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´╗┐Title: Painted Windows
Author: Peattie, Elia Wilkinson, 1862-1935
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Painted Windows" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



PAINTED WINDOWS

By Elia W. Peattie



     Will you come with me into the chamber of memory
     and lift your eyes to the painted windows where the figures
     and scenes of childhood appear? Perhaps by looking with
     kindly eyes at those from out my past, long wished-for
     visions of your own youth will appear to heal the wounds
     from which you suffer, and to quiet your stormy and
     restless heart.



CONTENTS


       I NIGHT

      II SOLITUDE

     III FRIENDSHIP

      IV FAME

       V REMORSE

      VI TRAVEL



PAINTED WINDOWS



I. NIGHT

YOUNG people believe very little that they hear about the compensations
of growing old, and of living over again in memory the events of the
past. Yet there really are these compensations and pleasures, and
although they are not so vivid and breathless as the pleasures of
youth, they have something delicate and fine about them that must be
experienced to be appreciated.

Few of us would exchange our memories for those of others. They have
become a part of our personality, and we could not part with them
without losing something of ourselves. Neither would we part with our
own particular childhood, which, however difficult it may have been at
times, seems to each of us more significant than the childhood of any
one else. I can run over in my mind certain incidents of my childhood
as if they were chapters in a much-loved book, and when I am wakeful
at night, or bored by a long journey, or waiting for some one in the
railway-station, I take them out and go over them again.

Nor is my book of memories without its illustrations. I can see little
villages, and a great city, and forests and planted fields, and familiar
faces; and all have this advantage: they are not fixed and without
motion, like the pictures in the ordinary book. People are walking up
the streets of the village, the trees are tossing, the tall wheat and
corn in the fields salute me. I can smell the odour of the gathered hay,
and the faces in my dream-book smile at me.

Of all of these memories I like best the one in the pine forest.

I was at that age when children think of their parents as being
all-powerful. I could hardly have imagined any circumstances, however
adverse, that my father could not have met with his strength and wisdom
and skill. All children have such a period of hero-worship, I suppose,
when their father stands out from the rest of the world as the best and
most powerful man living. So, feeling as I did, I was made happier than
I can say when my father decided, because I was looking pale and had a
poor appetite, to take me out of school for a while, and carry me with
him on a driving trip. We lived in Michigan, where there were, in the
days of which I am writing, not many railroads; and when my father, who
was attorney for a number of wholesale mercantile firms in Detroit, used
to go about the country collecting money due, adjusting claims, and so
on, he had no choice but to drive.

And over what roads! Now it was a strip of corduroy, now a piece
of well-graded elevation with clay subsoil and gravel surface, now a
neglected stretch full of dangerous holes; and worst of all, running
through the great forests, long pieces of road from which the stumps had
been only partly extracted, and where the sunlight barely penetrated.
Here the soaked earth became little less than a quagmire.

But father was too well used to hard journeys to fear them, and I felt
that, in going with him, I was safe from all possible harm. The journey
had all the allurement of an adventure, for we would not know from day
to day where we should eat our meals or sleep at night. So, to provide
against trouble, we carried father's old red-and-blue-checked army
blankets, a bag of feed for Sheridan, the horse, plenty of bread, bacon,
jam, coffee and prepared cream; and we hung pails of pure water and
buttermilk from the rear of our buggy.

We had been out two weeks without failing once to eat at a proper
table or to sleep in a comfortable bed. Sometimes we put up at the
stark-looking hotels that loomed, raw and uninviting, in the larger
towns; sometimes we had the pleasure of being welcomed at a little inn,
where the host showed us a personal hospitality; but oftener we were
forced to make ourselves "paying guests" at some house. We cared nothing
whether we slept in the spare rooms of a fine frame "residence" or crept
into bed beneath the eaves of the attic in a log cabin. I had begun to
feel that our journey would be almost too tame and comfortable, when one
night something really happened.

Father lost his bearings. He was hoping to reach the town of Gratiot by
nightfall, and he attempted to make a short cut. To do this he turned
into a road that wound through a magnificent forest, at first of oak and
butternut, ironwood and beech, then of densely growing pines. When we
entered the wood it was twilight, but no sooner were we well within
the shadow of these sombre trees than we were plunged in darkness,
and within half an hour this darkness deepened, so that we could see
nothing--not even the horse.

"The sun doesn't get in here the year round," said father, trying his
best to guide the horse through the mire. So deep was the mud that it
seemed as if it literally sucked at the legs of the horse and the wheels
of the buggy, and I began to wonder if we should really be swallowed,
and to fear that we had met with a difficulty that even my father could
not overcome. I can hardly make plain what a tragic thought that was!
The horse began to give out sighs and groans, and in the intervals of
his struggles to get on, I could feel him trembling. There was a note of
anxiety in father's voice as he called out, with all the authority and
cheer he could command, to poor Sheridan. The wind was rising, and
the long sobs of the pines made cold shivers run up my spine. My teeth
chattered, partly from cold, but more from fright.

"What are we going to do?" I asked, my voice quivering with tears.

"Well, we aren't going to cry, whatever else we do!" answered father,
rather sharply. He snatched the lighted lantern from its place on the
dashboard and leaped out into the road. I could hear him floundering
round in that terrible mire and soothing the horse. The next thing I
realised was that the horse was unhitched, that father had--for the
first time during our journey--laid the lash across Sheridan's back, and
that, with a leap of indignation, the horse had reached the firm ground
of the roadside. Father called out to him to stand still, and a moment
later I found myself being swung from the buggy into father's arms.
He staggered along, plunging and almost falling, and presently I, too,
stood beneath the giant pines.

"One journey more," said father, "for our supper, and then we'll bivouac
right here."

Now that I was away from the buggy that was so familiar to me, and that
seemed like a little movable piece of home, I felt, as I had not felt
before, the vastness of the solitude. Above me in the rising wind tossed
the tops of the singing trees; about me stretched the soft blackness;
and beneath the dense, interlaced branches it was almost as calm and
still as in a room. I could see that the clouds were breaking and the
stars beginning to come out, and that comforted me a little.

Father was keeping up a stream of cheerful talk.

"Now, sir," he was saying to Sheridan, "stand still while I get this
harness off you. I'll tie you and blanket you, and you can lie or stand
as you please. Here's your nose-bag, with some good supper in it, and if
you don't have drink, it's not my fault. Anyway, it isn't so long since
you got a good nip at the creek."

I was watching by the faint light of the lantern, and noticing how
unnatural father and Sheridan looked. They seemed to be blocked out in a
rude kind of way, like some wooden toys I had at home.

"Here we are," said father, "like Robinson Crusoes. It was hard luck for
Robinson, not having his little girl along. He'd have had her to pick up
sticks and twigs to make a fire, and that would have been a great help
to him."

Father began breaking fallen branches over his knee, and I groped round
and filled my arms again and again with little fagots. So after a few
minutes we had a fine fire crackling in a place where it could not catch
the branches of the trees. Father had scraped the needles of the pines
together in such a way that a bare rim of earth was left all around the
fire, so that it could not spread along the ground; and presently the
coffee-pot was over the fire and bacon was sizzling in the frying-pan.
The good, hearty odours came out to mingle with the delicious scent
of the pines, and I, setting out our dishes, began to feel a happiness
different from anything I had ever known.

Pioneers and wanderers and soldiers have joys of their own--joys of
which I had heard often enough, for there had been more stories told
than read in our house. But now for the first time I knew what my
grandmother and my uncles had meant when they told me about the way they
had come into the wilderness, and about the great happiness and freedom
of those first days. I, too, felt this freedom, and it seemed to me as
if I never again wanted walls to close in on me. All my fear was gone,
and I felt wild and glad. I could not believe that I was only a little
girl. I felt taller even than my father.

Father's mood was like mine in a way. He had memories to add to his
emotion, but then, on the other hand, he lacked the sense of discovery
I had, for he had known often such feelings as were coming to me for
the first time. When he was a young man he had been a colporteur for the
American Bible Society among the Lake Superior Indians, and in that
way had earned part of the money for his course at the University of
Michigan; afterward he had gone with other gold-seekers to Pike's Peak,
and had crossed the plains with oxen, in the company of many other
adventurers; then, when President Lincoln called for troops, he had
returned to enlist with the Michigan men, and had served more than three
years with McClellan and Grant.

So, naturally, there was nothing he did not know about making himself
comfortable in the open. He knew all the sorrow and all the joy of
the homeless man, and now, as he cooked, he began to sing the old
songs--"Marching Through Georgia," and "Bury Me Not on the Lone
Prairie," and "In the Prison Cell I Sit." He had been in a Southern
prison after the Battle of the Wilderness, and so he knew how to sing
that song with particular feeling.

I had heard war stories all my life, though usually father told such
tales in a half-joking way, as if to make light of everything he had
gone through. But now, as we ate there under the tossing pines, and the
wild chorus in the treetops swelled like a rising sea, the spirit of the
old days came over him. He was a good "stump speaker," and he knew how
to make a story come to life, and never did all his simple natural gifts
show themselves better than on this night, when he dwelt on his old
campaigns.

For the first time I was to look into the heart of a kindly natured man,
forced by terrible necessity to go through the dread experience of war.
I gained an idea of the unspeakable homesickness of the man who leaves
his family to an unimagined fate, and sacrifices years in the service
of his country. I saw that the mere foregoing of roof and bed is an
indescribable distress; I learned something of what the palpitant
anxiety before a battle must be, and the quaking fear at the first
rattle of bullets, and the half-mad rush of determination with which men
force valour into their faltering hearts; I was made to know something
of the blight of war--the horror of the battlefield, the waste of
bounty, the ruin of homes.

Then, rising above this, came stories of devotion, of brotherhood, of
service on the long, desolate marches, of courage to the death of those
who fought for a cause. I began to see wherein lay the highest joy of
the soldier, and of how little account he held himself, if the principle
for which he fought could be preserved. I heard for the first time the
wonderful words of Lincoln at Gettysburg, and learned to repeat a part
of them.

I was only eight, it is true, but emotion has no age, and I
understood then as well as I ever could, what heroism and devotion and
self-forgetfulness mean. I understood, too, the meaning of the words
"our country," and my heart warmed to it, as in the older times the
hearts of boys and girls warmed to the name of their king. The new
knowledge was so beautiful that I thought then, and I think now, that
nothing could have served as so fit an accompaniment to it as the
shouting of those pines. They sang like heroes, and in their swaying
gave me fleeting glimpses of the stars, unbelievably brilliant in the
dusky purple sky, and half-obscured now and then by drifting clouds.

By and by we lay down, not far apart, each rolled in an army blanket,
frayed with service. Our feet were to the fire--for it was so that
soldiers lay, my father said--and our heads rested on mounds of
pine-needles.

Sometimes in the night I felt my father's hand resting lightly on my
shoulders to see that I was covered, but in my dreams he ceased to be my
father and became my comrade, and I was a drummer boy,--I had seen the
play, "The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock,"--marching forward, with set
teeth, in the face of battle.

Whatever could redeem war and make it glorious seemed to flood my soul.
All that was highest, all that was noble in that dreadful conflict came
to me in my sleep--to me, the child who had been born when my father
was at "the front." I had a strange baptism of the spirit. I discovered
sorrow and courage, singing trees and stars. I was never again to think
that the fireside and fireside thoughts made up the whole of life.

My father lies with other soldiers by the Pacific; the forest sings
no more; the old army blankets have disappeared; the memories of the
terrible war are fading,--happily fading,--but they all live again,
sometimes, in my memory, and I am once more a child, with thoughts as
proud and fierce and beautiful as Valkyries.



II. SOLITUDE

AMONG the pictures that I see when I look back into the past, is the one
where I, a sullen, egotistic person nine years old, stood quite alone
in the world. To be sure, there were father and mother in the house, and
there were the other children, and not one among them knew I was
alone. The world certainly would not have regarded me as friendless or
orphaned. There was nothing in my mere appearance, as I started away to
school in my clean ginghams, with my well-brushed hair, and embroidered
school-bag, to lead any one to suppose that I was a castaway. Yet I
was--I had discovered this fact, hidden though it might be from others.

I was no longer loved. Father and mother loved the other children; but
not me. I might come home at night, fairly bursting with important news
about what had happened in class or among my friends, and try to relate
my little histories. But did mother listen? Not at all. She would nod
like a mandarin while I talked, or go on turning the leaves of her book,
or writing her letter. What I said was of no importance to her.

Father was even less interested. He frankly told me to keep still, and
went on with the accounts in which he was so absurdly interested, or
examined "papers"--stupid-looking things done on legal cap, which he
brought home with him from the office. No one kissed me when I started
away in the morning; no one kissed me when I came home at night. I
went to bed unkissed. I felt myself to be a lonely and misunderstood
child--perhaps even an adopted one.

Why, I knew a little girl who, when she went up to her room at night,
found the bedclothes turned back, and the shade drawn, and a screen
placed so as to keep off drafts. And her mother brushed her hair twenty
minutes by the clock each night, to make it glossy; and then she sat by
her bed and sang softly till the girl fell asleep.

I not only had to open my own bed, but the beds for the other children,
and although I sometimes felt my mother's hand tucking in the bedclothes
round me, she never stooped and kissed me on the brow and said, "Bless
you, my child." No one, in all my experience, had said, "Bless you, my
child." When the girl I have spoken of came into the room, her mother
reached out her arms and said, before everybody, "Here comes my
dear little girl." When I came into a room, I was usually told to do
something for somebody. It was "Please see if the fire needs more wood,"
or "Let the cat in, please," or "I'd like you to weed the pansy bed
before supper-time."

In these circumstances, life hardly seemed worth living. I decided that
I had made a mistake in choosing my family. It did not appreciate me,
and it failed to make my young life glad. I knew my young life ought to
be glad. And it was not. It was drab, as drab as Toot's old rain-coat.

Toot was "our coloured boy." That is the way we described him. Father
had brought him home from the war, and had sent him to school, and
then apprenticed him to a miller. Toot did "chores" for his board and
clothes, but was soon to be his own man, and to be paid money by the
miller, and to marry Tulula Darthula Jones, a nice coloured girl who
lived with the Cutlers.

The time had been when Toot had been my self-appointed slave. Almost my
first recollections were of his carrying me out to see the train pass,
and saying, "Toot, toot!" in imitation of the locomotive; so, although
he had rather a splendid name, I called him "Toot," and the whole town
followed my example. Yes, the time had been when Toot saw me safe to
school, and slipped little red apples into my pocket, and took me out
while he milked the cow, and told me stories and sang me plantation
songs. Now, when he passed, he only nodded. When I spoke to him about
his not giving me any more apples, he said:

"Ah reckon they're your pa's apples, missy. Why, fo' goodness' sake,
don' yo' he'p yo'se'f?"

But I did not want to help myself. I wanted to be helped--not because
I was lazy, but because I wanted to be adored. I was really a sort of
fairy princess,--misplaced, of course, in a stupid republic,--and I
wanted life conducted on a fairy-princess basis. It was a game I wished
to play, but it was one I could not play alone, and not a soul could I
find who seemed inclined to play it with me.

Well, things went from bad to worse. I decided that if mother no longer
loved me, I would no longer tell her things. So I did not. I got a
hundred in spelling for twelve days running, and did not tell her!
I broke Edna Grantham's mother's water-pitcher, and kept the fact a
secret. The secret was, indeed, as sharp-edged as the pieces of the
broken pitcher had been; I cried under the bedclothes, thinking how
sorry Mrs. Grantham had been, and that mother really ought to know.
Only what was the use? I no longer looked to her to help me out of my
troubles.

I had no need now to have father and mother tell me to hurry up and
finish my chatter, for I kept all that happened to myself. I had a new
"intimate friend," and did not so much as mention her. I wrote a poem
and showed it to my teacher, but not to my uninterested parents. And
when I climbed the stairs at night to my room, I swelled with loneliness
and anguish and resentment, and the hot tears came to my eyes as I heard
father and mother laughing and talking together and paying no attention
to my misery. I could hear Toot, who used to be making all sorts of
little presents for me, whistling as he brought in the wood and water,
and then "cleaned up" to go to see his Tulula, with never a thought of
me. And I said to myself that the best thing I could do was to grow up
and get away from a place where I was no longer wanted.

No one noticed my sufferings further than sometimes to say impatiently,
"What makes you act so strange, child?" And to that, of course,
I answered nothing, for what I had to say would not, I felt, be
understood.

One morning in June I left home with my resentment burning fiercely
within me. I had not cared for the things we had for breakfast, for I
was half-ill with fretting and with the closeness of the day, but my
lack of appetite had been passed by with the remark that any one
was likely not to have an appetite on such a close day. But I was so
languid, and so averse to taking up the usual round of things, that I
begged mother to let me stay at home. She shook her head decidedly.

"You've been out of school too many days already this term," she said.
"Run along now, or you'll be late!"

"Please--" I began, for my head really was whirling, although, quite as
much, perhaps, from my perversity as from any other cause. Mother turned
on me one of her "last-word" glances.

"Go to school without another word," she said, quietly.

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.

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 ungently, 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.

It seemed as if a long time passed, a time in which I knew very little
except that I was fighting for my breath as I never had fought for
anything. There were more hurts and bruises now, but they did not
matter. Just to draw my own breath in my own way seemed to be the only
thing in the world that was of any account. And then there was a shaft
of flame, an earsplitting roar, and the rain was upon us in sheets, in
streams, in visible rivers.

I imagined that it would last a long time, and wondered in a daze how
I could get home in a rain like that--for I should have to face it. I
could see that in a few seconds the gutters had begun to race, the road
where I lay was a stream, and then--then the rain ceased. Never was
anything so astonishing. The sky came out blue, tattered rags of cloud
raced across it, and I had time to conclude that, whipped and almost
breathless though I was, I was still alive.

And then I saw a curious sight. Down the street in every direction came
rushing hatless men and women. Here and there a wild-eyed horse was
being lashed along. All the town was coming. They were in their work
clothes, in their slippers, in their wrappers--they were in anything
and everything. Some of them sobbed as they ran, some called aloud names
that I knew. They were fathers and mothers looking for their children.

And who was that--that woman with a white face, with hair falling about
her shoulders, where it had fallen as she ran--that woman whose breath
came between her teeth strangely and who called my name over and
over, bleatingly, as a mother sheep calls its lamb? At first I did not
recognise her, and then, at last, I knew. And that creature with the
rolling eyes and the curious ash-coloured face who, mumbling something
over and over in his throat, came for me, and snatched me up and wiped
my face free of mud, and felt of me here and there with trembling
hands--who was he?

And breaking out of the crowd of men who had come running from the
street of stores and offices, was another strange being, with a sort of
battle light in his eyes, who, seeing me, gathered me to him and bore me
away toward home. Looking back, I could see the woman I knew following,
leaning on the arm of the boy with the rolling eyes, whose eyes had
ceased to roll, and who was quite recognisable now as Toot.

A happiness that was almost as terrible as sorrow welled up in my heart.
I did not weep, or laugh, or talk. All I had experienced had carried me
beyond mere excitement into exultation. I exulted in life, in love. My
conceit and sulkiness died in that storm, as did many another thing. I
was alive. I was loved. I said it over and over to myself silently, in
"my heart's deep core," while mother washed me with trembling hands in
my own dear room, bound up my hurts, braided my hair, and put me, in a
fresh night-dress, into my bed. I do not recall that we talked to
each other, but in every caress of her hands as she worked I felt the
unspoken assurances of a love such as I had not dreamed of.

Father had gone running back to the school to see if he could be of any
assistance to his neighbours, and had taken Toot with him, but they were
back presently to say that beyond a few sharp injuries and broken bones,
no harm had been done to the children. It was considered miraculous that
no one had been killed or seriously injured, and I noticed that father's
voice trembled as he told of it, and that mother could not answer, and
that Toot sobbed like a big silly boy.

Then as we talked together, behold, a second storm was upon us--a sharp
black blast of wind and rain, not terrifying, like the other, but with
an "I've-come-to-spend-the-day" sort of aspect.

But no one seemed to mind very much. I was carried down to the
sitting-room. Toot busied himself coming and going on this errand and
on that, fastening the doors, closing the windows, running out to see
to the animals, and coming back again. Father and mother set the table.
They kept close together; and now and then they looked over at me,
without saying anything, but with shining eyes.

The storm died down to a quiet rain. From the roof of the porch the
drops fell in silver strings, like beads. Then the sun came out and
turned them into shining crystal. The birds began to sing again, and
when we threw open the windows delicious odours of fresh earth and
flowering shrub greeted us. Mother began to sing as she worked. And I
sank softly to sleep, thrilled with the marvels of the world--not of the
tempest, but of the peace.

The sweet familiarity of the faces and the walls and the furniture and
the garden was like a blessing. There was not a chair there that I would
have exchanged for any other chair--not a tree that I would have parted
with--not a custom of that simple, busy place that I would have changed.
I knew now all my stupidity--and my good fortune.



III. FRIENDSHIP

WHEN I look back upon the village where I lived as a child, I cannot
remember that there were any divisions in our society. This group went
to the Congregational church, and that to the Presbyterian, but each
family felt itself to be as good as any other, and even if, ordinarily,
some of them withdrew themselves in mild exclusiveness, on all occasions
of public celebration, or when in trouble, we stood together in the
pleasantest and most unaffected democracy.

There were only the "Bad Madigans" outside the pale.

The facts about the Bad Madigans were, no doubt, serious enough, but
the fiction was even more appalling. As to facts, the father drank,
the mother followed suit, the appearance of the house--a ramshackle old
place beyond the fair-grounds--was a scandal; the children could not be
got to go to school for any length of time, and, when they were there,
each class in which they were put felt itself to be in disgrace, and the
dislike focused upon the intruders, sent them, sullen and hateful, back
to their lair. And, indeed, the Madigan house seemed little more than a
lair. It had been rather a fine house once, and had been built for the
occupancy of the man who owned the fairgrounds; but he choosing finally
to live in the village, had permitted the house to fall into decay,
until only a family with no sense of order or self-respect would think
of occupying it.

When there occurred one of the rare burglaries in the village, when
anything was missing from a clothes-line, or a calf or pig disappeared,
it was generally laid to the Madigans. Unaccounted-for fires were
supposed to be their doing; they were accorded responsibility for
vicious practical jokes; and it was generally felt that before we were
through with them they would commit some blood-curdling crime.

When, as sometimes happened, I had met one of the Bad Madigans on the
road, or down on the village street, my heart had beaten as if I was
face to face with a company of banditti; but I cannot say that this
excitement was caused by aversion alone. The truth was, the Bad
Madigans fascinated me. They stood out from all the others, proudly and
disdainfully like Robin Hood and his band, and I could not get over
the idea that they said: "Fetch me yonder bow!" to each other; or, "Go
slaughter me a ten-tined buck!" I felt that they were fortunate in not
being held down to hours like the rest of us. Out of bed at six-thirty,
at table by seven, tidying bedroom at seven-thirty, dusting sitting-room
at eight, on way to school at eight-thirty, was not for "the likes of
them!" Only we, slaves of respectability and of an inordinate appetite
for order, suffered such monotony and drabness to rule. I knew the
Madigan boys could go fishing whenever they pleased, that the Madigan
girls picked the blackberries before any one else could get out to them,
that every member of the family could pack up and go picnicking for days
at a time, and that any stray horse was likely to be ridden bareback,
within an inch of its life, by the younger members of the family.

Only once however, did I have a chance to meet one of these modern
Visigoths face to face, and the feelings aroused by that incident
remained the darling secret of my youth. I dared tell no one, and I
longed, yet feared, to have the experience repeated. But it never was!
It happened in this way:

On a certain Sunday afternoon in May, my father and mother and I went to
Emmons' Woods. To reach Emmons' Woods, you went out the back door,
past the pump and the currant bushes, then down the path to the
chicken-houses, and so on, by way of the woodpile, to the south gate.
After that, you went west toward the clover meadows, past the house
where the Crazy Lady lived--here, if you were alone, you ran--and then,
reaching the verge of the woods, you took your choice of climbing a
seven-rail fence or of walking a quarter of a mile till you came to the
bars. The latter was much better for the lace on a Sunday petticoat.

Once in Emmons' Woods, there was enchantment. An eagle might come--or
a blue heron. There had been bears in Emmons' Woods--bears with rolling
eyes and red mouths from which their tongues lolled. There was one place
for pinky trillium, and another for gentians; one for tawny adders'
tongues, and another for yellow Dutchman's breeches. In the sap-starting
season, the maples dripped their luscious sap into little wooden cups;
later, partridges nested in the sun-burned grass. There was no lake or
river, but there was a pond, swarming with a vivacious population, and
on the hard-baked clay of the pond beach the green beetles aired their
splendid changeable silks and sandpipers hopped ridiculously.

It was, curiously enough, easier to run than to walk in Emmons' Woods,
and even more natural to dance than to run. One became acquainted with
squirrels, established intimacies with chipmunks, and was on some sort
of civil relation with blackbirds. And, oh, the tossing green of the
young willows, where the lilac distance melted into the pale blue of the
sky! And, oh, the budding of the maples and the fringing of the oaks;
and, oh, the blossoming of the tulip trees and the garnering of the
chestnuts! And then, the wriggling things in the grass; the procession
of ants; the coquetries of the robins; and the Beyond, deepening,
deepening into the forest where it was safe only for the woodsmen to go.

On this particular Sunday one of us was requested not to squeal and run
about, and to remember that we wore our best shoes and need not mess
them unnecessarily. It was hard to be reminded just when the dance was
getting into my feet, but I tried to have Sunday manners, and went along
in the still woods, wondering why the purple colours disappeared as
we came on and what had been distance became nearness. There was a
beautiful, aching vagueness over everything, and it was not strange
that father, who had stretched himself on the moss, and mother, who was
reading Godey's Ladies' Book, should presently both of them be nodding.
So, that being a well-established fact--I established it by hanging over
them and staring at their eyelids--it seemed a good time for me to let
the dance out of my toes. Still careful of my fresh linen frock, and
remembering about the best shoes, I went on, demurely, down the green
alleys of the wood. Now I stepped on patches of sunshine, now in pools
of shadow. I thought of how naughty I was to run away like this, and of
what a mistake people made who said I was a good, quiet, child. I knew
that I looked sad and prim, but I really hated my sadness and primness
and goodness, and longed to let out all the interesting, wild, naughty
thoughts there were in me. I wanted to act as if I were bewitched, and
to tear up vines and wind them about me, to shriek to the echoes, and
to scold back at the squirrels. I wanted to take off my clothes and
rush into the pond, and swim like a fish, or wriggle like a pollywog.
I wanted to climb trees and drop from them; and, most of all--oh, with
what longing--did I wish to lift myself above the earth and fly into the
bland blue air!

I came to a hollow where there was a wonderful greenness over
everything, and I said to myself that I would be bewitched at last. I
would dance and whirl and call till, perhaps, some kind of a creature as
wild and wicked and wonderful as I, would come out of the woods and join
me. So I forgot about the fresh linen frock, and wreathed myself with
wild grape-vine; I cared nothing for my fresh braids and wound trillium
in my hair; and I ceased to remember my new shoes, and whirled around
and around in the leafy mould, singing and shouting.

I grew madder and madder. I seemed not to be myself at all, but some
sort of a wood creature; and just when the trees were looking larger
than ever they did before, and the sky higher up, a girl came running
down from a sort of embankment where a tornado had made a path for
itself and had hurled some great chestnuts and oaks in a tumbled mass.
The girl came leaping down the steep sides of this place, her arms
outspread, her feet bare, her dress no more than a rag the colour of the
tree-trunks. She had on a torn green jacket, which made her seem more
than ever like some one who had just stepped out of a hollow tree, and,
to my unspeakable happiness, she joined me in my dance.

I shall never forget how beautiful she was, with her wild tangle of dark
hair, and her deep blue eyes and ripe lips. Her cheeks were flaming red,
and her limbs strong and brown. She did not merely shout and sing; she
whistled, and made calls like the birds, and cawed like a crow, and
chittered like a squirrel, and around and around the two of us danced,
crazy as dervishes with the beauty of the spring and the joy of being
free.

By and by we were so tired we had to stop, and then we sat down panting
and looked at each other. At that we laughed, long and foolishly, but,
after a time, it occurred to us that we had many questions to ask.

"How did you get here?" I asked the girl.

"I was walking my lone," she said, speaking her words as if there was a
rich thick quality to them, "and I heard you screeling."

"Won't you get lost, alone like that?"

"I can't get lost," she sighed. "I 'd like to, but I can't."

"Where do you live?"

"Beyant the fair-grounds."

"You're not--not Norah Madigan?"

She leaned back and clasped her hands behind her head. Then she smiled
at me teasingly.

"I am that," she said, showing her perfect teeth.

I caught my breath with a sharp gasp. Ought I to turn back to my
parents? Had I been so naughty that I had called the naughtiest girl in
the whole county out to me?

But I could not bring myself to leave her. She was leaning forward and
looking at me now with mocking eyes.

"Are you afraid?" she demanded.

"Afraid of what?" I asked, knowing quite well what she meant.

"Of me?" she retorted.

At that second an agreeable truth overtook me. I leaned forward, too,
and put my hand on hers.

"Why, I like you!" I cried. She began laughing again, but this time
there was no mockery in it. She ran her fingers over the embroidery on
my linen frock, she examined the lace on my petticoat, looked at the
bows on my shoes, and played delicately with the locket dangling from
the slender chain around my neck.

"Do you know--other girls?" she almost whispered.

I nodded. "Lots and lots of 'em," I said. "Don't you?"

She shook her head in wistful denial.

"Us Madigans," she said, "keeps to ourselves." She said it so haughtily
that for a moment I was almost persuaded into thinking that they lived
their solitary lives from choice. But, glancing up at her, I saw a blush
that covered her face, and there were tears in her eyes.

"Well, anyway," said I quickly, "we know each other."

"Yes," she cried, "we do that!"

She got up, then, and ran to a great tree from which a stout grape-vine
was swinging, and pulling at it with her strong arms, she soon had it
made into a practical swing.

"Come!" she called--"come, let's swing together!"

She helped me to balance myself on the rope-like vine, and, placing her
feet outside of mine, showed me how to "work up" till we were sweeping
with a fine momentum through the air. We shrieked with excitement, and
urged each other on to more and more frantic exertions. We were like two
birds, but to birds flying is no novelty. With us it was, which made us
happier than birds. But I, for my part, was no more delighted with
my swift flights through the air than I was with the shining eyes and
flashing teeth of the girl opposite me. I liked her strength, and the
way in which her body bent and swayed. Once more, she seemed like a
wood-child--a wild, mad, gay creature from the tree. I felt as if I had
drawn a playmate from elf-land, and I liked her a thousand times
better than those proper little girls who came to see me of a Saturday
afternoon.

Well, there we were, rocking and screaming, and telling each other that
we were hawks, and that we were flying high over the world, when the
anxious and austere voice of my mother broke upon our ears. We tried to
stop, but that was not such an easy matter to do, and as we twisted and
writhed, to bring our grape-vine swing to a standstill, there was a slow
rending and breaking which struck terror to our souls.

"Jump!" commanded Norah--"jump! the vine's breaking!" We leaped at the
same moment, she safely. My foot caught in a stout tendril, and I fell
headlong, scraping my forehead on the ground and tearing a triangular
rent in the pretty, new frock. Mother came running forward, and the
expression on her face was far from being the one I liked to see.

"What have you been doing?" she demanded. "I thought you were getting
old enough and sensible enough to take care of yourself!"

I must have been a depressing sight, viewed with the eyes of a careful
mother. Blood and mould mingled on my face, my dress needed a laundress
as badly as a dress could, and my shoes were scratched and muddy.

"And who is this girl?" asked mother. I had become conscious that Norah
was at my feet, wiping off my shoes with her queer little brown frock.

"It's a new friend of mine," gasped I, beginning to see that I must lose
her, and hoping the lump in my throat wouldn't get any bigger than it
was.

"What is her name?" asked mother. I had no time to answer. The girl did
that.

"I'm Norah Madigan," she said. Her tone was respectful, and, maybe, sad.
At any rate, it had a curious sound.

"Norah Mad-i-gan?" asked mother doubtfully, stringing out the word.

"Yessum," said a low voice. "Goodbye, mum."

"Oh, Norah!" cried I, a strange pain stabbing my heart. "Come to see
me--"

But my mother's voice broke in, firm and kind.

"Good-bye, Norah," said she.

I saw Norah turn and run up among the trees, almost as swiftly and
silently as a hare. Once, she turned to look back. I was watching, and
caught the chance to wave my hand to her.

"Come!" commanded mother, and we went back to where father was sitting.

"What do you think!" said mother. "I found the child playing with one of
the Bad Madigans. Isn't she a sight!"

The lump in my throat swelled to a terrible size; something buzzed in my
ears, and I heard some one weeping. For a second or two I didn't realise
that it was myself.

"Well, never mind, dear," said mother's voice soothingly. "The frock
will wash, and the tear will mend, and the shoes will black. Yes, and
the scratches will heal."

"It isn't that," I sobbed. "Oh, oh, it isn't that!"

"What is it, then, for goodness sake?" asked mother.

But I would not tell. I could not tell. How could I say that the
daughter of the Bad Madigans was the first real and satisfying playmate
I had ever had?



IV. FAME

AS I remember the boys and girls who grew up with me, I think of them as
artists, or actors, or travellers, or rich merchants. Each of us, by the
time we were half through grammar school, had selected a career. So far
as I recollect, this career had very little to do with our abilities.
We merely chose something that suited us. Our energy and our vanity
crystallised into particular shapes. There was a sort of religion abroad
in the West at that time that a person could do almost anything he set
out to do. The older people, as well as the children, had an idea that
the world was theirs--they all were Monte Cristos in that respect.

As for me, I had decided to be an orator.

At the time of making this decision, I was nine years of age, decidedly
thin and long drawn out, with two brown braids down my back, and a
terrific shyness which I occasionally overcame with such a magnificent
splurge that those who were not acquainted with my peculiarities
probably thought me a shamefully assertive child.

I based my oratorical aspirations upon my having taken the prize a
number of times in Sunday-school for learning the most New Testament
verses, and upon the fact that I always could make myself heard to the
farthest corner of the room. I also felt that I had a great message to
deliver to the world when I got around it, though in this, I was in
no way different from several of my friends. I had noticed a number
of things in the world that were not quite right, and which I thought
needed attention, and I believed that if I were quite good and studied
elocution, in a little while I should be able to set my part of
the world right, and perhaps even extend my influence to adjoining
districts.

Meantime I practised terrible vocal exercises, chiefly consisting of a
raucous "caw" something like a crow's favourite remark, and advocated
by my teacher in elocution for no reason that I can now remember; and
I stood before the glass for hours at a time making grimaces so as to
acquire the "actor's face," till my frightened little sisters implored
me to turn back into myself again.

It was a great day for me when I was asked to participate in the Harvest
Home Festival at our church on Thanksgiving Day. I looked upon it as the
beginning of my career, and bought crimping papers so that my hair could
be properly fluted. Of course, I wanted a new dress for the occasion,
and I spent several days in planning the kind of a one I thought best
suited to such a memorable event. I even picked out the particular
lace pattern I wanted for the ruffles. This was before I submitted the
proposition to Mother, however. When I told her about it she said she
could see no use in getting a new dress and going to all the trouble of
making it when my white one with the green harps was perfectly good.

This was such an unusual dress and had gone through so many
vicissitudes, that I really was devotedly attached to it. It had, in the
beginning, belonged to my Aunt Bess, and in the days of its first
glory had been a sheer Irish linen lawn, with tiny green harps on it at
agreeable intervals. But in the course of time, it had to be sent to
the wash-tub, and then, behold, all the little lovely harps followed
the example of the harp that "once through Tara's hall the soul of music
shed," and disappeared! Only vague, dirty, yellow reminders of their
beauty remained, not to decorate, but to disfigure the fine fabric.

Aunt Bess, naturally enough, felt irritated, and she gave the goods to
mother, saying that she might be able to boil the yellow stains out of
it and make me a dress. I had gone about many a time, like love amid the
ruins, in the fragments of Aunt Bess's splendour, and I was not happy in
the thought of dangling these dimmed reminders of Ireland's past around
with me. But mother said she thought I'd have a really truly white
Sunday best dress out of it by the time she was through with it. So
she prepared a strong solution of sodium and things, and boiled the
breadths, and every little green harp came dancing back as if awaiting
the hand of a new Dublin poet. The green of them was even more charming
than it had been at first, and I, as happy as if I had acquired the
golden harp for which I then vaguely longed, went to Sunday-school
all that summer in this miraculous dress of now-you-see-them
and-now-you-don't, and became so used to being asked if I were Irish
that my heart exulted when I found that I might--fractionally--claim to
be, and that one of the Fenian martyrs had been an ancestor. For a year,
even, after that discovery of the Fenian martyr, ancestors were a
favorite study of mine.

Well, though the dress became something more than familiar to the eyes
of my associates, I was so attached to it that I felt no objection to
wearing it on the great occasion; and, that being settled, all that
remained was to select the piece which was to reveal my talents to a
hitherto unappreciative--or, perhaps I should say, unsuspecting--group
of friends and relatives. It seemed to me that I knew better than my
teacher (who had agreed to select the pieces for her pupils) possibly
could what sort of a thing best represented my talents, and so, after
some thought, I selected "Antony and Cleopatra," and as I lagged
along the too-familiar road to school, avoiding the companionship of my
acquaintances, I repeated:

     I am dying, Egypt, dying!
        Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast,
     And the dark Plutonian shadows
        Gather on the evening blast.

Sometimes I grew so impassioned, so heedless of all save my mimic sorrow
and the swing of the purple lines, that I could not bring myself to
modify my voice, and the passers-by heard my shrill tones vibrating
with:

     As for thee, star-eyed Egyptian!
        Glorious sorceress of the Nile!
     Light the path to Stygian horrors
        With the splendour of thy smile.

I wiped dishes to the rhythm of such phrases as "scarred and veteran
legions," and laced my shoes to the music of "Though no glittering
guards surround me."

Confident that no one could fail to see the beauty of these lines, or
the propriety of the identification of myself with Antony, I called upon
my Sunday-school teacher, Miss Goss, to report. I never had thought
of Miss Goss as a blithe spirit. She was associated in my mind with
numerous solemn occasions, and I was surprised to find that on this day
she unexpectedly developed a trait of breaking into nervous laughter.
I had got as far as "Should the base plebeian rabble--" when Miss Goss
broke down in what I could not but regard as a fit of giggles, and I
ceased abruptly.

She pulled herself together after a moment or two, and said if I would
follow her to the library she thought she could find something--here she
hesitated, to conclude with, "more within the understanding of the other
children." I saw that she thought my feelings were hurt, and as I
passed a mirror I feared she had some reason to think so. My face was
uncommonly flushed, and a look of indignation had crept, somehow, even
into my braids, which, having been plaited too tightly, stuck out in
crooks and kinks from the side of my head. Incidentally, I was horrified
to notice how thin I was--thin, even for a dying Antony--and my frock
was so outgrown that it hardly covered my knees. "Ridiculous!" I said
under my breath, as I confronted this miserable figure--so shamefully
insignificant for the vicarious emotions which it had been housing.
"Ridiculous!"

I hated Miss Goss, and must have shown it in my stony stare, for she put
her arm around me and said it was a pity I had been to all the trouble
to learn a poem which was--well, a trifle too--too old--but that she
hoped to find something equally "pretty" for me to speak. At the use of
that adjective in connection with William Lytle's lines, I wrenched away
from her grasp and stood in what I was pleased to think a haughty calm,
awaiting her directions.

She took from the shelves a little volume of Whittier, bound in calf,
handling it as tenderly as if it were a priceless possession. Some
pressed violets dropped out as she opened it, and she replaced them
with devotional fingers. After some time she decided upon a lyric lament
entitled "Eva." I was asked to run over the verses, and found them
remarkably easy to learn; fatally impossible to forget. I presently
arose and with an impish betrayal of the poverty of rhyme and the
plethora of sentiment, repeated the thing relentlessly.

     O for faith like thine, sweet Eva,
     Lighting all the solemn reevah [river],
     And the blessings of the poor,
     Wafting to the heavenly shoor [shore].

"I do think," said Miss Goss gently, "that if you tried, my child, you
might manage the rhymes just a little better."

"But if you're born in Michigan," I protested, "how can you possibly
make 'Eva' rhyme with 'never' and 'believer'?"

"Perhaps it is a little hard," Miss Goss agreed, and still clinging to
her Whittier, she exhumed "The Pumpkin," which she thought precisely
fitted for our Harvest Home festival. This was quite another thing from
"Eva," and I saw that only hours of study would fix it in my mind. I
went to my home, therefore, with "The Pumpkin" delicately transcribed
in Miss Goss's running hand, and I tried to get some comfort from the
foreign allusions glittering through Whittier's kindly verse. As the
days went by I came to have a certain fondness for those homely lines:

     O--fruit loved of boyhood!--the old days recalling,
     When wood grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
     When wild, ugly faces we carved in the skin,
     Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!

     When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
     Our chair a broad pumpkin--our lantern the moon,
     Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam
     In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

On all sides this poem was considered very fitting, and I went to the
festival with that comfortable feeling one has when one is moving with
the majority and is wearing one's best clothes.

I sat rigid with expectancy while my schoolmates spoke their "pieces"
and sang their songs. With frozen faces they faced each other in
dialogues, lost their quavering voices, and stumbled down the stairs
in their anguish of spirit. I pitied them, and thought how lucky it was
that my memory never failed me, and that my voice carried so well that I
could arouse even old Elder Waite from his slumbers.

Then my turn came. My crimps were beautiful; the green harps danced on
my freshly-ironed frock, and I had on my new chain and locket. I relied
upon a sort of mechanism in me to say: O greenly and fair in the lands
of the sun, The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run.

In this seemly manner Whittier's ode to the pumpkin began. I meant to
go on to verses which I knew would delight my audience--to references to
the "crook-necks" ripening under the September sun; and to Thanksgiving
gatherings at which all smiled at the reunion of friends and the bounty
of the board.

     What moistens the lip and brightens the eye!
     What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie!

I was sure these lines would meet with approval, and having "come down
to the popular taste," I was prepared to do my best to please.

After a few seconds, when the golden pumpkins that lined the stage had
ceased to dance before my eyes, I thought I ought to begin to "get
hold of my audience." Of course, my memory would be giving me the right
words, and my facile tongue running along reliably, but I wished to
demonstrate that "ability" which was to bring me favour and fame. I
listened to my own words and was shivered into silence. I was talking
about "dark Plutonian shadows"; I was begging "Egypt" to let her arms
enfold me--I was, indeed, in the very thick of the forbidden poem. I
could hear my thin, aspiring voice reaching out over that paralysed
audience with:

     Though my scarred and veteran legions
        Bear their eagles high no more;
     And my wrecked and scattered galleys
        Strew dark Actium's fatal shore.

My tongue seemed frozen, or some kind of a ratchet at the base of it
had got out of order. For a moment--a moment can be the little sister
of eternity--I could say nothing. Then I found myself in the clutches of
the instinct for self-preservation. I felt it in me to stop the giggles
of the girls on the front seat; to take the patronising smiles out of
the tolerant eyes of the grown people. Maybe my voice lost something of
its piping insistence and was touched with genuine feeling; perhaps some
faint, faint spark of the divine fire which I longed to fan into a flame
did flicker in me for that one time. I had the indescribable happiness
of seeing the smiles die on the faces of my elders, and of hearing the
giggles of my friends cease.

I went to my seat amid what I was pleased to consider "thunders of
applause," and by way of acknowledgment, I spoke, with chastened
propriety, Whittier's ode to the pumpkin.

I cannot remember whether or not I was scolded. I'm afraid, afterward,
some people still laughed. As for me, oddly enough, my oratorical
aspirations died. I decided there were other careers better fitted to
one of my physique. So I had to go to the trouble of finding another
career; but just what it was I have forgotten.



V. REMORSE

IT is extraordinary, when you come to think of it, how very few days,
out of all the thousands that have passed, lift their heads from
the grey plain of the forgotten--like bowlders in a level stretch of
country. It is not alone the unimportant ones that are forgotten; but,
according to one's elders, many important ones have left no mark in the
memory. It seems to me, as I think it over, that it was the days that
affected the emotions that dwell with me, and I suppose all of us must
be the same in this respect.

Among those which I am never to forget is the day when Aunt Cordelia
came to visit us--my mother's aunt, she was--and when I discovered evil,
and tried to understand what the use of it was.

Great-aunt Cordelia was, as I often and often had been told, not only
much travelled, rich and handsome, but good also. She was, indeed, an
important personage in her own city, and it seemed to be regarded as
an evidence of unusual family fealty that she should go about, now and
then, briefly visiting all of her kinfolk to see how they fared in the
world. I ought to have looked forward to meeting her, but this, for
some perverse reason, I did not do. I wished I might run away and hide
somewhere till her visit was over. It annoyed me to have to clean up the
play-room on her account, and to help polish the silver, and to comb
out the fringe of the tea napkins. I liked to help in these tasks
ordinarily, but to do it for the purpose of coming up to a visiting--and
probably, a condescending--goddess, somehow made me cross.

Among other hardships, I had to take care of my little sister Julie all
day. I loved Julie. She had soft golden-brown curls fuzzing around on her
head, and mischievous brown eyes--warm, extra-human eyes. There was a
place in the back of her neck, just below the point of her curls, which
it was a privilege to kiss; and though she could not yet talk, she had a
throaty, beautiful little exclamation, which cannot be spelled any more
than a bird note, with which she greeted all the things she liked--a
flower, or a toy, or mother. But loving Julie as she sat in mother's
lap, and having to care for her all of a shining Saturday, were two
quite different things. As the hours wore along I became bored with
looking at the golden curls of my baby sister; I had no inclination to
kiss the "honey-spot" in the back of her neck; and when she fretted from
heat and teething and my perfunctory care, I grew angry.

I knew mother was busy making custards and cakes for Aunt Cordelia, and
I longed to be in watching these pleasing operations. I thought--but
what does it matter what I thought? I was bad! I was so bad that I was
glad I was bad. Perhaps it was nerves. Maybe I really had taken care
of the baby too long. But however that may be, for the first time in my
life I enjoyed the consciousness of having a bad disposition--or perhaps
I ought to say that I felt a fiendish satisfaction in the discovery that
I had one.

Along in the middle of the afternoon three of the girls in the
neighbourhood came over to play. They had their dolls, and they wanted
to "keep house" in the "new part" of our home. We were living in a roomy
and comfortable "addition," which had, oddly enough, been built before
the building to which it was finally to serve as an annex. That is to
say, it had been the addition before there was anything to add it to. By
this time, however, the new house was getting a trifle old, as it waited
for the completion of its rather disproportionate splendours; splendours
which represented the ambitions rather than the achievements of the
family. It towered, large, square, imposing, with hints of M. Mansard's
grandiose architectural ideas in its style, in the very centre of a
village block of land. From the first, it exercised a sort of "I dreamt
I dwelt in marble halls" effect upon me, and in a vague way, at the back
of my mind, floated the idea that when we passed from our modest home
into this commanding edifice, well-trained servants mysteriously would
appear, beautiful gowns would be found awaiting my use in the closets,
and father and mother would be able to take their ease, something after
the fashion of the "landed gentry" of whom I had read in Scotch and
English books. The ceilings of the new house were so high, the sweep of
the stairs so dramatic, the size of the drawing-rooms so copious, that
perhaps I hardly was to be blamed for expecting a transformation scene.

But until this new life was realised, the clean, bare rooms made the
best of all possible play-rooms, and with the light streaming in through
the trees, and falling, delicately tinged with green, upon the new
floors, and with the scent of the new wood all about, it was a place
of indefinable enchantment. I was allowed to play there all I
pleased--except when I had Julie. There were unguarded windows and
yawning stair-holes, and no steps as yet leading from the ground to the
great opening where the carved front door was some time to be. Instead,
there were planks, inclined at a steep angle, beneath which lay the
stones of which the foundation to the porch were to be made. Jagged
pieces of yet unhewn sandstone they were, with cruel edges.

But to-day when the girls said, "Oh, come!" my newly discovered badness
echoed their words. I wanted to go with them. So I went.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see father in the distance, but I
wouldn't look at him for fear he would be magnetised into turning my
way. The girls had gone up, and I followed, with Julie in my arms. Did I
hear father call to me to stop? He always said I did, but I think he was
mistaken. Perhaps I merely didn't wish to hear him. Anyway, I went on,
balancing myself as best I could. The other girls had reached the top,
and turned to look at us, and I knew they were afraid. I think they
would have held out their hands to help me, but I had both arms clasped
about Julie. So I staggered on, got almost to the top, then seemed
submerged beneath a wave of fears--mine and those of the girls--and
fell! As I went, I curled like a squirrel around Julie, and when I
struck, she was still in my grasp and on top of me. But she rolled
out of my relaxing clutch after that, and when father and mother came
running, she was lying on the stones. They thought she had fallen that
way, and as the breath had been fairly knocked out of her little body,
so that she was not crying, they were more frightened than ever, and ran
with her to the house, wild with apprehension.

As for me, I got up somehow and followed. I decided no bones were broken,
but I was dizzy and faint, and aching from bruises. I saw my little
friends running down the plank and making off along the poplar drive,
white-faced and panting. I knew they thought Julie was dead and that I'd
be hung. I had the same idea.

When we got to the sitting-room I had a strange feeling of never having
seen it before. The tall stove, the green and oak ingrain carpet, the
green rep chairs, the what-not with its shells, the steel engravings
on the walls, seemed absolutely strange. I sat down and counted the
diamond-shaped figures on the oilcloth in front of the stove; and after
a long time I heard Julie cry, and mother say with immeasurable relief:

"Aside from a shaking up, I don't believe she's a bit the worse."

Then some one brought me a cupful of cold water and asked me if I was
hurt. I shook my head and would not speak. I then heard, in simple and
emphatic Anglo-Saxon the opinions of my father and mother about a girl
who would put her little sister's life in danger, and would disobey her
parents. And after that I was put in my mother's bedroom to pass the
rest of the day, and was told I needn't expect to come to the table with
the others.

I accepted my fate stoically, and being permitted to carry my own chair
into the room, I put it by the western window, which looked across two
miles of meadows waving in buckwheat, in clover and grass, and sat
there in a curious torpor of spirit. I was glad to be alone, for I had
discovered a new idea--the idea of sin. I wished to be left to myself
till I could think out what it meant. I believed I could do that by
night, and, after I had got to the root of the matter, I could cast the
whole ugly thing out of my soul and be good all the rest of my life.

There was a large upholstered chair standing in front of me, and I put
my head down on the seat of that and thought and thought. My thoughts
reached so far that I grew frightened, and I was relieved when I felt
the little soft grey veils drawing about me which I knew meant sleep.
It seemed to me that I really ought to weep--that the circumstances were
such that I should weep. But sleep was sweeter than tears, and not only
the pain in my mind but the jar and bruise of my body seemed to demand
that oblivion. So I gave way to the impulse, and the grey veils wrapped
around and around me as a spider's web enwraps a fly. And for hours I
knew nothing.

When I awoke it was the close of day. Long tender shadows lay across the
fields, the sky had that wonderful clearness and kindness which is like
a human eye, and the soft wind puffing in at the window was sweet with
field fragrance. A glass of milk and a plate with two slices of bread
lay on the window sill by me, as if some one had placed them there
from the outside. I could hear birds settling down for the night, and
cheeping drowsily to each other. My cat came on the scene and, seeing
me, looked at me with serious, expanding eyes, twitched her whiskers
cynically, and passed on. Presently I heard the voices of my family.
They were re-entering the sitting-room. Supper was over--supper, with
its cold meats and shining jellies, its "floating island" and its fig
cake. I could hear a voice that was new to me. It was deeper than my
mother's, and its accent was different. It was the sort of a voice that
made you feel that its owner had talked with many different kinds of
people, and had contrived to hold her own with all of them. I knew it
belonged to Aunt Cordelia. And now that I was not to see her, I felt
my curiosity arising in me. I wanted to look at her, and still more I
wished to ask her about goodness. She was rich and good! Was one the
result of the other? And which came first? I dimly perceived that if
there had been more money in our house there would have been more help,
and I would not have been led into temptation--baby would not have been
left too long upon my hands. However, after a few moments of self-pity,
I rejected this thought. I knew I really was to blame, and it occurred
to me that I would add to my faults if I tried to put the blame on
anybody else.

Now that the first shock was over and that my sleep had refreshed me, I
began to see what terrible sorrow had been mine if the fall had really
injured Julie; and a sudden thought shook me. She might, after all, have
been hurt in some way that would show itself later on. I yearned to look
upon her, to see if all her sweetness and softness was intact. It seemed
to me that if I could not see her the rising grief in me would break,
and I would sob aloud. I didn't want to do that. I had no notion to call
any attention to myself whatever, but see the baby I must. So, softly,
and like a thief, I opened the door communicating with the little
dressing-room in which Julie's cradle stood. The curtain had been drawn
and it was almost dark, but I found my way to Julie's bassinet. I could
not quite see her, but the delicate odour of her breath came up to me,
and I found her little hand and slipped my finger in it. It was gripped
in a baby pressure, and I stood there enraptured, feeling as if a flower
had caressed me. I was thrilled through and through with happiness,
and with love for this little creature, whom my selfishness might have
destroyed. There was nothing in what had happened during this moment or
two when I stood by her side to assure me that all was well with her;
but I did so believe, and I said over and over: "Thank you, God! Thank
you, God!"

And now my tears began to flow. They came in a storm--a storm I could
not control, and I fled back to mother's room, and stood there before
the west window weeping as I never had wept before.

The quiet loveliness of the closing day had passed into the splendour of
the afterglow. Mighty wings as of bright angels, pink and shining white,
reached up over the sky. The vault was purple above me, and paled to
lilac, then to green of unimaginable tenderness. Now I quenched my
tears to look, and then I wept again, weeping no more for sorrow and
loneliness and shame than for gratitude and delight in beauty. So fair a
world! What had sin to do with it? I could not make it out.

The shining wings grew paler, faded, then darkened; the melancholy sound
of cow-bells stole up from the common. The birds were still; a low
wind rustled the trees. I sat thinking my young "night thoughts" of
how marvellous it was for the sun to set, to rise, to keep its place in
heaven--of how wrapped about with mysteries we were. What if the world
should start to falling through space? Where would it land? Was there
even a bottom to the universe? "World without end" might mean that there
was neither an end to space nor yet to time. I shivered at thought of
such vastness.

Suddenly light streamed about me, warm arms enfolded me.

"Mother!" I murmured, and slipped from the unknown to the dear
familiarity of her shoulder.

It was, I soon perceived, a silk-clad shoulder. Mother had on her best
dress; nay, she wore her coral pin and ear-rings. Her lace collar was
scented with Jockey Club, and her neck, into which I was burrowing, had
the indescribable something that was not quite odour, not all softness,
but was compounded of these and meant mother. She said little to me as
she drew me away and bathed my face, brushed and plaited my hair, and
put on my clean frock. But we felt happy together. I knew she was as
glad to forgive as I was to be forgiven.

In a little while she led me, blinking, into the light. A tall stranger,
a lady in prune-coloured silk, sat in the high-backed chair.

"This is my eldest girl, Aunt Cordelia," said my mother. I went forward
timidly, wondering if I were really going to be greeted by this person
who must have heard such terrible reports of me. I found myself caught
by the hands and drawn into the embrace of this new, grand acquaintance.

"Well, I've been wanting to see you," said the rich, kind voice. "They
say you look as I did at your age. They say you are like me!"

Like her--who was good! But no one referred to this difference or said
anything about my sins. When we were sorry, was evil, then, forgotten
and sin forgiven? A weight as of iron dropped from my spirit. I sank
with a sigh on the hassock at my aunt's feet. I was once more a member
of society.



VI. TRAVEL

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

"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.

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."

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.

Presently we were in a little town with cottages almost hidden among the
trees. A blue stream ran through green fields, and the water dashed over
a dam. I could hear the song of the mill and the ripping of the boards.

"We're here!" said the driver.

The heavy man lifted me down, and my young uncle came running out with
his arms open to receive me. "What a traveller!" he said, kissing me.

"It's been a tremendously long and interesting journey," I said.

"Yes," he answered. "Ten miles by rail and ten by stage. I suppose
you've had a great many adventures!"

"Oh, yes!" I cried, and ached to tell them, but feared this was not the
place. I saw my uncle respectfully helping the bishop to alight, and
heard him inquiring for his health, and the bishop answering in his
kind, deep voice, and saying I was indeed a good traveller and saw all
there was to see--and a little more. The king shook hands with me, and
this time said two words: "Good luck." Uncle had no idea who he was--no
one had seen him before. Uncle didn't quite like his looks. But I did.
He was uncommon; he was different. I thought of all those people in
the train who had been so alike. And then I remembered what unexpected
differences they had shown, and turned to smile at my uncle.

"I should say I have had adventures!" I cried.

"We'll get home to your aunt," he said, "and then we'll hear all about
them."

We crossed a bridge above the roaring mill-race, went up a lane, and
entered Arcadia. That was the way it seemed to me. It was really a
cottage above a stream, where youth and love dwelt, and honour and
hospitality, and the little house was to be exchanged for a greater one
where--though youth departed--love and honour and hospitality were still
to dwell.

"Travel's a great thing," said my uncle, as he helped me off with my
jacket.

"Yes," I answered, solemnly, "it is a great privilege to see the world."

I still am of that opinion. I have seen some odd bits of it, and I
cannot understand why it is that other journeys have not quite come up
to that first one, when I heard of Aunt Ellen, and saw the boy turn
the surprised somersault, and was welcomed by two lovers in a little
Arcadia.





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software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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