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doors, gave token that the day’s work of the more fortunate
members of society was proceeding in its turn.
One of these double knocks at Madame Mantalini’s door,
announced the equipage of some great lady--or rather rich one,
for there is occasionally a distinction between riches and
greatness--who had come with her daughter to approve of some
court-dresses which had been a long time preparing, and upon
whom Kate was deputed to wait, accompanied by Miss Knag, and
officered of course by Madame Mantalini.
Kate’s part in the pageant was humble enough, her duties being
limited to holding articles of costume until Miss Knag was ready to
try them on, and now and then tying a string, or fastening a hook-
and-eye. She might, not unreasonably, have supposed herself
beneath the reach of any arrogance, or bad humour; but it
happened that the lady and daughter were both out of temper that
day, and the poor girl came in for her share of their revilings. She
was awkward--her hands were cold--dirty--coarse--she could do
nothing right; they wondered how Madame Mantalini could have
such people about her; requested they might see some other
young woman the next time they came; and so forth.
So common an occurrence would be hardly deserving of
mention, but for its effect. Kate shed many bitter tears when these
people were gone, and felt, for the first time, humbled by her
occupation. She had, it is true, quailed at the prospect of drudgery
and hard service; but she had felt no degradation in working for
her bread, until she found herself exposed to insolence and pride.
Philosophy would have taught her that the degradation was on the
side of those who had sunk so low as to display such passions
habitually, and without cause: but she was too young for such