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  Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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AS I remember the boys and girls who grew up with me, I think of them as artists, or actors, or travellers, or rich merchants. Each of us, by the time we were half through grammar school, had selected a career. So far as I recollect, this career had very little to do with our abilities. We merely chose something that suited us. Our energy and our vanity crystallised into particular shapes. There was a sort of religion abroad in the West at that time that a person could do almost anything he set out to do. The older people, as well as the children, had an idea that the world was theirs -- they all were Monte Cristos in that respect.

As for me, I had decided to be an orator.

At the time of making this decision, I was nine years of age, decidedly thin and long drawn out, with two brown braids down my back, and a terrific shyness which I occasionally overcame with such a magnificent splurge that those who were not acquainted with my peculiarities probably thought me a shamefully assertive child.

I based my oratorical aspirations upon my having taken the prize a number of times in Sunday-school for learning the most New Testament verses, and upon the fact that I always could make myself heard to the farthest corner of the room. I also felt that I had a great message to deliver to the world when I got around it, though in this, I was in no way different from several of my friends. I had noticed a number of things in the world that were not quite right, and which I thought needed attention, and I believed that if I were quite good and studied elocution, in a little while I should be able to set my part of the world right, and perhaps even extend my influence to adjoining districts.

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Meantime I practised terrible vocal exercises, chiefly consisting of a raucous "caw" something like a crow's favourite remark, and advocated by my teacher in elocution for no reason that I can now remember; and I stood before the glass for hours at a time making grimaces so as to acquire the "actor's face," till my frightened little sisters implored me to turn back into myself again.

It was a great day for me when I was asked to participate in the Harvest Home Festival at our church on Thanksgiving Day. I looked upon it as the beginning of my career, and bought crimping papers so that my hair could be properly fluted. Of course, I wanted a new dress for the occasion, and I spent several days in planning the kind of a one I thought best suited to such a memorable event. I even picked out the particular lace pattern I wanted for the ruffles. This was before I submitted the proposition to Mother, however. When I told her about it she said she could see no use in getting a new dress and going to all the trouble of making it when my white one with the green harps was perfectly good.

This was such an unusual dress and had gone through so many vicissitudes, that I really was devotedly attached to it. It had, in the beginning, belonged to my Aunt Bess, and in the days of its first glory had been a sheer Irish linen lawn, with tiny green harps on it at agreeable intervals. But in the course of time, it had to be sent to the wash-tub, and then, behold, all the little lovely harps followed the example of the harp that "once through Tara's hall the soul of music shed," and disappeared! Only vague, dirty, yellow reminders of their beauty remained, not to decorate, but to disfigure the fine fabric.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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