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My Lady Ludlow Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter IV.

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I was sorry for Mr. Gray. He had been to see me several times, and had helped me to bear my illness in a better spirit than I should have done without his good advice and prayers. And I had gathered from little things he said, how much his heart was set upon this new scheme. I liked him so much, and I loved and respected my lady so well, that I could not bear them to be on the cool terms to which they were constantly getting. Yet I could do nothing but keep silence.

I suppose my lady understood something of what was passing in my mind; for, after a minute or two, she went on:-

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"If Mr. Gray knew all I know,--if he had my experience, he would not be so ready to speak of setting up his new plans in opposition to my judgment. Indeed," she continued, lashing herself up with her own recollections, "times are changed when the parson of a village comes to beard the liege lady in her own house. Why, in my grandfather's days, the parson was family chaplain too, and dined at the Hall every Sunday. He was helped last, and expected to have done first. I remember seeing him take up his plate and knife and fork, and say with his mouth full all the time he was speaking: 'If you please, Sir Urian, and my lady, I'll follow the beef into the housekeeper's room;' for you see, unless he did so, he stood no chance of a second helping. A greedy man, that parson was, to be sure! I recollect his once eating up the whole of some little bird at dinner, and by way of diverting attention from his greediness, he told how he had heard that a rook soaked in vinegar and then dressed in a particular way, could not be distinguished from the bird he was then eating. I saw by the grim look of my grandfather's face that the parson's doing and saying displeased him; and, child as I was, I had some notion of what was coming, when, as I was riding out on my little, white pony, by my grandfather's side, the next Friday, he stopped one of the gamekeepers, and bade him shoot one of the oldest rooks he could find. I knew no more about it till Sunday, when a dish was set right before the parson, and Sir Urian said: 'Now, Parson Hemming, I have had a rook shot, and soaked in vinegar, and dressed as you described last Sunday. Fall to, man, and eat it with as good an appetite as you had last Sunday. Pick the bones clean, or by--, no more Sunday dinners shall you eat at my table!' I gave one look at poor Mr. Hemming's face, as he tried to swallow the first morsel, and make believe as though he thought it very good; but I could not look again, for shame, although my grandfather laughed, and kept asking us all round if we knew what could have become of the parson's appetite."

"And did he finish it?" I asked.

"O yes, my dear. What my grandfather said was to be done, was done always. He was a terrible man in his anger! But to think of the difference between Parson Hemming and Mr. Gray! or even of poor dear Mr. Mountford and Mr. Gray. Mr. Mountford would never have withstood me as Mr. Gray did!"

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My Lady Ludlow
Elizabeth Gaskell

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