Pollyanna Grows Up/Chapter 4
THE GAME AND MRS. CAREW
Boston, to Pollyanna, was a new experience, and certainly Pollyanna, to Boston—such part of it as was privileged to know her—was very much of a new experience.
Pollyanna said she liked Boston, but that she did wish it was not quite so big.
"You see," she explained earnestly to Mrs. Carew, the day following her arrival, "I want to see and know it ALL, and I can't. It's just like Aunt Polly's company dinners; there's so much to eat—I mean, to see—that you don't eat—I mean, see—anything, because you're always trying to decide what to eat—I mean, to see.
"Of course you can be glad there is such a lot," resumed Pollyanna, after taking breath, "’cause a whole lot of anything is nice—that is, good things; not such things as medicine and funerals, of course!—but at the same time I couldn't used to help wishing Aunt Polly's company dinners could be spread out a little over the days when there wasn't any cake and pie; and I feel the same way about Boston. I wish I could take part of it home with me up to Beldingsville so I'd have something new next summer. But of course I can't. Cities aren't like frosted cake—and, anyhow, even the cake didn't keep very well. I tried it, and it dried up, 'specially the frosting. I reckon the time to take frosting and good times is while they are going; so I want to see all I can now while I'm here."
Pollyanna, unlike the people who think that to see the world one must begin at the most distant point, began her "seeing Boston" by a thorough exploration of her immediate surroundings—the beautiful Commonwealth Avenue residence which was now her home. This, with her school work, fully occupied her time and attention for some days.
There was so much to see, and so much to learn; and everything was so marvelous and so beautiful, from the tiny buttons in the wall that flooded the rooms with light, to the great silent ballroom hung with mirrors and pictures. There were so many delightful people to know, too, for besides Mrs. Carew herself there were Mary, who dusted the drawing-rooms, answered the bell, and accompanied Pollyanna to and from school each day; Bridget, who lived in the kitchen and cooked; Jennie, who waited at table, and Perkins who drove the automobile. And they were all so delightful—yet so different!
Pollyanna had arrived on a Monday, so it was almost a week before the first Sunday. She came downstairs that morning with a beaming countenance.
"I love Sundays," she sighed happily.
"Do you?" Mrs. Carew's voice had the weariness of one who loves no day.
"Yes, on account of church, you know, and Sunday school. Which do you like best, church, or Sunday school?"
"Well, really, I—" began Mrs. Carew, who seldom went to church and never went to Sunday school.
"'Tis hard to tell, isn't it?" interposed Pollyanna, with luminous but serious eyes. "But you see I like church best, on account of father. You know he was a minister, and of course he's really up in Heaven with mother and the rest of us, but I try to imagine him down here, lots of times; and it's easiest in church, when the minister is talking. I shut my eyes and imagine it's father up there; and it helps lots. I'm so glad we can imagine things, aren't you?"
"I'm not so sure of that, Pollyanna."
"Oh, but just think how much nicer our imagined things are than our really truly ones—that is, of course, yours aren't, because your real ones are so nice." Mrs. Carew angrily started to speak, but Pollyanna was hurrying on. "And of course my real ones are ever so much nicer than they used to be. But all that time I was hurt, when my legs didn't go, I just had to keep imagining all the time, just as hard as I could. And of course now there are lots of times when I do it—like about father, and all that. And so to-day I'm just going to imagine it's father up there in the pulpit. What time do we go?"
"To church, I mean."
"But, Pollyanna, I don't—that is, I'd rather not—" Mrs. Carew cleared her throat and tried again to say that she was not going to church at all; that she almost never went. But with Pollyanna's confident little face and happy eyes before her, she could not do it.
"Why, I suppose—about quarter past ten—if we walk," she said then, almost crossly. "It's only a little way."
Thus it happened that Mrs. Carew on that bright September morning occupied for the first time in months the Carew pew in the very fashionable and elegant church to which she had gone as a girl, and which she still supported liberally—so far as money went.
To Pollyanna that Sunday morning service was a great wonder and joy. The marvelous music of the vested choir, the opalescent rays from the jeweled windows, the impassioned voice of the preacher, and the reverent hush of the worshiping throng filled her with an ecstasy that left her for a time almost speechless. Not until they were nearly home did she fervently breathe:
"Oh, Mrs. Carew, I've just been thinking how glad I am we don't have to live but just one day at a time!"
Mrs. Carew frowned and looked down sharply. Mrs. Carew was in no mood for preaching. She had just been obliged to endure it from the pulpit, she told herself angrily, and she would not listen to it from this chit of a child. Moreover, this "living one day at a time" theory was a particularly pet doctrine of Della's. Was not Della always saying: "But you only have to live one minute at a time, Ruth, and any one can endure anything for one minute at a time!"
"Well?" said Mrs. Carew now, tersely.
"Yes. Only think what I'd do if I had to live yesterday and to-day and to-morrow all at once," sighed Pollyanna. "Such a lot of perfectly lovely things, you know. But I've had yesterday, and now I'm living to-day, and I've got to-morrow still coming, and next Sunday, too. Honestly, Mrs. Carew, if it wasn't Sunday now, and on this nice quiet street, I should just dance and shout and yell. I couldn't help it. But it's being Sunday, so, I shall have to wait till I get home and then take a hymn—the most rejoicingest hymn I can think of. What is the most rejoicingest hymn? Do you know, Mrs. Carew?"
"No, I can't say that I do," answered Mrs. Carew, faintly, looking very much as if she were searching for something she had lost. For a woman who expects, because things are so bad, to be told that she need stand only one day at a time, it is disarming, to say the least, to be told that, because things are so good, it is lucky she does not have to stand but one day at a time!
On Monday, the next morning, Pollyanna went to school for the first time alone. She knew the way perfectly now, and it was only a short walk. Pollyanna enjoyed her school very much. It was a small private school for girls, and was quite a new experience, in its way; but Pollyanna liked new experiences.
Mrs. Carew, however, did not like new experiences, and she was having a good many of them these days. For one who is tired of everything to be in so intimate a companionship with one to whom everything is a fresh and fascinating joy must needs result in annoyance, to say the least. And Mrs. Carew was more than annoyed. She was exasperated. Yet to herself she was forced to admit that if any one asked her why she was exasperated, the only reason she could give would be "Because Pollyanna is so glad"—and even Mrs. Carew would hardly like to give an answer like that.
To Della, however, Mrs. Carew did write that the word "glad" had got on her nerves, and that sometimes she wished she might never hear it again. She still admitted that Pollyanna had not preached—that she had not even once tried to make her play the game. What the child did do, however, was invariably to take Mrs. Carew's "gladness" as a matter of course, which, to one who had no gladness, was most provoking.
It was during the second week of Pollyanna's stay that Mrs. Carew's annoyance overflowed into irritable remonstrance. The immediate cause thereof was Pollyanna's glowing conclusion to a story about one of her Ladies' Aiders.
"She was playing the game, Mrs. Carew. But maybe you don't know what the game is. I'll tell you. It's a lovely game."
But Mrs. Carew held up her hand.
"Never mind, Pollyanna," she demurred. "I know all about the game. My sister told me, and—and I must say that I—I should not care for it."
"Why, of course not, Mrs. Carew!" exclaimed Pollyanna in quick apology. "I didn't mean the game for you. You couldn't play it, of course."
"I couldn't play it!" ejaculated Mrs. Carew, who, though she would not play this silly game, was in no mood to be told that she could not.
"Why, no, don't you see?" laughed Pollyanna, gleefully. "The game is to find something in everything to be glad about; and you couldn't even begin to hunt, for there isn't anything about you but what you could be glad about. There wouldn't be any game to it for you! Don't you see?"
Mrs. Carew flushed angrily. In her annoyance she said more than perhaps she meant to say.
"Well, no, Pollyanna, I can't say that I do," she differed coldly. "As it happens, you see, I can find nothing whatever to be—glad for."
For a moment Pollyanna stared blankly. Then she fell back in amazement.
"Why, Mrs. Carew!" she breathed.
"Well, what is there—for me?" challenged the woman, forgetting all about, for the moment, that she was never going to allow Pollyanna to "preach."
"Why, there's—there's everything," murmured Pollyanna, still with that dazed unbelief. "There—there's this beautiful house."
"It's just a place to eat and sleep—and I don't want to eat and sleep."
"But there are all these perfectly lovely things," faltered Pollyanna.
"I'm tired of them."
"And your automobile that will take you anywhere."
"I don't want to go anywhere."
Pollyanna quite gasped aloud.
"But think of the people and things you could see, Mrs. Carew."
"They would not interest me, Pollyanna."
Once again Pollyanna stared in amazement. The troubled frown on her face deepened.
"But, Mrs. Carew, I don't see," she urged. "Always, before, there have been bad things for folks to play the game on, and the badder they are the more fun 'tis to get them out—find the things to be glad for, I mean. But where there aren't any bad things, I shouldn't know how to play the game myself."
There was no answer for a time. Mrs. Carew sat with her eyes out the window. Gradually the angry rebellion on her face changed to a look of hopeless sadness. Very slowly then she turned and said:
"Pollyanna, I had thought I wouldn't tell you this; but I've decided that I will. I'm going to tell you why nothing that I have can make me—glad." And she began the story of Jamie, the little four-year-old boy who, eight long years before, had stepped as into another world, leaving the door fast shut between.
"And you've never seen him since—anywhere?" faltered Pollyanna, with tear-wet eyes, when the story was done.
"But we'll find him, Mrs. Carew—I'm sure we'll find him."
Mrs. Carew shook her head sadly.
"But I can't. I've looked everywhere, even in foreign lands."
"But he must be somewhere."
"He may be—dead, Pollyanna."
Pollyanna gave a quick cry.
"Oh, no, Mrs. Carew. Please don't say that! Let's imagine he's alive. We can do that, and that'll help; and when we get him imagined alive we can just as well imagine we're going to find him. And that'll help a whole lot more."
"But I'm afraid he's—dead, Pollyanna," choked Mrs. Carew.
"You don't know it for sure, do you?" besought the little girl, anxiously.
"Well, then, you're just imagining it," maintained Pollyanna, in triumph. "And if you can imagine him dead, you can just as well imagine him alive, and it'll be a whole lot nicer while you're doing it. Don't you see? And some day, I'm just sure you'll find him. Why, Mrs. Carew, you can play the game now! You can play it on Jamie. You can be glad every day, for every day brings you just one day nearer to the time when you're going to find him. See?"
But Mrs. Carew did not "see." She rose drearily to her feet and said:
"No, no, child! You don't understand—you don't understand. Now run away, please, and read, or do anything you like. My head aches. I'm going to lie down."
And Pollyanna, with a troubled, sober face, slowly left the room.