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转:Pollyanna CHAPTER XII-XIV  

2009-09-21 18:18:03|  分类: Reading notes |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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CHAPTER XII. BEFORE THE LADIES' AID

Dinner, which came at noon in the Harrington homestead, was a silent meal on the day of the Ladies' Aid meeting. Pollyanna, it is true, tried to talk; but she did not make a success of it, chiefly because four times she was obliged to break off a "glad" in the middle of it, much to her blushing discomfort. The fifth time it happened, Miss Polly moved her head wearily.

"There, there, child, say it, if you want to," she sighed. "I'm sure I'd rather you did than not if it's going to make all this fuss."

Pollyanna's puckered little face cleared.

"Oh, thank you. I'm afraid it would be pretty hard—not to say it. You see I've played it so long."

"You've—what?" demanded Aunt Polly.

"Played it—the game, you know, that father—" Pollyanna stopped with a painful blush at finding herself so soon again on forbidden ground.

Aunt Polly frowned and said nothing. The rest of the meal was a silent one.

Pollyanna was not sorry to hear Aunt Polly tell the minister's wife over the telephone, a little later, that she would not be at the Ladies' Aid meeting that afternoon, owing to a headache. When Aunt Polly went up-stairs to her room and closed the door, Pollyanna tried to be sorry for the headache; but she could not help feeling glad that her aunt was not to be present that afternoon when she laid the case of Jimmy Bean before the Ladies' Aid. She could not forget that Aunt Polly had called Jimmy Bean a little beggar; and she did not want Aunt Polly to call him that—before the Ladies' Aid.

Pollyanna knew that the Ladies' Aid met at two o'clock in the chapel next the church, not quite half a mile from home. She planned her going, therefore, so that she should get there a little before three.

"I want them all to be there," she said to herself; "else the very one that wasn't there might be the one who would be wanting to give Jimmy Bean a home; and, of course, two o'clock always means three, really—to Ladies' Aiders."

Quietly, but with confident courage, Pollyanna ascended the chapel steps, pushed open the door and entered the vestibule. A soft babel of feminine chatter and laughter came from the main room. Hesitating only a brief moment Pollyanna pushed open one of the inner doors.

The chatter dropped to a surprised hush. Pollyanna advanced a little timidly. Now that the time had come, she felt unwontedly shy. After all, these half-strange, half-familiar faces about her were not her own dear Ladies' Aid.

"How do you do, Ladies' Aiders?" she faltered politely. "I'm Pollyanna Whittier. I—I reckon some of you know me, maybe; anyway, I do YOU—only I don't know you all together this way."

The silence could almost be felt now. Some of the ladies did know this rather extraordinary niece of their fellow-member, and nearly all had heard of her; but not one of them could think of anything to say, just then.

"I—I've come to—to lay the case before you," stammered Pollyanna, after a moment, unconsciously falling into her father's familiar phraseology.

There was a slight rustle.

"Did—did your aunt send you, my dear?" asked Mrs. Ford, the minister's wife.

Pollyanna colored a little.

"Oh, no. I came all by myself. You see, I'm used to Ladies' Aiders. It was Ladies' Aiders that brought me up—with father."

Somebody tittered hysterically, and the minister's wife frowned.

"Yes, dear. What is it?"

"Well, it—it's Jimmy Bean," sighed Pollyanna. "He hasn't any home except the Orphan one, and they're full, and don't want him, anyhow, he thinks; so he wants another. He wants one of the common kind, that has a mother instead of a Matron in it—folks, you know, that'll care. He's ten years old going on eleven. I thought some of you might like him—to live with you, you know."

"Well, did you ever!" murmured a voice, breaking the dazed pause that followed Pollyanna's words.

With anxious eyes Pollyanna swept the circle of faces about her.

"Oh, I forgot to say; he will work," she supplemented eagerly.

Still there was silence; then, coldly, one or two women began to question her. After a time they all had the story and began to talk among themselves, animatedly, not quite pleasantly.

Pollyanna listened with growing anxiety. Some of what was said she could not understand. She did gather, after a time, however, that there was no woman there who had a home to give him, though every woman seemed to think that some of the others might take him, as there were several who had no little boys of their own already in their homes. But there was no one who agreed herself to take him. Then she heard the minister's wife suggest timidly that they, as a society, might perhaps assume his support and education instead of sending quite so much money this year to the little boys in far-away India.

A great many ladies talked then, and several of them talked all at once, and even more loudly and more unpleasantly than before. It seemed that their society was famous for its offering to Hindu missions, and several said they should die of mortification if it should be less this year. Some of what was said at this time Pollyanna again thought she could not have understood, too, for it sounded almost as if they did not care at all what the money DID, so long as the sum opposite the name of their society in a certain "report" "headed the list"—and of course that could not be what they meant at all! But it was all very confusing, and not quite pleasant, so that Pollyanna was glad, indeed, when at last she found herself outside in the hushed, sweet air—only she was very sorry, too: for she knew it was not going to be easy, or anything but sad, to tell Jimmy Bean to-morrow that the Ladies' Aid had decided that they would rather send all their money to bring up the little India boys than to save out enough to bring up one little boy in their own town, for which they would not get "a bit of credit in the report," according to the tall lady who wore spectacles.

"Not but that it's good, of course, to send money to the heathen, and I shouldn't want 'em not to send SOME there," sighed Pollyanna to herself, as she trudged sorrowfully along. "But they acted as if little boys HERE weren't any account—only little boys 'way off. I should THINK, though, they'd rather see Jimmy Bean grow—than just a report!"





CHAPTER XIII. IN PENDLETON WOODS

Pollyanna had not turned her steps toward home, when she left the chapel. She had turned them, instead, toward Pendleton Hill. It had been a hard day, for all it had been a "vacation one" (as she termed the infrequent days when there was no sewing or cooking lesson), and Pollyanna was sure that nothing would do her quite so much good as a walk through the green quiet of Pendleton Woods. Up Pendleton Hill, therefore, she climbed steadily, in spite of the warm sun on her back.

"I don't have to get home till half-past five, anyway," she was telling herself; "and it'll be so much nicer to go around by the way of the woods, even if I do have to climb to get there."

It was very beautiful in the Pendleton Woods, as Pollyanna knew by experience. But to-day it seemed even more delightful than ever, notwithstanding her disappointment over what she must tell Jimmy Bean to-morrow.

"I wish they were up here—all those ladies who talked so loud," sighed Pollyanna to herself, raising her eyes to the patches of vivid blue between the sunlit green of the tree-tops. "Anyhow, if they were up here, I just reckon they'd change and take Jimmy Bean for their little boy, all right," she finished, secure in her conviction, but unable to give a reason for it, even to herself.

Suddenly Pollyanna lifted her head and listened. A dog had barked some distance ahead. A moment later he came dashing toward her, still barking.

"Hullo, doggie—hullo!" Pollyanna snapped her fingers at the dog and looked expectantly down the path. She had seen the dog once before, she was sure. He had been then with the Man, Mr. John Pendleton. She was looking now, hoping to see him. For some minutes she watched eagerly, but he did not appear. Then she turned her attention toward the dog.

The dog, as even Pollyanna could see, was acting strangely. He was still barking—giving little short, sharp yelps, as if of alarm. He was running back and forth, too, in the path ahead. Soon they reached a side path, and down this the little dog fairly flew, only to come back at once, whining and barking.

"Ho! That isn't the way home," laughed Pollyanna, still keeping to the main path.

The little dog seemed frantic now. Back and forth, back and forth, between Pollyanna and the side path he vibrated, barking and whining pitifully. Every quiver of his little brown body, and every glance from his beseeching brown eyes were eloquent with appeal—so eloquent that at last Pollyanna understood, turned, and followed him.

Straight ahead, now, the little dog dashed madly; and it was not long before Pollyanna came upon the reason for it all: a man lying motionless at the foot of a steep, overhanging mass of rock a few yards from the side path.

A twig cracked sharply under Pollyanna's foot, and the man turned his head. With a cry of dismay Pollyanna ran to his side.

"Mr. Pendleton! Oh, are you hurt?"

"Hurt? Oh, no! I'm just taking a siesta in the sunshine," snapped the man irritably. "See here, how much do you know? What can you do? Have you got any sense?"

Pollyanna caught her breath with a little gasp, but—as was her habit—she answered the questions literally, one by one.

"Why, Mr. Pendleton, I—I don't know so very much, and I can't do a great many things; but most of the Ladies' Aiders, except Mrs. Rawson, said I had real good sense. I heard 'em say so one day—they didn't know I heard, though."

The man smiled grimly.

"There, there, child, I beg your pardon, I'm sure; it's only this confounded leg of mine. Now listen." He paused, and with some difficulty reached his hand into his trousers pocket and brought out a bunch of keys, singling out one between his thumb and forefinger. "Straight through the path there, about five minutes' walk, is my house. This key will admit you to the side door under the porte-cochere. Do you know what a porte-cochere is?"

"Oh, yes, sir. Auntie has one with a sun parlor over it. That's the roof I slept on—only I didn't sleep, you know. They found me."

"Eh? Oh! Well, when you get into the house, go straight through the vestibule and hall to the door at the end. On the big, flat-topped desk in the middle of the room you'll find a telephone. Do you know how to use a telephone?"

"Oh, yes, sir! Why, once when Aunt Polly—"

"Never mind Aunt Polly now," cut in the man scowlingly, as he tried to move himself a little.

"Hunt up Dr. Thomas Chilton's number on the card you'll find somewhere around there—it ought to be on the hook down at the side, but it probably won't be. You know a telephone card, I suppose, when you see one!"

"Oh, yes, sir! I just love Aunt Polly's. There's such a lot of queer names, and—"

"Tell Dr. Chilton that John Pendleton is at the foot of Little Eagle Ledge in Pendleton Woods with a broken leg, and to come at once with a stretcher and two men. He'll know what to do besides that. Tell him to come by the path from the house."

"A broken leg? Oh, Mr. Pendleton, how perfectly awful!" shuddered Pollyanna. "But I'm so glad I came! Can't I do—"

"Yes, you can—but evidently you won't! WILL you go and do what I ask and stop talking," moaned the man, faintly. And, with a little sobbing cry, Pollyanna went.

Pollyanna did not stop now to look up at the patches of blue between the sunlit tops of the trees. She kept her eyes on the ground to make sure that no twig nor stone tripped her hurrying feet.

It was not long before she came in sight of the house. She had seen it before, though never so near as this. She was almost frightened now at the massiveness of the great pile of gray stone with its pillared verandas and its imposing entrance. Pausing only a moment, however, she sped across the big neglected lawn and around the house to the side door under the porte-cochere. Her fingers, stiff from their tight clutch upon the keys, were anything but skilful in their efforts to turn the bolt in the lock; but at last the heavy, carved door swung slowly back on its hinges.

Pollyanna caught her breath. In spite of her feeling of haste, she paused a moment and looked fearfully through the vestibule to the wide, sombre hall beyond, her thoughts in a whirl. This was John Pendleton's house; the house of mystery; the house into which no one but its master entered; the house which sheltered, somewhere—a skeleton. Yet she, Pollyanna, was expected to enter alone these fearsome rooms, and telephone the doctor that the master of the house lay now—

With a little cry Pollyanna, looking neither to the right nor the left, fairly ran through the hall to the door at the end and opened it.

The room was large, and sombre with dark woods and hangings like the hall; but through the west window the sun threw a long shaft of gold across the floor, gleamed dully on the tarnished brass andirons in the fireplace, and touched the nickel of the telephone on the great desk in the middle of the room. It was toward this desk that Pollyanna hurriedly tiptoed.

The telephone card was not on its hook; it was on the floor. But Pollyanna found it, and ran her shaking forefinger down through the C's to "Chilton." In due time she had Dr. Chilton himself at the other end of the wires, and was tremblingly delivering her message and answering the doctor's terse, pertinent questions. This done, she hung up the receiver and drew a long breath of relief.

Only a brief glance did Pollyanna give about her; then, with a confused vision in her eyes of crimson draperies, book-lined walls, a littered floor, an untidy desk, innumerable closed doors (any one of which might conceal a skeleton), and everywhere dust, dust, dust, she fled back through the hall to the great carved door, still half open as she had left it.

In what seemed, even to the injured man, an incredibly short time, Pollyanna was back in the woods at the man's side.

"Well, what is the trouble? Couldn't you get in?" he demanded.

Pollyanna opened wide her eyes.

"Why, of course I could! I'm HERE," she answered. "As if I'd be here if I hadn't got in! And the doctor will be right up just as soon as possible with the men and things. He said he knew just where you were, so I didn't stay to show him. I wanted to be with you."

"Did you?" smiled the man, grimly. "Well, I can't say I admire your taste. I should think you might find pleasanter companions."

"Do you mean—because you're so—cross?"

"Thanks for your frankness. Yes."

Pollyanna laughed softly.

"But you're only cross OUTSIDE—You arn't cross inside a bit!"

"Indeed! How do you know that?" asked the man, trying to change the position of his head without moving the rest of his body.

"Oh, lots of ways; there—like that—the way you act with the dog," she added, pointing to the long, slender hand that rested on the dog's sleek head near him. "It's funny how dogs and cats know the insides of folks better than other folks do, isn't it? Say, I'm going to hold your head," she finished abruptly.

The man winced several times and groaned once; softly while the change was being made; but in the end he found Pollyanna's lap a very welcome substitute for the rocky hollow in which his head had lain before.

"Well, that is—better," he murmured faintly.

He did not speak again for some time. Pollyanna, watching his face, wondered if he were asleep. She did not think he was. He looked as if his lips were tight shut to keep back moans of pain. Pollyanna herself almost cried aloud as she looked at his great, strong body lying there so helpless. One hand, with fingers tightly clenched, lay outflung, motionless. The other, limply open, lay on the dog's head. The dog, his wistful, eager eyes on his master's face, was motionless, too.

Minute by minute the time passed. The sun dropped lower in the west and the shadows grew deeper under the trees. Pollyanna sat so still she hardly seemed to breathe. A bird alighted fearlessly within reach of her hand, and a squirrel whisked his bushy tail on a tree-branch almost under her nose—yet with his bright little eyes all the while on the motionless dog.

At last the dog pricked up his cars and whined softly; then he gave a short, sharp bark. The next moment Pollyanna heard voices, and very soon their owners appeared three men carrying a stretcher and various other articles.

The tallest of the party—a smooth-shaven, kind-eyed man whom Pollyanna knew by sight as "Dr. Chilton"—advanced cheerily.

"Well, my little lady, playing nurse?"

"Oh, no, sir," smiled Pollyanna. "I've only held his head—I haven't given him a mite of medicine. But I'm glad I was here."

"So am I," nodded the doctor, as he turned his absorbed attention to the injured man.





CHAPTER XIV. JUST A MATTER OF JELLY

Pollyanna was a little late for supper on the night of the accident to John Pendleton; but, as it happened, she escaped without reproof.

Nancy met her at the door.

"Well, if I ain't glad ter be settin' my two eyes on you," she sighed in obvious relief. "It's half-past six!"

"I know it," admitted Pollyanna anxiously; "but I'm not to blame—truly I'm not. And I don't think even Aunt Polly will say I am, either."

"She won't have the chance," retorted Nancy, with huge satisfaction. "She's gone."

"Gone!" gasped Pollyanna. "You don't mean that I've driven her away?" Through Pollyanna's mind at the moment trooped remorseful memories of the morning with its unwanted boy, cat, and dog, and its unwelcome "glad" and forbidden "father" that would spring to her forgetful little tongue. "Oh, I DIDN'T drive her away?"

"Not much you did," scoffed Nancy. "Her cousin died suddenly down to Boston, and she had ter go. She had one o' them yeller telegram letters after you went away this afternoon, and she won't be back for three days. Now I guess we're glad all right. We'll be keepin' house tergether, jest you and me, all that time. We will, we will!"

Pollyanna looked shocked.

"Glad! Oh, Nancy, when it's a funeral?"

"Oh, but 'twa'n't the funeral I was glad for, Miss Pollyanna. It was—" Nancy stopped abruptly. A shrewd twinkle came into her eyes. "Why, Miss Pollyanna, as if it wa'n't yerself that was teachin' me ter play the game," she reproached her gravely.

Pollyanna puckered her forehead into a troubled frown.

"I can't help it, Nancy," she argued with a shake of her head. "It must be that there are some things that 'tisn't right to play the game on—and I'm sure funerals is one of them. There's nothing in a funeral to be glad about."

Nancy chuckled.

"We can be glad 'tain't our'n," she observed demurely. But Pollyanna did not hear. She had begun to tell of the accident; and in a moment Nancy, open-mouthed, was listening.

At the appointed place the next afternoon, Pollyanna met Jimmy Bean according to agreement. As was to be expected, of course, Jimmy showed keen disappointment that the Ladies' Aid preferred a little India boy to himself.

"Well, maybe 'tis natural," he sighed. "Of course things you don't know about are always nicer'n things you do, same as the pertater on 'tother side of the plate is always the biggest. But I wish I looked that way ter somebody 'way off. Wouldn't it be jest great, now, if only somebody over in India wanted ME?"

Pollyanna clapped her hands.

"Why, of course! That's the very thing, Jimmy! I'll write to my Ladies' Aiders about you. They aren't over in India; they're only out West—but that's awful far away, just the same. I reckon you'd think so if you'd come all the way here as I did!"

Jimmy's face brightened.

"Do you think they would—truly—take me?" he asked.

"Of course they would! Don't they take little boys in India to bring up? Well, they can just play you are the little India boy this time. I reckon you're far enough away to make a report, all right. You wait. I'll write 'em. I'll write Mrs. White. No, I'll write Mrs. Jones. Mrs. White has got the most money, but Mrs. Jones gives the most—which is kind of funny, isn't it?—when you think of it. But I reckon some of the Aiders will take you."

"All right—but don't furgit ter say I'll work fur my board an' keep," put in Jimmy. "I ain't no beggar, an' biz'ness is biz'ness, even with Ladies' Aiders, I'm thinkin'." He hesitated, then added: "An' I s'pose I better stay where I be fur a spell yet—till you hear."

"Of course," nodded Pollyanna emphatically. "Then I'll know just where to find you. And they'll take you—I'm sure you're far enough away for that. Didn't Aunt Polly take—Say!" she broke off, suddenly, "DO you suppose I was Aunt Polly's little girl from India?"

"Well, if you ain't the queerest kid," grinned Jimmy, as he turned away.

It was about a week after the accident in Pendleton Woods that Pollyanna said to her aunt one morning:

"Aunt Polly, please would you mind very much if I took Mrs. Snow's calf's-foot jelly this week to some one else? I'm sure Mrs. Snow wouldn't—this once."

"Dear me, Pollyanna, what ARE you up to now?" sighed her aunt. "You ARE the most extraordinary child!"

Pollyanna frowned a little anxiously.

"Aunt Polly, please, what is extraordinary? If you're EXtraordinary you can't be ORdinary, can you?"

"You certainly can not."

"Oh, that's all right, then. I'm glad I'm EXtraordinary," sighed Pollyanna, her face clearing. "You see, Mrs. White used to say Mrs. Rawson was a very ordinary woman—and she disliked Mrs. Rawson something awful. They were always fight—I mean, father had—that is, I mean, WE had more trouble keeping peace between them than we did between any of the rest of the Aiders," corrected Pollyanna, a little breathless from her efforts to steer between the Scylla of her father's past commands in regard to speaking of church quarrels, and the Charybdis of her aunt's present commands in regard to speaking of her father.

"Yes, yes; well, never mind," interposed Aunt Polly, a trifle impatiently. "You do run on so, Pollyanna, and no matter what we're talking about you always bring up at those Ladies' Aiders!"

"Yes'm," smiled Pollyanna, cheerfully, "I reckon I do, maybe. But you see they used to bring me up, and—"

"That will do, Pollyanna," interrupted a cold voice. "Now what is it about this jelly?"

"Nothing, Aunt Polly, truly, that you would mind, I'm sure. You let me take jelly to HER, so I thought you would to HIM—this once. You see, broken legs aren't like—like lifelong invalids, so his won't last forever as Mrs. Snow's does, and she can have all the rest of the things after just once or twice."

"'Him'? 'He'? 'Broken leg'? What are you talking about, Pollyanna?"

Pollyanna stared; then her face relaxed.

"Oh, I forgot. I reckon you didn't know. You see, it happened while you were gone. It was the very day you went that I found him in the woods, you know; and I had to unlock his house and telephone for the men and the doctor, and hold his head, and everything. And of course then I came away and haven't seen him since. But when Nancy made the jelly for Mrs. Snow this week I thought how nice it would be if I could take it to him instead of her, just this once. Aunt Polly, may I?"

"Yes, yes, I suppose so," acquiesced Miss Polly, a little wearily. "Who did you say he was?"

"The Man. I mean, Mr. John Pendleton."

Miss Polly almost sprang from her chair.

"JOHN PENDLETON!"

"Yes. Nancy told me his name. Maybe you know him."

Miss Polly did not answer this. Instead she asked:

"Do YOU know him?"

Pollyanna nodded.

"Oh, yes. He always speaks and smiles—now. He's only cross OUTSIDE, you know. I'll go and get the jelly. Nancy had it 'most fixed when I came in," finished Pollyanna, already halfway across the room.

"Pollyanna, wait! Miss Polly's voice was suddenly very stern. I've changed my mind. I would prefer that Mrs. Snow had that jelly to-day—as usual. That is all. You may go now."

Pollyanna's face fell.

"Oh, but Aunt Polly, HERS will last. She can always be sick and have things, you know; but his is just a broken leg, and legs don't last—I mean, broken ones. He's had it a whole week now."

"Yes, I remember. I heard Mr. John Pendleton had met with an accident," said Miss Polly, a little stiffly; "but—I do not care to be sending jelly to John Pendleton, Pollyanna."

"I know, he is cross—outside," admitted Pollyanna, sadly, "so I suppose you don't like him. But I wouldn't say 'twas you sent it. I'd say 'twas me. I like him. I'd be glad to send him jelly."

Miss Polly began to shake her head again. Then, suddenly, she stopped, and asked in a curiously quiet voice:

"Does he know who you—are, Pollyanna?"

The little girl sighed.

"I reckon not. I told him my name, once, but he never calls me it—never."

"Does he know where you—live?"

"Oh, no. I never told him that."

"Then he doesn't know you're my—niece?"

"I don't think so."

For a moment there was silence. Miss Polly was looking at Pollyanna with eyes that did not seem to see her at all. The little girl, shifting impatiently from one small foot to the other, sighed audibly. Then Miss Polly roused herself with a start.

"Very well, Pollyanna," she said at last, still in that queer voice, so unlike her own; "you may you may take the jelly to Mr. Pendleton as your own gift. But understand: I do not send it. Be very sure that he does not think I do!"

"Yes'm—no'm—thank you, Aunt Polly," exulted Pollyanna, as she flew through the door.

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