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Crotchet Castle by Thomas Love Peacock

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In a few days there was a wedding, a pathetic leave-taking of the
farmer's family, a hundred kisses from the bride to the children,
and promises twenty times reclaimed and renewed, to visit them in
the ensuing year.


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-in-law, 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

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

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

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

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

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. An old woman.

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

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!

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?


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.


Vous autres dictes que ignorance est mere de tous maulx, et dictes
vray: mais toutesfoys vous ne la bannissez mye de vos entendemens,
et vivez en elle, avecques elle, et par elle. C'est pourquoy tant
de maulx vous meshaignent de jour en jour.--RABELIAS, 1. 5. c. 7.

The party which was assembled on Christmas Day in Chainmail Hall
comprised all the guests of Crotchet Castle, some of Mr.
Chainmail's other neighbours, all his tenants and domestics, and
Captain Fitzchrome. The hall was spacious and lofty; and with its
tall fluted pillars and pointed arches, its windows of stained
glass, its display of arms and banners intermingled with holly and
mistletoe, its blazing cressets and torches, and a stupendous fire
in the centre, on which blocks of pine were flaming and crackling,
had a striking effect on eyes unaccustomed to such a dining-room.
The fire was open on all sides, and the smoke was caught and
carried back under a funnel-formed canopy into a hollow central
pillar. This fire was the line of demarcation between gentle and
simple on days of high festival. Tables extended from it on two
sides to nearly the end of the hall.

Mrs. Chainmail was introduced to the company. Young Crotchet felt
some revulsion of feeling at the unexpected sight of one whom he
had forsaken, but not forgotten, in a condition apparently so much
happier than his own. The lady held out her hand to him with a
cordial look of more than forgiveness; it seemed to say that she
had much to thank him for. She was the picture of a happy bride,
rayonnante de joie et d'amour.

Mr. Crotchet told the Reverend Doctor Folliott the news of the
morning. "As you predicted," he said, "your friend, the learned
friend, is in office; he has also a title; he is now Sir Guy de

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Thank heaven for that! he is disarmed from
further mischief. It is something, at any rate, to have that
hollow and wind-shaken reed rooted up for ever from the field of
public delusion.

MR. CROTCHET. I suppose, Doctor, you do not like to see a great
reformer in office; you are afraid for your vested interests.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Not I, indeed, sir; my vested interests are
very safe from all such reformers as the learned friend. I
vaticinate what will be the upshot of all his schemes of reform.
He will make a speech of seven hours' duration, and this will be
its quintessence: that, seeing the exceeding difficulty of putting
salt on the bird's tail, it will be expedient to consider the best
method of throwing dust in the bird's eyes. All the rest will be

[Greek text in verse]

as Aristophanes has it; and so I leave him, in Nephelococcygia.

Mr. Mac Quedy came up to the divine as Mr. Crotchet left him, and
said: "There is one piece of news which the old gentleman has not
told you. The great firm of Catchflat and Company, in which young
Crotchet is a partner, has stopped payment."

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Bless me! that accounts for the young
gentleman's melancholy. I thought they would overreach themselves
with their own tricks. The day of reckoning, Mr. Mac Quedy, is the
point which your paper-money science always leaves out of view.

MR. MAC QUEDY. I do not see, sir, that the failure of Catchflat
and Company has anything to do with my science.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. It has this to do with it, sir, that you would
turn the whole nation into a great paper-money shop, and take no
thought of the day of reckoning. But the dinner is coming. I
think you, who are so fond of paper promises, should dine on the
bill of fare.

The harper at the head of the hall struck up an ancient march, and
the dishes were brought in, in grand procession.

The boar's head, garnished with rosemary, with a citron in its
mouth, led the van. Then came tureens of plum-porridge; then a
series of turkeys, and in the midst of them an enormous sausage,
which it required two men to carry. Then came geese and capons,
tongues and hams, the ancient glory of the Christmas pie, a
gigantic plum pudding, a pyramid of mince pies, and a baron of beef
bringing up the rear.

"It is something new under the sun," said the divine, as he sat
down, "to see a great dinner without fish."

MR. CHAINMAIL. Fish was for fasts in the twelfth century.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, I prefer our reformed system of
putting fasts and feasts together. Not but here is ample

Ale and wine flowed in abundance. The dinner passed off merrily:
the old harper playing all the while the oldest music in his
repertory. The tables being cleared, he indemnified himself for
lost time at the lower end of the hall, in company with the old
butler and the other domestics, whose attendance on the banquet had
been indispensable.

The scheme of Christmas gambols, which Mr. Chainmail had laid for
the evening, was interrupted by a tremendous clamour without.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. What have we here? Mummers?

MR. CHAINMAIL. Nay, I know not. I expect none.

"Who is there?" he added, approaching the door of the hall.

"Who is there?" vociferated the divine, with the voice of Stentor.

"Captain Swing," replied a chorus of discordant voices.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Ho, ho! here is a piece of the dark ages we did
not bargain for. Here is the Jacquerie. Here is the march of mind
with a witness.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Do you not see that you have brought disparates
together? the Jacquerie and the march of mind.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Not at all, sir. They are the same thing,
under different names. [Greek text]. What was Jacquerie in the
dark ages is the march of mind in this very enlightened one--very
enlightened one.

MR. CHAINMAIL. The cause is the same in both; poverty in despair.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Very likely; but the effect is extremely

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. It is the natural result, Mr. Mac Quedy, of
that system of state seamanship which your science upholds.
Putting the crew on short allowance, and doubling the rations of
the officers, is the sure way to make a mutiny on board a ship in
distress, Mr. Mac Quedy.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, I uphold no such system as that. I shall
set you right as to cause and effect. Discontent arises with the
increase of information. That is all.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I said it was the march of mind. But we have
not time for discussing cause and effect now. Let us get rid of
the enemy.

And he vociferated at the top of his voice, "What do you want
here?" "Arms, arms," replied a hundred voices, "Give us the arms."

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. You see, Mr. Chainmail, this is the
inconvenience of keeping an armoury not fortified with sand bags,
green bags, and old bags of all kinds.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Just give them the old spits and toasting irons,
and they will go away quietly.

MR. CHAINMAIL. My spears and swords! not without my life. These
assailants are all aliens to my land and house. My men will fight
for me, one and all. This is the fortress of beef and ale.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, when the rabble is up, it is very
indiscriminating. You are e'en suffering for the sins of Sir Simon
Steeltrap and the like, who have pushed the principle of
accumulation a little too far.

MR. CHAINMAIL. The way to keep the people down is kind and liberal

MR. MAC QUEDY. That is very well (where it can be afforded) in the
way of prevention; but in the way of cure the operation must be
more drastic. (Taking down a battle-axe.) I would fain have a
good blunderbuss charged with slugs.

MR. CHAINMAIL. When I suspended these arms for ornament, I never
dreamed of their being called into use.

MR. SKIONAR. Let me address them. I never failed to convince an
audience that the best thing they could do was to go away.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, I can bring them to that conclusion in
less time than you.

MR. CROTCHET. I have no fancy for fighting. It is a very hard
case upon a guest, when the latter end of a feast is the beginning
of a fray.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Give them the old iron.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Give them the weapons! Pessimo, medius fidius,
exemplo. Forbid it the spirit of Frere Jean des Entommeures! No!
let us see what the church militant, in the armour of the twelfth
century, will do against the march of mind. Follow me who will,
and stay who list. Here goes: Pro aris et focis! that is, for
tithe pigs and fires to roast them.

He clapped a helmet on his head, seized a long lance, threw open
the gates, and tilted out on the rabble, side by side with Mr.
Chainmail, followed by the greater portion of the male inmates of
the hall, who had armed themselves at random.

The rabble-rout, being unprepared for such a sortie, fled in all
directions, over hedge and ditch.

Mr. Trillo stayed in the hall, playing a march on the harp, to
inspirit the rest to sally out. The water-loving Mr. Philpot had
diluted himself with so much wine as to be quite hors de combat.
Mr. Toogood, intending to equip himself in purely defensive armour,
contrived to slip a ponderous coat of mail over his shoulders,
which pinioned his arms to his sides; and in this condition, like a
chicken trussed for roasting, he was thrown down behind a pillar in
the first rush of the sortie. Mr. Crotchet seized the occurrence
as a pretext for staying with him, and passed the whole time of the
action in picking him out of his shell.

"Phew!" said the divine, returning; "an inglorious victory; but it
deserves a devil and a bowl of punch."

MR. CHAINMAIL. A wassail-bowl.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir. No more of the twelfth century for

MR. CHAINMAIL. Nay, Doctor. The twelfth century has backed you
well. Its manners and habits, its community of kind feelings
between master and man, are the true remedy for these ebullitions.

MR. TOOGOOD. Something like it: improved by my diagram: arts for

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No wassail-bowl for me. Give me an
unsophisticated bowl of punch, which belongs to that blissful
middle period, after the Jacquerie was down, and before the march
of mind was up. But, see, who is floundering in the water?

Proceeding to the edge of the moat, they fished up Mr. Firedamp,
who had missed his way back, and tumbled in. He was drawn out,
exclaiming, "that he had taken his last dose of malaria in this

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Tut, man; dry clothes, a turkey's leg and rump,
well devilled, and a quart of strong punch, will set all to rights.

"Wood embers," said Mr. Firedamp, when he had been accommodated
with a change of clothes, "there is no antidote to malaria like the
smoke of wood embers; pine embers." And he placed himself, with
his mouth open, close by the fire.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Punch, sir, punch: there is no antidote like

MR. CHAINMAIL. Well, Doctor, you shall be indulged. But I shall
have my wassail-bowl, nevertheless.

An immense bowl of spiced wine, with roasted apples hissing on its
surface, was borne into the hall by four men, followed by an empty
bowl of the same dimensions, with all the materials of arrack
punch, for the divine's especial brewage. He accinged himself to
the task with his usual heroism, and having finished it to his
entire satisfaction, reminded his host to order in the devil

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I think, Mr. Chainmail, we can amuse ourselves
very well here all night. The enemy may be still excubant: and we
had better not disperse till daylight. I am perfectly satisfied
with my quarters. Let the young folk go on with their gambols; let
them dance to your old harper's minstrelsy; and if they please to
kiss under the mistletoe, whereof I espy a goodly bunch suspended
at the end of the hall, let those who like it not leave it to those
who do. Moreover, if among the more sedate portion of the
assembly, which, I foresee, will keep me company, there were any to
revive the good old custom of singing after supper, so to fill up
the intervals of the dances, the steps of night would move more

MR. CHAINMAIL. My Susan will set the example, after she has set
that of joining in the rustic dance, according to good customs long

After the first dance, in which all classes of the company mingled,
the young lady of the mansion took her harp, and following the
reverend gentleman's suggestion, sang a song of the twelfth


Florence and Blanchflor, loveliest maids,
Within a summer grove,
Amid the flower-enamelled shades
Together talked of love.

A clerk sweet Blanchflor's heart had gain'd;
Fair Florence loved a knight:
And each with ardent voice maintained
She loved the worthiest wight.

Sweet Blanchflor praised her scholar dear,
As courteous, kind, and true!
Fair Florence said her chevalier
Could every foe subdue.

And Florence scorned the bookworm vain,
Who sword nor spear could raise;
And Blanchflor scorned the unlettered brain
Could sing no lady's praise.

From dearest love, the maidens bright
To deadly hatred fell,
Each turned to shun the other's sight,
And neither said farewell.

The king of birds, who held his court
Within that flowery grove,
Sang loudly: "'Twill be rare disport
To judge this suit of love."

Before him came the maidens bright,
With all his birds around,
To judge the cause, if clerk or knight
In love be worthiest found.

The falcon and the sparrow-hawk
Stood forward for the fight:
Ready to do, and not to talk,
They voted for the knight.

And Blanchflor's heart began to fail,
Till rose the strong-voiced lark,
And, after him, the nightingale,
And pleaded for the clerk.

The nightingale prevailed at length,
Her pleading had such charms;
So eloquence can conquer strength,
And arts can conquer arms.

The lovely Florence tore her hair,
And died upon the place;
And all the birds assembled there
Bewailed the mournful case.

They piled up leaves and flowerets rare
Above the maiden bright,
And sang: "Farewell to Florence fair,
Who too well loved her knight."

Several others of the party sang in the intervals of the dances.
Mr. Chainmail handed to Mr. Trillo another ballad of the twelfth
century, of a merrier character than the former. Mr. Trillo
readily accommodated it with an air, and sang:


Did you hear of the curate who mounted his mare,
And merrily trotted along to the fair?
Of creature more tractable none ever heard;
In the height of her speed she would stop at a word,
And again with a word, when the curate said Hey,
She put forth her mettle, and galloped away.

As near to the gates of the city he rode,
While the sun of September all brilliantly glowed,
The good priest discovered, with eyes of desire,
A mulberry tree in a hedge of wild briar,
On boughs long and lofty, in many a green shoot,
Hung large, black, and glossy, the beautiful fruit.

The curate was hungry, and thirsty to boot;
He shrunk from the thorns, though he longed for the fruit;
With a word he arrested his courser's keen speed,
And he stood up erect on the back of his steed;
On the saddle he stood, while the creature stood still,
And he gathered the fruit, till he took his good fill.

"Sure never," he thought, "was a creature so rare,
So docile, so true, as my excellent mare.
Lo, here, how I stand" (and he gazed all around),
"As safe and as steady as if on the ground,
Yet how had it been, if some traveller this way,
Had, dreaming no mischief, but chanced to cry Hey?"

He stood with his head in the mulberry tree,
And he spoke out aloud in his fond reverie.
At the sound of the word, the good mare made a push,
And down went the priest in the wild-briar bush.
He remembered too late, on his thorny green bed,
Much that well may be thought cannot wisely be said.

Lady Clarinda, being prevailed on to take the harp in her turn,
sang the following stanzas.

In the days of old,
Lovers felt true passion,
Deeming years of sorrow
By a smile repaid.
Now the charms of gold,
Spells of pride and fashion,
Bid them say good morrow
To the best-loved maid.

Through the forests wild,
O'er the mountains lonely,
They were never weary
Honour to pursue.
If the damsel smiled
Once in seven years only,
All their wanderings dreary
Ample guerdon knew.

Now one day's caprice
Weighs down years of smiling,
Youthful hearts are rovers,
Love is bought and sold:
Fortune's gifts may cease,
Love is less beguiling;
Wisest were the lovers
In the days of old.

The glance which she threw at the captain, as she sang the last
verse, awakened his dormant hopes. Looking round for his rival, he
saw that he was not in the hall; and, approaching the lady of his
heart, he received one of the sweetest smiles of their earlier

After a time, the ladies, and all the females of the party,
retired. The males remained on duty with punch and wassail, and
dropped off one by one into sweet forgetfulness; so that when the
rising sun of December looked through the painted windows on
mouldering embers and flickering lamps, the vaulted roof was
echoing to a mellifluous concert of noses, from the clarionet of
the waiting-boy at one end of the hall, to the double bass of the
Reverend Doctor, ringing over the empty punch-bowl, at the other.


From this eventful night, young Crotchet was seen no more on
English mould. Whither he had vanished was a question that could
no more be answered in his case than in that of King Arthur after
the battle of Camlan. The great firm of Catchflat and Company
figured in the Gazette, and paid sixpence in the pound; and it was
clear that he had shrunk from exhibiting himself on the scene of
his former greatness, shorn of the beams of his paper prosperity.
Some supposed him to be sleeping among the undiscoverable secrets
of some barbel-pool in the Thames; but those who knew him best were
more inclined to the opinion that he had gone across the Atlantic,
with his pockets full of surplus capital, to join his old
acquaintance, Mr. Touchandgo, in the bank of Dotandcarryonetown.

Lady Clarinda was more sorry for her father's disappointment than
her own; but she had too much pride to allow herself to be put up a
second time in the money-market; and when the Captain renewed his
assiduities, her old partiality for him, combining with a sense of
gratitude for a degree of constancy which she knew she scarcely
deserved, induced her, with Lord Foolincourt's hard-wrung consent,
to share with him a more humble, but less precarious fortune, than
that to which she had been destined as the price of a rotten


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

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