A SURPRISE FOR MRS. SNOW
The next time Pollyanna went to see Mrs. Snow, she found that lady, as at first, in a darkened room.
"It's the little girl from Miss Polly's, mother," announced Milly, in a tired manner; then Pollyanna found herself alone with the invalid.
"Oh, it's you, is it?" asked a fretful voice from the bed. "I remember you. Anybody'd remember you, I guess, if they saw you once. I wish you had come yesterday. I wanted you yesterday."
"Did you? Well, I'm glad 'tisn't any farther away from yesterday than to-day is, then," laughed Pollyanna, advancing cheerily into the room, and setting her basket carefully down on a chair. "My! but aren't you dark here, though? I can't see you a bit," she cried, unhesitatingly crossing to the window and pulling up the shade. "I want to see if you've fixed your hair like I did—oh, you haven't! But, never mind; I'm glad you haven't, after all, 'cause maybe you'll let me do it—later. But now I want you to see what I've brought you."
The woman stirred restlessly.
"Just as if how it looks would make any difference in how it tastes," she scoffed—but she turned her eyes toward the basket. "Well, what is it?"
"Guess! What do you want?" Pollyanna had skipped back to the basket. Her face was alight.
The sick woman frowned.
"Why, I don't want anything, as I know of," she sighed. "After all, they all taste alike!"
"This won't. Guess! If you did want something, what would it be?"
The woman hesitated. She did not realize it herself, but she had so long been accustomed to wanting what she did not have, that to state offhand what she did want seemed impossible—until she knew what she had. Obviously, however, she must say something. This extraordinary child was waiting.
"Well, of course, there's lamb broth—"
"I've got it!" crowed Pollyanna.
"But that's what I didn't want," sighed the sick woman, sure now of what her stomach craved. "It was chicken I wanted."
"Oh, I've got that, too," chuckled Pollyanna.
The woman turned in amazement.
"Both of them?" she demanded.
"Yes—and calf's-foot jelly," triumphed Pollyanna. "I was just bound you should have what you wanted for once; so Nancy and I fixed it. Oh, of course, there's only a little of each—but there's some of all of 'em! I'm so glad you did want chicken," she went on contentedly, as she lifted the three little bowls from her basket. "You see, I got to thinking on the way here—what if you should say tripe, or onions, or something like that, that I didn't have! Wouldn't it have been a shame—when I'd tried so hard?" she laughed merrily.
There was no reply. The sick woman seemed to be trying—mentally—to find something she had lost.
"There! I'm to leave them all," announced Pollyanna, as she arranged the three bowls in a row on the table. "Like enough it'll be lamb broth you want to-morrow. How do you do to-day?" she finished in polite inquiry.
"Very poorly, thank you," murmured Mrs. Snow, falling back into her usual listless attitude. "I lost my nap this morning. Nellie Higgins next door has begun music lessons, and her practising drives me nearly wild. She was at it all the morning—every minute! I'm sure, I don't know what I shall do!"
Polly nodded sympathetically.
"I know. It is awful! Mrs. White had it once—one of my Ladies' Aiders, you know. She had rheumatic fever, too, at the same time, so she couldn't thrash 'round. She said 'twould have been easier if she could have. Can you?"
"Thrash 'round—move, you know, so as to change your position when the music gets too hard to stand."
Mrs. Snow stared a little.
"Why, of course I can move—anywhere—in bed," she rejoined a little irritably.
"Well, you can be glad of that, then, anyhow, can't you?" nodded Pollyanna. "Mrs. White couldn't. You can't thrash when you have rheumatic fever—though you want to something awful, Mrs. White says. She told me afterwards she reckoned she'd have gone raving crazy if it hadn't been for Mr. White's sister's ears—being deaf, so."
"Sister's—ears! What do you mean?"
"Well, I reckon I didn't tell it all, and I forgot you didn't know Mrs. White. You see, Miss White was deaf—awfully deaf; and she came to visit 'em and to help take care of Mrs. White and the house. Well, they had such an awful time making her understand anything, that after that, every time the piano commenced to play across the street, Mrs. White felt so glad she could hear it, that she didn't mind so much that she did hear it, 'cause she couldn't help thinking how awful 'twould be if she was deaf and couldn't hear anything, like her husband's sister. You see, she was playing the game, too. I'd told her about it."
Pollyanna clapped her hands.
"There! I 'most forgot; but I've thought it up, Mrs. Snow—what you can be glad about."
"Glad about! What do you mean?"
"Why, I told you I would. Don't you remember? You asked me to tell you something to be glad about—glad, you know, even though you did have to lie here abed all day."
"Oh!" scoffed the woman. "That? Yes, I remember that; but I didn't suppose you were in earnest any more than I was."
"Oh, yes, I was," nodded Pollyanna, triumphantly; "and I found it, too. But 'twas hard. It's all the more fun, though, always, when 'tis hard. And I will own up, honest to true, that I couldn't think of anything for a while. Then I got it."
"Did you, really? Well, what is it?" Mrs. Snow's voice was sarcastically polite.
Pollyanna drew a long breath.
"I thought—how glad you could be—that other folks weren't like you—all sick in bed like this, you know," she announced impressively.
Mrs. Snow stared. Her eyes were angry and she compressed her lips.
"Well, really!" she ejaculated then, in not quite an agreeable tone of voice.
"And now I'll tell you the game," proposed Pollyanna, blithely confident. "It'll be just lovely for you to play—it'll be so hard. And there's so much more fun when it is hard! You see, it's like this." And she began to tell of the missionary barrel, the crutches, and the doll that did not come.
The story was just finished when Milly appeared at the door.
"Your aunt is wanting you, Miss Pollyanna," she said with dreary listlessness. "She telephoned down to the Harlows' across the way. She says you're to hurry—that you've got some practising to make up before dark."
Pollyanna rose reluctantly.
"All right," she sighed. "I'll hurry." Suddenly she laughed. "I suppose I ought to be glad I've got legs to hurry with, hadn't I, Mrs. Snow?"
There was no answer. Mrs. Snow's eyes were closed. But Milly, whose eyes were wide open with surprise, saw that there were tears on the wasted cheeks.
"Good-by," flung Pollyanna over her shoulder, as she reached the door. "I'm awfully sorry about the hair—I wanted to do it. But maybe I can next time!"
One by one the July days passed. To Pollyanna, they were happy days, indeed. She often told her aunt, joyously, how very happy they were. Whereupon her aunt would usually reply, wearily:
"Very well, Pollyanna. I am gratified, of course, that they are happy; but I trust that they are profitable, as well—otherwise I should have failed signally in my duty."
Generally Pollyanna would answer this with a hug and a kiss—a proceeding that was still always most disconcerting to Miss Polly; but one day she spoke. It was during the sewing hour.
"Do you mean that it wouldn't be enough then, Aunt Polly, that they should be just happy days?"
"That is what I mean, Pollyanna."
"They must be pro-fi-ta-ble as well?"
"What is being pro-fi-ta-ble?"
"Why, it—it's just being profitable—having profit, something to show for it, Pollyanna. What an extraordinary child you are!"
"Then just being glad isn't pro-fi-ta-ble?" questioned Pollyanna, a little anxiously.
"O dear! Then you wouldn't like it, of course. I'm afraid, now, you won't ever play the game, Aunt Polly."
"Game? What game?"
"Why, that father—" Pollyanna clapped her hand to her lips. "N-nothing," she stammered.
Miss Polly frowned.
"That will do for this morning, Pollyanna," she said tersely. And the sewing lesson was over.
It was that afternoon that Pollyanna, coming down from her attic room, met her aunt on the stairway.
"Why, Aunt Polly, how perfectly lovely!" she cried. "You were coming up to see me! Come right in. I love company," she finished, scampering up the stairs and throwing her door wide open.
Now Miss Polly had not been intending to call on her niece. She had been planning to look for a certain white wool shawl in the cedar chest near the east window. But to her unbounded surprise now, she found herself, not in the main attic before the cedar chest, but in Pollyanna's little room sitting in one of the straight-backed chairs—so many, many times since Pollyanna came, Miss Polly had found herself like this, doing some utterly unexpected, surprising thing, quite unlike the thing she had set out to do!
"I love company," said Pollyanna, again, flitting about as if she were dispensing the hospitality of a palace; "specially since I've had this room, all mine, you know. Oh, of course, I had a room, always, but 'twas a hired room, and hired rooms aren't half as nice as owned ones, are they? And of course I do own this one, don't I?"
"Why, y-yes, Pollyanna," murmured Miss Polly, vaguely wondering why she did not get up at once and go to look for that shawl.
"And of course now I just love this room, even if it hasn't got the carpets and curtains and pictures that I'd been want—" With a painful blush Pollyanna stopped short. She was plunging into an entirely different sentence when her aunt interrupted her sharply.
"What's that, Pollyanna?"
"N-nothing, Aunt Polly, truly. I didn't mean to say it."
"Probably not," returned Miss Polly, coldly; "but you did say it, so suppose we have the rest of it."
"But it wasn't anything only that I'd been kind of planning on pretty carpets and lace curtains and things, you know. But, of course—"
"Planning on them!" interrupted Miss Polly sharply.
Pollyanna blushed still more painfully.
"I ought not to have, of course, Aunt Polly," she apologized. "It was only because I'd always wanted them and hadn't had them, I suppose. Oh, we'd had two rugs in the barrels, but they were little, you know, and one had ink spots, and the other holes; and there never were only those two pictures; the one fath— I mean the good one we sold, and the bad one that broke. Of course if it hadn't been for all that I shouldn't have wanted them, so—pretty things, I mean; and I shouldn't have got to planning all through the hall that first day how pretty mine would be here, and—and—But, truly, Aunt Polly, it wasn't but just a minute—I mean, a few minutes—before I was being glad that the bureau didn't have a looking-glass, because it didn't show my freckles; and there couldn't be a nicer picture than the one out my window there; and you've been so good to me, that—"
Miss Polly rose suddenly to her feet. Her face was very red.
"That will do, Pollyanna," she said stiffly. "You have said quite enough, I'm sure." The next minute she had swept down the stairs—and not until she reached the first floor did it suddenly occur to her that she had gone up into the attic to find a white wool shawl in the cedar chest near the east window.
Less than twenty-four hours later, Miss Polly said to Nancy, crisply:
"Nancy, you may move Miss Pollyanna's things down-stairs this morning to the room directly beneath. I have decided to have my niece sleep there for the present."
"Yes, ma'am," said Nancy aloud.
"O glory!" said Nancy to herself.
To Pollyanna, a minute later, she cried joyously:
"And won't ye jest be listenin' ter this, Miss Pollyanna. You're ter sleep down-stairs in the room straight under this. You are—you are!"
Pollyanna actually grew white.
"You mean—why, Nancy, not really—really and truly?"
"I guess you'll think it's really and truly," prophesied Nancy, exultingly, nodding her head to Pollyanna over the armful of dresses she had taken from the closet. "I'm told ter take down yer things, and I'm goin' ter take 'em, too, 'fore she gets a chance ter change her mind."
Pollyanna did not stop to hear the end of this sentence. At the imminent risk of being dashed headlong, she was flying down-stairs, two steps at a time.
Bang went two doors and a chair before Pollyanna at last reached her goal—Aunt Polly.
"Oh, Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, did you mean it, really? Why, that room's got everything—the carpet and curtains and three pictures, besides the one outdoors, too, 'cause the windows look the same way. Oh, Aunt Polly!"
"Very well, Pollyanna. I am gratified that you like the change, of course; but if you think so much of all those things, I trust you will take proper care of them; that's all. Pollyanna, please pick up that chair; and you have banged two doors in the last half-minute." Miss Polly spoke sternly, all the more sternly because, for some inexplicable reason, she felt inclined to cry—and Miss Polly was not used to feeling inclined to cry.
Pollyanna picked up the chair.
"Yes'm; I know I banged 'em—those doors," she admitted cheerfully. "You see I'd just found out about the room, and I reckon you'd have banged doors if—" Pollyanna stopped short and eyed her aunt with new interest. "Aunt Polly, did you ever bang doors?"
"I hope—not, Pollyanna!" Miss Polly's voice was properly shocked.
"Why, Aunt Polly, what a shame!" Pollyanna's face expressed only concerned sympathy.
"A shame!" repeated Aunt Polly, too dazed to say more.
"Why, yes. You see, if you'd felt like banging doors you'd have banged 'em, of course; and if you didn't, that must have meant that you weren't ever glad over anything—or you would have banged 'em. You couldn't have helped it. And I'm so sorry you weren't ever glad over anything!"
"Pollyanna!" gasped the lady; but Pollyanna was gone, and only the distant bang of the attic-stairway door answered for her. Pollyanna had gone to help Nancy bring down "her things."
Miss Polly, in the sitting room, felt vaguely disturbed;—but then, of course, she had been glad—over some things!