Chapter XXI. Summer Days
 

Before the Carews came, Pollyanna had told Jimmy that she was depending on him to help her entertain them. Jimmy had not expressed himself then as being overwhelmingly desirous to serve her in this way; but before the Carews had been in town a fortnight, he had shown himself as not only willing but anxious,--judging by the frequency and length of his calls, and the lavishness of his offers of the Pendleton horses and motor cars.

Between him and Mrs. Carew there sprang up at once a warm friendship based on what seemed to be a peculiarly strong attraction for each other. They walked and talked together, and even made sundry plans for the Home for Working Girls, to be carried out the following winter when Jimmy should be in Boston. Jamie, too, came in for a good measure of attention, nor was Sadie Dean forgotten. Sadie, as Mrs. Carew plainly showed, was to be regarded as if she were quite one of the family; and Mrs. Carew was careful to see that she had full share in any plans for merrymaking.

Nor did Jimmy always come alone with his offers for entertainment. More and more frequently John Pendleton appeared with him. Rides and drives and picnics were planned and carried out, and long delightful afternoons were spent over books and fancy-work on the Harrington veranda.

Pollyanna was delighted. Not only were her paying guests being kept from any possibilities of ennui and homesickness, but her good friends, the Carews, were becoming delightfully acquainted with her other good friends, the Pendletons. So, like a mother hen with a brood of chickens, she hovered over the veranda meetings, and did everything in her power to keep the group together and happy.

Neither the Carews nor the Pendletons, however, were at all satisfied to have Pollyanna merely an onlooker in their pastimes, and very strenuously they urged her to join them. They would not take no for an answer, indeed, and Pollyanna very frequently found the way opened for her.

"Just as if we were going to have you poked up in this hot kitchen frosting cake!" Jamie scolded one day, after he had penetrated the fastnesses of her domain. "It is a perfectly glorious morning, and we're all going over to the Gorge and take our luncheon. And you are going with us."

"But, Jamie, I can't--indeed I can't," refused Pollyanna.

"Why not? You won't have dinner to get for us, for we sha'n't be here to eat it."

"But there's the--the luncheon."

"Wrong again. We'll have the luncheon with us, so you can't stay home to get that. Now what's to hinder your going along with the luncheon, eh?"

"Why, Jamie, I--I can't. There's the cake to frost--"

"Don't want it frosted."

"And the dusting--"

"Don't want it dusted."

"And the ordering to do for to-morrow."

"Give us crackers and milk. We'd lots rather have you and crackers and milk than a turkey dinner and not you."

"But I can't begin to tell you the things I've got to do to-day."

"Don't want you to begin to tell me," retorted Jamie, cheerfully. "I want you to stop telling me. Come, put on your bonnet. I saw Betty in the dining room, and she says she'll put our luncheon up. Now hurry."

"Why, Jamie, you ridiculous boy, I can't go," laughed Pollyanna, holding feebly back, as he tugged at her dress-sleeve. "I can't go to that picnic with you!"

But she went. She went not only then, but again and again. She could not help going, indeed, for she found arrayed against her not only Jamie, but Jimmy and Mr. Pendleton, to say nothing of Mrs. Carew and Sadie Dean, and even Aunt Polly herself.

"And of course I am glad to go," she would sigh happily, when some dreary bit of work was taken out of her hands in spite of all protesting. "But, surely, never before were there any boarders like mine--teasing for crackers-and-milk and cold things; and never before was there a boarding mistress like me--running around the country after this fashion!"

The climax came when one day John Pendleton (and Aunt Polly never ceased to exclaim because it was John Pendleton)--suggested that they all go on a two weeks' camping trip to a little lake up among the mountains forty miles from Beldingsville.

The idea was received with enthusiastic approbation by everybody except Aunt Polly. Aunt Polly said, privately, to Pollyanna, that it was all very good and well and desirable that John Pendleton should have gotten out of the sour, morose aloofness that had been his state for so many years, but that it did not necessarily follow that it was equally desirable that he should be trying to turn himself into a twenty-year-old boy again; and that was what, in her opinion, he seemed to be doing now! Publicly she contented herself with saying coldly that she certainly should not go on any insane camping trip to sleep on damp ground and eat bugs and spiders, under the guise of "fun," nor did she think it a sensible thing for anybody over forty to do.

If John Pendleton felt any wound from this shaft, he made no sign. Certainly there was no diminution of apparent interest and enthusiasm on his part, and the plans for the camping expedition came on apace, for it was unanimously decided that, even if Aunt Polly would not go, that was no reason why the rest should not.

"And Mrs. Carew will be all the chaperon we need, anyhow," Jimmy had declared airily.

For a week, therefore, little was talked of but tents, food supplies, cameras, and fishing tackle, and little was done that was not a preparation in some way for the trip.

"And let's make it the real thing," proposed Jimmy, eagerly, "--yes, even to Mrs. Chilton's bugs and spiders," he added, with a merry smile straight into that lady's severely disapproving eyes. "None of your log-cabin-central-dining-room idea for us! We want real camp-fires with potatoes baked in the ashes, and we want to sit around and tell stories and roast corn on a stick."

"And we want to swim and row and fish," chimed in Pollyanna. "And--" She stopped suddenly, her eyes on Jamie's face. "That is, of course," she corrected quickly, "we wouldn't want to--to do those things all the time. There'd be a lot of quiet things we'd want to do, too--read and talk, you know."

Jamie's eyes darkened. His face grew a little white. His lips parted, but before any words came, Sadie Dean was speaking.

"Oh, but on camping trips and picnics, you know, we expect to do outdoor stunts," she interposed feverishly; "and I'm sure we want to. Last summer we were down in Maine, and you should have seen the fish Mr. Carew caught. It was--You tell it," she begged, turning to Jamie.

Jamie laughed and shook his head.

"They'd never believe it," he objected; "--a fish story like that!"

"Try us," challenged Pollyanna.

Jamie still shook his head--but the color had come back to his face, and his eyes were no longer somber as if with pain. Pollyanna, glancing at Sadie Dean, vaguely wondered why she suddenly settled back in her seat with so very evident an air of relief.

At last the appointed day came, and the start was made in John Pendleton's big new touring car with Jimmy at the wheel. A whir, a throbbing rumble, a chorus of good-bys, and they were off, with one long shriek of the siren under Jimmy's mischievous fingers.

In after days Pollyanna often went back in her thoughts to that first night in camp. The experience was so new and so wonderful in so many ways.

It was four o'clock when their forty-mile automobile journey came to an end. Since half-past three their big car had been ponderously picking its way over an old logging-road not designed for six-cylinder automobiles. For the car itself, and for the hand at the wheel, this part of the trip was a most wearing one; but for the merry passengers, who had no responsibility concerning hidden holes and muddy curves, it was nothing but a delight growing more poignant with every new vista through the green arches, and with every echoing laugh that dodged the low-hanging branches.

The site for the camp was one known to John Pendleton years before, and he greeted it now with a satisfied delight that was not unmingled with relief.

"Oh, how perfectly lovely!" chorused the others.

"Glad you like it! I thought it would be about right," nodded John Pendleton. "Still, I was a little anxious, after all, for these places do change, you know, most remarkably sometimes. And of course this has grown up to bushes a little--but not so but what we can easily clear it."

Everybody fell to work then, clearing the ground, putting up the two little tents, unloading the automobile, building the camp fire, and arranging the "kitchen and pantry."

It was then that Pollyanna began especially to notice Jamie, and to fear for him. She realized suddenly that the hummocks and hollows and pine-littered knolls were not like a carpeted floor for a pair of crutches, and she saw that Jamie was realizing it, too. She saw, also, that in spite of his infirmity, he was trying to take his share in the work; and the sight troubled her. Twice she hurried forward and intercepted him, taking from his arms the box he was trying to carry.

"Here, let me take that," she begged. "You've done enough." And the second time she added: "Do go and sit down somewhere to rest, Jamie. You look so tired!"

If she had been watching closely she would have seen the quick color sweep to his forehead. But she was not watching, so she did not see it. She did see, however, to her intense surprise, Sadie Dean hurry forward a moment later, her arms full of boxes, and heard her cry:

"Oh, Mr. Carew, please, if you would give me a lift with these!"

The next moment, Jamie, once more struggling with the problem of managing a bundle of boxes and two crutches, was hastening toward the tents.

With a quick word of protest on her tongue, Pollyanna turned to Sadie Dean. But the protest died unspoken, for Sadie, her finger to her lips, was hurrying straight toward her.

"I know you didn't think," she stammered in a low voice, as she reached Pollyanna's side. "But, don't you see?--it hurts him--to have you think he can't do things like other folks. There, look! See how happy he is now."

Pollyanna looked, and she saw. She saw Jamie, his whole self alert, deftly balance his weight on one crutch and swing his burden to the ground. She saw the happy light on his face, and she heard him say nonchalantly:

"Here's another contribution from Miss Dean. She asked me to bring this over."

"Why, yes, I see," breathed Pollyanna, turning to Sadie Dean. But Sadie Dean had gone.

Pollyanna watched Jamie a good deal after that, though she was careful not to let him, or any one else, see that she was watching him. And as she watched, her heart ached. Twice she saw him essay a task and fail: once with a box too heavy for him to lift; once with a folding-table too unwieldy for him to carry with his crutches. And each time she saw his quick glance about him to see if others noticed. She saw, too, that unmistakably he was getting very tired, and that his face, in spite of its gay smile, was looking white and drawn, as if he were in pain.

"I should think we might have known more," stormed Pollyanna hotly to herself, her eyes blinded with tears. "I should think we might have known more than to have let him come to a place like this. Camping, indeed!--and with a pair of crutches! Why couldn't we have remembered before we started?"

An hour later, around the camp fire after supper, Pollyanna had her answer to this question; for, with the glowing fire before her, and the soft, fragrant dark all about her, she once more fell under the spell of the witchery that fell from Jamie's lips; and she once more forgot--Jamie's crutches.