By Eleanor H. Porter
‘Yes, ma’am.’ Nancy stifled a sigh. She was wondering if ever in any way she could please this woman. Nancy had never ‘worked out’ before; but a sick mother suddenly widowed and left with three younger children besides Nancy herself, had forced the girl into doing something toward their support, and she had been so pleased when she found a place in the kitchen of the great house on the hill—Nancy had come from ‘The Corners,’ six miles away, and she knew Miss Polly Harrington only as the mistress of the old Harrington homestead, and one of the wealthiest residents of the town. That was two months before. She knew Miss Polly now as a stern, severe-faced woman who frowned if a knife clattered to the floor, or if a door banged—but who never thought to smile even when knives and doors were still.
‘When you’ve finished your morning work, Nancy,’ Miss Polly was saying now, ‘you may clear the little room at the head of the stairs in the attic, and make up the cot bed. Sweep the room and clean it, of course, after you clear out the trunks and boxes.’
‘Yes, ma’am. And where shall I put the things, please, that I take out?’
‘In the front attic.’ Miss Polly hesitated, then went on: ‘I suppose I may as well tell you now, Nancy. My niece, Miss Pollyanna Whittier, is coming to live with me. She is eleven years old, and will sleep in that room.’
‘A little girl—coming here, Miss Harrington? Oh, won’t that be nice!’ cried Nancy, thinking of the sunshine her own little sisters made in the home at ‘The Corners.’
‘Nice? Well, that isn’t exactly the word I should use,’ rejoined Miss Polly, stiffly. ‘However, I intend to make the best of it, of course. I am a good woman, I hope; and I know my duty.’
Nancy colored hotly.
‘Of course, ma’am; it was only that I thought a little girl here might—might brighten things up for you,’ she faltered.
‘Thank you,’ rejoined the lady, dryly. ‘I can’t say, however, that I see any immediate need for that.’
‘But, of course, you—you’d want her, your sister’s child,’ ventured Nancy, vaguely feeling that somehow she must prepare a welcome for this lonely little stranger.
Miss Polly lifted her chin haughtily.