ebooks

The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XI.

Orlando left Mrs. Rayland about twelve o’clock, convinced that, whatever discovery had been made, she was yet perfectly unacquainted with it. He thought it best to tell her as much of what had happened the preceding day, as he was sure she would not disapprove: he therefore mentioned to her, in the presence of Lennard, who seemed as ignorant of any misadventure as she was, that he had gone round the park with his gun, after his return from his father’s in the morning, and, hearing several shot fired in the copses, he had followed the sound. I met, madam, said he, Mrs. Lennard’s niece and your servant Betty, and almost at the same moment a gentleman shooting, and a servant following him with several pheasants. I thought it necessary to speak to him; and we had rather high words. I found he had two companions with him, whom I did not see: Stockton himself was one 129 of them (Orlando always carefully avoided naming his brother). The man to whom I spoke, was I found from his servant, a baronet.

A baronet, child! said Mrs. Rayland; impossible! at least if he is, it must be one of the new-made baronets: these, as well as new-created lords, spring up like mushrooms, from nobody knows where every year. A man of family could not behave so. This person is some enriched tradesman, who has bought his title. Belgrave!—Belgrave!—I don’t recollect the name. No, he cannot be a man of any family.

Orlando saw that Mrs. Rayland had not the least idea of the circumstances likely to follow his dialogue with Sir John Belgrave, and only dwelt upon the improbability that a man whose title was above two years old, could commit so great an indecorum as he had been guilty of. Unwilling, therefore, to awaken in her mind those apprehensions of future consequences, of which she seemed quite ignorant, he soon after turned the discourse; and, leaving her and Mrs. Lennard both in perfect good humour, he returned to his study, and sat down to give Monimia the satisfaction of knowing, that, to whomsoever the affright of the preceding evening was owing, Mrs. Rayland and her aunt had certainly no share in it, and as yet no suspicion of their intercourse.

He had been employed thus near half an hour, and had just finished his letter, when Betty bounced into his room.

There’s one without vants to speak to you, cried she: pouting and sullenly she spoke; and then, shutting the door as hastily as she had opened it, was going; but Orlando following her, said Betty! who is it? If the person has a letter for me, let it be sent in; if not, beg to know his name. (A 130 letter or a message from Sir John Belgrave was what he expected.)

I shan’t carry none of your messages indeed, replied the girl: but I suppose the person without is your father; I never see him but once or twice, but I’m pretty sure ’tis he.

Good God! exclaimed Orlando; and why, then, if you knew him, would you let my father wait without?

’Twas no business of mine, Mr. Orlando, to shew him in; and besides folks sometimes has company with them in their rooms, you know; and then an old father may be one too many, Mr. Orlando.

What do you mean by that? cried Orlando eagerly.

Nay, never mind what I means—I knows what I knows; but I think you mid as well take care not to get other folks into bad bread, that are as innocent as the child unborn.

I insist upon your telling me, said Orlando, seizing her hand—I insist, nay I implore you dear Betty, to tell me——

At this moment the old butler appeared at the door of the parlour in which they were standing; and seeing Orlando apparently interceding with Betty, he said roughly,

Instead of pulling the wenches about, and behaving in this rakish sort of way in my mistress’s house, it would be more becoming of you to go speak to your father, who is waiting in the stable-yard.

You are impertinent, Mr. Pattenson! answered Orlando; and I beg you will under­stand that impertinence from any one I am not disposed to endure.

Orlando then went hastily out—Pattenson muttering 131 as he passed, I don’t know how you’ll help yourself.

In the stable-yard Orlando found Mr. Somerive. He had not dismounted, having made it a rule for many years never to enter Mrs. Rayland’s house unless he was invited. Orlando saw by his countenance that he was under great concern; and respectfully approaching him, he said,

Dear Sir, is all well at home? Is my mother returned? Is she well?

Your mother is not returned, Orlando, replied Mr. Somerive in a grave and melancholy tone; but she is well, and all is well at home.

I hope then, Sir, that I owe this visit merely to your kindness. Will you get off your horse, and come in? I have a fire in the library—or shall I let Mrs. Rayland know you are here?

Neither the one nor the other, replied Mr. Somerive. But get your horse immediately and come with me; I have business with you.

I have only slippers on, Sir; will you walk in while I put on my boots?

You will not need them—I shall not detain you long. Your horse is already saddled by my desire—You have your hat, and therefore hasten to follow me.

Orlando would have given half a world to have had an opportunity of depositing his letter to Monimia, which he had put hastily into his pocket; but there was now no possibility of escaping to do it; and in the hope that his father would soon dismiss him, yet foreseeing that what he had to say was of a very painful nature, he mounted his horse, which one of the grooms brought out, and followed his father across the park. Mr. Somerive was silent till they had got at some distance from the house. Orlando rode by his side a foot pace. He 132 observed that his father sighed deeply two or three times, and at length said: Orlando, I desire you will give me a faithful detail of all that passed yesterday.

The events of the night dwelt more upon his mind than those of the day; and believing there fore that his father alluded to them, he blushed deeply, and repeated, All that passed yesterday, Sir?

Yes, replied the father; you certainly don’t mean to affect misunder­standing me. You have got into a quarrel with one of the guests of Mr. Stockton: I have heard of it from one quarter; let me now have your account of it.

That is very easily given, my dear Sir, answered Orlando, relieved by finding that the adventures of the night were not meant. I met a gentleman shooting in those woods, where you know it has been for years the particular whim of Mrs. Rayland, as it was, they tell me, of her father, to preserve the pheasants. You know that Mr. Stockton has often been entreated to forbear; and you will allow that it is unhandsome to persist in doing what is offensive to a defenceless woman; therefore, upon meeting this Sir John Something, with his servant carrying a net full of birds, I spoke to him on the impropriety of his shooting in those woods, and indeed almost within the park. He answered me very insolently, and I collared him; after which some rather high words passed between us. He sent his servant after me with his address; and I expected to have heard farther from him to-day.

And was that all, Orlando? said Mr. Somerive, looking steadily, and somewhat sternly in his face.

That was all that passed, Sir, replied Orlando hesitating, and blushing again.

And was there no other person present when this 133 quarrel happened? Was there no other cause for your displeasure against this gentleman, than what arose from his having killed these birds? Orlando, I used in your infancy and early youth to have the firmest reliance on your veracity; shall I have the infinite mortification now to find myself mistaken?

No, Sir, answered Orlando, nor now, nor ever: I have no reason to be ashamed of saying the truth, when called upon—though I should——

Come, come, Orlando! cried his father; you would not tell it, if you could, without being guilty of the meanness of a direct falsehood, conceal it. There were two young women present; and you thought it necessary to resent the behaviour of this Sir John Belgrave to one of them.

Yes, I thought him very impertinent. The young woman was terrified, and I considered myself bound to protect her from him. I am sure, Sir, you would yourself have done the same thing.

Perhaps I might. You are acquainted then with this girl, for whom you exercised your chivalry.

Certainly, said Orlando, again blushing so much that his father could not but perceive it—certainly I am—am acquainted with her; that is—I know her to be sure, a little;—indeed, as I live so much under the same roof, it would be odd, and strange, if I did not.

Very odd and strange indeed, Orlando, replied Mr. Somerive drily—very odd and very strange;—especially as your brother tells me that the damsel is remarkably handsome.

Well, Sir, cried Orlando with quickness, admitting it to be so: does my brother think to do me an ill office with you, by telling you that I admire beauty; or that I defended a woman, for whom if she had been ugly, I should equally have interposed, from the impudent persecutions of a coxcomb?

134

I do not believe that your brother intended to do you an ill office. On the contrary, he came to me this morning, at an hour when a visit from him was very unexpected, to tell me that he was very uneasy at the resentment expressed by Sir John Belgrave; and to desire I would prevent this disagreeable affair from going farther, by prevailing on you to make some proper apology.

And if that was my brother’s sole intention, I see no necessity for his having named the lady; there was otherwise ground enough for the quarrel, if a quarrel it can be called. However, I heartily forgive Philip; and am only sorry that he thinks he has cause to do me every disservice in his power.

Do you call his anxiety for your safety a disservice? he hopes to prevent any risk of it, by telling me what has happened, and procuring, before it is too late, an apology.

Orlando checked his tears: And does my father really think, said he, that I ought to make an apology?

If the affair passed as Philip represented it to me, I think you ought; for you seem by that account to have been the aggressor.

No, Sir, cried Orlando: in every thing else your commands should be my law; but here I hope you will not lay them upon me, because I feel that, for the first time in my life, I must disobey them.

And your mother, said Mr. Somerive, your mother, on her return, is to hear that you are engaged in a duel; that you have either killed a man, who is a stranger to you, for the sake of a few paltry pheasants, or have yourself fallen? Oh rash and headstrong boy!—if you did not feel deeper resentment than what a trespass on Mrs. Rayland’s grounds occasioned, you would not thus have engaged in a dispute so alarming. I greatly fear your attachment to that girl.

135

Orlando, without denying or assenting to the truth of this accusation, related distinctly the very words that had passed.—You see, Sir, continued he, that it was about no girl the quarrel began; for upon my soul! these were the very words.

I think still, said his father, that it is a very foolish affair; and, should Sir John Belgrave insist upon it, that you ought to make an excuse.

Never, said Orlando; and do not, dear Sir, do not, I conjure you, lay me under the cruel necessity of disobeying you. You cannot, with all the spirit you possess yourself, desire me to act like a coward; you must despise me if I did: and even my dear, my tender mother would blush for her son, if she thought him afraid of any man when he is conscious of a good cause.

What is to be done, then? cried Somerive in great perplexity. You will certainly receive a challenge, Orlando.

And then I must certainly accept it. But indeed, dear Sir, you are needlessly distressed: if this warlike Sir John must vindicate his injured honour by firing a brace of pistols at me, I have as good a chance as he has; and at all events, if I fall, you will be delivered from the anxiety of providing for me, and I shall die lamented, which is better than to live disgraced. But after all (seeing his father’s distress increase), I am much mistaken if this most magnanimous baronet had not rather let it alone—A few hours will determine it; and before my mother’s return, whom I should be very sorry to terrify, it will be over, one way or other.

You will not then, Orlando, settle it by an apology?

Never, indeed, my dear Sir.

Nor give me your word that there is no attachment 136 between you and this girl, this niece of Lennard’s?

Why, my dear father, replied Orlando gaily, if I am to be shot by Sir John Belgrave, my attachments are of little consequence; it will therefore be time enough to talk of that when I find myself alive after our meeting.

Young man, said Somerive, with more sternness than he almost ever shewed towards Orlando before, you were once accustomed to obey implicitly all my commands.—At hardly twenty, it is rather early to throw off all parental authority. But I see that the expectations you have formed of possessing the Rayland estate, have made you fancy your self independent.

Pardon me, dear Sir! if I say you greatly mistake me. If I were to-morrow to find myself, by Mrs. Rayland’s will, the owner of this property, which is of all things the most unlikely, I should not be at all more independent than I am now; for, while my father lived, I should be conscious that he alone had a right to the Rayland estate; nor should I then consider myself otherwise than as a dependent on his bounty.

There is no contending with you, Orlando, said Mr. Somerive, bursting into tears; I cannot bear this!—You must do, my son, as your own sense and spirit dictate; and I must leave the event to Heaven, to whose protection I commit you!—Yet remember your mother, Orlando: remember your sisters, whose protector you will, I trust, live to be; and do not, more rashly than these unlucky circumstances require, risk a life so precious to us all.

Orlando threw himself off his horse, and, seizing his father’s hand, bathed it with his tears. Neither of them spoke for some moments. At length Orlando, recovering himself, said: My father! I 137 would die rather than offend you—If I could, or if I can without cowardice and meanness evade a meeting which may give you pain, I will. In the mean time let us say nothing about this squabble to alarm my mother, if she returns, as you say you expect she will, to-morrow. If any thing happens worth your knowing, you shall instantly hear of it: and in the mean time let me entreat you not to make yourself uneasy; for I am well convinced all will end without any of those distressing events which your imagination has painted.

Mr. Somerive shook his head and sighed. As he found nothing could be done with Orlando, he had determined to try to put a stop to the further progress of the affair, by his own interposition with Sir John Belgrave; and therefore, bidding Orlando tenderly adieu, he told him to go back to the Hall, while he himself went to his own house to consider how he might best ward off the impending evil from a son whom he every day found more cause to love and admire. He saw too evidently that Orlando had an affection for Mrs. Lennard’s niece; for which, though it might be productive of the loss of Mrs. Rayland’s favour, he knew not how to blame him. But these discoveries added new bitterness to the reflections he often made on the situation of Orlando; with which, notwith­standing the flattering prospect held out by Mrs. Rayland’s late behaviour to him, his father could not be satisfied while it remained in such uncertainty. The anxiety however that he felt for the immediate circumstances, suspended his solicitude for those which were to come. A few hours might perhaps terminate that life, about the future disposition of which he was so continually meditating.

Orlando, deeply concerned at the distress of his father, and too much confirmed in his opinion of his 138 brother’s treachery and malice, returned to the Hall filled with disquiet. He had now much to add to his letter to Monimia, for he resolved to keep nothing a secret from her; and he went impatiently into his own room to finish his letter, when, upon the table, he found the following billet:

SIR,

As I find, on enquiry, you are by birth a gentleman, you cannot believe I can pass over the very extraordinary language and conduct you chose to make use of yesterday. Yet, in consideration of your youth, and of your relationship to Mr. Somerive, the friend of my friend Stockton, I shall not otherwise notice it than by desiring you will write such an apology as it becomes you to make, and me to receive.

I am, Sir,

Your humble servant,

J. B. BELGRAVE.

Carloraine Castle, Oct. 18, 1776.

To this letter, which Orlando was told was delivered a few moments before by a servant who waited, he, without hesitation, returned the following answer:

SIR,

Not conscious of any impropriety in my conduct, I shall assuredly make no apology for it; and I beg that neither your indulgence to my youth, or my relationship to Mr. Philip Somerive, may prevent your naming any other satisfaction which your honour may require, and which I am immediately ready to give.

I am, Sir,

Your humble servant,

ORLANDO SOMERIVE.

Rayland Hall, Oct. 18, 1776.

Having dispatched this billet, he continued very coolly to conclude his letter to Monimia; and this last circumstance was the only one he concealed 139 from her. Having done it, he went to the turret, and softly mounted the stair-case, flattering himself that, if he heard no noise, and could be quite secure that no person was with her, he might venture to see Monimia for a few moments. He listened impatiently; but, to his infinite mortification, heard Betty talking with more than her usual volubility; and as his name was repeated, he could not help attending to her harangue.

Oh! to be sure, said she, in answer to something Monimia had said; to be sure, I warrant Orlando is a saint and an angel in your eyes—but I know something.

Tell me Betty, said Monimia tremulously, tell me what you know.

Why I know—that though he looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in his month, cheese won’t choke him. I can tell you what, Miss, he’s slyer than his brother, but not a bit gooder—What’s more, he lets women into his room at night.

Women! cried Monimia, what women? How should he do that? and who should they be?

That’s more than I can tell; but some hussy or other he does let in, I tell you, for I know they as have seen her. There’s Pattenson has been as mad as fury with me saying as how it was me; and all I can say won’t persuade him to the contrary.—Egollys! if it had been me, I should not have gone to have denied it, in spite of Pattenson; but he’s as mad as a dog, and won’t hear nothing I can say, but swears he’ll tell my Lady—though I can bring Jenny to prove that, at that very time as he says I was sitting along with ’Squire Orlando in his own study, I was fast asleep up stairs—And so if Pattenson does make a noise about it, Jenny offers to take her bible oath before the Justice.

I think, said Monimia, acquiring a little courage 140 from the hope she now entertained that she had not been distin­guished, I think it is much better to say nothing about it.

So I tells him, answered Betty; but he is so crazy anger’d with me that he won’t hear nothing I can say—and there to be sure I own I should like to know who this puss is.

Why, replied Monimia, what can it signify, Betty, to you?

It signifies to every body, I think, Miss, especially to us poor servants, who may lose our characters. You see that I’m blamed about it already, and Pattenson is always a telling me that Mr. Orlando has a liking for me, and that I keeps him company.—Not I, I’m sure!—but it is very hard to be brought into such a quandary as this, when one’s quite as ’twere as innocent as can be. I’d give my ears to see this slut.

Why, who did ever see her? enquired Monimia.

Oh! that’s neither here nor there—she was seen, and that’s enough.

I think it’s impertinent in any body to pry into Mr. Orlando’s room, and I dare say it is all a mistake——

Please the Lord, I’ll find out the mistake, said Betty, and, I warrant, know who this dear friend of Orlando’s is before I’m two days older—and I know somebody else that won’t be sorry to know.

Who is that?

Why his brother—a dear sweet man—He came up to our house last night, Miss, after ’twas dark, on purpose to speak to me. I won’t tell you half he said; but he’s a noble generous gentleman, and has a more genteeler taste too than Orlando; and for my share, I think he’s as handsome.

141

Monimia now seemed to let the discourse drop, and to be considering what she ought to do. Orlando waited yet a little, in hopes that Betty would go, and that he might have an opportunity of seeing Monimia: but immediately the dinner bell rang; and as he now generally dined with Mrs. Rayland, he was afraid of being enquired for, and retired silently to his room, somewhat easier, from the strong reason he now had to believe, that, whoever it was whose curiosity brought them the preceding evening to his door, they were actuated by no suspicion in regard to Monimia, and that they had not even distin­guished her countenance and figure; and he meditated how to prevent any suspicion concerning her—content to be accused himself of any other folly or error, if Monimia could but escape.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XI

hearing several shot fired in the copses
text unchanged
[2nd edition is the same.]

There’s one without vants to speak to you
[Knowing nothing about Betty’s dialect, I have generally left everything she says as written.]

an old father may be one too many, Mr. Orlando.
final . missing

The young woman was terrified
text has terified

At hardly twenty
[Orlando must have had a birthday the author didn’t see fit to mention. The last time she gave his age, he was in “his nineteenth year”.]

some hussy or other he does let in
[At first glance, it is astounding that Monimia did not assume Orlando really was dallying with another woman, leading to chapter upon chapter of point­less misunder­standing. But, since the sole purpose of this conversation is to be overheard by Orlando, Monimia can have no independent reaction to it.]


The unfortunate rencontre which promised to produce so much uneasiness


It was probable that Sir John Belgrave’s messenger would immediately return

The Old Manor House:
Introduction and Contents

 

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.