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Chapter 9: Which Tells of the Man
|Chapter 10: A Surprise for Mrs. Snow→|
"It isn't so nice to-day, is it?" she called blithesomely. "I'm glad it doesn't rain always, anyhow!"
The man did not even grunt this time, nor turn his head. Pollyanna decided that of course he did not hear her. The next time, therefore (which happened to be the following day), she spoke up louder. She thought it particularly necessary to do this, anyway, for the Man was striding along, his hands behind his back, and his eyes on the ground — which seemed, to Pollyanna, preposterous in the face of the glorious sunshine and the freshly-washed morning air: Pollyanna, as a special treat, was on a morning errand to-day.
"How do you do?" she chirped. "I'm so glad it isn't yesterday, aren't you?"
The man stopped abruptly. There was an angry scowl on his face.
"See here, little girl, we might just as well settle this thing right now, once for all," he began testily. "I've got something besides the weather to think of. I don't know whether the sun shines or not." Pollyanna beamed joyously.
"No, sir; I thought you didn't. That's why I told you."
"Yes; well — Eh? What?" he broke off sharply, in sudden understanding of her words.
"I say, that's why I told you — so you would notice it, you know — that the sun shines, and all that. I knew you'd be glad it did if you only stopped to think of it — and you didn't look a bit as if you WERE thinking of it!"
"Well, of all the —" ejaculated the man, with an oddly impotent gesture. He started forward again, but after the second step he turned back, still frowning.
"See here, why don't you find some one your own age to talk to?"
"I'd like to, sir, but there aren't any 'round here, Nancy says. Still, I don't mind so very much. I like old folks just as well, maybe better, sometimes — being used to the Ladies' Aid, so."
"Humph! The Ladies' Aid, indeed! Is that what you took me for?" The man's lips were threatening to smile, but the scowl above them was still trying to hold them grimly stern.
Pollyanna laughed gleefully.
"Oh, no, sir. You don't look a mite like a Ladies' Aider — not but that you're just as good, of course — maybe better," she added in hurried politeness. "You see, I'm sure you're much nicer than you look!"
The man made a queer noise in his throat.
"Well, of all the —" he ejaculated again, as he turned and strode on as before.
The next time Pollyanna met the Man, his eyes were gazing straight into hers, with a quizzical directness that made his face look really pleasant, Pollyanna thought.
"Good afternoon," he greeted her a little stiffly. "Perhaps I'd better say right away that I KNOW the sun is shining to-day."
"But you don't have to tell me," nodded Pollyanna, brightly. "I KNEW you knew it just as soon as I saw you."
"Oh, you did, did you?"
"Yes, sir; I saw it in your eyes, you know, and in your smile."
"Humph!" grunted the man, as he passed on.
The Man always spoke to Pollyanna after this, and frequently he spoke first, though usually he said little but "good afternoon." Even that, however, was a great surprise to Nancy, who chanced to be with Pollyanna one day when the greeting was given.
"Sakes alive, Miss Pollyanna," she gasped, "did that man SPEAK TO YOU?"
"Why, yes, he always does — now," smiled Pollyanna.
"'He always does'! Goodness! Do you know who — he — is?" demanded Nancy.
Pollyanna frowned and shook her head.
"I reckon he forgot to tell me one day. You see, I did my part of the introducing, but he didn't."
Nancy's eyes widened.
"But he never speaks ter anybody, child — he hain't for years, I guess, except when he just has to, for business, and all that. He's John Pendleton. He lives all by himself in the big house on Pendleton Hill. He won't even have any one 'round ter cook for him — comes down ter the hotel for his meals three times a day. I know Sally Miner, who waits on him, and she says he hardly opens his head enough ter tell what he wants ter eat. She has ter guess it more'n half the time — only it'll be somethin' CHEAP! She knows that without no tellin'."
Pollyanna nodded sympathetically.
"I know. You have to look for cheap things when you're poor. Father and I took meals out a lot. We had beans and fish balls most generally. We used to say how glad we were we liked beans — that is, we said it specially when we were looking at the roast turkey place, you know, that was sixty cents. Does Mr. Pendleton like beans?"
"Like 'em! What if he does — or don't? Why, Miss Pollyanna, he ain't poor. He's got loads of money, John Pendleton has — from his father. There ain't nobody in town as rich as he is. He could eat dollar bills, if he wanted to — and not know it."
"As if anybody COULD eat dollar bills and not know it, Nancy, when they come to try to chew 'em!"
"Ho! I mean he's rich enough ter do it," shrugged Nancy. "He ain't spendin' his money, that's all. He's a-savin' of it."
"Oh, for the heathen," surmised Pollyanna. "How perfectly splendid! That's denying yourself and taking up your cross. I know; father told me."
Nancy's lips parted abruptly, as if there were angry words all ready to come; but her eyes, resting on Pollyanna's jubilantly trustful face, saw something that prevented the words being spoken.
"Humph!" she vouchsafed. Then, showing her old-time interest, she went on: "But, say, it is queer, his speakin' to you, honestly, Miss Pollyanna. He don't speak ter no one; and he lives all alone in a great big lovely house all full of jest grand things, they say. Some says he's crazy, and some jest cross; and some says he's got a skeleton in his closet."
"Oh, Nancy!" shuddered Pollyanna. "How can he keep such a dreadful thing? I should think he'd throw it away!"
Nancy chuckled. That Pollyanna had taken the skeleton literally instead of figuratively, she knew very well; but, perversely, she refrained from correcting the mistake.
"And EVERYBODY says he's mysterious," she went on. "Some years he jest travels, week in and week out, and it's always in heathen countries — Egypt and Asia and the Desert of Sarah, you know."
"Oh, a missionary," nodded Pollyanna.
Nancy laughed oddly.
"Well, I didn't say that, Miss Pollyanna. When he comes back he writes books — queer, odd books, they say, about some gimcrack he's found in them heathen countries. But he don't never seem ter want ter spend no money here — leastways, not for jest livin'."
"Of course not — if he's saving it for the heathen," declared Pollyanna. "But he is a funny man, and he's different, too, just like Mrs. Snow, only he's a different different."
"Well, I guess he is — rather," chuckled Nancy."I'm gladder'n ever now, anyhow, that he speaks to me," sighed Pollyanna contentedly.