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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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Now that the first shock was over and that my sleep had refreshed me, I began to see what terrible sorrow had been mine if the fall had really injured Julie; and a sudden thought shook me. She might, after all, have been hurt in some way that would show itself later on. I yearned to look upon her, to see if all her sweetness and softness was intact. It seemed to me that if I could not see her the rising grief in me would break, and I would sob aloud. I didn't want to do that. I had no notion to call any attention to myself whatever, but see the baby I must. So, softly, and like a thief, I opened the door communicating with the little dressing-room in which Julie's cradle stood. The curtain had been drawn and it was almost dark, but I found my way to Julie's bassinet. I could not quite see her, but the delicate odour of her breath came up to me, and I found her little hand and slipped my finger in it. It was gripped in a baby pressure, and I stood there enraptured, feeling as if a flower had caressed me. I was thrilled through and through with happiness, and with love for this little creature, whom my selfishness might have destroyed. There was nothing in what had happened during this moment or two when I stood by her side to assure me that all was well with her; but I did so believe, and I said over and over: "Thank you, God! Thank you, God!"

And now my tears began to flow. They came in a storm -- a storm I could not control, and I fled back to mother's room, and stood there before the west window weeping as I never had wept before.

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The quiet loveliness of the closing day had passed into the splendour of the afterglow. Mighty wings as of bright angels, pink and shining white, reached up over the sky. The vault was purple above me, and paled to lilac, then to green of unimaginable tenderness. Now I quenched my tears to look, and then I wept again, weeping no more for sorrow and loneliness and shame than for gratitude and delight in beauty. So fair a world! What had sin to do with it? I could not make it out.

The shining wings grew paler, faded, then darkened; the melancholy sound of cow-bells stole up from the common. The birds were still; a low wind rustled the trees. I sat thinking my young "night thoughts" of how marvellous it was for the sun to set, to rise, to keep its place in heaven -- of how wrapped about with mysteries we were. What if the world should start to falling through space? Where would it land? Was there even a bottom to the universe? "World without end" might mean that there was neither an end to space nor yet to time. I shivered at thought of such vastness.

Suddenly light streamed about me, warm arms enfolded me.

"Mother!" I murmured, and slipped from the unknown to the dear familiarity of her shoulder.

It was, I soon perceived, a silk-clad shoulder. Mother had on her best dress; nay, she wore her coral pin and ear-rings. Her lace collar was scented with Jockey Club, and her neck, into which I was burrowing, had the indescribable something that was not quite odour, not all softness, but was compounded of these and meant mother. She said little to me as she drew me away and bathed my face, brushed and plaited my hair, and put on my clean frock. But we felt happy together. I knew she was as glad to forgive as I was to be forgiven.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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