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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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YOUNG people believe very little that they hear about the compensations of growing old, and of living over again in memory the events of the past. Yet there really are these compensations and pleasures, and although they are not so vivid and breathless as the pleasures of youth, they have something delicate and fine about them that must be experienced to be appreciated.

Few of us would exchange our memories for those of others. They have become a part of our personality, and we could not part with them without losing something of ourselves. Neither would we part with our own particular childhood, which, however difficult it may have been at times, seems to each of us more significant than the childhood of any one else. I can run over in my mind certain incidents of my childhood as if they were chapters in a much-loved book, and when I am wakeful at night, or bored by a long journey, or waiting for some one in the railway-station, I take them out and go over them again.

Nor is my book of memories without its illustrations. I can see little villages, and a great city, and forests and planted fields, and familiar faces; and all have this advantage: they are not fixed and without motion, like the pictures in the ordinary book. People are walking up the streets of the village, the trees are tossing, the tall wheat and corn in the fields salute me. I can smell the odour of the gathered hay, and the faces in my dream-book smile at me.

Of all of these memories I like best the one in the pine forest.

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I was at that age when children think of their parents as being all-powerful. I could hardly have imagined any circumstances, however adverse, that my father could not have met with his strength and wisdom and skill. All children have such a period of hero-worship, I suppose, when their father stands out from the rest of the world as the best and most powerful man living. So, feeling as I did, I was made happier than I can say when my father decided, because I was looking pale and had a poor appetite, to take me out of school for a while, and carry me with him on a driving trip. We lived in Michigan, where there were, in the days of which I am writing, not many railroads; and when my father, who was attorney for a number of wholesale mercantile firms in Detroit, used to go about the country collecting money due, adjusting claims, and so on, he had no choice but to drive.

And over what roads! Now it was a strip of corduroy, now a piece of well-graded elevation with clay subsoil and gravel surface, now a neglected stretch full of dangerous holes; and worst of all, running through the great forests, long pieces of road from which the stumps had been only partly extracted, and where the sunlight barely penetrated. Here the soaked earth became little less than a quagmire.

But father was too well used to hard journeys to fear them, and I felt that, in going with him, I was safe from all possible harm. The journey had all the allurement of an adventure, for we would not know from day to day where we should eat our meals or sleep at night. So, to provide against trouble, we carried father's old red-and-blue-checked army blankets, a bag of feed for Sheridan, the horse, plenty of bread, bacon, jam, coffee and prepared cream; and we hung pails of pure water and buttermilk from the rear of our buggy.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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