Miss Hilary was puzzled what answer to make. True enough it was “kind,” and she was “a lady;” and between her and Mrs. Hand’s rough daughter was an unmistakable difference and distinction. That Elizabeth perceived it was proved by her growing respectfulness of manner—the more respectful, it seemed, the more she herself improved. Yet Hilary could not bear to make her feel more sharply than was unavoidable the great gulf that lies and ever must lie—not so much between mistress and servant, in their abstract relation—(and yet that is right, for the relation and authority are ordained of God)—but between the educated and the ignorant, the coarse and the refined.
“Well,” she said, after a pause of consideration, “you always have it in your power to repay my ‘kindness,’ as you call it. The cleverer you become the more useful you will be to me; and the more good you grow the better I shall like you.”
Elizabeth smiled—that wonderfully bright, sudden smile which seemed to cover over all her plainness of feature.
“Once upon a time,” Hilary resumed by-and-by, “when England was very different from what it is now, English ladies used to have what they call ‘bower-women,’ whom they took as girls, and brought up in their service; teaching them all sorts of things—cooking, sewing, spinning, singing, and, probably, except that the ladies of that time were very ill-educated themselves, to read and write also. They used to spend part of every day among their bower-women; and as people can only enjoy the company of those with whom they have some sympathies in common, we must conclude that—”
Here Hilary stopped, recollecting she must be discoursing miles above the head of her little bower-maiden, and that, perhaps, after all, her theory would be best kept to herself, and only demonstrated practically.
“So, Elizabeth, if I spend a little of my time in teaching you, you must grow up my faithful and attached bower-maiden?”
“I’ll grow up any thing, Miss Hilary, if it’s to please you,” was the answer, given with a smothered intensity that quite startled the young mistress.
“I do believe the girl is getting fond of me,” said she, half touched, half laughing to Johanna. “If so, we shall get on. It is just as with our school children, you know. We have to seize hold of their hearts first, and their heads afterward. Now, Elizabeth’s head may be uncommonly tough, but I do believe she likes me.”
Johanna smiled; but she would not for the world have said—never encouraging the smallest vanity in her child—that she did not think this circumstance so very remarkable.