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- Pollyanna Grows Up - 10/47 -
reckon you don't know about the game yet, after all; so I'll tell you. It started this way." And Pollyanna, with her eyes on the shimmering beauty all about her, told of the little pair of crutches of long ago, which should have been a doll.
When the story was finished there was a long silence; then, a little abruptly the man got to his feet.
"Oh, are you going away NOW?" she asked in open disappointment.
"Yes, I'm going now." He smiled down at her a little queerly.
"But you're coming back sometime?"
He shook his head--but again he smiled.
"I hope not--and I believe not, little girl. You see, I've made a great discovery to-day. I thought I was down and out. I thought there was no place for me anywhere--now. But I've just discovered that I've got two eyes, two arms, and two legs. Now I'm going to use them--and I'm going to MAKE somebody understand that I know how to use them!"
The next moment he was gone.
"Why, what a funny man!" mused Pollyanna. "Still, he was nice--and he was different, too," she finished, rising to her feet and resuming her walk.
Pollyanna was now once more her usual cheerful self, and she stepped with the confident assurance of one who has no doubt. Had not the man said that this was a public park, and that she had as good a right as anybody to be there? She walked nearer to the pond and crossed the bridge to the starting-place of the little boats. For some time she watched the children happily, keeping a particularly sharp lookout for the possible black curls of Susie Smith. She would have liked to take a ride in the pretty boats, herself, but the sign said "Five cents" a trip, and she did not have any money with her. She smiled hopefully into the faces of several women, and twice she spoke tentatively. But no one spoke first to her, and those whom she addressed eyed her coldly, and made scant response.
After a time she turned her steps into still another path. Here she found a white-faced boy in a wheel chair. She would have spoken to him, but he was so absorbed in his book that she turned away after a moment's wistful gazing. Soon then she came upon a pretty, but sad-looking young girl sitting alone, staring at nothing, very much as the man had sat. With a contented little cry Pollyanna hurried forward.
"Oh, how do you do?" she beamed. "I'm so glad I found you! I've been hunting ever so long for you," she asserted, dropping herself down on the unoccupied end of the bench.
The pretty girl turned with a start, an eager look of expectancy in her eyes.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, falling back in plain disappointment. "I thought-- Why, what do you mean?" she demanded aggrievedly. "I never set eyes on you before in my life."
"No, I didn't you, either," smiled Pollyanna; "but I've been hunting for you, just the same. That is, of course I didn't know you were going to be YOU exactly. It's just that I wanted to find some one that looked lonesome, and that didn't have anybody. Like me, you know. So many here to-day have got folks. See?"
"Yes, I see," nodded the girl, falling back into her old listlessness. "But, poor little kid, it's too bad YOU should find it out--so soon."
"Find what out?"
"That the lonesomest place in all the world is in a crowd in a big city."
Pollyanna frowned and pondered.
"Is it? I don't see how it can be. I don't see how you can be lonesome when you've got folks all around you. Still--" she hesitated, and the frown deepened. "I WAS lonesome this afternoon, and there WERE folks all around me; only they didn't seem to--to think--or notice."
The pretty girl smiled bitterly.
"That's just it. They don't ever think--or notice, crowds don't."
"But some folks do. We can be glad some do," urged Pollyanna. "Now when I--"
"Oh, yes, some do," interrupted the other. As she spoke she shivered and looked fearfully down the path beyond Pollyanna. "Some notice--too much."
Pollyanna shrank back in dismay. Repeated rebuffs that afternoon had given her a new sensitiveness.
"Do you mean--me?" she stammered. "That you wished I hadn't--noticed--you?"
"No, no, kiddie! I meant--some one quite different from you. Some one that hadn't ought to notice. I was glad to have you speak, only--I thought at first it was some one from home."
"Oh, then you don't live here, either, any more than I do--I mean, for keeps."
"Oh, yes, I live here now," sighed the girl; "that is, if you can call it living--what I do."
"What do you do?" asked Pollyanna interestedly.
"Do? I'll tell you what I do," cried the other, with sudden bitterness. "From morning till night I sell fluffy laces and perky bows to girls that laugh and talk and KNOW each other. Then I go home to a little back room up three flights just big enough to hold a lumpy cot-bed, a washstand with a nicked pitcher, one rickety chair, and me. It's like a furnace in the summer and an ice box in the winter; but it's all the place I've got, and I'm supposed to stay in it--when I ain't workin'. But I've come out to-day. I ain't goin' to stay in that room, and I ain't goin' to go to any old library to read, neither. It's our last half-holiday this year--and an extra one, at that; and I'm going to have a good time--for once. I'm just as young, and I like to laugh and joke just as well as them girls I sell bows to all day. Well, to-day I'm going to laugh and joke."
Pollyanna smiled and nodded her approval.
"I'm glad you feel that way. I do, too. It's a lot more fun--to be happy, isn't it? Besides, the Bible tells us to;--rejoice and be glad, I mean. It tells us to eight hundred times. Probably you know about 'em, though--the rejoicing texts."
The pretty girl shook her head. A queer look came to her face.
"Well, no," she said dryly. "I can't say I WAS thinkin'--of the Bible."
"Weren't you? Well, maybe not; but, you see, MY father was a minister, and he--"
"Yes. Why, was yours, too?" cried Pollyanna, answering something she saw in the other's face.
"Y-yes." A faint color crept up to the girl's forehead.
"Oh, and has he gone like mine to be with God and the angels?"
The girl turned away her head.
"No. He's still living--back home," she answered, half under her breath.
"Oh, how glad you must be," sighed Pollyanna, enviously. "Sometimes I get to thinking, if only I could just SEE father once--but you do see your father, don't you?"
"Not often. You see, I'm down--here."
"But you CAN see him--and I can't, mine. He's gone to be with mother and the rest of us up in Heaven, and-- Have you got a mother, too--an earth mother?"
"Y-yes." The girl stirred restlessly, and half moved as if to go.
"Oh, then you can see both of them," breathed Pollyanna, unutterable longing in her face. "Oh, how glad you must be! For there just isn't anybody, is there, that really CARES and notices quite so much as fathers and mothers. You see I know, for I had a father until I was eleven years old; but, for a mother, I had Ladies' Aiders for ever so long, till Aunt Polly took me. Ladies' Aiders are lovely, but of course they aren't like mothers, or even Aunt Pollys; and--"
On and on Pollyanna talked. Pollyanna was in her element now. Pollyanna loved to talk. That there was anything strange or unwise or even unconventional in this intimate telling of her thoughts and her history to a total stranger on a Boston park bench did not once occur to Pollyanna. To Pollyanna all men, women, and children were friends, either known or unknown; and thus far she had found the unknown quite as delightful as the known, for with them there was always the excitement of mystery and adventure--while they were changing from the unknown to the known.
To this young girl at her side, therefore, Pollyanna talked unreservedly of her father, her Aunt Polly, her Western home, and her journey East to Vermont. She told of new friends and old friends, and of course she told of the game. Pollyanna almost always told everybody of the game, either sooner or later. It was, indeed, so much a part of her very self that she could hardly have helped telling of it.
As for the girl--she said little. She was not now sitting in her old listless attitude, however, and to her whole self had come a marked change. The flushed cheeks, frowning brow, troubled eyes, and nervously working fingers were plainly the signs of some inward struggle. From time to time she glanced apprehensively down the path beyond Pollyanna, and it was after such a glance that she clutched the little girl's arm.
"See here, kiddie, for just a minute don't you leave me. Do you hear? Stay right where you are? There's a man I know comin'; but no matter
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