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Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock

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NIGHTMARE ABBEY

By

_Thomas Love Peacock_

CONTENTS

NIGHTMARE ABBEY

NOTES TO _Nightmare Abbey_

NIGHTMARE ABBEY:

BY

THE AUTHOR OF HEADLONG HALL.

* * * * *

There's a dark lantern of the spirit,
Which none see by but those who bear it,
That makes them in the dark see visions
And hag themselves with apparitions,
Find racks for their own minds, and vaunt
Of their own misery and want.
BUTLER.

* * * * *

LONDON:

1818.

MATTHEW. Oh! it's your only fine humour, sir. Your true melancholy
breeds your perfect fine wit, sir. I am melancholy myself, divers
times, sir; and then do I no more but take pen and paper presently,
and overflow you half a score or a dozen of sonnets at a sitting.

STEPHEN. Truly, sir, and I love such things out of measure.

MATTHEW. Why, I pray you, sir, make use of my study: it's at your
service.

STEPHEN. I thank you, sir, I shall be bold, I warrant you. Have you a
stool there, to be melancholy upon?

BEN JONSON, _Every Man in his Humour_, Act 3, Sc. I

Ay esleu gazouiller et siffler oye, comme dit le commun
proverbe, entre les cygnes, plutoust que d'estre entre
tant de gentils potes et faconds orateurs mut du tout
estim.

RABELAIS, _Prol. L_. 5

* * * * *

CHAPTER I

Nightmare Abbey, a venerable family-mansion, in a highly picturesque
state of semi-dilapidation, pleasantly situated on a strip of dry land
between the sea and the fens, at the verge of the county of Lincoln,
had the honour to be the seat of Christopher Glowry, Esquire. This
gentleman was naturally of an atrabilarious temperament, and much
troubled with those phantoms of indigestion which are commonly called
_blue devils_. He had been deceived in an early friendship: he had
been crossed in love; and had offered his hand, from pique, to a lady,
who accepted it from interest, and who, in so doing, violently tore
asunder the bonds of a tried and youthful attachment. Her vanity was
gratified by being the mistress of a very extensive, if not very
lively, establishment; but all the springs of her sympathies were
frozen. Riches she possessed, but that which enriches them, the
participation of affection, was wanting. All that they could purchase
for her became indifferent to her, because that which they could not
purchase, and which was more valuable than themselves, she had, for
their sake, thrown away. She discovered, when it was too late, that
she had mistaken the means for the end--that riches, rightly used, are
instruments of happiness, but are not in themselves happiness. In this
wilful blight of her affections, she found them valueless as means:
they had been the end to which she had immolated all her affections,
and were now the only end that remained to her. She did not confess
this to herself as a principle of action, but it operated through the
medium of unconscious self-deception, and terminated in inveterate
avarice. She laid on external things the blame of her mind's internal
disorder, and thus became by degrees an accomplished scold. She often
went her daily rounds through a series of deserted apartments, every
creature in the house vanishing at the creak of her shoe, much more
at the sound of her voice, to which the nature of things affords no
simile; for, as far as the voice of woman, when attuned by gentleness
and love, transcends all other sounds in harmony, so far does
it surpass all others in discord, when stretched into unnatural
shrillness by anger and impatience.

Mr Glowry used to say that his house was no better than a spacious
kennel, for every one in it led the life of a dog. Disappointed both
in love and in friendship, and looking upon human learning as vanity,
he had come to a conclusion that there was but one good thing in the
world, _videlicet_, a good dinner; and this his parsimonious lady
seldom suffered him to enjoy: but, one morning, like Sir Leoline in
Christabel, 'he woke and found his lady dead,' and remained a very
consulate widower, with one small child.

This only son and heir Mr Glowry had christened Scythrop, from the
name of a maternal ancestor, who had hanged himself one rainy day in a
fit of _toedium vitae_, and had been eulogised by a coroner's jury in
the comprehensive phrase of _felo de se_; on which account, Mr Glowry
held his memory in high honour, and made a punchbowl of his skull.

When Scythrop grew up, he was sent, as usual, to a public school,
where a little learning was painfully beaten into him, and from thence
to the university, where it was carefully taken out of him; and he was
sent home like a well-threshed ear of corn, with nothing in his head:
having finished his education to the high satisfaction of the
master and fellows of his college, who had, in testimony of their
approbation, presented him with a silver fish-slice, on which his name
figured at the head of a laudatory inscription in some semi-barbarous
dialect of Anglo-Saxonised Latin.

His fellow-students, however, who drove tandem and random in great
perfection, and were connoisseurs in good inns, had taught him to
drink deep ere he departed. He had passed much of his time with these
choice spirits, and had seen the rays of the midnight lamp tremble
on many a lengthening file of empty bottles. He passed his vacations
sometimes at Nightmare Abbey, sometimes in London, at the house of
his uncle, Mr Hilary, a very cheerful and elastic gentleman, who had
married the sister of the melancholy Mr Glowry. The company that
frequented his house was the gayest of the gay. Scythrop danced with
the ladies and drank with the gentlemen, and was pronounced by both a
very accomplished charming fellow, and an honour to the university.

At the house of Mr Hilary, Scythrop first saw the beautiful Miss Emily
Girouette. He fell in love; which is nothing new. He was favourably
received; which is nothing strange. Mr Glowry and Mr Girouette had
a meeting on the occasion, and quarrelled about the terms of the
bargain; which is neither new nor strange. The lovers were torn
asunder, weeping and vowing everlasting constancy; and, in three weeks
after this tragical event, the lady was led a smiling bride to the
altar, by the Honourable Mr Lackwit; which is neither strange nor new.

Scythrop received this intelligence at Nightmare Abbey, and was half
distracted on the occasion. It was his first disappointment, and
preyed deeply on his sensitive spirit. His father, to comfort him,
read him a Commentary on Ecclesiastes, which he had himself composed,
and which demonstrated incontrovertibly that all is vanity. He
insisted particularly on the text, 'One man among a thousand have I
found, but a woman amongst all those have I not found.'

'How could he expect it,' said Scythrop, 'when the whole thousand were
locked up in his seraglio? His experience is no precedent for a free
state of society like that in which we live.'

'Locked up or at large,' said Mr Glowry, 'the result is the same:
their minds are always locked up, and vanity and interest keep the
key. I speak feelingly, Scythrop.'

'I am sorry for it, sir,' said Scythrop. 'But how is it that their
minds are locked up? The fault is in their artificial education, which
studiously models them into mere musical dolls, to be set out for sale
in the great toy-shop of society.'

'To be sure,' said Mr Glowry, 'their education is not so well finished
as yours has been; and your idea of a musical doll is good. I bought
one myself, but it was confoundedly out of tune; but, whatever be the
cause, Scythrop, the effect is certainly this, that one is pretty
nearly as good as another, as far as any judgment can be formed of
them before marriage. It is only after marriage that they show
their true qualities, as I know by bitter experience. Marriage is,
therefore, a lottery, and the less choice and selection a man bestows
on his ticket the better; for, if he has incurred considerable pains
and expense to obtain a lucky number, and his lucky number proves a
blank, he experiences not a simple, but a complicated disappointment;
the loss of labour and money being superadded to the disappointment of
drawing a blank, which, constituting simply and entirely the grievance
of him who has chosen his ticket at random, is, from its simplicity,
the more endurable.' This very excellent reasoning was thrown away
upon Scythrop, who retired to his tower as dismal and disconsolate as
before.

The tower which Scythrop inhabited stood at the south-eastern angle of
the Abbey; and, on the southern side, the foot of the tower opened on
a terrace, which was called the garden, though nothing grew on it but
ivy, and a few amphibious weeds. The south-western tower, which was
ruinous and full of owls, might, with equal propriety, have been
called the aviary. This terrace or garden, or terrace-garden, or
garden-terrace (the reader may name it _ad libitum_), took in an
oblique view of the open sea, and fronted a long tract of level
sea-coast, and a fine monotony of fens and windmills.

The reader will judge, from what we have said, that this building was
a sort of castellated abbey; and it will, probably, occur to him to
inquire if it had been one of the strong-holds of the ancient church
militant. Whether this was the case, or how far it had been indebted
to the taste of Mr Glowry's ancestors for any transmutations from its
original state, are, unfortunately, circumstances not within the pale
of our knowledge.

The north-western tower contained the apartments of Mr Glowry. The
moat at its base, and the fens beyond, comprised the whole of his
prospect. This moat surrounded the Abbey, and was in immediate contact
with the walls on every side but the south.

The north-eastern tower was appropriated to the domestics, whom Mr
Glowry always chose by one of two criterions,--a long face, or a
dismal name. His butler was Raven; his steward was Crow; his valet was
Skellet. Mr Glowry maintained that the valet was of French extraction,
and that his name was Squelette. His grooms were Mattocks and Graves.
On one occasion, being in want of a footman, he received a letter
from a person signing himself Diggory Deathshead, and lost no time in
securing this acquisition; but on Diggory's arrival, Mr Glowry was
horror-struck by the sight of a round ruddy face, and a pair of
laughing eyes. Deathshead was always grinning,--not a ghastly smile,
but the grin of a comic mask; and disturbed the echoes of the hall
with so much unhallowed laughter, that Mr Glowry gave him his
discharge. Diggory, however, had staid long enough to make conquests
of all the old gentleman's maids, and left him a flourishing colony of
young Deathsheads to join chorus with the owls, that had before been
the exclusive choristers of Nightmare Abbey.

The main body of the building was divided into rooms of state,
spacious apartments for feasting, and numerous bed-rooms for visitors,
who, however, were few and far between.

Family interests compelled Mr Glowry to receive occasional visits from
Mr and Mrs Hilary, who paid them from the same motive; and, as the
lively gentleman on these occasions found few conductors for his
exuberant gaiety, he became like a double-charged electric jar, which
often exploded in some burst of outrageous merriment to the signal
discomposure of Mr Glowry's nerves.

Another occasional visitor, much more to Mr Glowry's taste, was Mr
Flosky,[1] a very lachrymose and morbid gentleman, of some note in
the literary world, but in his own estimation of much more merit than
name. The part of his character which recommended him to Mr Glowry,
was his very fine sense of the grim and the tearful. No one could
relate a dismal story with so many minuti of supererogatory
wretchedness. No one could call up a _raw-head and bloody-bones_ with
so many adjuncts and circumstances of ghastliness. Mystery was his
mental element. He lived in the midst of that visionary world in which
nothing is but what is not. He dreamed with his eyes open, and saw
ghosts dancing round him at noontide. He had been in his youth
an enthusiast for liberty, and had hailed the dawn of the French
Revolution as the promise of a day that was to banish war and slavery,
and every form of vice and misery, from the face of the earth. Because
all this was not done, he deduced that nothing was done; and from this
deduction, according to his system of logic, he drew a conclusion
that worse than nothing was done; that the overthrow of the feudal
fortresses of tyranny and superstition was the greatest calamity that
had ever befallen mankind; and that their only hope now was to rake
the rubbish together, and rebuild it without any of those loopholes
by which the light had originally crept in. To qualify himself for a
coadjutor in this laudable task, he plunged into the central
opacity of Kantian metaphysics, and lay _perdu_ several years in
transcendental darkness, till the common daylight of common sense
became intolerable to his eyes. He called the sun an _ignis fatuus_;
and exhorted all who would listen to his friendly voice, which were
about as many as called 'God save King Richard,' to shelter themselves
from its delusive radiance in the obscure haunt of Old Philosophy.
This word Old had great charms for him. The good old times were always
on his lips; meaning the days when polemic theology was in its prime,
and rival prelates beat the drum ecclesiastic with Herculean vigour,
till the one wound up his series of syllogisms with the very orthodox
conclusion of roasting the other.

But the dearest friend of Mr Glowry, and his most welcome guest,
was Mr Toobad, the Manichaean Millenarian. The twelfth verse of the
twelfth chapter of Revelations was always in his mouth: 'Woe to the
inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come among
you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short
time.' He maintained that the supreme dominion of the world was, for
wise purposes, given over for a while to the Evil Principle; and that
this precise period of time, commonly called the enlightened age, was
the point of his plenitude of power. He used to add that by and by he
would be cast down, and a high and happy order of things succeed; but
he never omitted the saving clause, 'Not in our time'; which last
words were always echoed in doleful response by the sympathetic Mr
Glowry.

Another and very frequent visitor, was the Reverend Mr Larynx, the
vicar of Claydyke, a village about ten miles distant;--a good-natured
accommodating divine, who was always most obligingly ready to take a
dinner and a bed at the house of any country gentleman in distress
for a companion. Nothing came amiss to him,--a game at billiards, at
chess, at draughts, at backgammon, at piquet, or at all-fours in
a _tte--tte_,--or any game on the cards, round, square, or
triangular, in a party of any number exceeding two. He would even
dance among friends, rather than that a lady, even if she were on the
wrong side of thirty, should sit still for want of a partner. For a
ride, a walk, or a sail, in the morning,--a song after dinner, a ghost
story after supper,--a bottle of port with the squire, or a cup of
green tea with his lady,--for all or any of these, or for any thing
else that was agreeable to any one else, consistently with the dye of
his coat, the Reverend Mr Larynx was at all times equally ready. When
at Nightmare Abbey, he would condole with Mr Glowry,--drink Madeira
with Scythrop,--crack jokes with Mr Hilary,--hand Mrs Hilary to the
piano, take charge of her fan and gloves, and turn over her music with
surprising dexterity,--quote Revelations with Mr Toobad,--and lament
the good old times of feudal darkness with the transcendental Mr
Flosky.

* * * * *

CHAPTER II

Shortly after the disastrous termination of Scythrop's passion for
Miss Emily Girouette, Mr Glowry found himself, much against his will,
involved in a lawsuit, which compelled him to dance attendance on the
High Court of Chancery. Scythrop was left alone at Nightmare Abbey. He
was a burnt child, and dreaded the fire of female eyes. He wandered
about the ample pile, or along the garden-terrace, with 'his
cogitative faculties immersed in cogibundity of cogitation.' The
terrace terminated at the south-western tower, which, as we have said,
was ruinous and full of owls. Here would Scythrop take his evening
seat, on a fallen fragment of mossy stone, with his back resting
against the ruined wall,--a thick canopy of ivy, with an owl in it,
over his head,--and the Sorrows of Werter in his hand. He had some
taste for romance reading before he went to the university, where, we
must confess, in justice to his college, he was cured of the love of
reading in all its shapes; and the cure would have been radical, if
disappointment in love, and total solitude, had not conspired to bring
on a relapse. He began to devour romances and German tragedies, and,
by the recommendation of Mr Flosky, to pore over ponderous tomes of
transcendental philosophy, which reconciled him to the labour of
studying them by their mystical jargon and necromantic imagery. In
the congenial solitude of Nightmare Abbey, the distempered ideas of
metaphysical romance and romantic metaphysics had ample time and space
to germinate into a fertile crop of chimeras, which rapidly shot up
into vigorous and abundant vegetation.

He now became troubled with the _passion for reforming the world_.[2]
He built many castles in the air, and peopled them with secret
tribunals, and bands of illuminati, who were always the imaginary
instruments of his projected regeneration of the human species. As he
intended to institute a perfect republic, he invested himself with
absolute sovereignty over these mystical dispensers of liberty. He
slept with Horrid Mysteries under his pillow, and dreamed of venerable
eleutherarchs and ghastly confederates holding midnight conventions in
subterranean caves. He passed whole mornings in his study, immersed
in gloomy reverie, stalking about the room in his nightcap, which
he pulled over his eyes like a cowl, and folding his striped calico
dressing-gown about him like the mantle of a conspirator.

'Action,' thus he soliloquised, 'is the result of opinion, and to
new-model opinion would be to new-model society. Knowledge is power;
it is in the hands of a few, who employ it to mislead the many, for
their own selfish purposes of aggrandisement and appropriation. What
if it were in the hands of a few who should employ it to lead the
many? What if it were universal, and the multitude were enlightened?
No. The many must be always in leading-strings; but let them have wise
and honest conductors. A few to think, and many to act; that is the
only basis of perfect society. So thought the ancient philosophers:
they had their esoterical and exoterical doctrines. So thinks the
sublime Kant, who delivers his oracles in language which none but
the initiated can comprehend. Such were the views of those secret
associations of illuminati, which were the terror of superstition and
tyranny, and which, carefully selecting wisdom and genius from the
great wilderness of society, as the bee selects honey from the flowers
of the thorn and the nettle, bound all human excellence in a chain,
which, if it had not been prematurely broken, would have commanded
opinion, and regenerated the world.'

Scythrop proceeded to meditate on the practicability of reviving a
confederation of regenerators. To get a clear view of his own ideas,
and to feel the pulse of the wisdom and genius of the age, he wrote
and published a treatise, in which his meanings were carefully wrapt
up in the monk's hood of transcendental technology, but filled with
hints of matter deep and dangerous, which he thought would set
the whole nation in a ferment; and he awaited the result in awful
expectation, as a miner who has fired a train awaits the explosion of
a rock. However, he listened and heard nothing; for the explosion, if
any ensued, was not sufficiently loud to shake a single leaf of the
ivy on the towers of Nightmare Abbey; and some months afterwards he
received a letter from his bookseller, informing him that only seven
copies had been sold, and concluding with a polite request for the
balance.

Scythrop did not despair. 'Seven copies,' he thought, 'have been sold.
Seven is a mystical number, and the omen is good. Let me find the
seven purchasers of my seven copies, and they shall be the seven
golden candle-sticks with which I will illuminate the world.'

Scythrop had a certain portion of mechanical genius, which his
romantic projects tended to develope. He constructed models of cells
and recesses, sliding panels and secret passages, that would have
baffled the skill of the Parisian police. He took the opportunity of
his father's absence to smuggle a dumb carpenter into the Abbey, and
between them they gave reality to one of these models in Scythrop's
tower. Scythrop foresaw that a great leader of human regeneration
would be involved in fearful dilemmas, and determined, for the benefit
of mankind in general, to adopt all possible precautions for the
preservation of himself.

The servants, even the women, had been tutored into silence. Profound
stillness reigned throughout and around the Abbey, except when the
occasional shutting of a door would peal in long reverberations
through the galleries, or the heavy tread of the pensive butler would
wake the hollow echoes of the hall. Scythrop stalked about like the
grand inquisitor, and the servants flitted past him like familiars. In
his evening meditations on the terrace, under the ivy of the ruined
tower, the only sounds that came to his ear were the rustling of the
wind in the ivy, the plaintive voices of the feathered choristers, the
owls, the occasional striking of the Abbey clock, and the monotonous
dash of the sea on its low and level shore. In the mean time, he drank
Madeira, and laid deep schemes for a thorough repair of the crazy
fabric of human nature.

* * * * *

CHAPTER III

Mr Glowry returned from London with the loss of his lawsuit. Justice
was with him, but the law was against him. He found Scythrop in a
mood most sympathetically tragic; and they vied with each other in
enlivening their cups by lamenting the depravity of this degenerate
age, and occasionally interspersing divers grim jokes about graves,
worms, and epitaphs. Mr Glowry's friends, whom we have mentioned in
the first chapter, availed themselves of his return to pay him a
simultaneous visit. At the same time arrived Scythrop's friend and
fellow-collegian, the Honourable Mr Listless. Mr Glowry had discovered
this fashionable young gentleman in London, 'stretched on the rack of
a too easy chair,' and devoured with a gloomy and misanthropical _nil
curo_, and had pressed him so earnestly to take the benefit of the
pure country air, at Nightmare Abbey, that Mr Listless, finding it
would give him more trouble to refuse than to comply, summoned his
French valet, Fatout, and told him he was going to Lincolnshire. On
this simple hint, Fatout went to work, and the imperials were packed,
and the post-chariot was at the door, without the Honourable Mr
Listless having said or thought another syllable on the subject.

Mr and Mrs Hilary brought with them an orphan niece, a daughter of Mr
Glowry's youngest sister, who had made a runaway love-match with an
Irish officer. The lady's fortune disappeared in the first year: love,
by a natural consequence, disappeared in the second: the Irishman
himself, by a still more natural consequence, disappeared in the
third. Mr Glowry had allowed his sister an annuity, and she had lived
in retirement with her only daughter, whom, at her death, which had
recently happened, she commended to the care of Mrs Hilary.

Miss Marionetta Celestina O'Carroll was a very blooming and
accomplished young lady. Being a compound of the _Allegro Vivace_ of
the O'Carrolls, and of the _Andante Doloroso_ of the Glowries, she
exhibited in her own character all the diversities of an April sky.
Her hair was light-brown; her eyes hazel, and sparkling with a mild
but fluctuating light; her features regular; her lips full, and of
equal size; and her person surpassingly graceful. She was a proficient
in music. Her conversation was sprightly, but always on subjects light
in their nature and limited in their interest: for moral sympathies,
in any general sense, had no place in her mind. She had some coquetry,
and more caprice, liking and disliking almost in the same moment;
pursuing an object with earnestness while it seemed unattainable, and
rejecting it when in her power as not worth the trouble of possession.

Whether she was touched with a _penchant_ for her cousin Scythrop, or
was merely curious to see what effect the tender passion would have on
so _outr_ a person, she had not been three days in the Abbey before
she threw out all the lures of her beauty and accomplishments to make
a prize of his heart. Scythrop proved an easy conquest. The image of
Miss Emily Girouette was already sufficiently dimmed by the power of
philosophy and the exercise of reason: for to these influences, or to
any influence but the true one, are usually ascribed the mental cures
performed by the great physician Time. Scythrop's romantic dreams had
indeed given him many _pure anticipated cognitions_ of combinations
of beauty and intelligence, which, he had some misgivings, were not
exactly realised in his cousin Marionetta; but, in spite of these
misgivings, he soon became distractedly in love; which, when the young
lady clearly perceived, she altered her tactics, and assumed as much
coldness and reserve as she had before shown ardent and ingenuous
attachment. Scythrop was confounded at the sudden change; but, instead
of falling at her feet and requesting an explanation, he retreated
to his tower, muffled himself in his nightcap, seated himself in
the president's chair of his imaginary secret tribunal, summoned
Marionetta with all terrible formalities, frightened her out of her
wits, disclosed himself, and clasped the beautiful penitent to his
bosom.

While he was acting this reverie--in the moment in which the awful
president of the secret tribunal was throwing back his cowl and his
mantle, and discovering himself to the lovely culprit as her adoring
and magnanimous lover, the door of the study opened, and the real
Marionetta appeared.

The motives which had led her to the tower were a little penitence, a
little concern, a little affection, and a little fear as to what the
sudden secession of Scythrop, occasioned by her sudden change of
manner, might portend. She had tapped several times unheard, and of
course unanswered; and at length, timidly and cautiously opening the
door, she discovered him standing up before a black velvet chair,
which was mounted on an old oak table, in the act of throwing open his
striped calico dressing-gown, and flinging away his nightcap--which is
what the French call an imposing attitude.

Each stood a few moments fixed in their respective places--the lady in
astonishment, and the gentleman in confusion. Marionetta was the first
to break silence. 'For heaven's sake,' said she, 'my dear Scythrop,
what is the matter?'

'For heaven's sake, indeed!' said Scythrop, springing from the table;
'for your sake, Marionetta, and you are my heaven,--distraction is the
matter. I adore you, Marionetta, and your cruelty drives me mad.'
He threw himself at her knees, devoured her hand with kisses, and
breathed a thousand vows in the most passionate language of romance.

Marionetta listened a long time in silence, till her lover had
exhausted his eloquence and paused for a reply. She then said, with a
very arch look, 'I prithee deliver thyself like a man of this world.'
The levity of this quotation, and of the manner in which it was
delivered, jarred so discordantly on the high-wrought enthusiasm of
the romantic inamorato, that he sprang upon his feet, and beat his
forehead with his clenched fist. The young lady was terrified; and,
deeming it expedient to soothe him, took one of his hands in hers,
placed the other hand on his shoulder, looked up in his face with a
winning seriousness, and said, in the tenderest possible tone, 'What
would you have, Scythrop?'

Scythrop was in heaven again. 'What would I have? What but you,
Marionetta? You, for the companion of my studies, the partner of my
thoughts, the auxiliary of my great designs for the emancipation of
mankind.'

'I am afraid I should be but a poor auxiliary, Scythrop. What would
you have me do?'

'Do as Rosalia does with Carlos, divine Marionetta. Let us each open
a vein in the other's arm, mix our blood in a bowl, and drink it as
a sacrament of love. Then we shall see visions of transcendental
illumination, and soar on the wings of ideas into the space of pure
intelligence.'

Marionetta could not reply; she had not so strong a stomach as
Rosalia, and turned sick at the proposition. She disengaged herself
suddenly from Scythrop, sprang through the door of the tower, and fled
with precipitation along the corridors. Scythrop pursued her, crying,
'Stop, stop, Marionetta--my life, my love!' and was gaining rapidly on
her flight, when, at an ill-omened corner, where two corridors ended
in an angle, at the head of a staircase, he came into sudden and
violent contact with Mr Toobad, and they both plunged together to the
foot of the stairs, like two billiard-balls into one pocket. This gave
the young lady time to escape, and enclose herself in her chamber;
while Mr Toobad, rising slowly, and rubbing his knees and shoulders,
said, 'You see, my dear Scythrop, in this little incident, one of the
innumerable proofs of the temporary supremacy of the devil; for what
but a systematic design and concurrent contrivance of evil could have
made the angles of time and place coincide in our unfortunate persons
at the head of this accursed staircase?'

'Nothing else, certainly,' said Scythrop: 'you are perfectly in the
right, Mr Toobad. Evil, and mischief, and misery, and confusion,
and vanity, and vexation of spirit, and death, and disease, and
assassination, and war, and poverty, and pestilence, and famine, and
avarice, and selfishness, and rancour, and jealousy, and spleen,
and malevolence, and the disappointments of philanthropy, and the
faithlessness of friendship, and the crosses of love--all prove the
accuracy of your views, and the truth of your system; and it is not
impossible that the infernal interruption of this fall downstairs may
throw a colour of evil on the whole of my future existence.'

'My dear boy,' said Mr Toobad, 'you have a fine eye for consequences.'

So saying, he embraced Scythrop, who retired, with a disconsolate
step, to dress for dinner; while Mr Toobad stalked across the hall,
repeating, 'Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea, for
the devil is come among you, having great wrath.'

* * * * *

CHAPTER IV

The flight of Marionetta, and the pursuit of Scythrop, had been
witnessed by Mr Glowry, who, in consequence, narrowly observed his son
and his niece in the evening; and, concluding from their manner, that
there was a better understanding between them than he wished to see,
he determined on obtaining the next morning from Scythrop a full and
satisfactory explanation. He, therefore, shortly after breakfast,
entered Scythrop's tower, with a very grave face, and said, without
ceremony or preface, 'So, sir, you are in love with your cousin.'

Scythrop, with as little hesitation, answered, 'Yes, sir.'

'That is candid, at least; and she is in love with you.'

'I wish she were, sir.'

'You know she is, sir.'

'Indeed, sir, I do not.'

'But you hope she is.'

'I do, from my soul.'

'Now that is very provoking, Scythrop, and very disappointing: I could
not have supposed that you, Scythrop Glowry, of Nightmare Abbey,
would have been infatuated with such a dancing, laughing, singing,
thoughtless, careless, merry-hearted thing, as Marionetta--in all
respects the reverse of you and me. It is very disappointing,
Scythrop. And do you know, sir, that Marionetta has no fortune?'

'It is the more reason, sir, that her husband should have one.'

'The more reason for her; but not for you. My wife had no fortune, and
I had no consolation in my calamity. And do you reflect, sir, what an
enormous slice this lawsuit has cut out of our family estate? we who
used to be the greatest landed proprietors in Lincolnshire.'

'To be sure, sir, we had more acres of fen than any man on this
coast: but what are fens to love? What are dykes and windmills to
Marionetta?'

'And what, sir, is love to a windmill? Not grist, I am certain:
besides, sir, I have made a choice for you. I have made a choice for
you, Scythrop. Beauty, genius, accomplishments, and a great fortune
into the bargain. Such a lovely, serious creature, in a fine state of
high dissatisfaction with the world, and every thing in it. Such a
delightful surprise I had prepared for you. Sir, I have pledged my
honour to the contract--the honour of the Glowries of Nightmare Abbey:
and now, sir, what is to be done?'

'Indeed, sir, I cannot say. I claim, on this occasion, that liberty of
action which is the co-natal prerogative of every rational being.'

'Liberty of action, sir? there is no such thing as liberty of action.
We are all slaves and puppets of a blind and unpathetic necessity.'

'Very true, sir; but liberty of action, between individuals, consists
in their being differently influenced, or modified, by the same
universal necessity; so that the results are unconsentaneous, and
their respective necessitated volitions clash and fly off in a
tangent.'

'Your logic is good, sir: but you are aware, too, that one individual
may be a medium of adhibiting to another a mode or form of necessity,
which may have more or less influence in the production of
consentaneity; and, therefore, sir, if you do not comply with my
wishes in this instance (you have had your own way in every thing
else), I shall be under the necessity of disinheriting you, though
I shall do it with tears in my eyes.' Having said these words, he
vanished suddenly, in the dread of Scythrop's logic.

Mr Glowry immediately sought Mrs Hilary, and communicated to her his
views of the case in point. Mrs Hilary, as the phrase is, was as fond
of Marionetta as if she had been her own child: but--there is always a
_but_ on these occasions--she could do nothing for her in the way
of fortune, as she had two hopeful sons, who were finishing their
education at Brazen-nose, and who would not like to encounter any
diminution of their prospects, when they should be brought out of the
house of mental bondage--i.e. the university--to the land flowing with
milk and honey--i.e. the west end of London.

Mrs Hilary hinted to Marionetta, that propriety, and delicacy, and
decorum, and dignity, &c. &c. &c.,[3] would require them to leave the
Abbey immediately. Marionetta listened in silent submission, for she
knew that her inheritance was passive obedience; but, when Scythrop,
who had watched the opportunity of Mrs Hilary's departure, entered,
and, without speaking a word, threw himself at her feet in a paroxysm
of grief, the young lady, in equal silence and sorrow, threw her arms
round his neck and burst into tears. A very tender scene ensued, which
the sympathetic susceptibilities of the soft-hearted reader can more
accurately imagine than we can delineate. But when Marionetta hinted
that she was to leave the Abbey immediately, Scythrop snatched from
its repository his ancestor's skull, filled it with Madeira, and
presenting himself before Mr Glowry, threatened to drink off the
contents if Mr Glowry did not immediately promise that Marionetta
should not be taken from the Abbey without her own consent. Mr Glowry,
who took the Madeira to be some deadly brewage, gave the required
promise in dismal panic. Scythrop returned to Marionetta with a joyful
heart, and drank the Madeira by the way.

Mr Glowry, during his residence in London, had come to an agreement
with his friend Mr Toobad, that a match between Scythrop and Mr
Toobad's daughter would be a very desirable occurrence. She was
finishing her education in a German convent, but Mr Toobad described
her as being fully impressed with the truth of his Ahrimanic
philosophy,[4] and being altogether as gloomy and antithalian a young
lady as Mr Glowry himself could desire for the future mistress of
Nightmare Abbey. She had a great fortune in her own right, which was
not, as we have seen, without its weight in inducing Mr Glowry to
set his heart upon her as his daughter-in-law that was to be; he was
therefore very much disturbed by Scythrop's untoward attachment to
Marionetta. He condoled on the occasion with Mr Toobad; who said, that
he had been too long accustomed to the intermeddling of the devil in
all his affairs, to be astonished at this new trace of his cloven
claw; but that he hoped to outwit him yet, for he was sure there could
be no comparison between his daughter and Marionetta in the mind of
any one who had a proper perception of the fact, that, the world
being a great theatre of evil, seriousness and solemnity are the
characteristics of wisdom, and laughter and merriment make a human
being no better than a baboon. Mr Glowry comforted himself with this
view of the subject, and urged Mr Toobad to expedite his daughter's
return from Germany. Mr Toobad said he was in daily expectation of her
arrival in London, and would set off immediately to meet her, that
he might lose no time in bringing her to Nightmare Abbey. 'Then,' he
added, 'we shall see whether Thalia or Melpomene--whether the Allegra
or the Penserosa--will carry off the symbol of victory.'--'There can
be no doubt,' said Mr Glowry, 'which way the scale will incline, or
Scythrop is no true scion of the venerable stem of the Glowries.'

* * * * *

CHAPTER V

Marionetta felt secure of Scythrop's heart; and notwithstanding the
difficulties that surrounded her, she could not debar herself from the
pleasure of tormenting her lover, whom she kept in a perpetual fever.
Sometimes she would meet him with the most unqualified affection;
sometimes with the most chilling indifference; rousing him to anger by
artificial coldness--softening him to love by eloquent tenderness--or
inflaming him to jealousy by coquetting with the Honourable Mr
Listless, who seemed, under her magical influence, to burst into
sudden life, like the bud of the evening primrose. Sometimes she would
sit by the piano, and listen with becoming attention to Scythrop's
pathetic remonstrances; but, in the most impassioned part of his
oratory, she would convert all his ideas into a chaos, by striking up
some Rondo Allegro, and saying, 'Is it not pretty?' Scythrop would
begin to storm; and she would answer him with,

'Zitti, zitti, piano, piano,
Non facciamo confusione,'

or some similar _facezia_, till he would start away from her, and
enclose himself in his tower, in an agony of agitation, vowing to
renounce her, and her whole sex, for ever; and returning to her
presence at the summons of the billet, which she never failed to
send with many expressions of penitence and promises of amendment.
Scythrop's schemes for regenerating the world, and detecting his seven
golden candle-sticks, went on very slowly in this fever of his spirit.

Things proceeded in this train for several days; and Mr Glowry began
to be uneasy at receiving no intelligence from Mr Toobad; when one
evening the latter rushed into the library, where the family and the
visitors were assembled, vociferating, 'The devil is come among
you, having great wrath!' He then drew Mr Glowry aside into another
apartment, and after remaining some time together, they re-entered the
library with faces of great dismay, but did not condescend to explain
to any one the cause of their discomfiture.

The next morning, early, Mr Toobad departed. Mr Glowry sighed and
groaned all day, and said not a word to any one. Scythrop had
quarrelled, as usual, with Marionetta, and was enclosed in his tower,
in a fit of morbid sensibility. Marionetta was comforting herself at
the piano, with singing the airs of _Nina pazza per amore_; and the
Honourable Mr Listless was listening to the harmony, as he lay
supine on the sofa, with a book in his hand, into which he peeped at
intervals. The Reverend Mr Larynx approached the sofa, and proposed a
game at billiards.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Billiards! Really I should be very happy; but, in my present exhausted
state, the exertion is too much for me. I do not know when I have been
equal to such an effort. (_He rang the bell for his valet. Fatout
entered_.) Fatout! when did I play at billiards last?

FATOUT

De fourteen December de last year, Monsieur. (_Fatout bowed and
retired_.)

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

So it was. Seven months ago. You see, Mr Larynx; you see, sir. My
nerves, Miss O'Carroll, my nerves are shattered. I have been advised
to try Bath. Some of the faculty recommend Cheltenham. I think of
trying both, as the seasons don't clash. The season, you know, Mr
Larynx--the season, Miss O'Carroll--the season is every thing.

MARIONETTA

And health is something. _N'est-ce pas_, Mr Larynx?

THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Most assuredly, Miss O'Carroll. For, however reasoners may dispute
about the _summum bonum_, none of them will deny that a very good
dinner is a very good thing: and what is a good dinner without a good
appetite? and whence is a good appetite but from good health? Now,
Cheltenham, Mr Listless, is famous for good appetites.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

The best piece of logic I ever heard, Mr Larynx; the very best,
I assure you. I have thought very seriously of Cheltenham: very
seriously and profoundly. I thought of it--let me see--when did I
think of it? (_He rang again, and Fatout reappeared._) Fatout! when
did I think of going to Cheltenham, and did not go?

FATOUT

De Juillet twenty-von, de last summer, Monsieur. (_Fatout retired._)

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

So it was. An invaluable fellow that, Mr Larynx--invaluable, Miss
O'Carroll.

MARIONETTA

So I should judge, indeed. He seems to serve you as a walking memory,
and to be a living chronicle, not of your actions only, but of your
thoughts.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

An excellent definition of the fellow, Miss O'Carroll,--excellent,
upon my honour. Ha! ha! he! Heigho! Laughter is pleasant, but the
exertion is too much for me.

A parcel was brought in for Mr Listless; it had been sent express.
Fatout was summoned to unpack it; and it proved to contain a new
novel, and a new poem, both of which had long been anxiously expected
by the whole host of fashionable readers; and the last number of a
popular Review, of which the editor and his coadjutors were in high
favour at court, and enjoyed ample pensions[5] for their services to
church and state. As Fatout left the room, Mr Flosky entered, and
curiously inspected the literary arrivals.

MR FLOSKY

(_Turning over the leaves._) 'Devilman, a novel.' Hm. Hatred--revenge--
misanthropy--and quotations from the Bible. Hm. This is the morbid
anatomy of black bile.--'Paul Jones, a poem.' Hm. I see how it is.
Paul Jones, an amiable enthusiast--disappointed in his affections--
turns pirate from ennui and magnanimity--cuts various masculine
throats, wins various feminine hearts--is hanged at the yard-arm! The
catastrophe is very awkward, and very unpoetical.--'The Downing Street
Review.' Hm. First article--An Ode to the Red Book, by Roderick
Sackbut, Esquire. Hm. His own poem reviewed by himself. Hm--m--m.

(_Mr Flosky proceeded in silence to look over the other articles
of the review; Marionetta inspected the novel, and Mr Listless the
poem._)

THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

For a young man of fashion and family, Mr Listless, you seem to be of
a very studious turn.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Studious! You are pleased to be facetious, Mr Larynx. I hope you do
not suspect me of being studious. I have finished my education. But
there are some fashionable books that one must read, because they are
ingredients of the talk of the day; otherwise, I am no fonder of books
than I dare say you yourself are, Mr Larynx.

THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Why, sir, I cannot say that I am indeed particularly fond of books;
yet neither can I say that I never do read. A tale or a poem, now and
then, to a circle of ladies over their work, is no very heterodox
employment of the vocal energy. And I must say, for myself, that
few men have a more Job-like endurance of the eternally recurring
questions and answers that interweave themselves, on these occasions,
with the crisis of an adventure, and heighten the distress of a
tragedy.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

And very often make the distress when the author has omitted it.

MARIONETTA

I shall try your patience some rainy morning, Mr Larynx; and Mr
Listless shall recommend us the very newest new book, that every body
reads.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You shall receive it, Miss O'Carroll, with all the gloss of novelty;
fresh as a ripe green-gage in all the downiness of its bloom. A
mail-coach copy from Edinburgh, forwarded express from London.

MR FLOSKY

This rage for novelty is the bane of literature. Except my works and
those of my particular friends, nothing is good that is not as old as
Jeremy Taylor: and, _entre nous_, the best parts of my friends' books
were either written or suggested by myself.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Sir, I reverence you. But I must say, modern books are very
consolatory and congenial to my feelings. There is, as it were, a
delightful north-east wind, an intellectual blight breathing through
them; a delicious misanthropy and discontent, that demonstrates the
nullity of virtue and energy, and puts me in good humour with myself
and my sofa.

MR FLOSKY

Very true, sir. Modern literature is a north-east wind--a blight of
the human soul. I take credit to myself for having helped to make it
so. The way to produce fine fruit is to blight the flower. You call
this a paradox. Marry, so be it. Ponder thereon.

The conversation was interrupted by the re-appearance of Mr Toobad,
covered with mud. He just showed himself at the door, muttered 'The
devil is come among you!' and vanished. The road which connected
Nightmare Abbey with the civilised world, was artificially raised
above the level of the fens, and ran through them in a straight line
as far as the eye could reach, with a ditch on each side, of which the
water was rendered invisible by the aquatic vegetation that covered
the surface. Into one of these ditches the sudden action of a
shy horse, which took fright at a windmill, had precipitated the
travelling chariot of Mr Toobad, who had been reduced to the necessity
of scrambling in dismal plight through the window. One of the wheels
was found to be broken; and Mr Toobad, leaving the postilion to
get the chariot as well as he could to Claydyke for the purpose of
cleaning and repairing, had walked back to Nightmare Abbey, followed
by his servant with the imperial, and repeating all the way his
favourite quotation from the Revelations.

* * * * *

CHAPTER VI

Mr Toobad had found his daughter Celinda in London, and after the
first joy of meeting was over, told her he had a husband ready for
her. The young lady replied, very gravely, that she should take the
liberty to choose for herself. Mr Toobad said he saw the devil was
determined to interfere with all his projects, but he was resolved
on his own part, not to have on his conscience the crime of passive
obedience and non-resistance to Lucifer, and therefore she should
marry the person he had chosen for her. Miss Toobad replied, _trs
posment_, she assuredly would not. 'Celinda, Celinda,' said Mr
Toobad, 'you most assuredly shall.'--'Have I not a fortune in my own
right, sir?' said Celinda. 'The more is the pity,' said Mr Toobad:
'but I can find means, miss; I can find means. There are more ways
than one of breaking in obstinate girls.' They parted for the night
with the expression of opposite resolutions, and in the morning the
young lady's chamber was found empty, and what was become of her Mr
Toobad had no clue to conjecture. He continued to investigate town and
country in search of her; visiting and revisiting Nightmare Abbey at
intervals, to consult with his friend, Mr Glowry. Mr Glowry agreed
with Mr Toobad that this was a very flagrant instance of filial
disobedience and rebellion; and Mr Toobad declared, that when he
discovered the fugitive, she should find that 'the devil was come unto
her, having great wrath.'

In the evening, the whole party met, as usual, in the library.
Marionetta sat at the harp; the Honourable Mr Listless sat by her and
turned over her music, though the exertion was almost too much
for him. The Reverend Mr Larynx relieved him occasionally in this
delightful labour. Scythrop, tormented by the demon Jealousy, sat in
the corner biting his lips and fingers. Marionetta looked at him every
now and then with a smile of most provoking good humour, which he
pretended not to see, and which only the more exasperated his troubled
spirit. He took down a volume of Dante, and pretended to be deeply
interested in the Purgatorio, though he knew not a word he was
reading, as Marionetta was well aware; who, tripping across the room,
peeped into his book, and said to him, 'I see you are in the middle of
Purgatory.'--'I am in the middle of hell,' said Scythrop furiously.
'Are you?' said she; 'then come across the room, and I will sing you
the finale of Don Giovanni.'

'Let me alone,' said Scythrop. Marionetta looked at him with a
deprecating smile, and said, 'You unjust, cross creature, you.'--'Let
me alone,' said Scythrop, but much less emphatically than at first,
and by no means wishing to be taken at his word. Marionetta left him
immediately, and returning to the harp, said, just loud enough for
Scythrop to hear--'Did you ever read Dante, Mr Listless? Scythrop
is reading Dante, and is just now in Purgatory.'--'And I' said the
Honourable Mr Listless, 'am not reading Dante, and am just now in
Paradise,' bowing to Marionetta.

MARIONETTA

You are very gallant, Mr Listless; and I dare say you are very fond of
reading Dante.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I don't know how it is, but Dante never came in my way till lately. I
never had him in my collection, and if I had had him I should not have
read him. But I find he is growing fashionable, and I am afraid I must
read him some wet morning.

MARIONETTA

No, read him some evening, by all means. Were you ever in love, Mr
Listless?

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I assure you, Miss O'Carroll, never--till I came to Nightmare Abbey.
I dare say it is very pleasant; but it seems to give so much trouble
that I fear the exertion would be too much for me.

MARIONETTA

Shall I teach you a compendious method of courtship, that will give
you no trouble whatever?

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You will confer on me an inexpressible obligation. I am all impatience
to learn it.

MARIONETTA

Sit with your back to the lady and read Dante; only be sure to begin
in the middle, and turn over three or four pages at once--backwards
as well as forwards, and she will immediately perceive that you are
desperately in love with her--desperately.

_(The Honourable Mr Listless sitting between Scythrop and Marionetta,
and fixing all his attention on the beautiful speaker, did not observe
Scythrop, who was doing as she described.)_

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You are pleased to be facetious, Miss O'Carroll. The lady would
infallibly conclude that I was the greatest brute in town.

MARIONETTA

Far from it. She would say, perhaps, some people have odd methods of
showing their affection.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

But I should think, with submission--

MR FLOSKY (_joining them from another part of the room_)

Did I not hear Mr Listless observe that Dante is becoming fashionable?

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I did hazard a remark to that effect, Mr Flosky, though I speak on
such subjects with a consciousness of my own nothingness, in the
presence of so great a man as Mr Flosky. I know not what is the colour
of Dante's devils, but as he is certainly becoming fashionable I
conclude they are blue; for the blue devils, as it seems to me, Mr
Flosky, constitute the fundamental feature of fashionable literature.

MR FLOSKY

The blue are, indeed, the staple commodity; but as they will not
always be commanded, the black, red, and grey may be admitted as
substitutes. Tea, late dinners, and the French Revolution, have played
the devil, Mr Listless, and brought the devil into play.

MR TOOBAD (_starting up_)

Having great wrath.

MR FLOSKY

This is no play upon words, but the sober sadness of veritable fact.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Tea, late dinners, and the French Revolution. I cannot exactly see the
connection of ideas.

MR FLOSKY

I should be sorry if you could; I pity the man who can see the
connection of his own ideas. Still more do I pity him, the connection
of whose ideas any other person can see. Sir, the great evil is,
that there is too much common-place light in our moral and political
literature; and light is a great enemy to mystery, and mystery is a
great friend to enthusiasm. Now the enthusiasm for abstract truth is
an exceedingly fine thing, as long as the truth, which is the object
of the enthusiasm, is so completely abstract as to be altogether out
of the reach of the human faculties; and, in that sense, I have
myself an enthusiasm for truth, but in no other, for the pleasure of
metaphysical investigation lies in the means, not in the end; and if
the end could be found, the pleasure of the means would cease. The
mind, to be kept in health, must be kept in exercise. The proper
exercise of the mind is elaborate reasoning. Analytical reasoning is a
base and mechanical process, which takes to pieces and examines, bit
by bit, the rude material of knowledge, and extracts therefrom a few
hard and obstinate things called facts, every thing in the shape of
which I cordially hate. But synthetical reasoning, setting up as its
goal some unattainable abstraction, like an imaginary quantity in
algebra, and commencing its course with taking for granted some two
assertions which cannot be proved, from the union of these two assumed
truths produces a third assumption, and so on in infinite series, to
the unspeakable benefit of the human intellect. The beauty of this
process is, that at every step it strikes out into two branches, in
a compound ratio of ramification; so that you are perfectly sure of
losing your way, and keeping your mind in perfect health, by the
perpetual exercise of an interminable quest; and for these reasons I
have christened my eldest son Emanuel Kant Flosky.

THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Nothing can be more luminous.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

And what has all that to do with Dante, and the blue devils?

MR HILARY

Not much, I should think, with Dante, but a great deal with the blue
devils.

MR FLOSKY

It is very certain, and much to be rejoiced at, that our literature is
hag-ridden. Tea has shattered our nerves; late dinners make us slaves
of indigestion; the French Revolution has made us shrink from the name
of philosophy, and has destroyed, in the more refined part of the
community (of which number I am one), all enthusiasm for political
liberty. That part of the _reading public_ which shuns the solid
food of reason for the light diet of fiction, requires a perpetual
adhibition of _sauce piquante_ to the palate of its depraved
imagination. It lived upon ghosts, goblins, and skeletons (I and my
friend Mr Sackbut served up a few of the best), till even the devil
himself, though magnified to the size of Mount Athos, became too base,
common, and popular, for its surfeited appetite. The ghosts have
therefore been laid, and the devil has been cast into outer darkness,
and now the delight of our spirits is to dwell on all the vices and
blackest passions of our nature, tricked out in a masquerade dress of
heroism and disappointed benevolence; the whole secret of which lies
in forming combinations that contradict all our experience, and
affixing the purple shred of some particular virtue to that precise
character, in which we should be most certain not to find it in the
living world; and making this single virtue not only redeem all the
real and manifest vices of the character, but make them actually
pass for necessary adjuncts, and indispensable accompaniments and
characteristics of the said virtue.

MR TOOBAD

That is, because the devil is come among us, and finds it for his
interest to destroy all our perceptions of the distinctions of right
and wrong.

MARIONETTA

I do not precisely enter into your meaning, Mr Flosky, and should be
glad if you would make it a little more plain to me.

MR FLOSKY

One or two examples will do it, Miss O'Carroll. If I were to take all
the mean and sordid qualities of a money-dealing Jew, and tack on to
them, as with a nail, the quality of extreme benevolence, I should
have a very decent hero for a modern novel; and should contribute my
quota to the fashionable method of administering a mass of vice, under
a thin and unnatural covering of virtue, like a spider wrapt in a
bit of gold leaf, and administered as a wholesome pill. On the same
principle, if a man knocks me down, and takes my purse and watch by
main force, I turn him to account, and set him forth in a tragedy as
a dashing young fellow, disinherited for his romantic generosity, and
full of a most amiable hatred of the world in general, and his own
country in particular, and of a most enlightened and chivalrous
affection for himself: then, with the addition of a wild girl to fall
in love with him, and a series of adventures in which they break all
the Ten Commandments in succession (always, you will observe, for some
sublime motive, which must be carefully analysed in its progress), I
have as amiable a pair of tragic characters as ever issued from that
new region of the belles lettres, which I have called the Morbid
Anatomy of Black Bile, and which is greatly to be admired and rejoiced
at, as affording a fine scope for the exhibition of mental power.

MR HILARY

Which is about as well employed as the power of a hothouse would be in
forcing up a nettle to the size of an elm. If we go on in this way, we
shall have a new art of poetry, of which one of the first rules will
be: To remember to forget that there are any such things as sunshine
and music in the world.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

It seems to be the case with us at present, or we should not have
interrupted Miss O'Carroll's music with this exceedingly dry
conversation.

MR FLOSKY

I should be most happy if Miss O'Carroll would remind us that there
are yet both music and sunshine--

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

In the voice and the smile of beauty. May I entreat the favour
of--(_turning over the pages of music._)

All were silent, and Marionetta sung:

Why are thy looks so blank, grey friar?
Why are thy looks so blue?
Thou seem'st more pale and lank, grey friar,
Than thou wast used to do:--
Say, what has made thee rue?

Thy form was plump, and a light did shine
In thy round and ruby face,
Which showed an outward visible sign
Of an inward spiritual grace:--
Say, what has changed thy case?

Yet will I tell thee true, grey friar,
I very well can see,
That, if thy looks are blue, grey friar,
'Tis all for love of me,--
'Tis all for love of me.

But breathe not thy vows to me, grey friar,
Oh, breathe them not, I pray;
For ill beseems in a reverend friar,
The love of a mortal may;
And I needs must say thee nay.

But, could'st thou think my heart to move
With that pale and silent scowl?
Know, he who would win a maiden's love,
Whether clad in cap or cowl,
Must be more of a lark than an owl.

Scythrop immediately replaced Dante on the shelf, and joined the
circle round the beautiful singer. Marionetta gave him a smile of
approbation that fully restored his complacency, and they continued
on the best possible terms during the remainder of the evening. The
Honourable Mr Listless turned over the leaves with double alacrity,
saying, 'You are severe upon invalids, Miss O'Carroll: to escape your
satire, I must try to be sprightly, though the exertion is too much
for me.'

* * * * *

CHAPTER VII

A new visitor arrived at the Abbey, in the person of Mr Asterias,
the ichthyologist. This gentleman had passed his life in seeking the
living wonders of the deep through the four quarters of the world;
he had a cabinet of stuffed and dried fishes, of shells, sea-weeds,
corals, and madrepores, that was the admiration and envy of the Royal
Society. He had penetrated into the watery den of the Sepia Octopus,
disturbed the conjugal happiness of that turtle-dove of the ocean, and
come off victorious in a sanguinary conflict. He had been becalmed
in the tropical seas, and had watched, in eager expectation, though
unhappily always in vain, to see the colossal polypus rise from the
water, and entwine its enormous arms round the masts and the rigging.
He maintained the origin of all things from water, and insisted that
the polypodes were the first of animated things, and that, from their
round bodies and many-shooting arms, the Hindoos had taken their gods,
the most ancient of deities. But the chief object of his ambition, the
end and aim of his researches, was to discover a triton and a mermaid,
the existence of which he most potently and implicitly believed, and
was prepared to demonstrate, _ priori, posteriori, fortiori_,
synthetically and analytically, syllogistically and inductively,
by arguments deduced both from acknowledged facts and plausible
hypotheses. A report that a mermaid had been seen 'sleeking her soft
alluring locks' on the sea-coast of Lincolnshire, had brought him in
great haste from London, to pay a long-promised and often-postponed
visit to his old acquaintance, Mr Glowry.

Mr Asterias was accompanied by his son, to whom he had given the name
of Aquarius--flattering himself that he would, in the process of time,
become a constellation among the stars of ichthyological science. What
charitable female had lent him the mould in which this son was cast,
no one pretended to know; and, as he never dropped the most distant
allusion to Aquarius's mother, some of the wags of London maintained
that he had received the favours of a mermaid, and that the scientific
perquisitions which kept him always prowling about the sea-shore, were
directed by the less philosophical motive of regaining his lost love.

Mr Asterias perlustrated the sea-coast for several days, and reaped
disappointment, but not despair. One night, shortly after his arrival,
he was sitting in one of the windows of the library, looking towards
the sea, when his attention was attracted by a figure which was moving
near the edge of the surf, and which was dimly visible through the
moonless summer night. Its motions were irregular, like those of a
person in a state of indecision. It had extremely long hair, which
floated in the wind. Whatever else it might be, it certainly was not a
fisherman. It might be a lady; but it was neither Mrs Hilary nor Miss
O'Carroll, for they were both in the library. It might be one of the
female servants; but it had too much grace, and too striking an air of
habitual liberty, to render it probable. Besides, what should one of
the female servants be doing there at this hour, moving to and fro,
as it seemed, without any visible purpose? It could scarcely be a
stranger; for Claydyke, the nearest village, was ten miles distant;
and what female would come ten miles across the fens, for no purpose
but to hover over the surf under the walls of Nightmare Abbey? Might
it not be a mermaid? It was possibly a mermaid. It was probably a
mermaid. It was very probably a mermaid. Nay, what else could it be
but a mermaid? It certainly was a mermaid. Mr Asterias stole out of
the library on tiptoe, with his finger on his lips, having beckoned
Aquarius to follow him.

The rest of the party was in great surprise at Mr Asterias's movement,
and some of them approached the window to see if the locality would
tend to elucidate the mystery. Presently they saw him and Aquarius
cautiously stealing along on the other side of the moat, but they saw
nothing more; and Mr Asterias returning, told them, with accents of
great disappointment, that he had had a glimpse of a mermaid, but she
had eluded him in the darkness, and was gone, he presumed, to sup with
some enamoured triton, in a submarine grotto.

'But, seriously, Mr Asterias,' said the Honourable Mr Listless, 'do
you positively believe there are such things as mermaids?'

MR ASTERIAS

Most assuredly; and tritons too.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

What! things that are half human and half fish?

MR ASTERIAS

Precisely. They are the oran-outangs of the sea. But I am persuaded
that there are also complete sea men, differing in no respect from us,
but that they are stupid, and covered with scales; for, though our
organisation seems to exclude us essentially from the class of
amphibious animals, yet anatomists well know that the _foramen ovale_
may remain open in an adult, and that respiration is, in that case,
not necessary to life: and how can it be otherwise explained that the
Indian divers, employed in the pearl fishery, pass whole hours under
the water; and that the famous Swedish gardener of Troningholm lived
a day and a half under the ice without being drowned? A nereid, or
mermaid, was taken in the year 1403 in a Dutch lake, and was in every
respect like a French woman, except that she did not speak. Towards
the end of the seventeenth century, an English ship, a hundred and
fifty leagues from land, in the Greenland seas, discovered a flotilla
of sixty or seventy little skiffs, in each of which was a triton, or
sea man: at the approach of the English vessel the whole of them,
seized with simultaneous fear, disappeared, skiffs and all, under
the water, as if they had been a human variety of the nautilus. The
illustrious Don Feijoo has preserved an authentic and well-attested
story of a young Spaniard, named Francis de la Vega, who, bathing with
some of his friends in June, 1674, suddenly dived under the sea and
rose no more. His friends thought him drowned; they were plebeians and
pious Catholics; but a philosopher might very legitimately have drawn
the same conclusion.

THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

Nothing could be more logical.

MR ASTERIAS

Five years afterwards, some fishermen near Cadiz found in their nets a
triton, or sea man; they spoke to him in several languages--

THE REVEREND MR LARYNX

They were very learned fishermen.

MR HILARY

They had the gift of tongues by especial favour of their brother
fisherman, Saint Peter.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Is Saint Peter the tutelar saint of Cadiz?

(_None of the company could answer this question, and_ MR ASTERIAS
_proceeded_.)

They spoke to him in several languages, but he was as mute as a fish.
They handed him over to some holy friars, who exorcised him; but the
devil was mute too. After some days he pronounced the name Lierganes.
A monk took him to that village. His mother and brothers recognised
and embraced him; but he was as insensible to their caresses as any
other fish would have been. He had some scales on his body, which
dropped off by degrees; but his skin was as hard and rough as
shagreen. He stayed at home nine years, without recovering his
speech or his reason: he then disappeared again; and one of his old
acquaintance, some years after, saw him pop his head out of the water
near the coast of the Asturias. These facts were certified by his
brothers, and by Don Gaspardo de la Riba Aguero, Knight of Saint
James, who lived near Lierganes, and often had the pleasure of
our triton's company to dinner.--Pliny mentions an embassy of the
Olyssiponians to Tiberius, to give him intelligence of a triton which
had been heard playing on its shell in a certain cave; with several
other authenticated facts on the subject of tritons and nereids.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You astonish me. I have been much on the sea-shore, in the season, but
I do not think I ever saw a mermaid. (_He rang, and summoned Fatout,
who made his appearance half-seas-over_.) Fatout! did I ever see a
mermaid?

FATOUT

Mermaid! mer-r-m-m-aid! Ah! merry maid! Oui, monsieur! Yes, sir, very
many. I vish dere vas von or two here in de kitchen--ma foi! Dey be
all as melancholic as so many tombstone.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I mean, Fatout, an odd kind of human fish.

FATOUT

De odd fish! Ah, oui! I understand de phrase: ve have seen nothing
else since ve left town--ma foi!

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You seem to have a cup too much, sir.

FATOUT

Non, monsieur: de cup too little. De fen be very unwholesome, and I
drink-a-de ponch vid Raven de butler, to keep out de bad air.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Fatout! I insist on your being sober.

FATOUT

Oui, monsieur; I vil be as sober as de rvrendissime pre Jean. I
should be ver glad of de merry maid; but de butler be de odd fish,
and he swim in de bowl de ponch. Ah! ah! I do recollect de leetle-a
song:--'About fair maids, and about fair maids, and about my merry
maids all.' (_Fatout reeled out, singing_.)

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

I am overwhelmed: I never saw the rascal in such a condition before.
But will you allow me, Mr Asterias, to inquire into the _cui bono_ of
all the pains and expense you have incurred to discover a mermaid? The
_cui bono_, sir, is the question I always take the liberty to ask when
I see any one taking much trouble for any object. I am myself a sort
of Signor Pococurante, and should like to know if there be any thing
better or pleasanter, than the state of existing and doing nothing?

MR ASTERIAS

I have made many voyages, Mr Listless, to remote and barren shores:
I have travelled over desert and inhospitable lands: I have defied
danger--I have endured fatigue--I have submitted to privation. In the
midst of these I have experienced pleasures which I would not at any
time have exchanged for that of existing and doing nothing. I have
known many evils, but I have never known the worst of all, which, as
it seems to me, are those which are comprehended in the inexhaustible
varieties of _ennui_: spleen, chagrin, vapours, blue devils,
time-killing, discontent, misanthropy, and all their interminable
train of fretfulness, querulousness, suspicions, jealousies, and
fears, which have alike infected society, and the literature of
society; and which would make an arctic ocean of the human mind, if
the more humane pursuits of philosophy and science did not keep alive
the better feelings and more valuable energies of our nature.

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

You are pleased to be severe upon our fashionable belles lettres.

MR ASTERIAS

Surely not without reason, when pirates, highwaymen, and other
varieties of the extensive genus Marauder, are the only _beau idal_
of the active, as splenetic and railing misanthropy is of the
speculative energy. A gloomy brow and a tragical voice seem to have
been of late the characteristics of fashionable manners: and a morbid,
withering, deadly, antisocial sirocco, loaded with moral and political
despair, breathes through all the groves and valleys of the modern
Parnassus; while science moves on in the calm dignity of its course,
affording to youth delights equally pure and vivid--to maturity, calm
and grateful occupation--to old age, the most pleasing recollections
and inexhaustible materials of agreeable and salutary reflection; and,
while its votary enjoys the disinterested pleasure of enlarging the
intellect and increasing the comforts of society, he is himself
independent of the caprices of human intercourse and the accidents of
human fortune. Nature is his great and inexhaustible treasure. His
days are always too short for his enjoyment: _ennui_, is a stranger to
his door. At peace with the world and with his own mind, he suffices
to himself, makes all around him happy, and the close of his pleasing
and beneficial existence is the evening of a beautiful day.[6]

THE HONOURABLE MR LISTLESS

Really I should like very well to lead such a life myself, but the
exertion would be too much for me. Besides, I have been at college.
I contrive to get through my day by sinking the morning in bed,
and killing the evening in company; dressing and dining in the
intermediate space, and stopping the chinks and crevices of the few
vacant moments that remain with a little easy reading. And that
amiable discontent and antisociality which you reprobate in our
present drawing-room-table literature, I find, I do assure you, a very
fine mental tonic, which reconciles me to my favourite pursuit of
doing nothing, by showing me that nobody is worth doing any thing for.

MARIONETTA

But is there not in such compositions a kind of unconscious
self-detection, which seems to carry their own antidote with them? For
surely no one who cordially and truly either hates or despises the
world will publish a volume every three months to say so.

MR FLOSKY

There is a secret in all this, which I will elucidate with a dusky
remark. According to Berkeley, the _esse_ of things is _percipi_. They
exist as they are perceived. But, leaving for the present, as far
as relates to the material world, the materialists, hyloists, and
antihyloists, to settle this point among them, which is indeed

A subtle question, raised among
Those out o' their wits, and those i' the wrong:

for only we transcendentalists are in the right: we may very safely
assert that the _esse_ of happiness is _percipi_. It exists as it is
perceived. 'It is the mind that maketh well or ill.' The elements of
pleasure and pain are every where. The degree of happiness that any
circumstances or objects can confer on us depends on the mental
disposition with which we approach them. If you consider what is meant
by the common phrases, a happy disposition and a discontented temper,
you will perceive that the truth for which I am contending is
universally admitted.

_(Mr Flosky suddenly stopped: he found himself unintentionally
trespassing within the limits of common sense.)_

MR HILARY

It is very true; a happy disposition finds materials of enjoyment
every where. In the city, or the country--in society, or in
solitude--in the theatre, or the forest--in the hum of the multitude,
or in the silence of the mountains, are alike materials of reflection
and elements of pleasure. It is one mode of pleasure to listen to
the music of 'Don Giovanni,' in a theatre glittering with light, and
crowded with elegance and beauty: it is another to glide at sunset
over the bosom of a lonely lake, where no sound disturbs the silence
but the motion of the boat through the waters. A happy disposition
derives pleasure from both, a discontented temper from neither, but
is always busy in detecting deficiencies, and feeding dissatisfaction
with comparisons. The one gathers all the flowers, the other all the
nettles, in its path. The one has the faculty of enjoying every thing,
the other of enjoying nothing. The one realises all the pleasure of
the present good; the other converts it into pain, by pining after
something better, which is only better because it is not present, and
which, if it were present, would not be enjoyed. These morbid spirits
are in life what professed critics are in literature; they see nothing
but faults, because they are predetermined to shut their eyes to
beauties. The critic does his utmost to blight genius in its infancy;
that which rises in spite of him he will not see; and then he
complains of the decline of literature. In like manner, these cankers
of society complain of human nature and society, when they have
wilfully debarred themselves from all the good they contain, and done
their utmost to blight their own happiness and that of all around
them. Misanthropy is sometimes the product of disappointed
benevolence; but it is more frequently the offspring of overweening
and mortified vanity, quarrelling with the world for not being better
treated than it deserves.

SCYTHROP (_to Marionetta_)

These remarks are rather uncharitable. There is great good in human
nature, but it is at present ill-conditioned. Ardent spirits cannot
but be dissatisfied with things as they are; and, according to their
views of the probabilities of amelioration, they will rush into the
extremes of either hope or despair--of which the first is enthusiasm,
and the second misanthropy; but their sources in this case are the
same, as the Severn and the Wye run in different directions, and both
rise in Plinlimmon.

MARIONETTA

'And there is salmon in both;' for the resemblance is about as close
as that between Macedon and Monmouth.

* * * * *

CHAPTER VIII

Marionetta observed the next day a remarkable perturbation in
Scythrop, for which she could not imagine any probable cause. She was
willing to believe at first that it had some transient and trifling
source, and would pass off in a day or two; but, contrary to this
expectation, it daily increased. She was well aware that Scythrop had
a strong tendency to the love of mystery, for its own sake; that is
to say, he would employ mystery to serve a purpose, but would first
choose his purpose by its capability of mystery. He seemed now to have
more mystery on his hands than the laws of the system allowed, and to
wear his coat of darkness with an air of great discomfort. All her
little playful arts lost by degrees much of their power either to
irritate or to soothe; and the first perception of her diminished
influence produced in her an immediate depression of spirits, and a
consequent sadness of demeanour, that rendered her very interesting to
Mr Glowry; who, duly considering the improbability of accomplishing
his wishes with respect to Miss Toobad (which improbability naturally
increased in the diurnal ratio of that young lady's absence), began
to reconcile himself by degrees to the idea of Marionetta being his
daughter.

Marionetta made many ineffectual attempts to extract from Scythrop the
secret of his mystery; and, in despair of drawing it from himself,
began to form hopes that she might find a clue to it from Mr Flosky,
who was Scythrop's dearest friend, and was more frequently than any
other person admitted to his solitary tower. Mr Flosky, however, had
ceased to be visible in a morning. He was engaged in the composition
of a dismal ballad; and, Marionetta's uneasiness overcoming her
scruples of decorum, she determined to seek him in the apartment which
he had chosen for his study. She tapped at the door, and at the sound
'Come in,' entered the apartment. It was noon, and the sun was shining
in full splendour, much to the annoyance of Mr Flosky, who had
obviated the inconvenience by closing the shutters, and drawing
the window-curtains. He was sitting at his table by the light of a
solitary candle, with a pen in one hand, and a muffineer in the other,
with which he occasionally sprinkled salt on the wick, to make it burn
blue. He sate with 'his eye in a fine frenzy rolling,' and turned his
inspired gaze on Marionetta as if she had been the ghastly ladie of
a magical vision; then placed his hand before his eyes, with an
appearance of manifest pain--shook his head--withdrew his hand--rubbed
his eyes, like a waking man--and said, in a tone of ruefulness most
jeremitaylorically pathetic, 'To what am I to attribute this very
unexpected pleasure, my dear Miss O'Carroll?'

MARIONETTA

I must apologise for intruding on you, Mr Flosky; but the interest
which I--you--take in my cousin Scythrop--

MR FLOSKY

Pardon me, Miss O'Carroll; I do not take any interest in any person or
thing on the face of the earth; which sentiment, if you analyse it,
you will find to be the quintessence of the most refined philanthropy.

MARIONETTA

I will take it for granted that it is so, Mr Flosky; I am not
conversant with metaphysical subtleties, but--

MR FLOSKY

Subtleties! my dear Miss O'Carroll. I am sorry to find you
participating in the vulgar error of the _reading public,_ to whom
an unusual collocation of words, involving a juxtaposition of
antiperistatical ideas, immediately suggests the notion of
hyperoxysophistical paradoxology.

MARIONETTA

Indeed, Mr Flosky, it suggests no such notion to me. I have sought you
for the purpose of obtaining information.

MR FLOSKY _(shaking his head)_

No one ever sought me for such a purpose before.

MARIONETTA

I think, Mr Flosky--that is, I believe--that is, I fancy--that is, I
imagine--

MR FLOSKY

The [Greek: toytesti], the _id est_, the _cio_, the _c'est dire_,
the _that is_, my dear Miss O'Carroll, is not applicable in this
case--if you will permit me to take the liberty of saying so. Think
is not synonymous with believe--for belief, in many most important
particulars, results from the total absence, the absolute negation of
thought, and is thereby the sane and orthodox condition of mind; and
thought and belief are both essentially different from fancy, and
fancy, again, is distinct from imagination. This distinction between
fancy and imagination is one of the most abstruse and important points
of metaphysics. I have written seven hundred pages of promise to
elucidate it, which promise I shall keep as faithfully as the bank
will its promise to pay.

MARIONETTA

I assure you, Mr Flosky, I care no more about metaphysics than I do
about the bank; and, if you will condescend to talk to a simple girl
in intelligible terms--

MR FLOSKY

Say not condescend! Know you not that you talk to the most humble of
men, to one who has buckled on the armour of sanctity, and clothed
himself with humility as with a garment?

MARIONETTA

My cousin Scythrop has of late had an air of mystery about him, which
gives me great uneasiness.

MR FLOSKY

That is strange: nothing is so becoming to a man as an air of mystery.
Mystery is the very key-stone of all that is beautiful in poetry, all
that is sacred in faith, and all that is recondite in transcendental
psychology. I am writing a ballad which is all mystery; it is 'such
stuff as dreams are made of,' and is, indeed, stuff made of a dream;
for, last night I fell asleep as usual over my book, and had a vision
of pure reason. I composed five hundred lines in my sleep; so that,
having had a dream of a ballad, I am now officiating as my own Peter
Quince, and making a ballad of my dream, and it shall be called
Bottom's Dream, because it has no bottom.

MARIONETTA

I see, Mr Flosky, you think my intrusion unseasonable, and are
inclined to punish it, by talking nonsense to me. (_Mr Flosky gave a
start at the word nonsense, which almost overturned the table._) I
assure you, I would not have intruded if I had not been very much
interested in the question I wish to ask you.--(_Mr Flosky listened
in sullen dignity._)--My cousin Scythrop seems to have some secret
preying on his mind.--(_Mr Flosky was silent._)--He seems very
unhappy--Mr Flosky.--Perhaps you are acquainted with the cause.--(_Mr
Flosky was still silent._)--I only wish to know--Mr Flosky--if it is
any thing--that could be remedied by any thing--that any one--of whom
I know any thing--could do.

MR FLOSKY (_after a pause_)

There are various ways of getting at secrets. The most approved
methods, as recommended both theoretically and practically in
philosophical novels, are eavesdropping at key-holes, picking the
locks of chests and desks, peeping into letters, steaming wafers, and
insinuating hot wire under sealing wax; none of which methods I hold
it lawful to practise.

MARIONETTA

Surely, Mr Flosky, you cannot suspect me of wishing to adopt or
encourage such base and contemptible arts.

MR FLOSKY

Yet are they recommended, and with well-strung reasons, by writers of
gravity and note, as simple and easy methods of studying character,
and gratifying that laudable curiosity which aims at the knowledge of
man.

MARIONETTA

I am as ignorant of this morality which you do not approve, as of the
metaphysics which you do: I should be glad to know by your means, what
is the matter with my cousin; I do not like to see him unhappy, and I
suppose there is some reason for it.

MR FLOSKY

Now I should rather suppose there is no reason for it: it is the
fashion to be unhappy. To have a reason for being so would be
exceedingly common-place: to be so without any is the province of
genius: the art of being miserable for misery's sake, has been brought
to great perfection in our days; and the ancient Odyssey, which held
forth a shining example of the endurance of real misfortune, will
give place to a modern one, setting out a more instructive picture of
querulous impatience under imaginary evils.

MARIONETTA

Will you oblige me, Mr Flosky, by giving me a plain answer to a plain
question?

MR FLOSKY

It is impossible, my dear Miss O'Carroll. I never gave a plain answer
to a question in my life.

MARIONETTA

Do you, or do you not, know what is the matter with my cousin?

MR FLOSKY

To say that I do not know, would be to say that I am ignorant of
something; and God forbid, that a transcendental metaphysician, who
has pure anticipated cognitions of every thing, and carries the whole
science of geometry in his head without ever having looked into
Euclid, should fall into so empirical an error as to declare himself
ignorant of any thing: to say that I do know, would be to pretend to
positive and circumstantial knowledge touching present matter of fact,
which, when you consider the nature of evidence, and the various
lights in which the same thing may be seen--

MARIONETTA

I see, Mr Flosky, that either you have no information, or are
determined not to impart it; and I beg your pardon for having given
you this unnecessary trouble.

MR FLOSKY

My dear Miss O'Carroll, it would have given me great pleasure to have
said any thing that would have given you pleasure; but if any person
living could make report of having obtained any information on any
subject from Ferdinando Flosky, my transcendental reputation would be
ruined for ever.

* * * * *

CHAPTER IX

Scythrop grew every day more reserved, mysterious, and distrait; and
gradually lengthened the duration of his diurnal seclusions in his
tower. Marionetta thought she perceived in all this very manifest
symptoms of a warm love cooling.

It was seldom that she found herself alone with him in the morning,
and, on these occasions, if she was silent in the hope of his speaking
first, not a syllable would he utter; if she spoke to him indirectly,
he assented monosyllabically; if she questioned him, his answers
were brief, constrained, and evasive. Still, though her spirits were
depressed, her playfulness had not so totally forsaken her, but that
it illuminated at intervals the gloom of Nightmare Abbey; and if, on
any occasion, she observed in Scythrop tokens of unextinguished or
returning passion, her love of tormenting her lover immediately got
the better both of her grief and her sympathy, though not of her
curiosity, which Scythrop seemed determined not to satisfy. This
playfulness, however, was in a great measure artificial, and usually
vanished with the irritable Strephon, to whose annoyance it had been
exerted. The Genius Loci, the _tutela_ of Nightmare Abbey, the
spirit of black melancholy, began to set his seal on her pallescent
countenance. Scythrop perceived the change, found his tender
sympathies awakened, and did his utmost to comfort the afflicted
damsel, assuring her that his seeming inattention had only proceeded
from his being involved in a profound meditation on a very hopeful
scheme for the regeneration of human society. Marionetta called him
ungrateful, cruel, cold-hearted, and accompanied her reproaches with
many sobs and tears; poor Scythrop growing every moment more soft
and submissive--till, at length, he threw himself at her feet, and
declared that no competition of beauty, however dazzling, genius,
however transcendent, talents, however cultivated, or philosophy,
however enlightened, should ever make him renounce his divine
Marionetta.

'Competition!' thought Marionetta, and suddenly, with an air of the
most freezing indifference, she said, 'You are perfectly at liberty,
sir, to do as you please; I beg you will follow your own plans,
without any reference to me.'

Scythrop was confounded. What was become of all her passion and her
tears? Still kneeling, he kissed her hand with rueful timidity, and
said, in most pathetic accents, 'Do you not love me, Marionetta?'

'No,' said Marionetta, with a look of cold composure: 'No.' Scythrop
still looked up incredulously. 'No, I tell you.'

'Oh! very well, madam,' said Scythrop, rising, 'if that is the case,
there are those in the world--'

'To be sure there are, sir;--and do you suppose I do not see through
your designs, you ungenerous monster?'

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