«Well, Miss Pollyanna, you must be a very forgiving little person, or else you wouldn’t have come to see me again today.»
«Why, Mr. Pendleton, I was glad to come, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be, either.»
«Oh, well, you know, I was pretty cross with you, I’m afraid, both the other day when you brought me the jelly, and when you found me with the broken leg. By the way, I’ve never thanked you for that.»
Pollyanna stirred uneasily.
«But I was glad to find you — that is, I don’t mean I was glad your leg was broken, of course,» she corrected hurriedly.
John Pendleton smiled.
«I understand. I’m thankful to you, and I consider you a very brave little girl. I thank you for the jelly, too,» he added in a lighter voice.
«Did you like it?» asked Pollyanna with interest.
John Pendleton was not smiling now. He was looking straight ahead of him with unseeing eyes. After a time he drew a long sigh and turned to Pollyanna.
«Listen! In the library you will find a carved box on the lower shelf of the big case with glass doors in the corner not far from the fireplace. Bring it to me. It is heavy, but not too heavy for you to carry, I think.»
«Oh, I’m awfully strong,» declared Pollyanna, cheerfully, as she sprang to her feet. In a minute she had returned with the box.
It was a wonderful half-hour that Pollyanna spent then. The box was full of treasures — curios that John Pendleton had picked up in years of travel — and concerning each there was some entertaining story.
Pollyanna and John Pendleton talked not only about wonderful things in the beautiful carved box. They talked of Pollyanna herself and of her daily life, of Nancy and of Aunt Polly. They talked even of the life and home long ago in the far Western town.
It was nearly time for her to go when the man said in a voice Pollyanna had never before heard from stern John Pendleton:
«Little girl, I want you to come to see me often. Will you? I’m lonesome, and I need you. There’s another reason — and I’m going to tell you that, too. I thought, at first, after I found out who you were, that I didn’t want you to come any more. You reminded me of something I tried to forget. So I said to myself that I never wanted to see you again. But it made me remember all the more vividly the thing I wanted to forget. So now I want you to come. Will you, little girl?»
«Why, yes, Mr. Pendleton,» breathed Pollyanna with sympathy for the sad-faced man. «I’d love to come!»
«Thank you,» said John Pendleton, gently.
After supper that evening, Pollyanna, sitting on the back porch, told Nancy all about Mr. John Pendleton’s wonderful carved box, and the still more wonderful things it contained.
«He said you reminded him of something he wanted to forget?» asked Nancy, excitedly.
«He didn’t tell me. He just said it was something.»
«The mystery!» breathed Nancy, in an awestruck voice. «That’s why he took to you. Oh, Miss Pollyanna, I know!» she exulted rapturously. «Now think and answer straight and true. «It was after he found out you were Miss Polly’s niece that he said he didn’t want to see you again, wasn’t it?»
«And Miss Polly wouldn’t send the jelly herself, would she?»
«And you told him she didn’t send it?»
«Why, yes; I -»
Nancy drew a long sigh.
«Then I’ve got it! Mr. John Pendleton was Miss Polly Harrington’s lover!» she announced impressively, but with a furtive glance over her shoulder.
«Why, Nancy, he couldn’t be! She doesn’t like him,» objected Pollyanna.
Nancy gave her a scornful glance.
«Of course she doesn’t! That’s the quarrel!»
Pollyanna still looked incredulous, and with another long breath Nancy happily started telling the story.
«It’s like this. Just before you came, Mr. Tom told me Miss Polly had had a lover once. I didn’t believe it. But Mr. Tom said she had, and that he was living now right in this town. And now I know, of course. It’s John Pendleton. Didn’t he act strangely when he found out you were Miss Polly’s niece? And didn’t he own up that you remind him of something he wants to forget? Why, Miss Pollyanna, it’s as plain as the nose on your face!»
«Oh-h!» breathed Pollyanna, in wide-eyed amazement. «But, Nancy, if they loved each other, they’d be glad to make up!»
«I guess you don’t know much about lovers, Miss Pollyanna. There isn’t much chance for them to make up to say nothing of playing your ‘glad game’ about it.»
Pollyanna said nothing; but when she went into the house a little later, her face was very thoughtful.
As the warm August days passed, Pollyanna went very frequently to the great house on Pendleton Hill. She did not feel, however, that her visits were really a success. The man didn’t seem any happier for her presence — at least, so Pollyanna thought.
He talked to her, and he showed her many strange and beautiful things — books, pictures, and curios. But he still fretted over his own helplessness, and the rules and «regulating» of the unwelcome members of his household. He seemed to like to hear Pollyanna talk, however, and Pollyanna talked — but she often looked up and found him lying back on his pillow with that white, hurt look that always pained her. As for telling him the «glad game,» and trying to get him to play it — Pollyanna had never seen the proper time yet when he would care to hear about it. She had twice tried to tell him; but whenever she started speaking about her father John Pendleton turned the conversation abruptly to another subject.