intellectual nature. It tells all about the native men who used to dwell in these lands and who left behind their wealth within the hillocks they constructed.
Indians? Emma grimaced. Like all enlightened women, she was none too fond of the original Americans or their artifacts, which were often found in the fields in the wake of an unsuspecting plow. Indian burial mounds were objects of curiosity, only for those who felt that savages of recent times were somehow descended from a more noble people.
Yes, it tells of how they may have been descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.
Emma couldnt help but laugh. Her chestnut ringlets jiggled against her fair cheeks, and her small lips opened into a smile before she realized how impolite it was to make fun of her suitors comments.
What a thought—Redmen belonging to the race of our Savior! Joseph, you dont really believe that sort of nonsense, do you?
Joseph was not offended by her girlish giggles. In fact, he found it most attractive. He had never desired his wife to be his intellectual equal—just pleasing to look at and willing to bear his children. These were the only two necessary requirements for him, and he felt that Emma was more than qualified for the position. Joseph smiled and bent to pick a wild daisy at his feet, reverently offering it to her.
I believe you are as beautiful as the Queen of Sheba, and that doesnt have to be written in a book.
His powerful presence drew her dangerously closer to him. His mysterious blue eyes enfolded her and then he gently kissed her on the lips. The remainder of Emmas common sense was sent swiftly spinning off into space.
he day soon came when Joseph knew it was time to return to his parents home, as his welcome at the Stowels since his trial had been growing thinner with each passing day. But there was one thing he wanted to do before leaving the area; he wanted to ask for Emmas hand in marriage.
Sir, I desire your daughter, Emma, to be my wife, Joseph informed Emmas father with the utmost decorum. I promise to be a good and faithful husband to her—
Same as you promised to find that lost silver mine—look what became of that pledge! Isaac Hale bellowed, boldly throwing the young mystic out his front door. My Emma will never become your wife, sir, mark my words.
Oh, Pa! How could you? Emma wailed as the echo of the slamming door rang in her ears. She ran to her bed and flung herself across the quilt, sobbing inconsolably. Her life might as well be over—time was marching onward with the prospect of spinsterhood looming ever closer with all the finality of death.
Luckily for Emma, Old Man Stowel—who still believed in Josephs mystical abilities—took pity on the young couple and arranged for Emma to visit his home in South Bainbridge, New York, in January of 1827. There Emma and Joseph were married secretly before her father could raise an objection. Joseph then whisked his bride home to Manchester, New York, to set up housekeeping within the same four walls that housed his parents and siblings.
heir honeymoon proved short-lived. Emma, who had longed for a home of her own, control of her own domestic destiny, was to have none. Lucy Mack Smith was a kind and loving mother-in-law, but it was her home, and her rule prevailed. Joseph had forgotten completely the vow he had made to Emma about abandoning his money-digging ways and was often seen holding up his peepstone for the curious inspection of his prospective clients.
Her male in-laws worked with a grim determination to make a go at farming on their plot of borrowed land. There was tall and fair-haired twenty-seven-year-old Hyrum, married and with a family of his own, who lived nearby. Serious nineteen-year-old Samuel, mischievous sixteen-year-old William, and diligent eleven-year-old Don Carlos also added their labors to the family business, but the creditors were never far behind, and the threat of eviction hung over their heads like a hangmans noose.
Emma felt cheated and betrayed—why hadnt she listened to her fathers advice? Why had she felt compelled to follow those damnable river-blue eyes?
But there were good times as well. Many nights after a days long and bitter struggle with the soil, the Smith family would gather round the hearth and entertain each other with tales and dreams of long ago.
My father was a famous author who wrote his memoirs about life in the days before the republic, Mother Smith was fond of telling Emma. Entitled The Narrative of the Life of Solomon Mack, it was a self-published book that had been read aloud repeatedly to Grandfather Macks proud descendants. They understood that they were no ordinary,deep-in-debt farmers.
He was ever so clever with words—just like my Joseph is, Mother Smith would beam at her golden-haired boy. A petite but far from fragile woman at age fifty-one, Lucy Mack Smith shared the same brilliant blue eyes and aquiline nose as Joseph, as well as his zest for living and love of language. It pleased Emma that her husband was a kind and dutiful son, and that Mother Smith held a special place for him in her heart.
Father Smith loved to describe the dreams that he had experienced and what they signified—at least to him.
I had a dream, Father Smith would begin in a low voice, and it goes like this: I was traveling in an open field—a barren and desolate place when I saw a tree as I had never seen before. The fruit of this tree was of the most delicious kind, and I said I cannot eat this alone—I must bring my wife and children.
Let me interpret your dream for you! Mother Smith would eagerly volunteer, but Father Smith, with a wave of dismissal, always gave his own opinions on the matter.
It is my vision, woman, and I know what it means. It means that someday—someday soon, I pray—the good earth will yield up its treasures to us. And then none of my kin will ever lack for money or possessions.
Very good, Father, Joseph would say with a smile, and I have a tale that I would also like to share.
It is a tale of the bloodthirsty savages that once roamed our fair hills, Joseph would begin in a dramatic tone. His magnetic presence and melodious voice could stop their discussions instantly and all eyes would become fixed upon him. Entertaining as Emmas in-laws were, it was Joseph who was truly blessed with the gift of storytelling.
The first group of savages did have a magical breastplate made of gold, with fine stones and strange symbols engraved upon its surface. The second group did covet the mighty relic and did start battle against their brethren in order to obtain it . . .
Emma would find herself holding her breath as Jospeh waved his intricate fables of lost tribes and lost treasures. And as the summer drudgery wore down both their bodies and spirits, Josephs diverting tales grew evermore fantastical. He held them spellbound for hours with intrigues of ancient Indian tribes who fiercely fought battles amongst themselves for control of land and magical artifacts, leaving behind nothing of their presence but their mounds of bones and trinkets. Emma was amazed that, as Josephs storytelling grew more intensely emotional, his face would lose all color, the blood draining from his veins, leaving him with a ghostly pallor. The effect was quite shocking, especially to the unwary visitor.
Eight months into their marriage Joseph consented to make a trip to Harmony. Emmas in-laws had given her the idea that her husband was finally ready to build his own cabin. She held some furniture and livestock in her own name, and their sale, the Smith family silently hoped, could come in handy in holding off the creditors. It was the first time she had seen her father and childhood home since the wedding.
You have stolen my daughter and married her—I had much rather followed her to her grave. Isaac Hale flung his hateful words at Joseph. His tirade stopped when he noticed how thin and haggard his daughter had become.
My child! Isaacs heart was breaking. Please say that you will come home to stay.
I am a married woman, Pa, Emma said with both a kindness and a hopelessness that a woman in her position felt. I belong with my husband now.
But hes still thieving with the use of that evil stone, I hear tell. Can he not make a living in an honest manner?
Yes, he can, she lied, And he has not used the stone for months now, but has been a dutiful son, helping out on his fathers farm.
Is this true? Isaac Hales white eyebrows arched suspiciously as he observed his unusually silent son-in-law. Youve given up your criminal ways, young man?
That I have, Sir, Joseph replied. He turned away as if in pain from the older mans inquiring stare, and with a burst of courage declared, I have never been able to see treasure in that stone. It was all false testimony. For the sake of your daughter, I humbly ask your forgiveness, Sir.
I will grant it if you promise me but one thing.
Anything, Sir, anything.
That you will come and live here in Pennsylvania. I will help you become an honest working man, and you must never practice the evil art of the peepstone again.
Gladly agreed, Sir. Joseph smiled. But in all good conscience, I must help my father through this winter before we can settle down here.
Spoken as a loving son. The spring will be a right good time to begin a new lifes venture.
Emmas heart soared. To come home, to have her own home, and to be reconciled to her own dear father—what more could she hope for?
I wouldnt trade such happiness for all the gold in this world—or the next, she whispered that night as she lay beside her husband.
Nor will you ever have to, Joseph assured her, sweeping her into his strong arms, tenderly kissing her fears away.
fter their return from Pennsylvania, Joseph and Emma learned some disheartening news: The creditors would not wait any longer. Father Smith was in danger of losing the farm if money did not come quickly. The family was devastated.
Oh, Joseph, cried Mother Smith as they sat around the hearth that evening, whatever shall we do? It was as if the shock of their pending loss had rendered them all incapable of thinking.
We shall prevail, Mother, Joseph comforted her like a lost child with a kiss on her forehead. They all sat staring silently into the flames.
Emma kept her opinions to herself—she was moving home soon. Although she was saddened by the harsh news of her in-laws pending eviction, she accepted the fact that she and Joseph must live their own lives. Besides, soon there would be one more in their new household. Emmas interests lay in the security of her own soon-to-be immediate family.
But Joseph was stunned. The thought of his dear parents and younger siblings evicted from their home was too much for him. He knew he had to do something. Something that would make money—a lot of money—in a relatively short amount of time.
Farming? Joseph hated the menial labor. And there were far too few profits in crops, ever at the mercy of the elements and the market.
Money-digging? Joseph had promised to give that up. Besides, his reputation was becoming widespread and clients were few and far between.
Storytelling? Joseph knew he had a gift to spin a clever yarn, but with little formal education he had neither the ability nor the inclination to write any of his stories down as had his grandfather.
Farming? Money-digging? Storytelling? Joseph Smith, Junior, could think of no other talents he possessed in the autumn of 1827, with his firstborn child on the way and his familys home about to be repossessed. Suppose he combined all three?
Emma would have her gold in this world.