Crotchet Castle by Thomas Love Peacock - HTML preview
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4. The Party
En quoi cognoissez-vous la folie anticque? En quoi cognoissez-vous la sagesse presente?--RABELAIS.
"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 halfhour 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?"
"Perhaps," said Lady Clarinda, "I saw your design, and wished to put your generalship to the test. But do not contradict anything I have said about you, and see if the learned will find you out."
"There is fine music, as Rabelais observes, in the cliquetis d'asssiettes, a refreshing shade in the ombre de salle a manger, and an elegant fragrance in the fumee de roti," said a voice at the Captain's elbow. The Captain turning round, recognised his clerical friend of the morning, who knew him again immediately, and said he was extremely glad to meet him there; more especially as Lady Clarinda had assured him that he was an enthusiastic lover of Greek poetry. "Lady Clarinda," said the Captain, "is a very pleasant young lady." REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. So she is, sir: and I understand she has all the wit of the family to herself, whatever that totum may be. But a glass of wine after soup is, as the French say, the verre de sante. The current of opinion sets in favour of Hock: but I am for Madeira; I do not fancy Hock till I have laid a substratum of Madeira. Will you join me?
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. With pleasure.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Here is a very fine salmon before me: and May is the very point nomme to have salmon in perfection. There is a fine turbot close by, and there is much to be said in his behalf: but salmon in May is the king of fish. MR. CROTCHET. That salmon before you, doctor, was caught in the Thames, this morning.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. [Greek text]. Rarity of rarities! A Thames salmon caught this morning. Now, Mr. Mac Quedy, even in fish your Modern Athens must yield. Cedite Graii.
MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh! sir, on its own around, your Thames salmon has two virtues over all others; first, that it is fresh; and, second, that it is rare; for I understand you do not take half a dozen in a year.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. In some years, sir, not one. Mud, filth, gas-dregs, lockweirs, and the march of mind, developed in the form of poaching, have ruined the fishery. But, when we do catch a salmon, happy the man to whom he falls. MR. MAC QUEDY. I confess, sir, this is excellent: but I cannot see why it should be better than a Tweed salmon at Kelso.
REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, I will take a glass of Hock with you.
MR. MAC QUEDY. With all my heart, sir. There are several varieties of the salmon genus: but the common salmon, the salmo salar, is only one species, one and the same everywhere, just like the human mind. Locality and education make all the difference.