Pollyanna Grows Up/Chapter 19
It was toward the latter part of June that the letter came to Pollyanna from Della Wetherby.
"I am writing to ask you a favor," Miss Wetherby wrote. "I am hoping you can tell me of some quiet private family in Beldingsville that will be willing to take my sister to board for the summer. There would be three of them, Mrs. Carew, her secretary, and her adopted son, Jamie. (You remember Jamie, don't you?) They do not like to go to an ordinary hotel or boarding house. My sister is very tired, and the doctor has advised her to go into the country for a complete rest and change. He suggested Vermont or New Hampshire. We immediately thought of Beldingsville and you; and we wondered if you couldn't recommend just the right place to us. I told Ruth I would write you. They would like to go right away, early in July, if possible. Would it be asking too much to request you to let us know as soon as you conveniently can if you do know of a place? Please address me here. My sister is with us here at the Sanatorium for a few weeks' treatment.
"Hoping for a favorable reply, I am,
"Most cordially yours,
For the first few minutes after the letter was finished, Pollyanna sat with frowning brow, mentally searching the homes of Beldingsville for a possible boarding house for her old friends. Then a sudden something gave her thoughts a new turn, and with a joyous exclamation she hurried to her aunt in the living-room.
"Auntie, auntie," she panted; "I've got just the loveliest idea. I told you something would happen, and that I'd develop that wonderful talent sometime. Well, I have. I have right now. Listen! I've had a letter from Miss Wetherby, Mrs. Carew's sister—where I stayed that winter in Boston, you know—and they want to come into the country to board for the summer, and Miss Wetherby's written to see if I didn't know a place for them. They don't want a hotel or an ordinary boarding house, you see. And at first I didn't know of one; but now I do. I do, Aunt Polly! Just guess where 'tis."
"Dear me, child," ejaculated Mrs. Chilton, "how you do run on! I should think you were a dozen years old instead of a woman grown. Now what are you talking about?"
"About a boarding place for Mrs. Carew and Jamie. I've found it," babbled Pollyanna.
"Indeed! Well, what of it? Of what possible interest can that be to me, child?" murmured Mrs. Chilton, drearily.
"Because it's here. I'm going to have them here, auntie."
"Pollyanna!" Mrs. Chilton was sitting erect in horror.
"Now, auntie, please don't say no—please don't," begged Pollyanna, eagerly. "Don't you see? This is my chance, the chance I've been waiting for; and it's just dropped right into my hands. We can do it lovely. We have plenty of room, and you know I can cook and keep house. And now there'd be money in it, for they'd pay well, I know; and they'd love to come, I'm sure. There'd be three of them—there's a secretary with them."
"But, Pollyanna, I can't! Turn this house into a boarding house?—the Harrington homestead a common boarding house? Oh, Pollyanna, I can't, I can't!"
"But it wouldn't be a common boarding house, dear. 'Twill be an uncommon one. Besides, they're our friends. It would be like having our friends come to see us; only they'd be paying guests, so meanwhile we'd be earning money—money that we need, auntie, money that we need," she emphasized significantly.
A spasm of hurt pride crossed Polly Chilton's face. With a low moan she fell back in her chair.
"But how could you do it?" she asked at last, faintly. "You couldn't do the work part alone, child!"
"Oh, no, of course not," chirped Pollyanna. (Pollyanna was on sure ground now. She knew her point was won.) "But I could do the cooking and the overseeing, and I'm sure I could get one of Nancy's younger sisters to help about the rest. Mrs. Durgin would do the laundry part just as she does now."
"But, Pollyanna, I'm not well at all—you know I'm not. I couldn't do much."
"Of course not. There's no reason why you should," scorned Pollyanna, loftily. "Oh, auntie, won't it be splendid? Why, it seems too good to be true—money just dropped into my hands like that!"
"Dropped into your hands, indeed! You still have some things to learn in this world, Pollyanna, and one is that summer boarders don't drop money into anybody's hands without looking very sharply to it that they get ample return. By the time you fetch and carry and bake and brew until you are ready to sink, and by the time you nearly kill yourself trying to serve everything to order from fresh-laid eggs to the weather, you will believe what I tell you."
"All right, I'll remember," laughed Pollyanna. "But I'm not doing any worrying now; and I'm going to hurry and write Miss Wetherby at once so I can give it to Jimmy Bean to mail when he comes out this afternoon."
Mrs. Chilton stirred restlessly.
"Pollyanna, I do wish you'd call that young man by his proper name. That 'Bean' gives me the shivers. His name is 'Pendleton' now, as I understand it."
"So it is," agreed Pollyanna, "but I do forget it half the time. I even call him that to his face, sometimes, and of course that's dreadful, when he really is adopted, and all. But you see I'm so excited," she finished, as she danced from the room.
She had the letter all ready for Jimmy when he called at four o'clock. She was still quivering—with excitement, and she lost no time in telling her visitor what it was all about.
"And I'm crazy to see them, besides," she cried, when she had told him of her plans. "I've never seen either of them since that winter. You know I told you—didn't I tell you?—about Jamie."
"Oh, yes, you told me." There was a touch of constraint in the young man's voice.
"Well, isn't it splendid, if they can come?"
"Why, I don't know as I should call it exactly splendid," he parried.
"Not splendid that I've got such a chance to help Aunt Polly out, for even this little while? Why, Jimmy, of course it's splendid."
"Well, it strikes me that it's going to be rather hard—for you," bridled Jimmy, with more than a shade of irritation.
"Yes, of course, in some ways. But I shall be so glad for the money coming in that I'll think of that all the time. You see," she sighed, "how mercenary I am, Jimmy."
For a long minute there was no reply; then, a little abruptly, the young man asked:
"Let's see, how old is this Jamie now?"
Pollyanna glanced up with a merry smile.
"Oh, I remember—you never did like his name, 'Jamie,'" she twinkled. "Never mind; he's adopted now, legally, I believe, and has taken the name of Carew. So you can call him that."
"But that isn't telling me how old he is," reminded Jimmy, stiffly.
"Nobody knows, exactly, I suppose. You know he couldn't tell; but I imagine he's about your age. I wonder how he is now. I've asked all about it in this letter, anyway."
"Oh, you have!" Pendleton looked down at the letter in his hand and flipped it a little spitefully. He was thinking that he would like to drop it, to tear it up, to give it to somebody, to throw it away, to do anything with it—but mail it.
Jimmy knew perfectly well that he was jealous, that he always had been jealous of this youth with the name so like and yet so unlike his own. Not that he was in love with Pollyanna, he assured himself wrathfully. He was not that, of course. It was just that he did not care to have this strange youth with the sissy name come to Beldingsville and be always around to spoil all their good times. He almost said as much to Pollyanna, but something stayed the words on his lips; and after a time he took his leave, carrying the letter with him.
That Jimmy did not drop the letter, tear it up, give it to anybody, or throw it away was evidenced a few days later, for Pollyanna received a prompt and delighted reply from Miss Wetherby; and when Jimmy came next time he heard it read—or rather he heard part of it, for Pollyanna prefaced the reading by saying:
"Of course the first part is just where she says how glad they are to come, and all that. I won't read that. But the rest I thought you'd like to hear, because you've heard me talk so much about them. Besides, you'll know them yourself pretty soon, of course. I'm depending a whole lot on you, Jimmy, to help me make it pleasant for them."
"Oh, are you!"
"Now don't be sarcastic, just because you don't like Jamie's name," reproved Pollyanna, with mock severity. "You'll like him, I'm sure, when you know him; and you'll love Mrs. Carew."
"Will I, indeed?" retorted Jimmy huffily. "Well, that IS a serious prospect. Let us hope, if I do, the lady will be so gracious as to reciprocate."
"Of course," dimpled Pollyanna. "Now listen, and I'll read to you about her. This letter is from her sister, Della—Miss Wetherby, you know, at the Sanatorium."
"All right. Go ahead!" directed Jimmy, with a somewhat too evident attempt at polite interest. And Pollyanna, still smiling mischievously, began to read.
"You ask me to tell you everything about everybody. That is a large commission, but I'll do the best I can. To begin with, I think you'll find my sister quite changed. The new interests that have come into her life during the last six years have done wonders for her. Just now she is a bit thin and tired from overwork, but a good rest will soon remedy that, and you'll see how young and blooming and happy she looks. Please notice I said happy. That won't mean so much to you as it does to me, of course, for you were too young to realize quite how unhappy she was when you first knew her that winter in Boston. Life was such a dreary, hopeless thing to her then; and now it is so full of interest and joy.
"First she has Jamie, and when you see them together you won't need to be told what he is to her. To be sure, we are no nearer knowing whether he is the real Jamie, or not, but my sister loves him like an own son now, and has legally adopted him, as I presume you know.
"Then she has her girls. Do you remember Sadie Dean, the salesgirl? Well, from getting interested in her, and trying to help her to a happier living, my sister has broadened her efforts little by little, until she has scores of girls now who regard her as their own best and particular good angel. She has started a Home for Working Girls along new lines. Half a dozen wealthy and influential men and women are associated with her, of course, but she is head and shoulders of the whole thing, and never hesitates to give herself to each and every one of the girls. You can imagine what that means in nerve strain. Her chief support and right-hand man is her secretary, this same Sadie Dean. You'll find HER changed, too, yet she is the same old Sadie.
"As for Jamie—poor Jamie! The great sorrow of his life is that he knows now he can never walk. For a time we all had hopes. He was here at the Sanatorium under Dr. Ames for a year, and he improved to such an extent that he can go now with crutches. But the poor boy will always be a cripple—so far as his feet are concerned, but never as regards anything else. Someway, after you know Jamie, you seldom think of him as a cripple, his soul is so free. I can't explain it, but you'll know what I mean when you see him; and he has retained, to a marvelous degree, his old boyish enthusiasm and joy of living. There is just one thing—and only one, I believe—that would utterly quench that bright spirit and cast him into utter despair; and that is to find that he is not Jamie Kent, our nephew. So long has he brooded over this, and so ardently has he wished it, that he has come actually to believe that he is the real Jamie; but if he isn't, I hope he will never find it out."
"There, that's all she says about them," announced Pollyanna, folding up the closely-written sheets in her hands. "But isn't that interesting?"
"Indeed it is!" There was a ring of genuineness in Jimmy's voice now. Jimmy was thinking suddenly of what his own good legs meant to him. He even, for the moment, was willing that this poor crippled youth should have a part of Pollyanna's thoughts and attentions, if he were not so presuming as to claim too much of them, of course! "By George! it is tough for the poor chap, and no mistake."
"Tough! You don't know anything about it, Jimmy Bean," choked Pollyanna; "but I do. I couldn't walk once. I know!"
"Yes, of course, of course," frowned the youth, moving restively in his seat. Jimmy, looking into Pollyanna's sympathetic face and brimming eyes was suddenly not so sure, after all, that he was willing to have this Jamie come to town—if just to think of him made Pollyanna look like that!