Miss Polly’s lips parted indignantly, but no words came. Pollyanna, plainly unaware that she had said something unpleasant, went on talking.
«Well, my father and — »
Just in time Pollyanna remembered that she was not to talk of her father to her aunt. She dived into her closet then, hurriedly, and brought out all the poor little dresses in both her arms.
«They aren’t nice, at all,» she choked, «but they’re all I’ve got.»
With the tips of her fingers Miss Polly turned over the garments, and then she frowned at the patched undergarments in the bureau drawers.
«I’ve got the best ones on,» confessed Pollyanna, anxiously. «The Ladies’ Aid bought me one set all whole.»
Miss Polly did not seem to hear.
«You have been to school, of course, Pollyanna?»
«Oh, yes, Aunt Polly. Besides, I was taught at home, too.»
«In the fall you will enter school here, of course. Meanwhile, I suppose I ought to hear you read aloud half an hour each day.»
«I love to read; but if you don’t want to hear me, I’d be just glad to read to myself — truly, Aunt Polly.»
«Have you studied music?»
«Not much. I learned to play the piano a little. Miss Gray — she plays for church — taught me.»
«I think it is my duty to see that you are properly instructed in at least the rudiments of music. You sew, of course.»
«Yes, Aunt Polly,» Pollyanna sighed. «The Ladies’ Aid taught me that.»
«Well, now, Pollyanna, I’ll teach you sewing myself, of course. You do not know how to cook, I presume.»
«They were just beginning to teach me that this summer, but I hadn’t got far.»
Miss Polly paused in thought for a minute, and then went on slowly:
«At nine o’clock every morning you will read aloud one half-hour to me. Wednesday and Saturday forenoons, after half-past nine, you will spend with Nancy in the kitchen, learning to cook. Other mornings you will sew with me. That will leave the afternoons for your music. I’ll get a teacher for you,» she finished decisively, as she arose from her chair.
Pollyanna cried out in dismay.
«Oh, but Aunt Polly, you haven’t left me any time at all just to — to live.»
«To live! What do you mean? You are living all the time!»
«Oh, of course I’ll be breathing while doing those things, Aunt Polly, but I won’t be living. You breathe all the time you’re asleep, but you aren’t living. I mean doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading, climbing hills, talking to Mr. Tom in the garden, and Nancy, and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere all through the streets I came through yesterday. That’s what I call living, Aunt Polly. Just breathing isn’t living!»
Miss Polly lifted her head irritably.
«Pollyanna, you will be allowed a proper amount of playtime, of course. But if I am willing to do my duty and give you proper care and instruction, you ought to be willing to do yours and see that that care and instruction are not ungratefully wasted.»
Pollyanna looked shocked.
«Oh, Aunt Polly, I can’t be ungrateful to you! Why, I love you; you’re my aunt!»
«Very well,» nodded Miss Polly, as she turned toward the door. Then she stopped and added: «Oh, I forgot to tell you, Pollyanna. Timothy will drive us into town at half-past one this afternoon. Not one of your garments is fit for my niece to wear.»
In the hot little attic room Pollyanna dropped herself onto one of the straight-backed chairs. To her, existence loomed ahead one mid less round of duty.
«There isn’t anything to be glad about, that I can see,» she said aloud; «unless it’s to be glad when the duty’s done!»