Crotchet Castle, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter XVII: The Invitation

A cup of wine, that’s brisk and fine,

And drink unto the lemon mine.

Master Silence.

This veridicous history began in May, and the occurrences already narrated have carried it on to the middle of autumn. Stepping over the interval to Christmas, we find ourselves in our first locality, among the chalk hills of the Thames; and we discover our old friend, Mr. Crotchet, in the act of accepting an invitation, for himself, and any friends who might be with him, to pass their Christmas Day at Chainmail Hall, after the fashion of the twelfth century. Mr. Crochet had assembled about him, for his own Christmas festivities, nearly the same party which was introduced to the reader in the spring. Three of that party were wanting. Dr. Morbific, by inoculating himself once too often with non-contagious matter, had explained himself out of the world. Mr. Henbane had also departed, on the wings of an infallible antidote. Mr. Eavesdrop, having printed in a magazine some of the after-dinner conversations of the castle, had had sentence of exclusion passed upon him, on the motion of the Reverend Doctor Folliott, as a flagitious violator of the confidences of private life.

Miss Crotchet had become Lady Bossnowl, but Lady Clarinda had not yet changed her name to Crotchet. She had, on one pretence and another, procrastinated the happy event, and the gentleman had not been very pressing; she had, however, accompanied her brother and sister-inlaw, to pass Christmas at Crotchet Castle. With these, Mr. Mac Quedy, Mr. Philpot, Mr. Trillo, Mr. Skionar, Mr. Toogood, and Mr. Firedamp were sitting at breakfast, when the Reverend Doctor Folliott entered and took his seat at the table.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, Mr. Mac Quedy, it is now some weeks since we have met: how goes on the march of mind?

MR. MAC QUEDY. Nay, sir; I think you may see that with your own eyes.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I have seen it, much to my discomfiture. It has marched into my rickyard, and set my stacks on fire, with chemical materials, most scientifically compounded. It has marched up to the door of my vicarage, a hundred and fifty strong; ordered me to surrender half my tithes; consumed all the provisions I had provided for my audit feast, and drunk up my old October. It has marched in through my back-parlour shutters, and out again with my silver spoons, in the dead of the night. The policeman who has been down to examine says my house has been broken open on the most scientific principles. All this comes of education.

MR. MAC QUEDY. I rather think it comes of poverty.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir. Robbery, perhaps, comes of poverty, but scientific principles of robbery come of education. I suppose the learned friend has written a sixpenny treatise on mechanics, and the rascals who robbed me have been reading it.

MR. CROTCHET. Your house would have been very safe, Doctor, if they had had no better science than the learned friend’s to work with.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, that may be. Excellent potted char. The Lord deliver me from the learned friend.

MR. CROTCHET. Well, Doctor, for your comfort, here is a declaration of the learned friend’s that he will never take office.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Then, sir, he will be in office next week. Peace be with him. Sugar and cream.

MR. CROTCHET. But, Doctor, are you for Chainmail Hall on Christmas Day?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. That am I, for there will be an excellent dinner, though, peradventure, grotesquely served.

MR. CROTCHET. I have not seen my neighbour since he left us on the canal.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. He has married a wife, and brought her home.

LADY CLARINDA. Indeed! If she suits him, she must be an oddity: it will be amusing to see them together.

LORD BOSSNOWL. Very amusing. He! He! Mr. Firedamp. Is there any water about Chainmail Hall?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. An old moat.

MR. FIREDAMP. I shall die of malaria.

MR. TRILLO. Shall we have any music?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. An old harper.

MR. TRILLO. Those fellows are always horridly out of tune. What will he play?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Old songs and marches.

MR. SKIONAR. Among so many old things, I hope we shall find Old Philosophy.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. An old woman.

MR. PHILPOT. Perhaps an old map of the river in the twelfth century.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No doubt.

MR. MAC QUEDY. How many more old things?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Old hospitality; old wine; old ale; all the images of old England; an old butler.

MR. TOOGOOD. Shall we all be welcome?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Heartily; you will be slapped on the shoulder, and called Old Boy.

LORD BOSSNOWL. I think we should all go in our old clothes. He! He!

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. You will sit on old chairs, round an old table, by the light of old lamps, suspended from pointed arches, which, Mr. Chainmail says, first came into use in the twelfth century, with old armour on the pillars and old banners in the roof.

LADY CLARINDA. And what curious piece of antiquity is the lady of the mansion?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No antiquity there; none.

LADY CLARINDA. Who was she?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. That I know not.

LADY CLARINDA. Have you seen her?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I have.

LADY CLARINDA. Is she pretty?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. More — beautiful. A subject for the pen of Nonnus or the pencil of Zeuxis. Features of all loveliness, radiant with all virtue and intelligence. A face for Antigone. A form at once plump and symmetrical, that, if it be decorous to divine it by externals, would have been a model for the Venus of Cnidos. Never was anything so goodly to look on, the present company excepted; and poor dear Mrs. Folliott. She reads moral philosophy, Mr. Mac Quedy, which indeed she might as well let alone; she reads Italian poetry, Mr. Skionar; she sings Italian music, Mr. Trillo; but, with all this, she has the greatest of female virtues, for she superintends the household and looks after her husband’s dinner. I believe she was a mountaineer: [Greek text] 1 as Nonnus sweetly sings.

1 A mountain-wandering maid,
Twin-nourished with the solitary wood.

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