Crotchet Castle HTML version

1. The Villa
Captain Jamy. I wad full fain hear some question 'tween you tway. HENRY V.
In one of those beautiful valleys, through which the Thames (not yet polluted by
the tide, the scouring of cities, or even the minor defilement of the sandy streams
of Surrey) rolls a clear flood through flowery meadows, under the shade of old
beech woods, and the smooth mossy greensward of the chalk hills (which pour
into it their tributary rivulets, as pure and pellucid as the fountain of Bandusium,
or the wells of Scamander, by which the wives and daughters of the Trojans
washed their splendid garments in the days of peace, before the coming of the
Greeks); in one of those beautiful valleys, on a bold round-surfaced lawn, spotted
with juniper, that opened itself in the bosom of an old wood, which rose with a
steep, but not precipitous ascent, from the river to the summit of the hill, stood
the castellated villa of a retired citizen. Ebenezer Mac Crotchet, Esquire, was the
London-born offspring of a worthy native of the "north countrie," who had walked
up to London on a commercial adventure, with all his surplus capital, not very
neatly tied up in a not very clean handkerchief, suspended over his shoulder from
the end of a hooked stick, extracted from the first hedge on his pilgrimage; and
who, after having worked himself a step or two up the ladder of life, had won the
virgin heart of the only daughter of a highly respectable merchant of Duke's
Place, with whom he inherited the honest fruits of a long series of ingenuous
Mr. Mac Crotchet had derived from his mother the instinct, and from his father
the rational principle, of enriching himself at the expense of the rest of mankind,
by all the recognised modes of accumulation on the windy side of the law. After
passing many years in the Alley, watching the turn of the market, and playing
many games almost as desperate as that of the soldier of Lucullus, the fear of
losing what he had so righteously gained predominated over the sacred thirst of
paper-money; his caution got the better of his instinct, or rather transferred it from
the department of acquisition to that of conservation. His friend, Mr. Ramsbottom,
the zodiacal mythologist, told him that he had done well to withdraw from the
region of Uranus or Brahma, the Maker, to that of Saturn or Veeshnu, the
Preserver, before he fell under the eye of Jupiter or Seva, the Destroyer, who
might have struck him down at a blow.
It is said that a Scotchman, returning home after some years' residence in
England, being asked what he thought of the English, answered: "They hanna
ower muckle sense, but they are an unco braw people to live amang;" which
would be a very good story, if it were not rendered apocryphal by the incredible
circumstance of the Scotchman going back.
Mr. Mac Crotchet's experience had given him a just title to make, in his own
person, the last-quoted observation, but he would have known better than to go
back, even if himself, and not his father, had been the first comer of his line from
the north. He had married an English Christian, and, having none of the Scotch
accent, was ungracious enough to be ashamed of his blood. He was desirous to
obliterate alike the Hebrew and Caledonian vestiges in his name, and signed
himself E. M. Crotchet, which by degrees induced the majority of his neighbours