Susan did not like to tell the story of her guinea-hen, of the gown, and of her poor lamb. Part of this would seem as if she were speaking of her own good deeds, and part of it she did not like to remember. But her mother begged to know the whole, and she told it as simply as she could. When she came to the story of her lamb, her voice faltered, and everybody present was touched. The old harper sighed once, and cleared his throat several times. He then asked for his harp, and after tuning it for long, he played the air he had promised to the boys.
BARBARA VISITS THE ABBEY
The old blind man had come from the mountains of Wales to try to gain a prize of ten guineas. This prize was to be awarded to the harper who should play the best at a large town about five miles from the village where Susan lived. In the evening, after the prize-giving was over, there was to be a ball in the town, so the events of the day were looked forward to by many around. Barbara was one of those who grew more and more excited as the time for the prize-giving and ball drew near. She longed to be asked to go there by some of the rich neighbors who could drive her in their carriage. So how pleased she was when, on the evening that her father and the butcher were talking about Susan’s lamb, a servant in livery from the Abbey left a note for Mr. and Miss Barbara Case! It was to invite them to dinner and tea at the Abbey next day.
“Now they will find out,” cried Bab, “that I am indeed a genteel person, and they will wish to take me to the ball. At any rate, I shall do my best to be asked.”
“To be sure,” said Betty, “a lady who would visit Susan Price might well be glad to take you in her carriage.”
“Then pray, Betty, do not forget to send to town first thing to-morrow for my new bonnet. Without that the ladies of the Abbey will think nothing of me. And I must coax Papa to buy me a new gown for the ball. I shall look well at all the ladies’ dresses at the Abbey to-morrow and find out the fashion. And Betty, I have thought of a charming present to take Miss Somers. I shall give her Susan’s guinea-hen. It’s of no use to me, so carry it up early in the morning to the Abbey, with my compliments.”
Feeling quite sure that her bonnet and the guinea-fowl would make Miss Somers think well of her, Barbara paid her first visit to the Abbey. She expected to see wonders, but when she was shown into the room where Miss Somers and other ladies were sitting, simply dressed, and with work, books and drawings on the table before them, she was surprised and vexed. There was nothing grand to be seen anywhere.