Pollyanna/Chapter 20

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Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter 20: Which is More Surprising
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."

Pollyanna laughed.

"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."

"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.

"Never!"

"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."

"My mother's!"

"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.