Homespun Tales HTML version

8. Concerning Backsliders
There was no work in the herb-garden now, but there was never a moment from dawn till
long after dusk when the busy fingers of the Shaker Sisters were still. When all else failed
there was the knitting: socks for the Brothers and stockings for the Sisters and socks and
stockings of every size for the children. One of the quaint sights of the Settlement to
Susanna was the clump of young Sisters on the porch of the girls' building, knitting,
knitting, in the afternoon sun. Even little Shaker Jane and Mary, Maria and Lucinda, had
their socks in hand, and plied their short knitting-needles soberly and not unskillfully.
The sight of their industry incited the impetuous Sue to effort, and under the patient
tutelage of Sister Martha she mastered the gentle art. Susanna never forgot the hour
when, coming from her work in the seed-room, she crossed the grass with a message to
Martha, and saw the group of children and girls on the western porch, a place that caught
every ray of afternoon sun, the last glint of twilight, and the first hint of sunset glow.
Sister Martha had been reading the Sabbath-School lesson for the next day, and as
Susanna neared the building, Martha's voice broke into a hymn. Falteringly the girls'
voices followed the lead, uncertain at first of words or tune, but gaining courage and
strength as they went on:--
"As the waves of the mighty ocean
Gospel love we will circulate,
And as we give, in due proportion,
We of the heavenly life partake.
Heavenly Life, Glorious Life,
Resurrecting, Soul-Inspiring,
Regenerating Gospel Life,
It leadeth away from all sin and strife."
The clear, innocent treble sounded sweetly in the virgin stillness and solitude of the
Settlement, and as Susanna drew closer she stopped under a tree to catch the picture--
Sister Martha, grave, tall, discreet, singing with all her soul and marking time with her
hands, so accustomed to the upward and downward movement of the daily service. The
straight, plain dresses were as fresh and smooth as perfect washing could make them, and
the round childlike faces looked quaint and sweet with the cropped hair tucked under the
stiff little caps. Sue was seated with Mary and Jane on the steps, and Susanna saw with
astonishment that her needles were moving to and fro and she was knitting as serenely
and correctly as a mother in Israel; singing, too, in a delicate little treble that was like a
skylark's morning note. Susanna could hear her distinctly as she delightedly flung out the
long words so dear to her soul and so difficult to dull little Jane and Mary:--
"Resurrecting, Soul-Inspiring,
Regenerating Gospel Life,
It leadeth away from all sin and strife."