It was on the last day of October that the accident occurred. Pollyanna, hurrying home from school, crossed the road at an apparently safe distance in front of a swiftly approaching motor car.
Nobody could tell what happened, why it happened or who was to blame afterwards. Pollyanna was brought, limp and unconscious, into the little room that was so dear to her. There, by a white-faced Aunt Polly and a weeping Nancy she was undressed tenderly and put to bed, while from the village, hastily summoned by telephone, Dr. Warren was hurrying as fast as another motor car could bring him.
There appeared to be no bones broken, and the cut on the head was of slight consequence; but the doctor had looked very grave, had shaken his head slowly, and had said that time alone could tell. After he had gone, Miss Polly had shown a face even whiter and more drawn looking than before. The patient had not fully recovered consciousness, but at present she seemed to be resting as comfortably as could be expected. A trained nurse had been sent for. That was all. And Nancy turned sobbingly, and went back to her kitchen.
The next day Pollyanna opened her eyes and realized where she was.
«Why, Aunt Polly, what’s the matter? Isn’t it daytime? Why don’t I get up?» she cried. «Why, Aunt Polly, I can’t get up,» she moaned, falling back on the pillow, after an attempt to lift herself. «But what is the matter? Why can’t I get up?»
Miss Polly’s eyes asked an agonized question of the nurse — a white-capped young woman standing in the window, out of the range of Pollyanna’s eyes.
The young woman nodded.
Miss Polly cleared her throat, and tried to swallow the lump that didn’t let her speak.
«You were hurt, dear, by the automobile last night. But never mind that now. I want you to rest and go to sleep again.»
«Hurt? Oh, yes; I ran.» Pollyanna’s eyes were dazed. She lifted her hand to her forehead. «Why, it’s done up, and it hurts!»
«Yes, dear; but never mind. Just rest.»
«But, Aunt Polly, I feel so bad! My legs feel so queer — only they don’t feel at all!»
With an imploring look into the nurse’s face, Miss Polly struggled to her feet, and turned away. The nurse came forward quickly.
«Let me talk to you now,» she began cheerily. «I am Miss Hunt, and I’ve come to help your aunt take care of you. And the very first thing I’m going to do is to ask you to swallow these little white pills.»
Pollyanna’s eyes grew a bit wild.
«But I don’t want to be taken care of! I want to get up. You know I go to school. Can’t I go to school tomorrow?»
«Tomorrow?» smiled the nurse, brightly. «Well, I can’t let you out quite so soon as that, Miss Pollyanna. But just swallow these little pills, please, and we’ll see what they’ll do.»
«All right,» agreed Pollyanna, somewhat doubtfully; «but I must go to school the day after tomorrow — there are examinations then, you know.»
She spoke again, a minute later. She spoke of school, and of the automobile, and of how her head ached; but very soon her voice trailed into silence under the blessed influence of the little white pills she had swallowed.
Pollyanna did not go to school «tomorrow,» or the «day after tomorrow.» However, she did not realize this. Pollyanna did not realize anything, in fact, very clearly until a week had passed; then the fever subsided, the pain lessened somewhat, and her mind awoke to full consciousness. She had then to be told all over again what had occurred.
«So I am hurt, and not sick,» she sighed at last. «Well, I’m glad of that.»
«G-glad, Pollyanna?» asked her aunt, who was sitting by the bed.
«Yes. I’d rather have broken legs like Mr. Pendleton’s than be a lifelong invalid like Mrs. Snow, you know. Broken legs get well, and lifelong invalids don’t.»
Miss Polly got suddenly to her feet and walked to the little dressing table across the room. Her face was white and drawn.
On the bed Pollyanna lay blinking at the dancing band of colours on the ceiling, which came from one of the prisms in the window.
«I’m glad it isn’t smallpox, too,» she murmured contentedly. «That would be worse than freckles. And I’m glad it isn’t whooping cough — I’ve had that, and it’s horrid — and I’m glad it isn’t appendicitis nor measles, because they’re catching — measles are, I mean — and they wouldn’t let you stay here.»
«You seem to be glad for a lot of things, my dear,» faltered Aunt Polly, putting her hand to her throat.
Pollyanna laughed softly. «I am. I’ve been thinking of them all the time I’ve been looking up at that rainbow. I love rainbows. I’m so glad Mr. Pendleton gave me those prisms! I’m glad of some things I haven’t said yet. I’m almost glad I was hurt.»
Pollyanna laughed softly again. She turned her eyes on her aunt. «Well, you see, since I have been hurt, you’ve called me ‘dear’ lots of times — and you didn’t before. I love to be called ‘dear’ — by folks that belong to you, I mean. Some of the Ladies’ Aiders called me that, but not so nice as you do. Oh, Aunt Polly, I’m so glad you belong to me!»