«Oh, I know just the place for you,» she cried. «Aunt Polly will 1 take you — I know she will! Didn’t she take me? And didn’t she take Fluffy and Buffy, when they didn’t have anyone to love them, or any place to go? And they’re only cats and dogs. Oh, come, I know Aunt Polly will take you! You don’t know how good and kind she is!»
Jimmy Bean’s thin little face brightened.
«Honestly? Would she? I’ll work, you know, and I’m really strong!» He bared a small, bony arm.
«Of course she would! Why, my Aunt Polly is the nicest lady in the world now that my mama has gone to be a Heaven angel. And there are a lot of rooms,» she continued, springing to her feet, and tugging at his arm. «Maybe, though,» she added a little anxiously, as they hurried on, «you’ll have to sleep in the attic room. I did, at first. But there are screens there now, so it won’t be so hot. You won’t mind sleeping in that room at all, I’m sure,» panted Pollyanna.
When the house was reached, Pollyanna unhesitatingly piloted her companion straight into the presence of her amazed aunt.
«Oh, Aunt Polly,» she cried, «just look! I’ve got something much nicer than Fluffy and Buffy for you to bring up. It’s a real live boy. He won’t mind sleeping in the attic, at first, and he says he’ll work; but I’ll need him the most of the time to play with, I reckon.»
Miss Polly grew white, then very red. She did not quite understand; but she thought she understood enough.
«Pollyanna, what does this mean? Who is this dirty little boy? Where did you find him?» she demanded sharply.
The «dirty little boy» made a step back and looked toward the door. Pollyanna laughed merrily.
«I forgot to tell you his name! This is Jimmy Bean, Aunt Polly. And he is dirty, just like Fluffy and Buffy were when you took them in. But I reckon he’ll improve all right by washing, just as they did.»
«Well, what is he doing here?»
«Why, Aunt Polly, I just told you!» Pollyanna’s eyes were wide with surprise. «He is for you. He wants a home and a family. I told him how good you were to me, and to Fluffy and Buffy, and that I knew you would be to him, because of course he’s even nicer than cats and dogs.»
Miss Polly dropped back in her chair and raised a shaking hand to her throat. The old helplessness was threatening once more to overcome her. With a visible struggle, however, Miss Polly pulled herself suddenly erect.
«That will do, Pollyanna. This is the most absurd thing you’ve done yet. As if tramp cats and mangy dogs weren’t bad enough, you bring home ragged little beggars from the street, who -»
Jimmy’s eyes flashed and his chin came up. With two strides of his sturdy little legs he confronted Miss Polly fearlessly.
«I am not a beggar, madam, and I don’t want anything of you. I was going to work, of course, for my board and keep. I wouldn’t have come to your house, anyhow, if this girl hadn’t made me, telling me how good and kind you were. So, goodbye!» And he wheeled about and stalked from the room.
«Oh, Aunt Polly,» choked Pollyanna. «Why, I thought you’d be glad to have him here!»
Miss Polly raised her hand with a peremptory gesture of silence. The «good and kind» of the boy’s words were still ringing in her ears, and the old helplessness was almost upon her, she knew.
«Pollyanna,» she cried sharply, «Will you stop using that everlasting word ‘glad’! It’s ‘glad’ — ‘glad’ — ‘glad’ from morning till night until I think I’ll go mad!»
«Why, Aunt Polly, I thought you’d be glad to — Oh!» she broke off, clapping her hand to her lips and hurrying blindly from the room.
Before the boy had reached the end of the driveway, Pollyanna overtook him.
«Jimmy Bean, I want you to know how sorry I am,» she panted, catching him with a detaining hand.
«There’s nothing to be sorry! I’m not blaming you,» retorted the boy, sullenly. «But I’m not a beggar!» he added, with sudden spirit.
«Of course you aren’t! But you mustn’t blame my auntie. Probably I didn’t do the introducing right, and I didn’t tell her much about you. She is good and kind, really; but I probably didn’t explain it right. I wish I could find some place for you, though!»
The boy shrugged his shoulders and turned away.
«Never mind. I guess I can find one myself.»
Pollyanna frowned thoughtfully. All of a sudden she turned her brightened face to him.
«I’ll tell you what I will do! The Ladies’ Aid meets this afternoon. I heard Aunt Polly say so. I’ll lay your case before them. That’s what father always did, when he wanted anything.»
«Well, what is this Ladies’ Aid?»
Pollyanna stared in shocked disapproval.
«Why, it’s just a lot of ladies who meet and sew and give suppers and raise money and talk. They’re awfully kind — that is, back home. I haven’t seen the Ladies’ Aid here, but they’re always good, I reckon. I’m going to tell them about you this afternoon.»
«You think I’m going to stand and hear a whole lot of women call me a beggar, instead of just one! No way!»
«Oh, but you wouldn’t be there,» argued Pollyanna, quickly. «I’ll go alone, of course, and tell them. And there’ll be some of them, I know, who would be glad to give you a home.»