At Mrs. Snow’s request, Pollyanna went one day to Dr. Chilton’s office to get the name of a medicine which Mrs. Snow had forgotten. As it chanced, Pollyanna had never before seen the inside of Dr. Chilton’s office.
“I’ve never been to your home before! This is your home, isn’t it?” she said, looking interestedly about her.
The doctor smiled a little sadly.
“Yes–such as ’tis,” he answered, as he wrote something on the pad of paper in his hand; “but it’s a pretty poor apology for a home, Pollyanna. They’re just rooms, that’s all–not a home.”
Pollyanna nodded her head wisely. Her eyes glowed with sympathetic understanding.
“I know. It takes a woman’s hand and heart, or a child’s presence to make a home,” she said.
“Eh?” The doctor wheeled about abruptly.
“Mr. Pendleton told me,” nodded Pollyanna, again; “about the woman’s hand and heart, or the child’s presence, you know. Why don’t you get a woman’s hand and heart, Dr. Chilton? Or maybe you’d take Jimmy Bean–if Mr. Pendleton doesn’t want him.”
Dr. Chilton laughed a little constrainedly.
“So Mr. Pendleton says it takes a woman’s hand and heart to make a home, does he?” he asked evasively.
“Yes. He says his is just a house, too. Why don’t you, Dr. Chilton?”
“Why don’t I–what?” The doctor had turned back to his desk.
“Get a woman’s hand and heart. Oh–and I forgot.” Pollyanna’s face showed suddenly a painful color. “I suppose I ought to tell you. It wasn’t Aunt Polly that Mr. Pendleton loved long ago; and so we–we aren’t going there to live. You see, I told you it was–but I made a mistake. I hope you didn’t tell any one,” she finished anxiously.
“No–I didn’t tell any one, Pollyanna,” replied the doctor, a little queerly.
“Oh, that’s all right, then,” sighed Pollyanna in relief. “You see you’re the only one I told, and I thought Mr. Pendleton looked sort of funny when I said I’d told you.”
“Did he?” The doctor’s lips twitched.
“Yes. And of course he wouldn’t want many people to know it–when ’twasn’t true. But why don’t you get a woman’s hand and heart, Dr. Chilton?”
There was a moment’s silence; then very gravely the doctor said:
“They’re not always to be had–for the asking, little girl.”
Pollyanna frowned thoughtfully.
“But I should think you could get ’em,” she argued. The flattering emphasis was unmistakable.
“Thank you,” laughed the doctor, with uplifted eyebrows. Then, gravely again: “I’m afraid some of your older sisters would not be quite so–confident. At least, they–they haven’t shown themselves to be so–obliging,” he observed.
Pollyanna frowned again. Then her eyes widened in surprise.
“Why, Dr. Chilton, you don’t mean–you didn’t try to get somebody’s hand and heart once, like Mr. Pendleton, and–and couldn’t, did you?”
The doctor got to his feet a little abruptly.
“There, there, Pollyanna, never mind about that now. Don’t let other people’s troubles worry your little head. Suppose you run back now to Mrs. Snow. I’ve written down the name of the medicine, and the directions how she is to take it. Was there anything else?”
Pollyanna shook her head.
“No, Sir; thank you, Sir,” she murmured soberly, as she turned toward the door. From the little hallway she called back, her face suddenly alight: “Anyhow, I’m glad ’twasn’t my mother’s hand and heart that you wanted and couldn’t get, Dr. Chilton. Good-by!”
* * * * * *
It was on the last day of October that the accident occurred. Pollyanna, hurrying home from school, crossed the road at an apparently safe distance in front of a swiftly approaching motor car.
Just what happened, no one could seem to tell afterward. Neither was there any one found who could tell why it happened or who was to blame that it did happen. Pollyanna, however, at five o’clock, was borne, limp and unconscious, into the little room that was so dear to her. There, by a white-faced Aunt Polly and a weeping Nancy she was undressed tenderly and put to bed, while from the village, hastily summoned by telephone, Dr. Warren was hurrying as fast as another motor car could bring him.
“And ye didn’t need ter more’n look at her aunt’s face,” Nancy was sobbing to Old Tom in the garden, after the doctor had arrived and was closeted in the hushed room; “ye didn’t need ter more’n look at her aunt’s face ter see that ‘twa’n’t no duty that was eatin’ her. Yer hands don’t shake, and yer eyes don’t look as if ye was tryin’ ter hold back the Angel o’ Death himself, when you’re jest doin’ yer duty, Mr. Tom they don’t, they don’t!”
“Is she hurt–bad?” The old man’s voice shook.
“There ain’t no tellin’,” sobbed Nancy. “She lay back that white an’ still she might easy be dead; but Miss Polly said she wa’n’t dead–an’ Miss Polly had oughter know, if any one would–she kept up such a listenin’ an’ a feelin’ for her heartbeats an’ her breath!”
“Couldn’t ye tell anythin’ what it done to her?–that–that–” Old Tom’s face worked convulsively.
Nancy’s lips relaxed a little.
“I wish ye would call it somethin’, Mr. Tom an’ somethin’ good an’ strong, too. Drat it! Ter think of its runnin’ down our little girl! I always hated the evil-smellin’ things, anyhow–I did, I did!”
“But where is she hurt?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” moaned Nancy. “There’s a little cut on her blessed head, but ’tain’t bad–that ain’t–Miss Polly says. She says she’s afraid it’s infernally she’s hurt.”
A faint flicker came into Old Tom’s eyes.
“I guess you mean internally, Nancy,” he said dryly. “She’s hurt infernally, all right–plague take that autymobile!–but I don’t guess Miss Polly’d be usin’ that word, all the same.”
“Eh? Well, I don’t know, I don’t know,” moaned Nancy, with a shake of her head as she turned away. “Seems as if I jest couldn’t stand it till that doctor gits out o’ there. I wish I had a washin’ ter do–the biggest washin’ I ever see, I do, I do!” she wailed, wringing her hands helplessly.
Even after the doctor was gone, however, there seemed to be little that Nancy could tell Mr. Tom. There appeared to be no bones broken, and the cut was of slight consequence; but the doctor had looked very grave, had shaken his head slowly, and had said that time alone could tell. After he had gone, Miss Polly had shown a face even whiter and more drawn looking than before. The patient had not fully recovered consciousness, but at present she seemed to be resting as comfortably as could be expected. A trained nurse had been sent for, and would come that night. That was all. And Nancy turned sobbingly, and went back to her kitchen.
It was sometime during the next forenoon that Pollyanna opened conscious eyes and realized where she was.
“Why, Aunt Polly, what’s the matter? Isn’t it daytime? Why don’t I get up?” she cried. “Why, Aunt Polly, I can’t get up,” she moaned, falling back on the pillow, after an ineffectual attempt to lift herself.
“No, dear, I wouldn’t try–just yet,” soothed her aunt quickly, but very quietly.
“But what is the matter? Why can’t I get up?”
Miss Polly’s eyes asked an agonized question of the white-capped young woman standing in the window, out of the range of Pollyanna’s eyes.
The young woman nodded.
“Tell her,” the lips said.
Miss Polly cleared her throat, and tried to swallow the lump that would scarcely let her speak.
“You were hurt, dear, by the automobile last night. But never mind that now. Auntie wants you to rest and go to sleep again.”
“Hurt? Oh, yes; I–I ran.” Pollyanna’s eyes were dazed. She lifted her hand to her forehead. “Why, it’s–done up, and it–hurts!”
“Yes, dear; but never mind. Just–just rest.”
“But, Aunt Polly, I feel so funny, and so bad! My legs feel so–so queer–only they don’t feel–at all!”
With an imploring look into the nurse’s face, Miss Polly struggled to her feet, and turned away. The nurse came forward quickly.
“Suppose you let me talk to you now,” she began cheerily. “I’m sure I think it’s high time we were getting acquainted, and I’m going to introduce myself. I am Miss Hunt, and I’ve come to help your aunt take care of you. And the very first thing I’m going to do is to ask you to swallow these little white pills for me.”
Pollyanna’s eyes grew a bit wild.
“But I don’t want to be taken care of–that is, not for long! I want to get up. You know I go to school. Can’t I go to school to-morrow?”
From the window where Aunt Polly stood now there came a half-stifled cry.
“Tomorrow?” smiled the nurse, brightly.
“Well, I may not let you out quite so soon as that, Miss Pollyanna. But just swallow these little pills for me, please, and we’ll see what they’ll do.”
“All right,” agreed Pollyanna, somewhat doubtfully; “but I must go to school day after to-morrow–there are examinations then, you know.”
She spoke again, a minute later. She spoke of school, and of the automobile, and of how her head ached; but very soon her voice trailed into silence under the blessed influence of the little white pills she had swallowed.