Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/227

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221
THE SHAKER BRIDAL.

peaceful village I have found all that I hope for,—all that I desire. I will strive, with my best strength, for the spiritual and temporal good of our community. My conscience is not doubtful in this matter. I am ready to receive the trust.'

'Thou hast spoken well, son Adam,' said the Father. 'God will bless thee in the office which I am about to resign.'

'But our sister!' observed the elder from Harvard; 'hath she not likewise a gift to declare her sentiments!'

Martha started, and moved her lips, as if she would have made a formal reply to this appeal. But, had she attempted it, perhaps the old recollections, the long repressed feelings of childhood, youth, and womanhood, might have gushed from her heart, in words that it would have been profanation to utter there.

'Adam has spoken,' said she hurriedly; 'his sentiments are likewise mine.'

But while speaking these few words, Martha grew so pale, that she looked fitter to be laid in her coffin, than to stand in the presence of Father Ephraim and the elders; she shuddered, also, as if there were something awful or horrible in her situation and destiny. It required, indeed, a more than feminine strength of nerve, to sustain the fixed observance of men so exalted and famous throughout the sect, as these were. They had overcome their natural sympathy with human frailties and affections. One, when he joined the Society, had brought with him his wife and children, but never, from that hour, had spoken a fond word to the former, or taken his best-loved child upon his knee.