When Miss Somers tried to find out what would interest her, and talked of walks, and flowers and gardens, Miss Barbara was offended. “I will show them,” she said to herself, “that I can talk of other things.” So in a grand tone she spoke of what she did not understand, until her mistaken airs of gentility made the ladies of the Abbey feel first amused and then ashamed. One by one the ladies left the room, and when Miss Somers went to change her dress for dinner, Barbara was left alone with some pretty drawings to amuse her. But the silly girl paid no heed to these. She could think only of the ball. Suddenly she remembered that nothing had been said about the guinea-hen. The truth was that Betty, in the hurry of dressing Barbara for her visit to the Abbey, had forgotten the bird, but it arrived just as Miss Somers was dressing. The housekeeper went to her mistress’s room to say it had come.
“Ma’am,” she said, “here’s a beautiful guinea-hen just come with Miss Barbara Case’s compliments.”
Miss Somers thought by the housekeeper’s tone that she was not quite pleased, and she soon found she was right in thinking so. The woman came close up to the dressing-table, and said, “I never like to speak till I’m sure, ma’am, and I’m not quite sure in this case, ma’am, but still I think it right to tell you what crossed my mind about this same guinea-hen, ma’am, and you can ask about it or do as you feel best, ma’am. Some time ago we had guinea-fowls of our own, and not knowing they were going to die as they have done, ma’am, I made bold to give a couple last Christmas to Susan Price, and very proud of them she was, ma’am, and I’m sure would never have parted with the hen of her own will. But if my eyes don’t deceive me, ma’am, this guinea-hen that Miss Barbara sends to you with her compliments is the same that I gave to Susan. How Miss Barbara came by it, I can’t tell, ma’am, but if my boy Philip was at home, he might know, for he’s often at Farmer Price’s cottage. If you wish it, ma’am, I’ll ask him when he comes home to-night.”
“I think the best way will be for me to ask Miss Case herself about it this evening,” said Miss Somers.
Dinner was now served. Attorney Case expected to smell mint sauce, and as the covers were taken off the dishes he looked around for lamb, but no lamb did he see.
Among other things talked of at table was a carving-knife that Sir Arthur had made for his sister. From this the conversation passed to carving. “Now is my chance to find out about my present,” thought the Attorney. “Pray, may I ask,” he said to Sir Arthur, “how you carve a fore quarter of lamb?”
Sir Arthur at once saw what the Attorney wanted to hear. Having answered his question, he went on to thank him for the present he had offered, but added, “I am sorry I cannot accept it, as it is my rule never to accept gifts from my neighbors. The reason is that our poor tenants cannot show their good will in this way, as they have little or nothing to offer.”