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CALIDORE: A FRAGMENT OF A ROMANCE

by

THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK

Chapter I.

   Notwithstanding the great improvements of machinery in thisrapidly improving agewhich is so much wiserbetterand happier than all thatwent before itevery gentleman is not yet accommodated with the convenience ofa pocket boat. We may therefore readily imagine that Miss Ap-Nanny and hersister Ellenthe daughters of the Vicar of Llanglasrhydwere not a littleastonished in a Sunday evening walk on the sea shorewhen a little skiffwhichby the rapidity of its motion had attracted their attention while but a speckupon the wavesran upon the beachfrom which emerged a very handsome younggentlemandressed not exactly in the newest fashionwhoafter taking down thesail and hauling up the boat upon the beachcarefully folded it up in the sizeof a prayer-book and transferred it to his pocket. He did not notice the youngladies till he had completed this operationand when he looked round anddiscovered them he seemed a little confusedbut made them a very courteous bowin a fine but rather singular style of ancient politeness. From the moment ofhis first landingand the commencement of the curious process of folding up hisboatMiss Ap-Nanny had been dying with curiosityand had consulted her sisterEllen as to the propriety of addressing the strangerhavinghoweverfullymade up her mind beforehand as usual with young ladies when they ask advice.
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   Theinn was filled with picturesque tourists who had arrived in various vehicles bythe help of those noble quadrupeds who confer so much dignity on theinsignificant bipedthat if he venture to travel without them and rest hisreception on his own merits the difference of his welcome may serve to show himhow much more of his imaginary importance belongs to his horse than to himself.Our traveller arriving alone and on foot was received with half a courtesy bythe landladyand shown into the common parlour where the incipient cold of theautumnal evening was dispelled by an immense turf fireby which were sittingtwo elderly gentlemen of the clerical professionrecumbent in arm chairswiththeir eyes half shutand their legs stretched out so that the points of theirshoes came in contact at the centre of the fender. Each was smoking his pipewith contemplative gravity. Neither spoke nor movedexcept now and then as ifby mechanismto fill his glass from the jug of ale that stood between them onthe tableand the moment this good example was set by one the other followed itinstantaneously and automatically as the two figures at St Dunstan's strike uponthe bell to the great delight of Cockneysamazement of rusticsand consolationof pickpockets. The stranger made several attempts to draw them intoconversationbut could not succeed in extracting more than a "hum"from either of them. At length one of the reverend gentlemenhaving buzzed thejugarticulatedwith slow and minute emphasis: "Will you join in anotherjug?" "Hum!" said the other. A violent rattling of copper ensuedin their respective coat pockets; two equal quantities of half-pence weredeliberately counted down upon the table; the bell was rungand the littleroundWelsh waiting-maid carried out the moneyand replenished the jug insilence. They went on as before till the liquor was exhaustedwhen it becamethe other's turn to ask the questionand the same eventful words"Willyou join in another jug?" were repeatedwith the same ceremonies and thesame results. Our travellerin the meanwhilelooked over his tablets ofinstruction. These two reverend gentlemen were the Vicar of Llanglasrhyd and theRector of Bwlchpenbach. The rector performed afternoon service at a chapeltwenty miles from his rectoryand Llanglasrhyd lying half-way between themheslept every Sunday night under the roof of Gwyneth Owenwhere his dearestfriendthe Vicar of Llanglasrhydmet him to smoke away the evening. They hadthus passed together every Sunday evening for forty yearsand during the wholeperiod had scarcely said ten words to each other beyond the usual forms ofmeeting and partingand "Will you join in another jug?" Yet weretheir meetings so interwoven with their habitual comforts that either would haveregarded the loss of the other as the greatest earthly misfortune that couldhave befallen himand would neverperhapshave mustered sufficient firmnessof voice to address the same question"Will you join in another jug?"to any other human being. It may seem singular to those who have heard theextensive form of Welsh hospitality that the vicar did not invite the rector topass these evenings at his vicarage; but it must be remembered that the Rectorof Bwlchpenbach was every week at Llanglasrhyd in the way of his businessandthat the Vicar of Llanglasrhyd had no business whatever to take him on anysingle occasion to Bwlchpenbach; therefore the balance of the consumption of alewould have been entirely against the vicarand as they regularly drank threequarts each at a sittingor one hundred and fifty-six quarts in a yeartheRector of Bwlchpenbach would have consumed in forty years six thousand twohundred and forty quarts of alewithout equivalent or compensationat theexpense of the Vicar of Llanglasrhyda circumstance not to be thought ofwithout vexation of spirit.
   Our traveller folded up his tabletsrung the bellandinquired what he could have for supperand what wine was to be had? Thelandlady entered with a tempting list of articlesand enumerated several namesof wine. The stranger seemed perplexedand at length said he would have themallfor he liked to see a well-covered tablehaving always been used to one.The landlady dropped a double courtesyand the reverend gentlemen dropped theirpipes; the pipes brokeand the odorous embers were scattered on the hearth.
   When the supper smokedand the wine sparkled on the tablethe stranger pressed the reverend gentlemen to join him. They did not indeedrequire much pressingand assisted with great industry in the demolition of hisabundant banquet: but still not a syllable could he extract from either of themexcept that the Vicar of Llanglasrhydwhen his heart was warmed with Madeirainvited the rector and the young stranger to breakfast with him the next morningat the vicaragewhich the latter joyfully acceptedas he very well by thistime understood that his lively and jovial companion was the father of thebeautiful creature who had charmed him on the sea-shore. He sate from this timein contented silencecontemplating the happy meeting of the following morningwhile the reverend gentlemen sipped the liquid so far and only till with theirusual felicitous sympathy they vanished at the same instant under the table. Thelandlady and her household were summoned to their assistance. The Vicar ofLlanglasrhyd was carried home by the postillionsand the Rector of Bwlchpenbachwas put to bed by the ostler.
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   Allowme to hand you some toast: you must have had a very pleasant sail yesterday.--Verypleasant!--Did you come far? Very far.--From Ireland perhaps.--Not from Ireland.--Thenyou must have come a long way in such a small boatsuch a very small boat.--Notso very small: it is one of our best sea boats.--Do you carry your best seaboats in your waistcoat pockets? Then I suppose in your great-coat pockets youcarry your ships of the line.--Butdear mesiryou must come from a verystrange place.--I come from a part of the world which is known to the rest bythe name of Terra Incognita. I am not at liberty to say more concerning it.--Butsirif it is a fair questionwhat has brought you to Wales?--I have landed onthis shore by accident. My present destination is London. I am to remain in thisisland twelve monthsand return with a wife and a philosopher.--God bless me!what can Terra Incognita want with a philosopherand how are you to take themaway?--In the same boat that brought me.--Whywho do you think will trustherself? You would like some more tea?--Ellenmy deardo you think any ladywould trust herself?--If she had love enoughsaid Ellen.--Cream and sugarsaidMiss Ap-Nanny.--The boat is perfectly safesaid the strangerlooking at Ellen.I could go through a hurricane with it.--Loveto be surewill do anythingsaid Miss Ap-NannybutLord bless me! I may take an eggand to be sure itwould be worth some risk just in the way of curiosity to see Terra Incognita.They must be very strange peoplebut what they can want of a philosopher Icannot imagine.--I hope if you bring him this way you will keep him muzzledformy papa says they are very terrible monstersfiends of darkness and imps of thedevil. I would not trust myself in a boat with one for the world. Would youEllenmy dear?--I should not be much afraidsaid Ellensmilingif he were inthe hands of a safe keeper.--We have a philosopher or two among us alreadysaidthe strangerand they are by no means such formidable animals as you seem tosuppose.--But my papa says sosaid Miss Ap-Nanny.--I bow acquiescencesaid thestrangerbut perhaps the Welsh variety is a peculiarly fierce breed.--I amhappy to say there is not one in all Walessaid Miss Ap-Nanny.--I hear they runtame in Londonsaid Ellen..--Then you are not so much afraid of them as yoursistersaid the stranger.--Not quitesaid Ellensmiling againI think Iwould venture into the same room with one even if he were not in an iron cage.--OhfieEllensaid Miss Ap-Nannythat is what you call having liberal opinions. Icannot imagine where you got them. I am sure you did not learn them from me. Doyou knowsirEllen is very heterodox. My papa actually detected her in thefact of reading a wicked book called "Principles of Moral Science"whichwith his usual sweet temperhe putwithout saying a wordbehind thefire. He says liberal opinions are only another name for impiety.--Deargoodman! said Mrs AP-Nannyopening her mouth for the first timehe never wasguilty of a liberal opinion in the course of his life.
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   Sirwhat can a young man of your figure--you look like a courtier--mean by makinglove at first sight to my daughter? What can you meansir? Perhaps you haveheard that she will have a thousand poundsand that may be a temptation.--Moneysaid the strangeris to me mere chaff; and producing a bag from his pocketandshaking it by one cornerhe scattered on the floor a profusion of gold. TheVicarwho had seen nothing but paper money for twenty yearswas astonished atthese yellow apparitionsand picking up one inspected it with great curiosity.On one side was the phenomenon of a crowned head with a handsome and intelligentfaceand the legend ARTHURUS REX. On the reversea lion sleeping at Neptune'sfeetand the legend REDIBO.--Here is a foreign potentatesaid the Reverend DrAp-Nannywhom I never remember to have heard of. Prayis he legitimate by thegrace of Godor a blasphemous and seditious usurper whom the people have hadthe impudence to choose for themselves?--He is very legitimate and has an oldertitle than any other being in the world.--Then I reverence himsaid the Vicar.Old Authoritysirold Authoritythere is nothing like old Authority. But whatdo you want with my daughter?--Candidlysirsaid the strangerI am on a questfor a wifeand am so far inspired by the grace of VenusCupidand JunothatI am willing my quest should end where it begins--here.--On a questexclaimedthe Vicar; VenusCupidand Juno! Ah! I see how it is. Richhumouredandtouched in the head. Praywhat do you mean by Juno?--Juno Pronubasaid thestrangerthe goddess of marriage.--I seesiryou are inclined to make a jokeof both me and my daughter. SirI must tell you this very unbecoming levity.--Mydear sirI assure you.--Sirit is palpable. Would any man make a seriousproposal to a man of my cloth for his daughterand talk to him of the grace ofVenus and Cupid and Juno Pronubathe goddess of marriage?--I swear to yousirsaid the strangerearnestlyby the sacred head of Pan.
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   Whenthey approached the destinied island they were delighted to perceive that itsaspect presented a most promising diversity of mountainvalleyand forestreposing in the sunshine of a delicious climate. Two very singular persons werewalking on the seashore; one in the appearance a young and handsome man with acrown of vine-leaves on his head; the other a wild and singular figure in a finestate of picturesque roughness with goat's horns and feet and a laughing face.As the vessel fixed its keel in the shore and King Arthur and his party landedthe two strangers approached and inquired who they wereand whence they came?--Thisreplied Merlinis the great King Arthur; this is his fair queenGuenevere: andI am the potent Merlin: these are the illustrious knights of the round table:and this is the King's butlerBedevere. The butlersaid the first strangershall be welcome. And so shall the ladiessaid the second. But as to the restof youpursued the firstwe must know you a little better before we accord youour permission to advance a step in this island. I am Bacchusand Isaid theotheram Pan. Sosaid Sir LauncelotI find we have to contend with the evilpowers. If you mean us by that appellationsaid Bacchusyou will find us toostrong for you. This island is the retreat of all the gods and goddessesgeniiand nymphswho formerly reigned in Olympusand dwelt in the mountains andvalleys of Greece and Italy. Though we had not much need of mankindwe had agreat affection for themand lived among them on good terms and in aninterchange of kind offices. They regaled us with the odours of sacrificebuiltus magnificent templesand especially showed their piety by singing anddancingand being always social and cheerfuland full of pleasure and lifewhich is the most gratifying appearance that man can present to the gods. Butafter a certain time they began to change most lamentably for the worse. Theydiscontinued their sacrifices; they broke our imagesmany of which we had satefor ourselves; they called us frightful and cacophonous names--Beelzebub andAmaimon and Astaroth: they plundered and demolished our templesand built uglystructures on their ruinswhereinstead of dancing and rejoicing as they hadbeen used to doand delighting us with spectacles of human happinessthey wereeternally sighing and groaningand beating their breastsand dropping theirlower jawsand turning up the whites of their eyesand cursing each other andall mankindand chaunting such dismal staves that we shut our eyes and earsandflying from our favourite terrestrial scenesassembled in a body among theclouds of Olympus. Here we held a council as to what was to be done for theamendment of these perverted mortals; but Jupiter informed us that necessityhis mistressand that of the worldcompelled him to acquiesce for a time inthis condition of thingsthat mankindwho had never been good for a greatdealwere now become so worthlessand withal so disagreeablethat the wisestcourse we could adopt would be to leave them to themselves and retire to anundisturbed island for which he had stipulated with the fates. Herethenweareand have been for ages. That mountain on which the white clouds are restingis now Mount Olympusand there dwell Jupiter and the Olympian deities. In theseforests and valleys reside Pan and Silenusthe Fauns and the Satyrsand thesmall nymphs and genii. I divide my time between the twofor though my home isOlympusI have a most special friendship for Pan. Now I have only this to saythat if you come here to make frightful faceschaunt long tunesand curse eachother through the noseI give you fair warning to depart in peace: if notweshall find no trouble in expelling you by forceas Jupiter will testify to you.Jupiter gave the required testification by a peal of thunder from Olympus.
   Merlin and King Arthur fell on their kneesand the rest oftheir party followed the example. Great Bacchus and mighty Pansaid Merlinpity our ignorance and take us under your protectionfor if you banish us fromthis happy shoreour vessel must wander over the seas for everlike the FlyingDutchman that is to beand we are very ill victualled for such a navigation.
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   Thefirst object of Calidore on arriving in London was to change some of his goldArthurs into the circulating medium of the countryand on making inquiry at hishotelhe was directedfor this purposeto a spacious stone building with highwalls and no windows. Alighting from his hackney-coachwith a money-box in hishandhe wandered through a labyrinth of paved courts and spacious rooms filledwith smoky-faced clerks and solid globes of Jewsthrough some of which he hadgreat difficulty in forcing his way. After some timehe discovered the officehe wantedpresented his goldwhich was duly triedweighedand carefullyremoved from his sight. The sum was enounced with very distinct articulationand a piece of paper was given to himwith which he was sent to another place.How would you like itsir? said a little sharp-nosed man with a quill behindhis ear.--In the circulating medium of this citysaid Calidore.--But I meansirin what portions?--In no portions: I wish to have it all at once.--Thousandssir? said the little man.--The specified sumsirsaid Calidore.--The littleman put into his hand several slips of paper.--Wellsir! said Calidorewhat amI to do with these?--Whatever you pleasesirsaid the little mansmiling. Iwish I could say as much for myself.--I am much obliged to yousaid Calidore;and I have no doubt you are an exceedingly facetious and agreeable person; butat the same timeif you would have the goodness to direct me where I canreceive my money.--Sirsaid the little manthat is your money.--This!--Certainlysir; that. What would you have?--Gold cointo be suresaid Calidore.--Goldcoin! I am afraidsiryou are a disaffected man and a Jacobinor you wouldnot ask for such a thingwhen I have given you the best money in the world.Praysirlook at it--you are a strangerperhaps--look at itsir; that's all.--Calidorelooked at one of the pieces of paperand read aloud: I promise to pay to MrHenry Hare--One Thousand Pounds--John Figginbotham.--Wellsir; and what have Ito do with John Figginbotham's promise to pay a thousand pounds to Henry Hare?--JohnFigginbothamsirhaving made that promiseand put it upon that papermakesthat paper worth a thousand pounds.--To Henry Haresaid Calidore.--To any onesaid the little man. You overlook the words: or bearer. Nowsiryou are thebearer.--I understand. John Figginbotham promises to pay me a thousand pounds.--Precisely.--Thensirif you will have the goodness to direct me to John Figginbotham I willthank him to pay me directly.--Butgood Godsir! you mistake the matter.--Mistakesir!--Yessir! John Figginbotham does not pay; he only signs. We pay: wewhoare here; I and my chums.--Very wellsir; then why can you not pay me withoutall this circumlocution?--SirI have paid you.--Howsir?--With those notessir. Sirthese are promises to paymade by one Figginbotham. I wish thesepromises to be performed. You send me round in a circle from Hare toFigginbothamand from Figginbotham to yourselfand I am still as much in thedark as everas to where I am to look for the performance of their very liberalpromises.--Oh! the performancesir--very true sir--as you say; butsirpromises are of two kindsthose which are meant to be performedand thosewhich are notthe latter being forms used for convenience and dispatch ofbusiness.--Thensirthese promises are not meant to be performed.--Pardon mesirthey are meant to be performednot literallybut in a manner. They usedto be performed by giving gold to the bearerbut that having been foundpeculiarly inconvenient has been laid aside by Act of Parliament ever since theyear Ninety-Sevenand we now pay paper with paperwhich simplifies businessexceedingly.--And praysirdo these promises to pay pass for realities amongthe people?--Certainly they dosir; one of those slips of paper which you holdin your hand will purchase the labour of fifty men for a year.--JohnFigginbotham must be a person of very great consequencethere is not muchtrouble I presume in making one of these things.--Not muchsir.--Then IsupposesirJohn Figginbotham has all the labour of the country under hisabsolute disposal. Assuredly this Figginbotham must be a great magicianandprofoundly skilled in magic and demonology; for this is almost more than Merlincould doto make the eternal repetition of the same promise pass for itseternal performanceand exercise unlimited control over the lives and fortunesof a whole nationmerely by putting his name upon pieces of paper. Howeversincesuch is the caseI must try to make the best of the matter: but if Ifind that these talismans of the great magician Figginbotham do not act upon thepeople as you give me to understand they willI shall take the liberty ofblowing my bugle in his enchanted castleand in the meantimesirIrespectfully take leave of your courtly presence.--Poorderanged gentleman!exclaimed the little man after Calidore was gonedid you ever hear a man talkso in all your lifeMr Solomons?--Very much crackedsaid Mr Solomonsverymuch cracked in the head; but seems to be sound in the pocketwhich is thebetter part of man.