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Chapter 18 A MATTER OF ADJUSTMENT

  • The first few days at Beldingsville were not easy either for Mrs. Chilton o_or Pollyanna. They were days of adjustment; and days of adjustment are seldo_asy.
  • From travel and excitement it was not easy to put one's mind to th_onsideration of the price of butter and the delinquencies of the butcher.
  • From having all one's time for one's own, it was not easy to find always th_ext task clamoring to be done. Friends and neighbors called, too, an_lthough Pollyanna welcomed them with glad cordiality, Mrs. Chilton, whe_ossible, excused herself; and always she said bitterly to Pollyanna:
  • "Curiosity, I suppose, to see how Polly Harrington likes being poor."
  • Of the doctor Mrs. Chilton seldom spoke, yet Pollyanna knew very well tha_lmost never was he absent from her thoughts; and that more than half he_aciturnity was but her usual cloak for a deeper emotion which she did no_are to show.
  • Jimmy Pendleton Pollyanna saw several times during that first month. He cam_irst with John Pendleton for a somewhat stiff and ceremonious call—not tha_t was either stiff or ceremonious until after Aunt Polly came into the room; then it was both. For some reason Aunt Polly had not excused herself on thi_ccasion. After that Jimmy had come by himself, once with flowers, once with _ook for Aunt Polly, twice with no excuse at all. Pollyanna welcomed him wit_rank pleasure always. Aunt Polly, after that first time, did not see him a_ll.
  • To the most of their friends and acquaintances Pollyanna said little about th_hange in their circumstances. To Jimmy, however, she talked freely, an_lways her constant cry was: "If only I could do something to bring in som_oney!"
  • "I'm getting to be the most mercenary little creature you ever saw," sh_aughed dolefully. "I've got so I measure everything with a dollar bill, and _ctually think in quarters and dimes. You see, Aunt Polly does feel so poor!"
  • "It's a shame!" stormed Jimmy.
  • "I know it. But, honestly, I think she feels a little poorer than she need_o—she's brooded over it so. But I do wish I could help!"
  • Jimmy looked down at the wistful, eager face with its luminous eyes, and hi_wn eyes softened.
  • "What do you WANT to do—if you could do it?" he asked.
  • "Oh, I want to cook and keep house," smiled Pollyanna, with a pensive sigh. "_ust love to beat eggs and sugar, and hear the soda gurgle its little tune i_he cup of sour milk. I'm happy if I've got a day's baking before me. Bu_here isn't any money in that—except in somebody else's kitchen, of course.
  • And I—I don't exactly love it well enough for that!"
  • "I should say not!" ejaculated the young fellow.
  • Once more he glanced down at the expressive face so near him. This time _ueer look came to the corners of his mouth. He pursed his lips, then spoke, _low red mounting to his forehead.
  • "Well, of course you might—marry. Have you thought of that—Miss Pollyanna?"
  • Pollyanna gave a merry laugh. Voice and manner were unmistakably those of _irl quite untouched by even the most far-reaching of Cupid's darts.
  • "Oh, no, I shall never marry," she said blithely. "In the first place I'm no_retty, you know; and in the second place, I'm going to live with Aunt Poll_nd take care of her."
  • "Not pretty, eh?" smiled Pendleton, quizzically. "Did it ever—er—occur to yo_hat there might be a difference of opinion on that, Pollyanna?"
  • Pollyanna shook her head.
  • "There couldn't be. I've got a mirror, you see," she objected, with a merr_lance.
  • It sounded like coquetry. In any other girl it would have been coquetry, Pendleton decided. But, looking into the face before him now, Pendleton kne_hat it was not coquetry. He knew, too, suddenly, why Pollyanna had seemed s_ifferent from any girl he had ever known. Something of her old literal way o_ooking at things still clung to her.
  • "Why aren't you pretty?" he asked.
  • Even as he uttered the question, and sure as he was of his estimate o_ollyanna's character, Pendleton quite held his breath at his temerity. H_ould not help thinking of how quickly any other girl he knew would hav_esented that implied acceptance of her claim to no beauty. But Pollyanna'_irst words showed him that even this lurking fear of his was quit_roundless.
  • "Why, I just am not," she laughed, a little ruefully. "I wasn't made that way.
  • Maybe you don't remember, but long ago, when I was a little girl, it alway_eemed to me that one of the nicest things Heaven was going to give me when _ot there was black curls."
  • "And is that your chief desire now?"
  • "N-no, maybe not," hesitated Pollyanna. "But I still think I'd like them.
  • Besides, my eyelashes aren't long enough, and my nose isn't Grecian, or Roman, or any of those delightfully desirable ones that belong to a 'type.' It's jus_OSE. And my face is too long, or too short, I've forgotten which; but _easured it once with one of those 'correct-for-beauty' tests, and it wasn'_ight, anyhow. And they said the width of the face should be equal to fiv_yes, and the width of the eyes equal to—to something else. I've forgotte_hat, too—only that mine wasn't."
  • "What a lugubrious picture!" laughed Pendleton. Then, with his gaze admiringl_egarding the girl's animated face and expressive eyes, he asked:
  • "Did you ever look in the mirror when you were talking, Pollyanna?"
  • "Why, no, of course not!"
  • "Well, you'd better try it sometime."
  • "What a funny idea! Imagine my doing it," laughed the girl. "What shall I say?
  • Like this? 'Now, you, Pollyanna, what if your eyelashes aren't long, and you_ose is just a nose, be glad you've got SOME eyelashes and SOME nose!'"
  • Pendleton joined in her laugh, but an odd expression came to his face.
  • "Then you still play—the game," he said, a little diffidently.
  • Pollyanna turned soft eyes of wonder full upon him.
  • "Why, of course! Why, Jimmy, I don't believe I could have lived—the last si_onths—if it hadn't been for that blessed game." Her voice shook a little.
  • "I haven't heard you say much about it," he commented.
  • She changed color.
  • "I know. I think I'm afraid—of saying too much—to outsiders, who don't care, you know. It wouldn't sound quite the same from me now, at twenty, as it di_hen I was ten. I realize that, of course. Folks don't like to be preached at, you know," she finished with a whimsical smile.
  • "I know," nodded the young fellow gravely. "But I wonder sometimes, Pollyanna, if you really understand yourself what that game is, and what it has done fo_hose who are playing it."
  • "I know—what it has done for myself." Her voice was low, and her eyes wer_urned away.
  • "You see, it really WORKS, if you play it," he mused aloud, after a shor_ilence. "Somebody said once that it would revolutionize the world i_verybody would really play it. And I believe it would."
  • "Yes; but some folks don't want to be revolutionized," smiled Pollyanna. "_an across a man in Germany last year. He had lost his money, and was in har_uck generally. Dear, dear, but he was gloomy! Somebody in my presence trie_o cheer him up one day by saying, 'Come, come, things might be worse, yo_now!' Dear, dear, but you should have heard that man then!
  • "'If there is anything on earth that makes me mad clear through,' he snarled,
  • 'it is to be told that things might be worse, and to be thankful for what I'v_ot left. These people who go around with an everlasting grin on their face_aroling forth that they are thankful that they can breathe, or eat, or walk, or lie down, I have no use for. I don't WANT to breathe, or eat, or walk, o_ie down—if things are as they are now with me. And when I'm told that I ough_o be thankful for some such tommyrot as that, it makes me just want to go ou_nd shoot somebody!' Imagine what I'D have gotten if I'd have introduced th_lad game to that man!" laughed Pollyanna.
  • "I don't care. He needed it," answered Jimmy.
  • "Of course he did—but he wouldn't have thanked me for giving it to him."
  • "I suppose not. But, listen! As he was, under his present philosophy an_cheme of living, he made himself and everybody else wretched, didn't he?
  • Well, just suppose he was playing the game. While he was trying to hunt u_omething to be glad about in everything that had happened to him, he COULDN'_e at the same time grumbling and growling about how bad things were; so tha_uch would be gained. He'd be a whole lot easier to live with, both fo_imself and for his friends. Meanwhile, just thinking of the doughnut instea_f the hole couldn't make things any worse for him, and it might make thing_etter; for it wouldn't give him such a gone feeling in the pit of hi_tomach, and his digestion would be better. I tell you, troubles are poo_hings to hug. They've got too many prickers."
  • Pollyanna smiled appreciatively.
  • "That makes me think of what I told a poor old lady once. She was one of m_adies' Aiders out West, and was one of the kind of people that really ENJOY_eing miserable and telling over her causes for unhappiness. I was perhaps te_ears old, and was trying to teach her the game. I reckon I wasn't having ver_ood success, and evidently I at last dimly realized the reason, for I said t_er triumphantly: 'Well, anyhow, you can be glad you've got such a lot o_hings to make you miserable, for you love to be miserable so well!'"
  • "Well, if that wasn't a good one on her," chuckled Jimmy.
  • Pollyanna raised her eyebrows.
  • "I'm afraid she didn't enjoy it any more than the man in Germany would have i_'d told him the same thing."
  • "But they ought to be told, and you ought to tell—" Pendleton stopped shor_ith so queer an expression on his face that Pollyanna looked at him i_urprise.
  • "Why, Jimmy, what is it?"
  • "Oh, nothing. I was only thinking," he answered, puckering his lips. "Here _m urging you to do the very thing I was afraid you WOULD do before I saw you, you know. That is, I was afraid before I saw you, that—that—" He floundere_nto a helpless pause, looking very red indeed.
  • "Well, Jimmy Pendleton," bridled the girl, "you needn't think you can sto_here, sir. Now just what do you mean by all that, please?"
  • "Oh, er—n-nothing, much."
  • "I'm waiting," murmured Pollyanna. Voice and manner were calm and confident, though the eyes twinkled mischievously.
  • The young fellow hesitated, glanced at her smiling face, and capitulated.
  • "Oh, well, have it your own way," he shrugged. "It's only that I wa_orrying—a little—about that game, for fear you WOULD talk it just as you use_o, you know, and—" But a merry peal of laughter interrupted him.
  • "There, what did I tell you? Even you were worried, it seems, lest I should b_t twenty just what I was at ten!"
  • "N-no, I didn't mean—Pollyanna, honestly, I thought—of course I knew—" Bu_ollyanna only put her hands to her ears and went off into another peal o_aughter.