Crotchet Castle, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter XII: The Mountain Inn

[Greek text]

How sweet to minds that love not sordid ways

Is solitude! — MENANDER.

The Captain wandered despondingly up and down hill for several days, passing many hours of each in sitting on rocks; making, almost mechanically, sketches of waterfalls, and mountain pools; taking care, nevertheless, to be always before nightfall in a comfortable inn, where, being a temperate man, he whiled away the evening with making a bottle of sherry into negus. His rambles brought him at length into the interior of Merionethshire, the land of all that is beautiful in nature, and all that is lovely in woman.

Here, in a secluded village, he found a little inn, of small pretension and much comfort. He felt so satisfied with his quarters, and discovered every day so much variety in the scenes of the surrounding mountains, that his inclination to proceed farther diminished progressively.

It is one thing to follow the high road through a country, with every principally remarkable object carefully noted down in a book, taking, as therein directed, a guide, at particular points, to the more recondite sights: it is another to sit down on one chosen spot, especially when the choice is unpremeditated, and from thence, by a series of explorations, to come day by day on unanticipated scenes. The latter process has many advantages over the former; it is free from the disappointment which attends excited expectation, when imagination has outstripped reality, and from the accidents that mar the scheme of the tourist’s single day, when the valleys may be drenched with rain, or the mountains shrouded with mist.

The Captain was one morning preparing to sally forth on his usual exploration, when he heard a voice without, inquiring for a guide to the ruined castle. The voice seemed familiar to him, and going forth into the gateway, he recognised Mr. Chainmail. After greetings and inquiries for the absent: “You vanished very abruptly, Captain,” said Mr. Chainmail, “from our party on the canal.”

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. To tell you the truth, I had a particular reason for trying the effect of absence from a part of that party.

MR. CHAINMAIL. I surmised as much: at the same time, the unusual melancholy of an in general most vivacious young lady made me wonder at your having acted so precipitately. The lady’s heart is yours, if there be truth in signs.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Hearts are not now what they were in the days of the old song: “Will love be controlled by advice?”

MR. CHAINMAIL. Very true; hearts, heads, and arms have all degenerated, most sadly. We can no more feel the high impassioned love of the ages, which some people have the impudence to call dark, than we can wield King Richard’s battleaxe, bend Robin Hood’s bow, or flourish the oaken graft of the Pindar of Wakefield. Still we have our tastes and feelings, though they deserve not the name of passions; and some of us may pluck up spirit to try to carry a point, when we reflect that we have to contend with men no better than ourselves.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. We do not now break lances for ladies.

MR. CHAINMAIL. No; nor even bulrushes. We jingle purses for them, flourish paper-money banners, and tilt with scrolls of parchment.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. In which sort of tilting I have been thrown from the saddle. I presume it was not love that led you from the flotilla?

MR. CHAINMAIL. By no means. I was tempted by the sight of an old tower, not to leave this land of ruined castles, without having collected a few hints for the adornment of my baronial hall.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I understand you live en famille with your domestics. You will have more difficulty in finding a lady who would adopt your fashion of living, than one who would prefer you to a richer man.

MR. CHAINMAIL. Very true. I have tried the experiment on several as guests; but once was enough for them: so, I suppose, I shall die a bachelor.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I see, like some others of my friends, you will give up anything except your hobby.

MR. CHAINMAIL. I will give up anything but my baronial hall.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. You will never find a wife for your purpose, unless in the daughter of some old-fashioned farmer.

MR. CHAINMAIL. No, I thank you. I must have a lady of gentle blood; I shall not marry below my own condition: I am too much of a herald; I have too much of the twelfth century in me for that.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Why, then your chance is not much better than mine. A well-born beauty would scarcely be better pleased with your baronial hall than with my more humble offer of love in a cottage. She must have a town-house, and an opera-box, and roll about the streets in a carriage; especially if her father has a rotten borough, for the sake of which he sells his daughter, that he may continue to sell his country. But you were inquiring for a guide to the ruined castle in this vicinity; I know the way and will conduct you.

The proposal pleased Mr. Chainmail, and they set forth on their expedition

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24