In this country life, although without a moment to call her own, Elizabeth felt freer at all events than she had done in the town; and she had made such rapid progress under Madam Beck’s tuition, that the latter’s supervision was in many things no longer required. One part in particular, the one which she might have been expected to find the most difficult of all—that of parlour-maid—she filled to perfection; and her upright figure and expressive face attracted many an admiring glance on Sundays, when in her becoming striped chintz dress and white apron, and with her luxuriant hair turned up in the simplest manner, she carried the tea or coffee things out to the guests in the summer-house. She could feel that Carl Beck’s eyes were never off her as long as she was in sight, and she seemed to know that it was she whom his eye wandered in search of first whenever he came home. In a hundred small ways he made her conscious of the interest which he felt in her; and whenever there was a commission to be particularly remembered, he never gave it to his sisters alone, but to her also.
His pretty pleasure-boat—a long, light, sharp-built yawl, with a red stripe along its black side, and two sloping masts—which he had lately had built, lay often the whole week through moored in the bay under the house. He was very particular about the boat, and during his absence it was to Elizabeth’s sole care that she was intrusted. There was always something or other to be looked after; and when he came home he would generally subject her, in a jokingly harsh tone, to an examination, which he called holding a summary court-martial.