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What the Curate Saw

The Diary of the Rev. Mr. Athelstane Moore, LL.D. Oxon.

Otterhampton, Somersetshire
Tuesday 1 April 1823

Attendance at Sunday Eucharist continues middling, particularly amongst the farmers. Old Mrs. Payne snored in a most distressing way during the lessons this week, though she was gratifyingly attentive during the sermon. (N.B. text from St. James pertinent to Poor Relief, preach on this again.) Mr. Lee, attending for the first time and alone, shook my hand in the porch afterward. Although I could wish that the family observed Sunday more carefully, if other J.P.s were as enlightened and charitable as Mr. Lee, the county would be well served.

Yesterday rec'd letter from the Bishop, more of a circular indeed, warning against political agitation from the pulpit. Truly, I thought better of His Grace.

Visited the houses past Enderby after luncheon to-day. (N.B. speak to Mrs. Carey re indigestible muttonfat & the necessity of spring vegetables.) Mrs. White's baby again poorly, a sad case. Young James Thornton makes sound progress in his reading. (N.B. letter to headmaster of Exton Grammar School!!) Returned by way of Enderby wood, Mr. Lee having been so kind as to grant me the freedom of his land whenever I please. Saw a clump of early ferns, a type I do not know, the shoots a peculiar yellow-green like the sky in Coleridge's poem. Sketched the form and marked the spot, will return daily to observe growth. If a new species, Royal Society paper must be assured. I do not think this a sin of pride, indeed I do not.

At the edge of the wood, hard by the little stream, met a girl walking.

I took her at first for the tinker's daughter and thought to chide her. A bold trespass, so it seemed, and in a shameful condition too, for she went bare-foot and her hair was wild. But then, seeing her fine dress and white hands, my mind misgave me that this was a lady of Quality -- likely the eldest Miss Lee of whom I have heard Mrs. Carey complain. I gave her good-afternoon, but thought by her fierce look that she meant to take me to task for walking without leave in her father's wood.

But before I could account for myself, she ran away toward the house. By the garden wall, she staid to look back at me, but said not a word.

If this be Miss Lee, then her manners leave much to be desired. Even the farmers' daughters offer a civil greeting when I meet them by the way, though they titter exceedingly after I pass by.

I have never seen a girl like her. She puts me in mind of some wild fairy creature, in the stories that old country folk tell.

(Miss Lee's walking dress was a wonderful, amazing, delightful surprise present from fairemma! The day wasn't all that good for taking pictures when I did these, but you get the general idea . . . )
Tags: bjd, regency tale
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