Chapter XVIII. Prisms
As the warm August days passed, Pollyanna went very frequently to the great house on Pendleton Hill. She did not feel, however, that her visits were really a success. Not but that the man seemed to want her there--he sent for her, indeed, frequently; but that when she was there, he seemed scarcely any the happier for her presence--at least, so Pollyanna thought.
He talked to her, it was true, and be showed her many strange and beautiful things--books, pictures, and curios. But he still fretted audibly over his own helplessness, and he chafed visibly under the rules and "regulatings" of the unwelcome members of his household. He did, indeed, seem to like to hear Pollyanna talk, however, and Pollyanna talked, Pollyanna liked to talk--but she was never sure that she would not look up and find him lying back on his pillow with that white, hurt look that always pained her; and she was never sure which--if any--of her words had brought it there. As for telling him the "glad game," and trying to get him to play it--Pollyanna had never seen the time yet when she thought he would care to hear about it. She had twice tried to tell him; but neither time had she got beyond the beginning of what her father had said--John Pendleton had on each occasion turned the conversation abruptly to another subject.
Pollyanna never doubted now that John Pendleton was her Aunt Polly's one-time lover; and with all the strength of her loving, loyal heart, she wished she could in some way bring happiness into their to her mind--miserably lonely lives.
Just how she was to do this, however, she could not see. She talked to Mr. Pendleton about her aunt; and he listened, sometimes politely, sometimes irritably, frequently with a quizzical smile on his usually stern lips. She talked to her aunt about Mr. Pendleton--or rather, she tried to talk to her about him. As a general thing, however, Miss Polly would not listen--long. She always found something else to talk about. She frequently did that, however, when Pollyanna was talking of others--of Dr. Chilton, for instance. Pollyanna laid this, though, to the fact that it had been Dr. Chilton who had seen her in the sun parlor with the rose in her hair and the lace shawl draped about her shoulders. Aunt Polly, indeed, seemed particularly bitter against Dr. Chilton, as Pollyanna found out one day when a hard cold shut her up in the house.
"If you are not better by night I shall send for the doctor," Aunt Polly said.
"Shall you? Then I'm going to be worse," gurgled Pollyanna. "I'd love to have Dr. Chilton come to see me!"
She wondered, then, at the look that came to her aunt's face.
"It will not be Dr. Chilton, Pollyanna," Miss Polly said sternly. "Dr. Chilton is not our family physician. I shall send for Dr. Warren--if you are worse."
Pollyanna did not grow worse, however, and Dr. Warren was not summoned.
"And I'm so glad, too," Pollyanna said to her aunt that evening. "Of course I like Dr. Warren, and all that; but I like Dr. Chilton better, and I'm afraid he'd feel hurt if I didn't have him. You see, he wasn't really to blame, after all, that he happened to see you when I'd dressed you up so pretty that day, Aunt Polly," she finished wistfully.
"That will do, Pollyanna. I really do not wish to discuss Dr. Chilton--or his feelings," reproved Miss Polly, decisively.
Pollyanna looked at her for a moment with mournfully interested eyes; then she sighed:
"I just love to see you when your cheeks are pink like that, Aunt Polly; but I would so like to fix your hair. If--Why, Aunt Polly!" But her aunt was already out of sight down the hall.
It was toward the end of August that Pollyanna, making an early morning call on John Pendleton, found the flaming band of blue and gold and green edged with red and violet lying across his pillow. She stopped short in awed delight.
"Why, Mr. Pendleton, it's a baby rainbow--a real rainbow come in to pay you a visit!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands together softly. "Oh--oh--oh, how pretty it is! But how did it get in?" she cried.
The man laughed a little grimly: John Pendleton was particularly out of sorts with the world this morning.
"Well, I suppose it 'got in' through the bevelled edge of that glass thermometer in the window," he said wearily. "The sun shouldn't strike it at all but it does in the morning."
"Oh, but it's so pretty, Mr. Pendleton! And does just the sun do that? My! if it was mine I'd have it hang in the sun all day long!"
"Lots of good you'd get out of the thermometer, then," laughed the man. "How do you suppose you could tell how hot it was, or how cold it was, if the thermometer hung in the sun all day?"
"I shouldn't care," breathed Pollyanna, her fascinated eyes on the brilliant band of colors across the pillow. "Just as if anybody'd care when they were living all the time in a rainbow!
The man laughed. He was watching Pollyanna's rapt face a little curiously. Suddenly a new thought came to him. He touched the bell at his side.
"Nora," he said, when the elderly maid appeared at the door, "bring me one of the big brass candle-sticks from the mantel in the front drawing-room."
"Yes, sir," murmured the woman, looking slightly dazed. In a minute she had returned. A musical tinkling entered the room with her as she advanced wonderingly toward the bed. It came from the prism pendants encircling the old-fashioned candelabrum in her hand.
"Thank you. You may set it here on the stand," directed the man. "Now get a string and fasten it to the sash-curtain fixtures of that window there. Take down the sash-curtain, and let the string reach straight across the window from side to side. That will be all. Thank you," he said, when she had carried out his directions.
As she left the room he turned smiling eyes toward the wondering Pollyanna.
"Bring me the candlestick now, please, Pollyanna."
With both hands she brought it; and in a moment he was slipping off the pendants, one by one, until they lay, a round dozen of them, side by side, on the bed.
"Now, my dear, suppose you take them and hook them to that little string Nora fixed across the window. If you really want to live in a rainbow--I don't see but we'll have to have a rainbow for you to live in!"
Pollyanna had not hung up three of the pendants in the sunlit window before she saw a little of what was going to happen. She was so excited then she could scarcely control her shaking fingers enough to hang up the rest. But at last her task was finished, and she stepped back with a low cry of delight.
It had become a fairyland--that sumptuous, but dreary bedroom. Everywhere were bits of dancing red and green, violet and orange, gold and blue. The wall, the floor, and the furniture, even to the bed itself, were aflame with shimmering bits of color.
"Oh, oh, oh, how lovely!" breathed Pollyanna; then she laughed suddenly. "I just reckon the sun himself is trying to play the game now, don't you?" she cried, forgetting for the moment that Mr. Pendleton could not know what she was talking about. "Oh, how I wish I had a lot of those things! How I would like to give them to Aunt Polly and Mrs. Snow and--lots of folks. I reckon then they'd be glad all right! Why, I think even Aunt Polly'd get so glad she couldn't help banging doors if she lived in a rainbow like that. Don't you?"
Mr. Pendleton laughed.
"Well, from my remembrance of your aunt, Miss Pollyanna, I must say I think it would take something more than a few prisms in the sunlight to--to make her bang many doors--for gladness. But come, now, really, what do you mean?"
Pollyanna stared slightly; then she drew a long breath.
"Oh, I forgot. You don't know about the game. I remember now."
"Suppose you tell me, then."
And this time Pollyanna told him. She told him the whole thing from the very first--from the crutches that should have been a doll. As she talked, she did not look at his face. Her rapt eyes were still on the dancing flecks of color from the prism pendants swaying in the sunlit window.
"And that's all," she sighed, when she had finished. "And now you know why I said the sun was trying to play it--that game."
For a moment there was silence. Then a low voice from the bed said unsteadily:
"Perhaps; but I'm thinking that the very finest prism of them all is yourself, Pollyanna."
"Oh, but I don't show beautiful red and green and purple when the sun shines through me, Mr. Pendleton!"
"Don't you?" smiled the man. And Pollyanna, looking into his face, wondered why there were tears in his eyes.
"No," she said. Then, after a minute she added mournfully: "I'm afraid, Mr. Pendleton, the sun doesn't make anything but freckles out of me. Aunt Polly says it does make them!
The man laughed a little; and again Pollyanna looked at him: the laugh had sounded almost like a sob.
Chapter XIX. Which is Somewhat Surprising
Pollyanna entered school in September. Preliminary examinations showed that she was well advanced for a girl of her years, and she was soon a happy member of a class of girls and boys her own age.
School, in some ways, was a surprise to Pollyanna; and Pollyanna, certainly, in many ways, was very much of a surprise to school. They were soon on the best of terms, however, and to her aunt Pollyanna confessed that going to school was living, after all--though she had had her doubts before.
In spite of her delight in her new work, Pollyanna did not forget her old friends. True, she could not give them quite so much time now, of course; but she gave them what time she could. Perhaps John Pendleton, of them all, however, was the most dissatisfied.
One Saturday afternoon he spoke to her about it.
"See here, Pollyanna, how would you like to come and live with me? he asked, a little impatiently. "I don't see anything of you, nowadays."
Pollyanna laughed--Mr. Pendleton was such a funny man!
"I thought you didn't like to have folks 'round," she said.
He made a wry face.
"Oh, but that was before you taught me to play that wonderful game of yours. Now I'm glad to be waited on, hand and foot! Never mind, I'll be on my own two feet yet, one of these days; then I'll see who steps around," he finished, picking up one of the crutches at his side and shaking it playfully at the little girl. They were sitting in the great library to-day.
"Oh, but you aren't really glad at all for things; you just say you are," pouted Pollyanna, her eyes on the dog, dozing before the fire. "You know you don't play the game right ever, Mr. Pendleton--you know you don't!"
The man's face grew suddenly very grave.
"That's why I want you, little girl--to help me play it. Will you come?"
Pollyanna turned in surprise.
"Mr. Pendleton, you don't really mean--that?
"But I do. I want you. Will you come?"
Pollyanna looked distressed.
"Why, Mr. Pendleton, I can't--you know I can't. Why, I'm--Aunt Polly's!"
A quick something crossed the man's face that Pollyanna could not quite understand. His head came up almost fiercely.
"You're no more hers than--Perhaps she would let you come to me," he finished more gently. "Would you come--if she did?"
Pollyanna frowned in deep thought.
"But Aunt Polly has been so--good to me," she began slowly; "and she took me when I didn't have anybody left but the Ladies' Aid, and--"
Again that spasm of something crossed the man's face; but this time, when he spoke, his voice was low and very sad.
"Pollyanna, long years ago I loved somebody very much. I hoped to bring her, some day, to this house. I pictured how happy we'd be together in our home all the long years to come."
"Yes," pitied Pollyanna, her eyes shining with sympathy.
"But--well, I didn't bring her here. Never mind why. I just didn't that's all. And ever since then this great gray pile of stone has been a house--never a home. It takes a woman's hand and heart, or a child's presence, to make a home, Pollyanna; and I have not had either. Now will you come, my dear?"
Pollyanna sprang to her feet. Her face was fairly illumined.
"Mr. Pendleton, you--you mean that you wish you--you had had that woman's hand and heart all this time?"
"Why, y-yes, Pollyanna."
"Oh, I'm so glad! Then it's all right," sighed the little girl. "Now you can take us both, and everything will be lovely."
"Take--you--both?" repeated the man, dazedly.
A faint doubt crossed Pollyanna's countenance.
"Well, of course, Aunt Polly isn't won over, yet; but I'm sure she will be if you tell it to her just as you did to me, and then we'd both come, of course."
A look of actual terror leaped to the man's eyes.
"Aunt Polly come--here!"
Pollyanna's eyes widened a little.
"Would you rather go there?" she asked. Of course the house isn't quite so pretty, but it's nearer--"
"Pollyanna, what are you talking about?" asked the man, very gently now.
"Why, about where we're going to live, of course," rejoined Pollyanna, in obvious surprise. "I thought you meant here, at first. You said it was here that you had wanted Aunt Polly's hand and heart all these years to make a home, and--"
An inarticulate cry came from the man's throat. He raised his hand and began to speak; but the next moment he dropped his hand nervelessly at his side.
"The doctor, sir," said the maid in the doorway.
Pollyanna rose at once.
John Pendleton turned to her feverishly.
"Pollyanna, for Heaven's sake, say nothing of what I asked you--yet," he begged, in a low voice. Pollyanna dimpled into a sunny smile.
"Of course not! Just as if I didn't know you'd rather tell her yourself!" she called back merrily over her shoulder.
John Pendleton fell limply back in his chair.
"Why, what's up?" demanded the doctor, a minute later, his fingers on his patient's galloping pulse.
A whimsical smile trembled on John Pendleton's lips.
"Overdose of your--tonic, I guess," he laughed, as he noted the doctor's eyes following Pollyanna's little figure down the driveway.
Chapter XX. Which is More Surprising
Sunday mornings Pollyanna usually attended church and Sunday school. Sunday afternoons she frequently went for a walk with Nancy. She had planned one for the day after her Saturday afternoon visit to Mr. John Pendleton; but on the way home from Sunday school Dr. Chilton overtook her in his gig, and brought his horse to a stop.
"Suppose you let me drive you home, Pollyanna," he suggested. "I want to speak to you a minute. I, was just driving out to your place to tell you," he went on, as Pollyanna settled herself at his side. "Mr. Pendleton sent a special request for you to go to see him this afternoon, sure. He says it's very important."
Pollyanna nodded happily.
"Yes, it is, I know. I'll go."
The doctor eyed her with some surprise.
"I'm not sure I shall let you, after all," he declared, his eyes twinkling. "You seemed more upsetting than soothing yesterday, young lady."
"Oh, it wasn't me, truly--not really, you know; not so much as it was Aunt Polly."
The doctor turned with a quick start.
"Your--aunt!" he ejaculated.
Pollyanna gave a happy little bounce in her seat.
"Yes. And it's so exciting and lovely, just like a story, you know. I--I'm going to tell you," she burst out, with sudden decision. He said not to mention it; but he wouldn't mind your knowing, of course. He meant not to mention it to her."
"Yes; Aunt Polly. And, of course he would want to tell her himself instead of having me do it--lovers, so!"
"Lovers!" As the doctor said the word, the horse started violently, as if the hand that held the reins had given them a sharp jerk.
"Yes," nodded Pollyanna, happily. "That's the story-part, you see. I didn't know it till Nancy told me. She said Aunt Polly had a lover years ago, and they quarrelled. She didn't know who it was at first. But we've found out now. It's Mr. Pendleton, you know."
The doctor relaxed suddenly, The hand holding the reins fell limply to his lap.
"Oh! No; I--didn't know," he said quietly.
Pollyanna hurried on--they were nearing the Harrington homestead.
"Yes; and I'm so glad now. It's come out lovely. Mr. Pendleton asked me to come and live with him, but of course I wouldn't leave Aunt Polly like that--after she'd been so good to me. Then he told me all about the woman's hand and heart that he used to want, and I found out that he wanted it now; and I was so glad! For of course if he wants to make up the quarrel, everything will be all right now, and Aunt Polly and I will both go to live there, or else he'll come to live with us. Of course Aunt Polly doesn't know yet, and we haven't got everything settled; so I suppose that is why he wanted to see me this afternoon, sure."
The doctor sat suddenly erect. There was an odd smile on his lips.
"Yes; I can well imagine that Mr. John Pendleton does--want to see you, Pollyanna," he nodded, as he pulled his horse to a stop before the door.
"There's Aunt Polly now in the window," cried Pollyanna; then, a second later: "Why, no, she isn't--but I thought I saw her!"
"No; she isn't there--now," said the doctor, His lips had suddenly lost their smile.
Pollyanna found a very nervous John Pendleton waiting for her that afternoon.
"Pollyanna," he began at once. "I've been trying all night to puzzle out what you meant by all that, yesterday--about my wanting your Aunt Polly's hand and heart here all those years. What did you mean?"
"Why, because you were lovers, you know once; and I was so glad you still felt that way now."
"Lovers!--your Aunt Polly and I?"
At the obvious surprise in the man's voice, Pollyanna opened wide her eyes."
"Why, Mr. Pendleton, Nancy said you were!"
The man gave a short little laugh.
"Indeed! Well, I'm afraid I shall have to say that Nancy--didn't know."
"Then you--weren't lovers? Pollyanna's Voice was tragic with dismay.
"And it isn't all coming out like a book?"
There was no answer. The man's eyes were moodily fixed out the window.
"O dear! And it was all going so splendidly," almost sobbed Pollyanna. "I'd have been so glad to come--with Aunt Polly."
"And you won't--now?" The man asked the question without turning his head.
"Of course not! I'm Aunt Polly's."
The man turned now, almost fiercely.
"Before you were hers, Pollyanna, you were--your mother's. And--it was your mother's hand and heart that I wanted long years ago."
"Yes. I had not meant to tell you, but perhaps it's better, after all, that I do--now." John Pendleton's face had grown very white. He was speaking with evident difficulty. Pollyanna, her eyes wide and frightened, and her lips parted, was gazing at him fixedly. "I loved your mother; but she--didn't love me. And after a time she went away with--your father. I did not know until then how much I did--care. The whole world suddenly seemed to turn black under my fingers, and--But, never mind. For long years I have been a cross, crabbed, unlovable, unloved old man--though I'm not nearly sixty, yet, Pollyanna. Then, One day, like one of the prisms that you love so well, little girl, you danced into my life, and flecked my dreary old world with dashes of the purple and gold and scarlet of your own bright cheeriness. I found out, after a time, who you were, and--and I thought then I never wanted to see you again. I didn't want to be reminded of--your mother. But--you know how that came out. I just had to have you come. And now I want you always. Pollyanna, won't you come now?"
"But, Mr. Pendleton, I--There's Aunt Polly!" Pollyanna's eyes were blurred with tears.
The man made an impatient gesture.
"What about me? How do you suppose I'm going to be 'glad' about anything--without you? Why, Pollyanna, it's only since you came that I've been even half glad to live! But if I had you for my own little girl, I'd be glad for--anything; and I'd try to make you glad, too, my dear. You shouldn't have a wish ungratified. All my money, to the last cent, should go to make you happy."
Pollyanna looked shocked.
"Why, Mr. Pendleton, as if I'd let you spend it on me--all that money you've saved for the heathen!"
A dull red came to the man's face. He started to speak, but Pollyanna was still talking.
"Besides, anybody with such a lot of money as you have doesn't need me to make you glad about things. You're making other folks so glad giving them things that you just can't help being glad yourself! Why, look at those prisms you gave Mrs. Snow and me, and the gold piece you gave Nancy on her birthday, and--"
"Yes, yes--never mind about all that," interrupted the man. His face was very, very red now--and no wonder, perhaps: it was not for "giving things" that John Pendleton had been best known in the past. "That's all nonsense. 'Twasn't much, anyhow--but what there was, was because of you. You gave those things; not I! Yes, you did," he repeated, in answer to the shocked denial in her face. "And that only goes to prove all the more how I need you, little girl," he added, his voice softening into tender pleading once more. "If ever, ever I am to play the 'glad game,' Pollyanna, you'll have to come and play it with me."
The little girl's forehead puckered into a wistful frown.
"Aunt Polly has been so good to me," she began; but the man interrupted her sharply. The old irritability had come back to his face. Impatience which would brook no opposition had been a part of John Pendleton's nature too long to yield very easily now to restraint.
"Of course she's been good to you! But she doesn't want you, I'll warrant, half so much as I do," he contested.
"Why, Mr. Pendleton, she's glad, I know, to have--"
"Glad!" interrupted the man, thoroughly losing his patience now. "I'll wager Miss Polly doesn't know how to be glad--for anything! Oh, she does her duty, I know. She's a very dutiful woman. I've had experience with her 'duty,' before. I'll acknowledge we haven't been the best of friends for the last fifteen or twenty years. But I know her. Every one knows her--and she isn't the 'glad' kind, Pollyanna. She doesn't know how to be. As for your coming to me--you just ask her and see if she won't let you come. And, oh, little girl, little girl, I want you so!" he finished brokenly.
Pollyanna rose to her feet with a long sigh.
"All right. I'll ask her," she said wistfully. "Of course I don't mean that I wouldn't like to live here with you, Mr. Pendleton, but--" She did not complete her sentence. There was a moment's silence, then she added: "Well, anyhow, I'm glad I didn't tell her yesterday;--'cause then I supposed she was wanted, too."
John Pendleton smiled grimly.
"Well, yes, Pollyanna; I guess it is just as well you didn't mention it--yesterday."
"I didn't--only to the doctor; and of course he doesn't count."
"The doctor!" cried John Pendleton, turning quickly. "Not--Dr.--Chilton?"
"Yes; when he came to tell me you wanted to see me to-day, you know."
"Well, of all the--" muttered the man, falling back in his chair. Then he sat up with sudden interest. "And what did Dr. Chilton say?" he asked.
Pollyanna frowned thoughtfully.
"Why, I don't remember. Not much, I reckon. Oh, he did say he could well imagine you did want to see me."
"Oh, did he, indeed!" answered John Pendleton. And Pollyanna wondered why he gave that sudden queer little laugh.