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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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IT is extraordinary, when you come to think of it, how very few days, out of all the thousands that have passed, lift their heads from the grey plain of the forgotten -- like bowlders in a level stretch of country. It is not alone the unimportant ones that are forgotten; but, according to one's elders, many important ones have left no mark in the memory. It seems to me, as I think it over, that it was the days that affected the emotions that dwell with me, and I suppose all of us must be the same in this respect.

Among those which I am never to forget is the day when Aunt Cordelia came to visit us -- my mother's aunt, she was -- and when I discovered evil, and tried to understand what the use of it was.

Great-aunt Cordelia was, as I often and often had been told, not only much travelled, rich and handsome, but good also. She was, indeed, an important personage in her own city, and it seemed to be regarded as an evidence of unusual family fealty that she should go about, now and then, briefly visiting all of her kinfolk to see how they fared in the world. I ought to have looked forward to meeting her, but this, for some perverse reason, I did not do. I wished I might run away and hide somewhere till her visit was over. It annoyed me to have to clean up the play-room on her account, and to help polish the silver, and to comb out the fringe of the tea napkins. I liked to help in these tasks ordinarily, but to do it for the purpose of coming up to a visiting -- and probably, a condescending -- goddess, somehow made me cross.

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Among other hardships, I had to take care of my little sister Julie all day. I loved Julie. She had soft golden-brown curls fuzzing around on her head, and mischievous brown eyes -- warm, extra-human eyes. There was a place in the back of her neck, just below the point of her curls, which it was a privilege to kiss; and though she could not yet talk, she had a throaty, beautiful little exclamation, which cannot be spelled any more than a bird note, with which she greeted all the things she liked -- a flower, or a toy, or mother. But loving Julie as she sat in mother's lap, and having to care for her all of a shining Saturday, were two quite different things. As the hours wore along I became bored with looking at the golden curls of my baby sister; I had no inclination to kiss the "honey-spot" in the back of her neck; and when she fretted from heat and teething and my perfunctory care, I grew angry.

I knew mother was busy making custards and cakes for Aunt Cordelia, and I longed to be in watching these pleasing operations. I thought -- but what does it matter what I thought? I was bad! I was so bad that I was glad I was bad. Perhaps it was nerves. Maybe I really had taken care of the baby too long. But however that may be, for the first time in my life I enjoyed the consciousness of having a bad disposition -- or perhaps I ought to say that I felt a fiendish satisfaction in the discovery that I had one.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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