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Pollyanna Grows Up (Chapter6)

2006-08-28 14:34

  Chapter VI. Jerry to the Rescue

  It was not long before Pollyanna reached the edge of the Garden at a corner where two streets crossed. It was a wonderfully interesting corner, with its hurrying cars, automobiles, carriages and pedestrians. A huge red bottle in a drug-store window caught her eye, and from down the street came the sound of a hurdy-gurdy. Hesitating only a moment Pollyanna darted across the corner and skipped lightly down the street toward the entrancing music.

  Pollyanna found much to interest her now. In the store windows were marvelous objects, and around the hurdy-gurdy, when she had reached it, she found a dozen dancing children, most fascinating to watch. So altogether delightful, indeed, did this pastime prove to be that Pollyanna followed the hurdy-gurdy for some distance, just to see those children dance. Presently she found herself at a corner so busy that a very big man in a belted blue coat helped the people across the street. For an absorbed minute she watched him in silence; then, a little timidly, she herself started to cross.

  It was a wonderful experience. The big, blue-coated man saw her at once and promptly beckoned to her. He even walked to meet her. Then, through a wide lane with puffing motors and impatient horses on either hand, she walked unscathed to the further curb. It gave her a delightful sensation, so delightful that, after a minute, she walked back. Twice again, after short intervals, she trod the fascinating way so magically opened at the lifting of the big man's hand. But the last time her conductor left her at the curb, he gave a puzzled frown.

  "See here, little girl, ain't you the same one what crossed a minute ago?" he demanded. "And again before that?"

  "Yes, sir," beamed Pollyanna. "I've been across four times!"

  "Well!" the officer began to bluster; but Pollyanna was still talking.

  "And it's been nicer every time!"

  "Oh-h, it has——has it?" mumbled the big man, lamely. Then, with a little more spirit he sputtered: "What do you think I'm here for——just to tote you back and forth?"

  "Oh, no, sir," dimpled Pollyanna. "Of course you aren't just for me! There are all these others. I know what you are. You're a policeman. We've got one of you out where I live at Mrs. Carew's, only he's the kind that just walks on the sidewalk, you know. I used to think you were soldiers, on account of your gold buttons and blue hats; but I know better now. Only I think you are a kind of a soldier, 'cause you're so brave——standing here like this, right in the middle of all these teams and automobiles, helping folks across."

  "Ho——ho! Brrrr!" spluttered the big man, coloring like a schoolboy and throwing back his head with a hearty laugh. "Ho——ho! Just as if——" He broke off with a quick lifting of his hand. The next moment he was escorting a plainly very much frightened little old lady from curb to curb. If his step were a bit more pompous, and his chest a bit more full, it must have been only an unconscious tribute to the watching eyes of the little girl back at the starting-point. A moment later, with a haughtily permissive wave of his hand toward the chafing drivers and chauffeurs, he strolled back to Pollyanna.

  "Oh, that was splendid!" she greeted him, with shining eyes. "I love to see you do it——and it's just like the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, isn't it?——with you holding back the waves for the people to cross. And how glad you must be all the time, that you can do it! I used to think being a doctor was the very gladdest business there was, but I reckon, after all, being a policeman is gladder yet——to help frightened people like this, you know. And——" But with another "Brrrr!" and an embarrassed laugh, the big blue-coated man was back in the middle of the street, and Pollyanna was all alone on the curbstone.

  For only a minute longer did Pollyanna watch her fascinating "Red Sea," then, with a regretful backward glance, she turned away.

  "I reckon maybe I'd better be going home now," she meditated. "It must be 'most dinner time." And briskly she started to walk back by the way she had come.

  Not until she had hesitated at several corners, and unwittingly made two false turns, did Pollyanna grasp the fact that "going back home" was not to be so easy as she had thought it to be. And not until she came to a building which she knew she had never seen before, did she fully realize that she had lost her way.

  She was on a narrow street, dirty, and ill-paved. Dingy tenement blocks and a few unattractive stores were on either side. All about were jabbering men and chattering women——though not one word of what they said could Pollyanna understand. Moreover, she could not help seeing that the people looked at her very curiously, as if they knew she did not belong there.

  Several times, already, she had asked her way, but in vain. No one seemed to know where Mrs. Carew lived; and, the last two times, those addressed had answered with a gesture and a jumble of words which Pollyanna, after some thought, decided must be "Dutch," the kind the Haggermans——the only foreign family in Beldingsville——used.

  On and on, down one street and up another, Pollyanna trudged. She was thoroughly frightened now. She was hungry, too, and very tired. Her feet ached, and her eyes smarted with the tears she was trying so hard to hold back. Worse yet, it was unmistakably beginning to grow dark.

  "Well, anyhow," she choked to herself, "I'm going to be glad I'm lost, 'cause it'll be so nice when I get found. I can be glad for that!"

  It was at a noisy corner where two broader streets crossed that Pollyanna finally came to a dismayed stop. This time the tears quite overflowed, so that, lacking a handkerchief, she had to use the backs of both hands to wipe them away.

  "Hullo, kid, why the weeps?" queried a cheery voice. "What's up?"

  With a relieved little cry Pollyanna turned to confront a small boy carrying a bundle of newspapers under his arm.

  "Oh, I'm so glad to see you!" she exclaimed. "I've so wanted to see some one who didn't talk Dutch!"

  The small boy grinned.

  "Dutch nothin'!" he scoffed. "You mean Dago, I bet ye."

  Pollyanna gave a slight frown.

  "Well, anyway, it——it wasn't English," she said doubtfully; "and they couldn't answer my questions. But maybe you can. Do you know where Mrs. Carew lives?"

  "Nix! You can search me."

  "Wha-at?" queried Pollyanna, still more doubtfully.

  The boy grinned again.

  "I say not in mine. I guess I ain't acquainted with the lady."

  "But isn't there anybody anywhere that is?" implored Pollyanna. "You see, I just went out for a walk and I got lost. I've been ever and ever so far, but I can't find the house at all; and it's supper——I mean dinner time and getting dark. I want to get back. I must get back."

  "Gee! Well, I should worry!" sympathized the boy.

  "Yes, and I'm afraid Mrs. Carew'll worry, too," sighed Pollyanna.

  "Gorry! if you ain't the limit," chuckled the youth, unexpectedly. "But, say, listen! Don't ye know the name of the street ye want?"

  "No——only that it's some kind of an avenue," desponded Pollyanna.

  "A avenoo, is it? Sure, now, some class to that! We're doin' fine. What's the number of the house? Can ye tell me that? Just scratch your head!"

  "Scratch——my——head?" Pollyanna frowned questioningly, and raised a tentative hand to her hair.

  The boy eyed her with disdain.

  "Aw, come off yer perch! Ye ain't so dippy as all that. I say, don't ye know the number of the house ye want?"

  "N-no, except there's a seven in it," returned Pollyanna, with a faintly hopeful air.

  "Won't ye listen ter that?" gibed the scornful youth. "There's a seven in it——an' she expects me ter know it when I see it!"

  "Oh, I should know the house, if I could only see it," declared Pollyanna, eagerly; "and I think I'd know the street, too, on account of the lovely long yard running right up and down through the middle of it."

  This time it was the boy who gave a puzzled frown.

  "Yard?" he queried, "in the middle of a street?"

  "Yes——trees and grass, you know, with a walk in the middle of it, and seats, and——" But the boy interrupted her with a whoop of delight.

  "Gee whiz! Commonwealth Avenue, sure as yer livin'! Wouldn't that get yer goat, now?"

  "Oh, do you know——do you, really?" besought Pollyanna. "That sounded like it——only I don't know what you meant about the goat part. There aren't any goats there. I don't think they'd allow——"

  "Goats nothin'!" scoffed the boy. "You bet yer sweet life I know where 'tis! Don't I tote Sir James up there to the Garden 'most ev'ry day? An' I'll take you, too. Jest ye hang out here till I get on ter my job again, an' sell out my stock. Then we'll make tracks for that 'ere Avenue 'fore ye can say Jack Robinson."

  "You mean you'll take me——home?" appealed Pollyanna, still plainly not quite understanding.

  "Sure! It's a cinch——if you know the house."

  "Oh, yes, I know the house," replied the literal Pollyanna, anxiously, "but I don't know whether it's a——a cinch, or not. If it isn't, can't you——"

  But the boy only threw her another disdainful glance and darted off into the thick of the crowd. A moment later Pollyanna heard his strident call of "paper, paper! Herald, Globe,——paper, sir?"

  With a sigh of relief Pollyanna stepped back into a doorway and waited. She was tired, but she was happy. In spite of sundry puzzling aspects of the case, she yet trusted the boy, and she had perfect confidence that he could take her home.

  "He's nice, and I like him," she said to herself, following with her eyes the boy's alert, darting figure. "But he does talk funny. His words sound English, but some of them don't seem to make any sense with the rest of what he says. But then, I'm glad he found me, anyway," she finished with a contented little sigh.

  It was not long before the boy returned, his hands empty.

  "Come on, kid. All aboard," he called cheerily. "Now we'll hit the trail for the Avenue. If I was the real thing, now, I'd tote ye home in style in a buzzwagon; but seein' as how I hain't got the dough, we'll have ter hoof it."

  It was, for the most part, a silent walk. Pollyanna, for once in her life, was too tired to talk, even of the Ladies' Aiders; and the boy was intent on picking out the shortest way to his goal. When the Public Garden was reached, Pollyanna did exclaim joyfully:

  "Oh, now I'm 'most there! I remember this place. I had a perfectly lovely time here this afternoon. It's only a little bit of a ways home now."

  "That's the stuff! Now we're gettin' there," crowed the boy. "What'd I tell ye? We'll just cut through here to the Avenue, an' then it'll be up ter you ter find the house."

  "Oh, I can find the house," exulted Pollyanna, with all the confidence of one who has reached familiar ground.

  It was quite dark when Pollyanna led the way up the broad Carew steps. The boy's ring at the bell was very quickly answered, and Pollyanna found herself confronted by not only Mary, but by Mrs. Carew, Bridget, and Jennie as well. All four of the women were white-faced and anxious-eyed.

  "Child, child, where have you been?" demanded Mrs. Carew, hurrying forward.

  "Why, I——I just went to walk," began Pollyanna, "and I got lost, and this boy——"

  "Where did you find her?" cut in Mrs. Carew, turning imperiously to Pollyanna's escort, who was, at the moment, gazing in frank admiration at the wonders about him in the brilliantly-lighted hall.

  "Where did you find her, boy?" she repeated sharply.

  For a brief moment the boy met her gaze unflinchingly; then something very like a twinkle came into his eyes, though his voice, when he spoke, was gravity itself.

  "Well, I found her 'round Bowdoin Square, but I reckon she'd been doin' the North End, only she couldn't catch on ter the lingo of the Dagos, so I don't think she give 'em the glad hand, ma'am."

  "The North End——that child——alone! Pollyanna!" shuddered Mrs. Carew.

  "Oh, I wasn't alone, Mrs. Carew," fended Pollyanna. "There were ever and ever so many people there, weren't there, boy?"

  But the boy, with an impish grin, was disappearing through the door.

  Pollyanna learned many things during the next half-hour. She learned that nice little girls do not take long walks alone in unfamiliar cities, nor sit on park benches and talk to strangers. She learned, also, that it was only by a "perfectly marvelous miracle" that she had reached home at all that night, and that she had escaped many, many very disagreeable consequences of her foolishness. She learned that Boston was not Beldingsville, and that she must not think it was.

  "But, Mrs. Carew," she finally argued despairingly, "I am here, and I didn't get lost for keeps. Seems as if I ought to be glad for that instead of thinking all the time of the sorry things that might have happened."

  "Yes, yes, child, I suppose so, I suppose so," sighed Mrs. Carew; "but you have given me such a fright, and I want you to be sure, sure, sure never to do it again. Now come, dear, you must be hungry."

  It was just as she was dropping off to sleep that night that Pollyanna murmured drowsily to herself:

  "The thing I'm the very sorriest for of anything is that I didn't ask that boy his name nor where he lived. Now I can't ever say thank you to him!"

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