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Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


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We were in the heart of a little town, and a number of men were standing around while the horses took their fill at the watering-trough. This accomplished, the driver checked up the horses, mounted to his high seat, was joined by a heavy young man; two gentlemen entered the inside of the coach, and we were off.

One of these gentlemen was very old. His silver hair hung on his shoulders; he had a beautiful flowing heard which gleamed in the light, the kindest of faces, lit with laughing blue eyes, and he leaned forward on his heavy stick and seemed to mind the plunging of our vehicle. The other man was middle-aged, dark, silent-looking, and, I decided, rather like a king. We all rode in silence for a while, but by and by the old man said kindly:

"Where are you going, my child?"

I told him.

"And whose daughter are you?" he inquired. I told him that with pride. "I know people all through the state," he said, "but I don't seem to remember that name."

"Don't you remember my father, sir?" I cried, anxiously, edging up closer to him. "Not that great and good man! Why, Abraham Lincoln and my father are the greatest men that ever lived!"

His head nodded strangely, as he lifted it and looked at me with his laughing eye.

"It's a pity I don't know him, that being the case," he said gently. "But, anyway, you're a lucky little girl."

"Yes," I sighed, "I am, indeed."

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But my attention was taken by our approach to what I recognised as an "estate." A great gate with high posts, flat on top, met my gaze, and through this gateway I could see a drive and many beautiful trees. A little boy was sitting on top of one of the posts, watching us, and I thought I never had seen a place better adapted to viewing the passing procession. I longed to be on the other gatepost, exchanging confidences across the harmless gulf with this nice-looking boy, when, most unexpectedly, the horses began to plunge. The next second the air was filled with buzzing black objects.

"Bees!" said the king. It was the first word he had spoken, and a true word it was. Swarming bees had settled in the road, and we had driven unaware into the midst of them. The horses were distracted, and made blindly for the gate, though they seemed much more likely to run into the posts than to get through the gate, I thought. The boy seemed to think this, too, for he shot backward, turned a somersault in. the air, and disappeared from view.

"God bless me!" said the king.

The heavy young man on the front seat jumped from his place and began beating away the bees and holding the horses by the bridles, and in a few minutes we were on our way. The horses had been badly stung, and the heavy young man looked rather bumpy. As for us, the king had shut the stage door at the first approach of trouble, and we were unharmed.

After this, we all felt quite well acquainted, and the old gentleman told me some wonderful stories about going about among the Indians and about the men in the lumber camps and the settlers on the lake islands. Afterward I learned that he was a bishop, and a brave and holy man whom it was a great honour to meet, but, at the time, I only thought of how kind he was to pare apples for me and to tell me tales. The king seldom spoke more than one word at a time, but he was kind, too, in his way. Once he said, "Sleepy?" to me. And, again, "Hungry?" He didn't look out at the landscape at all, and neither did the bishop. But I ran from one side to the other, and the last of the journey I was taken up between the driver and the heavy man on the high seat.

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Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

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