The unfortunate rencontre which promised to produce so much uneasiness, was occasioned by the impatience of Orlando at Monimia’s long absence. He had gone early in the morning to his father’s, as he had the preceding evening proposed: and returning about ten o’clock, anxious to know if Monimia was come back from her walk, he enquired among the servants for Betty; and was told that she was not yet come home from the village, whither Mrs. Lennard had sent her early in the morning. What do you want with Betty, Sir? said Pattenson, 118 who heard the enquiry. To make the fire up in my room, replied Orlando. Any other of the maids can do that as well, I suppose, answered the butler, sullenly; and then, from his manner, Orlando was first struck with the idea, that Pattenson, being an admirer of Betty, was apprehensive of his acquiring too much of her favour. This observation was a great relief to him, and dissipated the fears he had long entertained, that the old butler suspected his stolen interviews with Monimia.
Uneasy, however, at her staying so much later than the hour when he knew she was ordered to return, he could not forbear making a circuit round the wood-walks of the park, where he could not be observed, and passing towards the preserved pheasant-grounds, through which her path lay; where he had not waited long before the appearance of Monimia, attended by Sir John Belgrave, produced the alarming conversation which the last chapter related.
When Orlando parted from Monimia, and began coolly to consider what had happened, he felt no other uneasiness than that which arose from his apprehension that her name might be brought in question; for he was a stranger to all personal fear, and was totally indifferent to the resentment of Sir John Belgrave, which he thought it probable he might think it wise to lay aside; for he did not appear to be one of those who are eager to acquire fame by personal danger. However that might be, Orlando’s principal concern was, how to appease the fears of Monimia; and as early as it was safe to go to the turret, he repaired thither; but this happened almost an hour later than usual. Pattenson had visitors, some tradesmen from a neighbouring town, to sup with him; and Orlando, who was upon the watch, had the mortification to hear them 119 singing in the butler’s room at half after eleven, and to find it near one o’clock when they betook themselves to their horses, and departed. It was yet near half an hour longer before the lights about the house were extinguished, and all was quiet.
The night, dark and tempestuous, added to the gloomy appearance of all that surrounded Monimia; while her imagination, filled with images of horror, represented to her, that his delay was owing to the consequences of his morning’s adventure; and these apprehensions, added to the fatigue and anxiety she had gone through during the day, almost overcame her before the well known, long wished for signal was heard.
At length Orlando had safely placed her by the fire, and began to speak as cheerfully as he could of what had passed; but he saw her pale, dejected, and ready to sink—her eyes swollen with weeping—and her whole frame languid, depressed by the uneasy circumstances of the day, and the uneasy suspense of the night. For the latter he easily accounted; and he endeavoured to dissipate her dread as to the consequences of the former. This fine gentleman, said he, who could persecute with his insulting attentions a young and defenceless woman, my Monimia, can never have much proper and steady courage; or, if he has, he will, if he has a shadow of understanding, be ashamed of exerting it in such a cause. Besides, after all the applications that have with great civility been made to Mr. Stockton, entreating him to forbear, either by himself, his friends, or servants, trespassing on those woods, where Mrs. Rayland is so fond of preserving the game, nothing can be more ungentleman-like than to persist in it: it looks like taking advantage of Mrs. Rayland’s being without any man about her who has a right to enforce her 120 wishes, which, whether capricious and absurd or no, should surely be respected. I feel myself perfectly justified for having spoken as I did, and only regret that you were present. Relate to me, Monimia, what passed before I met you. Did not Betty say, that my brother was one of the people who were with this Sir John Belgrave?
Monimia then related all that had passed, as well as the alarm she had been in had allowed her to observe it; and in the behaviour of his brother, particularly in the speech he had made to Monimia as he passed her, Orlando found more cause of vexation than in any other circumstance of the morning. He foresaw that the beauty of Monimia, which had hitherto been quite unobserved, would now become the topic of common conversation; his father and his family would be alarmed, and his stay at the Hall imputed to motives very different from his love of solitude and study. Hitherto Monimia had seemed a beautiful and unique gem, of which none but himself had discovered the concealment, or knew the value. He had visited it with fonder idolatry, from alone possessing the knowledge it was hid. But now half his happiness seemed to be destroyed, since his treasure was discovered, and particularly by his brother, who was so loose in his principles, and so unfeeling in his conduct. As these painful reflections passed through his mind, he sat a while silent and dejected, till, being awakened from his mournful reverie by a deep sigh from Monimia, he saw her face bathed in tears. Ah! Orlando, said she, in a tremulous voice, I see that you feel as I do. All our little happiness is destroyed; perhaps this is the last night we shall ever meet: something tells me, that the consequence of this luckless day will be our eternal separation. The sobs that swelled her bosom as 121 she said this impeded her utterance. Orlando, with more than usual tenderness, endeavoured to sooth and re-assure her—when suddenly, as he hung fondly over her, speaking to her in a low voice, she started, and said, in a whisper, Hush, hush—for heaven’s sake—I hear a noise in the chapel. Orlando listened a moment. No—it is only the wind, which is very high to night. But listening again a moment, he thought, as she did, that it was something more; and before he had time to imagine what it might be, the old heavy lock of the study door, that opened from the passage to the chapel, was moved slowly; the door as slowly opened, and at it a human face just appeared. Starting up, Orlando, whose fears were ever alive for Monimia, blew out the single candle which stood at some distance from them; and then springing towards the door he demanded fiercely who was there. Monimia, whose terror almost annihilated her faculties, would have thrown herself into his arms, and there have waited the discovery which appeared more dreadful than death: but he was instantly gone, and pursued through the chapel a man, whom however he could not overtake, and who seemed at the door to vanish—though the night was so dark, that it was impossible to distinguish any object whatever. Through the chapel he had heard the sound of feet; but when he got to the porch, and from thence listened for the same sound to direct his pursuit along the flag-stones, it was heard no more. All was profoundly silent, unless the stillness was interrupted by the howling of the wind round the old buildings.
Orlando, after a moment’s pause, was disposed to fasten the chapel door before he returned; but he recollected that perhaps he might enclose an enemy within it, or impede the escape of his Monimia to her 122 turret. Uncertain therefore what to do, but too certain of the agonizing fears to which he had left her exposed, he hastily went back; and securing that door which led from the chapel to the passage as well as he could (for there was no key to it, and only a small rusty bar), and then fastening the door of the study, he approached, by the light of the wood-fire which was nearly extinguished, the fainting Monimia, who, unable to support herself, had sunk on the ground, and rested her head on the old tapestry chair on which she had been sitting.
Orlando found her cold, and almost insensible; and it was some moments before he could restore her to her speech. Terror had deprived her of the power of shedding tears; nor had she strength to sit up: but when he had placed her in her chair, he was compelled to support her, while he endeavoured to make light of a circumstance that overwhelmed him with alarm for her, and with vexation beyond what he had ever yet experienced.
They had both distinctly beheld the face, though neither had the least idea to whom it belonged. Orlando had as distinctly heard the footsteps along the hollow ground of the chapel; it was not therefore one of those supernatural beings, to whose existence Monimia had been taught to give credit. Orlando would willingly have sheltered himself under such a prejudice, had it been possible; for all the ghosts in the Red Sea would have terrified him less than the discovery of Monimia by any of the family; yet, that such a discovery was made, he could not doubt; and the more he thought of even its immediate consequences, and the impossibility there might be to reconvey his lovely trembling charge to her own room, the greater his distraction became; while all he could make Monimia 123 say, was, Dearest Orlando, let me stay and die here! A few hours longer of such extreme pain, as I at this moment suffer, will certainly kill me; and if I die in your presence, my death will be happier than my life has been, or than now it ever can be.
Orlando being thus under the necessity of conquering his own extreme disquiet, that he might appease hers, began to make various conjectures as to this man, tending to encourage the hope that it was some accidental intruder, and not one whose business was to discover her. But even if the villain came with that design, said he, I do not believe he could distinguish you, so instantly I blew out the candle: or if he saw a female figure, he could not know it to be you; it might as well be any other woman. These suppositions had little power to quiet the fears with which Monimia was tormented; but when Orlando seemed so deeply affected by her situation; when he declared to her that he was unequal to the sight of her terror; and that not even the discovery they dreaded could make him so wretched as seeing her in such a situation; she made an effort to recover herself, and at length succeeded so well as to regain the power of consulting with him, as to what was best to be done.
It was now early morning, but still very dark, with rain and wind. It was however time to consider of Monimia’s return; for within two hours the servants would be up, and in even less time the labourers in the gardens would come to their work. It was at length agreed, that Orlando should go through the chapel first, and try if he could discover any traces of their alarming visitor; and if, after his reconnoitring, all appeared safe, that Monimia should return as usual to her apartment.
Orlando then, directing her to fasten herself the 124 study door within side, went through the chapel with a candle in his hand, which he shaded with his hat to prevent the light being seen from the windows. He looked carefully among the broken boards which had once formed two or three pews, and then went into the chancel, but saw nothing. He passed through the porch, leaving his candle behind the door on one of the benches, but nobody appeared: and by the very faint light of the first dawn, on a stormy October morning, which served only to make the darkness visible, he could just see round the whole chapel court, and was satisfied nobody was there. Thus convinced, he returned to Monimia; assured her that the wretch, whoever he was, was gone; and that there seemed to be no danger in her returning to her apartment. He endeavoured again to persuade her that her alarm, however just, would end without any of the consequences they dreaded; made her swallow a large glass of wine: and then taking one of her hands in his, he put his other arm round her waist; and with uncertain steps himself, while through fear her feet almost refused to move, they proceeded slowly and lightly through the chapel; neither of them spoke; Monimia hardly breathed; when arriving about the middle of it, they were struck motionless by a sudden and loud crash, which seemed to proceed from the chancel; and a deep hollow voice pronounced the words, Now—now.
There was a heavy stone font in the middle of the chapel, with a sort of bench under it. Orlando, unable at once to support and defend Monimia, placed her on this bench; and imploring her to take courage, he darted forward into the chancel, from whence he was sure the voice had issued, and cried aloud, Who is there? Speak this moment. Who are you?125
The words re-echoed through the vaulted chancel, but no answer was returned: again, and in a yet louder voice, he repeated them, and again listened to hear if any reply was made. A slight and indistinct noise, like the shutting a distant door, and a low murmur which soon died away, left every thing in profound silence. He remained however yet an instant listening, while Monimia, resting against the stone a cheek almost as cold, was petrified with excess of fear; and in the dread pause between Orlando’s question and his awaiting an answer, the old banners which hung over her head, waving and rustling with the current of air, seemed to repeat the whispers of some terrific and invisible being, foretelling woe and destruction; while the same wind by which these fragments were agitated hummed sullenly among the helmets and gauntlets, trophies of the prowess of former Sir Orlandos and Sir Hildebrands, which were suspended from the pillars of the chapel.
When Orlando returned to her, he found her more dead than alive. He soothed, he supported her, and earnestly besought her to exert herself against the fear that oppressed her.
What shall we do, Monimia? said he. For my own part, rather than see you suffer thus, I will take you in my hand, and declare at once to these people, whoever they are, that we cannot live apart. And should we, by such an avowal, forfeit the protection of our friends, what is there in that so very dreadful? I am young and strong, and well able to work in any way for a subsistence for us both. Tell me, Monimia, should you fear poverty, if we could I live together!
No, replied Monimia, acquiring courage from this excess of tenderness in her lover—no, Orlando I should be too happy to be allowed to beg with you 126 round the world. What then have we to fear? whispered he. Come, let us go and face these people, if, as their expression Now seems to intimate, they are waiting for us without. In the chapel they are not, however the sound seemed to come from thence. I fear they way-lay us at the door. But if we are thus prepared against the worst that can befall us, why should we shrink now, only to be exposed a second time to alarms that seem to threaten your life, from your extreme timidity? Tell me, Monimia, have you courage to brave the discovery at once, which sooner or later must be made?
I have courage, answered she; let us go while I am able. She arose, but could hardly stand. Orlando however led her forward, listening still every step they took. They heard nothing either in the chapel or in the porch; and being now on the pavement without, they stopped and looked around them, expecting that the person or persons whose words had alarmed them would appear; but there was nobody to be seen, yet it was now light enough to discern every part of the court. This is wonderful, said Orlando; but since there seems to be nothing to prevent it, let me see you, my Monimia, safe to your room; and let me hope to have the comfort of knowing, that, after the fatigues and terrors of such a day and night, you obtain some repose. How can you know it, Orlando, answered she, since it will be madness, if we escape now, to think of venturing a meeting to-morrow night? I would not have you venture it; but, Monimia, I have thought of a way, by which I can hear from you and write to you in the course of the day, which, under our present circumstances, must be an infinite satisfaction. As I have at all hours access to the turret, I can put a letter at your door behind 127 your bed; and there you can deposit an answer. To this expedient Monimia readily assented. Without any alarm they passed the rest of their short walk. Monimia promised to go immediately to bed, and to endeavour to compose herself; and Orlando, having seen her secured in her turret, returned to the chapel, determined to discover, if possible, what it was that had so cruelly alarmed them. Again he went over every part, but could discover nothing. He then determined to go round the house; and resolute not to spare any wretch who might be lurking about it with evil designs, he went into a large uninhabited parlour that opened into the study from the body of the house, where, over the chimney, several sorts of arms were disposed, which for many years had never been used. He took down an hanger, and a pair of horse pistols; both were somewhat injured by neglect, and of the latter he knew he could make no use till they had been cleaned; but drawing the hanger from its scabbard, he sallied forth in eager expectation of finding some means to discover, and at least to terrify from future intrusion, the man he had seen and heard; but after wandering round the house, through the gardens, and even over the adjoining offices, for above an hour, he saw nothing that could lead him to guess who it could be. The workmen and servants were all at their usual employments. He talked to some of them, but observed no consciousness of any thing extraordinary in any of them. He then returned, not less uneasy than before his search. Sometimes the idea of Sir John Belgrave presented itself; but that he should have ventured to visit the Hall at such an hour, he soon rejected as an impossibility. Had Mrs. Rayland discovered his intelligence with Monimia, she would have signified her displeasure openly and at 128 once. At length he supposed it might be his brother. This, as Philip Somerive knew the house, appeared the least improbable of all his conjectures. But still it was hardly to be supposed that he would leave his jovial companions on such a night for the pleasure of persecuting him, when so many other means were now in his power, by which he might disturb the happiness of Orlando. Dissatisfied with every supposition, but becoming every instant more restless and anxious, he waited with impatience for the customary time of visiting Mrs. Rayland. It came, and she behaved to him just as usual. Some hours, therefore, were still passed in fruitless conjectures and tormenting suspense.
Mrs. Rayland’s being without any man about her who has a right to enforce her wishes
[I would not be surprised to learn that trespassing and poaching were capital crimes in 1776. After all, everything else was.]
from alone possessing the knowledge where it was hid
text has were
I am young and strong, and well able to work in any way for a subsistence for us both.
[Digging ditches: Yes. Engaging in trade: Never, never. Besides, they are both minors; has he got enough cash on hand to make it to the Border?]
as their expression Now seems to intimate
[This would be more intelligible if the editor had not insisted on removing all quotation marks:
as their expression “Now” seems to intimate.]
Early on the following morning, Monimia prepared herself
Orlando left Mrs. Rayland about twelve o’clock
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.