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A Lady of Quality Frances Hodgson Burnett

Lord Twemlow's chaplain visits his patron's kinsman, and Mistress Clorinda shines on her birthday night

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"My Lord Twemlow sends you?" he said. "'Tis long since his lordship favoured us with messages. Where is Sir Jeoffry, Lovatt?"

"In the dining-hall," answered the servant. "He went there but a moment past, Mistress."

The chaplain gave such a start as made him drop his shovel hat. "Mistress!" And this was she--this fine young creature who was tall and grandly enough built and knit to seem a radiant being even when clad in masculine attire. He picked up his hat and bowed so low that it almost swept the floor in his obeisance. He was not used to female beauty which deigned to cast great smiling eyes upon him, for at my Lord Twemlow's table he sat so far below the salt that women looked not his way.

This beauty looked at him as if she was amused at the thought of something in her own mind. He wondered tremblingly if she guessed what he came for and knew how her father would receive it.

"Come with me," she said; "I will take you to him. He would not see you if I did not. He does not love his lordship tenderly enough."

She led the way, holding her head jauntily and high, while he cast down his eyes lest his gaze should be led to wander in a way unseemly in one of his cloth. Such a foot and such--! He felt it more becoming and safer to lift his eyes to the ceiling and keep them there, which gave him somewhat the aspect of one praying.

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Sir Jeoffry stood at the buffet with a flagon of ale in his hand, taking his stirrup cup. At the sight of a stranger and one attired in the garb of a chaplain, he scowled surprisedly.

"What's this?" quoth he. "What dost want, Clo? I have no leisure for a sermon."

Mistress Clorinda went to the buffet and filled a tankard for herself and carried it back to the table, on the edge of which she half sat, with one leg bent, one foot resting on the floor.

"Time thou wilt have to take, Dad," she said, with an arch grin, showing two rows of gleaming pearls. "This gentleman is my Lord Twemlow's chaplain, whom he sends to exhort you, requesting you to have the civility to hear him."

"Exhort be damned, and Twemlow be damned too!" cried Sir Jeoffry, who had a great quarrel with his lordship and hated him bitterly. "What does the canting fool mean?"

"Sir," faltered the poor message-bearer, "his lordship hath--hath been concerned--having heard--"

The handsome creature balanced against the table took the tankard from her lips and laughed.

"Having heard thy daughter rides to field in breeches, and is an unseemly-behaving wench," she cried, "his lordship sends his chaplain to deliver a discourse thereon--not choosing to come himself. Is not that thy errand, reverend sir?"

The chaplain, poor man, turned pale, having caught, as she spoke, a glimpse of Sir Jeoffry's reddening visage.

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A Lady of Quality
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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