Miss Somers and her sister smiled as they listened to Susan’s little brothers, but what they heard made them feel sure that Susan was indeed as kind a sister as the housekeeper had said.
When the ladies left the cottage, they took Susan with them through the village.
“I fancy we shall find what we want here,” said Miss Somers, stopping before a shop-window where ribbons of all colors were displayed, and where lace collars, glass buttons and sheets of pins were laid out in order. They went in, and on the shelves behind the counter saw gay, neat linens and calicoes.
“Now, Susan, choose yourself a gown,” said Miss Somers. “Because you are a busy girl and behave well, we wish others to see that such is the conduct we approve.”
The shopkeeper was the father of Susan’s friend, Rose. He stretched his arm to the highest shelf, then dived into drawers beneath the counter, sparing no pains to show the best goods to his customers.
Susan did not show the interest that might have been expected. She was thinking much of her lamb and more of her father. Miss Somers had put a bright guinea into her hand and told her to pay for her own gown. But Susan felt that this was a great deal of money to spend upon a frock for herself, and yet she did not know how to ask if she might keep it for a better purpose. Although Susan said nothing, Miss Somers read in her face that she was perplexed. “She does not like any of these things,” whispered the lady to her sister.
“She seems to be thinking of something else,” was the low reply.
“If you do not fancy any of these calicoes,” said the shopkeeper to Susan, “we shall have a larger choice soon.”
“Oh,” answered Susan, with a smile, and a blush, “these are all too good for me, but—”
“But what, Susan?” asked Miss Somers. “Tell us what is passing in your little mind.”
Susan said nothing.
“Well then, it does not matter. You do not know us very well yet. When you do, you will not, I am sure, be afraid to be frank. Put the guinea in your pocket and make what use of it you please. From what we know and from what we have heard of you, we are sure you will make a good use of it.”
“I think, madam,” said the shopkeeper, “I have a pretty good guess what will become of that guinea, but I say nothing.”
“No, that is right,” said Miss Somers; “we leave Susan to do just as she likes with it, and now we must not keep her any longer. Good night, Susan, we shall soon come again to your neat cottage.”
Susan courtesied and looked gratefully at the ladies, but did not speak. She wished to say, “I cannot explain to you here, with people around, what I want to do with my guinea, but when you come to our cottage you shall know all.”
After Susan had left, Miss Somers turned to the obliging shopkeeper who was folding up all the goods he had opened. “You have had a great deal of trouble,” she said, “and as Susan will not choose a gown for herself, I must find one for her,” and she chose the prettiest.