And how Mistress Bete became a lady of property.

Tallis Steelyard

I’ve known Mistress Bete for many years. If I may take the liberty of calling her a sensible young woman without seeming to insult her, I shall avail myself of that privilege. She was born into a class which accepted that a daughter would have to work for a living, at least until she married and started a family. Thus her family had done their best to ensure that she had such education as they could afford.

To be fair, she was one of those pupils who, once they had been taught to read, plunge into the maelstrom of learning, leaving their teachers far behind. She read voraciously.

Her first employment was as a maid in a large and respectable house, and the housekeeper soon learned not to allow her to ‘dust the library’. Still, the lady of the house, once she realised the girl could be trusted, was happy…

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