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- Pollyanna Grows Up - 40/47 -
It was wonderfully clear to Pollyanna now. There was no doubt of it. Jimmy cared for Mrs. Carew. That was why he was so moody and restless after she left. That was why he had come so seldom to see her, Pollyanna, his old friend. That was why--
Countless little circumstances of the past summer flocked to Pollyanna's memory now, mute witnesses that would not be denied.
And why should he not care for her? Mrs. Carew was certainly beautiful and charming. True, she was older than Jimmy; but young men had married women far older than she, many times. And if they loved each other--
Pollyanna cried herself to sleep that night.
In the morning, bravely she tried to face the thing. She even tried, with a tearful smile, to put it to the test of the glad game. She was reminded then of something Nancy had said to her years before: "If there IS a set o' folks in the world that wouldn't have no use for that 'ere glad game o' your'n, it'd be a pair o' quarrellin' lovers!"
"Not that we're 'quarrelling,' or even 'lovers,'" thought Pollyanna blushingly; "but just the same I can be glad HE'S glad, and glad SHE'S glad, too, only--" Even to herself Pollyanna could not finish this sentence.
Being so sure now that Jimmy and Mrs. Carew cared for each other, Pollyanna became peculiarly sensitive to everything that tended to strengthen that belief. And being ever on the watch for it, she found it, as was to be expected. First in Mrs. Carew's letters.
"I am seeing a lot of your friend, young Pendleton," Mrs. Carew wrote one day; "and I'm liking him more and more. I do wish, however--just for curiosity's sake--that I could trace to its source that elusive feeling that I've seen him before somewhere."
Frequently, after this, she mentioned him casually; and, to Pollyanna, in the very casualness of these references lay their sharpest sting; for it showed so unmistakably that Jimmy and Jimmy's presence were now to Mrs. Carew a matter of course. From other sources, too, Pollyanna found fuel for the fire of her suspicions. More and more frequently John Pendleton "dropped in" with his stories of Jimmy, and of what Jimmy was doing; and always here there was mention of Mrs. Carew. Poor Pollyanna wondered, indeed, sometimes, if John Pendleton could not talk of anything--but Mrs. Carew and Jimmy, so constantly was one or the other of those names on his lips.
There were Sadie Dean's letters, too, and they told of Jimmy, and of what he was doing to help Mrs. Carew. Even Jamie, who wrote occasionally, had his mite to add, for he wrote one evening:
"It's ten o'clock. I'm sitting here alone waiting for Mrs. Carew to come home. She and Pendleton have been to one of their usual socials down to the Home."
From Jimmy himself Pollyanna heard very rarely; and for that she told herself mournfully that she COULD be GLAD.
"For if he can't write about ANYTHING but Mrs. Carew and those girls, I'm glad he doesn't write very often!" she sighed.
THE DAY POLLYANNA DID NOT PLAY
And so one by one the winter days passed. January and February slipped away in snow and sleet, and March came in with a gale that whistled and moaned around the old house, and set loose blinds to swinging and loose gates to creaking in a way that was most trying to nerves already stretched to the breaking point.
Pollyanna was not finding it very easy these days to play the game, but she was playing it faithfully, valiantly. Aunt Polly was not playing it at all--which certainly did not make it any the easier for Pollyanna to play it. Aunt Polly was blue and discouraged. She was not well, too, and she had plainly abandoned herself to utter gloom.
Pollyanna still was counting on the prize contest. She had dropped from the first prize to one of the smaller ones, however: Pollyanna had been writing more stories, and the regularity with which they came back from their pilgrimages to magazine editors was beginning to shake her faith in her success as an author.
"Oh, well, I can be glad that Aunt Polly doesn't know anything about it, anyway," declared Pollyanna to herself bravely, as she twisted in her fingers the "declined-with-thanks" slip that had just towed in one more shipwrecked story. "She CAN'T worry about this--she doesn't know about it!"
All of Pollyanna's life these days revolved around Aunt Polly, and it is doubtful if even Aunt Polly herself realized how exacting she had become, and how entirely her niece was giving up her life to her.
It was on a particularly gloomy day in March that matters came, in a way, to a climax. Pollyanna, upon arising, had looked at the sky with a sigh--Aunt Polly was always more difficult on cloudy days. With a gay little song, however, that still sounded a bit forced--Pollyanna descended to the kitchen and began to prepare breakfast.
"I reckon I'll make corn muffins," she told the stove confidentially; "then maybe Aunt Polly won't mind--other things so much."
Half an hour later she tapped at her aunt's door.
"Up so soon? Oh, that's fine! And you've done your hair yourself!"
"I couldn't sleep. I had to get up," sighed Aunt Polly, wearily. "I had to do my hair, too. YOU weren't here."
"But I didn't suppose you were ready for me, auntie," explained Pollyanna, hurriedly. "Never mind, though. You'll be glad I wasn't when you find what I've been doing."
"Well, I sha'n't--not this morning," frowned Aunt Polly, perversely. "Nobody could be glad this morning. Look at it rain! That makes the third rainy day this week."
"That's so--but you know the sun never seems quite so perfectly lovely as it does after a lot of rain like this," smiled Pollyanna, deftly arranging a bit of lace and ribbon at her aunt's throat. "Now come. Breakfast's all ready. Just you wait till you see what I've got for you."
Aunt Polly, however, was not to be diverted, even by corn muffins, this morning. Nothing was right, nothing was even endurable, as she felt; and Pollyanna's patience was sorely taxed before the meal was over. To make matters worse, the roof over the east attic window was found to be leaking, and an unpleasant letter came in the mail. Pollyanna, true to her creed, laughingly declared that, for her part, she was glad they had a roof--to leak; and that, as for the letter, she'd been expecting it for a week, anyway, and she was actually glad she wouldn't have to worry any more for fear it would come. It COULDN'T come now, because it HAD come; and 'twas over with.
All this, together with sundry other hindrances and annoyances, delayed the usual morning work until far into the afternoon--something that was always particularly displeasing to methodical Aunt Polly, who ordered her own life, preferably, by the tick of the clock.
"But it's half-past three, Pollyanna, already! Did you know it?" she fretted at last. "And you haven't made the beds yet."
"No, dearie, but I will. Don't worry."
"But, did you hear what I said? Look at the clock, child. It's after three o'clock!"
"So 'tis, but never mind, Aunt Polly. We can be glad 'tisn't after four."
Aunt Polly sniffed her disdain.
"I suppose YOU can," she observed tartly.
"Well, you see, auntie, clocks ARE accommodating things, when you stop to think about it. I found that out long ago at the Sanatorium. When I was doing something that I liked, and I didn't WANT the time to go fast, I'd just look at the hour hand, and I'd feel as if I had lots of time--it went so slow. Then, other days, when I had to keep something that hurt on for an hour, maybe, I'd watch the little second hand; and you see then I felt as if Old Time was just humping himself to help me out by going as fast as ever he could. Now I'm watching the hour hand to-day, 'cause I don't want Time to go fast. See?" she twinkled mischievously, as she hurried from the room, before Aunt Polly had time to answer.
It was certainly a hard day, and by night Pollyanna looked pale and worn out. This, too, was a source of worriment to Aunt Polly.
"Dear me, child, you look tired to death!" she fumed. "WHAT we're going to do I don't know. I suppose YOU'LL be sick next!"
"Nonsense, auntie! I'm not sick a bit," declared Pollyanna, dropping herself with a sigh on to the couch. "But I AM tired. My! how good this couch feels! I'm glad I'm tired, after all--it's so nice to rest."
Aunt Polly turned with an impatient gesture.
"Glad--glad--glad! Of course you're glad, Pollyanna. You're always glad for everything. I never saw such a girl. Oh, yes, I know it's the game," she went on, in answer to the look that came to Pollyanna's face. "And it's a very good game, too; but I think you carry it altogether too far. This eternal doctrine of 'it might be worse' has got on my nerves, Pollyanna. Honestly, it would be a real relief if you WOULDN'T be glad for something, sometime!"
"Why, auntie!" Pollyanna pulled herself half erect.
"Well, it would. You just try it sometime, and see."
"But, auntie, I--" Pollyanna stopped and eyed her aunt reflectively. An odd look came to her eyes; a slow smile curved her lips. Mrs. Chilton, who had turned back to her work, paid no heed; and, after a
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