Homespun Tales HTML version
11. "The Open Door"
On the Saturday evening before the yearly Day of Sacrifice the spiritual heads of each
Shaker family called upon all the Believers to enter heartily next day into the
humiliations and blessings of open confession.
The Sabbath dawns upon an awed and solemn household. Footfalls are hushed, the
children's chatter is stilled, and all go to the morning meal in silence. There is a strange
quiet, but it is not sadness; it is a hush, as when in Israel's camp the silver trumpets
sounded and the people stayed in their tents. "Then," Elder Gray explained to Susanna, "a
summons comes to each Believer, for all have been searching the heart and scanning the
life of the months past. Softly the one called goes to the door of the one appointed by the
Divine Spirit, the human representative who is to receive the gift of the burdened soul.
Woman confesses to woman, man to man; it is the open door that leads to God."
Susanna lifted Eldress Abby's latch and stood in her strong, patient presence; then all at
once she knelt impulsively and looked up into her serene eyes.
"Do you come as a Believer, Susanna?" tremblingly asked the Eldress.
"No, Eldress Abby. I come as a child of the world who wants to go back to her duty, and
hopes to do it better than she ever did before. She ought to be able to, because you have
chastened her pride, taught her the lesson of patience, strengthened her will, purified her
spirit, and cleansed her soul from bitterness and wrath. I waited till afternoon when all the
confessions were over. May I speak now?"
Eldress Abby bowed, but she looked weak and stricken and old.
"I had something you would have called a vision last night, but I think of it as a dream,
and I know just what led to it. You told me Polly Reed's story, and the little quail bird had
such a charm for Sue that I've repeated it to her more than once. In my sleep I seemed to
see a mother quail with a little one beside her. The two were always together, happily
flying or hopping about under the trees; but every now and then I heard a sad little note,
as of a deserted bird somewhere in the wood. I walked a short distance, and parting the
branches, saw on the open ground another parent bird and a young one by its side darting
hither and thither, as if lost; they seemed to be restlessly searching for something, and
always they uttered the soft, sad note, as if the nest had disappeared and they had been
parted from the little flock. Of course my brain had changed the very meaning of the
Shaker story and translated it into different terms, but when I woke this morning, I could
think of nothing but my husband and my boy. The two of them seemed to me to be
needing me, searching for me in the dangerous open country, while I was hidden away in
the safe shelter of the wood--I and the other little quail bird I had taken out of the nest."