Pollyanna/Chapter 18

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Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter 18: Prisms
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 he 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.