This attorney was a very cross man, so cross that the village people were always in fear of him. Although he had hedged and fenced his garden, it sometimes happened that there would stray into it a pig, or a dog, or a goat, or a goose belonging to a poor neighbor. Then the attorney would go to the owner of the stray animal and in a harsh voice demand money to pay for the damage it had done.
Nor did this cruel man let people walk along the paths through his meadows, although they did no harm. He blocked up the stiles with stones and prickly shrubs, so that not even a gosling could squeeze under them nor a giant climb over. Even the village children were afraid to fly their kites near his fields, lest they should get entangled in his trees or fall on his ground.
Mr. Case was the name of this attorney, and he had one son and a daughter called Barbara.
For long the father paid no attention to the education of his children, for all his time and thought were given to money-making. Meanwhile Barbara and her brother ran wild with the village children. But suddenly Mr. Case decided to send his son to a tutor to learn Latin, and to employ a maid to wait upon Barbara. At the same time he gave strict orders that his children should no longer play with their old companions.
The village children were not at all sorry when they heard this. Barbara had not been a favorite among them, for she had always wanted to rule them and to secure for herself the chief part in their games. When Barbara saw that she was not missed by her old friends she was vexed, and she became angry when she found that they paid no attention to the grand air with which she now spoke nor to the fine frocks which she wore.
To one girl Barbara had a special dislike. This was none other than Susan Price, the sweetest-tempered and busiest lass in the village, and the pride and delight of all who knew her. The farm rented by Susan’s father was near the house in which Mr. Case lived, and Barbara from her window used to watch Susan at work.
Sometimes the little girl was raking the garden-plots in her neat garden; sometimes she was weeding the paths; sometimes she was kneeling at her beehive with fresh flowers for her bees, and sometimes she was in the hen-yard scattering corn among the eager little chickens. In the evening Barbara often saw her sitting in the summer-house over which sweet honeysuckle crept, and there, with a clean three-legged pine table before her upon which to lay her work, Susan would sew busily. Her seams were even and neat, for Mrs. Price had taught her daughter that what is worth doing is worth doing well.
Both Susan and her mother were great favorites in the village. It was at Mrs. Price’s door that the children began their Mayday rounds, and it was Susan who was usually Queen of the May.
It was now time for the village children to choose their queen. The setting sun was shining full upon the pink blossoms of the hawthorn when the merry group met to make their plans for the morrow.