Gryll Grange, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter 26

Doubts and Questions

(Greek passage)

Alcæus.

Bacchis! ”Tis vain to brood on care,

Since grief no remedy supplies;

Be ours the sparkling bowl to share,

And drown our sorrows as they rise.

Mr. Falconer saw no more of Miss Gryll till the party assembled in the drawing-rooms. She necessarily took the arm of Lord Curryfin for dinner, and it fell to the lot of Mr. Falconer to offer his to Miss Niphet, so that they sat at remote ends of the table, each wishing himself in the other’s place; but Lord Curryfin paid all possible attention to his fair neighbour. Mr. Falconer could see that Miss Gryll’s conversation with Lord Curryfin was very animated and joyous: too merry, perhaps, for love: but cordial to a degree that alarmed him. It was, however, clear by the general mirth at the head of the table, that nothing very confidential or sentimental was passing. Still, a young lady who had placed the destiny of her life on a point of brief suspense ought not to be so merry as Miss Gryll evidently was. He said little to Miss Niphet; and she, with her habit of originating nothing, sat in her normal state of statue-like placidity, listening to the conversation near her. She was on the left hand of Mr. Gryll. Miss Ilex was on his right, and on her right was the Reverend Doctor Opimian. These three kept up an animated dialogue. Mr. MacBorrowdale was in the middle of the table, and amused his two immediate fair neighbours with remarks appertaining to the matter immediately before them, the preparation and arrangement of a good dinner: remarks that would have done honour to Francatelli.

After a while, Mr. Falconer bethought him that he would try to draw out Miss Niphet.’s opinion on the subject nearest his heart. He said to her: ‘They are very merry at the head of the table.’

Miss Niphet.. I suppose Lord Curryfin is in the vein for amusing his company, and he generally succeeds in his social purposes.

Mr. Falconer. You lay stress on social, as if you thought him not successful in all his purposes.

Miss Niphet. Not in all his inventions, for example. But in the promotion of social enjoyment he has few equals. Of course, it must be in congenial society. There is a power of being pleased, as well as a power of pleasing. With Miss Gryll and Lord Curryfin, both meet in both. No wonder that they amuse those around them.

Mr. Falconer. In whom there must also be a power of being pleased.

Miss Niphet.. Most of the guests here have it. If they had not they would scarcely be here. I have seen some dismal persons, any one of whom would be a kill-joy to a whole company. There are none such in this party. I have also seen a whole company all willing to be pleased, but all mute from not knowing what to say to each other: not knowing how to begin. Lord Curryfin would be a blessing to such a party. He would be the steel to their flint.

Mr. Falconer. Have you known him long?

Miss Niphet.. Only since I met him here.

Mr. Falconer. Have you heard that he is a suitor to Miss Gryll?

Miss Niphet.. I have heard so.

Mr. Falconer. Should you include the probability of his being accepted in your estimate of his social successes?

Miss Niphet.. Love affairs are under influences too capricious for the calculation of probabilities.

Mr. Falconer. Yet I should be very glad to hear your opinion. You know them both so well.

Miss Niphet. I am disposed to indulge you, because I think it is not mere curiosity that makes you ask the question, Otherwise I should not be inclined to answer it, I do not think he will ever be the affianced lover of Morgana. Perhaps he might have been if he had persevered as he began. But he has been used to smiling audiences. He did not find the exact reciprocity he looked for. He fancied that it was, or would be, for another, I believe he was right.

Mr. Falconer. Yet you think he might have succeeded if he had persevered.

Miss Niphet. I can scarcely think otherwise, seeing how much he has to recommend him.

Mr. Falconer. But he has not withdrawn.

Miss Nipket. No, and will not. But she is too high-minded to hold him to a proposal not followed up as it commenced even if she had not turned her thoughts elsewhere.

Mr. Falconer. Do you not think she could recall him to his first ardour if she exerted all her fascinations for the purpose?

Miss Nipket. It may be so. I do not think she will try. (She added, to herself:) I do not think she would succeed.

Mr. Falconer did not feel sure she would not try: he thought he saw symptoms of her already doing so. In his opinion Morgana was, and must be, irresistible. But as he had thought his fair neighbour somewhat interested in the subject, he wondered at the apparent impassiveness with which she replied to his questions.

In the meantime he found, as he had often done before, that the more his mind was troubled, the more Madeira he could drink without disordering his head.

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