Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part 3 out of 4
"There are some things it is not best for a man to be certain about," said
Nancy, with a wise smile and a last goodnight.
Ring out, sweet bells,
O'er woods and dells
Your lovely strains repeat,
While happy throngs
With joyous songs
Each accent gladly greet.
Christmas morning in the old Tory Hill Meeting-House was felt by all of the
persons who were present in that particular year to be a most exciting and
The old sexton quite outdid himself, for although he had rung the bell for
more than thirty years, he had never felt greater pride or joy in his task.
Was not his son John home for Christmas, and John's wife, and a grand-child
newly named Nathaniel for himself? Were there not spareribs and turkeys and
cranberries and mince pies on the pantry shelves, and barrels of rosy Baldwins
in the cellar and bottles of mother's root beer just waiting to give a holiday
pop? The bell itself forgot its age and the suspicion of a crack that dulled
its voice on a damp day, and, inspired by the bright, frosty air, the sexton's
inspiring pull, and the Christmas spirit, gave out nothing but joyous tones.
_Ding-dong_! _Ding-dong_! It fired the ambitions of star scholars about to
recite hymns and sing solos. It thrilled little girls expecting dolls before
night. It excited beyond bearing dozens of little boys being buttoned into
refractory overcoats. _Ding-dong_! _Ding-dong_! Mothers' fingers trembled when
they heard it, and mothers' voices cried: "If that is the second bell, the
children will never be ready in time! Where are the overshoes? Where are the
mittens? Hurry, Jack! Hurry, Jennie!" _Ding-dong_! _Ding-dong_! Where's
Sally's muff? Where's father's fur cap? Is the sleigh at the door? Are the hot
soapstones in? Have all of you your money for the contribution box?"
_Ding-dong_! _Ding-dong_! It was a blithe bell, a sweet, true bell, a holy
bell, and to Justin pacing his tavern room, as to Nancy trembling in her
maiden chamber, it rang a Christmas message: --
Awake, glad heart! Arise and sing;
It is the birthday of thy King!
The congregation filled every seat in the old meeting-house. As Maria Sharp
had prophesied, there was one ill-natured spinster from a rival village who
declared that the church floor looked like Joseph's coat laid out smooth; but
in the general chorus of admiration, approval, and goodwill, this envious
speech, though repeated from mouth to mouth, left no sting.
Another item of interest long recalled was the fact that on that august and
unapproachable day the pulpit vases stood erect and empty, though Nancy
Wentworth had filled them every Sunday since any one could remember. This
instance, though felt at the time to be of mysterious significance if the
cause were ever revealed, paled into nothingness when, after the ringing of
the last bell, Nancy Wentworth walked up the aisle on Justin Peabody's arm,
and they took their seats side by side in the old family pew.
("And consid'able close, too, though there was plenty o' room!")
("And no one that I ever heard of so much as suspicioned that they had ever
("And do you s'pose she knew Justin was expected back when she scrubbed his
pew a-Friday? ")
("And this explains the empty pulpit vases! ")
("And I always said that Nancy would make a real handsome couple if she ever
got anybody to couple with!")
During the unexpected and solemn procession of the two up the aisle the
soprano of the village choir stopped short in the middle of the Doxology, and
the three other voices carried it to the end without any treble. Also, among
those present there were some who could not remember afterward the precise
petitions wafted upward in the opening prayer.
And could it be explained otherwise than by cheerfully acknowledging the
bounty of an overruling Providence that Nancy Wentworth should have had a new
winter dress for the first time in five years--a winter dress of dark brown
cloth to match her beaver muff and victorine? The existence of this toilette
had been known and discussed in Edgewood for a month past, and it was thought
to be nothing more than a proper token of respect from a member of the carpet
committee to the general magnificence of the church on the occasion of its
reopening after repairs. Indeed, you could have identified every member of the
Dorcas Society that Sunday morning by the freshness of her apparel. The brown
dress, then, was generally expected; but why the white cashmere waist with
collar and cuffs of point lace, devised only and suitable only for the
minister's wedding, where it first saw the light?
"The white waist can only be explained as showing distinct hope!" whispered
the minister's wife during the reading of the church notices.
"To me it shows more than hope; I am very sure that Nancy would never take any
wear out of that lace for hope; it means certainty!" answered Maria, who was
always strong in the prophetic line.
Justin's identity had dawned upon most of the congregation by sermon time. A
stranger to all but one or two at first, his presence in the Peabody pew
brought his face and figure back, little by little, to the minds of the old
When the contribution plate was passed, the sexton always began at the
right-wing pews, as all the sextons before him had done for a hundred years.
Every eye in the church was already turned upon Justin and Nancy, and it was
with almost a gasp that those in the vicinity saw a ten-dollar bill fall in
the plate. The sexton reeled, or, if that is too intemperate a word for a
pillar of the church, the good man tottered, but caught hold of the pew rail
with one hand, and, putting the thumb of his other over the bill, proceeded
quickly to the next pew, lest the stranger should think better of his gift, or
demand change, as had occasionally been done in the olden time.
Nancy never fluttered an eyelash, but sat quietly by Justin's side with her
bosom rising and falling under the beaver fur and her cold hands clasped tight
in the little brown muff. Far from grudging this appreciable part of their
slender resources, she thrilled with pride to see Justin's offering fall in
Justin was too absorbed in his own thoughts to notice anything, but his
munificent contribution had a most unexpected effect upon his reputation,
after all; for on that day, and on many another later one, when his sudden
marriage and departure with Nancy Wentworth were under discussion, the
neighbors said to one another:-- "Justin must be making money fast out West!
He put ten dollars in the contribution plate a-Sunday, and paid the minister
ten more next day for marryin' him to Nancy; so the Peabody luck has turned at
last!"--which as a matter of fact, it had.
"And all the time," said the chairman of the carpet committee to the treasurer
of the Dorcas Society--"all the time, little as she realized it, Nancy was
laying the carpet in her own pew. Now she's married to Justin, she'll be the
makin' of him, or I miss my guess. You can't do a thing with men-folks without
they're right alongside where you can keep your eye and hand on 'em. Justin's
handsome and good and stiddy; all he needs is some nice woman to put starch
into him. The Edgewood Peabodys never had a mite o' stiffenin' in 'em,--limp
as dishrags, every blessed one! Nancy Wentworth fairly rustles with starch.
Justin had n't been engaged to her but a few hours when they walked up the
aisle together, but did you notice the way he carried his head? I declare I
thought 't would fall off behind! I should n't wonder a mite but they
prospered and come back every summer to set in the Old Peabody Pew."
SUSANNA AND SUE
Mother Ann's Children
It was the end of May, when "spring goeth all in white." The apple trees were
scattering their delicate petals on the ground, dropping them over the stone
walls to the roadsides, where in the moist places of the shadows they fell on
beds of snowy innocence. Here and there a single tree was tinged with pink,
but so faintly, it was as if the white were blushing. Now and then a tiny
white butterfly danced in the sun and pearly clouds strayed across the sky in
Everywhere the grass was of ethereal greenness, a greenness drenched with the
pale yellow of spring sunshine. Looking from earth to sky and from blossom to
blossom, the little world of the apple orchards, shedding its falling petals
like fair-weather snow, seemed made of alabaster and porcelain, ivory and
mother-of-pearl, all shimmering on a background of tender green.
After you pass Albion village, with its streets shaded by elms and maples and
its outskirts embowered in blossoming orchards, you wind along a hilly country
road that runs between grassy fields. Here the whiteweed is already budding,
and there are pleasant pastures dotted with rocks and fringed with spruce and
fir; stretches of woodland, too, where the road is lined with giant pines and
you lift your face gratefully to catch the cool balsam breath of the forest.
Coming from out this splendid shade, this silence too deep to be disturbed by
light breezes or vagrant winds, you find yourself on the brow of a descending
hill. The first thing that strikes the eye is a lake that might be a great
blue sapphire dropped into the verdant hollow where it lies. When the eye
reluctantly leaves the lake on the left, it turns to rest upon the little
Shaker Settlement on the right--a dozen or so large comfortable white barns,
sheds, and houses, standing in the wide orderly spaces of their own spreading
acres of farm and timber land. There again the spring goeth all in white, for
there is no spot to fleck the dazzling quality of Shaker paint, and their
apple, plum, and pear trees are so well cared for that the snowy blossoms are
fairly hiding the branches.
The place is very still, although there are signs of labor in all directions.
From a window of the girls' building a quaint little gray-clad figure is
beating a braided rug; a boy in homespun, with his hair slightly long in the
back and cut in a straight line across the forehead, is carrying milk-cans
from the dairy to one of the Sisters' Houses. Men in broad-brimmed hats, with
clean-shaven, ascetic faces, are ploughing or harrowing here and there in the
fields, while a group of Sisters is busy setting out plants and vines in some
beds near a cluster of noble trees. That cluster of trees, did the eye of the
stranger realize it, was the very starting-point of this Shaker Community, for
in the year 1785, the valiant Father James Whittaker, one of Mother Ann Lee's
earliest English converts, stopped near the village of Albion on his first
visit to Maine. As he and his Elders alighted from their horses, they stuck
into the ground the willow withes they had used as whips, and now, a hundred
years later, the trees that had grown from these slender branches were nearly
three feet in diameter.
From whatever angle you look upon the Settlement, the first and strongest
impression is of quiet order, harmony, and a kind of austere plenty. Nowhere
is the purity of the spring so apparent. Nothing is out of place; nowhere is
any confusion, or appearance of loose ends, or neglected tasks. As you come
nearer, you feel the more surely that here there has never been undue haste
nor waste; no shirking, no putting off till the morrow what should have been
done today. Whenever a shingle or a clapboard was needed it was put on, where
paint was required it was used,--that is evident; and a look at the great
barns stored with hay shows how the fields have been conscientiously educated
into giving a full crop.
To such a spot as this might any tired or sinful heart come for rest; hoping
somehow, in the midst of such frugality and thrift, such self-denying labor,
such temperate use of God's good gifts, such shining cleanliness of outward
things, to regain and wear "the white flower of a blameless life." The very
air of the place breathed peace, so thought Susanna Hathaway; and little Sue,
who skipped by her side, thought nothing at all save that she was with mother
in the country; that it had been rather a sad journey, with mother so quiet
and pale, and that she would be very glad to see supper, should it rise like a
fairy banquet in the midst of these strange surroundings.
It was only a mile and a half from the railway station to the Shaker
Settlement, and Susanna knew the road well, for she had driven over it more
than once as child and girl. A boy would bring the little trunk that contained
their simple necessities later on in the evening, so she and Sue would knock
at the door of the house where visitors were admitted, and be undisturbed by
any gossiping company while they were pleading their case.
"Are we most there, Mardie?" asked Sue for the twentieth time. "Look at me!
I'm being a butterfly, or perhaps a white pigeon. No, I'd rather be a
butterfly, and then I can skim along faster and move my wings!"
The airy little figure, all lightness and brightness, danced along the road,
the white cotton dress rising and falling, the white-stockinged legs much in
evidence, the arms outstretched as if in flight, straw hat falling off yellow
hair, and a little wisp of swansdown scarf floating out behind like the
drapery of a baby Mercury.
"We are almost there," her mother answered. "You can see the buildings now, if
you will stop being a butterfly. Don't you like them?"
"Yes, I 'specially like them all so white. Is it a town, Mardie?"
"It is a village, but not quite like other villages. I have told you often
about the Shaker Settlement, where your grandmother brought me once when I was
just your age. There was a thunder-storm; they kept us all night, and were so
kind that I never forgot them. Then your grandmother and I stopped off once
when we were going to Boston. I was ten then, and I remember more about it.
The same sweet Eldress was there both times."
"What is an El-der-ess, Mardie?"
"A kind of everybody's mother, she seemed to be," Susanna responded, with a
catch in her breath.
"I'd 'specially like her; will she be there now, Mardie?"
"I'm hoping so, but it is eighteen years ago. I was ten and she was about
forty, I should think."
"Then o' course she'll be dead," said Sue, cheerfully, "or either she'll have
no teeth or hair."
"People don't always die before they are sixty, Sue."
"Do they die when they want to, or when they must?"
"Always when they must; never, never when they want to," answered Sue's
"But o' course they would n't ever want to if they had any little girls to be
togedder with, like you and me, Mardie?" And Sue looked up with eyes that were
always like two interrogation points, eager by turns and by turns wistful, but
"No," Susanna replied brokenly, "of course they would n't, unless sometimes
they were wicked for a minute or two and forgot."
"Do the Shakers shake all the time, Mardie, or just once in a while? And shall
I see them do it?"
"Sue, dear, I can't explain everything in the world to you while you are so
little; you really must wait until you're more grown up. The Shakers don't
shake and the Quakers don't quake, and when you're older, I'll try to make you
understand why they were called so and why they kept the name."
"Maybe the El-der-ess can make me understand right off now; I'd 'specially
like it." And Sue ran breathlessly along to the gate where the North Family
House stood in its stately, white-and-green austerity.
Susanna followed, and as she caught up with the impetuous Sue, the front door
of the house opened and a figure appeared on the threshold. Mother and child
quickened their pace and went up the steps, Susanna with a hopeless burden of
fear and embarrassment clogging her tongue and dragging at her feet; Sue so
expectant of new disclosures and fresh experiences that her face beamed like a
Eldress Abby (for it was Eldress Abby) had indeed survived the heavy weight of
her fifty-five or sixty summers, and looked as if she might reach a yet
greater age. She wore the simple Shaker afternoon dress of drab alpaca; an
irreproachable muslin surplice encircled her straight, spare shoulders, while
her hair was almost entirely concealed by the stiffly wired, transparent
white-net cap that served as a frame to the tranquil face. The face itself was
a network of delicate, fine wrinkles; but every wrinkle must have been as
lovely in God's sight as it was in poor unhappy Susanna Hathaway's. Some of
them were graven by self-denial and hard work; others perhaps meant the giving
up of home, of parents and brothers or sisters; perhaps some worldly love, the
love that Father Adam bequeathed to the human family, had been slain in Abby's
youth, and the scars still remained to show the body's suffering and the
spirit's triumph. At all events, whatever foes had menaced her purity or her
tranquillity had been conquered, and she exhaled serenity as the rose sheds
"Do you remember the little Nelson girl and her mother that stayed here all
night, years ago?" asked Susanna, putting out her hand timidly.
"Why, seems to me I do," assented Eldress Abby, genially. "So many comes and
goes it's hard to remember all. Did n't you come once in a thunder-storm?"
"Yes, one of your barns was struck by lightning and we sat up all night."
"Yee, yee.(1) I remember well! Your mother was a beautiful spirit. I could n't
(1)"Yea" is always thus pronounced by the Shakers.
"And we came once again, mother and I, and spent the afternoon with you, and
went strawberrying in the pasture."
"Yee, yee, so we did; I hope your mother continues in health."
"She died the very next year," Susanna answered in a trembling voice, for the
time of explanation was near at hand and her heart failed her.
"Won't you come into the sittingroom and rest a while? You must be tired
walking from the deepot."
"No, thank you, not just yet. I'll step into the front entry a minute.--Sue,
run and sit in that rocking-chair on the porch and watch the cows going into
the big barn.--Do you remember, Eldress Abby, the second time I came, how you
sat me down in the kitchen with a bowl of wild strawberries to hull for
supper? They were very small and ripe; I did my best, for I never meant to be
careless, but the bowl slipped and fell, my legs were too short to reach the
floor, and I could n't make a lap, so in trying to pick up the berries I
spilled juice on nay dress, and on the white apron you had tied on for me.
Then my fingers were stained and wet and the hulls kept falling in with the
soft berries, and when you came in and saw me you held up your hands and said,
'Dear, dear! you _have_ made a mess of your work!' Oh, Eldress Abby, they've
come back to me all day, those words. I've tried hard to be good, but somehow
I've made just such a mess of my life as I made of hulling the berries. The
bowl is broken, I have n't much fruit to show, and I am all stained and
draggled. I should n't have come to Albion on the five o'clock train--that was
an accident; I meant to come at noon, when you could turn me away if you
"Nay, that is not the Shaker habit," remonstrated Abby. "You and the child can
sleep in one of the spare chambers at the Office Building and be welcome."
"But I want much more than that," said Susanna, tearfully. "I want to come and
live here, where there is no marrying nor giving in marriage. I am so tired
with my disappointments and discouragements and failures that it is no use to
try any longer. I am Mrs. Hathaway, and Sue is my child, but I have left my
husband for good and all, and I only want to spend the rest of my days here in
peace and bring up Sue to a more tranquil life than I have ever had. I have a
little money, so that I shall not be a burden to you, and I will work from
morning to night at any task you set me."
"I will talk to the Family," said Eldress Abby gravely; "but there are a good
many things to settle before we can say yee to all you ask."
"Let me confess everything freely and fully," pleaded Susanna, "and if you
think I'm to blame, I will go away at once."
"Nay, this is no time for that. It is our duty to receive all and try all;
then if you should be gathered in, you would unburden your heart to God
through the Sister appointed to receive your confession."
"Will Sue have to sleep in the children's building away from me?"
"Nay, not now; you are company, not a Shaker, and anyway you could keep the
child with you till she is a little older; that's not forbidden at first,
though there comes a time when the ties of the flesh must be broken! All
you've got to do now's to be 'pure and peaceable, gentle, easy to be
entreated, and without hypocrisy.' That's about all there is to the Shaker
creed, and that's enough to keep us all busy."
Sue ran in from the porch excitedly and caught her mother's hand.
"The cows have all gone into the barn," she chattered; "and the Shaker
gentlemen are milking them, and not one of them is shaking the least bit, for
I 'specially noticed; and I looked in through the porch window, and there is
nice supper on a table--bread and butter and milk and dried apple sauce and
gingerbread and cottage cheese. Is it for us, Mardie?"
Susanna's lip was trembling and her face was pale. She lifted her swimming
eyes to the Sister's and asked, "Is it for us, Eldress Abby?"
"Yee, it's for you," she answered; "there's always a Shaker supper on the
table for all who want to leave the husks and share the feast. Come right in
and help yourselves. I will sit down with you."
Supper was over, and Susanna and Sue were lying in a little upper chamber
under the stars. It was the very one that Susanna had slept in as a child, or
that she had been put to bed in, for there was little sleep that night for any
one. She had leaned on the windowsill with her mother and watched the pillar
of flame and smoke ascend from the burning barn; and once in the early morning
she had stolen out of bed, and, kneeling by the open window, had watched the
two silent Shaker brothers who were guarding the smouldering ruins, fearful
lest the wind should rise and bear any spark to the roofs of the precious
buildings they had labored so hard to save.
The chamber was spotless and devoid of ornament. The paint was robin's egg
blue and of a satin gloss. The shining floor was of the same color, and neat
braided rugs covered exposed places near the bureau, washstand, and bed.
Various useful articles of Shaker manufacture interested Sue greatly: the
exquisite straw-work that covered the whisk-broom; the mending-basket,
pincushion, needle-book, spool- and watch-cases, hair-receivers, pin-trays,
might all have been put together by fairy fingers.
Sue's prayers had been fervent, but a trifle disjointed, covering all subjects
from Jack and Fardie, to Grandma in heaven and Aunt Louisa at the farm, with
special references to El-der-ess Abby and the Shaker cows, and petitions that
the next day be fair so that she could see them milked. Excitement at her
strange, unaccustomed surroundings had put the child's mind in a very whirl,
and she had astonished her mother with a very new and disturbing version of
the Lord's Prayer, ending: "God give us our debts and help us to forget our
debtors and theirs shall be the glory, Amen." Now she lay quietly on the wall
side of the clean, narrow bed, while her mother listened to hear the regular
breathing that would mean that she was off for the land of dreams. The child's
sleep would leave the mother free to slip out of bed and look at the stars;
free to pray and long and wonder and suffer and repent, not wholly, but in
part, for she was really at peace in all but the innermost citadel of her
conscience. She had left her husband, and for the moment, at all events, she
was fiercely glad; but she had left her boy, and Jack was only ten. Jack was
not the helpless, clinging sort; he was a little piece of his father, and his
favorite. Aunt Louisa would surely take him, and Jack would scarcely feel the
difference, for he had never shown any special affection for anybody. Still he
was her child, nobody could possibly get around that fact, and it was a
stumbling-block in the way of forgetfulness or ease of mind. Oh, but for that,
what unspeakable content she could feel in this quiet haven, this self-
respecting solitude! To have her thoughts, her emotions, her words, her self,
to herself once more, as she had had them before she was married at seventeen.
To go to sleep in peace, without listening for a step she had once heard with
gladness, but that now sometimes stumbled unsteadily on the stair; or to dream
as happy women dreamed, without being roused by the voice of the present John,
a voice so different from that of the past John that it made the heart ache to
listen to it.
Sue's voice broke the stillness: "How long are we going to stay here, Mardie?"
"I don't know, Sue; I think perhaps as long as they'll let us."
"Will Fardie come and see us?"
"I don't expect him."
"Who'll take care of Jack, Mardie?"
"Your Aunt Louisa."
"She'll scold him awfully, but he never cries; he just says, 'Pooh! what do I
care?' Oh, I forgot to pray for that very nicest Shaker gentleman that said
he'd let me help him feed the calves! Had n't I better get out of bed and do
it? I'd 'specially like to."
"Very well, Sue; and then go to sleep."
Safely in bed again, there was a long pause, and then the eager little voice
began, "Who'll take care of Fardie now?"
"He's a big man; he does n't need anybody."
"What if he's sick?"
"We must go back to him, I suppose."
" Tomorrow 's Sunday; what if he needs us tomorrow, Mardie?"
"I don't know, I don't know! Oh, Sue, Sue, don't ask your wretched mother any
more questions, for she cannot bear them tonight. Cuddle up close to her; love
her and forgive her and help her to know what's right."
A Son of Adam
When Susanna Nelson at seventeen married John Hathaway, she had the usual
cogent reasons for so doing, with some rather more unusual ones added thereto.
She was alone in the world, and her life with an uncle, her mother's only
relative, was an unhappy one. No assistance in the household tasks that she
had ever been able to render made her a welcome member of the family or kept
her from feeling a burden, and she belonged no more to the little circle at
seventeen than she did when she became a part of it at twelve. The hope of
being independent and earning her own living had sustained her through the
last year; but it was a very timid, self-distrustful, love-starved little
heart that John Hathaway stormed and carried by assault. Her girl's life in a
country school and her uncle's very rigid and orthodox home had been devoid of
emotion or experience; still, her mother had early sown seeds in her mind and
spirit that even in the most arid soil were certain to flower into beauty when
the time for flowering came; and intellectually Susanna was the clever
daughter of clever parents. She was very immature, because, after early
childhood, her environment had not been favorable to her development. At
seventeen she began to dream of a future as bright as the past had been dreary
and uneventful. Visions of happiness, of goodness, and of service haunted her,
and sometimes, gleaming through the mists of dawning womanhood, the figure,
all luminous, of The Man!
When John Hathaway appeared on the horizon, she promptly clothed him in all
the beautiful garments of her dreams; they were a grotesque misfit, but when
we intimate that women have confused the dream and the reality before, and may
even do so again, we make the only possible excuse for poor little Susanna
John Hathaway was the very image of the outer world that lay beyond Susanna's
village. He was a fairly prosperous, genial, handsome young merchant, who
looked upon life as a place furnished by Providence in which to have "a good
time." His parents had frequently told him that it was expedient for him to
"settle down," and he supposed that he might finally do so, if he should ever
find a girl who would tempt him to relinquish his liberty. (The line that
divides liberty and license was a little vague to John Hathaway!) It is
curious that he should not have chosen for his life-partner some thoughtless,
rosy, romping young person, whose highest conception of connubial happiness
would have been to drive twenty miles to the seashore on a Sunday, and having
partaken of all the season's delicacies, solid and liquid, to come home
hilarious by moonlight. That, however, is not the way the little love-imps do
their work in the world; or is it possible that they are not imps at all who
provoke and stimulate and arrange these strange marriages not imps, but
honest, chastening little character-builders? In any event, the moment that
John Hathaway first beheld Susanna Nelson was the moment of his surrender; yet
the wooing was as incomprehensible as that of a fragile, dainty little
hummingbird by a pompous, greedy, big-breasted robin.
Susanna was like a New England anemone. Her face was oval in shape and as
smooth and pale as a pearl. Her hair was dark, not very heavy, and as soft as
a child's. Her lips were delicate and sensitive, her eyes a cool gray,--clear,
steady, and shaded by darker lashes. When John Hathaway met her shy, maidenly
glance and heard her pretty, dovelike voice, it is strange he did not see that
there was a bit too much saint in her to make her a willing comrade of his
gay, roistering life. But as a matter of fact, John Hathaway saw nothing at
all; nothing but that Susanna Nelson was a lovely girl and he wanted her for
his own. The type was one he had never met before, one that allured him by its
mysteries and piqued him by its shy aloofness.
John had "a way with him," a way that speedily won Susanna; and after all
there was a best to him as well as a worst. He had a twinkling eye, an
infectious laugh, a sweet disposition, and while he was over-susceptible to
the charm of a pretty face, he had a chivalrous admiration for all women,
coupled, it must be confessed, with a decided lack of discrimination in
values. His boyish lightheartedness had a charm for everybody, including
Susanna; a charm that lasted until she discovered that his heart was light not
only when it ought to be light, but when it ought to be heavy. He was very
much in love with her, but there was nothing particularly exclusive, unique,
individual, or interesting about his passion at that time. It was of the
everyday sort which carries a well-meaning man to the altar, and sometimes, in
cases of exceptional fervor and duration, even a little farther. Stock sizes
of this article are common and inexpensive, and John Hathaway's love when he
married Susanna was, judged by the highest standards, about as trivial an
affair as Cupid ever put upon the market or a man ever offered to a woman.
Susanna on the same day offered John, or the wooden idol she was worshiping as
John, her whole self--mind, body, heart, and spirit. So the couple were
united, and smilingly signed the marriage-register, a rite by which their love
for each other was supposed to be made eternal.
"Will you love me?" said he.
"Will you love me?" said she.
Then they answered together:
"Through foul and fair weather,
From sunrise to moonrise,
From moonrise to sunrise,
By heath and by harbour,
In orchard or arbour,
In the time of the rose,
In the time of the snows,
Through smoke and through smother
We'll love one another!"
Cinderella, when the lover-prince discovers her and fits the crystal slipper
to her foot, makes short work of flinging away her rags; and in some such
pretty, airy, unthinking way did Susanna fling aside the dullness,
inhospitality, and ugliness of her uncle's home and depart in a cloud of glory
on her wedding journey. She had been lonely, now she would have companionship.
She had been of no consequence, now she would be queen of her own small
domain. She had been last with everybody, now she would be first with one, at
least. She had worked hard and received neither compensation nor gratitude;
henceforward her service would be gladly rendered at an altar where votive
offerings would not be taken as a matter of course. She was only a slip of a
girl now; marriage and housewifely cares would make her a woman. Some time
perhaps the last great experience of life would come to her, and then what a
crown of joys would be hers,--love, husband, home, children! What a vision it
was, and how soon the chief glory of it faded!
Never were two beings more hopelessly unlike than John Hathaway single and
John Hathaway married, but the bliss lasted a few years, nevertheless: partly
because Susanna's charm was deep and penetrating, the sort to hold a false man
for a time and a true man forever; partly because she tried, as a girl or
woman has seldom tried before, to do her duty and to keep her own ideal
John had always been convivial, but Susanna at seventeen had been at once too
innocent and too ignorant to judge a man's tendencies truly, or to rate his
character at its real worth. As time went on, his earlier leanings grew more
definite; he spent on pleasure far more than he could afford, and his conduct
became a byword in the neighborhood. His boy he loved. He felt on a level with
Jack, could understand him, play with him, punish him, and make friends with
him; but little Sue was different. She always seemed to him the concentrated
essence of her mother's soul, and when unhappy days came, he never looked in
her radiant, searching eyes without a consciousness of inferiority. The little
creature had loved her jolly, handsome, careless father at first, even though
she feared him; but of late she had grown shy, silent, and timid, for his
indifference chilled her and she flung herself upon her mother's love with an
almost unchildlike intensity. This unhappy relation between the child and the
father gave Susanna's heart new pangs. She still loved her husband, not
dearly, but a good deal; and over and above that remnant of the old love which
still endured she gave him unstinted care and hopeful maternal tenderness.
The crash came in course of time. John transcended the bounds of his wife's
patience more and more. She made her last protests; then she took one
passionate day to make up her mind, a day when John and the boy were away
together; a day of complete revolt against everything she was facing in the
present, and, so far as she could see, everything that she had to face in the
future. Prayer for light left her in darkness, and she had no human creature
to advise her. Conscience was overthrown; she could see no duty save to her
own outraged personality. Often and often during the year just past she had
thought of the peace, the grateful solitude and shelter of that Shaker
Settlement hidden among New England orchards; that quiet haven where there was
neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Now her bruised heart longed for such
a life of nunlike simplicity and consecration, where men and women met only as
brothers and sisters, where they worked side by side with no thought of
personal passion or personal gain, but only for the common good of the
Albion village was less than three hours distant by train. She hastily
gathered her plainest clothes and Sue's, packed them in a small trunk, took
her mother's watch, her own little store of money and the twenty-dollar gold
piece John's senior partner had given Sue on her last birthday, wrote a letter
of goodbye to John, and went out of her cottage gate in a storm of feeling so
tumultuous that there was no room for reflection. Besides, she had reflected,
and reflected, for months and months, so she would have said, and the time had
come for action. Susanna was not unlettered, but she certainly had never read
Meredith or she would have learned that "love is an affair of two, and only
for two that can be as quick, as constant in intercommunication as are sun and
earth, through the cloud, or face to face. They take their breath of life from
each other in signs of affection, proofs of faithfulness, incentives to
admiration. But a solitary soul dragging a log must make the log a God to
rejoice in the burden." The demigod that poor, blind Susanna married had
vanished, and she could drag the log no longer, but she made one mistake in
judging her husband, in that she regarded him, at thirty-two, as a finished
product, a man who was finally this and that, and behaved thus and so, and
would never be any different.
The "age of discretion" is a movable feast of extraordinary uncertainty, and
John Hathaway was a little behindhand in overtaking it. As a matter of fact,
he had never for an instant looked life squarely in the face. He took a casual
glance at it now and then, after he was married, but it presented no very
distinguishable features, nothing to make him stop and think, nothing to
arouse in him any special sense of responsibility. Boys have a way of "growing
up," however, sooner or later, at least most of them have, and that
possibility was not sufficiently in the foreground of Susanna's mind when she
finished what she considered an exhaustive study of her husband's character.
I am leaving you, John [she wrote], to see if I can keep the little love I
have left for you as the father of my children. I seem to have lost all the
rest of it living with you. I am not perfectly sure that I am right in going,
for everybody seems to think that women, mothers especially, should bear
anything rather than desert the home. I could not take Jack away, for you love
him and he will be a comfort to you. A comfort to you, yes, but what will you
be to him now that he is growing older? That is the thought that troubles me,
yet I dare not take him with me when he is half yours. You will not miss me,
nor will the loss of Sue make any difference. Oh, John! how can you help
loving that blessed little creature, so much better and so much more gifted
than either of us that we can only wonder how we came to be her father and
mother? Your sin against her is greater than that against me, for at least you
are not responsible for bringing me into the world. I know Louisa will take
care of Jack, and she lives so near that you can see him as often as you wish.
I shall let her know my address, which I have asked her to keep to herself.
She will write to me if you or Jack should be seriously ill, but not for any
As for you, there is nothing more that I can say except to confess freely that
I was not the right wife for you and that mine was not the only mistake. I
have tried my very best to meet you in everything that was not absolutely
wrong, and I have used all the arguments I could think of, but it only made
matters worse. I thought I knew you, John, in the old days. How comes it that
we have traveled so far apart, we who began together? It seems to me that some
time you must come to your senses and take up your life seriously, for this is
not life, the sorry thing you have lived lately, but I cannot wait any longer!
I am tired, tired, tired of waiting and hoping, too tired to do anything but
drag myself away from the sight of your folly. You have wasted our children's
substance, indulged your appetites until you have lost the respect of your
best friends, and you have made me--who was your choice, your wife, the head
of your house, the woman who brought your children into the world--you have
made me an object of pity; a poor, neglected thing who could not meet her
neighbors' eyes without blushing.
When Jack and his father returned from their outing at eight o'clock in the
evening, having had supper at a wayside hotel, the boy went to bed
philosophically, lighting his lamp for himself, the conclusion being that the
two other members of the household were a little late, but would be in
The next morning was bright and fair. Jack waked at cockcrow, and after
calling to his mother and Sue, jumped out of bed, ran into their rooms to find
them empty, then bounced down the stairs two at a time, going through the
sitting-room on his way to find Ellen in the kitchen. His father was sitting
at the table with the still-lighted student lamp on it; the table where
lessons had been learned, books read, stories told, mending done, checkers and
dominoes played; the big, round walnut table that was the focus of the family
life--but mother's table, not father's.
John Hathaway had never left his chair nor taken off his hat. His cane leaned
against his knee, his gloves were in his left hand, while the right held
He was asleep, although his lips twitched and he stirred uneasily. His face
was haggard, and behind his closed lids, somewhere in the center of thought
and memory, a train of fiery words burned in an ever-widening circle, round
and round and round, ploughing, searing their way through some obscure part of
him that had heretofore been without feeling, but was now all quick and alive
You have made me--who was your choice, your wife, the head of your house, the
woman who brought your children into the world--you have made me an object of
pity; a poor, neglected thing who could not meet her neighbors' eyes without
Any one who wished to pierce John Hathaway's armor at that period of his life
would have had to use a very sharp and pointed arrow, for he was well wadded
with the belief that a man has a right to do what he likes. Susanna's shaft
was tipped with truth and dipped in the blood of her outraged heart. The
stored-up force of silent years went into the speeding of it. She had never
shot an arrow before, and her skill was instinctive rather than scientific,
but the powers were on her side and she aimed better than she knew--those who
took note of John Hathaway's behavior that summer would have testified
willingly to that. It was the summer in which his boyish irresponsibility
slipped away from him once and for all; a summer in which the face of life
ceased to be an indistinguishable mass of meaningless events and disclosed an
order, a reason, a purpose hitherto unseen and undefined. The boy "grew up,"
rather tardily it must be confessed. His soul had not added a cubit to its
stature in sunshine, gayety, and prosperity; it took the shock of grief, hurt
pride, solitude, and remorse to make a man of John Hathaway.
It was a radiant July morning in Albion village, and when Sue first beheld it
from the bedroom window at the Shaker Settlement, she had wished ardently that
it might never, never grow dark, and that Jack and Fardie might be having the
very same sunshine in Farnham. It was not noon yet, but experience had in some
way tempered the completeness of her joy, for the marks of tears were on her
pretty little face. She had neither been scolded nor punished, but she had
been dragged away from a delicious play without any adequate reason. She had
disappeared after breakfast, while Susanna was helping Sister Tabitha with the
beds and the dishes, but as she was the most docile of children, her mother
never thought of anxiety. At nine o'clock Eldress Abby took Susanna to the
laundry house, and there under a spreading maple were Sue and the two youngest
little Shakeresses, children of seven and eight respectively. Sue was
directing the plays: chattering, planning, ordering, and suggesting expedients
to her slower-minded and less experienced companions. They had dragged a large
box from one of the sheds and set it up under the tree. The interior had been
quickly converted into a commodious residence, one not in the least of a
Shaker type. Small bluing-boxes served for bedstead and dining-table, bits of
broken china for the dishes, while tiny flat stones were the seats, and four
clothes-pins, tastefully clad in handkerchiefs, surrounded the table.
"Do they kneel in prayer before they eat, as all Believers do?" asked Shaker
"I don't believe Adam and Eve was Believers, 'cause who would have taught them
to be?" replied Sue; "still we might let them pray, anyway, though clothespins
don't kneel nicely."
"I've got another one all dressed," said little Shaker Jane.
"We can't have any more; Adam and Eve did n't have only two children in my
Sunday-School lesson, Cain and Abel," objected Sue.
"Can't this one be a company?" pleaded Mary, anxious not to waste the
"But where could comp'ny come from?" queried Sue. "There was n't any more
people anywheres but just Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. Put the clothespin
in your apron-pocket, Jane, and bimeby we'll let Eve have a little new baby,
and I'll get Mardie to name it right out of the Bible. Now let's begin. Adam
is awfully tired this morning; he says, 'Eve, I've been workin' all night and
I can't eat my breakfuss.' Now, Mary, you be Cain, he's a little boy, and you
must say, 'Fardie, play a little with me, please!' and Fardie will say,
'Child'en should n't talk at the--'"
What subjects of conversation would have been aired at the Adamic family board
before breakfast was finished will never be known, for Eldress Abby, with a
firm but not unkind grasp, took Shaker Jane and Mary by their little hands and
said, "Morning's not the time for play; run over to Sister Martha and help her
shell the peas; then there'll be your seams to oversew."
Sue watched the disappearing children and saw the fabric of her dream fade
into thin air; but she was a person of considerable individuality for her
years. Her lip quivered, tears rushed to her eyes and flowed silently down her
cheeks, but without a glance at Eldress Abby or a word of comment she walked
slowly away from the laundry, her chin high.
"Sue meant all right, she was only playing the plays of the world," said
Eldress Abby, "but you can well understand, Susanna, that we can't let our
Shaker children play that way and get wrong ideas into their heads at the
beginning. We don't condenm an honest, orderly marriage as a worldly
institution, but we claim it has no place in Christ's kingdom; therefore we
leave it to the world, where it belongs. The world's people live on the lower
plane of Adam; the Shakers try to live on the Christ plane, in virgin purity,
longsuffering, meekness, and patience."
"I see, I know," Susanna answered slowly, with a little glance at injured Sue
walking toward the house, "but we need n't leave the children unhappy this
morning, for I can think of a play that will comfort them and please you. Come
back, Sue! Wait a minute, Mary and Jane, before you go to Sister Martha! We
will play the story that Sister Tabitha told us last week. Do you remember
about Mother Ann Lee in the English prison? The soapbox will be her cell, for
it was so small she could not lie down in it. Take some of the shingles, Jane,
and close up the open side of the box. Do you see the large brown spot in one
of them, Mary? Push that very hard with a clothespin and there 'll be a hole
through the shingle; that's right! Now, Sister Tabitha said that Mother Ann
was kept for days without food, for people thought she was a wicked, dangerous
woman, and they would have been willing to let her die of starvation. But
there was a great keyhole in the door, and James Whittaker, a boy of nineteen,
who loved Mother Ann and believed in her, put the stem of a clay pipe in the
hole and poured a mixture of wine and milk through it. He managed to do this
day after day, so that when the jailer opened the cell door, expecting to find
Mother Ann dying for lack of food, she walked out looking almost as strong and
well as when she entered. You can play it all out, and afterwards you can make
the ship that brought Mother Ann and the other Shakers from Liverpool to New
York. The clothes-pins can be who will they be, Jane?"
"William Lee, Nancy Lee, James Whittaker, and I forget the others," recited
Jane, like an obedient parrot.
"And it will be splendid to have James Whittaker, for he really came to
Albion," said Mary.
"Perhaps he stood on this very spot more than once," mused Abby. "It was
Mother Ann's vision that brought them to this land, a vision of a large tree
with outstretching branches, every leaf of which shone with the brightness of
a burning torch! Oh! if the vision would only come true! If Believers would
only come to us as many as the leaves on the tree," she sighed, as she and
Susanna moved away from the group of chattering children, all as eager to play
the history of Shakerism as they had been to dramatize the family life of Adam
"There must be so many men and women without ties, living useless lives, with
no aim or object in them," Susanna said, "I wonder that more of them do not
find their way here. The peace and goodness and helpfulness of the life sink
straight into my heart. The Brothers and Sisters are so friendly and cheery
with one another; there is neither gossip nor hard words; there is pleasant
work, and your thoughts seem to be all so concentrated upon right living that
it is like heaven below, only I feel that the cross is there, bravely as you
all bear it."
"There are roses on my cross most beautiful to see,
As I turn from all the dross from which it sets me free,"
quoted Eldress Abby, devoutly.
"It is easy enough for me," continued Susanna, "for it was no cross for me to
give up my husband at the time; but oh, if a woman had a considerate, loving
man to live with, one who would strengthen her and help her to be good, one
who would protect and cherish her, one who would be an example to his children
and bring them up in the fear of the Lord--that would be heaven below, too;
and how could she bear to give it all up when it seems so good, so true, so
right? Might n't two people walk together to God if both chose the same path?"
"It's my belief that one can find the road better alone than when somebody
else is going alongside to distract them. Not that the Lord is going to turn
anybody away, not even when they bring Him a lot of burned-out trash for a
gift," said Eldress Abby, bluntly. "But don't you believe He sees the
difference between a person that comes to Him when there is nowhere else to
turn--a person that's tried all and found it wanting--and one that gives up
freely pleasure, and gain, and husband, and home, to follow the Christ life?"
"Yes, He must, He must," Susanna answered faintly. "But the children, Eldress
Abby! If you had n't any, you could perhaps keep yourself from wanting them;
but if you had, how could you give them up? Jesus was the great Saviour of
mankind, but next to Him it seems as if the children had been the little
saviours, from the time the first one was born until this very day!"
"Yee, I've no doubt they keep the worst of the world's people, those that are
living in carnal marriage without a thought of godliness, I've no doubt
children keep that sort from going to the lowest perdition," allowed Eldress
Abby;" and those we bring up in the Community make the best converts; but to a
Shaker, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the glory. I wish you was
gathered in, Susanna, for your hands and feet are quick to serve, your face is
turned toward the truth, and your heart is all ready to receive the
"I wish I need n't turn my back on one set of duties to take up another,"
murmured Susanna, timidly.
"Yee; no doubt you do. Your business is to find out which are the higher
duties, and then do those. Just make up your mind whether you'd rather
replenish earth, as you've been doing, or replenish heaven, as we're trying to
do. But I must go to my work; ten o'clock in the morning's a poor time to be
discussing doctrine! You're for weeding, Susanna, I suppose?"
Brother Ansel was seated at a grindstone under the apple trees, teaching
(intermittently) a couple of boys to grind a scythe, when Susanna came to her
work in the herb-garden, Sue walking discreetly at her heels.
Ansel was a slow-moving, humorously-inclined, easygoing Brother, who was
drifting into the kingdom of heaven without any special effort on his part.
"I'd 'bout as lives be a Shaker as anything else," had been his rather dubious
statement of faith when he requested admittance into the band of Believers.
"No more crosses, accordin' to my notion, an' consid'able more chance o'
His experience of life "on the Adamic plane," the holy estate of matrimony,
being the chief sin of this way of thought, had disposed him to regard woman
as an apparently necessary, but not especially desirable, being. The theory of
holding property in common had no terrors for him. He was generous,
unambitious, frugal-minded, somewhat lacking in energy, and just as actively
interested in his brother's welfare as in his own, which is perhaps not saying
much. Shakerism was to him not a craving of the spirit, not a longing of the
soul, but a simple, prudent theory of existence, lessening the various risks
that man is exposed to in his journey through this vale of tears.
"Womenfolks makes splendid Shakers," he was wont to say. "They're all right as
Sisters, 'cause their belief makes 'em safe. It kind o' shears 'em o' their
strength; tames their sperits; takes the sting out of 'em an' keeps 'em from
bein' sassy an' domineerin'. Jest as long as they think marriage is right,
they'll marry ye spite of anything ye can do or say--four of 'em married my
father one after another, though he fit 'em off as hard as he knew how. But if
ye can once get the faith o' Mother Ann into 'em, they're as good afterwards
as they was wicked afore. There's no stoppin' women-folks once ye get 'em
started; they don't keer whether it's heaven or the other place, so long as
they get where they want to go!"
Elder Daniel Gray had heard Brother Ansel state his religious theories more
than once when he was first "gathered in," and secretly lamented the lack of
spirituality in the new convert. The Elder was an instrument more finely
attuned; sober, humble, pure-minded, zealous, consecrated to the truth as he
saw it, he labored in and out of season for the faith he held so dear; yet as
the years went on, he noted that Ansel, notwithstanding his eccentric views,
lived an honest, temperate, Godfearing life, talking no scandal, dwelling in
unity with his brethren and sisters, and upholding the banner of Shakerism in
his own peculiar way.
As Susanna approached him, Ansel called out, "The yairbs are all ready for ye,
Susanna; the weeds have been on the rampage sence yesterday's rain. Seems like
the more uselesser a thing is, the more it flourishes. The yairbs grow; oh,
yes, they make out to _grow_; but you don't see 'em come leapin' an' tearin'
out o' the airth like weeds. Then there's the birds! I've jest been stoppin'
my grindin' to look at 'em carry on. Take 'em all in all, there ain't nothin'
so lazy an' aimless an' busy'boutnothin' as birds. They go kitin' 'roun' from
tree to tree, hoppin' an' chirpin', flyin' here an' there 'thout no airthly
objeck 'ceptin' to fly back ag'in. There's a heap o' useless critters in the
univarse, but I guess birds are 'bout the uselessest, 'less it's grasshoppers,
"I don't care what you say about the grasshoppers, Ansel, but you shan't abuse
the birds," said Susanna, stooping over the beds of tansy and sage, thyme and
summer savory. "Weeds or no weeds, we're going to have a great crop of herbs
this year, Ansel!"
"Yee, so we be! We sowed more'n usual so's to keep the two jiners at work
long's we could.--Take that scythe over to the barn, Jacob, an' fetch me
another, an' step spry."
"What's a 'jiner,' Ansel?"
"Winter Shakers, I call 'em. They're reg'lar constitooshanal dyed-in-the-wool
jiners, jinin' most anything an' hookin' on most anywheres. They jine when it
comes on too cold to sleep outdoors, an' they onjine when it comes on spring.
Elder Gray's always hopin' to gather in new souls, so he gives the best of 'em
a few months' trial. How are ye, Hannah?" he called to a Sister passing
through the orchard to search for any possible green apples under the trees.
"Make us a good old-fashioned deep-dish pandowdy an' we'll all do our best to
"I suppose the 'jiners' get discouraged and fear they can't keep up to the
standard. Not everybody is good enough to lead a self-denying Shaker life,"
said Susanna, pushing back the close sunbonnet from her warm face, which had
grown younger, smoother, and sweeter in the last few weeks.
"Nay, I s'pose likely; 'less they're same as me, a born Shaker," Ansel
replied. "I don't hanker after strong drink; don't like tobaccer (always could
keep my temper 'thout smokin'), ain't partic'lar 'bout meat-eatin', don't keer
'bout heapin' up riches, can't 'stand the ways o' worldly women-folks, jest as
lives confess my sins to the Elder as not, 'cause I hain't sinned any to
amount to anything sence I made my first confession; there I be, a natural
follerer o' Mother Ann Lee."
Susanna drew her Shaker bonnet forward over her eyes and turned her back to
Brother Ansel under the pretense of reaching over to the rows of sweet
marjoram. She had never supposed it possible that she could laugh again, and
indeed she seldom felt like it, but Ansel's interpretations of Shaker doctrine
were almost too much for her latent sense of humor.
"What are you smiling at, and me so sad, Mardie?" quavered Sue, piteously,
from the little plot of easy weeding her mother had given her to do. "I keep
remembering my game! It was such a _Christian_ game, too. Lots nicer than
Mother Ann in prison; for Jane said her mother and father was both Believers,
and nobody was good enough to pour milk through the keyhole but her. I wanted
to give the clothes-pins story names, like Hilda and Percy, but I called them
Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel just because I thought the Shakers would
'specially like a Bible play. I love Elderess Abby, but she does stop my
happiness, Mardie. That's the second time today, for she took Moses away from
me when I was kissing him because he pinched his thumb in the window."
"Why did you do that, Sue?" remonstrated her mother softly, remembering
Ansel's proximity. "You never used to kiss strange little boys at home in
"Moses is n't a boy; he's only six, and that's a baby; besides, I like him
better than any little boys at home, and that's the reason I kissed him;
there's no harm in boy-kissing, is there, Mardie?"
"You don't know anybody here very well yet; not well enough to kiss them,"
Susanna answered, rather hopeless as to the best way of inculcating the
undesirability of the Adamic plane of thought at this early age. "While we
stay here, Sue, we ought both to be very careful to do exactly as the Shakers
By this time mother and child had reached the orchard end of a row, and
Brother Ansel was thirstily waiting to deliver a little more of the
information with which his mind was always teeming.
"Them Boston people that come over to our public meetin' last Sunday," he
began, "they was dretful scairt 'bout what would become o' the human race if
it should all turn Shakers. 'I guess you need n't worry,' I says; 'it'll take
consid'able of a spell to convert all you city folks,' I says, 'an' after all,
what if the world should come to an end?' I says. 'If half we hear is true
'bout the way folks carry on in New York and Chicago, it's 'bout time it
stopped,' I says, 'an' I guess the Lord could do a consid'able better job on a
second one,' I says, 'after findin' out the weak places in this.' They can't
stand givin' up their possessions, the world's folks; that's the principal
trouble with 'em! If you don't have nothin' to give up, like some o' the
tramps that happen along here and convince the Elder they're jest bustin' with
the fear o' God, why, o' course 't ain't no trick at all to be a Believer."
"Did you have much to give up, Brother Ansel?" Susanna asked. "'Bout's much as
any sinner ever had that jined this Community," replied Ansel, complacently.
"The list o' what I consecrated to this Society when I was gathered in was:
One horse, one wagon, one two-year-old heifer, one axe, one saddle, one
padlock, one bed and bedding, four turkeys, eleven hens, one pair o' plough-
irons, two chains, and eleven dollars in cash. Can you beat that?"
"Oh, yes, things/" said Susanna, absent-mindedly. "I was thinking of family
and friends, pleasures and memories and ambitions and hopes."
"I guess it don't pinch you any worse to give up a hope than it would a good
two-year-old heifer," retorted Ansel; "but there, you can't never tell what
folks'll hang on to the hardest! The man that drove them Boston folks over
here last Sunday, did you notice him? the one that had the sister with a
bright red dress an' hat on? --Land! I could think just how hell must look
whenever my eye lighted on that girl's gitup! --Well, I done my best to exhort
that driver, bein' as how we had a good chance to talk while we was hitchin'
an' unhitchin' the team; an' Elder Gray always says I ain't earnest enough in
preachin' the faith; --but he did n't learn anything from the meetin'. Kep'
his eye on the Shaker bunnits, an' took notice o' the marchin' an' dancin',
but he did n't care nothin' 'bout doctrine.
"'I draw the line at bein' a cerebrate,' he says. 'I'm willin' to sell all my
goods an' divide with the poor,' he says, 'but I ain't goin' to lie no
cerebrate. If I don't have no other luxuries, I will have a wife,' he says.
'I've hed three, an' if this one don't last me out, I'll get another, if it's
only to start the kitchen fire in the mornin' an' put the cat in the shed
Louisa, otherwise Mrs. Adlai Banks, the elder sister of Susanna s husband, was
a rock-ribbed widow of forty-five summers, --forty-five winters would seem a
better phrase in which to assert her age,-- who resided on a small farm twenty
miles from the manufacturing town of Farnham.
When the Fates were bestowing qualities of mind and heart upon the Hathaway
babies, they gave the more graceful, genial, likable ones to John, not
realizing, perhaps, what bad use he would make of them, --and endowed Louisa
with great deposits of honesty, sincerity, energy, piety, and frugality, all
so mysteriously compounded that they turned to granite in her hands. If she
had been consulted, it would have been all the same. She would never have
accepted John's charm of personality at the expense of being saddled with his
weaknesses, and he would not have taken her cast-iron virtues at any price
She was sweeping her porch on that day in May when Susanna and Sue had wakened
in the bare upper chamber at the Shaker Settlement--Sue clear-eyed, jubilant,
expectant, unafraid; Susanna pale from her fitful sleep, weary with the burden
of her heart.
Looking down the road, Mrs. Banks espied the form of her brother John walking
in her direction and leading Jack by the hand.
This was a most unusual sight, for John's calls had been uncommonly few of
late years, since a man rarely visits a lady relative for the mere purpose of
hearing "a piece of her mind." This piece, large, solid, highly flavored with
pepper, and as acid as mental vinegar could make it, was Louisa Banks's only
contribution to conversation when she met her brother. She could not stop for
any airy persiflage about weather, crops, or politics when her one desire was
to tell him what she thought of him.
"Good-morning, Louisa. Shake hands with your aunt, Jack."
"He can't till I'm through sweeping. Good-morning, John; what brings you
John sat down on the steps, and Jack flew to the barn, where there was
generally an amiable hired man and a cheerful cow, both infinitely better
company than his highly respected and wealthy aunt.
"I came because I had to bring the boy to the only relation I've got in the
world," John answered tersely. "My wife's left me."
"Well, she's been a great while doing it," remarked Louisa, digging her broom
into the cracks of the piazza floor and making no pause for reflection. "If
she had n't had the patience of Job and the meekness of Moses, she'd have gone
long before. Where'd she go?"
"I don't know; she did n't say."
"Did you take the trouble to look through the house for her? I ain't certain
you fairly know her by sight nowadays, do you?"
John flushed crimson, but bit his lip in an attempt to keep his temper. "She
left a letter," he said, "and she took Sue with her."
"That was all right; Sue's a nervous little thing and needs at least one
parent; she has n't been used to more, so she won't miss anything. Jack's like
most of the Hathaways; he'll grow up his own way, without anybody's help or
hindrance. What are you going to do with him?"
"Leave him with you, of course. What else could I do?" "Very well, I'll take
him, and while I'm about it I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
John was fighting for selfcontrol, but he was too wretched and remorseful for
rage to have any real sway over him.
"Is it the same old piece, or a different one?" he asked, setting his teeth
grimly. "I should n't think you'd have any mind left, you've given so many
pieces of it to me already."
"I have some left, and plenty, too," answered Louisa, dashing into the house,
banging the broom into a corner, coming out again like a breeze, and slamming
the door behind her. "You can leave the boy here and welcome; I'll take good
care of him, and if you don't send me twenty dollars a month for his food and
clothes, I'll turn him outdoors. The more responsibility other folks rid you
of, the more you'll let 'em, and I won't take a feather's weight off you for
fear you'll sink into everlasting perdition."
"I did n't expect any sympathy from you," said John, drearily, pulling himself
up from the steps and leaning against the honeysuckle trellis. "Susanna's just
the same. Women are all as hard as the nether millstone. They're hard if
they're angels, and hard if they're devils; it docs n't make much difference."
"I guess you've found a few soft ones, if report says true," returned Louisa,
bluntly. "You'd better go and get some of their sympathy, the kind you can buy
and pay for. The way you've ruined your life turns me fairly sick. You had a
good father and mother, good education and advantages, enough money to start
you in business, the best of wives, and two children any man could be proud
of, one of 'em especially. You've thrown 'em all away, and what for? Horses
and cards and gay company, late suppers, with wine, and for aught I know,
whiskey, you the son of a man who did n't know the taste of ginger beer!
You've spent your days and nights with a pack of carousing men and women that
would take your last cent and not leave you enough for honest burial."
"It's a pity we did n't make a traveling preacher of you!" exclaimed John,
bitterly. "Lord Almighty, I wonder how such women as you can live in the
world, you know so little about it, and so little about men."
"I know all I want to about 'em," retorted Louisa, "and precious little that's
good. They 're a gluttonous, self-indulgent, extravagant, reckless, pleasure-
loving lot! My husband was one of the best of 'em, and he would n't have
amounted to a hill of beans if I had n't devoted fifteen years to
disciplining, uplifting, and strengthening him!"
"You managed to strengthen him so that he died before he was fifty!"
"It don't matter when a man dies," said the remorseless Mrs. Banks, "if he's
succeeded in living a decent, Godfearing life. As for you, John Hathaway, I'll
tell you the truth if you are my brother, for Susanna's too much of a saint to
"Don't be afraid; Susanna's spoken out at last, plainly enough to please even
"I'm glad of it, for I did n't suppose she had spunk enough to resent
anything. I shall be sorry tomorrow, 's likely as not, for freeing my mind as
much as I have, but my temper's up and I'm going to be the humble instrument
of Providence and try to turn you from the error of your ways. You've defaced
and degraded the temple the Lord built for you, and if He should come this
minute and try to turn out the crowd of evildoers you've kept in it, I doubt
if He could!"
"I hope He'll approve of the way you've used your 'temple,'" said John, with
stinging emphasis. "I should n't want to live in such a noisy one myself; I'd
rather be a bat in a belfry. Goodbye; I've had a pleasant call, as usual, and
you've been a real sister to me in my trouble. You shall have the twenty
dollars a month. Jack's clothes are in that valise, and there'll be a trunk
tomorrow. Susanna said she'd write and let you know her whereabouts."
So saying, John Hathaway strode down the path, closed the gate behind him, and
walked rapidly along the road that led to the station. It was a quiet road and
he met few persons. He had neither dressed nor shaved since the day before;
his face was haggard, his heart was like a lump of lead in his breast. Of what
use to go to the empty house in Farnham when he could stifle his misery by a
night with his friends?
No, he could not do that, either! The very thought of them brought a sense of
satiety and disgust; the craving for what they would give him would come again
in time, no doubt, but for the moment he was sick to the very soul of all they
stood for. The feeling of complete helplessness, of desertion, of being alone
in mid-ocean without a sail or a star in sight, mounted and swept over him.
Susanna had been his sail, his star, although he had never fully realized it,
and he had cut himself adrift from her pure, steadfast love, blinding himself
with cheap and vulgar charms.
The next train to Farnham was not due for an hour. His steps faltered; he
turned into a clump of trees by the wayside and flung himself on the ground to
cry like a child, he who had not shed a tear since he was a boy of ten. If
Susanna could have seen that often longed-for burst of despair and remorse,
that sudden recognition of his sins against himself and her, that gush of
penitent tears, her heart might have softened once again; a flicker of flame
might have lighted the ashes of her dying love; she might have taken his head
on her shoulder, and said, "Never mind, John! Let's forget, and begin all over
Matters did not look any brighter for John the next week, for his senior
partner, Joel Atterbury, requested him to withdraw from the firm as soon as
matters could be legally arranged. He was told that he had not been doing, nor
earning, his share; that his way of living during the year just past had not
been any credit to "the concern," and that he, Atterbury, sympathized too
heartily with Mrs. John Hathaway to take any pleasure in doing business with
John's remnant of pride, completely humbled by this last withdrawal of
confidence, would not suffer him to tell Atterbury that he had come to his
senses and bidden farewell to the old life, or so he hoped and believed. To
lose a wife and child in a way infinitely worse than death; to hear the
unwelcome truth that as a husband you have grown so offensive as to be beyond
endurance; to have your own sister tell you that you richly deserve such
treatment; to be virtually dismissed from a valuable business connection, all
this is enough to sober any man above the grade of a moral idiot, and John was
not that; he was simply a self-indulgent, pleasure-loving, thoughtless,
willful fellow, without any great amount of principle. He took his medicine,
however, said nothing, and did his share of the business from day to day
doggedly, keeping away from his partner as much as possible.
Ellen, the faithful maid of all work, stayed on with him at the old home; Jack
wrote to him every week, and often came to spend Sunday with him.
"Aunt Louisa's real good to me," he told his father, "but she's not like
mother. Seems to me mother's kind of selfish staying away from us so long.
When do you expect her back?"
"I don't know; not before winter, I'm afraid; and don't call her selfish, I
won't have it! Your mother never knew she had a self."
"If she'd only left Sue behind, we could have had more good times, we three
"No, our family is four, Jack, and we can never have any good times, one, two,
or three of us, because we're four! When one's away, whichever it is, it's
wrong, but it's the worst when it's mother. Does your Aunt Louisa write to
"Yes, sometimes, but she never lets me post the letters."
"Do you write to your mother? You ought to, you know, even if you don't have
time for me. You could ask your aunt to enclose your letters in hers."
"Do you write to her, father?"
"Yes, I write twice a week," John answered, thinking drearily of the semi-
weekly notes posted in Susanna's empty worktable upstairs. Would she ever read
them? He doubted it, unless he died, and she came back to settle his affairs;
but of course he would n't die, no such good luck. Would a man die who
breakfasted at eight, dined at one, supped at six, and went to bed at ten?
Would a man die who worked in the garden an hour every afternoon, with half a
day Saturday; that being the task most disagreeable to him and most
appropriate therefore for penance?
Susanna loved flowers and had always wanted a garden, but John had been too
much occupied with his own concerns to give her the needed help or money so
that she could carry out her plans. The last year she had lost heart in many
ways, so that little or nothing had been accomplished of all she had dreamed.
It would have been laughable, had it not been pathetic, to see John Hathaway
dig, delve, grub, sow, water, weed, transplant, generally at the wrong moment,
in that dream-garden of Susanna's. He asked no advice and read no books. With
feverish intensity, with complete ignorance of Nature's laws and small
sympathy with their intricacies, he dug, hoed, raked, fertilized, and planted
during that lonely summer. His absentmindedness caused some expensive
failures, as when the wide expanse of Susanna's drying ground, which was to be
velvety lawn, "came up" curly lettuce; but he rooted out his frequent mistakes
and patiently planted seeds or roots or bulbs over and over and over and over,
until something sprouted in his beds, whether it was what he intended or not.
While he weeded the brilliant orange nasturtiums, growing beside the magenta
portulacca in a friendly proximity that certainly would never have existed had
the mistress of the house been the head-gardener, he thought of nothing but
his wife. He knew her pride, her reserve, her sensitive spirit; he knew her
love of truth and honor and purity, the standards of life and conduct she had
tried to hold him to so valiantly, and which he had so dragged in the dust
during the blindness and the insanity of the last two years.
He, John Hathaway, was a deserted husband; Susanna had crept away all wounded
and resentful. Where was she living and how supporting herself and Sue, when
she could not have had a hundred dollars in the world? Probably Louisa was the
source of income; conscientious, infernally disagreeable Louisa!
Would yet the rumor of his changed habit o[ life reach her by some means in
her place of hiding, sooner or later? Would she not yearn for a sight of Jack?
Would she not finally give him a chance to ask forgiveness, or had she lost
every trace of affection for him, as her letter seemed to imply? He walked the
garden paths, with these and other unanswerable questions, and when he went to
his lonely room at night, he held the lamp up to a bit of poetry that he had
cut from a magazine and pinned to the looking-glass. If John Hathaway could be
brought to the reading of poetry, he might even glance at the Bible in course
of time, Louisa would have said. It was in May that Susanna had gone, and the
first line of verse held his attention.
May comes, day comes,
One who was away comes;
All the earth is glad again,
Kind and fair to me.
May comes, day comes,
One who was away comes;
Set her place at hearth and board
As it used to be.
May comes, day comes,
One who was away comes;
Higher are the hills of home,
Bluer is the sea.
The Hathaway house was in the suburbs, on a rise of ground, and as John turned
to the window he saw the full moon hanging yellow in the sky. It shone on the
verdant slopes and low wooded hills that surrounded the town, and cast a
glittering pathway on the ocean that bathed the beaches of the nearby shore.
"How long shall I have to wait," he wondered, "before my hills of home look
higher, and my sea bluer, because Susanna has come back to 'hearth and
The Little Quail Bird
Susanna had helped at various household tasks ever since her arrival at the
Settlement, for there was no room for drones in the Shaker hive; but after a
few weeks in the kitchen with Martha, the herb-garden had been assigned to her
as her particular province, the Sisters thinking her better fitted for it than
for the preserving and pickling of fruit, or the basket-weaving that needed
The Shakers were the first people to raise, put up, and sell garden seeds in
our present-day fashion, and it was they, too, who began the preparation of
botanical medicines, raising, gathering, drying, and preparing herbs and roots
for market; and this industry, driven from the field by modern machinery, was
still a valuable source of income in Susanna's day. Plants had always grown
for Susanna, and she loved them like friends, humoring their weakness,
nourishing their strength, stimulating, coaxing, disciplining them, until they
could do no less than flourish under her kind and hopeful hand.
Oh, that sweet, honest, comforting little garden of herbs, with its wholesome
fragrances! Healing lay in every root and stem, in every leaf and bud, and the
strong aromatic odors stimulated her flagging spirit or her aching head, after
the sleepless nights in which she tried to decide her future life and Sue's.
The plants were set out in neat rows and clumps, and she soon learned to know
the strange ones--chamomile, lobelia, bloodroot, wormwood, lovage, boneset,
lemon and sweet balm, lavender and rue, as well as she knew the old
acquaintances familiar to every country-bred child--pennyroyal, peppermint or
spearmint, yellow dock, and thoroughwort.
There was hoeing and weeding before the gathering and drying came; then
Brother Calvin, who had charge of the great press, would moisten the dried
herbs and press them into quarter- and half-pound cakes ready for Sister
Martha, who would superintend the younger Shakeresses in papering and labeling
them for the market. Last of all, when harvesting was over, Brother Ansel
would mount the newly painted seed-cart and leave on his driving trip through
the country. Ansel was a capital salesman, but Brother Issachar, who once took
his place and sold almost nothing, brought home a lad on the seed-cart, who
afterward became a shining light in the Community. ( Thus, said Elder Gray,
does God teach us the diversity of gifts, whereby all may be unashamed.")
If the Albion Shakers were honest and ardent in faith, Susanna thought that
their "works" would indeed bear the strictest examination. The Brothers made
brooms, floor and dish-mops, tubs, pails, and churns, and indeed almost every
trade was represented in the various New England Communities. Physicians there
were, a few, but no lawyers, sheriffs, policemen, constables, or soldiers,
just as there were no courts or saloons or jails. Where there was perfect
equality of possession and no private source of gain, it amazed Susanna to see
the cheery labor, often continued late at night from the sheer joy of it, and
the earnest desire to make the Settlement prosperous. While the Brothers were
hammering, nailing, planing, sawing, ploughing, and seeding, the Sisters were
carding and spinning cotton, wool, and flax, making kerchiefs of linen, straw
Shaker bonnets, and dozens of other useful marketable things, not forgetting
their famous Shaker apple sauce.
Was there ever such a busy summer, Susanna wondered; yet with all the early
rising, constant labor, and simple fare, she was stronger and hardier than she
had been for years. The Shaker palate was never tickled with delicacies, yet
the food was well cooked and sufficiently varied. At first there had been the
winter vegetables: squash, yellow turnips, beets, and parsnips, with once a
week a special Shaker dinner of salt codfish, potatoes, onions, and milk
gravy. Each Sister served her turn as cook, but all alike had a wonderful hand
with flour, and the wholewheat bread, cookies, ginger cake, and milk puddings
were marvels of lightness. Martha, in particular, could wean the novitiate
Shaker from a too riotous devotion to meat-eating better than most people, for
every dish she sent to the table was delicate, savory, and attractive.
Dear, patient, devoted Martha! How Susanna learned to love her as they worked
together in the big sunny, shining kitchen, where the cooking-stove as well as
every tin plate and pan and spoon might have served as a mirror! Martha had
joined the Society in her mother's arms, being given up to the Lord and placed
in "the children's order" before she was one year old.
"If you should unite with us, Susanna," she said one night after the early
supper, when they were peeling apples together, "you'd be thankful you begun
early with your little Sue, for she's got a natural attraction to the world,
and for it. Not but that she's a tender, loving, obedient little soul; but
when she's among the other young ones, there's a flyaway look about her that
makes her seem more like a fairy than a child."
"She's having rather a hard time learning Shaker ways, but she'll do better in
time," sighed her mother. "She came to me of her own accord yesterday and
asked: 'Bettent I have my curls cut off, Mardie?'"
"I never put that idea into her head," Martha interrupted. "She's a visitor
and can wear her hair as she's been brought up to wear it."
"I know, but I fear Sue was moved by other than religious reasons. 'I get up
so early, Mardie,' she said, 'and it takes so long to unsnarl and untangle me,
and I get so hot when I'm helping in the hayfield, and then I have to be
curled for dinner, and curled again for supper, and so it seems like wasting
both our times!' Her hair would be all the stronger for cutting, I thought, as
it's so long for her age; but I could n't put the shears to it when the time
came, Martha. I had to take her to Eldress Abby. She sat up in front of the
little looking-glass as still as a mouse, while the curls came off, but when
the last one fell into Abby's apron, she suddenly put her hands over her face
and cried: 'Oh, Mardie, we shall never be the same togedder, you and I, after
this!' --She seemed to see her 'little past,' her childhood, slipping away
from her, all in an instant. I did n't let her know that I cried over the box
of curls last night!"
"You did wrong," rebuked Martha. "You should n't make an idol of your child or
your child's beauty."
"You don't think God might put beauty into the world just to give His children
Martha was no controversialist. She had taken her opinions, ready-made, from
those she considered her superiors, and although she was willing to make any
sacrifice for her religion, she did not wish to be confused by too many
opposing theories of God's intentions.
"You know I never argue when I've got anything baking," she said; and taking
the spill of a corn-broom from a table-drawer, she opened the oven door and
delicately plunged it into the loaf. Then, gazing at the straw as she withdrew
it, she said: "You must talk doctrine with Eldress Abby, Susanna, not with me;
but I guess doctrine won't help you so much as thinking out your life for
"No one can sing my psalm for me,
Reward must come from labor,
I'll sow for peace, and reap in truth
God's mercy and his favor!"
Martha was the chief musician of the Community, and had composed many hymns
and tunes--some of them under circumstances that she believed might entitle
them to be considered directly inspired. Her clear full voice filled the
kitchen and floated out into the air after Susanna, as she called Sue and,
darning-basket in hand, walked across the road to the great barn.
The herb-garden was one place where she could think out her life, although no
decision had as yet been born of those thoughtful mornings.
Another spot for meditation was the great barn, relic of the wonderful earlier
days, and pride of the present Settlement. A hundred and seventy-five feet
long and three and a half stories high, it dominated the landscape. First,
there was the cellar, where all the refuse fell, to do its duty later on in
fertilizing the farm lands; then came the first floor, where the stalls for
horses, oxen, and cows lined the walls on either side. Then came the second
floor, where hay was kept, and to reach this a bridge forty feet long was
built on stone piers ten feet in height, sloping up from the ground to the
second story. Over the easy slope of this bridge the full haycarts were
driven, to add their several burdens to the golden haymows. High at the top
was an enormous grain room, where mounds of yellow corn-ears reached from
floor to ceiling; and at the back was a great window opening on Massabesic
Pond and Knights' Hill, with the White Mountains towering blue or snow-capped
in the distance. There was an old-fashioned, list-bottomed, straight-backed
Shaker chair in front of the open window, a chair as uncomfortable as Shaker
doctrines to the daughter of Eve, and there Susanna often sat with her sewing
or mending, Sue at her feet building castles out of corncobs, plaiting the
husks into little mats, or taking out basting threads from her mother's work.
"My head feels awfully undressed without my curls, Mardie," she said. "I'm
most afraid Fardie won't like the looks of me; do you think we ought to have
asked him before we shingled me? --He does _despise_ unpretty things so!"
"I think if we had asked him he would have said, 'Do as you think best.'"
"He always says that when he does n't care what you do," observed Sue, with
one of her startling bursts of intuition. "Sister Martha has a printed card on
the wall in the children's diningroom, and I've got to learn all the poetry on
it because I need it worse than any of the others:--
"What we deem good order, we're willing to state,
Eat hearty and decent, and clear out your plate;
Be thankful to heaven for what we receive,
And not make a mixture or compound to leave.
"We often find left on the same China dish,
Meat, apple sauce, pickle, brown bread and minced fish:
Another's replenished with butter and cheese,
With pie, cake, and toast, perhaps, added to these."
"You say it very nicely," commended Susanna.
"Now if any virtue in this can be shown,
By peasant, by lawyer, or king on the throne;
We freely will forfeit whatever we've said,
And call it a virtue to waste meat and bread.
"There's a great deal to learn when you're being a Shaker," sighed Sue, as she
finished her rhyme.
"There's a great deal to learn everywhere," her mother answered. "What verse
did Eldress Abby give you today?"
"For little tripping maids may follow God
Along the ways that saintly feet have trod,"
quoted the child. "Am I a tripping maid, Mardie?" she continued.
"Yes, dear." "If I trip too much, might n't I fall?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Is tripping the same as skipping?"
"About the same."
"Is it polite to tripanskip when you're following God?"
"It could n't be impolite if you meant to be good. A tripping maid means just
a young one."
"What is a maid?"
"A little girl."
"When a maid grows up, what is she?"
"Why she's a maiden, I suppose."
"When a maiden grows up, what is she?"
"Just a woman, Sue."
"What is saintly feet?"
"Feet like those of Eldress Abby or Elder Gray; feet of people who have always
tried to do right."
"Are Brother Ansel's feet saintly?"
"He's a good, kind, hardworking man."
"Is good, kind, hardworking, same as saintly?"
"Well, it's not so very different, perhaps. Now, Sue, I've asked you before,
don't let your mind grope, and your little tongue wag, every instant; it is
n't good for you, and it certainly is n't good for me!"
"All right; but 'less I gropeanwag sometimes, I don't see how I'll ever learn
the things I 'specially want to know?" sighed Sue the insatiable.
"Shall I tell you a Shaker story, one that Eldress Abby told me last evening?"
"Oh, do, Mardie!" cried Sue, crossing her feet, folding her hands, and looking
up into her mother's face expectantly.
"Once there was a very good Shaker named Elder Calvin Green, and some one
wrote him a letter asking him to come a long distance and found a Settlement
in the western part of New York State. He and some other Elders and Eldresses
traveled five days, and stopped at the house of a certain Joseph Pelham to
spend Sunday and hold a meeting. On Monday morning, very tired, and wondering
where to stay and begin his preaching, the Elder went out into the woods to
pray for guidance. When he rose from his knees, feeling stronger and lighter-
hearted, a young quail came up to him so close that he picked it up. It was
not a bit afraid, neither did the old parent birds who were standing near by
show any sign of fear, though they are very timid creatures. The Elder
smoothed the young bird's feathers a little while and then let it go, but he
thought an angel seemed to say to him, 'The quail is a sign; you will know
before night what it means, and before tomorrow people will be coming to you
to learn the way to God.'
"Soon after, a flock of these shy little birds alighted on Joseph Pelham's
house, and the Elders were glad, and thought it signified the flock of
Believers that would gather in that place; for the Shakers see more in signs
than other people. Just at night a young girl of twelve or thirteen knocked at
the door and told Elder Calvin that she wanted to become a Shaker, and that
her father and mother were willing.
"'Here is the little quail!' cried the Elder, and indeed she was the first who
flocked to the meetings and joined the new Community.
"On their return to their old home across the state the Elders took the little
quail girl with them. It was November then, and the canals through which they
traveled were clogged with ice. One night, having been ferried across the
Mohawk River, they took their baggage and walked for miles before they could
find shelter. Finally, when they were within three miles of their home, Elder
Calvin shortened the way by going across the open fields through the snow, up
and down the hills and through the gullies and over fences, till they reached
the house at midnight, safe and sound, the brave little quail girl having
trudged beside them the whole distance, carrying her tin pail."
Sue was transported with interest, her lips parted, her eyes shining, her
hands clasped. "Oh, I wish I could be a brave little quail girl, Mardie! What
became of her?"
"Her name was Polly Reed, and when she grew up, she became a teacher of the
Shaker school, then an Eldress, and even a preacher. I don't know what kind of
a little quail girl you would make, Sue; do you think you could walk for miles
through the ice and snow uncomplainingly?"
"I don' know's I could," sighed Sue; "but," she added hopefully, "perhaps I
could teach or preach, and then I could gropeanwag as much as ever I liked."
Then, after a lengthy pause, in which her mind worked feverishly, she said,
"Mardie, I was just groping a little bit, but I won't do it any more tonight.
If the old quail birds in the woods where Elder Calvin prayed, if those old
birds had been Shaker birds, there would n't have been any little quail birds,
would there, because Shakers don't have children, and then perhaps there would
n't have been any little Polly Reed."
Susanna rose hurriedly from the list-bottomed chair and folded her work. "I'll
go up and help you undress now," she said; "it's seven o'clock, and I must go
to the family meeting."
Susanna Speaks in Meeting
It was the Sabbath day and the Believers were gathered in the meetinghouse,
Brethren and Sisters seated quietly on their separate benches, with the
children by themselves in their own place. As the men entered the room they
removed their hats and coats and hung them upon wooden pegs that lined the
sides of the room, while the women took off their bonnets; then, after
standing for a moment of perfect silence, they seated themselves.
In Susanna's time the Sunday costume for the men included trousers of deep
blue cloth with a white line and a vest of darker blue, exposing a full-
bosomed shirt that had a wide turned-down collar fastened with three buttons.
The Sisters were in pure white dresses, with neck and shoulders covered with
snowy kerchiefs, their heads crowned with their white net caps, and a large
white pocket handkerchief hung over the left arm. Their feet were shod with
curious pointed-toed cloth shoes of ultramarine blue--a fashion long since
Susanna had now become accustomed to the curious solemn march or dance in
which of course none but the Believers ever joined, and found in her present
exalted mood the songs and the exhortations strangely interesting and not
Tabitha, the most aged of the group of Albion Sisters, confessed that she
missed the old times when visions were common, when the Spirit manifested
itself in extraordinary ways, and the gift of tongues descended. Sometimes, in
the Western Settlement where she was gathered in, the whole North Family would
march into the highway in the fresh morning hours, and while singing some
sacred hymn, would pass on to the Center Family, and together in solemn yet
glad procession they would mount the hillside to "Jehovah's Chosen Square,"
there to sing and dance before the Lord.
"I wish we could do something like that now!" sighed Hetty Arnold, a pretty
young creature who had moments of longing for the pomps and vanities. "If we
have to give up all worldly pleasures, I think we might have more religious
"We were a younger church in those old times of which Sister Tabitha speaks,"
said Eldress Abby. "You must remember, Hetty, that we were children in faith,
and needed signs and manifestations, pictures and object-lessons. We've been
trained to think and reason now, and we've put away some of our picture-books.
There have been revelations to tell us we needed movements and exercises to
quicken our spiritual powers, and to give energy and unity to our worship, and
there have been revelations telling us to give them up; revelations bidding us
to sing more, revelations telling us to use wordless songs. Then anthems were
given us, and so it has gone on, for we have been led of the Spirit."
"I'd like more picture-books," pouted Hetty under her breath.
Today the service began with a solemn song, followed by speaking and prayer
from a visiting elder. Then, after a long and profound silence, the company
rose and joined in a rhythmic dance which signified the onward travel of the
soul to full redemption; the opening and closing of the hands meaning the
scattering and gathering of blessing. There was no accompaniment, and both the
music and the words were the artless expression of fervent devotion.
Susanna sat in her corner beside the aged Tabitha, who would never dance again
before the Lord, though her quavering voice joined in the chorus. The spring
floor rose and fell under the quick rhythmic tread of the worshipers, and with
each revolution about the room the song gained in power and fervor.
I am never weary bringing my life unto God,
I am never weary singing His way is good.
With the voice of an angel with power from above,
I would publish the blessing of soul-saving love.
The steps grew slower and more sedate, the voices died away, the arms sank
slowly by the sides, and the hands ceased their movement.
Susanna rose to her feet, she knew not how or why. Her cheeks were flushed,
her head bent.
"Dear friends," she said, "I have now been among you for nearly three months,
sharing your life, your work, and your worship. You may well wish to know
whether I have made up my mind to join this Community, and I can only say that
although I have prayed for light, I cannot yet see my way clearly. I am happy
here with you, and although I have been a church member for years, I have
never before longed so ardently to present my body and soul as a sacrifice
unto the Lord. I have tried not to be a burden to you. The small weekly sum
that I put into the treasury I will not speak of, lest I seem to think that
the 'gift of God may be purchased with money,' as the Scriptures say; but I
have endeavored to be loyal to your rules and customs, your aims and ideals,
and to the confidence you have reposed in me. Oh, my dear Sisters and
Brothers, pray for me that I be enabled to see my duty more plainly. It is not
the fleshpots that will call me back to the world; if I go, it will be because
the duties I have left behind take such shape that they draw me out of his
shelter in spite of myself. I thank you for the help you have given me these
last weeks; God knows my gratitude can never be spoken in words."
Elder Gray's voice broke the silence that followed Susanna's speech. "I only
echo the sentiments of the Family when I say that our Sister Susanna shall
have such time as she requires before deciding to unite with this body of
Believers. No pressure shall be brought to bear upon her, and she will be, as
she ever has been, a welcome guest under our roof. She has been an inspiration
to the children, a comfort and aid to the Sisters, an intelligent comrade to
the Brethren, and a sincere and earnest student of the truth. May the Spirit
draw her into the Virgin Church of the New Creation!"
"Yee and amen!" exclaimed Eldress Abby, devoutly: "'For thus saith the Lord of
hosts: I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I
will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.'"
"O Virgin Church, how great the light,
What cloud can dim thy way?"
sang Martha from her place at the end of a bench; and all the voices took up
the hymn softly as the company sat with bowed heads.
Then Brother Issachar rose from his corner, saying: "Jesus called upon his
disciples to give up everything: houses, lands, relationships, and even the
selfishness of their own lives. They could not call their lives their own.
'Lo! we have left all and followed thee,' said Peter; 'fathers, mothers,
wives, children, houses, lands, and even our own lives also.' It is a great
price to pay, but we buy Heaven with it!"
"Yee, we do," said Brother Thomas Scattergood, devoutly. "To him that
overcometh shall the great prize be given."
"God help the weaker brethren!" murmured young Brother Nathan, in so low a
voice that few could hear him. Moved by the same impulse, Tabitha, Abby, and
Martha burst into one of the most triumphant of the Shaker songs, one that was
never sung save when the meeting was "full of the Spirit":--
"I draw no blank nor miss the prize,
I see the work, the sacrifice,
And I'll be loyal, I'll be wise, A faithful overcomer!"
The company rose and began again to march in a circle around the center of the
room, the Brethren two abreast leading the column, the Sisters following
after. There was a waving movement of the hands by drawing inward as if
gathering in spiritual good and storing it up for future need. In the marching
and countermarching the worshipers frequently changed their positions,
ultimately forming into four circles, symbolical of the four dispensations as
expounded in Shakerism, the first from Adam to Abraham; the second from
Abraham to Jesus; the third from Jesus to Mother Ann Lee; and the fourth the
The marching grew livelier; the bodies of the singers swayed lightly with
emotion, the faces glowed with feeling.
Over and over the hymn was sung, gathering strength and fullness as the
Believers entered more and more into the spirit of their worship. Whenever the
refrain came in with its militant fervor, crude, but sincere and effective,
the singers seenled faithintoxicated; and Sister Martha in particular might
have been treading the heavenly streets instead of the meetinghouse floor, so
complete was her absorption. The voices at length grew softer, and the
movement slower, and after a few moments' reverent silence the company filed
out of the room solemnly and without speech.
I am as sure that heav'n is mine
As though my vision could define
Or pencil draw the boundary line
Where love and truth shall con quer.
"The Lord ain't shaken Susanna hard enough yet," thought Brother Ansel
shrewdly from his place in the rear. "She ain't altogether gathered in, not by
no manner o' means, because of that unregenerate son of Adam she's left
behind; but there's the makin's of a pow'ful good Shaker in Susanna, if she
finally takes holt!"
"What manner of life is my husband living, now that I have deserted him? Who
is being a mother to Jack?" These were the thoughts that troubled Susanna
Hathaway's soul as she crossed the grass to her own building.
"The Lower Plane"
Brother Nathan Bennett was twenty years old and Sister Hetty Arnold was
eighteen. They had been left with the Shakers by their respective parents ten
years before, and, growing up in the faith, they formally joined the Community
when they reached the age of discretion. Thus they had known each other from
early childhood, never in the familiar way common to the children of the
world, but with the cool, cheerful, casual, wholly impersonal attitude of
Shaker friendship, a relation seemingly outside of and superior to sex, a
relation more like that of two astral bodies than the more intimate one of a
budding Adam and Eve.
When and where had this relationship changed its color and meaning? Neither
Nathan nor Hetty could have told. For years Nathan had sat at his end of the
young men's bench at the family or the public meeting, with Hetty exactly
opposite him at the end of the girls' row, and for years they had looked
across the dividing space at each other with unstirred pulses. The rows of
Sisters sat in serene dignity, one bench behind another, and each Sister was
like unto every other in Nathan's vague, dreamy, boyishly indifferent eyes.
Some of them were seventy and some seventeen, but each modest figure sat in
its place with quiet folded hands. The stiff caps hid the hair, whether it was
silver or gold; the white surplices covered the shoulders and concealed
beautiful curves as well as angular outlines; the throats were scarcely
visible, whether they were yellow and wrinkled or young and white. The Sisters
were simply sisters to fair-haired Nathan, and the Brothers were but brothers
to little black-eyed Hetty.
Once--was it on a Sunday morning?--Nathan glanced across the separating space
that is the very essence and sign of Shakerism. The dance had just ceased, and
there was a long, solemn stillness when God indeed seemed to be in one of His
holy temples and the earth was keeping silence before Him. Suddenly Hetty grew
to be something more than one of the figures in a long row: she chained
Nathan's eye and held it.
"Through her garments the grace of her glowed." He saw that, in spite of the
way her hair had been cut and stretched back from the forehead, a short dusky
tendril, softened and coaxed by the summer heat, had made its way mutinously
beyond the confines of her cap. Her eyes were cast down, but the lashes that
swept her round young cheek were quite different from any other lashes in the
Sisters' row. Her breath came and went softly after the exertion of the
rhythmic movements, stirring the white muslin folds that wrapped her from
throat to waist. He looked and looked, until his body seemed to be all eyes,
absolutely unaware of any change in himself; quite oblivious of the fact that
he was regarding the girl in any new and dangerous way.
The silence continued, long and profound, until suddenly Hetty raised her
beautiful lashes and met Nathan's gaze, the gaze of a boy just turned to man:
ardent, warm, compelling. There was a startled moment of recognition, a
tremulous approach, almost an embrace, of regard; each sent an electric
current across the protective separating space, the two pairs of eyes met and
said, "I love you," in such clear tones that Nathan and Hetty marveled that
the Elder did not hear them. Somebody says that love, like a scarlet spider,
can spin a thread between two hearts almost in an instant, so fine as to be
almost invisible, yet it will hold with the tenacity of an iron chain. The
thread had been spun; it was so delicate that neither Nathan nor Hetty had
seen the scarlet spider spinning it, but the strength of both would not avail
to snap the bond that held them together.
The moments passed. Hetty's kerchief rose and fell, rose and fell
tumultuously, while her face was suffused with color. Nathan's knees quivered
under him, and when the Elder rose, and they began the sacred march, the lad
could hardly stand for trembling. He dreaded the moment when the lines of
Believers would meet, and he and Hetty would walk the length of the long room
almost beside each other. Could she hear his heart beating, Nathan wondered;
while Hetty was palpitating with fear lest Nathan see her blushes and divine
their meaning. Oh, the joy of it, the terror of it, the strange exhilaration
and the sudden sensation of sin and remorse!
The meeting over, Nathan flung himself on the haymow in the great barn, while
Hetty sat with her "Synopsis of Shaker Theology" at an open window of the
girls' building, seeing nothing in the lines of print but visions that should
not have been there. It was Nathan who felt most and suffered most and was
most conscious of sin, for Hetty, at first, scarcely knew whither she was
She went into the herb-garden with Susanna one morning during the week that
followed the fatal Sunday. Many of the plants to be used for seasoning--sage,
summer savory, sweet marjoram, and the like--were quite ready for gathering.
As the two women were busy at work, Susanna as full of her thoughts as Hetty
of hers, the sound of a step was heard brushing the grass of the orchard.
Hetty gave a nervous start; her cheeks grew so crimson and her breath so short
that Susanna noticed the change.
"It will be Brother Ansel coming along to the grindstone," Hetty stammered,
burying her head in the leaves.
"No," Susanna answered, "it is Nathan. He has a long pole with a saw on the
end. He must be going to take the dead branches off the apple trees; I heard
Ansel tell him yesterday to do it."
"Yee, that will be it," said Hetty, bending over the plants as if she were
afraid to look elsewhere.
Nathan came nearer to the herb-garden. He was a tall, stalwart, handsome
enough fellow, even in his quaint working garb. As the Sisters spun and wove
the cloth as well as cut and made the men's garments, and as the Brothers
themselves made the shoes, there was naturally no great air of fashion about
the Shaker raiment; but Nathan carried it better than most. His skin was fair
and rosy, the down on his upper lip showed dawning manhood, and when he took
off his broad-brimmed straw hat and stretched to his full height to reach the
upper branches of the apple trees, he made a picture of clean, wholesome,
Suddenly Susanna raised her head and surprised Hetty looking at the lad with
all her heart in her eyes. At the same moment Nathan turned, and before he
could conceal the telltale ardor of his glance, it had sped to Hetty. With the
instinct of self-preservation he stooped instantly as if to steady the saw on
the pole, but it was too late to mend matters: his tale was told so far as
Susanna was concerned; but it was better she should suspect than one of the
Believers or Eldress Abby.
Susanna worked on in silent anxiety. The likelihood of such crises as this had
sometimes crossed her mind, and knowing how frail human nature is, she often
marveled that instances seemed so infrequent. Her instinct told her that in
every Community the risk must exist, even though all were doubly warned and
armed against the temptations that flesh is heir to; yet no hint of danger had
showed itself during the months in which she had been a member of the Shaker
family. She had heard the Elder's plea to the young converts to take up "a
full cross against the flesh"; she had listened to Eldress Abby when she told
them that the natural life, its thoughts, passions, feelings, and
associations, must be turned against once and forever; but her heart melted in
pity for the two poor young things struggling helplessly against instincts of
which they hardly knew the meaning, so cloistered had been the life they
lived. The kind, conscientious hands that had fed them would now seem hard and
unrelenting; the place that had been home would turn to a prison; the life
that Elder Gray preached, "the life of a purer godliness than can be attained
by marriage," had seemed difficult, perhaps, but possible; and now how cold
and hopeless it would appear to these two young, undisciplined, flaming
"Hetty dear, talk to me!" whispered Susanna, softly touching her shoulder, and
wondering if she could somehow find a way to counsel the girl in her
Hetty started rebelliously to her feet as Nathan moved away farther into the
orchard. "If you say a single thing to me, or a word about me to Eldress Abby,
I'll run away this very day. Nobody has any right to speak to me, and I just
want to be let alone! It's all very well for you," she went on passionately.
"What have you had to give up? Nothing but a husband you did n't love and a
home you did n't want to stay in. Like as not you'll be a Shaker, and they'll
take you for a saint; but anyway you'll have had your life."
"You are right, Hetty," said Susanna, quietly; "but oh! my dear, the world
outside isn't such a Paradise for young girls like you, motherless and
fatherless and penniless. You have a good home here; can't you learn to like
"Out in the world people can do as they like and nobody thinks of calling them
wicked!" sobbed Hetty, flinging herself down, and putting her head in
Susanna's aproned lap. "Here you've got to live like an angel, and if you
don't, you've got to confess every wrong thought you've had, when the time
"Whatever you do, Hetty, be open and aboveboard; don't be hasty and foolish,
or you may be sorry forever afterwards."
Hetty's mood changed again suddenly to one of mutiny, and she rose to her
"You have n't got any right to interfere with me anyway, Susanna; and if you
think it's your duty to tell tales, you'll only make matters worse"; and so
saying she took her basket and fled across the fields like a hunted hare.
That evening, as Hetty left the infirmary, where she had been sent with a
bottle of liniment for the nursing Sisters, she came upon Nathan standing
gloomily under the spruce trees near the back of the building. It was eight
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