"This story," said Kate Douglas Wiggin, "could never have been written had I not as a child and girl been driven once a year to the Shaker meeting at the little village of Alfred, sixteen miles distant. The services were then open to the public. . . . I learned to know the brethren and sisters, and the Elder, as years went by, and often went to the main house to spend a day or two as the guest of Eldress Harriet, a saint, if ever there was one, or, later, with dear Sister Lucinda. . . .
"Needless to say, I read every word of the book to my Shaker friends before it was published. They took a deep interest in it, evincing keen delight in my rather facetious but wholly imaginary portrait of 'Brother Ansel, ' a 'born Shaker, ' and sadly confessing that my two young lovers, 'Hetty' and 'Nathan, ' who could not endure the rigors of the Shaker faith and fled together in the night to marry and join the world's people, --that this tragedy had often occurred in their community."