Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/223

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217
THE SHAKER BRIDAL.

hands. At his footstool stood a man and woman, both clad in the Shaker garb.

'My brethren,' said Father Ephraim to the surrounding elders, feebly exerting himself to utter these few words, 'here are the son and daughter to whom I would commit the trust, of which Providence is about to lighten my weary shoulders. Read their faces, I pray you, and say whether the inward movement of the spirit hath guided my choice aright.'

Accordingly, each elder looked at the two candidates with a most scrutinizing gaze. The man, whose name was Adam Colburn, had a face sunburnt with labor in the fields, yet intelligent, thoughtful, and traced with cares enough for a whole lifetime, though he had barely reached middle age. There was something severe in his aspect, and a rigidity throughout his person, characteristics that caused him generally to be taken for a schoolmaster; which vocation, in fact, he had formerly exercised for several years. The woman, Martha Pierson, was somewhat above thirty, thin and pale, as a Shaker sister almost invariably is, and not entirely free from that corpse-like appearance, which the garb of the sisterhood is so well calculated to impart.

'This pair are still in the summer of their years,' observed the elder from Harvard, a shrewd old man. 'I would like better to see the hoar frost of autumn on their heads. Methinks, also, they will be exposed to peculiar temptations, on account of the carnal desires which have heretofore subsisted between them.'

'Nay, brother,' said the elder from Canterbury, 'the hoar frost, and the black frost, hath done its work