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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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As for me, I got up somehow and followed. I decided no bones were broken, but I was dizzy and faint, and aching from bruises. I saw my little friends running down the plank and making off along the poplar drive, white-faced and panting. I knew they thought Julie was dead and that I'd be hung. I had the same idea.

When we got to the sitting-room I had a strange feeling of never having seen it before. The tall stove, the green and oak ingrain carpet, the green rep chairs, the what-not with its shells, the steel engravings on the walls, seemed absolutely strange. I sat down and counted the diamond-shaped figures on the oilcloth in front of the stove; and after a long time I heard Julie cry, and mother say with immeasurable relief: "Aside from a shaking up, I don't believe she's a bit the worse."

Then some one brought me a cupful of cold water and asked me if I was hurt. I shook my head and would not speak. I then heard, in simple and emphatic Anglo-Saxon the opinions of my father and mother about a girl who would put her little sister's life in danger, and would disobey her parents. And after that I was put in my mother's bedroom to pass the rest of the day, and was told I needn't expect to come to the table with the others.

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I accepted my fate stoically, and being permitted to carry my own chair into the room, I put it by the western window, which looked across two miles of meadows waving in buckwheat, in clover and grass, and sat there in a curious torpor of spirit. I was glad to be alone, for I had discovered a new idea -- the idea of sin. I wished to be left to myself till I could think out what it meant. I believed I could do that by night, and, after I had got to the root of the matter, I could cast the whole ugly thing out of my soul and be good all the rest of my life.

There was a large upholstered chair standing in front of me, and I put my head down on the seat of that and thought and thought. My thoughts reached so far that I grew frightened, and I was relieved when I felt the little soft grey veils drawing about me which I knew meant sleep. It seemed to me that I really ought to weep -- that the circumstances were such that I should weep. But sleep was sweeter than tears, and not only the pain in my mind but the jar and bruise of my body seemed to demand that oblivion. So I gave way to the impulse, and the grey veils wrapped around and around me as a spider's web enwraps a fly. And for hours I knew nothing.

When I awoke it was the close of day. Long tender shadows lay across the fields, the sky had that wonderful clearness and kindness which is like a human eye, and the soft wind puffing in at the window was sweet with field fragrance. A glass of milk and a plate with two slices of bread lay on the window sill by me, as if some one had placed them there from the outside. I could hear birds settling down for the night, and cheeping drowsily to each other. My cat came on the scene and, seeing me, looked at me with serious, expanding eyes, twitched her whiskers cynically, and passed on. Presently I heard the voices of my family. They were re-entering the sitting-room. Supper was over -- supper, with its cold meats and shining jellies, its "floating island" and its fig cake. I could hear a voice that was new to me. It was deeper than my mother's, and its accent was different. It was the sort of a voice that made you feel that its owner had talked with many different kinds of people, and had contrived to hold her own with all of them. I knew it belonged to Aunt Cordelia. And now that I was not to see her, I felt my curiosity arising in me. I wanted to look at her, and still more I wished to ask her about goodness. She was rich and good! Was one the result of the other? And which came first? I dimly perceived that if there had been more money in our house there would have been more help, and I would not have been led into temptation -- baby would not have been left too long upon my hands. However, after a few moments of self-pity, I rejected this thought. I knew I really was to blame, and it occurred to me that I would add to my faults if I tried to put the blame on anybody else.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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