Saints, page 1
TOR US/58140-7 * $4.95 CAN/58141-5 * $5.95 Orson Scott Card ---------------- SAINTS The powerful story of a dauntless woman whose life tested all of her strength! It was a testimony meeting, the Saints rising to their feet to give impromptu speeches about their love for God. Here is where I am at home, Dinah thought, touched by real faith, surrounded by women who depended on her. Here is my family. How could I have thought otherwise. As that surety grew within her she felt the light also grow, with a fire that burned behind her eyes. Suddenly the woman who was speak- ing stopped and Dinah realized that the woman was looking at her, and Dinah was sure she could see the light coming out of her eyes. The woman began to speak again; but now the words did not come in the accents of Lancashire. It was the gift of tongues and Dinah realized that she understood her. Without thinking, Dinah leapt to her feet and began to translate. She hardly understood herself; all that mattered was to speak. Finally the woman stopped speaking and Dinah felt the words fade within her. What had she said? It frightened her, it thrilled her, it gave her peace. Father, she said silently, I will follow you forever, across the sea, away from my husband if need be, over the mountains of death, through whatever storms of suffering. The light was in her again, dim now but unquench- able, and all would be justified in the end, whenever the end might be. Look for these Tor Books by Orson Scott Card ENDER'S GAME HART'S HOPE RED PROPHET (Tor Hardcover) SAINTS SEVENTH SON (Tor Hardcover) SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD Orson Scott Card ---------------- SAINTS TOR A TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES BOOK This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. SAINTS Copyright © 1984 by Orson Scott Card All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form. Previously published under the title A WOMAN OF DESTINY. First Tor Edition: June 1988 A TOR Book Published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. 49 West 24th Street New York, NY 10010 Cover art by Hiram Richardson ISBN: 0-812-58140-7 Can. No.: 0-812-58141-5 Printed in the United States of America 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 For Kristine, who showed me the mind and heart of a perfect woman.
In which kindly Providence takes notice of a deserving family and makes their lives interesting.
This is all we have of Dinah Kirkham now: a lock of hair in an envelope, color nondescript; five photographs taken in her fifties or later, including the famous picture of her looking with disdain at Brigham Young; a will, in which she left her small fortune to the Mormon Church; and a brutally frank journal, which is now kept under lock and key in the Church archives, where no historian may read it. Too late. I read it, and now you hold this book in your hands.
The pictures are not kind to her. A recent historian, somewhat given to cleverness at the expense of the dead, wrote, "Dinah Kirkham was an ugly old woman, and age had only improved her." Indeed, she looks more lively in her funeral picture than in any other: the mortician twisted her lips into an unpleasant smile, as if she had just been told an enemy had died in agony and could not help but gloat. But let us be fair: No photographs from that time are flattering; everyone looks severe, the clothing styles were ugly, and makeup was forbidden to virtuous women. Other evidence is kinder to her: She was loved by three husbands, all of whom had ample opportunity to compare her with other women. Those who knew her wrote that she was beautiful in her youth and handsome in her matronhood. Photographs are deceitful -- they can give us patterns of black and white, but not the eyes to see what her contemporaries saw.
Besides, it doesn't matter much how Dinah looked. She was called the Prophetess by many thousands, the champion of the weak and heartbroken, advocate of plural marriage and female suffrage, speaker in tongues and healer of the sick. When she died, the Salt Lake Tribune needed only the small headline, "Aunt Dinah Passes Away." The line at her viewing was a half-mile long for eleven hours; they turned the rest away, or they could not have buried her.
And oh, how they wanted to bury her. She was a relic of the wrong century by then. She knew too well what the businessmen were up to. If they had known of her journal then, they would have burned it.
She was also my great aunt. I didn't mean to write about her. I set out to write about her brother Charlie, who wrote mediocre hymns that have somehow become the favorite anthems of four million Latter-Day Saints. She was only background for me.
Background, until I found her journal, sitting in a file where it shouldn't have been, overlooked for years. mentioned in no catalogue. I read a dozen pages at random and knew what a treasure I had found; I told no one, but simply Xeroxed and Xeroxed and Xeroxed until I had it all.
And now I know her far too well to be content with writing her biography. Instead I have decided to write her life as if it were the life of a great hero. Why not? It was. Yet this is too large for me: the task I have set myself is not Boswell's but Homer's, and my failure is determined before I start. I am a worm of a scholar, best at burrowing, but now at last come up for air. Bear me. I will intrude on you, I will annoy you, but I will also do my best to carry you into the life of the only person I've ever known who was loved by all who really knew her, and yet was worthy of more love than she received.
-- O. Kirkham, Salt Lake City, 1981
John Kirkham Manchester 1829
The day John Kirkham abandoned his family, he came home early from work. It was midafternoon, and Manchester bustled with business. He dodged carts and wagons and carriages all the way home. He remembered that when he was a young man he walked for pleasure, sending the carriage home early from the store. And then, when they had lost the house and moved into the rooms over the store, he had walked not at all, if he could help it. He was irritated by business, ashamed of the sweat of his brow. Sweat was for less sensitive men, the near-animals who made their nails and wove their endless cloth and tended their machinery in the factories that pumped the air out of the sky and replaced it with foul coal smoke.
This was not the first day John had left early. Many times, pushing another man's broom in another man's store, he had become impatient and taken his box of paints and pens and coals, and a sheaf of papers, and headed out of the city, beyond Broughton to the north or Ardwick to the east, to where the scenes were rustic and unspoiled, to where the carriages did not come.
There was no grace in carriages, or in any of the works of men, John was sure. To him all buildings were blocky protuberances from the surface of the earth; Manchester was a vast blemish. He could not paint with a carriage in the scene; the thought of drawing a shop or factory would never have occurred to him. Instead he had always painted the gentle, wild scenes by the River Medlock, upstream of Manchester where the water was drinkable and fish had strength to leap.
But now he had painted everything within a day's going and coming of Manchester. Even if he had not, he had no will to paint anything near this city, even if he saw something new. Tied to the shop by his need for money, where the work dulled him and slowed his mind and heart, he could not paint his best. True, the painters in London were forced to paint portraits, dull visions of dull people, in order to finance themselves in style. But at least they painted for their bread and were received as artists in society, not forced to bear the crude manners of factory men, not forced to smile and deferently give them what they wanted for their coins, their precious and grudgingly given pennies and shillings. A real painter never had fingers so stiff from gripping a broom that he could not hold a brush.
So today John left work early, but did not go to the countryside. Instead he headed home.
Home was surely not where he had intended to go. He had meant to go east, keep walking until he reached London, where a discriminating audience would soon recognize his talent. But, as always, his feet would
Busy people passed him, hurrying, shoving sometimes, jostling and scrambling for place in the dirty streets. John refused to let his heart beat as quickly as theirs. His footsteps were slower. More relaxed. He could hear the silent criticisms as the busy men went by. Idler. Slacker. If you have no hurry, don't take place on the road. But I am not on the road, John answered. I am walking in the meadow God meant this place to be. You have hidden it in stone, but still my feet can feel the grass, my ears can hear the bees dozing on the dandelions.
Home was one apartment in a long building that stretched the length of a block of Bedford Street. It was a nice enough place, their cottage, but definitely middle class. Definitely middle-bordering-on-lower class. Not the home of a gentleman. I was meant to be a gentleman, John Kirkham thought bitterly. If the universe were properly run I would manage a great estate and paint in the garden in the afternoon. God is perfect when it comes to nature, but he's far too whimsical with the lives of men. Bees don't dig badger holes, yet I take small money and wait on barbarians. I have been mislaid in a world of brick. If my father had had the good sense to be as impotent as he was stupid, I might have had my soul placed in a different family, with the right advantages. The stone walls of the great houses in the countryside. Some men should not have had children.
"Dinah. Your cheek is dirty. Your mother ought to wash you more."
His ten-year-old daughter looked up at him with her inscrutable face. She neither smiled nor frowned nor anything at all. Like a cat, her eyes just stared into his face, as if she knew what lay behind his eyes. He felt a rush of guilt, knowing that he had decided to leave. Damn this girl for her silence, for her seeing eyes.
"Enough of that," he said to her. "What's for supper?"
"Isn't ready yet."
"Of course it isn't, girl; I'm home early, do you think I don't know that?" He was ashamed to be annoyed, yet could not curb either the annoyance or the shame. "Why aren't you in school?"
She said nothing, only looked at him. Of course he remembered why. The girls were sent home earlier than the boys. But she could make a civil answer, couldn't she? He wanted to shake her. Answer me, damn you. What are you thinking? Speak, child, or I'll know the devil's in you. But he knew from experience that nothing would get words from this child unless she felt the need to speak. Her school uniform was frayed, faded, and too small. Not my fault. It was my father who gambled it all away. It's not my fault for my father's sins.
He brushed past his lithe daughter and entered the cottage. Onions were strong in the air. That meant no meat tonight, so there were onions to give some flavor to the potatoes. The endless potatoes, poor man's food. Filthy Papist Irishman's food. John resented the potatoes without letting himself draw a connection between the low wages he brought home and the hours he spent away from the shop to play with a paintbrush that earned no money.
"Anna," he said. Anna was surprised to see him home. Well, be surprised if you like, Anna. Life is rude shocks, Anna, and the rudest of all is the shock of learning where you must live your life, and that you may never leave that place. But I will leave.
"Are you ill, to be home early?"
He shook his head. "Only tired."
He ignored the frown on Anna's forehead. Only tired. His own words were an accusation: she was also tired, but where could she go to escape from her work?
Charlie came down the stairs, a book under his arm. He was small for seven years old, but bright and eager. Was I bright and eager at seven? John did not think so. He had been a moody child, had grown to be a melancholy man. Brightness was Anna's manner, and Charlie was Anna's boy. "Papa, are you ill?"
Again no. "I just couldn't bear the shop any longer, and old Martin couldn't bear me, and so we agreed to part company." He saw Anna's eyes go wide with fear. "Only for the afternoon, Anna. I haven't lost my place." He spoke snidely, angrily; how dare she care about his place when she didn't give a damn about his soul. Fine with you if your husband never achieves what he was born to do, just so he brings home money. Never mind how the earning of it ruins him.
She clattered the spoons on the table; she was angry that he had spoken so sharply to her. It was unfair, and he was sorry. "You should have been the man, Anna," he said mildly. "You'd be rich by now."
"And you'd look fine in a fancy gown, John," she said, smiling at him. Again he felt contempt for her, for being so changeable of mood. When he was sad, he stayed quite glum all day; another sign of the weakness of women, that they could not hold a humour.
Charlie came to his mother and began reciting. The sound of it throbbed in John's head; he would have left, but his languor sank him deep into the chair and he could not move.
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man.
Wretched boy. Miserable boy. Your mother's son to the core. Read read read. Recite it once, recite it twice until all the family can say the words along with you. And the boy's worst habit was to get well into a piece he had done a hundred times and then stop, leaving the last few lines to hammer endlessly through his father's head.
"Born but to die, and reasoning but to err."
What sort of miserable stuff is Anna teaching to the boy? Born but to die. Sounds downright Papist. Anna will have the children read, will have them go to school, whatever it costs, however it means that he must do his endless, meaningless toil and be content eating potatoes and onions, so the children can have their books. It's not as if the boy understood any of what he spouted. Ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM.
Created half to rise and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world.
Just as John was about to cry aloud, about to run from the house begging for silence, for respite from the boy's rote wisdom, just then came Dinah's gentle hand on his forehead, stroking, calming. He did not open his eyes and look at her; did not speak to her, because she would not answer. He just slumped in his chair and let her gentle hands minister to his inward pain. His younger son might be unbearable, but his daughter had a good heart and a knack for kindness. Of course I won't go. How could anyone imagine I would leave here? They love me, they depend on me, I know my duty and I will not go.
Then Charlie began on Gray's Elegy, and John got up and left the room. Damn the inglorious Miltons. Would God they all were mute.
From the window of his upstairs room John Kirkham watched the street. No flower sellers here, no one crying "strawberries, raspberries, fresh and sweet!" The venders were wise enough to know there was no money here. But once John had known their cries. Hadn't his father had a house in the country and a house in town? Hadn't all sorts of people come to visit them? The man who did the family portrait when John was only five -- the man with the paints, who made a mirror image of the family that did not disappear when you walked away from it -- ah, the miracle of it, and so I learned to paint. My father encouraged me: the rich should have some pleasant way to pass their time, he said. How are the mighty fallen. The old man died with three mortgages on the house and enough gambling debts to obliterate a much larger fortune. First the house had gone, then the country estate, then even the store they had bought, leaving only what he could earn in menial labor, all because his father loved the excitement of the gaming tables.
My father left me ruin. What will I leave my son?
My son. Only one son, of course, and there he was on the street below, walking home. Robert, thirteen years old now, and showing signs of growing tall; lanky, with hands already large and manly; only the effeminate books his mother forced him to carry to and from the school, only the books marred him. Oh, Robert, you are beautiful, you are my only hope, I will leave you more than debts and bitter memories.
He looked away from the window to the paintings on the walls. Wretched trash, all of them; only hours after he finished each one he had begun to notice the flaws, how the sheep were in the wrong place, how the shepherd was too much in the foreground, how the hills were not distant enough, how the trees looked like a drawing and not like the real thing. He had modeled them from nature, but his image wasn't true. I have no control, he said silently. I have no restraint. And he thought of the lovely woman by the brook. Her smile made him kiss her, her lips made him caress her, her breasts made him bear her to the meadow grass and take her, and all for the sake of his lack of self-restraint he now was trapped in this cottage with this woman and her reciting children and her achingly sweet body that was always eager for him, that never could be satisfied. You drain all my genius from me in your body at night, you thief, he accused her. And yet when she reached and touched him, he could not say no. Could never, never tell her no. She was much too strong for him. She went at loving as if she enjoyed it, which was certainly not proper and, he sometimes feared, not Christian.
It was deep in the night, and he lay awake in bed. He listened to her heavy breathing, slow in the dark beside him. He had tried, but nothing could satisfy her. He could hear the voice of God whispering, "John Kirkham, I put you on the earth to paint, and you did not paint. If you could have pulled away from that temptress the devil put in your path, you could have painted. It was your choice." And God cried out to a terrible angel standing in fire beside him. "Take the iron and put out his eyes!" The angel dipped the iron into the flames and came closer, closer.
by Orson Scott Card / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Poetry / Nonfiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes