“It has done no damage,” said Susan; “but tell me what I must pay.”
“A shilling,” said Barbara.
“Oh, if only sixpence would do!” said Susan; “I have but sixpence of my own in the world, and here it is.”
“It won’t do,” said Barbara, turning her back.
“Nay, but hear me,” cried Susan, “let me at least come in to look for its eggs. I only want one for my father’s supper. You shall have all the rest.”
“What is your father or his supper to us; is he so particular that he can eat none but guinea-hen’s eggs?” said Barbara. “If you want your hen and your eggs, pay for them, and you shall have them.”
“I have only sixpence and you say that won’t do,” said Susan with a sigh, as she looked at her favorite which was in the maid’s cruel hands, struggling and screaming in vain.
Susan went away feeling very sad. At the door of her father’s cottage she saw her friend Rose, who had just come to summon her to the hawthorn-bush.
“They are all at the hawthorn, and I have come for you. We can do nothing without you, dear Susan,” cried Rose, running to meet her the moment she saw her, “You are chosen Queen of the May—come, make haste. But what is the matter? Why do you look so sad?”
“Ah!” said Susan, “don’t wait for me; I can’t come to you, but,” she added, pointing to the tuft of cowslips in the garden, “gather those for little Mary; I promised them to her, and tell her the violets are under a hedge just beside the stile, on the right as we go to church. Good-by! never mind me; I can’t come—I can’t stay, for my father wants me.”
“But don’t turn away your face; I won’t keep you a moment; only tell me what is the matter,” said her friend, following her into the cottage.
“Oh, nothing, not much,” said Susan; “if I had not wanted the egg in a great hurry for father, it would not have vexed me—to be sure I should have clipped my guinea-hen’s wings, and then she could not have flown over the hedge; but let us think no more about it now,” she added, trying to hide a tear.
When Rose, however, learned that her friend’s guinea-hen was kept a prisoner by Barbara, she was hot with indignation, and at once ran back to tell the story to her companions.
As Susan entered the cottage parlor, Farmer Price drew his chair close to his wife. “You see there is something amiss with me,” he said; “I must tell you what it is.” Her father lowered his voice, and Susan, who was not sure that he wished her to hear what he was going to say, moved from behind his chair.
“Susan, don’t go; sit down here, sweet Susan,” he said, making room for her beside him. “I am afraid I was cross when I came in to-night, but I had something to vex me, as you shall hear.”
Then the farmer told how, a fortnight before, lots had been drawn in the nearest town, to see which men there and in the surrounding villages should leave home to be trained as soldiers. For a hundred years ago it was in this way that men were found to defend their country. Only if they were under eighteen or above forty years of age could they escape drawing lots.