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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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On a certain Sunday afternoon in May, my father and mother and I went to Emmons' Woods. To reach Emmons' Woods, you went out the back door, past the pump and the currant bushes, then down the path to the chicken-houses, and so on, by way of the woodpile, to the south gate. After that, you went west toward the clover meadows, past the house where the Crazy Lady lived -- here, if you were alone, you ran -- and then, reaching the verge of the woods, you took your choice of climbing a seven-rail fence or of walking a quarter of a mile till you came to the bars. The latter was much better for the lace on a Sunday petticoat. Once in Emmons' Woods, there was enchantment. An eagle might come -- or a blue heron. There had been bears in Emmons' Woods -- bears with rolling eyes and red mouths from which their tongues lolled. There was one place for pinky trillium, and another for gentians; one for tawny adders' tongues, and another for yellow Dutchman's breeches. In the sap-starting season, the maples dripped their luscious sap into little wooden cups; later, partridges nested in the sun-burned grass. There was no lake or river, but there was a pond, swarming with a vivacious population, and on the hard-baked clay of the pond beach the green beetles aired their splendid changeable silks and sandpipers hopped ridiculously. It was, curiously enough, easier to run than to walk in Emmons' Woods, and even more natural to dance than to run. One became acquainted with squirrels, established intimacies with chipmunks, and was on some sort of civil relation with blackbirds. And, oh, the tossing green of the young willows, where the lilac distance melted into the pale blue of the sky! And, oh, the budding of the maples and the fringing of the oaks; and, oh, the blossoming of the tulip trees and the garnering of the chestnuts! And then, the wriggling things in the grass; the procession of ants; the coquetries of the robins; and the Beyond, deepening, deepening into the forest where it was safe only for the woodsmen to go.

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On this particular Sunday one of us was requested not to squeal and run about, and to remember that we wore our best shoes and need not mess them unnecessarily. It was hard to be reminded just when the dance was getting into my feet, but I tried to have Sunday manners, and went along in the still woods, wondering why the purple colours disappeared as we came on and what had been distance became nearness. There was a beautiful, aching vagueness over everything, and it was not strange that father, who had stretched himself on the moss, and mother, who was reading Godey's Ladies' Book, should presently both of them be nodding. So, that being a well-established fact -- I established it by hanging over them and staring at their eyelids -- it seemed a good time for me to let the dance out of my toes. Still careful of my fresh linen frock, and remembering about the best shoes, I went on, demurely, down the green alleys of the wood. Now I stepped on patches of sunshine, now in pools of shadow. I thought of how naughty I was to run away like this, and of what a mistake people made who said I was a good, quiet, child. I knew that I looked sad and prim, but I really hated my sadness and primness and goodness, and longed to let out all the interesting, wild, naughty thoughts there were in me. I wanted to act as if I were bewitched, and to tear up vines and wind them about me, to shriek to the echoes, and to scold back at the squirrels. I wanted to take off my clothes and rush into the pond, and swim like a fish, or wriggle like a pollywog. I wanted to climb trees and drop from them; and, most of all -- oh, with what longing -- did I wish to lift myself above the earth and fly into the bland blue air!

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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