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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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hearts all in tune, Our chair a broad pumpkin -- our lantern the

moon, Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like

steam In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her


On all sides this poem was considered very fitting, and I went to the festival with that comfortable feeling one has when one is moving with the majority and is wearing one's best clothes.

I sat rigid with expectancy while my schoolmates spoke their "pieces" and sang their songs. With frozen faces they faced each other in dialogues, lost their quavering voices, and stumbled down the stairs in their anguish of spirit. I pitied them, and thought how lucky it was that my memory never failed me, and that my voice carried so well that I could arouse even old Elder Waite from his slumbers.

Then my turn came. My crimps were beautiful; the green harps danced on my freshly-ironed frock, and I had on my new chain and locket. I relied upon a sort of mechanism in me to say: O greenly and fair in the lands of the sun, The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run.

In this seemly manner Whittier's ode to the pumpkin began. I meant to go on to verses which I knew would delight my audience -- to references to the "crook-necks" ripening under the September sun; and to Thanksgiving gatherings at which all smiled at the reunion of friends and the bounty of the board.

What moistens the lip and brightens the eye! What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie!

I was sure these lines would meet with approval, and having "come down to the popular taste," I was prepared to do my best to please.

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After a few seconds, when the golden pumpkins that lined the stage had ceased to dance before my eyes, I thought I ought to begin to "get hold of my audience." Of course, my memory would be giving me the right words, and my facile tongue running along reliably, but I wished to demonstrate that "ability" which was to bring me favour and fame. I listened to my own words and was shivered into silence. I was talking about "dark Plutonian shadows"; I was begging "Egypt" to let her arms enfold me -- I was, indeed, in the very thick of the forbidden poem. I could hear my thin, aspiring voice reaching out over that paralysed audience with:

Though my scarred and veteran legions
    Bear their eagles high no more;
And my wrecked and scattered galleys
    Strew dark Actium's fatal shore.

My tongue seemed frozen, or some kind of a ratchet at the base of it had got out of order. For a moment -- a moment can be the little sister of eternity -- I could say nothing. Then I found myself in the clutches of the instinct for self-preservation. I felt it in me to stop the giggles of the girls on the front seat; to take the patronising smiles out of the tolerant eyes of the grown people. Maybe my voice lost something of its piping insistence and was touched with genuine feeling; perhaps some faint, faint spark of the divine fire which I longed to fan into a flame did flicker in me for that one time. I had the indescribable happiness of seeing the smiles die on the faces of my elders, and of hearing the giggles of my friends cease.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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