Gryll Grange, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter 10

The Thunderstorm

Si bene calculum ponas, ubique naufragium est.

— Petronius Arbiter.

If you consider well the events of life, shipwreck is everywhere.

After luncheon the doctor thought of returning home, when a rumbling of distant thunder made him pause. They reascended the Tower, to reconnoitre the elements from the library. The windows were so arranged as to afford a panoramic view.

The thunder muttered far off, but there was neither rain nor visible lightning.

‘The storm is at a great distance,’ said the doctor, ‘and it seems to be passing away on the verge of the sky.’

But on the opposite horizon appeared a mass of dark-blue cloud, which rose rapidly, and advanced in the direct line of the Tower. Before it rolled a lighter but still lurid volume of vapour, which curled and wreathed like eddying smoke before the denser blackness of the unbroken cloud.

Simultaneously followed the flashing of lightning, the rolling of thunder, and a deluge of rain like the bursting of a waterspout.

They sate some time in silence, watching the storm as it swept along, with wind, and driving rain, and whirling hail, bringing for a time almost the darkness of night, through which the forked lightning poured a scarcely interrupted blaze.

Suddenly came a long dazzling flash, that seemed to irradiate the entire circumference of the sky, followed instantaneously by one of those crashing peals of thunder which always indicate that something very near has been struck by the lightning.

The doctor turned round to make a remark on the awful grandeur of the effect, when he observed that his young friend had disappeared. On his return, he said he had been looking for what had been struck.

‘And what was?’ said the doctor.

‘Nothing in the house,’ said his host.

‘The Vestals,’ thought the doctor; ‘these were all his solicitude.’

But though Mr. Falconer had looked no farther than to the safety of the seven sisters, his attention was soon drawn to a tumult below, which seemed to indicate that some serious mischief had resulted from the lightning; and the youngest of the sisters, appearing in great trepidation, informed him that one of two horses in a gentleman’s carriage had been struck dead, and that a young lady in the carriage had been stunned by the passing flash, though how far she was injured by it could not be immediately known. The other horse, it appeared, had been prancing in terror, and had nearly overthrown the carriage; but he had been restrained by the vigorous arm of a young farmer, who had subsequently carried the young lady into the house, where she was now resting on a couch in the female apartments, and carefully attended by the sisters.

Mr. Falconer and the doctor descended into the hall, and were assured that the young lady was doing well, but that she would be much better for being left some time longer undisturbed. An elderly gentleman issued from the female apartments, and the doctor with some amazement recognised his friend Mr. Gryll, to whom and his niece this disaster had occurred.

The beauty of the morning had tempted them to a long drive; and they thought it would be a good opportunity to gratify at least a portion of the curiosity which the doctor’s description of the Folly and its inhabitants had excited in them. They had therefore determined on taking a circuit, in which they would pass under the walls of the Tower. They were almost at the extremity of their longest radius, when the storm burst over them, and were just under the Tower when the lightning struck one of their horses. Harry Hedgerow was on his way with some farm produce when the accident occurred, and was the young farmer who had subdued the surviving horse, and carried the young lady into the house. Mr. Gryll was very panegyrical of this young man’s behaviour, and the doctor, when he recognised him, shook him heartily by the hand, and told him he felt sure that he was a lad who would make his way: a remark which Harry received as a good omen: for Dorothy heard it, and looked at him with a concurrent, though silent, approbation.

The drawing-room and the chambers for visitors were between the Tower and the gynoceum, or female apartments, which were as completely separated from the rest of the house as they could have been in Athens.

After some anxious inquiries, it was reported that the young lady was sleeping, and that one or other of the sisters would keep constant watch by her. It was therefore arranged that Mr. Gryll should dine and pass the night where he was. Before dinner he had the satisfaction of hearing from medical authority that all would be well after a little time.

Harry Hedgerow had bethought him of a retired physician, who lived with a maiden sister in a cottage at no great distance from the Tower, and who often gave gratuitous advice to his poorer neighbours. If he prescribed anything beyond their means, himself or his sister was always ready to supply it. Though their own means were limited, they were the good angels of a small circumference.

The old physician confirmed the opinion already given by the sisters, that the young lady for the present only required repose; but he accepted the invitation to remain till the morning, in the event of his advice being needed.

So Miss Gryll remained with the elder sisters. Mr. Gryll and the two doctors, spiritual and temporal, sat down to dinner with Mr. Falconer, and were waited on, as usual, by the younger handmaids.

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