Pollyanna entered school in September. Preliminary examinations showed that she was well advanced for a girl of her years, and she was soon a happy member of a class of girls and boys her own age.
School, in some ways, was a surprise to Pollyanna; and Pollyanna, certainly, in many ways, was very much of a surprise to school. They were soon on the best of terms, however, and to her aunt Pollyanna confessed that going to school was living, after all–though she had had her doubts before.
In spite of her delight in her new work, Pollyanna did not forget her old friends. True, she could not give them quite so much time now, of course; but she gave them what time she could. Perhaps John Pendleton, of them all, however, was the most dissatisfied.
One Saturday afternoon he spoke to her about it.
“See here, Pollyanna, how would you like to come and live with me?” he asked, a little impatiently. “I don’t see anything of you, nowadays.”
Pollyanna laughed–Mr. Pendleton was such a funny man!
“I thought you didn’t like to have folks ’round,” she said.
He made a wry face.
“Oh, but that was before you taught me to play that wonderful game of yours. Now I’m glad to be waited on, hand and foot! Never mind, I’ll be on my own two feet yet, one of these days; then I’ll see who steps around,” he finished, picking up one of the crutches at his side and shaking it playfully at the little girl. They were sitting in the great library to-day.
“Oh, but you aren’t really glad at all for things; you just say you are,” pouted Pollyanna, her eyes on the dog, dozing before the fire. “You know you don’t play the game right ever, Mr. Pendleton–you know you don’t!”
The man’s face grew suddenly very grave.
“That’s why I want you, little girl–to help me play it. Will you come?”
Pollyanna turned in surprise.
“Mr. Pendleton, you don’t really mean–that?”
“But I do. I want you. Will you come?”
Pollyanna looked distressed.
“Why, Mr. Pendleton, I can’t–you know I can’t. Why, I’m–Aunt Polly’s!”
A quick something crossed the man’s face that Pollyanna could not quite understand. His head came up almost fiercely.
“You’re no more hers than–Perhaps she would let you come to me,” he finished more gently. “Would you come–if she did?”
Pollyanna frowned in deep thought.
“But Aunt Polly has been so–good to me,” she began slowly; “and she took me when I didn’t have anybody left but the Ladies’ Aid, and–”
Again that spasm of something crossed the man’s face; but this time, when he spoke, his voice was low and very sad.
“Pollyanna, long years ago I loved somebody very much. I hoped to bring her, some day, to this house. I pictured how happy we’d be together in our home all the long years to come.”
“Yes,” pitied Pollyanna, her eyes shining with sympathy.
“But–well, I didn’t bring her here. Never mind why. I just didn’t that’s all. And ever since then this great gray pile of stone has been a house–never a home. It takes a woman’s hand and heart, or a child’s presence, to make a home, Pollyanna; and I have not had either. Now will you come, my dear?”
Pollyanna sprang to her feet. Her face was fairly illumined.
“Mr. Pendleton, you–you mean that you wish you–you had had that woman’s hand and heart all this time?”
“Why, y-yes, Pollyanna.”
“Oh, I’m so glad! Then it’s all right,” sighed the little girl. “Now you can take us both, and everything will be lovely.”
“Take–you–both?” repeated the man, dazedly.
A faint doubt crossed Pollyanna’s countenance.
“Well, of course, Aunt Polly isn’t won over, yet; but I’m sure she will be if you tell it to her just as you did to me, and then we’d both come, of course.”
A look of actual terror leaped to the man’s eyes.
“Aunt Polly come–here!”
Pollyanna’s eyes widened a little.
“Would you rather go there?” she asked. “Of course the house isn’t quite so pretty, but it’s nearer-”
“Pollyanna, what are you talking about?” asked the man, very gently now.
“Why, about where we’re going to live, of course,” rejoined Pollyanna, in obvious surprise. “I thought you meant here, at first. You said it was here that you had wanted Aunt Polly’s hand and heart all these years to make a home, and–”
An inarticulate cry came from the man’s throat. He raised his hand and began to speak; but the next moment he dropped his hand nervelessly at his side.
“The doctor, sir,” said the maid in the doorway.
Pollyanna rose at once.
John Pendleton turned to her feverishly.
“Pollyanna, for Heaven’s sake, say nothing of what I asked you–yet,” he begged, in a low voice. Pollyanna dimpled into a sunny smile.
“Of course not! Just as if I didn’t know you’d rather tell her yourself!” she called back merrily over her shoulder.
John Pendleton fell limply back in his chair.
“Why, what’s up?” demanded the doctor, a minute later, his fingers on his patient’s galloping pulse.
A whimsical smile trembled on John Pendleton’s lips.
“Overdose of your–tonic, I guess,” he laughed, as he noted the doctor’s eyes following Pollyanna’s little figure down the driveway.