«Yes, and think of what it will mean — if you don’t!» retorted Pendleton.
«But how can I — without a direct request from her aunt? — which I’ll never get!»
«She must be made to ask you!»
«I don’t know.»
«She’s too proud and too angry to ask me — after what she said years ago. But when I think of that child, doomed to lifelong misery, and when I think that maybe in my hands lies a chance of escape, but for that confounded nonsense we call pride and professional etiquette, I -» He did not finish his sentence, but with his hands thrust deep into his pockets, he turned and began to tramp up and down the room again, angrily.
«But if she could be made to see — to understand,» urged John Pendleton.
«Yes; and who’s going to do it?» demanded the doctor, with a savage turn.
«I don’t know,» groaned the other, miserably.
Outside the window Jimmy Bean stirred suddenly. Up to now he had scarcely breathed and listened to every word very intently.
«Well, by Jesus, I know!» he whispered. «I’m going to do it!» He rose to his feet, crept stealthily around the corner of the house, and ran with all his might down Pendleton Hill.
«It’s Jimmy Bean. He wants to see you, madam,» announced Nancy in the doorway.
«Me?» rejoined Miss Polly, plainly surprised. «Are you sure he did not mean Miss Pollyanna? He may see her a few minutes today, if he likes.»
«Yes, madam. I told him. But he said it was you he wanted.»
«Very well, I’ll come down.» And Miss Polly arose from her chair a little wearily.
In the sitting room she found a round-eyed, flushed-faced boy, who began to speak at once.
«Madam, I suppose it’s dreadful — what I’m doing, and what I’m saying; but I can’t help it. It’s for Pollyanna, and I’d walk over hot coals for her. And I think you would, too, if you thought there was a chance for her to walk again. That’s why I’ve come to tell you that you should ask Dr. Chilton here -»
«What?» interrupted Miss Polly, in angry indignation. «Jimmy, what are you talking about?»
Jimmy sighed despairingly.
«Well, I didn’t mean to make you angry. That’s why I began by telling you about her walking again. I thought you’d listen to that.»
«Well, then tell me. But begin at the beginning, so that I could understand everything!»
Jimmy wet his lips determinedly.
«Well, to begin with, Dr. Chilton came to see Mr. Pendleton, and they talked in the library. Do you understand that?»
«Yes, Jimmy.» Miss Polly’s voice was rather faint.
«Well, the window was open, and I was weeding the flowerbed under it; and I heard them talk.»
«I’m glad I overheard it,» bridled Jimmy. «And you will be glad, too, when I tell you. Why, it may make Pollyanna walk!»
«Jimmy, what do you mean?»
«Well, Dr. Chilton knows some doctor somewhere who can cure Pollyanna, he thinks — make her walk, you know; but he can’t say for sure till he sees her. And he wants to see her, but he told Mr. Pendleton that you wouldn’t let him.»
Miss Polly’s face turned very red.
«But, Jimmy, I can’t — I couldn’t! That is, I didn’t know!»
«Yes, and that’s what I’ve come to tell you, so you would know,» asserted Jimmy, eagerly. «They said that for some reason — I didn’t catch what — you wouldn’t let Dr. Chilton come, and you told Dr. Warren so; and Dr. Chilton couldn’t come himself, on account of pride and professional — and something else. And they wished somebody could make you understand, only they didn’t know who could; and I was outside the window — have I made you understand?»
«Yes; but, Jimmy, about that doctor,» implored Miss Polly, feverishly. «Who was he? What did he do? Are they sure he can make Pollyanna walk?»
«I don’t know who he was. They didn’t say. Dr. Chilton knows him, and he’s just cured somebody just like her, Dr. Chilton thinks. Anyhow, they didn’t seem to be worrying about him. It was you they were worrying about, because you wouldn’t let Dr. Chilton see her. You will let him come, won’t you? — now that you understand?»
Miss Polly turned her head from side to side. Her breath was coming in little uneven, rapid gasps. Jimmy, watching her with anxious eyes, thought she was going to cry. But she did not cry. After a minute she said brokenly:
«Yes, I’ll let Dr. Chilton see her. Now run home, Jimmy — quick! I’ve got to speak to Dr. Warren. He’s upstairs now. I saw him drive in a few minutes ago.»
A little later Dr. Warren was surprised to meet an agitated, flushed-faced Miss Polly in the hall. He was still more surprised to hear the lady say, a little breathlessly:
«Dr. Warren, you asked me once to allow Dr. Chilton to be called in consultation, and I refused. Since then I have changed my mind. I want you to call in Dr. Chilton. Will you ask him at once — please? Thank you.»
The next time Dr. Warren entered the chamber where Pollyanna lay watching the dancing shimmer of colour on the ceiling, a tall, broad-shouldered man followed close behind him.
«Dr. Chilton! Oh, Dr. Chilton, how glad I am to see you!» cried Pollyanna. And at the joyous rapture of the voice, more than one pair of eyes in the room brimmed hot with sudden tears. «But, of course, if Aunt Polly doesn’t want -»