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4. The Party
En quoi cognoissez-vous la folie anticque? En quoi cognoissez-vous la sagesse
"If I were sketching a bandit who had just shot his last pursuer, having outrun all
the rest, that is the very face I would give him," soliloquised the Captain, as he
studied the features of his rival in the drawing-room, during the miserable half-
hour before dinner, when dulness reigns predominant over expectant company,
especially when they are waiting for some one last comer, whom they all heartily
curse in their hearts, and whom, nevertheless, or indeed therefore-the-more, they
welcome as a sinner, more heartily than all the just persons who had been
punctual to their engagement. Some new visitors had arrived in the morning,
and, as the company dropped in one by one, the Captain anxiously watched the
unclosing door for the form of his beloved: but she was the last to make her
appearance, and on her entry gave him a malicious glance, which he construed
into a telegraphic communication that she had stayed away to torment him.
Young Crotchet escorted her with marked attention to the upper end of the
drawing-room, where a great portion of the company was congregated around
Miss Crotchet. These being the only ladies in the company, it was evident that
old Mr. Crotchet would give his arm to Lady Clarinda, an arrangement with which
the Captain could not interfere. He therefore took his station near the door,
studying his rival from a distance, and determined to take advantage of his
present position, to secure the seat next to his charmer. He was meditating on
the best mode of operation for securing this important post with due regard to
bienseance, when he was twitched by the button by Mr. Mac Quedy, who said to
him: "Lady Clarinda tells me, sir, that you are anxious to talk with me on the
subject of exchangeable value, from which I infer that you have studied political
economy, and as a great deal depends on the definition of value, I shall be glad
to set you right on that point." "I am much obliged to you, sir," said the Captain,
and was about to express his utter disqualification for the proposed instruction,
when Mr. Skionar walked up and said: "Lady Clarinda informs me that you wish
to talk over with me the question of subjective reality. I am delighted to fall in with
a gentleman who daily appreciates the transcendental philosophy." "Lady
Clarinda is too good," said the Captain; and was about to protest that he had
never heard the word "transcendental" before, when the butler announced
dinner. Mr. Crotchet led the way with Lady Clarinda: Lord Bossnowl followed with
Miss Crotchet: the economist and transcendentalist pinned in the Captain, and
held him, one by each arm, as he impatiently descended the stairs in the rear of
several others of the company, whom they had forced him to let pass; but the
moment he entered the dining-room he broke loose from them, and at the
expense of a little brusquerie, secured his position.
"Well, Captain," said Lady Clarinda, "I perceive you can still manoeuvre."
"What could possess you," said the Captain, "to send two unendurable and
inconceivable bores to intercept me with rubbish about which I neither know nor
care any more than the man in the moon?"