Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter XV. Dr. Chilton
The great gray pile of masonry looked very different to Pollyanna when she made her second visit to the house of Mr. John Pendleton. Windows were open, an elderly woman was hanging out clothes in the back yard, and the doctor's gig stood under the porte-cochere.
As before Pollyanna went to the side door. This time she rang the bell--her fingers were not stiff to-day from a tight clutch on a bunch of keys.
A familiar-looking small dog bounded up the steps to greet her, but there was a slight delay before the woman who had been hanging out the clothes opened the door.
"If you please, I've brought some calf's-foot jelly for Mr. Pendleton," smiled Pollyanna.
"Thank you," said the woman, reaching for the bowl in the little girl's hand. "Who shall I say sent it? And it's calf's-foot jelly?"
The doctor, coming into the hall at that moment, heard the woman's words and saw the disappointed look on Pollyanna's face. He stepped quickly forward.
"Ah! Some calf's-foot jelly?" he asked genially. "That will be fine! Maybe you'd like to see our patient, eh?"
"Oh, yes, sir," beamed Pollyanna; and the woman, in obedience to a nod from the doctor, led the way down the hall at once, though plainly with vast surprise on her face.
Behind the doctor, a young man (a trained nurse from the nearest city) gave a disturbed exclamation.
"But, Doctor, didn't Mr. Pendleton give orders not to admit--any one?"
"Oh, yes," nodded the doctor, imperturbably. "But I'm giving orders now. I'll take the risk." Then he added whimsically: "You don't know, of course; but that little girl is better than a six-quart bottle of tonic any day. If anything or anybody can take the grouch out of Pendleton this afternoon, she can. That's why I sent her in."
"Who is she?"
For one brief moment the doctor hesitated.
"She's the niece of one of our best known residents. Her name is Pollyanna Whittier. I--I don't happen to enjoy a very extensive personal acquaintance with the little lady as yet; but lots of my patients do--I'm thankful to say!
The nurse smiled.
"Indeed! And what are the special ingredients of this wonder-working--tonic of hers?"
The doctor shook his head.
"I don't know. As near as I can find out it is an overwhelming, unquenchable gladness for everything that has happened or is going to happen. At any rate, her quaint speeches are constantly being repeated to me, and, as near as I can make out, 'just being glad' is the tenor of most of them. All is," he added, with another whimsical smile, as he stepped out on to the porch, "I wish I could prescribe her--and buy her--as I would a box of pills;--though if there gets to be many of her in the world, you and I might as well go to ribbon-selling and ditch-digging for all the money we'd get out of nursing and doctoring," he laughed, picking up the reins and stepping into the gig.
Pollyanna, meanwhile, in accordance with the doctor's orders, was being escorted to John Pendleton's rooms.
Her way led through the great library at the end of the hall, and, rapid as was her progress through it, Pollyanna saw at once that great changes had taken place. The book-lined walls and the crimson curtains were the same; but there was no litter on the floor, no untidiness on the desk, and not so much as a grain of dust in sight. The telephone card hung in its proper place, and the brass andirons had been polished. One of the mysterious doors was open, and it was toward this that the maid led the way. A moment later Pollyanna found herself in a sumptuously furnished bedroom while the maid was saying in a frightened voice:
"If you please, sir, here--here's a little girl with some jelly. The doctor said I was to--to bring her in."
The next moment Pollyanna found herself alone with a very cross-looking man lying flat on his back in bed.
"See here, didn't I say--" began an angry voice. "Oh, it's you!" it broke off not very graciously, as Pollyanna advanced toward the bed.
"Yes, sir," smiled Pollyanna. "Oh, I'm so glad they let me in! You see, at first the lady 'most took my jelly, and I was so afraid I wasn't going to see you at all. Then the doctor came, and he said I might. Wasn't he lovely to let me see you?"
In spite of himself the man's lips twitched into a smile; but all he said was "Humph!"
"And I've brought you some jelly," resumed Pollyanna; "--calf's-foot. I hope you like it?" There was a rising inflection in her voice.
"Never ate it." The fleeting smile had gone, and the scowl had come back to the man's face.
For a brief instant Pollyanna's countenance showed disappointment; but it cleared as she set the bowl of jelly down.
"Didn't you? Well, if you didn't, then you can't know you don't like it, anyhow, can you? So I reckon I'm glad you haven't, after all. Now, if you knew--"
"Yes, yes; well, there's one thing I know all right, and that is that I'm flat on my back right here this minute, and that I'm liable to stay here--till doomsday, I guess."
Pollyanna looked shocked.
"Oh, no! It couldn't be till doomsday, you know, when the angel Gabriel blows his trumpet, unless it should come quicker than we think it will--oh, of course, I know the Bible says it may come quicker than we think, but I don't think it will--that is, of course I believe the Bible; but I mean I don't think it will come as much quicker as it would if it should come now, and--"
John Pendleton laughed suddenly--and aloud. The nurse, coming in at that moment, heard the laugh, and beat a hurried--but a very silent--retreat. He had the air of a frightened cook who, seeing the danger of a breath of cold air striking a half-done cake, hastily shuts the oven door.
"Aren't you getting a little mixed?" asked John Pendleton of Pollyanna.
The little girl laughed.
"Maybe. But what I mean is, that legs don't last--broken ones, you know--like lifelong invalids, same as Mrs. Snow has got. So yours won't last till doomsday at all. I should think you could be glad of that."
"Oh, I am," retorted the man grimly.
"And you didn't break but one. You can be glad 'twasn't two." Pollyanna was warming to her task.
"Of course! So fortunate," sniffed the man, with uplifted eyebrows; "looking at it from that standpoint, I suppose I might be glad I wasn't a centipede and didn't break fifty!"
"Oh, that's the best yet," she crowed. "I know what a centipede is; they've got lots of legs. And you can be glad--"
"Oh, of course," interrupted the man, sharply, all the old bitterness coming back to his voice; "I can be glad, too, for all the rest, I suppose--the nurse, and the doctor, and that confounded woman in the kitchen!"
"Why, yes, sir--only think how bad 'twould be if you didn't have them!"
"Well, I--eh?" he demanded sharply.
"Why, I say, only think how bad it would be if you didn't have 'em--and you lying here like this!"
"As if that wasn't the very thing that was at the bottom of the whole matter," retorted the man, testily, "because I am lying here like this! And yet you expect me to say I'm glad because of a fool woman who disarranges the whole house and calls it 'regulating,' and a man who aids and abets her in it, and calls it 'nursing,' to say nothing of the doctor who eggs 'em both on--and the whole bunch of them, meanwhile, expecting me to pay them for it, and pay them well, too!"
Pollyanna frowned sympathetically.
"Yes, I know. That part is too bad--about the money--when you've been saving it, too, all this time."
"Saving it--buying beans and fish balls, you know. Say, do you like beans?--or do you like turkey better, only on account of the sixty cents?"
"Look a-here, child, what are you talking about?"
Pollyanna smiled radiantly.
"About your money, you know--denying yourself, and saving it for the heathen. You see, I found out about it. Why, Mr. Pendleton, that's one of the ways I knew you weren't cross inside. Nancy told me."
The man's jaw dropped.
"Nancy told you I was saving money for the--Well, may I inquire who Nancy is?"
"Our Nancy. She works for Aunt Polly."
"Aunt Polly! Well, who is Aunt Polly?"
"She's Miss Polly Harrington. I live with her."
The man made a sudden movement.
"Miss--Polly--Harrington!" he breathed. "You live with--her!"
"Yes; I'm her niece. She's taken me to bring up--on account of my mother, you know," faltered Pollyanna, in a low voice. "She was her sister. And after father--went to be with her and the rest of us in Heaven, there wasn't any one left for me down here but the Ladies' Aid; so she took me."
The man did not answer. His face, as he lay back on the pillow now, was very white--so white that Pollyanna was frightened. She rose uncertainly to her feet.
"I reckon maybe I'd better go now," she proposed. "I--I hope you'll like--the jelly."
The man turned his head suddenly, and opened his eyes. There was a curious longing in their dark depths which even Pollyanna saw, and at which she marvelled.
"And so you are--Miss Polly Harrington's niece," he said gently.
Still the man's dark eyes lingered on her face, until Pollyanna, feeling vaguely restless, murmured:
"I--I suppose you know--her."
John Pendleton's lips curved in an odd smile.
"Oh, yes; I know her." He hesitated, then went on, still with that curious smile. "But--you don't mean--you can't mean that it was Miss Polly Harrington who sent that jelly--to me?" he said slowly,
Pollyanna looked distressed.
"N-no, sir: she didn't. She said I must be very sure not to let you think she did send it. But I--"
"I thought as much," vouchsafed the man, shortly, turning away his head. And Pollyanna, still more distressed, tiptoed from the room.
Under the porte-cochere she found the doctor waiting in his gig. The nurse stood on the steps.
"Well, Miss Pollyanna, may I have the pleasure of seeing you home?" asked the doctor smilingly. "I started to drive on a few minutes ago; then it occurred to me that I'd wait for you."
"Thank you, sir. I'm glad you did. I just love to ride," beamed Pollyanna, as he reached out his hand to help her in.
"Do you?" smiled the doctor, nodding his head in farewell to the young man on the steps. "Well, as near as I can judge, there are a good many things you 'love' to do--eh?" he added, as they drove briskly away.
"Why, I don't know. I reckon perhaps there are," she admitted. "I like to do 'most everything that's living. Of course I don't like the other things very well--sewing, and reading out loud, and all that. But they aren't living."
"No? What are they, then?
"Aunt Polly says they're 'learning to live,' sighed Pollyanna, with a rueful smile.
The doctor smiled now--a little queerly.
"Does she? Well, I should think she might say--just that."
"Yes," responded Pollyanna. "But I don't see it that way at all. I don't think you have to learn how to live. I didn't, anyhow."
The doctor drew a long sigh.
"After all, I'm afraid some of us--do have to, little girl," he said. Then, for a time he was silent. Pollyanna, stealing a glance at his face, felt vaguely sorry for him. He looked so sad. She wished, uneasily, that she could "do something." It was this, perhaps, that caused her to say in a timid voice:
"Dr. Chilton, I should think being a doctor would, be the very gladdest kind of a business there was."
The doctor turned in surprise.
" 'Gladdest'!--when I see so much suffering always, everywhere I go?" he cried.
"I know; but you're helping it--don't you see?--and of course you're glad to help it! And so that makes you the gladdest of any of us, all the time."
The doctor's eyes filled with sudden hot tears. The doctor's life was a singularly lonely one. He had no wife and no home save his two-room office in a boarding house. His profession was very dear to him. Looking now into Pollyanna's shining eyes, he felt as if a loving hand had been suddenly laid on his head in blessing. He knew, too, that never again would a long day's work or a long night's weariness be quite without that new-found exaltation that had come to him through Pollyanna's eyes.
"God bless you, little girl," he said unsteadily. Then, with the bright smile his patients knew and loved so well, he added: "And I'm thinking, after all, that it was the doctor, quite as much as his patients, that needed a draft of that tonic!" All of which puzzled Pollyanna very much--until a chipmunk, running across the road, drove the whole matter from her mind.
The doctor left Pollyanna at her own door, smiled at Nancy, who was sweeping off the front porch, then drove rapidly away.
"I've had a perfectly beautiful ride with the doctor," announced Pollyanna, bounding up the steps. "He's lovely, Nancy!"
"Yes. And I told him I should think his business would be the very gladdest one there was."
"What!--goin' ter see sick folks--an' folks what ain't sick but thinks they is, which is worse? Nancy's face showed open skepticism.
Pollyanna laughed gleefully.
"Yes. That's 'most what he said, too; but there is a way to be glad, even then. Guess!"
Nancy frowned in meditation. Nancy was getting so she could play this game of "being glad" quite successfully, she thought. She rather enjoyed studying out Pollyanna's "posers," too, as she called some of the little girl's questions.
"Oh, I know," she chuckled. "It's just the opposite from what you told Mis' Snow."
"Opposite?" repeated Pollyanna, obviously puzzled.
"Yes. You told her she could be glad because other folks wasn't like her--all sick, you know."
"Yes," nodded Pollyanna.
"Well, the doctor can be glad because he isn't like other folks--the sick ones, I mean, what he doctors," finished Nancy in triumph.
It was Pollyanna's turn to frown.
"Why, y-yes," she admitted. "Of course that is one way, but it isn't the way I said; and--someway, I don't seem to quite like the sound of it. It isn't exactly as if he said he was glad they were sick, but--You do play the game so funny, sometimes Nancy," she sighed, as she went into the house.
Pollyanna found her aunt in the sitting room.
"Who was that man--the one who drove into the yard, Pollyanna?" questioned the lady a little sharply.
"Why, Aunt Polly, that was Dr. Chilton! Don't you know him?"
"Dr. Chilton! What was he doing--here?
"He drove me home. Oh, and I gave the jelly to Mr. Pendleton, and--"
Miss Polly lifted her head quickly.
"Pollyanna, he did not think I sent it?"
"Oh, no, Aunt Polly. I told him you didn't."
Miss Polly grew a sudden vivid pink.
"You told him I didn't!"
Pollyanna opened wide her eyes at the remonstrative dismay in her aunt's voice.
"Why, Aunt Polly, you said to!"
Aunt Polly sighed.
"I said, Pollyanna, that I did not send it, and for you to be very sure that he did not think I did!--which is a very different matter from telling him outright that I did not send it." And she turned vexedly away.
"Dear me! Well, I don't see where the difference is," sighed Pollyanna, as she went to hang her hat on the one particular hook in the house upon which Aunt Polly had said that it must be hung.