Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter XV. Aunt Polly Takes Alarm
Pollyanna had been at home about a week when the letter from Della Wetherby came to Mrs. Chilton.
"I wish I could make you see what your little niece has done for my sister," wrote Miss Wetherby; "but I'm afraid I can't. You would have to know what she was before. You did see her, to be sure, and perhaps you saw something of the hush and gloom in which she has shrouded herself for so many years. But you can have no conception of her bitterness of heart, her lack of aim and interest, her insistence upon eternal mourning.
"Then came Pollyanna. Probably I didn't tell you, but my sister regretted her promise to take the child, almost the minute it was given; and she made the stern stipulation that the moment Pollyanna began to preach, back she should come to me. Well, she hasn't preached--at least, my sister says she hasn't; and my sister ought to know. And yet--well, just let me tell you what I found when I went to see her yesterday. Perhaps nothing else could give you a better idea of what that wonderful little Pollyanna of yours has accomplished.
"To begin with, as I approached the house, I saw that nearly all the shades were up: they used to be down--'way down to the sill. The minute I stepped into the hall I heard music--Parsifal. The drawing-rooms were open, and the air was sweet with roses.
"'Mrs. Carew and Master Jamie are in the music-room,' said the maid. And there I found them--my sister, and the youth she has taken into her home, listening to one of those modern contrivances that can hold an entire opera company, including the orchestra.
"The boy was in a wheel chair. He was pale, but plainly beatifically happy. My sister looked ten years younger. Her usually colorless cheeks showed a faint pink, and her eyes glowed and sparkled. A little later, after I had talked a few minutes with the boy, my sister and I went up-stairs to her own rooms; and there she talked to me--of Jamie. Not of the old Jamie, as she used to, with tear-wet eyes and hopeless sighs, but of the new Jamie--and there were no sighs nor tears now. There was, instead, the eagerness of enthusiastic interest.
"'Della, he's wonderful,' she began. 'Everything that is best in music, art, and literature seems to appeal to him in a perfectly marvelous fashion, only, of course, he needs development and training. That's what I'm going to see that he gets. A tutor is coming to-morrow. Of course his language is something awful; at the same time, he has read so many good books that his vocabulary is quite amazing--and you should hear the stories he can reel off! Of course in general education he is very deficient; but he's eager to learn, so that will soon be remedied. He loves music, and I shall give him what training in that he wishes. I have already put in a stock of carefully selected records. I wish you could have seen his face when he first heard that Holy Grail music. He knows all about King Arthur and his Round Table, and he prattles of knights and lords and ladies as you and I do of the members of our own family--only sometimes I don't know whether his Sir Lancelot means the ancient knight or a squirrel in the Public Garden. And, Della, I believe he can be made to walk. I'm going to have Dr. Ames see him, anyway, and--'
"And so on and on she talked, while I sat amazed and tongue-tied, but, oh, so happy! I tell you all this, dear Mrs. Chilton, so you can see for yourself how interested she is, how eagerly she is going to watch this boy's growth and development, and how, in spite of herself, it is all going to change her attitude toward life. She can't do what she is doing for this boy, Jamie, and not do for herself at the same time. Never again, I believe, will she be the soured, morose woman she was before. And it's all because of Pollyanna.
"Pollyanna! Dear child--and the best part of it is, she is so unconscious of the whole thing. I don't believe even my sister yet quite realizes what is taking place within her own heart and life, and certainly Pollyanna doesn't--least of all does she realize the part she played in the change.
"And now, dear Mrs. Chilton, how can I thank you? I know I can't; so I'm not even going to try. Yet in your heart I believe you know how grateful I am to both you and Pollyanna.
"Well, it seems to have worked a cure, all right," smiled Dr. Chilton, when his wife had finished reading the letter to him.
To his surprise she lifted a quick, remonstrative hand.
"Thomas, don't, please!" she begged.
"Why, Polly, what's the matter? Aren't you glad that--that the medicine worked?"
Mrs. Chilton dropped despairingly back in her chair.
"There you go again, Thomas," she sighed. "Of course I'm glad that this misguided woman has forsaken the error of her ways and found that she can be of use to some one. And of course I'm glad that Pollyanna did it. But I am not glad to have that child continually spoken of as if she were a--a bottle of medicine, or a 'cure.' Don't you see?"
"Nonsense! After all, where's the harm? I've called Pollyanna a tonic ever since I knew her."
"Harm! Thomas Chilton, that child is growing older every day. Do you want to spoil her? Thus far she has been utterly unconscious of her extraordinary power. And therein lies the secret of her success. The minute she consciously sets herself to reform somebody, you know as well as I do that she will be simply impossible. Consequently, Heaven forbid that she ever gets it into her head that she's anything like a cure-all for poor, sick, suffering humanity."
"Nonsense! I wouldn't worry," laughed the doctor.
"But I do worry, Thomas."
"But, Polly, think of what she's done," argued the doctor. "Think of Mrs. Snow and John Pendleton, and quantities of others--why, they're not the same people at all that they used to be, any more than Mrs. Carew is. And Pollyanna did do it--bless her heart!"
"I know she did," nodded Mrs. Polly Chilton, emphatically. "But I don't want Pollyanna to know she did it! Oh, of course she knows it, in a way. She knows she taught them to play the glad game with her, and that they are lots happier in consequence. And that's all right. It's a game--her game, and they're playing it together. To you I will admit that Pollyanna has preached to us one of the most powerful sermons I ever heard; but the minute she knows it--well, I don't want her to. That's all. And right now let me tell you that I've decided that I will go to Germany with you this fall. At first I thought I wouldn't. I didn't want to leave Pollyanna--and I'm not going to leave her now. I'm going to take her with me."
"Take her with us? Good! Why not?"
"I've got to. That's all. Furthermore, I should be glad to plan to stay a few years, just as you said you'd like to. I want to get Pollyanna away, quite away from Beldingsville for a while. I'd like to keep her sweet and unspoiled, if I can. And she shall not get silly notions into her head if I can help myself. Why, Thomas Chilton, do we want that child made an insufferable little prig?"
"We certainly don't," laughed the doctor. "But, for that matter, I don't believe anything or anybody could make her so. However, this Germany idea suits me to a T. You know I didn't want to come away when I did--if it hadn't been for Pollyanna. So the sooner we get back there the better I'm satisfied. And I'd like to stay--for a little practice, as well as study."
"Then that's settled." And Aunt Polly gave a satisfied sigh.