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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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WHEN I look back upon the village where I lived as a child, I cannot remember that there were any divisions in our society. This group went to the Congregational church, and that to the Presbyterian, but each family felt itself to be as good as any other, and even if, ordinarily, some of them withdrew themselves in mild exclusiveness, on all occasions of public celebration, or when in trouble, we stood together in the pleasantest and most unaffected democracy.

There were only the "Bad Madi-gans" outside the pale.

The facts about the Bad Madigans were, no doubt, serious enough, but the fiction was even more appalling. As to facts, the father drank, the mother followed suit, the appearance of the house --a ramshackle old place beyond the fair-grounds -- was a scandal; the children could not be got to go to school for any length of time, and, when they were there, each class in which they were put felt itself to be in disgrace, and the dislike focused upon the intruders, sent them, sullen and hateful, back to their lair. And, indeed, the Madigan house seemed little more than a lair. It had been rather a fine house once, and had been built for the occupancy of the man who owned the fair-grounds; but he choosing finally to live in the village, had permitted the house to fall into decay, until only a family with no sense of order or self-respect would think of occupying it.

When there occurred one of the rare burglaries in the village, when anything was missing from a clothes-line, or a calf or pig disappeared, it was generally laid to the Madigans. Unaccounted-for fires were supposed to be their doing; they were accorded responsibility for vicious practical jokes; and it was generally felt that before we were through with them they would commit some blood-curdling crime.

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When, as sometimes happened, I had met one of the Bad Madigans on the road, or down on the village street, my heart had beaten as if I was face to face with a company of banditti; but I cannot say that this excitement was caused by aversion alone. The truth was, the Bad Madigans fascinated me. They stood out from all the others, proudly and disdainfully like Robin Hood and his band, and I could not get over the idea that they said: "Fetch me yonder bow!" to each other; or, "Go slaughter me a ten-tined buck!" I felt that they were fortunate in not being held down to hours like the rest of us. Out of bed at six-thirty, at table by seven, tidying bedroom at seven-thirty, dusting sitting-room at eight, on way to school at eight-thirty, was not for "the likes of them!" Only we, slaves of respectability and of an inordinate appetite for order, suffered such monotony and drabness to rule. I knew the Madigan boys could go fishing whenever they pleased, that the Madigan girls picked the blackberries before any one else could get out to them, that every member of the family could pack up and go picnicking for days at a time, and that any stray horse was likely to be ridden bareback, within an inch of its life, by the younger members of the family.

Only once however, did I have a chance to meet one of these modern Visigoths face to face, and the feelings aroused by that incident remained the darling secret of my youth. I dared tell no one, and I longed, yet feared, to have the experience repeated. But it never was! It happened in this way:

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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