«Miss Pollyanna, what a scare you gave me!» panted Nancy, hurrying up to the big rock, down which Pollyanna had just regretfully slid.
«Scare? Oh, I’m so sorry; but you mustn’t, really, ever get scared about me, Nancy. I always come back all right.»
«But I didn’t even know you had gone,» cried Nancy, tucking the little girl’s hand under her arm and hurrying her down the hill. «I didn’t see you go, and nobody did. I guess you flew right up through the roof.»
Pollyanna skipped gleefully.
«I came down the tree, outside my window.»
«My stars and stockings!» gasped Nancy. «I’d like to know what your aunt would say to that!» she stammered. «But we’d better hurry. I’ve got to get the dishes done, you know. And you must be hungry, too. I’m afraid you’ll have to have bread and milk in the kitchen with me. Your aunt didn’t like it, because you didn’t come down to supper, you know.»
«But I couldn’t. I was up here»
«Yes; but she didn’t know that, you see!» observed Nancy, dryly. «I’m sorry about the bread and milk.»
«Oh, I’m not. I’m glad.»
«Why, I like bread and milk, and I’d like to eat with you. I don’t see any trouble about being glad about that.»
«You don’t seem to see any trouble being glad about everything,» retorted Nancy, meaning Pollyanna’s brave attempts to like the bare little attic room.
Pollyanna laughed softly.
«Well, that’s the game, you know, anyway.»
«Yes; the ‘just being glad’ game. Father told it to me, and it’s lovely. We’ve played it always, ever since I was a little girl. We began it on some crutches that came in a missionary barrel.»
«Yes. You see I had wanted a doll, and father had written them so. When the barrel came, the lady wrote that no dolls had come in, but the little crutches had. So she sent them along as they might come in handy for some child. And that’s when we began it.»
«Well, I must say I can’t see any game about that,» declared Nancy, almost irritably.
«Oh, the game was to find something about everything to be glad about no matter what it was,» explained Pollyanna, earnestly. «And we began right then, on the crutches.»
«Well, goodness me! I can’t see anything to be glad about getting a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll!»
Pollyanna clapped her hands.
«I couldn’t see it, either, Nancy, at first,» she said, with honesty. «Father had to tell it to me. Just be glad because you don’t need them! You see it’s easy when you know how!» cried Pollyanna, triumphantly.
«Well, it is so queer!» breathed Nancy, regarding Pollyanna with almost fearful eyes.
«Oh, but it isn’t queer, it’s lovely,» maintained Pollyanna enthusiastically. «And we’ve played it ever since. Only sometimes it’s too hard — like when your father goes to Heaven, and there isn’t anybody but a Ladies’ Aid left.»
«Yes, or when you’re put in a little room at the top of the house with nothing in it,» growled Nancy.
«That was hard, at first,» she admitted, «especially when I felt so lonesome. I just didn’t feel like playing the game, anyway. Then I happened to think how I hated to see my freckles in the looking-glass, and I saw that lovely picture out the window, too. Then I knew I had found the things to be glad about.»
Nancy tried to swallow the lump in her throat.
«Usually it doesn’t take so long,» sighed Pollyanna. «I’ve got so used to playing it. It’s a lovely game. Father and I used to like it so much,» she faltered. «I suppose, though, it’ll be a little harder now, as long as I haven’t anybody to play it with. Maybe Aunt Polly will play it, though,» she added, as an afterthought.
«My stars! Her!» breathed Nancy, behind her teeth. Then, aloud, she said doggedly: «Miss Pollyanna, I can’t say that I know how, but I’ll play it with you!»
«Oh, Nancy!» exulted Pollyanna, giving her a rapturous hug. «That’ll be splendid! Won’t we have fun?»
«Maybe,» conceded Nancy, in open doubt. «You mustn’t count too much on me, but I’m going to make a most awful try on this game,» she finished, as they entered the kitchen together.
Pollyanna ate her bread and milk with good appetite. Then, at Nancy’s suggestion, she went into the sitting room, where her aunt sat reading. Miss Polly looked up coldly.
«Have you had your supper, Pollyanna?»
«Yes, Aunt Polly.»
«I’m very sorry, Pollyanna, to have been obliged so soon to send you into the kitchen to eat bread and milk.»
«But I was glad you did it, Aunt Polly. I like bread and milk, and Nancy, too. You mustn’t feel bad about that.»
Aunt Polly sat suddenly a little more erect in her chair.
«Pollyanna, it’s quite time you were in bed. You have had a hard day, and tomorrow we must go over your clothing to see what it is necessary to get for you. Nancy will give you a candle. Breakfast will be at half-past seven. Good night.»
Quite as a matter of course, Pollyanna came straight to her aunt and gave her an affectionate hug.
«I’ve had such a beautiful time, so far,» she sighed happily. «I know I’m going to love living with you. Good night,» she said cheerfully, as she ran from the room.