Chapter XX. The Paying Guests - Pollyanna grows up by Eleanor Porter

The few intervening days before the expected arrival of "those dreadful people," as Aunt Polly termed her niece's paying guests, were busy ones indeed for Pollyanna--but they were happy ones, too, as Pollyanna refused to be weary, or discouraged, or dismayed, no matter how puzzling were the daily problems she had to meet.

Summoning Nancy, and Nancy's younger sister, Betty, to her aid, Pollyanna systematically went through the house, room by room, and arranged for the comfort and convenience of her expected boarders. Mrs. Chilton could do but little to assist. In the first place she was not well. In the second place her mental attitude toward the whole idea was not conducive to aid or comfort, for at her side stalked always the Harrington pride of name and race, and on her lips was the constant moan:

"Oh, Pollyanna, Pollyanna, to think of the Harrington homestead ever coming to this!"

"It isn't, dearie," Pollyanna at last soothed laughingly. "It's the Carews that are coming to the Harrington homestead!"

But Mrs. Chilton was not to be so lightly diverted, and responded only with a scornful glance and a deeper sigh, so Pollyanna was forced to leave her to travel alone her road of determined gloom.

Upon the appointed day, Pollyanna with Timothy (who owned the Harrington horses now) went to the station to meet the afternoon train. Up to this hour there had been nothing but confidence and joyous anticipation in Pollyanna's heart. But with the whistle of the engine there came to her a veritable panic of doubt, shyness, and dismay. She realized suddenly what she, Pollyanna, almost alone and unaided, was about to do. She remembered Mrs. Carew's wealth, position, and fastidious tastes. She recollected, too, that this would be a new, tall, young-man Jamie, quite unlike the boy she had known.

For one awful moment she thought only of getting away--somewhere, anywhere.

"Timothy, I--I feel sick. I'm not well. I--tell 'em--er--not to come," she faltered, poising as if for flight.

"Ma'am!" exclaimed the startled Timothy.

One glance into Timothy's amazed face was enough. Pollyanna laughed and threw back her shoulders alertly.

"Nothing. Never mind! I didn't mean it, of course, Timothy. Quick--see! They're almost here," she panted. And Pollyanna hurried forward, quite herself once more.

She knew them at once. Even had there been any doubt in her mind, the crutches in the hands of the tall, brown-eyed young man would have piloted her straight to her goal.

There were a brief few minutes of eager handclasps and incoherent exclamations, then, somehow, she found herself in the carriage with Mrs. Carew at her side, and Jamie and Sadie Dean in front. She had a chance, then, for the first time, really to see her friends, and to note the changes the six years had wrought.

In regard to Mrs. Carew, her first feeling was one of surprise. She had forgotten that Mrs. Carew was so lovely. She had forgotten that the eyelashes were so long, that the eyes they shaded were so beautiful. She even caught herself thinking enviously of how exactly that perfect face must tally, figure by figure, with that dread beauty-test-table. But more than anything else she rejoiced in the absence of the old fretful lines of gloom and bitterness.

Then she turned to Jamie. Here again she was surprised, and for much the same reason. Jamie, too, had grown handsome. To herself Pollyanna declared that he was really distinguished looking. His dark eyes, rather pale face, and dark, waving hair she thought most attractive. Then she caught a glimpse of the crutches at his side, and a spasm of aching sympathy contracted her throat.

From Jamie Pollyanna turned to Sadie Dean.

Sadie, so far as features went, looked much as she had when Pollyanna first saw her in the Public Garden; but Pollyanna did not need a second glance to know that Sadie, so far as hair, dress, temper, speech, and disposition were concerned, was a very different Sadie indeed.

Then Jamie spoke.

"How good you were to let us come," he said to Pollyanna. "Do you know what I thought of when you wrote that we could come?"

"Why, n-no, of course not," stammered Pollyanna. Pollyanna was still seeing the crutches at Jamie's side, and her throat was still tightened from that aching sympathy.

"Well, I thought of the little maid in the Public Garden with her bag of peanuts for Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere, and I knew that you were just putting us in their places, for if you had a bag of peanuts, and we had none, you wouldn't be happy till you'd shared it with us."

"A bag of peanuts, indeed!" laughed Pollyanna.

"Oh, of course in this case, your bag of peanuts happened to be airy country rooms, and cow's milk, and real eggs from a real hen's nest," returned Jamie whimsically; "but it amounts to the same thing. And maybe I'd better warn you--you remember how greedy Sir Lancelot was;--well--" He paused meaningly.

"All right, I'll take the risk," dimpled Pollyanna, thinking how glad she was that Aunt Polly was not present to hear her worst predictions so nearly fulfilled thus early. "Poor Sir Lancelot! I wonder if anybody feeds him now, or if he's there at all."

"Well, if he's there, he's fed," interposed Mrs. Carew, merrily. "This ridiculous boy still goes down there at least once a week with his pockets bulging with peanuts and I don't know what all. He can be traced any time by the trail of small grains he leaves behind him; and half the time, when I order my cereal for breakfast it isn't forthcoming, because, forsooth, 'Master Jamie has fed it to the pigeons, ma'am!'"

"Yes, but let me tell you," plunged in Jamie, enthusiastically. And the next minute Pollyanna found herself listening with all the old fascination to a story of a couple of squirrels in a sunlit garden. Later she saw what Della Wetherby had meant in her letter, for when the house was reached, it came as a distinct shock to her to see Jamie pick up his crutches and swing himself out of the carriage with their aid. She knew then that already in ten short minutes he had made her forget that he was lame.

To Pollyanna's great relief that first dreaded meeting between Aunt Polly and the Carew party passed off much better than she had feared. The newcomers were so frankly delighted with the old house and everything in it, that it was an utter impossibility for the mistress and owner of it all to continue her stiff attitude of disapproving resignation to their presence. Besides, as was plainly evident before an hour had passed, the personal charm and magnetism of Jamie had pierced even Aunt Polly's armor of distrust; and Pollyanna knew that at least one of her own most dreaded problems was a problem no longer, for already Aunt Polly was beginning to play the stately, yet gracious hostess to these, her guests.

Notwithstanding her relief at Aunt Polly's change of attitude, however, Pollyanna did not find that all was smooth sailing, by any means. There was work, and plenty of it, that must be done. Nancy's sister, Betty, was pleasant and willing, but she was not Nancy, as Pollyanna soon found. She needed training, and training took time. Pollyanna worried, too, for fear everything should not be quite right. To Pollyanna, those days, a dusty chair was a crime and a fallen cake a tragedy.

Gradually, however, after incessant arguments and pleadings on the part of Mrs. Carew and Jamie, Pollyanna came to take her tasks more easily, and to realize that the real crime and tragedy in her friends' eyes was, not the dusty chair nor the fallen cake, but the frown of worry and anxiety on her own face.

"Just as if it wasn't enough for you to let us come," Jamie declared, "without just killing yourself with work to get us something to eat."

"Besides, we ought not to eat so much, anyway," Mrs. Carew laughed, "or else we shall get 'digestion,' as one of my girls calls it when her food disagrees with her."

It was wonderful, after all, how easily the three new members of the family fitted into the daily life. Before twenty-four hours had passed, Mrs. Carew had gotten Mrs. Chilton to asking really interested questions about the new Home for Working Girls, and Sadie Dean and Jamie were quarreling over the chance to help with the pea-shelling or the flower-picking.

The Carews had been at the Harrington homestead nearly a week when one evening John Pendleton and Jimmy called. Pollyanna had been hoping they would come soon. She had, indeed, urged it very strongly before the Carews came. She made the introductions now with visible pride.

"You are such good friends of mine, I want you to know each other, and be good friends together," she explained.

That Jimmy and Mr. Pendleton should be clearly impressed with the charm and beauty of Mrs. Carew did not surprise Pollyanna in the least; but the look that came into Mrs. Carew's face at sight of Jimmy did surprise her very much. It was almost a look of recognition.

"Why, Mr. Pendleton, haven't I met you before?" Mrs. Carew cried.

Jimmy's frank eyes met Mrs. Carew's gaze squarely, admiringly.

"I think not," he smiled back at her. "I'm sure I never have met you. I should have remembered it--if I had met you," he bowed.

So unmistakable was his significant emphasis that everybody laughed, and John Pendleton chuckled:

"Well done, son--for a youth of your tender years. I couldn't have done half so well myself."

Mrs. Carew flushed slightly and joined in the laugh.

"No, but really," she urged; "joking aside, there certainly is a strangely familiar something in your face. I think I must have seen you somewhere, if I haven't actually met you."

"And maybe you have," cried Pollyanna, "in Boston. Jimmy goes to Tech there winters, you know. Jimmy's going to build bridges and dams, you see--when he grows up, I mean," she finished with a merry glance at the big six-foot fellow still standing before Mrs. Carew.

Everybody laughed again--that is, everybody but Jamie; and only Sadie Dean noticed that Jamie, instead of laughing, closed his eyes as if at the sight of something that hurt. And only Sadie Dean knew how--and why--the subject was so quickly changed, for it was Sadie herself who changed it. It was Sadie, too, who, when the opportunity came, saw to it that books and flowers and beasts and birds--things that Jamie knew and understood--were talked about as well as dams and bridges which (as Sadie knew), Jamie could never build. That Sadie did all this, however, was not realized by anybody, least of all by Jamie, the one who most of all was concerned.

When the call was over and the Pendletons had gone, Mrs. Carew referred again to the curiously haunting feeling that somewhere she had seen young Pendleton before.

"I have, I know I have--somewhere," she declared musingly. "Of course it may have been in Boston; but--" She let the sentence remain unfinished; then, after a minute she added: "He's a fine young fellow, anyway. I like him."

"I'm so glad! I do, too," nodded Pollyanna. "I've always liked Jimmy."

"You've known him some time, then?" queried Jamie, a little wistfully.

"Oh, yes. I knew him years ago when I was a little girl, you know. He was Jimmy Bean then."

"Jimmy Bean! Why, isn't he Mr. Pendleton's son?" asked Mrs. Carew, in surprise.

"No, only by adoption."

"Adoption!" exclaimed Jamie. "Then he isn't a real son any more than I am." There was a curious note of almost joy in the lad's voice.

"No. Mr. Pendleton hasn't any children. He never married. He--he was going to, once, but he--he didn't." Pollyanna blushed and spoke with sudden diffidence. Pollyanna had never forgotten that it was her mother who, in the long ago, had said no to this same John Pendleton, and who had thus been responsible for the man's long, lonely years of bachelorhood.

Mrs. Carew and Jamie, however, being unaware of this, and seeing now only the blush on Pollyanna's cheek and the diffidence in her manner, drew suddenly the same conclusion.

"Is it possible," they asked themselves, "that this man, John Pendleton, ever had a love affair with Pollyanna, child that she is?"

Naturally they did not say this aloud; so, naturally, there was no answer possible. Naturally, too, perhaps, the thought, though unspoken, was still not forgotten, but was tucked away in a corner of their minds for future reference--if need arose.