Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor H. Porter
Chapter VIII. Jamie
Pollyanna did not see the boy "to-morrow." It rained, and she could not go to the Garden at all. It rained the next day, too. Even on the third day she did not see him, for, though the sun came out bright and warm, and though she went very early in the afternoon to the Garden and waited long, he did not come at all. But on the fourth day he was there in his old place, and Pollyanna hastened forward with a joyous greeting.
"Oh, I'm so glad, glad to see you! But where've you been? You weren't here yesterday at all."
"I couldn't. The pain wouldn't let me come yesterday," explained the lad, who was looking very white.
"The pain! Oh, does it--ache?" stammered Pollyanna, all sympathy at once.
"Oh, yes, always," nodded the boy, with a cheerfully matter-of-fact air. "Most generally I can stand it and come here just the same, except when it gets too bad, same as 'twas yesterday. Then I can't."
"But how can you stand it--to have it ache--always?" gasped Pollyanna.
"Why, I have to," answered the boy, opening his eyes a little wider. "Things that are so are so, and they can't be any other way. So what's the use thinking how they might be? Besides, the harder it aches one day, the nicer 'tis to have it let-up the next."
"I know! That's like the ga--" began Pollyanna; but the boy interrupted her.
"Did you bring a lot this time?" he asked anxiously. "Oh, I hope you did! You see I couldn't bring them any to-day. Jerry couldn't spare even a penny for peanuts this morning and there wasn't really enough stuff in the box for me this noon."
Pollyanna looked shocked.
"You mean--that you didn't have enough to eat--yourself?--for your luncheon?"
"Sure!" smiled the boy. "But don't worry. Tisn't the first time--and 'twon't be the last. I'm used to it. Hi, there! here comes Sir Lancelot."
Pollyanna, however, was not thinking of squirrels.
"And wasn't there any more at home?"
"Oh, no, there's never any left at home," laughed the boy. "You see, mumsey works out--stairs and washings--so she gets some of her feed in them places, and Jerry picks his up where he can, except nights and mornings; he gets it with us then--if we've got any."
Pollyanna looked still more shocked.
"But what do you do when you don't have anything to eat?"
"Go hungry, of course."
"But I never heard of anybody who didn't have anything to eat," gasped Pollyanna. "Of course father and I were poor, and we had to eat beans and fish balls when we wanted turkey. But we had something. Why don't you tell folks--all these folks everywhere, that live in these houses? "
"What's the use?"
"Why, they'd give you something, of course!"
The boy laughed once more, this time a little queerly.
"Guess again, kid. You've got another one coming. Nobody I know is dishin' out roast beef and frosted cakes for the askin'. Besides, if you didn't go hungry once in a while, you wouldn't know how good 'taters and milk can taste; and you wouldn't have so much to put in your Jolly Book."
The boy gave an embarrassed laugh and grew suddenly red.
"Forget it! I didn't think, for a minute, but you was mumsey or Jerry."
"But what is your Jolly Book?" pleaded Pollyanna. "Please tell me. Are there knights and lords and ladies in that?"
The boy shook his head. His eyes lost their laughter and grew dark and fathomless.
"No; I wish't there was," he sighed wistfully. "But when you--you can't even walk, you can't fight battles and win trophies, and have fair ladies hand you your sword, and bestow upon you the golden guerdon." A sudden fire came to the boy's eyes. His chin lifted itself as if in response to a bugle call. Then, as suddenly, the fire died, and the boy fell back into his old listlessness.
"You just can't do nothin'," he resumed wearily, after a moment's silence. "You just have to sit and think; and times like that your think gets to be something awful. Mine did, anyhow. I wanted to go to school and learn things--more things than just mumsey can teach me; and I thought of that. I wanted to run and play ball with the other boys; and I thought of that. I wanted to go out and sell papers with Jerry; and I thought of that. I didn't want to be taken care of all my life; and I thought of that."
"I know, oh, I know," breathed Pollyanna, with shining eyes. "Didn't I lose my legs for a while?"
"Did you? Then you do know, some. But you've got yours again. I hain't, you know," sighed the boy, the shadow in his eyes deepening.
"But you haven't told me yet about--the Jolly Book," prompted Pollyanna, after a minute.
The boy stirred and laughed shamefacedly.
"Well, you see, it ain't much, after all, except to me. you wouldn't see much in it. I started it a year ago. I was feelin' 'specially bad that day. Nothin' was right. For a while I grumped it out, just thinkin'; and then I picked up one of father's books and tried to read. And the first thing I see was this: I learned it afterwards, so I can say it now.
"'Pleasures lie thickest where no pleasures seem; There's not a leaf that falls upon the ground But holds some joy, of silence or of sound.'
[Footnote: Blanchard. Lyric Offerings. Hidden Joys.]
"Well, I was mad. I wished I could put the guy that wrote that in my place, and see what kind of joy he'd find in my 'leaves.' I was so mad I made up my mind I'd prove he didn't know what he was talkin' about, so I begun to hunt for 'em--the joys in my 'leaves,' you know. I took a little old empty notebook that Jerry had given me, and I said to myself that I'd write 'em down. Everythin' that had anythin' about it that I liked I'd put down in the book. Then I'd just show how many 'joys' I had."
"Yes, yes!" cried Pollyanna, absorbedly, as the boy paused for breath.
"Well, I didn't expect to get many, but--do you know?--I got a lot. There was somethin' about 'most everythin' that I liked a little, so in it had to go. The very first one was the book itself--that I'd got it, you know, to write in. Then somebody give me a flower in a pot, and Jerry found a dandy book in the subway. After that it was really fun to hunt 'em out--I'd find 'em in such queer places, sometimes. Then one day Jerry got hold of the little notebook, and found out what 'twas. Then he give it its name--the Jolly Book. And--and that's all."
"All--all!" cried Pollyanna, delight and amazement struggling for the mastery on her glowing little face. "Why, that's the game! You're playing the glad game, and don't know it--only you're playing it ever and ever so much better than I ever could! Why, I--I couldn't play it at all, I'm afraid, if I--I didn't have enough to eat, and couldn't ever walk, or anything," she choked.
"The game? What game? I don't know anything about any game," frowned the boy.
Pollyanna clapped her hands.
"I know you don't--I know you don't, and that's why it's so perfectly lovely, and so--so wonderful! But listen. I'll tell you what the game is."
And she told him.
"Gee!" breathed the boy appreciatively, when she had finished. "Now what do you think of that!"
"And here you are, playing my game better than anybody I ever saw, and I don't even know your name yet, nor anything!" exclaimed Pollyanna, in almost awestruck tones. "But I want to;--I want to know everything."
"Pooh! there's nothing to know," rejoined the boy, with a shrug. "Besides, see, here's poor Sir Lancelot and all the rest, waiting for their dinner," he finished.
"Dear me, so they are," sighed Pollyanna, glancing impatiently at the fluttering and chattering creatures all about them. Recklessly she turned her bag upside down and scattered her supplies to the four winds. "There, now, that's done, and we can talk again," she rejoiced. "And there's such a lot I want to know. First, please, what is your name? I only know it isn't 'Sir James.'"
The boy smiled.
"No, it isn't; but that's what Jerry 'most always calls me. Mumsey and the rest call me 'Jamie.'"
"'Jamie!'" Pollyanna caught her breath and held it suspended. A wild hope had come to her eyes. It was followed almost instantly, however, by fearful doubt.
"Does 'mumsey' mean--mother?"
Pollyanna relaxed visibly. Her face fell. If this Jamie had a mother, he could not, of course, be Mrs. Carew's Jamie, whose mother had died long ago. Still, even as he was, he was wonderfully interesting.
"But where do you live?" she catechized eagerly. "Is there anybody else in your family but your mother and--and Jerry? Do you always come here every day? Where is your Jolly Book? Mayn't I see it? Don't the doctors say you can ever walk again? And where was it you said you got it?--this wheel chair, I mean."
The boy chuckled.
"Say, how many of them questions do you expect me to answer all at once? I'll begin at the last one, anyhow, and work backwards, maybe, if I don't forget what they be. I got this chair a year ago. Jerry knew one of them fellers what writes for papers, you know, and he put it in about me--how I couldn't ever walk, and all that, and--and the Jolly Book, you see. The first thing I knew, a whole lot of men and women come one day toting this chair, and said 'twas for me. That they'd read all about me, and they wanted me to have it to remember them by."
"My! how glad you must have been!"
"I was. It took a whole page of my Jolly Book to tell about that chair."
"But can't you ever walk again?" Pollyanna's eyes were blurred with tears.
"It don't look like it. They said I couldn't."
"Oh, but that's what they said about me, and then they sent me to Dr. Ames, and I stayed 'most a year; and he made me walk. Maybe he could you!"
The boy shook his head.
"He couldn't--you see; I couldn't go to him, anyway. 'Twould cost too much. We'll just have to call it that I can't ever--walk again. But never mind." The boy threw back his head impatiently. "I'm trying not to think of that. You know what it is when--when your think gets to going."
"Yes, yes, of course--and here I am talking about it!" cried Pollyanna, penitently. "I said you knew how to play the game better than I did, now. But go on. You haven't told me half, yet. Where do you live? And is Jerry all the brothers and sisters you've got?"
A swift change came to the boy's face. His eyes glowed.
"Yes--and he ain't mine, really. He ain't any relation, nor mumsey ain't, neither. And only think how good they've been to me!"
"What's that?" questioned Pollyanna, instantly on the alert. "Isn't that--that 'mumsey' your mother at all?"
"No; and that's what makes--"
"And haven't you got any mother?" interrupted Pollyanna, in growing excitement.
"No; I never remember any mother, and father died six years ago."
"How old were you?"
"I don't know. I was little. Mumsey says she guesses maybe I was about six. That's when they took me, you see."
"And your name is Jamie?" Pollyanna was holding her breath.
"Why, yes, I told you that."
"And what's the other name?" Longingly, but fearfully, Pollyanna asked this question.
"I don't know."
"You don't know!"
"I don't remember. I was too little, I suppose. Even the Murphys don't know. They never knew me as anything but Jamie."
A great disappointment came to Pollyanna's face, but almost immediately a flash of thought drove the shadow away.
"Well, anyhow, if you don't know what your name is, you can't know it isn't 'Kent'!" she exclaimed.
"'Kent'?" puzzled the boy.
"Yes," began Pollyanna, all excitement. "You see, there was a little boy named Jamie Kent that--" She stopped abruptly and bit her lip. It had occurred to Pollyanna that it would be kinder not to let this boy know yet of her hope that he might be the lost Jamie. It would be better that she make sure of it before raising any expectations, otherwise she might be bringing him sorrow rather than joy. She had not forgotten how disappointed Jimmy Bean had been when she had been obliged to tell him that the Ladies' Aid did not want him, and again when at first Mr. Pendleton had not wanted him, either. She was determined that she would not make the same mistake a third time; so very promptly now she assumed an air of elaborate indifference on this most dangerous subject, as she said:
"But never mind about Jamie Kent. Tell me about yourself. I'm so interested!"
"There isn't anything to tell. I don't know anything nice," hesitated the boy. "They said father was--was queer, and never talked. They didn't even know his name. Everybody called him 'The Professor.' Mumsey says he and I lived in a little back room on the top floor of the house in Lowell where they used to live. They were poor then, but they wasn't near so poor as they are now. Jerry's father was alive them days, and had a job."
"Yes, yes, go on," prompted Pollyanna.
"Well, mumsey says my father was sick a lot, and he got queerer and queerer, so that they had me downstairs with them a good deal. I could walk then, a little, but my legs wasn't right. I played with Jerry, and the little girl that died. Well, when father died there wasn't anybody to take me, and some men were goin' to put me in an orphan asylum; but mumsey says I took on so, and Jerry took on so, that they said they'd keep me. And they did. The little girl had just died, and they said I might take her place. And they've had me ever since. And I fell and got worse, and they're awful poor now, too, besides Jerry's father dyin'. But they've kept me. Now ain't that what you call bein' pretty good to a feller?"
"Yes, oh, yes," cried Pollyanna. "But they'll get their reward--I know they'll get their reward!" Pollyanna was quivering with delight now. The last doubt had fled. She had found the lost Jamie. She was sure of it. But not yet must she speak. First Mrs. Carew must see him. Then--then--! Even Pollyanna's imagination failed when it came to picturing the bliss in store for Mrs. Carew and Jamie at that glad reunion.
She sprang lightly to her feet in utter disregard of Sir Lancelot who had come back and was nosing in her lap for more nuts.
"I've got to go now, but I'll come again to-morrow. Maybe I'll have a lady with me that you'll like to know. You'll be here to-morrow, won't you?" she finished anxiously.
"Sure, if it's pleasant. Jerry totes me up here 'most every mornin'. They fixed it so he could, you know; and I bring my dinner and stay till four o'clock. Jerry's good to me--he is!"
"I know, I know," nodded Pollyanna. "And maybe you'll find somebody else to be good to you, too," she caroled. With which cryptic statement and a beaming smile, she was gone.