Marvelous scene this. A village fête where prizes are doled out to the lower orders by their betters. Arthur, dashing young Squire in the making, at least has the sensitivity to ask Miss Lydia if she couldn’t have provided a cheerier prize for the young Bessy. She rounds on him that she chose something ‘useful’ and that it wouldn’t do to encourage a love of finery among the labouring classes.
Bessy is duly appalled as she schleps away her heavy, hoddenish trophy.
‘Couldn’t you find something else for this girl, and save that grim-looking gown for one of the older women?’
Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 (1859)), p. 321