Hide and Seek
by Ruth Hammond Barrus
"Lets hide in the stable. He won't find us there," whispered sever-year-old Retta to her four-year-old, vivacious, black-eyed sister, Viola. They dodged in the stable door and crept quietly toward the hay, staying close to the rough, inner wall.
Viola suddenly pulled on Retta's dress, and cried, "Wait, my dress is caught."
"Sh . . . . He'll hear us," cautioned Retta, impatiently. Retta hurriedly tried to free Viola's dress from the twisted nail. A vigorous jerk failed to free the dress; a second pull not only released the dress, but caused the wide board, on which the nail was fastened, to swing, windmill fashion, to one side. The resultant squeak of boards caused Retta to cry even more impatiently, "He'll hear us for sure now."
Viola appeared not to have heard this last remark.
"Look," she said, her eyes wide with wonder, and her finger pointing. "Look!!"
Retta dropped to her knees and looked. The swinging board revealed a large tunnel-like room in the adjoining straw stack. For a moment this unexpected view held them motionless, but Retta quickly seized the opportunity to say: "We'll hide in here! He'll never find us now!"
She quickly pushed her little sister through the opening, following immediately, and swung the board back into position. Suddenly they were in semi-darkness. The shafts of light emitted by the large cracks in the boards became diffused in the dust and haze of the tunnel.
"I'm scared," whimpered Viola; and she drew close to her older sister.
"Scared of your own straw stack? Don't be silly," retorted Retta; nevertheless she offered no resistance to the clinging hands of Viola. Clutching each other, they walked along the tunnel. As their eyes became accustomed to the darkness, they noticed that they were really in some sort of room, and that large poles supported ceiling boards.
"See," said Retta, "there's even a barrel to sit on. Why, this is just like a playhouse." Neither of the girls seemed disposed to play just then, but sat breathlessly on the barrel, eyes glued to the shafts of light from the stable.
Outside, ten-year-old Johnnie was hunting everywhere for his two sisters. He carefully searched the prescribed radius that had been agreed upon for hiding, but finally gave up.
"Awlly, Awlly Otts in free," he called. There was no answer. Again and again he called; still no answer.
Getting worried, Johnnie called to his father, who was working by the house. "Pa, have you seen Retta and Viola? We have been playing hide-and-seek, and I can't find them anywhere. I told them they could come in free, but they still don't answer."
"They haven't come this way, son," replied father Hale. "Where did you last see them?"
"I thought I saw them go into the stable, but they're not there now," the excited Johnnie answered.
Father Hale frowned and muttered, more to himself than to Johnnie, "I wonder . . .?" He quickly walked toward the stable, his face serious. He hopefully looked around the stable; then, disappointed, he walked toward the wide board. Reluctantly he swung it open.
Retta and Viola by this time were pressed tightly against the rough stable board and when it swung free, they rolled onto the stable floor.
The unexpected concern and disapproval on the father's face added terror to their fright. Sternly the father told them to get up.
"You must never play in here again," he said, his voice shaking with emotion. "Promise me you will never tell anyone about this tunnel! Promise me you will never talk to strangers who come around this place! Promise me!"
Suddenly a very comfortable and loving world had become hostile and confused. The little girls, paralyzed with fear, consenting, nodded their heads.
By this time, mother Hale had joined the tense group. Quickly she ran to the pale children and threw her arms around them.
"Not that way, Alma; they don't understand," she said, reprovingly. At the mother's words, both children burst into tears.
Father Hale started as if recovering from a blow, and repentently smiled at his two unhappy daughters. "Of course you don't understand; forgive me," he softly said. "Go with your mother to the house, and we will talk about this later."
As the sobbing girls accompanied their mother to the house, they heard their father talking very seriously to Johnnie.
Mother Hale's strong arms gathered her little girls close to her, and comfortingly and cheerfully she explained:
"Now, all of us know the secret - - and a very special secret it is. We mustn't talk about it to anyone, and especially to any strangers. The government has decided that a man should have only one wife, not two like your father has - - me and Aunt Nellie.
"The government is sending out marshals to arrest men who have more than one wife," continued mother Hale.
"What's a marshal?" inquired Viola.
"Everybody knows what a marshal is," condescended Retta. "Why, it's like Johnston's Army!"
"Oh!" said Viola. She knew father had gone to fight Johnston"s Army; so it must be pretty bad.
"Pa fixed that tunnel in the straw stack so he could hide in it if the marshal came to arrest him, continued mother.
"What's arrest?" asked Viola.
"If your Pa got arrested," explained mother Hale, "he would be taken to a place in Salt Lake and would be locked in. Then he couldn't stay here with us to take care of us. That's why Pa's asked you to promise not to tell about the hiding place, and to promise not to talk to strangers. I know that you will do as he says."
"Is it bad to have two wives?" asked Retta.
"Of course it's not bad if the Lord commands it," explained mother Hale. The Lord gave a commandment to Joseph Smith that worthy men in the church should marry more than one wife, that they might bring a noble posterity to this new land."
"What's posterity?" Viola inquired.
Mother Hale smiled and hugged her inquisitor close to her, and replied, "You're posterity, little one, and your father has had twenty-one just as fine as you are!"
That night the two little girls were tucked in the crib by their parents' big bed. Viola, all questions answered satisfactorily, fell quickly to sleep. But Retta lay long into the night listening to her parents' low voices.
"Sarah, I don't like what happened today," Pa was saying. "I didn't mean to frighten the girls.
"We have received word from the church authorities that a Manifesto is going out soon, forbidding plural marriage, and stating we must live with only one wife.
"I have decided to buy that fine farm up north in Gentile Valley, and move Nellie and her family up there next year. She has six strong boys to help her, and can live well in that fertile country.
"And Sarah," he concluded, "I think the Lord wants me to move close to the new temple at Logan, that we may do work for our dead. I've got a lot to do to dispose of things here, but we better plan that way."
Aunt Nellie and her family moving - - even all of them moving from Grantsville - - the tunnel - marshals - arrest - gradually thoughts became exhausted; sleep finally brought comfort to Retta, and the problems awaited a brighter day.