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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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Aunt Bess, naturally enough, felt irritated, and she gave the goods to mother, saying that she might be able to boil the yellow stains out of it and make me a dress. I had gone about many a time, like love amid the ruins, in the fragments of Aunt Bess's splendour, and I was not happy in the thought of dangling these dimmed reminders of Ireland's past around with me. But mother said she thought I'd have a really truly white Sunday best dress out of it by the time she was through with it. So she prepared a strong solution of sodium and things, and boiled the breadths, and every little green harp came dancing back as if awaiting the hand of a new Dublin poet. The green of them was even more charming than it had been at first, and I, as happy as if I had acquired the golden harp for which I then vaguely longed, went to Sunday-school all that summer in this miraculous dress of now-you-see-them-and-now-you-don't, and became so used to being asked if I were Irish that my heart exulted when I found that I might -- fractionally -- claim to be, and that one of the Fenian martyrs had been an ancestor. For a year, even, after that discovery of the Fenian martyr, ancestors were a favorite study of mine.

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Well, though the dress became something more than familiar to the eyes of my associates, I was so attached to it that I felt no objection to wearing it on the great occasion; and, that being settled, all that remained was to select the piece which was to reveal my talents to a hitherto unappreciative -- or, perhaps I should say, unsuspecting -- group of friends and relatives. It seemed to me that I knew better than my teacher (who had agreed to select the pieces for her pupils) possibly could what sort of a thing best represented my talents, and so, after some thought, I selected "Antony and Cleopatra," and as I lagged along the too-familiar road to school, avoiding the companionship of my acquaintances, I repeated:

I am dying, Egypt, dying!
    Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
And the dark Plutonian shadows
    Gather on the evening blast.

Sometimes I grew so impassioned, so heedless of all save my mimic sorrow and the swing of the purple lines, that I could not bring myself to modify my voice, and the passers-by heard my shrill tones vibrating with:

As for thee, star-eyed Egyptian!
    Glorious sorceress of the Nile!
Light the path to Stygian horrors
    With the splendour of thy smile.

I wiped dishes to the rhythm of such phrases as "scarred and veteran legions," and laced my shoes to the music of "Though no glittering guards surround me."

Confident that no one could fail to see the beauty of these lines, or the propriety of the identification of myself with Antony, I called upon my Sunday-school teacher, Miss Goss, to report. I never had thought of Miss Goss as a blithe spirit. She was associated in my mind with numerous solemn occasions, and I was surprised to find that on this day she unexpectedly developed a trait of breaking into nervous laughter. I had got as far as "Should the base plebeian rabble --" when Miss Goss broke down in what I could not but regard as a fit of giggles, and I ceased abruptly.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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