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Eleanor H. Porter

A New Acquaintance

Pollyanna's movements were most carefully watched over after her adventurous walk; and, except to go to school, she was not allowed out of the house unless Mary or Mrs. Carew herself accompanied her. This, to Pollyanna, however, was no cross, for she loved both Mrs. Carew and Mary, and delighted to be with them. They were, too, for a while, very generous with their time. Even Mrs. Carew, in her terror of what might have happened, and her relief that it had not happened, exerted herself to entertain the child.

Thus it came about that, with Mrs. Carew, Pollyanna attended concerts and matinees, and visited the Public Library and the Art Museum; and with Mary she took the wonderful "seeing Boston" trips, and visited the State House and the Old South Church.

Greatly as Pollyanna enjoyed the automobile, she enjoyed the trolley cars more, as Mrs. Carew, much to her surprise, found out one day.

"Do we go in the trolley car?" Pollyanna asked eagerly.

"No. Perkins will take us," answered Mrs. Carew. Then, at the unmistakable disappointment in Pollyanna's face, she added in surprise: "Why, I thought you liked the auto, child!"

"Oh, I do," acceded Pollyanna, hurriedly; "and I wouldn't say anything, anyway, because of course I know it's cheaper than the trolley car, and—"

"'Cheaper than the trolley car'!" exclaimed Mrs. Carew, amazed into an interruption.

"Why, yes," explained Pollyanna, with widening eyes; "the trolley car costs five cents a person, you know, and the auto doesn't cost anything, 'cause it's yours. And of course I love  the auto, anyway," she hurried on, before Mrs. Carew could speak. "It's only that there are so many more people in the trolley car, and it's such fun to watch them! Don't you think so?"

"Well, no, Pollyanna, I can't say that I do," responded Mrs. Carew, dryly, as she turned away.

As it chanced, not two days later, Mrs. Carew heard something more of Pollyanna and trolley cars—this time from Mary.

"I mean, it's queer, ma'am," explained Mary earnestly, in answer to a question her mistress had asked, "it's queer how Miss Pollyanna just gets 'round everybody —and without half trying. It isn't that she does  anything. She doesn't. She just—just looks glad, I guess, that's all. But I've seen her get into a trolley car that was full of cross-looking men and women, and whimpering children, and in five minutes you wouldn't know the place. The men and women have stopped scowling, and the children have forgot what they're cryin' for.

"Sometimes it's just somethin' that Miss Pollyanna has said to me, and they've heard it. Sometimes it's just the 'Thank you,' she gives when somebody insists on givin' us their seat—and they're always doin' that—givin' us seats, I mean. And sometimes it's the way she smiles at a baby or a dog. All dogs everywhere wag their tails at her, anyway, and all babies, big and little, smile and reach out to her. If we get held up it's a joke, and if we take the wrong car, it's the funniest thing that ever happened. And that's the way 'tis about everythin'. One just can't stay grumpy, with Miss Pollyanna, even if you're only one of a trolley car full of folks that don't know her."

"Hm-m; very likely," murmured Mrs. Carew, turning away.

October proved to be, that year, a particularly warm, delightful month, and as the golden days came and went, it was soon very evident that to keep up with Pollyanna's eager little feet was a task which would consume altogether too much of somebody's time and patience; and, while Mrs. Carew had the one, she had not the other, neither had she the willingness to allow Mary to spend quite so much of her  time (whatever her patience might be) in dancing attendance to Pollyanna's whims and fancies.

To keep the child indoors all through those glorious October afternoons was, of course, out of the question. Thus it came about that, before long, Pollyanna found herself once more in the "lovely big yard"—the Boston Public Garden—and alone. Apparently she was as free as before, but in reality she was surrounded by a high stone wall of regulations.

She must not talk to strange men or women; she must not play with strange children; and under no circumstances must she step foot outside the Garden except to come home. Furthermore, Mary, who had taken her to the Garden and left her, made very sure that she knew the way home—that she knew just where Commonwealth Avenue came down to Arlington Street across from the Garden. And always she must go home when the clock in the church tower said it was half-past four.

Pollyanna went often to the Garden after this. Occasionally she went with some of the girls from school. More often she went alone. In spite of the somewhat irksome restrictions she enjoyed herself very much. She could watch  the people even if she could not talk to them; and she could talk to the squirrels and pigeons and sparrows that so eagerly came for the nuts and grain which she soon learned to carry to them every time she went.

Pollyanna often looked for her old friends of that first day—the man who was so glad he had his eyes and legs and arms, and the pretty young lady who would not go with the handsome man; but she never saw them. She did frequently see the boy in the wheel chair, and she wished she could talk to him. The boy fed the birds and squirrels, too, and they were so tame that the doves would perch on his head and shoulders, and the squirrels would burrow in his pockets for nuts. But Pollyanna, watching from a distance, always noticed one strange circumstance: in spite of the boy's very evident delight in serving his banquet, his supply of food always ran short almost at once; and though he invariably looked fully as disappointed as did the squirrel after a nutless burrowing, yet he never remedied the matter by bringing more food the next day—which seemed most short-sighted to Pollyanna.

When the boy was not playing with the birds and squirrels he was reading—always reading. In his chair were usually two or three worn books, and sometimes a magazine or two. He was nearly always to be found in one especial place, and Pollyanna used to wonder how he got there. Then, one unforgettable day, she found out. It was a school holiday, and she had come to the Garden in the forenoon; and it was soon after she reached the place that she saw him being wheeled along one of the paths by a snub-nosed, sandy-haired boy. She gave a keen glance into the sandy-haired boy's face, then ran toward him with a glad little cry.

"Oh, you—you! I know you—even if I don't know your name. You found me! Don't you remember? Oh, I'm so glad to see you! I've so wanted to say thank you!"

"Gee, if it ain't the swell little lost kid of the Ave-noo!"  grinned the boy. "Well, what do you know about that! Lost again?"

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Pollyanna, dancing up and down on her toes in irrepressible joy. "I can't get lost any more—I have to stay right here. And I mustn't talk, you know. But I can to you, for I know  you; and I can to him—after you introduce me," she finished, with a beaming glance at the lame boy, and a hopeful pause.

The sandy-haired youth chuckled softly, and tapped the shoulder of the boy in the chair.

"Listen ter that, will ye? Ain't that the real thing, now? Just you wait while I intro-dooce  ye!" And he struck a pompous attitude. "Madam, this is me friend, Sir James, Lord of Murphy's Alley, and—" But the boy in the chair interrupted him.

"Jerry, quit your nonsense!" he cried vexedly. Then to Pollyanna he turned a, glowing face. "I've seen you here lots of times before. I've watched you feed the birds and squirrels—you always have such a lot for them! And I think you  like Sir Lancelot the best, too. Of course, there's the Lady Rowena—but wasn't she rude to Guinevere yesterday—snatching her dinner right away from her like that?"

Pollyanna blinked and frowned, looking from one to the other of the boys in plain doubt. Jerry chuckled again. Then, with a final push he wheeled the chair into its usual position, and turned to go. Over his shoulder he called to Pollyanna:

"Say, kid, jest let me put ye wise ter somethin'. This chap ain't drunk nor crazy. See? Them's jest names he's give his young friends here,"—with a flourish of his arms toward the furred and feathered creatures that were gathering from all directions. "An' they ain't even names of folks. They're just guys out of books. Are ye on? Yet he'd ruther feed them than feed hisself. Ain't he the limit? Ta-ta, Sir James," he added, with a grimace, to the boy in the chair." Buck up, now—nix on the no grub racket for you! See you later." And he was gone.

Pollyanna was still blinking and frowning when the lame boy turned with a smile.

"You mustn't mind Jerry. That's just his way. He'd cut off his right hand for me—Jerry would; but he loves to tease. Where'd you see him? Does he know you? He didn't tell me your name."

"I'm Pollyanna Whittier. I was lost and he found me and took me home," answered Pollyanna, still a little dazedly.

"I see. Just like him," nodded the boy. "Don't he tote me up here every day?"

A quick sympathy came to Pollyanna's eyes.

"Can't you walk—at all—er—Sir J-James?"

The boy laughed gleefully.

"'Sir James,' indeed! That's only more of Jerry's nonsense. I ain't a 'Sir.'"

Pollyanna looked clearly disappointed.

"You aren't? Nor a—a lord, like he said?"

"I sure ain't."

"Oh, I hoped you were—like Little Lord Fauntleroy, you know," rejoined Pollyanna. "And—"

But the boy interrupted her with an eager:

"Do you  know Little Lord Fauntleroy? And do you know about Sir Lancelot, and the Holy Grail, and King Arthur and his Round Table, and the Lady Rowena, and Ivanhoe, and all those? Do  you?"

Pollyanna gave her head a dubious shake.

"Well, I'm afraid maybe I don't know all  of 'em," she admitted. "Are they all—in books?"

The boy nodded.

"I've got 'em here—some of 'em," he said. "I like to read 'em over and over. There's always something  new in 'em. Besides, I hain't got no others, anyway. These were father's. Here, you little rascal—quit that!" he broke off in laughing reproof as a bushy-tailed squirrel leaped to his lap and began to nose in his pockets. "Gorry, guess we'd better give them their dinner or they'll be tryin' to eat us," chuckled the boy. "That's Sir Lancelot. He's always first, you know."

From somewhere the boy produced a small pasteboard box which he opened guardedly, mindful of the numberless bright little eyes that were watching every move. All about him now sounded the whir and flutter of wings, the cooing of doves, the saucy twitter of the sparrows. Sir Lancelot, alert and eager, occupied one arm of the wheel chair. Another bushy-tailed little fellow, less venturesome, sat back on his haunches five feet away. A third squirrel chattered noisily on a neighboring tree-branch.

From the box the boy took a few nuts, a small roll, and a doughnut. At the latter he looked longingly, hesitatingly.

"Did you—bring anything?" he asked then.

"Lots—in here," nodded Pollyanna, tapping the paper bag she carried.

"Oh, then perhaps I will  eat it to-day," sighed the boy, dropping the doughnut back into the box with an air of relief.

Pollyanna, on whom the significance of this action was quite lost, thrust her fingers into her own bag, and the banquet was on.

It was a wonderful hour. To Pollyanna it was, in a way, the most wonderful hour she had ever spent, for she had found some one who could talk faster and longer than she could. This strange youth seemed to have an inexhaustible fund of marvelous stories of brave knights and fair ladies, of tournaments and battles. Moreover, so vividly did he draw his pictures that Pollyanna saw with her own eyes the deeds of valor, the knights in armor, and the fair ladies with their jeweled gowns and tresses, even though she was really looking at a flock of fluttering doves and sparrows and a group of frisking squirrels on a wide sweep of sunlit grass.

The Ladies' Aiders were forgotten. Even the glad game was not thought of. Pollyanna, with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes was trailing down the golden ages led by a romance-fed boy who—though she did not know it—was trying to crowd into this one short hour of congenial companionship countless dreary days of loneliness and longing.

Not until the noon bells sent Pollyanna hurrying homeward did she remember that she did not even yet know the boy's name.

"I only know it isn't 'Sir James,'" she sighed to herself, frowning with vexation. "But never mind. I can ask him to-morrow."