Pollyanna was so happy that night after she had sent her letter to Jimmy tha_he could not quite keep it to herself. Always before going to bed she steppe_nto her aunt's room to see if anything were needed. To-night, after the usua_uestions, she had turned to put out the light when a sudden impulse sent he_ack to her aunt's bedside. A little breathlessly she dropped on her knees.
"Aunt Polly, I'm so happy I just had to tell some one. I WANT to tell you. Ma_?"
"Tell me? Tell me what, child? Of course you may tell me. You mean, it's goo_ews—for ME?"
"Why, yes, dear; I hope so," blushed Pollyanna. "I hope it will make you—GLAD, a little, for me, you know. Of course Jimmy will tell you himself all properl_ome day. But _I_ wanted to tell you first."
"Jimmy!" Mrs. Chilton's face changed perceptibly.
"Yes, when—when he—he asks you for me," stammered Pollyanna, with a radian_lood of color. "Oh, I—I'm so happy, I HAD to tell you!"
"Asks me for you! Pollyanna!" Mrs. Chilton pulled herself up in bed. "Yo_on't mean to say there's anything SERIOUS between you and—Jimmy Bean!"
Pollyanna fell back in dismay.
"Why, auntie, I thought you LIKED Jimmy!"
"So I do—in his place. But that place isn't the husband of my niece."
"Come, come, child, don't look so shocked. This is all sheer nonsense, and I'_lad I've been able to stop it before it's gone any further."
"But, Aunt Polly, it HAS gone further," quavered Pollyanna. "Why, I—I alread_ave learned to lo— —c-care for him—dearly."
"Then you'll have to unlearn it, Pollyanna, for never, never will I give m_onsent to your marrying Jimmy Bean."
"First and foremost because we know nothing about him."
"Why, Aunt Polly, we've always known him, ever since I was a little girl!"
"Yes, and what was he? A rough little runaway urchin from an Orphans' Home! W_now nothing whatever about his people, and his pedigree."
"But I'm not marrying his p-people and his p-pedigree!"
With an impatient groan Aunt Polly fell back on her pillow.
"Pollyanna, you're making me positively ill. My heart is going like a tri_ammer. I sha'n't sleep a wink to-night. CAN'T you let this thing rest til_orning?"
Pollyanna was on her feet instantly, her face all contrition.
"Why, yes—yes, indeed; of course, Aunt Polly! And to-morrow you'll fee_ifferent, I'm sure. I'm sure you will," reiterated the girl, her voic_uivering with hope again, as she turned to extinguish the light.
But Aunt Polly did not "feel different" in the morning. If anything, he_pposition to the marriage was even more determined. In vain Pollyanna pleade_nd argued. In vain she showed how deeply her happiness was concerned. Aun_olly was obdurate. She would have none of the idea. She sternly admonishe_ollyanna as to the possible evils of heredity, and warned her of the danger_f marrying into she knew not what sort of family. She even appealed at las_o her sense of duty and gratitude toward herself, and reminded Pollyanna o_he long years of loving care that had been hers in the home of her aunt, an_he begged her piteously not to break her heart by this marriage as had he_other years before by HER marriage.
When Jimmy himself, radiant-faced and glowing-eyed, came at ten o'clock, h_as met by a frightened, sob-shaken little Pollyanna that tried ineffectuall_o hold him back with two trembling hands. With whitening cheeks, but wit_efiantly tender arms that held her close, he demanded an explanation.
"Pollyanna, dearest, what in the world is the meaning of this?"
"Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy, why did you come, why did you come? I was going to writ_nd tell you straight away," moaned Pollyanna.
"But you did write me, dear. I got it yesterday afternoon, just in time t_atch my train."
"No, no;—AGAIN, I mean. I didn't know then that I—I couldn't."
"Couldn't! Pollyanna,"—his eyes flamed into stern wrath,—"you don't mean t_ell me there's anybody ELSE'S love you think you've got to keep me waitin_or?" he demanded, holding her at arm's length.
"No, no, Jimmy! Don't look at me like that. I can't bear it!"
"Then what is it? What is it you can't do?"
"I can't—marry you."
"Pollyanna, do you love me?"
"Yes. Oh, y-yes."
"Then you shall marry me," triumphed Jimmy, his arms enfolding her again.
"No, no, Jimmy, you don't understand. It's—Aunt Polly," struggled Pollyanna.
"Yes. She—won't let me."
"Ho!" Jimmy tossed his head with a light laugh. "We'll fix Aunt Polly. Sh_hinks she's going to lose you, but we'll just remind her that she—she's goin_o gain a—a new nephew!" he finished in mock importance.
But Pollyanna did not smile. She turned her head hopelessly from side to side.
"No, no, Jimmy, you don't understand! She—she—oh, how can I tell you?—sh_bjects to—to YOU—for—ME."
Jimmy's arms relaxed a little. His eyes sobered.
"Oh, well, I suppose I can't blame her for that. I'm no—wonder, of course," h_dmitted constrainedly. "Still,"—he turned loving eyes upon her—"I'd try t_ake you—happy, dear."
"Indeed you would! I know you would," protested Pollyanna, tearfully.
"Then why not—give me a chance to try, Pollyanna, even if she—doesn't quit_pprove, at first. Maybe in time, after we were married, we could win he_ver."
"Oh, but I couldn't—I couldn't do that," moaned Pollyanna, "after what she'_aid. I couldn't—without her consent. You see, she's done so much for me, an_he's so dependent on me. She isn't well a bit, now, Jimmy. And, really, lately she's been so—so loving, and she's been trying so hard to—to play th_ame, you know, in spite of all her troubles. And she—she cried, Jimmy, an_egged me not to break her heart as—as mother did long ago. And—and Jimmy, I—_ust couldn't, after all she's done for me."
There was a moment's pause; then, with a vivid red mounting to her forehead, Pollyanna spoke again, brokenly.
"Jimmy, if you—if you could only tell Aunt Polly something about—about you_ather, and your people, and—"
Jimmy's arms dropped suddenly. He stepped back a little. The color draine_rom his face.
"Is—that—it?" he asked.
"Yes." Pollyanna came nearer, and touched his arm timidly. "Don't think—I_sn't for me, Jimmy. I don't care. Besides, I KNOW that your father and you_eople were all—all fine and noble, because YOU are so fine and noble. Bu_he—Jimmy, don't look at me like that!"
But Jimmy, with a low moan had turned quite away from her. A minute later, with only a few choking words, which she could not understand, he had left th_ouse.
From the Harrington homestead Jimmy went straight home and sought out Joh_endleton. He found him in the great crimson-hung library where, some year_efore, Pollyanna had looked fearfully about for the "skeleton in Joh_endleton's closet."
"Uncle John, do you remember that packet father gave me?" demanded Jimmy.
"Why, yes. What's the matter, son?" John Pendleton had given a start o_urprise at sight of Jimmy's face.
"That packet has got to be opened, sir."
"I can't help it. It's got to be. That's all. Will you do it?"
"Why, y-yes, my boy, of course, if you insist; but—" he paused helplessly.
"Uncle John, as perhaps you have guessed, I love Pollyanna. I asked her to b_y wife, and she consented." The elder man made a delighted exclamation, bu_he other did not pause, or change his sternly intent expression. "She say_ow she can't—marry me. Mrs. Chilton objects. She objects to ME."
"OBJECTS to YOU!" John Pendleton's eyes flashed angrily.
"Yes. I found out why when—when Pollyanna begged if I couldn't tell her aun_omething about—about my father and my people."
"Shucks! I thought Polly Chilton had more sense—still, it's just like her, after all. The Harringtons have always been inordinately proud of race an_amily," snapped John Pendleton. "Well, could you?"
"COULD _I_! It was on the end of my tongue to tell Pollyanna that ther_ouldn't have been a better father than mine was; then, suddenly, _emembered—the packet, and what it said. And I was afraid. I didn't dare say _ord till I knew what was inside that packet. There's something dad didn'_ant me to know till I was thirty years old—when I would be a man grown, an_ould stand anything. See? There's a secret somewhere in our lives. I've go_o know that secret, and I've got to know it now."
"But, Jimmy, lad, don't look so tragic. It may be a good secret. Perhaps it'l_e something you'll LIKE to know."
"Perhaps. But if it had been, would he have been apt to keep it from me till _as thirty years old? No! Uncle John, it was something he was trying to sav_e from till I was old enough to stand it and not flinch. Understand, I'm no_laming dad. Whatever it was, it was something he couldn't help, I'll warrant.
But WHAT it was I've got to know. Will you get it, please? It's in your safe, you know."
John Pendleton rose at once.
"I'll get it," he said. Three minutes later it lay in Jimmy's hand; but Jimm_eld it out at once.
"I would rather you read it, sir, please. Then tell me."
"But, Jimmy, I—very well." With a decisive gesture John Pendleton picked up _aper-cutter, opened the envelope, and pulled out the contents. There was _ackage of several papers tied together, and one folded sheet alone, apparently a letter. This John Pendleton opened and read first. And as h_ead, Jimmy, tense and breathless, watched his face. He saw, therefore, th_ook of amazement, joy, and something else he could not name, that leaped int_ohn Pendleton's countenance.
"Uncle John, what is it? What is it?" he demanded.
"Read it—for yourself," answered the man, thrusting the letter into Jimmy'_utstretched hand. And Jimmy read this:
"The enclosed papers are the legal proof that my boy Jimmy is really Jame_ent, son of John Kent, who married Doris Wetherby, daughter of Willia_etherby of Boston. There is also a letter in which I explain to my boy why _ave kept him from his mother's family all these years. If this packet i_pened by him at thirty years of age, he will read this letter, and I hop_ill forgive a father who feared to lose his boy entirely, so took thi_rastic course to keep him to himself. If it is opened by strangers, becaus_f his death, I request that his mother's people in Boston be notified a_nce, and the inclosed package of papers be given, intact, into their hands.
Jimmy was pale and shaken when he looked up to meet John Pendleton's eyes.
"Am I—the lost—Jamie?" he faltered.
"That letter says you have documents there to prove it," nodded the other.
"Mrs. Carew's nephew?"
"But, why—what—I can't realize it!" There was a moment's pause before int_immy's face flashed a new joy. "Then, surely now I know who I am! I ca_ell—Mrs. Chilton SOMETHING of my people."
"I should say you could," retorted John Pendleton, dryly. "The Bosto_etherbys can trace straight back to the crusades, and I don't know but to th_ear one. That ought to satisfy her. As for your father—he came of good stock, too, Mrs. Carew told me, though he was rather eccentric, and not pleasing t_he family, as you know, of course."
"Yes. Poor dad! And what a life he must have lived with me all thos_ears—always dreading pursuit. I can understand—lots of things, now, that use_o puzzle me. A woman called me 'Jamie,' once. Jove! how angry he was! I kno_ow why he hurried me away that night without even waiting for supper. Poo_ad! It was right after that he was taken sick. He couldn't use his hands o_is feet, and very soon he couldn't talk straight. Something ailed his speech.
I remember when he died he was trying to tell me something about this packet.
I believe now he was telling me to open it, and go to my mother's people; bu_ thought then he was just telling me to keep it safe. So that's what _romised him. But it didn't comfort him any. It only seemed to worry him more.
You see, I didn't understand. Poor dad!"
"Suppose we take a look at these papers," suggested John Pendleton. "Besides, there's a letter from your father to you, I understand. Don't you want to rea_t?"
"Yes, of course. And then—" the young fellow laughed shamefacedly and glance_t the clock—"I was wondering just how soon I could go back—to Pollyanna."
A thoughtful frown came to John Pendleton's face. He glanced at Jimmy, hesitated, then spoke.
"I know you want to see Pollyanna, lad, and I don't blame you; but it strike_e that, under the circumstances, you should go first to—Mrs. Carew, and tak_hese." He tapped the papers before him.
Jimmy drew his brows together and pondered.
"All right, sir, I will." he agreed resignedly.
"And if you don't mind, I'd like to go with you," further suggested Joh_endleton, a little diffidently.
"I—I have a little matter of my own that I'd like to see—your aunt about.
Suppose we go down today on the three o'clock?"
"Good! We will, sir. Gorry! And so I'm Jamie! I can't grasp it yet!" exclaime_he young man, springing to his feet, and restlessly moving about the room. "_onder, now," he stopped, and colored boyishly, "do you think—Aunt Ruth—wil_ind—very much?"
John Pendleton shook his head. A hint of the old somberness came into hi_yes.
"Hardly, my boy. But—I'm thinking of myself. How about it? When you're he_oy, where am I coming in?"
"You! Do you think ANYTHING could put you one side?" scoffed Jimmy, fervently.
"You needn't worry about that. And SHE won't mind. She has Jamie, you know, and—" He stopped short, a dawning dismay in his eyes. "By George! Uncle John, I forgot—Jamie. This is going to be tough on—Jamie!"
"Yes, I'd thought of that. Still, he's legally adopted, isn't he?"
"Oh, yes; it isn't that. It's the fact that he isn't the real Jami_imself—and he with his two poor useless legs! Why, Uncle John, it'll jus_bout kill him. I've heard him talk. I know. Besides, Pollyanna and Mrs. Care_oth have told me how he feels, how SURE he is, and how happy he is. Grea_cott! I can't take away from him this—But what CAN I do?" "I don't know, m_oy. I don't see as there's anything you can do, but what you are doing."
There was a long silence. Jimmy had resumed his nervous pacing up and down th_oom. Suddenly he wheeled, his face alight.
"There IS a way, and I'll do it. I KNOW Mrs. Carew will agree. WE WON'T TELL!
We won't tell anybody but Mrs. Carew herself, and—and Pollyanna and her aunt.
I'll HAVE to tell them," he added defensively.
"You certainly will, my boy. As for the rest—" John Pendleton pause_oubtfully.
"It's nobody's business."
"But, remember, you are making quite a sacrifice—in several ways. I want yo_o weigh it well."
"Weigh it? I have weighed it, and there's nothing in it—with Jamie on th_ther side of the scales, sir. I just couldn't do it. That's all."
"I don't blame you, and I think you're right," declared John Pendleto_eartily. "Furthermore, I believe Mrs. Carew will agree with you, particularl_s she'll KNOW now that the real Jamie is found at last."
"You know she's always said she'd seen me somewhere," chuckled Jimmy. "Now ho_oon does that train go? I'm ready."
"Well, I'm not," laughed John Pendleton. "Luckily for me it doesn't go fo_ome hours yet, anyhow," he finished, as he got to his feet and left the room.