THROUGH AN OPEN WINDOW
One by one the short winter days came and went—but they were not short to Pollyanna. They were long, and sometimes full of pain. Very resolutely, these days, however, Pollyanna was turning a cheerful face toward whatever came. Was she not specially bound to play the game, now that Aunt Polly was playing it, too? And Aunt Polly found so many things to be glad about! It was Aunt Polly, too, who discovered the story one day about the two poor little waifs in a snow-storm who found a blown-down door to crawl under, and who wondered what poor folks did that didn't have any door! And it was Aunt Polly who brought home the other story that she had heard about the poor old lady who had only two teeth, but who was so glad that those two teeth "hit!"
Pollyanna now, like Mrs. Snow, was knitting wonderful things out of bright colored worsteds that trailed their cheery lengths across the white spread, and made Pollyanna—again like Mrs. Snow—so glad she had her hands and arms, anyway.
Pollyanna saw people now, occasionally, and always there were the loving messages from those she could not see; and always they brought her something new to think about—and Pollyanna needed new things to think about.
Once she had seen John Pendleton, and twice she had seen Jimmy Bean. John Pendleton had told her what a fine boy Jimmy was getting to be, and how well he was doing. Jimmy had told her what a first-rate home he had, and what bang-up "folks" Mr. Pendleton made; and both had said that it was all owing to her.
"Which makes me all the gladder, you know, that I have had my legs," Pollyanna confided to her aunt afterwards.
The winter passed, and spring came. The anxious watchers over Pollyanna's condition could see little change wrought by the prescribed treatment. There seemed every reason to believe, indeed, that Dr. Mead's worst fears would be realized—that Pollyanna would never walk again.
Beldingsville, of course, kept itself informed concerning Pollyanna; and of Beldingsville, one man in particular fumed and fretted himself into a fever of anxiety over the daily bulletins which he managed in some way to procure from the bed of suffering. As the days passed, however, and the news came to be no better, but rather worse, something besides anxiety began to show in the man's face: despair, and a very dogged determination, each fighting for the mastery. In the end, the dogged determination won; and it was then that Mr. John Pendleton, somewhat to his surprise, received one Saturday morning a call from Dr. Thomas Chilton.
"Pendleton," began the doctor, abruptly, "I've come to you because you, better than any one else in town, know something of my relations with Miss Polly Harrington."
John Pendleton was conscious that he must have started visibly—he did know something of the affair between Polly Harrington and Thomas Chilton, but the matter had not been mentioned between them for fifteen years, or more.
"Yes," he said, trying to make his voice sound concerned enough for sympathy, and not eager enough for curiosity. In a moment he saw that he need not have worried, however: the doctor was quite too intent on his errand to notice how that errand was received.
"Pendleton, I want to see that child. I want to make an examination. I must make an examination."
"Can't I! Pendleton, you know very well I haven't been inside that door for more than fifteen years. You don't know—but I will tell you—that the mistress of that house told me that the next time she asked me to enter it, I might take it that she was begging my pardon, and that all would be as before—which meant that she'd marry me. Perhaps you see her summoning me now—but I don't!"
"But couldn't you go—without a summons?"
The doctor frowned.
"Well, hardly. I have some pride, you know."
"But if you're so anxious—couldn't you swallow your pride and forget the quarrel—"
"Forget the quarrel!" interrupted the doctor, savagely. "I'm not talking of that kind of pride. So far as that is concerned, I'd go from here there on my knees—or on my head—if that would do any good. It's professional pride I'm talking about. It's a case of sickness, and I'm a doctor. I can't butt in and say, 'Here, take me!'—can I?"
"Chilton, what was the quarrel?" demanded Pendleton.
The doctor made an impatient gesture, and got to his feet.
"What was it? What's any lovers' quarrel—after it's over?" he snarled, pacing the room angrily. "A silly wrangle over the size of the moon or the depth of a river, maybe—it might as well be, so far as its having any real significance compared to the years of misery that follow them! Never mind the quarrel! So far as I am concerned, I am willing to say there was no quarrel. Pendleton, I must see that child. It may mean life or death. It will mean—I honestly believe—nine chances out of ten that Pollyanna Whittier will walk again!"
The words were spoken clearly, impressively; and they were spoken just as the one who uttered them had almost reached the open window near John Pendleton's chair. Thus it happened that very distinctly they reached the ears of a small boy kneeling beneath the window on the ground outside.
Jimmy Bean, at his Saturday morning task of pulling up the first little green weeds of the flower-beds, sat up with ears and eyes wide open.
"Walk! Pollyanna!" John Pendleton was saying. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that from what I can hear and learn—a mile from her bedside—that her case is very much like one that a college friend of mine has just helped. For years he's been making this sort of thing a special study. I've kept in touch with him, and studied, too, in a way. And from what I hear—but I want to see the girl!"
John Pendleton came erect in his chair.
"You must see her, man! Couldn't you—say, through Dr. Warren?"
The other shook his head.
"I'm afraid not. Warren has been very decent, though. He told me himself that he suggested consultation with me at the first, but—Miss Harrington said no so decisively that he didn't dare venture it again, even though he knew of my desire to see the child. Lately, some of his best patients have come over to me—so of course that ties my hands still more effectually. But, Pendleton, I've got to see that child! Think of what it may mean to her—if I do!"
"Yes, and think of what it will mean—if you don't!" retorted Pendleton.
"But how can I—without a direct request from her aunt?—which I'll never get!"
"She must be made to ask you!"
"I don't know."
"No, I guess you don't—nor anybody else. She's too proud and too angry to ask me—after what she said years ago it would mean if she did ask me. But when I think of that child, doomed to lifelong misery, and when I think that maybe in my hands lies a chance of escape, but for that confounded nonsense we call pride and professional etiquette, I—" He did not finish his sentence, but with his hands thrust deep into his pockets, he turned and began to tramp up and down the room again, angrily.
"But if she could be made to see—to understand," urged John Pendleton.
"Yes; and who's going to do it?" demanded the doctor, with a savage turn.
"I don't know, I don't know," groaned the other, miserably.
Outside the window Jimmy Bean stirred suddenly. Up to now he had scarcely breathed, so intently had he listened to every word.
"Well, by Jinks, I know!" he whispered, exultingly. "I'm a-goin' ter do it!" And forthwith he rose to his feet, crept stealthily around the corner of the house, and ran with all his might down Pendleton Hill.