Homespun Tales HTML version

Susanna And Sue
1. 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 fleecy flocks.
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,