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Chapter 31 AFTER LONG YEARS

  • 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."
  • "AUNT POLLY!"
  • "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."
  • "But—w-why, auntie?"
  • "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.
  • "AUNT POLLY!"
  • "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."
  • "But—the conditions!"
  • "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.
  • "JOHN KENT."
  • 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?"
  • "Of course."
  • "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.