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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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I knew that quiet tone, and I went. And now I was sure that all was over between my parents and myself. I began to wonder if I need really wait till I was grown up before leaving home. So miserably absorbed was I in thinking of this, and in pitying myself with a consuming pity, that everything at school seemed to pass like the shadow of a dream. I blundered in whatever I tried to do, was sharply scolded for not hearing the teacher until she had spoken my name three times, and was holding on to myself desperately in my effort to keep back a flood of tears, when I became aware that something was happening.

There suddenly was a perfect silence in the room -- the sort of silence that makes the heart beat too fast. The mist swimming before me did not, I perceived, come from my own eyes, but from the changing colour of the air, the usual transparency of which was being tinged with yellow. The sultriness of the day was deepening, and seemed to carry a threat with it.

"Something is going to happen," thought I, and over the whole room spread the same conviction. Electric currents seemed to snap from one consciousness to another. We dropped our books, and turned our eyes toward the western windows, to look upon a changed world. It was as if we peered through yellow glass. In the sky soft-looking, tawny clouds came tumbling along like playful cats -- or tigers. A moment later we saw that they were not playful, but angry; they stretched out claws, and snarled as they did so. One claw reached the tall chimneys of the schoolhouse, another tapped at the cupola, one was thrust through the wall near where I sat.

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Then it grew black, and there was a bellowing all about us, so that the commands of the teacher and the screams of the children barely could be heard. I knew little or nothing. My shoulder was stinging, something had hit me on the side of the head, my eyes were full of dust and mortar, and my feet were carrying me with the others along the corridor, down the two flights of wide stairs. I do not think we pushed each other or were reckless. My recollection is only of many shadowy figures flying on with sure feet out of the building that seemed to be falling in upon us.

Presently we were out on the landing before the door, with one more flight of steps before us, that reached to the street. Something so strong that it might not be denied gathered me up in invisible arms, whirled me round once or twice and dropped me, not un-gently, in the middle of the road. And then, as I struggled to my knees and, wiping the dust from my eyes, looked up, I saw dozens of others being lifted in the same way, and blown off into the yard or the street. The larger ones were trying to hold on to the smaller, and the teachers were endeavouring to keep the children from going out of the building, but their efforts were of no avail. The children came on, and were blown about like leaves.

Then I saw what looked like a high yellow wall advancing upon me -- a roaring and fearsome mass of driven dust, sticks, debris. It came over me that my own home might be there, in strips and fragments, to beat me down and kill me; and with the thought came a swift little vision out of my geography of the Arabs in a sand-storm on the desert. I gathered up my fluttering dress skirt, held it tight about my head, and lay flat upon the ground.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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