The sky was darkening fast when Pollyanna hurried down the hill from John Pendleton’s house. Half way home she met Nancy with an umbrella.
«Miss Polly wanted me to come with this. She was worried about you!»
«Oh,» sighed Pollyanna. «I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare her. Do you think Aunt Polly likes to have me here? Would she mind if I wasn’t here anymore?»
Nancy threw a quick look into the little girl’s absorbed face. She had expected to be asked this question long before, and she had dreaded it because she couldn’t answer it honestly without cruelly hurting the girl. But now Nancy only welcomed the question with open arms. She was sure that, with a clean conscience today, she could set the love-hungry little girl’s heart at rest.
«Would she miss you?» cried Nancy, indignantly. «Didn’t she send me with an umbrella because she saw a little cloud in the sky? Didn’t she make me carry your things downstairs, so you could have the pretty room you wanted? Why, Miss Pollyanna, she would miss you greatly!»
«Oh, Nancy, I’m so glad! You don’t know how glad I am that Aunt Polly wants me!»
Pollyanna knew that the task of telling John Pendleton of her decision would not be easy, and she dreaded it. She was very fond of John Pendleton, and she was very sorry for him and for the long, lonely life that had made him so unhappy; and she was sorry that it had been because of her mother, and her heart ached for his loneliness. Suddenly she sprang to her feet with a little cry of joy at the thought that had come to her.
As soon as she could she hurried up the hill to John Pendleton’s house; and in due time she found herself in the great dim library, with John Pendleton himself sitting near her, with his faithful little dog at his feet.
«Well, Pollyanna, will you come and live with me all the rest of my life?» asked the man, gently.
«N-no; but — Aunt Polly -»
«Did she refuse to let you come?»
«I didn’t ask her,» stammered the little girl, miserably, and turned away her eyes. She could not meet the hurt, grieved gaze of her friend.
«So you didn’t even ask her!»
«I couldn’t, sir — truly,» faltered Pollyanna. «You see, Aunt Polly wants me with her, and I want to stay, too,» she confessed bravely. «Oh, Mr. Pendleton, I can’t leave Aunt Polly now!»
There was a long pause. Only the snapping of the wood fire in the grate broke the silence. At last, however, the man spoke.
«No, Pollyanna; I see. You can’t leave her now,» he said. «I won’t ask you again.» The last word was so low it was almost inaudible; but Pollyanna heard.
«Oh, but there’s the very gladdest thing you can do!» she reminded him eagerly. «You said only a woman’s hand and heart or a child’s presence could make a home. And I can get it for you — a child’s presence. Not me, you know, but another one.»
«I wouldn’t have any but you!» resented an indignant voice.
«But you’re so kind and good! Why, think of the prisms and the gold pieces, and all that money you save for the heathen, and -»
«Pollyanna!» interrupted the man, savagely. «Let’s end that nonsense! I’ve tried to tell you half a dozen times before. There is no money for the heathen. I never sent a penny to them in my life!»
He lifted his chin to meet what he expected — the grieved disappointment of Pollyanna’s eyes. To his amazement, however, there was neither grief nor disappointment in Pollyanna’s eyes. There was only surprised joy.
«Oh!» she cried, clapping her hands. «I’m so glad! That is, I don’t mean that I’m not sorry for the heathen, only just now I can’t help being glad that you don’t want the little India boys. And so I’m glad you’d rather have Jimmy Bean. Now I know you’ll take him!»
«Jimmy Bean. He’s the ‘child’s presence,’ you know; and he’ll be so glad to be it. I had to tell him last week that even my Ladies’ Aid out West wouldn’t take him, and he was so disappointed. But now he’ll be so glad!»
«Will he? Well, I won’t,» ejaculated the man, decisively. «Pollyanna, this is sheer nonsense! I won’t take him.»
«But he’d be a lovely child’s presence,» faltered Pollyanna. She was almost crying now. «And you won’t be lonesome with Jimmy around.»
«I don’t doubt it,» rejoined the man; «but I think I prefer the lonesomeness.»
It was then that Pollyanna began to cry from pure nervousness.
«Well, Pollyanna, I suspect you are right — more right than you know,» the man said gently. «Tell me a little more about this nice little boy.» And Pollyanna told him.
Perhaps the pathos of Jimmy Bean’s story as told by Pollyanna touched the man’s heart already strangely softened. When Pollyanna went home that night she carried with her an invitation for Jimmy Bean himself to call at the great house with Pollyanna the next Saturday afternoon.
At Mrs. Snow’s request, Pollyanna went one day to Dr. Chilton’s office to get the name of a medicine which Mrs. Snow had forgotten.
«I’ve never been to your home before! This is your home, isn’t it?» she said, looking interestedly about her.
The doctor smiled a little sadly.
«Yes,» he answered, as he wrote something on the pad of paper in his hand; «but they’re just rooms, not a home.»
Pollyanna nodded her head wisely.
«I know. It takes a woman’s hand and heart, or a child’s presence to make a home,» she said with sympathetic understanding. «Mr. Pendleton told me about it. Why don’t you get a woman’s hand and heart, Dr. Chilton? Oh, and I forgot -» Pollyanna’s face showed suddenly a painful colour. «I suppose I ought to tell you. It wasn’t Aunt Polly that Mr. Pendleton loved long ago; so we aren’t going there to live. I made a mistake. I hope you didn’t tell anyone,» she finished anxiously.
«No, I didn’t tell anyone, Pollyanna,» replied the doctor, a little queerly.
«Oh, that’s all right, then,» sighed Pollyanna in relief. «You see you’re the only one I told, and I thought Mr. Pendleton looked sort of funny when I said I had told you. And of course he wouldn’t want many people to know it because it wasn’t true. But why don’t you get a woman’s hand and heart, Dr. Chilton?»
There was a moment’s silence; then very gravely the doctor said:
«They’re not always to be had for the asking, little girl.»
Pollyanna frowned thoughtfully. Then her eyes widened in surprise.
«Why, Dr. Chilton, you tried to get somebody’s hand and heart once, like Mr. Pendleton, and — and couldn’t, didn’t you?»
The doctor got to his feet a little abruptly.
«Well, Pollyanna, never mind about that now. Don’t let other people’s troubles worry your little head. Just run back now to Mrs. Snow. I’ve written down the name of the medicine, and the directions how she is to take it. Was there anything else?»
Pollyanna shook her head.
«No, sir; thank you, sir,» she murmured soberly, as she turned toward the door. From the little hallway she called back: «Anyhow, I’m glad it wasn’t my mother’s hand and heart that you wanted and couldn’t get, Dr. Chilton. Goodbye!»