One by one the short winter days came and went, but they were not short to Pollyanna. They were long, and sometimes full of pain. Very resolutely, however, Pollyanna was turning a cheerful face toward whatever came. Was she not specially bound to play the game, now that Aunt Polly was playing it, too? And Aunt Polly found so many things to be glad about!
Pollyanna now, like Mrs. Snow, was knitting wonderful things out of bright coloured yarn that made Pollyanna so glad she had her hands and arms, anyway.
She saw people now, occasionally, and there always were the loving messages from those she could not see; and they always brought her something new to think about — and Pollyanna needed new things to think about.
Once she had seen John Pendleton, and twice she had seen Jimmy Bean. John Pendleton had told her what a fine boy Jimmy was getting to be, and how well he was doing. Jimmy had told her what a first-rate home he had, and what excellent «folks» Mr. Pendleton made; and both had said that it was all owing to her.
«It makes me all the gladder, you know, that I have had my legs,» Pollyanna confided to her aunt afterwards.
The winter passed, and spring came. The anxious watchers over Pollyanna’s condition could see little change caused by the prescribed treatment. There was every reason to believe, indeed, that Dr. Mead’s worst fears would be realized — that Pollyanna would never walk again.
In Beldingsville, one man in particular fumed and fretted over the daily bulletins which he managed in some way to get from the Harrington homestead. As the days passed, however, and the news became worse, something besides anxiety began to show in the man’s face: despair and a very dogged determination.
One Saturday morning Mr. John Pendleton, somewhat to his surprise, received a call from Dr. Thomas Chilton.
«Pendleton,» began the doctor, abruptly, «I’ve come to you because you, better than anyone else in town, know something of my relations with Miss Polly Harrington.»
John Pendleton started visibly — he knew something of the affair between Polly Harrington and Thomas Chilton, but the matter had not been mentioned between them for fifteen years, or more.
«Yes,» he said, trying to make his voice sound concerned enough for sympathy. In a moment he saw that the doctor was too intent on his errand to notice how that errand was received.
«Pendleton, I want to see that child. I want to make an examination. I must make an examination.»
«Well — can’t you?»
«Pendleton, you know very well I haven’t been inside that door for more than fifteen years. The mistress of that house told me that the next time she asked me to enter it would mean that she was begging my pardon, and that all would be as before — which meant that she’d marry me. Perhaps you see her summoning me now — but I don’t!»
«But couldn’t you go without a summons?»
The doctor frowned.
«Well, hardly. I have some pride, you know.»
«But if you’re so anxious, couldn’t you swallow your pride and forget the quarrel?»
«Forget the quarrel!» interrupted the doctor, savagely. «I’m not talking of that kind of pride. As far as that is concerned, I’d go from here there on my knees — or on my head — if that could do any good. It’s professional pride I’m talking about. It’s a case of sickness, and I’m a doctor. I can’t butt in and say, ‘Here, take me!’ can I?» «Chilton, what was the quarrel?» demanded Pendleton.
The doctor made an impatient gesture, and got to his feet.
«What was it? What’s any lovers’ quarrel after it’s over?» he snarled, pacing the room angrily. «A silly wrangle over the size of the moon or the depth of a river, maybe. Never mind the quarrel! As far as I am concerned, I am willing to say there was no quarrel. Pendleton, I must see that child. It may mean life or death. It will mean — I honestly believe — nine chances out of ten that Pollyanna Whittier will walk again!»
The words were spoken clearly and impressively; and they were spoken just as the one who uttered them had almost reached the open window near John Pendleton’s chair. Thus it happened that very distinctly they reached the ears of a small boy kneeling beneath the window on the ground outside.
Jimmy Bean, at his Saturday morning task of pulling up the first little green weeds of the flowerbeds, sat up with ears and eyes wide open.
«Walk! Pollyanna!» John Pendleton was saying. «What do you mean?»
«I mean that from what I can hear and learn — a mile from her bedside — her case is very much like one that a college friend of mine has just helped. I’ve kept in touch with him, and from what I hear — but I want to see the girl!»
«You must see her! Couldn’t you — say, through Dr. Warren?»
«No, I’m afraid. Warren has been very decent, though. He told me himself that he suggested consultation with me, but Miss Harrington said no so decisively that he didn’t dare venture it again. Lately, some of his best patients have come over to me — so of course that ties my hands still more effectually. But, Pendleton, I’ve got to see that child! Think of what it may mean to her — if I do!»