A DOOR AJAR
Just a week from the time Dr. Mead, the specialist, was first expected, he came. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with kind gray eyes, and a cheerful smile. Pollyanna liked him at once, and told him so.
"You look quite a lot like my doctor, you see," she added engagingly.
"Your doctor?" Dr. Mead glanced in evident surprise at Dr. Warren, talking with the nurse a few feet away. Dr. Warren was a small, brown-eyed man with a pointed brown beard.
"Oh, that isn't my doctor," smiled Pollyanna, divining his thought. "Dr. Warren is Aunt Polly's doctor. My doctor is Dr. Chilton."
"Oh-h!" said Dr. Mead, a little oddly, his eyes resting on Miss Polly, who, with a vivid blush, had turned hastily away.
"Yes." Pollyanna hesitated, then continued with her usual truthfulness. "You see, I wanted Dr. Chilton all the time, but Aunt Polly wanted you. She said you knew more than Dr. Chilton, anyway about—about broken legs like mine. And of course if you do, I can be glad for that. Do you?"
A swift something crossed the doctor's face that Pollyanna could not quite translate.
"Only time can tell that, little girl," he said gently; then he turned a grave face toward Dr. Warren, who had just come to the bedside.
Every one said afterward that it was the cat that did it. Certainly, if Fluffy had not poked an insistent paw and nose against Pollyanna's unlatched door, the door would not have swung noiselessly open on its hinges until it stood perhaps a foot ajar; and if the door had not been open, Pollyanna would not have heard her aunt's words.
In the hall the two doctors, the nurse, and Miss Polly stood talking. In Pollyanna's room Fluffy had just jumped to the bed with a little purring "meow" of joy when through the open door sounded clearly and sharply Aunt Polly's agonized exclamation.
"Not that! Doctor, not that! You don't mean—the child—will never walk again!"
It was all confusion then. First, from the bedroom came Pollyanna's terrified "Aunt Polly—Aunt Polly!" Then Miss Polly, seeing the open door and realizing that her words had been heard, gave a low little moan and—for the first time in her life—fainted dead away.
The nurse, with a choking "She heard!" stumbled toward the open door. The two doctors stayed with Miss Polly. Dr. Mead had to stay—he had caught Miss Polly as she fell. Dr. Warren stood by, helplessly. It was not until Pollyanna cried out again sharply and the nurse closed the door, that the two men, with a despairing glance into each other's eyes, awoke to the immediate duty of bringing the woman in Dr. Mead's arms back to unhappy consciousness.
In Pollyanna's room, the nurse had found a purring gray cat on the bed vainly trying to attract the attention of a white-faced, wild-eyed little girl.
"Miss Hunt, please, I want Aunt Polly. I want her right away, quick, please!"
The nurse closed the door and came forward hurriedly. Her face was very pale.
"She—she can't come just this minute, dear. She will—a little later. What is it? Can't I—get it?"
Pollyanna shook her head.
"But I want to know what she said—just now. Did you hear her? I want Aunt Polly—she said something. I want her to tell me 'tisn't true—'tisn't true!"
The nurse tried to speak, but no words came. Something in her face sent an added terror to Pollyanna's eyes.
"Miss Hunt, you did hear her! It is true! Oh, it isn't true! You don't mean I can't ever—walk again?"
"There, there, dear—don't, don't!" choked the nurse. "Perhaps he didn't know. Perhaps he was mistaken. There's lots of things that could happen, you know."
"But Aunt Polly said he did know! She said he knew more than anybody else about—about broken legs like mine!"
"Yes, yes, I know, dear; but all doctors make mistakes sometimes. Just—just don't think any more about it now—please don't, dear."
Pollyanna flung out her arms wildly.
"But I can't help thinking about it," she sobbed. "It's all there is now to think about. Why, Miss Hunt, how am I going to school, or to see Mr. Pendleton, or Mrs. Snow, or—or anybody?" She caught her breath and sobbed wildly for a moment. Suddenly she stopped and looked up, a new terror in her eyes. "Why, Miss Hunt, if I can't walk, how am I ever going to be glad for—anything?"
Miss Hunt did not know "the game;" but she did know that her patient must be quieted, and that at once. In spite of her own perturbation and heartache, her hands had not been idle, and she stood now at the bedside with the quieting powder ready.
"There, there, dear, just take this," she soothed; "and by and by we'll be more rested, and we'll see what can be done then. Things aren't half as bad as they seem, dear, lots of times, you know."
Obediently Pollyanna took the medicine, and sipped the water from the glass in Miss Hunt's hand.
"I know; that sounds like things father used to say," faltered Pollyanna, blinking off the tears. "He said there was always something about everything that might be worse; but I reckon he'd never just heard he couldn't ever walk again. I don't see how there can be anything about that, that could be worse—do you?"
Miss Hunt did not reply. She could not trust herself to speak just then.