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0105_001E Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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What amazed me was that the car should be full of people. I could not imagine where they all could be going. It was all very well for me, who belonged to a family of travellers -- as witness Aunt Cordelia -- to be going on a journey, but for these others, these many, many others, to be wandering around, heaven knows where, struck me as being not right. It seemed to take somewhat from the glory of my adventure. However, I noticed that most of them looked poor. Their clothes were old and ugly; their faces not those of pleasure-seekers. It was very difficult to imagine that they could afford a journey, which was, as I believed, a great luxury. At first, the people looked to be all of a sort, but after a little I began to see the differences, and to notice that this one looked happy, and that one sad, and another as if he had much to do and liked it, and several others as if they had very little idea where they were going or why.

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But I liked better to look from the windows and to see the world. The houses seemed quite familiar and as if I had seen them often before. I hardly could believe that I hadn't walked up those paths, opened those doors and seated myself at the tables. I felt that if I went in those houses I would know where everything was -- just where the dishes were kept, and the Bible, and the jam. It struck me that houses were very much alike in the world, and that led to the thought that people, too, were probably alike. So I forgot what the conductor had said to me about keeping still, and I crossed over the aisle and sat down beside a little girl who was regrettably young, but who looked pleasant. Her mother and grandmother were sitting opposite, and they smiled at me in a watery sort of way as if they thought a smile was expected of them. I meant to talk to the little girl, but I saw she was almost on the verge of tears, and it didn't take me long to discover what was the matter. Her little pink hat was held on by an elastic band, which, being put behind her ears and under her chin, was cutting her cruelly. I knew by experience that if the band were placed in front of her ears the tension would be lessened; so, with the most benevolent intentions in the world, I inserted my fingers between the rubber and her chubby cheeks, drew it out with nervous but friendly fingers, somehow let go of it, and snap across her two red cheeks and her pretty pug nose went the lacerating elastic, leaving a welt behind it!

"What do you mean, you bad girl?" cried the mother, taking me by the shoulders with a sort of grip I had never felt before. "I never saw such a child -- never!"

An old woman with a face like a hen leaned over the back of the seat.

"What's she done? What's she done?" she demanded. The mother told her, as the grandmother comforted the hurt baby.

"Go back to your seat and stay there!" commanded the mother. "See you don't come near here again!"

My lips trembled with the anguish I could hardly restrain. Never had a noble soul been more misunderstood. Stupid beings! How dare they! Yet, not to be liked by them -- not to be understood! That was unendurable. Would they listen to the gentle word that turneth away wrath? I was inclined to think not. I was fairly panting under my load of dismay and despondency, when a large man with an extraordinarily clean appearance sat down opposite me. He was a study in grey -- grey suit, tie, socks, gloves, hat, top-coat -- yes, and eyes! He leaned forward ingratiatingly.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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