7. The Sleeping Venus
Quoth he: In all my life till now,
I ne'er saw so profane a show.--BUTLER.
The library of Crotchet Castle was a large and well-furnished apartment, opening
on one side into an ante-room, on the other into a music-room. It had several
tables stationed at convenient distances; one consecrated to the novelties of
literature, another to the novelties of embellishment; others unoccupied, and at
the disposal of the company. The walls were covered with a copious collection of
ancient and modern books; the ancient having been selected and arranged by
the Reverend Doctor Folliott. In the ante-room were card-tables; in the music-
room were various instruments, all popular operas, and all fashionable music. In
this suite of apartments, and not in the drawing-room, were the evenings of
Crotchet Castle usually passed.
The young ladies were in the music-room; Miss Crotchet at the piano, Lady
Clarinda at the harp, playing and occasionally singing, at the suggestion of Mr.
Trillo, portions of Matilde di Shabran. Lord Bossnowl was turning over the leaves
for Miss Crotchet; the Captain was performing the same office for Lady Clarinda,
but with so much more attention to the lady than the book, that he often made
sad work with the harmony, by turnover two leaves together. On these occasions
Miss Crotchet paused, Lady Clarinda laughed, Mr. Trillo scolded, Lord Bossnowl
yawned, the Captain apologised, and the performance proceeded.
In the library Mr. Mac Quedy was expounding political economy to the Reverend
Doctor Folliott, who was pro more demolishing its doctrines seriatim.
Mr. Chainmail was in hot dispute with Mr. Skionar, touching the physical and
moral well-being of man. Mr. Skionar was enforcing his friend Mr. Shantsee's
views of moral discipline; maintaining that the sole thing needful for man in this
world was loyal and pious education; the giving men good books to read, and
enough of the hornbook to read them; with a judicious interspersion of the
lessons of Old Restraint, which was his poetic name for the parish stocks. Mr.
Chainmail, on the other hand, stood up for the exclusive necessity of beef and
ale, lodging and raiment, wife and children, courage to fight for them all, and
armour wherewith to do so.
Mr. Henbane had got his face scratched, and his finger bitten, by the cat, in trying
to catch her for a second experiment in killing and bringing to life; and Doctor
Morbific was comforting him with a disquisition to prove that there were only four
animals having the power to communicate hydrophobia, of which the cat was
one; and that it was not necessary that the animal should be in a rabid state, the
nature of the wound being everything, and the idea of contagion a delusion. Mr.
Henbane was listening very lugubriously to this dissertation.
Mr. Philpot had seized on Mr. Firedamp, and pinned him down to a map of Africa,
on which he was tracing imaginary courses of mighty inland rivers, terminating in
lakes and marshes, where they were finally evaporated by the heat of the sun;
and Mr. Firedamp's hair was standing on end at the bare imagination of the mass
of malaria that must be engendered by the operation. Mr. Toogood had begun
explaining his diagrams to Sir Simon Steeltrap; but Sir Simon grew testy, and told