Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 869
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 arrangement: his money for her title. The captain pleads with her at every opportunity, but she silences him and her own heart by ridiculing his lack of funds. Lemma, in the meantime, becomes pledged to Lady Clarinda’s brother. The four young people spend many hours together, much to Captain Fitzchrome’s sorrow.
One day, the squire takes his guests on a river voyage down the Thames. They visit places of learning and culture but see little of either except the buildings supposed to house those attributes. During the trip, the captain finally gives up his hopes of winning Lady Clarinda, and he leaves the party without notifying anyone. He settles in a village inn, where he is later joined by Chainmail, the antiquarian, who left the party to study a ruined castle in the neighborhood. Since the captain knows the way to the castle, he offers to guide Chainmail, but he is called back to London on business before they can undertake their expedition. Chainmail goes on alone.
During his researches, Chainmail catches a glimpse of a nymphlike creature who fascinates him so much that he cannot rest until he makes her acquaintance. When he finally meets her, he learns that she is Susannah. Chainmail finds her perfect in every way but one. He knows she would share the simple, old-fashioned life he loves, but he is determined to marry a lady of gentle birth. Susannah, ashamed of her father’s theft, will tell him nothing of her family background. In spite of her reluctance in this respect, Chainmail loves her and spends many happy hours at the farmhouse in which she lives.
When Captain Fitzchrome returns and learns of his friend’s plight, he encourages Chainmail to ask for the lady’s hand. The antiquarian is, however, unable to change his views. The situation is brought to a climax when they see in the paper an announcement of the approaching marriage of Lady Clarinda and young Crotchet. Susannah is temporarily overcome by the news, and in trying to comfort her, Chainmail inadvertently proposes. Then Susannah tells him of her father’s crime. Chainmail, however, can overlook that fact in his joy over the discovery that Susannah is of gentle blood. In a few days, the two are married.
The following Christmas, most of the friends gather again at Crotchet Castle. Lemma married Lord Bossnowl, but Lady Clarinda Bossnowl did not yet marry young Crotchet. The young man is a little dismayed at seeing Susannah married to Chainmail, for he still holds her in affection. Lady Clarinda casts longing glances at the captain, even to the point of singing a song obviously intended for him. She is not sorry, therefore, when young Crotchet disappears. His firm failed, and he is penniless. It is assumed that he crossed the Atlantic to join forces with Susannah’s father, who set up business there. Lady Clarinda refuses to be put up for sale again. She gladly accepts Captain Fitzchrome and his smaller but stabler fortune.
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