Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/36

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22
CATHERINE M. SEDGWICK.

and I took no steps after them—for what was the use? But come, strike up again; play ‘Haste to the wedding.’”

B—— obeyed, and our old friend sang or chanted a low accompaniment; in which the dancing tune and the Shaker nasal chant were ludicrously mingled. B—— played all his favourite airs, and then said, “You do love dancing, brother Wilcox?”

“Yes, to be sure—‘praise him in the cymbals and dances!’”

“Oh, but I mean such dances as we have here. Would not you like, brother Wilcox, to come over and see us dance?”

“Why, may be I should.”

“And would not you like to dance with one of our pretty young ladies, brother Wilcox?”

“May be I should;” the old man’s face lit up joyously—but he smiled and shook his head, “they would not let me, they would not let me.” Perhaps the old Shaker’s imagination wandered for a moment from the very straight path of the brotherhood, but it was but a moment. His face reverted to its placid passiveness, and he said, “I am perfectly content. I have enough to eat and drink——everything good after its kind, too—good clothes to wear, a warm bed to sleep in, and just as much work as I like, and no more.” “All this, and heaven too,”—of which the old man felt perfectly sure—was quite enough to fill the measure of a Shaker’s desires.

“Now,” said he, “you think so much of your dances, I wish you could see one of our young sisters dance, when we go up to Mount Holy. She has the whirling gift; she will spin round like a top, on one foot, for half an hour, all the while seeing visions, and receiving revelations.”

This whirling is a recent gift of the Shakers. The few “world’s folk” who have been permitted to see its exhibition, compare its subjects to the whirling Dervishes.

“Have you any other new inspiration?” I asked.

“Gifts, you mean? Oh, yes; we have ‘‘visionists’’. It’s a wonderful mystery to me. I never was much for looking into mysteries—they rather scare me!” Naturally enough, poor childlike old man!

“What, brother Wilcox,” I asked, “do you mean by a visionist?”