Nightmare Abbey, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter XIV

Scythrop was still in this position when Raven entered to announce that dinner was on table.

‘I cannot come,’ said Scythrop.

Raven sighed. ‘Something is the matter,’ said Raven: ‘but man is born to trouble.’

‘Leave me,’ said Scythrop: ‘go, and croak elsewhere.’

‘Thus it is,’ said Raven. ‘Five-and-twenty years have I lived in Nightmare Abbey, and now all the reward of my affection is — Go, and croak elsewhere. I have danced you on my knee, and fed you with marrow.’

‘Good Raven,’ said Scythrop, ‘I entreat you to leave me.’

‘Shall I bring your dinner here?’ said Raven. ‘A boiled fowl and a glass of Madeira are prescribed by the faculty in cases of low spirits. But you had better join the party: it is very much reduced already.’

‘Reduced! how?’

‘The Honourable Mr Listless is gone. He declared that, what with family quarrels in the morning, and ghosts at night, he could get neither sleep nor peace; and that the agitation was too much for his nerves: though Mr Glowry assured him that the ghost was only poor Crow walking in his sleep, and that the shroud and bloody turban were a sheet and a red nightcap.’

‘Well, sir?’

‘The Reverend Mr Larynx has been called off on duty, to marry or bury (I don’t know which) some unfortunate person or persons, at Claydyke: but man is born to trouble!’

‘Is that all?’

‘No. Mr Toobad is gone too, and a strange lady with him.’

‘Gone!’

‘Gone. And Mr and Mrs Hilary, and Miss O’Carroll: they are all gone. There is nobody left but Mr Asterias and his son, and they are going to-night.’

‘Then I have lost them both.’

‘Won’t you come to dinner?’

‘No.’

‘Shall I bring your dinner here?’

‘Yes.’

‘What will you have?’

‘A pint of port and a pistol.’14

‘A pistol!’

‘And a pint of port. I will make my exit like Werter. Go. Stay. Did Miss O’Carroll say any thing?’

‘No.’

‘Did Miss Toobad say any thing?’

‘The strange lady? No.’

‘Did either of them cry?’

‘No.’

‘What did they do?’

‘Nothing.’

‘What did Mr Toobad say?’

‘He said, fifty times over, the devil was come among us.’

‘And they are gone?’

‘Yes; and the dinner is getting cold. There is a time for every thing under the sun. You may as well dine first, and be miserable afterwards.’

‘True, Raven. There is something in that. I will take your advice: therefore, bring me ——’

‘The port and the pistol?’

‘No; the boiled fowl and Madeira.’

Scythrop had dined, and was sipping his Madeira alone, immersed in melancholy musing, when Mr Glowry entered, followed by Raven, who, having placed an additional glass and set a chair for Mr Glowry, withdrew. Mr Glowry sat down opposite Scythrop. After a pause, during which each filled and drank in silence, Mr Glowry said, ‘So, sir, you have played your cards well. I proposed Miss Toobad to you: you refused her. Mr Toobad proposed you to her: she refused you. You fell in love with Marionetta, and were going to poison yourself, because, from pure fatherly regard to your temporal interests, I withheld my consent. When, at length, I offered you my consent, you told me I was too precipitate. And, after all, I find you and Miss Toobad living together in the same tower, and behaving in every respect like two plighted lovers. Now, sir, if there be any rational solution of all this absurdity, I shall be very much obliged to you for a small glimmering of information.’

‘The solution, sir, is of little moment; but I will leave it in writing for your satisfaction. The crisis of my fate is come: the world is a stage, and my direction is exit.

‘Do not talk so, sir; — do not talk so, Scythrop. What would you have?’

‘I would have my love.’

‘And pray, sir, who is your love?’

‘Celinda — Marionetta — either — both.’

‘Both! That may do very well in a German tragedy; and the Great Mogul might have found it very feasible in his lodgings at Kensington; but it will not do in Lincolnshire. Will you have Miss Toobad?’

‘Yes.’

‘And renounce Marionetta?’

‘No.’

‘But you must renounce one.’

‘I cannot.’

‘And you cannot have both. What is to be done?’

‘I must shoot myself.’

‘Don’t talk so, Scythrop. Be rational, my dear Scythrop. Consider, and make a cool, calm choice, and I will exert myself in your behalf.’

‘Why should I choose, sir? Both have renounced me: I have no hope of either.’

‘Tell me which you will have, and I will plead your cause irresistibly.’

‘Well, sir — I will have — no, sir, I cannot renounce either. I cannot choose either. I am doomed to be the victim of eternal disappointments; and I have no resource but a pistol.’

‘Scythrop — Scythrop; — if one of them should come to you — what then?’

‘That, sir, might alter the case: but that cannot be.’

‘It can be, Scythrop; it will be: I promise you it will be. Have but a little patience — but a week’s patience; and it shall be.’

‘A week, sir, is an age: but, to oblige you, as a last act of filial duty, I will live another week. It is now Thursday evening, twenty-five minutes past seven. At this hour and minute, on Thursday next, love and fate shall smile on me, or I will drink my last pint of port in this world.’

Mr Glowry ordered his travelling chariot, and departed from the abbey.

14 a pint of port and a pistol: See The Sorrows of Werter, Letter 93.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/peacock/thomas_love/p35n/chapter14.html

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