Slowly the minister folded the papers and thrust them back into his pocket. Then, with a sigh that was almost a moan, he flung himself down at the foot of a tree, and covered his face with his hands.

It was there that Pollyanna, on her way home from the Pendleton house, found him. With a little cry she ran forward.

“Oh, oh, Mr. Ford! You—you haven’t broken your leg or—or anything, have you?” she gasped.

The minister dropped his hands, and looked up quickly. He tried to smile.

“No, dear—no, indeed! I’m just—resting.”

“Oh,” sighed Pollyanna, falling back a little. “That’s all right, then. You see, Mr. Pendleton had broken his leg when I found him—but he was lying down, though. And you are sitting up.”

“Yes, I am sitting up; and I haven’t broken anything—that doctors can mend.”

The last words were very low, but Pollyanna heard them. A swift change crossed her face. Her eyes glowed with tender sympathy.

“I know what you mean—something plagues you. Father used to feel like that, lots of times. I reckon ministers do—most generally. You see there’s such a lot depends on ’em, somehow.”

The Rev. Paul Ford turned a little wonderingly.

“Was your father a minister, Pollyanna?”

“Yes, sir. Didn’t you know? I supposed everybody knew that. He married Aunt Polly’s sister, and she was my mother.”

“Oh, I understand. But, you see, I haven’t been here many years, so I don’t know all the family histories.”

“Yes, sir—I mean, no, sir,” smiled Pollyanna.

There was a long pause. The minister, still sitting at the foot of the tree, appeared to have forgotten Pollyanna’s presence. He had pulled some papers from his pocket and unfolded them; but he was not looking at them. He was gazing, instead, at a leaf on the ground a little distance away—and it was not even a pretty leaf. It was brown and dead. Pollyanna, looking at him, felt vaguely sorry for him.

“It—it’s a nice day,” she began hopefully.

For a moment there was no answer; then the minister looked up with a start.

“What? Oh!—yes, it is a very nice day.”

“And ’tisn’t cold at all, either, even if ’tis October,” observed Pollyanna, still more hopefully. “Mr. Pendleton had a fire, but he said he didn’t need it. It was just to look at. I like to look at fires, don’t you?”

There was no reply this time, though Pollyanna waited patiently, before she tried again—by a new route.

“Do You like being a minister?”

The Rev. Paul Ford looked up now, very quickly.

“Do I like—Why, what an odd question! Why do you ask that, my dear?”

“Nothing—only the way you looked. It made me think of my father. He used to look like that—sometimes.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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