The squire of Crotchet Castle is descended from Scottish and Jewish ancestors, but he tries to assume the demeanor of a traditional English country squire. He has great ability in making money, and he uses his wealth to buy a manor and a coat of arms. With his wife dead and his son in London, the squire lives with his daughter. Young Crotchet, who inherited his father’s love for money, takes his father’s gift of a large sum and turns it into enormous profits. His business dealings are shady, however, and many people think his day of reckoning will come. For the present, however, his luck holds. He was engaged to Miss Susannah Touchandgo, the daughter of a great banker, but when that gentleman absconded with the bank’s funds, leaving his daughter almost penniless, young Crotchet deserted his love without a backward glance. Susannah went to Wales, where she made her living in simple surroundings, teaching a farmer’s children.
Squire Crotchet’s daughter Lemma bears some resemblance to her ancestors, a fact that is compensated in the eyes of local swains by the size of her father’s fortune. A suitor is not yet selected for her, but there are many who seek her hand and her purse.
Crotchet Castle is a gathering place for philosophers and dilettantes picked at random by Squire Crotchet. These would-be intellectuals engage in long and tiresome disputes on all branches of philosophy and science. One of them, Mr. Chainmail, longs for a return to the customs and morals of the Middle Ages, believing that the present is decidedly inferior to the past. He is violently opposed by other members of the group who worship mammon. None of the philosophers ever changes his views, and each finds much pleasure in expounding his own pet theory.
While strolling through the grounds one day, some of the gentlemen come upon a young army officer, Captain Fitzchrome. Invited to join the group, the captain accepts readily, for he is in love with Lady Clarinda Bossnowl, one of the guests. Lady Clarinda obviously loves the captain, but she is promised to young Crotchet in a match that is purely a business...
(The entire section is 869 words.)