It was on the second Saturday afternoon that Pollyanna took her memorable walk. Heretofore Pollyanna had not walked out alone, except to go to and from school. That she would ever attempt to explore Boston streets by herself, never occurred to Mrs. Carew, hence she naturally had never forbidden it. In Beldingsville, however, Pollyanna had found—especially at the first—her chief diversion in strolling about the rambling old village streets in search of new friends and new adventures.
On this particular Saturday afternoon Mrs. Carew had said, as she often did say: "There, there, child, run away; please do. Go where you like and do what you like, only don't, please, ask me any more questions to-day!"
Until now, left to herself, Pollyanna had always found plenty to interest her within the four walls of the house; for, if inanimate things failed, there were yet Mary, Jennie, Bridget, and Perkins. To-day, however, Mary had a headache, Jennie was trimming a new hat, Bridget was making apple pies, and Perkins was nowhere to be found. Moreover it was a particularly beautiful September day, and nothing within the house was so alluring as the bright sunlight and balmy air outside. So outside Pollyanna went and dropped herself down on the steps.
For some time she watched in silence the well-dressed men, women, and children, who walked briskly by the house, or else sauntered more leisurely through the parkway that extended up and down the middle of the Avenue. Then she got to her feet, skipped down the steps, and stood looking, first to the right, then to the left.
Pollyanna had decided that she, too, would take a walk. It was a beautiful day for a walk, and not once, yet, had she taken one at all—not a real walk. Just going to and from school did not count. So she would take one to-day. Mrs. Carew would not mind. Had she not told her to do just what she pleased so long as she asked no more questions? And there was the whole long afternoon before her. Only think what a lot one might see in a whole long afternoon! And it really was such a beautiful day. She would go—this way! And with a little whirl and skip of pure joy, Pollyanna turned and walked blithely down the Avenue.
Into the eyes of those she met Pollyanna smiled joyously. She was disappointed—but not surprised—that she received no answering smile in return. She was used to that now—in Boston. She still smiled, however, hopefully: there might be some one, sometime, who would smile back.
Mrs. Carew's home was very near the beginning of Commonwealth Avenue, so it was not long before Pollyanna found herself at the edge of a street crossing her way at right angles. Across the street, in all its autumn glory, lay what to Pollyanna was the most beautiful "yard" she had ever seen—the Boston Public Garden.
For a moment Pollyanna hesitated, her eyes longingly fixed on the wealth of beauty before her. That it was the private grounds of some rich man or woman, she did not for a moment doubt. Once, with Dr. Ames at the Sanatorium, she had been taken to call on a lady who lived in a beautiful house surrounded by just such walks and trees and flower-beds as these.
Pollyanna wanted now very much to cross the street and walk in those grounds, but she doubted if she had the right. To be sure, others were there, moving about, she could see; but they might be invited guests, of course. After she had seen two women, one man, and a little girl unhesitatingly enter the gate and walk briskly down the path, however, Pollyanna concluded that she, too, might go. Watching her chance she skipped nimbly across the street and entered the Garden.
It was even more beautiful close at hand than it had been at a distance. Birds twittered over her head, and a squirrel leaped across the path ahead of her. On benches here and there sat men, women, and children. Through the trees flashed the sparkle of the sun on water; and from somewhere came the shouts of children and the sound of music.
Once again Pollyanna hesitated; then, a little timidly, she accosted a handsomely-dressed young woman coming toward her.
"Please, is this—a party?" she asked.
The young woman stared.
"A party!" she repeated dazedly.
"Yes'm. I mean, is it all right for me—to be here?"
"For you to be here? Why, of course. It's for—for everybody!" exclaimed the young woman.
"Oh, that's all right, then. I'm glad I came," beamed Pollyanna.
The young woman said nothing; but she turned back and looked at Pollyanna still dazedly as she hurried away.
Pollyanna, not at all surprised that the owner of this beautiful place should be so generous as to give a party to everybody, continued on her way. At the turn of the path she came upon a small girl and a doll carriage. She stopped with a glad little cry, but she had not said a dozen words before from somewhere came a young woman with hurrying steps and a disapproving voice; a young woman who held out her hand to the small girl, and said sharply:
"Here, Gladys, Gladys, come away with me. Hasn't mama told you not to talk to strange children?"
"But I'm not strange children," explained Pollyanna in eager defense. "I live right here in Boston, now, and—" But the young woman and the little girl dragging the doll carriage were already far down the path; and with a half-stifled sigh Pollyanna fell back. For a moment she stood silent, plainly disappointed; then resolutely she lifted her chin and went forward.
"Well, anyhow, I can be glad for that," she nodded to herself, "for now maybe I'll find somebody even nicer—Susie Smith, perhaps, or even Mrs. Carew's Jamie. Anyhow, I can imagine I'm going to find them; and if I don't find them, I can find somebody!" she finished, her wistful eyes on the self-absorbed people all about her.
Undeniably Pollyanna was lonesome. Brought up by her father and the Ladies' Aid Society in a small Western town, she had counted every house in the village her home, and every man, woman, and child her friend. Coming to her aunt in Vermont at eleven years of age, she had promptly assumed that conditions would differ only in that the homes and the friends would be new, and therefore even more delightful, possibly, for they would be "different"—and Pollyanna did so love "different" things and people! Her first and always her supreme delight in Beldingsville, therefore, had been her long rambles about the town and the charming visits with the new friends she had made. Quite naturally, in consequence, Boston, as she first saw it, seemed to Pollyanna even more delightfully promising in its possibilities.
Thus far, however, Pollyanna had to admit that in one respect, at least, it had been disappointing: she had been here nearly two weeks and she did not yet know the people who lived across the street, or even next door. More inexplicable still, Mrs. Carew herself did not know many of them, and not any of them well. She seemed, indeed, utterly indifferent to her neighbors, which was most amazing from Pollyanna's point of view; but nothing she could say appeared to change Mrs. Carew's attitude in the matter at all.
"They do not interest me, Pollyanna," was all she would say; and with this, Pollyanna—whom they did interest very much—was forced to be content.
To-day, on her walk, however, Pollyanna had started out with high hopes, yet thus far she seemed destined to be disappointed. Here all about her were people who were doubtless most delightful—if she only knew them. But she did not know them. Worse yet, there seemed to be no prospect that she would know them, for they did not, apparently, wish to know her: Pollyanna was still smarting under the nurse's sharp warning concerning "strange children."
"Well, I reckon I'll just have to show 'em that I'm not strange children," she said at last to herself, moving confidently forward again.
Pursuant of this idea Pollyanna smiled sweetly into the eyes of the next person she met, and said blithely:
"It's a nice day, isn't it?"
"Er—what? Oh, y-yes, it is," murmured the lady addressed, as she hastened on a little faster.
Twice again Pollyanna tried the same experiment, but with like disappointing results. Soon she came upon the little pond that she had seen sparkling in the sunlight through the trees. It was a beautiful pond, and on it were several pretty little boats full of laughing children. As she watched them, Pollyanna felt more and more dissatisfied to remain by herself. It was then that, spying a man sitting alone not far away, she advanced slowly toward him and sat down on the other end of the bench. Once Pollyanna would have danced unhesitatingly to the man's side and suggested acquaintanceship with a cheery confidence that had no doubt of a welcome; but recent rebuffs had filled her with unaccustomed diffidence. Covertly she looked at the man now.
He was not very good to look at. His garments, though new, were dusty, and plainly showed lack of care. They were of the cut and style (though Pollyanna of course did not know this) that the State gives its prisoners as a freedom suit. His face was a pasty white, and was adorned with a week's beard. His hat was pulled far down over his eyes. With his hands in his pockets he sat idly staring at the ground.
For a long minute Pollyanna said nothing; then hopefully she began:
"It is a nice day, isn't it?"
The man turned his head with a start.
"Eh? Oh—er—what did you say?" he questioned, with a curiously frightened look around to make sure the remark was addressed to him.
"I said 'twas a nice day," explained Pollyanna in hurried earnestness; "but I don't care about that especially. That is, of course I'm glad it's a nice day, but I said it just as a beginning to things, and I'd just as soon talk about something else—anything else. It's only that I wanted you to talk—about something, you see."
The man gave a low laugh. Even to Pollyanna the laugh sounded a little queer, though she did not know (as did the man) that a laugh to his lips had been a stranger for many months.
"So you want me to talk, do you?" he said a little sadly. "Well, I don't see but what I shall have to do it, then. Still, I should think a nice little lady like you might find lots nicer people to talk to than an old duffer like me."
"Oh, but I like old duffers," exclaimed Pollyanna quickly; "that is, I like the old part, and I don't know what a duffer is, so I can't dislike that. Besides, if you are a duffer, I reckon I like duffers. Anyhow, I like you," she finished, with a contented little settling of herself in her seat that carried conviction.
"Humph! Well, I'm sure I'm flattered," smiled the man, ironically. Though his face and words expressed polite doubt, it might have been noticed that he sat a little straighter on the bench. "And, pray, what shall we talk about?"
"It's—it's infinitesimal to me. That means I don't care, doesn't it?" asked Pollyanna, with a beaming smile. "Aunt Polly says that, whatever I talk about, anyhow, I always bring up at the Ladies' Aiders. But I reckon that's because they brought me up first, don't you? We might talk about the party. I think it's a perfectly beautiful party—now that I know some one."
"Yes—this, you know—all these people here to-day. It is a party, isn't it? The lady said it was for everybody, so I stayed—though I haven't got to where the house is, yet, that's giving the party."
The man's lips twitched.
"Well, little lady, perhaps it is a party, in a way," he smiled; "but the 'house' that's giving it is the city of Boston. This is the Public Garden—a public park, you understand, for everybody."
"Is it? Always? And I may come here any time I want to? Oh, how perfectly lovely! That's even nicer than I thought it could be. I'd worried for fear I couldn't ever come again, after to-day, you see. I'm glad now, though, that I didn't know it just at the first, for it's all the nicer now. Nice things are nicer when you've been worrying for fear they won't be nice, aren't they?"
"Perhaps they are—if they ever turn out to be nice at all," conceded the man, a little gloomily.
"Yes, I think so," nodded Pollyanna, not noticing the gloom. "But isn't it beautiful—here?" she gloried. "I wonder if Mrs. Carew knows about it—that it's for anybody, so. Why, I should think everybody would want to come here all the time, and just stay and look around."
The man's face hardened.
"Well, there are a few people in the world who have got a job—who've got something to do besides just to come here and stay and look around; but I don't happen to be one of them."
"Don't you? Then you can be glad for that, can't you?" sighed Pollyanna, her eyes delightedly following a passing boat.
The man's lips parted indignantly, but no words came. Pollyanna was still talking.
"I wish I didn't have anything to do but that. I have to go to school. Oh, I like school; but there's such a whole lot of things I like better. Still I'm glad I can go to school. I'm 'specially glad when I remember how last winter I didn't think I could ever go again. You see, I lost my legs for a while—I mean, they didn't go; and you know you never know how much you use things, till you don't have 'em. And eyes, too. Did you ever think what a lot you do with eyes? I didn't till I went to the Sanatorium. There was a lady there who had just got blind the year before. I tried to get her to play the game—finding something to be glad about, you know—but she said she couldn't; and if I wanted to know why, I might tie up my eyes with my handkerchief for just one hour. And I did. It was awful. Did you ever try it?"
"Why, n-no, I didn't." A half-vexed, half-baffled expression was coming to the man's face.
"Well, don't. It's awful. You can't do anything—not anything that you want to do. But I kept it on the whole hour. Since then I've been so glad, sometimes—when I see something perfectly lovely like this, you know—I've been so glad I wanted to cry;—'cause I could see it, you know. She's playing the game now, though—that blind lady is. Miss Wetherby told me."
"Yes; the glad game. Didn't I tell you? Finding something in everything to be glad about. Well, she's found it now—about her eyes, you know. Her husband is the kind of a man that goes to help make the laws, and she had him ask for one that would help blind people, 'specially little babies. And she went herself and talked and told those men how it felt to be blind. And they made it—that law. And they said that she did more than anybody else, even her husband, to help make it, and that they didn't believe there would have been any law at all if it hadn't been for her. So now she says she's glad she lost her eyes, 'cause she's kept so many little babies from growing up to be blind like her. So you see she's playing it—the game. But I reckon you don't know about the game yet, after all; so I'll tell you. It started this way." And Pollyanna, with her eyes on the shimmering beauty all about her, told of the little pair of crutches of long ago, which should have been a doll.
When the story was finished there was a long silence; then, a little abruptly the man got to his feet.
"Oh, are you going away now?" she asked in open disappointment.
"Yes, I'm going now." He smiled down at her a little queerly.
"But you're coming back sometime?"
He shook his head—but again he smiled.
"I hope not—and I believe not, little girl. You see, I've made a great discovery to-day. I thought I was down and out. I thought there was no place for me anywhere—now. But I've just discovered that I've got two eyes, two arms, and two legs. Now I'm going to use them—and I'm going to make somebody understand that I know how to use them!"
The next moment he was gone.
"Why, what a funny man!" mused Pollyanna. "Still, he was nice—and he was different, too," she finished, rising to her feet and resuming her walk.
Pollyanna was now once more her usual cheerful self, and she stepped with the confident assurance of one who has no doubt. Had not the man said that this was a public park, and that she had as good a right as anybody to be there? She walked nearer to the pond and crossed the bridge to the starting-place of the little boats. For some time she watched the children happily, keeping a particularly sharp lookout for the possible black curls of Susie Smith. She would have liked to take a ride in the pretty boats, herself, but the sign said "Five cents" a trip, and she did not have any money with her. She smiled hopefully into the faces of several women, and twice she spoke tentatively. But no one spoke first to her, and those whom she addressed eyed her coldly, and made scant response.
After a time she turned her steps into still another path. Here she found a white-faced boy in a wheel chair. She would have spoken to him, but he was so absorbed in his book that she turned away after a moment's wistful gazing. Soon then she came upon a pretty, but sad-looking young girl sitting alone, staring at nothing, very much as the man had sat. With a contented little cry Pollyanna hurried forward.
"Oh, how do you do?" she beamed. "I'm so glad I found you! I've been hunting ever so long for you," she asserted, dropping herself down on the unoccupied end of the bench.
The pretty girl turned with a start, an eager look of expectancy in her eyes.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, falling back in plain disappointment. "I thought— Why, what do you mean?" she demanded aggrievedly. "I never set eyes on you before in my life."
"No, I didn't you, either," smiled Pollyanna; "but I've been hunting for you, just the same. That is, of course I didn't know you were going to be you exactly. It's just that I wanted to find some one that looked lonesome, and that didn't have anybody. Like me, you know. So many here to-day have got folks. See?"
"Yes, I see," nodded the girl, falling back into her old listlessness. "But, poor little kid, it's too bad you should find it out—so soon."
"Find what out?"
"That the lonesomest place in all the world is in a crowd in a big city."
Pollyanna frowned and pondered.
"Is it? I don't see how it can be. I don't see how you can be lonesome when you've got folks all around you. Still—" she hesitated, and the frown deepened. "I was lonesome this afternoon, and there were folks all around me; only they didn't seem to—to think—or notice."
The pretty girl smiled bitterly.
"That's just it. They don't ever think—or notice, crowds don't."
"But some folks do. We can be glad some do," urged Pollyanna. "Now when I—"
"Oh, yes, some do," interrupted the other. As she spoke she shivered and looked fearfully down the path beyond Pollyanna. "Some notice—too much."
Pollyanna shrank back in dismay. Repeated rebuffs that afternoon had given her a new sensitiveness.
"Do you mean—me?" she stammered. "That you wished I hadn't—noticed—you?"
"No, no, kiddie! I meant—some one quite different from you. Some one that hadn't ought to notice. I was glad to have you speak, only—I thought at first it was some one from home."
"Oh, then you don't live here, either, any more than I do—I mean, for keeps."
"Oh, yes, I live here now," sighed the girl; "that is, if you can call it living—what I do."
"What do you do?" asked Pollyanna interestedly.
"Do? I'll tell you what I do," cried the other, with sudden bitterness. "From morning till night I sell fluffy laces and perky bows to girls that laugh and talk and know each other. Then I go home to a little back room up three flights just big enough to hold a lumpy cot-bed, a washstand with a nicked pitcher, one rickety chair, and me. It's like a furnace in the summer and an ice box in the winter; but it's all the place I've got, and I'm supposed to stay in it—when I ain't workin'. But I've come out to-day. I ain't goin' to stay in that room, and I ain't goin' to go to any old library to read, neither. It's our last half-holiday this year—and an extra one, at that; and I'm going to have a good time—for once. I'm just as young, and I like to laugh and joke just as well as them girls I sell bows to all day. Well, to-day I'm going to laugh and joke."
Pollyanna smiled and nodded her approval.
"I'm glad you feel that way. I do, too. It's a lot more fun—to be happy, isn't it? Besides, the Bible tells us to;—rejoice and be glad, I mean. It tells us to eight hundred times. Probably you know about 'em, though—the rejoicing texts."
The pretty girl shook her head. A queer look came to her face.
"Well, no," she said dryly. "I can't say I was thinkin'—of the Bible."
"Weren't you? Well, maybe not; but, you see, my father was a minister, and he—"
"Yes. Why, was yours, too?" cried Pollyanna, answering something she saw in the other's face.
"Y-yes." A faint color crept up to the girl's forehead.
"Oh, and has he gone like mine to be with God and the angels?"
The girl turned away her head.
"No. He's still living—back home," she answered, half under her breath.
"Oh, how glad you must be," sighed Pollyanna, enviously. "Sometimes I get to thinking, if only I could just see father once—but you do see your father, don't you?"
"Not often. You see, I'm down—here."
"But you can see him—and I can't, mine. He's gone to be with mother and the rest of us up in Heaven, and— Have you got a mother, too—an earth mother?"
"Y-yes." The girl stirred restlessly, and half moved as if to go.
"Oh, then you can see both of them," breathed Pollyanna, unutterable longing in her face. "Oh, how glad you must be! For there just isn't anybody, is there, that really cares and notices quite so much as fathers and mothers. You see I know, for I had a father until I was eleven years old; but, for a mother, I had Ladies' Aiders for ever so long, till Aunt Polly took me. Ladies' Aiders are lovely, but of course they aren't like mothers, or even Aunt Pollys; and—"
On and on Pollyanna talked. Pollyanna was in her element now. Pollyanna loved to talk. That there was anything strange or unwise or even unconventional in this intimate telling of her thoughts and her history to a total stranger on a Boston park bench did not once occur to Pollyanna. To Pollyanna all men, women, and children were friends, either known or unknown; and thus far she had found the unknown quite as delightful as the known, for with them there was always the excitement of mystery and adventure—while they were changing from the unknown to the known.
To this young girl at her side, therefore, Pollyanna talked unreservedly of her father, her Aunt Polly, her Western home, and her journey East to Vermont. She told of new friends and old friends, and of course she told of the game. Pollyanna almost always told everybody of the game, either sooner or later. It was, indeed, so much a part of her very self that she could hardly have helped telling of it.
As for the girl—she said little. She was not now sitting in her old listless attitude, however, and to her whole self had come a marked change. The flushed cheeks, frowning brow, troubled eyes, and nervously working fingers were plainly the signs of some inward struggle. From time to time she glanced apprehensively down the path beyond Pollyanna, and it was after such a glance that she clutched the little girl's arm.
"See here, kiddie, for just a minute don't you leave me. Do you hear? Stay right where you are? There's a man I know comin'; but no matter what he says, don't you pay no attention, and don't you go. I'm goin' to stay with you. See?"
Before Pollyanna could more than gasp her wonderment and surprise, she found herself looking up into the face of a very handsome young gentleman, who had stopped before them.
"Oh, here you are," he smiled pleasantly, lifting his hat to Pollyanna's companion. "I'm afraid I'll have to begin with an apology—I'm a little late."
"It don't matter, sir," said the young girl, speaking hurriedly. "I—I've decided not to go."
The young man gave a light laugh.
"Oh, come, my clear, don't be hard on a chap because he's a little late!"
"It isn't that, really," defended the girl, a swift red flaming into her cheeks. "I mean—I'm not going."
"Nonsense!" The man stopped smiling. He spoke sharply. "You said yesterday you'd go."
"I know; but I've changed my mind. I told my little friend here—I'd stay with her."
"Oh, but if you'd rather go with this nice young gentleman," began Pollyanna, anxiously; but she fell back silenced at the look the girl gave her.
"I tell you I had not rather go. I'm not going."
"And, pray, why this sudden right-about face?" demanded the young man with an expression that made him suddenly look, to Pollyanna, not quite so handsome. "Yesterday you said—"
"I know I did," interrupted the girl, feverishly. "But I knew then that I hadn't ought to. Let's call it—that I know it even better now. That's all." And she turned away resolutely.
It was not all. The man spoke again, twice. He coaxed, then he sneered with a hateful look in his eyes. At last he said something very low and angry, which Pollyanna did not understand. The next moment he wheeled about and strode away.
The girl watched him tensely till he passed quite out of sight, then, relaxing, she laid a shaking hand on Pollyanna's arm.
"Thanks, kiddie. I reckon I owe you—more than you know. Good-by."
"But you aren't going away now!" bemoaned Pollyanna.
The girl sighed wearily.
"I got to. He might come back, and next time I might not be able to—" She clipped the words short and rose to her feet. For a moment she hesitated, then she choked bitterly: "You see, he's the kind that—notices too much, and that hadn't ought to notice—me —at all!" With that she was gone.
"Why, what a funny lady," murmured Pollyanna, looking wistfully after the vanishing figure. "She was nice, but she was sort of different, too," she commented, rising to her feet and moving idly down the path.