“That’s the way I felt, too—till I happened ter think—it would be easier if she could find somethin’, ye know. So I tried to—to remind her.”

“To remind her! Of what?” John Pendleton’s voice was still angrily impatient.

“Of—of how she told others ter play it Mis’ Snow, and the rest, ye know—and what she said for them ter do. But the poor little lamb just cries, an’ says it don’t seem the same, somehow. She says it’s easy ter tell lifelong invalids how ter be glad, but ’tain’t the same thing when you’re the lifelong invalid yerself, an’ have ter try ter do it. She says she’s told herself over an’ over again how glad she is that other folks ain’t like her; but that all the time she’s sayin’ it, she ain’t really thinkin’ of anythin’ only how she can’t ever walk again.”

Nancy paused, but the man did not speak. He sat with his hand over his eyes.

“Then I tried ter remind her how she used ter say the game was all the nicer ter play when—when it was hard,” resumed Nancy, in a dull voice. “But she says that, too, is diff’rent—when it really IS hard. An’ I must be goin’, now, sir,” she broke off abruptly.

At the door she hesitated, turned, and asked timidly:

“I couldn’t be tellin’ Miss Pollyanna that—that you’d seen Jimmy Bean again, I s’pose, sir, could I?”

“I don’t see how you could—as I haven’t seen him,” observed the man a little shortly. “Why?”

“Nothin’, sir, only—well, ye see, that’s one of the things that she was feelin’ bad about, that she couldn’t take him ter see you, now. She said she’d taken him once, but she didn’t think he showed off very well that day, and that she was afraid you didn’t think he would make a very nice child’s presence, after all. Maybe you know what she means by that; but I didn’t, sir.”

“Yes, I know—what she means.”

“All right, sir. It was only that she was wantin’ ter take him again, she said, so’s ter show ye he really was a lovely child’s presence. And now she—can’t—drat that autymobile! I begs yer pardon, sir. Goodby!” And Nancy fled precipitately.

It did not take long for the entire town of Beldingsville to learn that the great New York doctor had said Pollyanna Whittier would never walk again; and certainly never before had the town been so stirred. Everybody knew by sight now the piquant little freckled face that had always a smile of greeting; and almost everybody knew of the “game” that Pollyanna was playing. To think that now never again would that smiling face be seen on their streets—never again would that cheery little voice proclaim the gladness of some everyday experience! It seemed unbelievable, impossible, cruel.

In kitchens and sitting rooms, and over backyard fences women talked of it, and wept openly. On street corners and in store lounging-places the men talked, too, and wept—though not so openly. And neither the talking nor the weeping grew less when fast on the heels of the news itself, came Nancy’s pitiful story that Pollyanna, face to face with what had come to her, was bemoaning most of all the fact that she could not play the game; that she could not now be glad over—anything.

It was then that the same thought must have, in some way, come to Pollyanna’s friends. At all events, almost at once, the mistress of the Harrington homestead, greatly to her surprise, began to receive calls: calls from people she knew, and people she did not know; calls from men, women, and children—many of whom Miss Polly had not supposed that her niece knew at all.

Some came in and sat down for a stiff five or ten minutes. Some stood awkwardly on the porch steps, fumbling with hats or hand-bags, according to their sex. Some brought a book, a bunch of flowers, or a dainty to tempt the palate. Some cried frankly. Some turned their backs and blew their noses furiously.

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