Whatever were John Pendleton's preparations for departure—and they were both varied and hurried—they were done in the open, with two exceptions. The exceptions were two letters, one addressed to Pollyanna, and one to Mrs. Polly Chilton. These letters, together with careful and minute instructions, were given into the hands of Susan, his housekeeper, to be delivered after they should be gone. But of all this Jimmy knew nothing.
The travelers were nearing Boston when John Pendleton said to Jimmy:
"My boy, I've got one favor to ask—or rather, two. The first is that we say nothing to Mrs. Carew until to-morrow afternoon; the other is that you allow me to go first and be your—er—ambassador, you yourself not appearing on the scene until perhaps, say—four o'clock. Are you willing?"
"Indeed I am," replied Jimmy, promptly; "not only willing, but delighted. I'd been wondering how I was going to break the ice, and I'm glad to have somebody else do it."
"Good! Then I'll try to get—your aunt on the telephone to-morrow morning and make my appointment."
True to his promise, Jimmy did not appear at the Carew mansion until four o'clock the next afternoon. Even then he felt suddenly so embarrassed that he walked twice by the house before he summoned sufficient courage to go up the steps and ring the bell. Once in Mrs. Carew's presence, however, he was soon his natural self, so quickly did she set him at his ease, and so tactfully did she handle the situation. To be sure, at the very first, there were a few tears, and a few incoherent exclamations. Even John Pendleton had to reach a hasty hand for his handkerchief. But before very long a semblance of normal tranquillity was restored, and only the tender glow in Mrs. Carew's eyes, and the ecstatic happiness in Jimmy's and John Pendleton's was left to mark the occasion as something out of the ordinary.
"And I think it's so fine of you—about Jamie!" exclaimed Mrs. Carew, after a little. "Indeed, Jimmy—(I shall still call you Jimmy, for obvious reasons; besides, I like it better, for you)—indeed I think you're just right, if you're willing to do it. And I'm making some sacrifice myself, too," she went on tearfully, "for I should be so proud to introduce you to the world as my nephew."
"And, indeed, Aunt Ruth, I—" At a half-stifled exclamation from John Pendleton, Jimmy stopped short. He saw then that Jamie and Sadie Dean stood just inside the door. Jamie's face was very white.
"Aunt Ruth!" he exclaimed, looking from one to the other with startled eyes. "Aunt Ruth! You don't mean—"
All the blood receded from Mrs. Carew's face, and from Jimmy's, too. John Pendleton, however, advanced jauntily.
"Yes, Jamie; why not? I was going to tell you soon, anyway, so I'll tell you now." (Jimmy gasped and stepped hastily forward, but John Pendleton silenced him with a look.) "Just a little while ago Mrs. Carew made me the happiest of men by saying yes to a certain question I asked. Now, as Jimmy calls me 'Uncle John,' why shouldn't he begin right away to call Mrs. Carew 'Aunt Ruth'?"
"Oh! Oh-h!" exclaimed Jamie, in plain delight, while Jimmy, under John Pendleton's steady gaze just managed to save the situation by not blurting out his surprise and pleasure. Naturally, too, just then, blushing Mrs. Carew became the center of every one's interest, and the danger point was passed. Only Jimmy heard John Pendleton say low in his ear, a bit later:
"So you see, you young rascal, I'm not going to lose you, after all. We shall both have you now."
Exclamations and congratulations were still at their height, when Jamie, a new light in his eyes, turned without warning to Sadie Dean.
"Sadie, I'm going to tell them now," he declared triumphantly. Then, with the bright color in Sadie's face telling the tender story even before Jamie's eager lips could frame the words, more congratulations and exclamations were in order, and everybody was laughing and shaking hands with everybody else.
Jimmy, however, very soon began to eye them all aggrievedly, longingly.
"This is all very well for you," he complained then. "You each have each other. But where do I come in? I can just tell you, though, that if only a certain young lady I know were here, I should have something to tell you, perhaps."
"Just a minute, Jimmy," interposed John Pendleton. "Let's play I was Aladdin, and let me rub the lamp. Mrs. Carew, have I your permission to ring for Mary?"
"Why, y-yes, certainly," murmured that lady, in a puzzled surprise that found its duplicate on the faces of the others.
A few moments later Mary stood in the doorway.
"Did I hear Miss Pollyanna come in a short time ago?" asked John Pendleton.
"Yes, sir. She is here."
"Won't you ask her to come down, please."
"Pollyanna here!" exclaimed an amazed chorus, as Mary disappeared. Jimmy turned very white, then very red.
"Yes. I sent a note to her yesterday by my housekeeper. I took the liberty of asking her down for a few days to see you, Mrs. Carew. I thought the little girl needed a rest and a holiday; and my housekeeper has instructions to remain and care for Mrs. Chilton. I also wrote a note to Mrs. Chilton herself," he added, turning suddenly to Jimmy, with unmistakable meaning in his eyes. "And I thought after she read what I said, that she'd let Pollyanna come. It seems she did, for—here she is."
And there she was in the doorway, blushing, starry-eyed, yet withal just a bit shy and questioning.
"Pollyanna, dearest!" It was Jimmy who sprang forward to meet her, and who, without one minute's hesitation, took her in his arms and kissed her.
"Oh, Jimmy, before all these people!" breathed Pollyanna in embarrassed protest.
"Pooh! I should have kissed you then, Pollyanna, if you'd been straight in the middle of—of Washington Street itself," vowed Jimmy. "For that matter, look at—'all these people' and see for yourself if you need to worry about them."
And Pollyanna looked; and she saw:
Over by one window, backs carefully turned, Jamie and Sadie Dean; over by another window, backs also carefully turned, Mrs. Carew and John Pendleton.
Pollyanna smiled—so adorably that Jimmy kissed her again.
"Oh, Jimmy, isn't it all beautiful and wonderful?" she murmured softly. "And Aunt Polly—she knows everything now; and it's all right. I think it would have been all right, anyway. She was beginning to feel so bad—for me. Now she's so glad. And I am, too. Why, Jimmy, I'm glad, glad, glad for—everything, now!"
Jimmy caught his breath with a joy that hurt.
"God grant, little girl, that always it may be so—with you," he choked unsteadily, his arms holding her close.
"I'm sure it will," sighed Pollyanna, with shining eyes of confidence.