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  Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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IT was time to say good-bye.

I had been down to my little brother's grave and watered the sorrel that grew on it -- I thought it was sorrow, and so tended it; and I had walked around the house and said good-bye to every window, and to the robin's nest, and to my playhouse in the shed. I had put a clean ribbon on the cat's neck, and kissed my doll, and given presents to my little sisters. Now, shivering beneath my new grey jacket in the chill of the May morning air, I stood ready to part with my mother. She was a little flurried with having just ironed my pinafores and collars, and with having put the last hook on my new Stuart plaid frock, and she looked me over with rather an anxious eye. As for me, I thought my clothes charming, and I loved the scarlet quill in my grey hat, and the set of my new shoes. I hoped, above all, that no one would notice that I was trembling and lay it down to fear.

Of course, I had been away before. It was not the first time I had left everything to take care of itself. But this time I was going alone, and that gave rather a different aspect to things. To go into the country for a few days, or even to Detroit, in the company of a watchful parent, might be called a "visit"; but to go alone, partly by train and partly by stage, and to arrive by one's self, amounted to "travel." I had an aunt who had travelled, and I felt this morning that love of travel ran in the family. Probably even Aunt Cordelia had been a trifle nervous, at first, when she started out for Hawaii, say, or for Egypt.

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Mother and I were both fearful that the driver of the station 'bus hadn't really understood that he was to call. First she would ask father, and then I would ask him, if he was quite sure the man understood, and father said that if the man could understand English at all -- and he supposed he could -- he had understood that. Father was right about it, too, for just when we -- that is, mother and I -- were almost giving up, the 'bus horses swung in the big gate and came pounding up the drive between the Lombardy poplars, which were out in their yellow-green spring dress. They were a bay team with a yellow harness which clinked splendidly with bone rings, and the 'bus was as yellow as a pumpkin, and shaped not unlike one, so that I gave it my instant approval. It was precisely the sort of vehicle in which I would have chosen to go away. So absorbed was I in it that, though I must have kissed mother, I have really no recollection of it; and it was only when we were swinging out of the gate, and I looked back and saw her standing in the door watching us, that a terrible pang came over me, so that for one crazy moment I thought I was going to jump out and run back to her.

But I held on to father's hand and turned my face away from home with all the courage I could summon, and we went on through the town and out across a lonely stretch of country to the railroad. For we were an obstinate little town, and would not build up to the railroad because the railroad had refused to run up to us. It was a new station with a fine echo in it, and the man who called out the trains had a beautiful voice for echoes. It was created to inspire them and to encourage them, and I stood fascinated by the thunderous noises he was making till father seized me by the hand and thrust me into the care of the train conductor. They said something to each other in the sharp, explosive way men have, and the conductor took me to a seat and told me I was his girl for the time being, and to stay right there till he came for me at my station.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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