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There was no work in the herb-garden now, but there was never a moment from dawn till long after dusk when the busy fingers of the Shaker Sisters were still. When all else failed there was the knitting: socks for the Brothers and stockings for the Sisters and socks and stockings of every size for the children. One of the quaint sights of the Settlement to Susanna was the clump of young Sisters on the porch of the girls' building, knitting, knitting, in the afternoon sun. Even little Shaker Jane and Mary, Maria and Lucinda, had their socks in hand, and plied their short knitting-needles soberly and not unskillfully. The sight of their industry incited the impetuous Sue to effort, and under the patient tutelage of Sister Martha she mastered the gentle art. Susanna never forgot the hour when, coming from her work in the seed-room, she crossed the grass with a message to Martha, and saw the group of children and girls on the western porch, a place that caught every ray of afternoon sun, the last glint of twilight, and the first hint of sunset glow. Sister Martha had been reading the Sabbath-School lesson for the next day, and as Susanna neared the building, Martha's voice broke into a hymn. Falteringly the girls' voices followed the lead, uncertain at first of words or tune, but gaining courage and strength as they went on:--
"As the waves of the mighty ocean
The clear, innocent treble sounded sweetly in the virgin stillness and solitude of the Settlement, and as Susanna drew closer she stopped under a tree to catch the picture--Sister Martha, grave, tall, discreet, singing with all her soul and marking time with her hands, so accustomed to the upward and downward movement of the daily service. The straight, plain dresses were as fresh and smooth as perfect washing could make them, and the round childlike faces looked quaint and sweet with the cropped hair tucked under the stiff little caps. Sue was seated with Mary and Jane on the steps, and Susanna saw with astonishment that her needles were moving to and fro and she was knitting as serenely and correctly as a mother in Israel; singing, too, in a delicate little treble that was like a skylark's morning note. Susanna could hear her distinctly as she delightedly flung out the long words so dear to her soul and so difficult to dull little Jane and Mary:--
Jane's cap was slightly unsettled, causing its wearer to stop knitting now and then and pull it forward or push it back; and in one of these little feminine difficulties Susanna saw Sue reach forward and deftly transfer the cap to her own head. Jane was horrified, but rather slow to wrath and equally slow in ingenuity. Sue looked a delicious Shaker with her delicate face, her lovely eyes, and her yellow hair grown into soft rings; and quite intoxicated with her cap, her knitting, and the general air of holiness so unexpectedly emanating from her, she moved her little hands up and down, as the tune rose and fell, in a way that would have filled Eldress Abby with joy. Susanna's heart beat fast, and she wondered for a moment, as she went back to her room, whether she could ever give Sue a worldly childhood more free from danger than the life she was now living. She found letters from Aunt Louisa and Jack on reaching her room, and they lay in her lap under a pile of towels, to be read and reread while her busy needle flew over the coarse crash. Sue stole in quietly, kissed her mother's cheek, and sat down on her stool by the window, marveling, with every "under" of the needle and "over" of the yarn, that it was she, Sue Hathaway, who was making a real stocking.
Jack's pen was not that of an especially ready writer, but he had a practical way of conveying considerable news. His present contributions, when freed from their phonetic errors and spelled in Christian fashion, read somewhat as follows:
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Wiggin's Short Stories -by- Kate Douglas Wiggin