The doctor sat suddenly erect. There was an odd smile on his lips.
«Yes; I can well imagine that Mr. John Pendleton wants to see you, Pollyanna,» he nodded, as he pulled his horse to a stop before the door. His lips suddenly lost their smile.
Pollyanna found a very nervous John Pendleton waiting for her that afternoon.
«Pollyanna,» he began at once. «I’ve been trying all night to puzzle out what you meant speaking about my wanting your Aunt Polly’s hand and heart here all those years. What did you mean?»
«Why, because you were lovers once; and I was so glad you still felt that way.»
«Lovers! Your Aunt Polly and I?»
«Why, Mr. Pendleton, Nancy said you were!»
The man gave a short little laugh.
«Then you weren’t lovers?» Pollyanna’s voice was tragic with dismay.
«O dear! And it was all going so splendidly,» almost sobbed Pollyanna. «I’d have been so glad to come with Aunt Polly.»
«And you won’t now?» The man asked the question without turning his head.
«Of course not! I’m Aunt Polly’s.»
The man turned now, almost fiercely.
«Before you were hers, Pollyanna, you were your mother’s. And it was your mother’s hand and heart that I wanted many years ago.»
«Yes.» John Pendleton’s face had grown very white. He was speaking with evident difficulty. Pollyanna was gazing at him fixedly. «I loved your mother; but she didn’t love me. And after a time she went away with your father. The whole world suddenly seemed to turn black under my fingers. For many years I have been a cross, irritable, unlovable and unloved old man though I’m not nearly sixty yet. Then, one day, you danced into my life, and flecked my dreary old world with dashes of purple and gold and scarlet of your own bright cheeriness. I found out, after a time, who you were, and I thought then I never wanted to see you again. I didn’t want to be reminded of your mother. And now I want you always. Pollyanna, won’t you come now?»
«But, Mr. Pendleton, there’s Aunt Polly!» Pollyanna’s eyes were blurred with tears.
«What about me? How can I be ‘glad’ about anything without you? But if I had you for my own little girl, I’d be glad for anything; and I’d try to make you glad, too, my dear. All my money, to the last cent, will go to make you happy.»
Pollyanna looked shocked.
«Aunt Polly has been so good to me,» she began; but the man interrupted her sharply. The old irritability had come back to his face.
«Of course she’s been good to you! But she doesn’t want you half as much as I do,» he contested. «Just ask her and see if she won’t let you come,» he finished brokenly.
Pollyanna rose to her feet with a long sigh.
«All right, I’ll ask her,» she said wistfully. «Of course I don’t mean that I wouldn’t like to live here with you, Mr. Pendleton, but -» She did not complete her sentence. There was a moment’s silence, and then she added: «Well, anyhow, I’m glad I didn’t tell her anything yesterday. I mentioned it only to the doctor, but of course he doesn’t count.»
«The doctor!» cried John Pendleton, turning quickly. «Dr. Chilton? And what did he say?» he asked with sudden interest.
«Why, I don’t remember. Oh, he said he could well imagine you really wanted to see me.»
«Oh, indeed!» answered John Pendleton. And Pollyanna wondered why he gave that sudden queer little laugh.