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Chapter 17. AMONG THE MAIDS (continued)
'I am very pleased to see this much-neglected branch of a woman's education so well conducted here, and I have to thank my friend Mrs Laurence for one of the most charming pictures I've seen in America--Penelope among her maids.'
A group of smiling faces watched the stout boots trudge away, respectful glances followed the shabby bonnet till it was out of sight, and the girls felt a truer respect for their titled guest than if she had come in the coach and six, with all her diamonds on.
'I feel better about the "odd jobs" now. I only wish I could do them as well as Lady Abercrombie does,' said one.
'I thanked my stars my buttonholes were nice, for she looked at them and said: "Quite workmanlike, upon my word," added another, feeling that her gingham gown had come to honour.
'Her manners were as sweet and kind as Mrs Brooke's. Not a bit stiff or condescending, as I expected. I see now what you meant, Mrs Bhaer, when you said once that well-bred people were the same all the world over.'
Mrs Meg bowed her thanks for the compliment, and Mrs Bhaer said:
'I know them when I see them, but never shall be a model of deportment myself. I'm glad you enjoyed the little visit. Now, if you young people don't want England to get ahead of us in many ways, you must bestir yourselves and keep abreast; for our sisters are in earnest, you see, and don't waste time worrying about their sphere, but make it wherever duty calls them.'
'We will do our best, ma'am,' answered the girls heartily, and trooped away with their work-baskets, feeling that though they might never be Harriet Martineaus, Elizabeth Brownings, or George Eliots, they might become noble, useful, and independent women, and earn for themselves some sweet title from the grateful lips of the poor, better than any a queen could bestow.
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