Not long after John Pendleton’s second visit Milly Snow called one afternoon. Milly had never been to the Harrington homestead before. She blushed and looked very embarrassed when Miss Polly entered the room.
«I came to inquire for the little girl,» she stammered.
«You are very kind. She is about the same. How is your mother?» rejoined Miss Polly, wearily.
«That is what I came to ask you to tell Miss Pollyanna,» Milly said breathlessly. «We think it’s so awful that the little girl can’t ever walk again; and after all she’s done for us, too — for mother, you know. She taught her to play the game, and all that. And now she can’t play it herself — poor little dear! When we remembered all the things she’d said to us, we thought she should know what she had done for us. It would help her, because she could be glad -» Milly stopped helplessly and seemed to be waiting for Miss Polly to speak.
Miss Polly had sat politely listening, but with a puzzled questioning in her eyes. She had understood only about half of what had been said. She was thinking now that she had always known that Milly Snow was «queer,» but she had not supposed she was crazy. When the pause came, she filled it with a quiet question:
«I don’t think I quite understand, Milly. Just what is it that you want me to tell my niece?»
«Make her see what she’s done for us. I want her to know how different my mother is — and me, too. I’m different. I’ve been trying to play the game — a little.»
Miss Polly frowned. She didn’t understand what Milly meant by this «game.» Milly went on with nervous volubility.
«You know nothing was ever right before — for mother. And, really, I can’t blame her much — under the circumstances. But now she lets me keep the shades up, and she takes interest in things — how she looks, and her nightdress, and all that. And she’s actually begun to knit little things — socks and baby blankets for fairs and hospitals. And she’s so interested, and so glad to think she can do it! And that was all Miss Pollyanna’s doings, you know, because she told mother she could be glad she’d got her hands and arms, anyway; and that made mother wonder why she didn’t do something with her hands and arms. And so she began to do something — to knit, you know. And so we want you to tell Miss Pollyanna that we understand it’s all because of her. And please say we’re so glad we know her! Maybe if she knew it, it would make her a little glad that she knew us,» sighed Milly, rising hurriedly to her feet. «Will you tell her?»
«Why, of course,» murmured Miss Polly.
These visits of John Pendleton and Milly Snow were only the first of many; and there were always the messages which were in some ways so curious that they caused Miss Polly more and more to puzzle over them.
One day Widow Benton came. Miss Polly knew her well, though they had never called upon each other. By reputation she knew her as the saddest little woman in town — one who was always in black. Today, however, Mrs. Benton wore a knot of pale blue at the throat, though there were tears in her eyes. She spoke of her grief and horror at the accident; then she asked diffidently if she might see Pollyanna.
Miss Polly shook her head.
«I am sorry, but she sees no one yet. A little later perhaps.»
Mrs. Benton wiped her eyes, rose, and turned to go. But after she had almost reached the hall door she came back hurriedly.
«Miss Harrington, perhaps, you’d give her a message,» she stammered.
«Certainly, Mrs. Benton; I’ll be very glad to.»
«Will you tell her, please, that I’ve put on this,» she said, just touching the blue bow at her throat. Then, at Miss Polly’s look of surprise, she added: «The little girl has been trying for so long to make me wear some colour that I thought she’d be glad to know I’d begun. She said that Freddy would be so glad to see it. You know Freddy’s all I have now.» Mrs. Benton shook her head and turned away. «If you just tell Pollyanna, she’ll understand.» And the door closed after her.
A little later, that same day, there was the other widow — at least, she wore widow’s garments. Miss Polly did not know her at all. The lady gave her name as «Mrs. Tarbell.»
«I’m a stranger to you, of course,» she began at once. «But I’m not a stranger to your little niece, Pollyanna. I’ve been at the hotel all summer, and every day I’ve had to take long walks for my health. It was on these walks that I’ve met your niece — she’s such a dear little girl! I wish I could make you understand what she’s been to me. I was very sad when I came up here; and her bright face and cheery ways reminded me of my own little girl that I lost years ago. I was so shocked to hear of the accident; and then when I learned that the poor child would never walk again, and that she was so unhappy because she couldn’t be glad any longer — the dear child! — I just had to come to you.»
«You are very kind,» murmured Miss Polly.
«I want you to give her a message from me. Will you just tell her that Mrs. Tarbell is glad now? Yes, I know it sounds odd, and you don’t understand, but I’d rather not explain. Your niece will know just what I mean; and I felt that I must tell her. Thank you; and pardon me, please, for any seeming rudeness in my call,» she begged, as she took her leave.