In due time the telegram announced that Pollyanna would arrive in Beldingsville the next day at four o’clock. Miss Polly read the telegram, frowned, and then climbed the stairs to the attic room. She still frowned as she looked about her.
The room contained a small bed, neatly made, two straight — backed chairs, a washstand, a bureau — without any mirror — and a small table. There were no curtains at the windows, no pictures on the wall. All day the sun had been pouring down upon the roof, and the little room was like an oven for heat. As there were no screens, the windows had not been raised.
«Nancy,» Miss Polly said a few minutes later, at the kitchen door, «I have ordered screens, but until they come I expect you to see that the windows remain closed. My niece will arrive tomorrow at four o’clock. I want you to meet her at the station. Timothy will take the open buggy and drive you over. The telegram says ‘light hair, red-checked gingham dress, and straw hat.’ That is all I know, but I think it is sufficient.»
The next afternoon Timothy and Nancy drove off in the open buggy to meet the expected guest. Timothy was Old Tom’s son. He was a good-natured youth, and a good-looking one, as well. Nancy’s stay at the house had been short, but the two were already good friends.
It was not long before Nancy saw Pollyanna at the station — the slender little girl in the red-checked gingham with two fat braids of flaxen hair hanging down her back. Beneath the straw hat, an eager, freckled little face turned to the right and to the left, plainly searching for someone.
Nancy knew the child at once, but for some time she couldn’t control her shaking knees sufficiently to go to her. The little girl was standing quite by herself when Nancy finally approached her.
«Are you Miss Pollyanna?» she faltered. The next moment she found herself half smothered in the clasp of two little arms.
«Oh, I’m so glad to see you,» cried an eager voice in her ear. «Of course I’m Pollyanna, and I’m so glad you came to meet me! I hoped you would.»
«You did?» stammered Nancy, vaguely wondering how Pollyanna could possibly have known her.
«Oh, yes; and I’ve been wondering all the way here what you looked like,» cried the little girl, dancing on her toes.
Nancy was relieved to see Timothy coming up.
«This is Timothy. Maybe you have a trunk,» she stammered.
«Yes, I have,» nodded Pollyanna, importantly. «I’ve got a brand-new one. The Ladies’ Aid bought it for me — and wasn’t it lovely of them, when they wanted the carpet? I’ve got a little thing here in my bag that they said was a check, and that I must give it to you before I could get my trunk,» she finished, producing the check after much fumbling in the bag she carried.
The three were off at last, with Pollyanna’s trunk in behind, and Pollyanna herself snugly seated between Nancy and Timothy.
«Is it far? I hope it is, I love to ride,» sighed Pollyanna, as the wheels began to turn. «Of course, if it isn’t far, I wouldn’t mind, though, because I’ll be glad to get there all the sooner, you know. What a pretty street! I knew it was going to be pretty; father told me — »
She stopped with a little choking breath. Nancy, looking at her apprehensively, saw that her small chin was quivering, and that her eyes were full of tears. In a moment, however, she hurried on, with a brave lifting of her head.
«Father told me all about it. He remembered. And I ought to have explained before why I’m not in black. They said you’d think it was queer. But there weren’t any black things in the last missionary barrel, only a lady’s velvet basque which wasn’t suitable for me at all. Part of the Ladies’ Aid wanted to buy me a black dress and hat, but the other part thought the money ought to be spent on the red carpet for the church.»
Pollyanna paused for breath, and Nancy managed to stammer:
«Well, I’m sure it’ll be all right.»
«I’m glad you feel that way,» nodded Pollyanna. «Of course, it would have been a good deal harder to be glad in black — »
«Glad!» gasped Nancy in surprise.
«Yes, that father’s gone to Heaven to be with mother and the rest of us, you know. He said I must be glad. But it’s been pretty hard to do it, even in red gingham, because I couldn’t help feeling I ought to have him, specially as mother and the rest have God and all the angels, while I didn’t have anybody but the Ladies’ Aid. But now I’m sure it’ll be easier because I’ve got you, Aunt Polly. I’m so glad I’ve got you!»
Nancy’s sympathy for the poor little forlornness beside her turned suddenly into shocked terror.
«Oh, but you’ve made an awful mistake, d-dear,» she faltered. «I’m only Nancy. I’m not your Aunt Polly, at all! I’m Nancy, the hired girl.»
«But there is an Aunt Polly?» demanded the child, anxiously.
«You bet your life there is,» cut in Timothy.
Pollyanna relaxed visibly.
«Oh, that’s all right, then. And I’m glad, after all, that she didn’t come to meet me; because now I’ve got her still coming, and I’ve got you besides. I’m so interested in her,» sighed Pollyanna. «I didn’t know I had her for ever so long. Then father told me. He said she lived in a lovely big house on top of the hill. Is my Aunt Polly rich, Nancy?»