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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

And he no longer curried favour with them


'I

did not like that Jack Priest; so I kept my eye upon all his motions. Lord! how that Jack Priest did curry favour with our governor and the two young ladies; and he curried, and curried, till he had got himself into favour with the governor, and more especially with the two young ladies, of whom their father was doatingly fond. At last the ladies took lessons in Italian of the priest, a language in which he was said to be a grand proficient, and of which they had hitherto known but very little; and from that time his influence over them, and consequently over the old governor, increased, till the tables were turned, and he no longer curried favour with them, but they with him--yes, as true as my leg aches, the young ladies curried, and the old governor curried favour with that same priest; when he was with them, they seemed almost to hang on his lips, that is, the young ladies; and as for the old governor, he never contradicted him, and when the fellow was absent, which, by the bye, was not often, it was, "Father-so-and-so said this," and "Father-so-and-so said that"; "Father so-and-so thinks we should do so-and-so, or that we should not do so-and-so." I at first thought that he must have given them something, some philtre or the like, but one of the English maid-servants, who had a kind of respect for me, and who saw much more behind the scenes than I did, informed me that he was continually instilling strange notions into their heads, striving, by every possible method, to
make them despise the religion of their own land, and take up that of the foreign country in which they were. And sure enough, in a little time, the girls had altogether left off going to an English chapel, and were continually visiting places of Italian worship. The old governor, it is true, still went to his church, but he appeared to be hesitating between two opinions; and once, when he was at dinner, he said to two or three English friends that, since he had become better acquainted with it, he had conceived a much more favourable opinion of the Catholic religion than he had previously entertained. In a word, the priest ruled the house, and everything was done according to his will and pleasure by degrees he persuaded the young ladies to drop their English acquaintances, whose place he supplied with Italians, chiefly females. My poor old governor would not have had a person to speak to--for he never could learn the language--but for two or three Englishmen who used to come occasionally and take a bottle with him in a summer-house, whose company he could not be persuaded to resign, notwithstanding the entreaties of his daughters, instigated by the priest, whose grand endeavour seemed to be to render the minds of all three foolish, for his own ends. And if he was busy above stairs with the governor, there was another busy below with us poor English servants, a kind of subordinate priest, a low Italian; as he could speak no language but his own, he was continually jabbering to us in that, and by hearing him the maids and myself contrived to pick up a good deal of the language, so that we understood most that was said, and could speak it very fairly; and the themes of his jabber were the beauty and virtues of one whom he called Holy Mary, and the power and grandeur of one whom he called the Holy Father; and he told us that we should shortly have an opportunity of seeing the Holy Father, who could do anything he liked with Holy Mary: in the meantime we had plenty of opportunities of seeing Holy Mary, for in every church, chapel, and convent to which we were taken, there was an image of Holy Mary, who, if the images were dressed at all in her fashion, must have been very fond of short petticoats and tinsel, and who, if those said figures at all resembled her in face, could scarcely have been half as handsome as either of my two fellow-servants, not to speak of the young ladies.


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