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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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"What do you think Aunt Ellen sent me last week?" he inquired.

We seemed to be old acquaintances, and in my second of perplexity I decided that it was mere forgetfulness that made me unable to recall just whom he was talking about. So I only said politely: "I don't know, I'm sure, sir."

"Why, yes, you do!" he laughed. "Couldn't you guess? What should Aunt Ellen send but some of that white maple sugar of hers; better than ever, too. I've a pound of it along with me, and I'd be glad to pry off a few pieces if you'd like to eat it. You always were so fond of Aunt Ellen's maple sugar, you know."

The tone carried conviction. Of course I must have been fond of it; indeed, upon reflection, I felt that I had been. By the time the man was back with a parallelogram of the maple sugar in his hand, I was convinced that he had spoken the truth.

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"Aunt Ellen certainly is a dear," he went on. "I run down to see her every time I get a chance. Same old rain-barrel! Same old beehives! Same old well-sweep! Wouldn't trade them for any others in the world. I like everything about the place -- like the 'Old Man' that grows by the gate; and the tomato trellis -- nobody else treats tomatoes like flowers; and the herb garden, and the cupboard with the little wood-carvings in it that Uncle Ben made. You remember Uncle Ben? Been a sailor -- broke both legs -- had 'em cut off -- and sat around and carved while Aunt Ellen taught school. Happy they were -- no one happier. Brought me up, you know. Didn't have a father or mother -- just gathered me in. Good sort, those. Uncle Ben's gone, but Aunt Ellen's a mother to me yet. Thinks of me, travelling, travelling, never putting my head down in the same bed two nights running; and here and there and everywhere she overtakes me with little scraps out of home. That's Aunt Ellen for you!"

As the delicious sugar melted on my tongue, the sorrows melted in my soul, and I was just about to make some inquiries about Aunt Ellen, whose personal qualities seemed to be growing clearer and clearer in my mind, when my conductor came striding down the aisle.

"Where's my little girl?" he demanded heartily. "Ah, there she is, just where I left her, in good company and eating maple sugar, as I live."

"Well, she hain't bin there all the time now, I ken tell ye that!" cried the old woman with a face like a hen.

"Indeed, she ain't!" the other women joined in. "She's a mischief-makin' child, that's what she is!" said the mother. The little girl was looking over her grandmother's shoulder, and she ran out a very red, serpent-like tongue at me.

"She's a good girl, and almost as fond of Aunt Ellen as I am," said the large man, finding my pocket, and putting a huge piece of maple sugar in it.

The conductor, meantime, was gathering my things, and with a "Come along, now! This is where you change," he led me from the car. I glanced back once, and the hen-faced woman shook her withered brown fist at me, and the large man waved and smiled. The conductor and I ran as hard as we could, he carrying my light luggage, to a stage that seemed to be waiting for us. He shouted some directions to the driver, deposited me within, and ran back to his train. And I, alone again, looked about me.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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