A line of twenty wagons plodded across the prairie. The occupants of the penultimate wagon, upon which we shall now focus our attention, happened to be of the name of Franklin. Curtis Franklin himself was occupied in driving the team. His wife clutched one of his arms, holding a wee ugly thing called Jedidiah within the other.
And what of dear Hepzibah? What wholesome activity did she choose to occupy her time? Her tracts had graced the rocks and trees of the Missouri and Kansas prairies, to be picked up by the impious travellers that followed her on the great Oregon Trail, to be read with astonishment and sorrowful humility, to be the first blast of the trumpet against popery, and Eucharism, and High Church demi-popery, and heathendom, and paganism. It was dangerous, Hepzibah thought, this current vogue for preachers declaiming that there was some good in the religion of the heathens. Why, next they would be saying there was some good in popery!
But alas for Hepzibah, her tracts had yet to save a single soul. To be entirely fair, we must not blame the tracts themselves. Although they were, perhaps, unattractive to the average person who was in the habit of picking up trail-side tracts with their wrathful titles (i.e., "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"), lack of illustrations, and rather judgmental tone (i.e., "Have you sinned lately? OF course you have! You are a SINNER! And therefore, where do you think you are going? To HELL! Unless, of course, you are one of the chosen elect, predestined to be saved by grace alone. But you're not. Because you're a sinning sinner. So you'd better convert to Christianity now. It is wrong to make more work for Jesus on the Judgment Day.")
Not, perhaps, the light, pleasant sort of escapist reading one wants on an arduous journey on the demanding Oregon Trail.
But no, the inefficacy of her tracts can be wholly attributed to the actions of the solemn and solitary young man who occupied the wagon behind them. For he was gathering up all the tracts she had so lovingly left behind and using them as kindling.
To be continued...