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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XV.

Every one of the party who met at dinner, at Mr. Somerive’s, were ready to worship the General, except Orlando, who still felt himself dissatisfied, and much disposed to enquire by what conversation an accommodation had been so easily brought about. This enquiry, however, he, at his father’s request, forbore to make, and the General was perfectly satisfied with the gratitude expressed by the rest of the family; and in the distant, but polite behaviour of Orlando, saw, what confirmed him in his original idea, that it would be much better if he was out of the way.—The charms of Isabella had now such an ascendancy in the General’s imagination, that he determined nothing should impede his designs; and he believed that the straitened circumstances of Somerive, of which he was no longer ignorant, would give him the means of obtaining his daughter.

Somerive had indeed communicated to him, as a friend, the uneasy situation of his affairs, and deplored 175 the conduct of his eldest son. At their next conference therefore alone, Tracy contrived, without forcing the conversation, to bring it round to that point; and when Somerive spoke of the distress which arose from the misconduct of his son Philip, the General took occasion to say, It is indeed, my friend, a circumstance extremely to be lamented—and, in my opinion, renders the situation of your youngest son much more critical.—I heartily wish he was in some profession. Have you considered what I said to you about the army?—I believe I could be of very material service to you in that line.

Dear General, exclaimed Somerive, how much I feel myself indebted to you: Yes, I certainly have thought of it; and the result of my reflections is, that if his mother consented, if Mrs. Rayland did not object,——

My good friend, interrupted the General, can a man of your under­standing, when the well-doing of such a son is in question, think that these ifs should have any weight? Mrs. Somerive, all tender as she is, has too much sense to indulge her fondness at the expence of her son’s establishment; and as to Mrs. Rayland—I have not indeed the honour to know her—but the only question seems to be, will she, or will she not, provide for Orlando? If she will, why will she not say so? If she will not, are not you doing your son an irreparable injury, in suffering him to waste in fruitless expectation the best of his days?

It is very difficult, replied Mr. Somerive, after musing a moment, very difficult to know how to act: Mrs. Rayland has a temper so peculiar, that if she is once offended, it is for ever. Perhaps, however, since I see she piques herself on the military honours of her family, perhaps she may not be 176 displeased at Orlando’s entering on the profession of arms. She seemed much more eager to promote than to check his ardour in this affair with Sir John Belgrave: and as the British nation is now engaged in a quarrel with people whom she considers as the descendants of the Regicides, against whom her ancestors drew their swords, it is not, I think, very unlikely that she might approve of her young favourite’s making his first essay in arms against those whom she terms the Rebels of America.

As to that, answered the General coldly, it may be very well in starting the idea, to give her that notion; but in fact this campaign will end the unworthy contest. Of this I have the most positive assurances from my military friends on the spot, as well as the greatest reliance on the measures adopted by ministers; and I am convinced that those wretched, ragged fellows, without discipline, money, clothes, or arms, will be unable longer to struggle for their chimerical liberty. Probably they are by this time crushed; and therefore as no more troops will be sent out, your son will not, if you adopt this plan, be separated from his family, and may still occasionally visit this capricious old gentlewoman, who, unless she differs much from the rest of her sex, of all ages and descriptions, will not like a handsome young fellow the less for having a cockade in his hat.

Ah, General! returned Somerive, smiling, I fancy your own experience among the women well justifies that remark. Since you really are so sure that Orlando would not be sent abroad, which will make a great difference certainly in his mother’s feelings on this point, and perhaps in those of Mrs. Rayland, I will take an immediate opportunity of speaking of it to my wife, and we will consider of the safest method of taking Mrs. Rayland’s opinion upon it. 177 As to Orlando himself, there can be little doubt of his concurrence; at least I hope not. And there are other reasons, my friend, besides those that I have named to you, why his present situation is utterly improper, and why it seems to me that he cannot too soon be removed from it.

Mr. Somerive, in speaking thus, was thinking of Monimia, who, ever since he had first heard her described, had occurred to him continually. The necessity there was for attending immediately to the affair of the threatened duel, had hitherto prevented his speaking of her to Orlando, in that serious manner which he thought the affair merited: but he had repeatedly touched on it; and finding Orlando shrink from the investigation, he laid in wait for an occasion to probe him more deeply—an occasion which, perceiving his father sought it, Orlando as solicitously endeavoured to avoid giving him, by contriving to be always busied in attending on his sisters or his mother; but while he thus got out of the way of his father, he was very much in that of the General, who could hardly ever get an opportunity of whispering to Isabella those sentiments which daily acquired new force. For, the week following that when the affair with Sir John Belgrave was settled, Orlando could find no excuse for returning to Rayland Hall of a night: he was therefore reduced to the necessity of going thither after his own family were in bed; and as the way through the chapel was not open to him, he could only see Monimia in her own room, and their meetings were therefore very short, and so hazardous, that the impatience and discontent of Orlando could no longer be repressed or concealed.

The greater his attachment to Monimia became (and every hour it seemed to gather strength), the more terrible appeared her situation, and his own. 178 They were both so young that he thought he might easily obtain an establishment, and that the noon of their lives might pass in felicity together, were he, instead of remaining in a state of uncertain dependence, to be allowed to go forth into the world. Sanguine and romantic in the extreme, and feeling within himself talents which he was denied the power of exercising, his mind expatiated on visionary prospects, which he believed might easily be realized. When to provide for passing his life with Monimia was in question, every thing seemed possible; and as he heard much of the rapid fortunes made in India, and had never considered, or perhaps heard of the means by which they were acquired, he fancied that an appointment there would put him in the high road to happiness; and various were the projects of this and of many other kinds, on which his thoughts continually dwelt.

General Tracy, who had long read mankind, easily penetrated into the mind of a man so new to the world as Orlando; and though he saw that his young friend did not greatly esteem him, he was not by that observation deterred from conciliating as much as possible his good opinion, till at length Orlando communicated his discontent at being at his time of life so inactive and useless; and the General, having brought him to that confession, started the scheme he had before proposed only to his father, of procuring him a commission, and lending him all the interest which he was known to possess to promote his fortune in the army.

A proposal so friendly, and so much adapted to the warm and ardent temper of Orlando, was acknowledged with gratitude, and without farther consideration embraced, on condition that his family did not oppose it. The General told him, that it was in consequence of his father’s apparent inclinations 179 that he had at first thought of it; that his mother had certainly too much sense to reject such an advantageous offer for him; especially, added he, as from the present state of the war, there is not the least likelihood of your being sent abroad.—You know best, however, my dear Sir, continued the General, with something on his countenance between a smile and a sneer—you know best how far your campaigns against the game on the Rayland manors may answer better than the services of a soldier, or whether the old lady’s hands can bestow a more fruitful prize than the barren laurels you may gather in bearing arms for your country.

There was in this speech something that conveyed to Orlando an idea that he was despised; and that there was meanness in his attending on Mrs. Rayland like a legacy hunter—of all characters the most despicable. The blood that rushed into his cheeks, spoke the painful sensations this impression brought with it. He could not, however, express them with propriety to a man whose only purpose seemed to be that of befriending him, by rousing him from indolence, and even from a species of servitude. The General saw that what he said had the effect he wished; and Orlando left him, determined to avail himself of the opportunity that now offered for obtaining what he believed would be a degree of independence. He began to consider how he might prevail on Mrs. Rayland to assist, instead of opposing this scheme; and how he might thus obtain a certain portion of liberty, without offending one to whom gratitude and interest contributed to attach him. A deep and painful sigh, raised by the reflection of the misery of parting from Monimia, followed the resolution he adopted; but he recollected that by no other means he could remove the cruel obstacles between them, and that resolution became confirmed.

180

He had not yet, however, the courage to communicate to her the probability there was that they must soon part. Their short conferences, in every one of which they incurred the hazard of discovery, passed, on her side, in mournful presentiments of future sorrow, which she yet endeavoured to conceal; and on his, in trying, now to console her, and now in acknowledging that there was but too much cause for her fears: projects were considered, however, for their future meetings with less risk. She told him, that during the time he was so much at home, her aunt confined her less strictly through the day: that in proportion as she found herself become more necessary to Mrs. Rayland, and more secure of a great provision after her death, Mrs. Lennard became more indolent, and more addicted to her own gratifi­cations. Betty, who was a very great favourite, had little else to do than to wait upon her; an employment in which Monimia herself was often engaged, though she was now more usually employed about the person of Mrs. Rayland, who found her so tender and attentive that she began to look upon her with some degree of complacency. This task, while it added a heavy link to her fetters, she yet went through, not only with patience, but with pleasure; for she hoped that by making herself useful to Mrs. Rayland, she might not only have more frequent opportunities of seeing Orlando during the winter, which she imagined he would pass at the Hall, but perhaps obtain from her such a share of recollection at her death, as might remove the necessity of an entire dependence on Mrs. Lennard; a dependence which some late observations had made her believe as precarious as she felt it to be painful.

In consequence of General Tracy’s visit to Sir John Belgrave at the house of Mr. Stockton, he 181 received from the master of it an invitation, which he accepted; Mr. Stockton first waiting upon him at West Wolverton—Sir John, and Philip Somerive, with several others of the late visitants at the Castle, were gone into Scotland on a shooting party; but Mr. Stockton had a succession of visitors.—His magnificent style of living, which it was known he had a fortune to support, attracted not only all his London friends by turns to his house, but from every part of the country acquaintance poured in upon him; acquaintance who desired nothing better, in the way of entertainment, than his French cook and his well-furnished cellars afforded them.—The Clergy were his very constant guests; and he loved to have two or three of them always about him, at whom he might launch those shafts of wit which he had picked up here and there, and which consisted of common-place jokes upon religion; well knowing, that with these select few (orthodox as they were), the excellence of the entertainment he gave them secured their silence and complaisance.

The General, who was in manners really a man of fashion, was by no means delighted with the gross and noisy society he found at Stockton’s: but he saw that if he would escape suspicion, he must not make his visit at Somerive’s too long; and, therefore, was glad to be assured that there was an house in the immediate neighbourhood, where he might remain a fortnight or three weeks, after prudence dictated his departure from that of Mr. Somerive; which he now feared must happen before his hopes with Isabella were successful, for he found it much more difficult to obtain any degree of favour, than his own vanity and her giddiness had at first led him to suppose.

Isabella Somerive was not naturally a coquette: but she had a greater flow of spirits than any of her 182 family, except her elder brother, whom she greatly resembled in the thoughtless vivacity of his disposition; from her sex and education, what was in him attended with dangerous errors, was in her only wild but innocent gaiety, becoming enough to youth, health and beauty. Of that beauty she had early learned the value: she had heard it praised at home, and found her father and mother were pleased to hear of it. But during her short stay in London she had been intoxicated with the incense that was offered her; and, notwith­standing the good humour inherent in her disposition, she failed not to enjoy, with some degree of feminine triumph, the preference that was given her over her cousins, whose admirers seemed all disposed to desert them on the first appearance of this rustic beauty; and she felt, too, the pleasure of retaliation for all the airs of consequence which the Miss Woodfords had assumed in their visits to West Wolverton, from their superior knowledge of fashions, public places, and great people. But, above all, Isabella was delighted by the preference given her by a judge so discerning as General Tracy—whose taste in beauty was so universally allowed, that his admiration had given eminence to several pretty women, who would never otherwise have been noticed. Far however from thinking of him as a lover, Isabella, who was, with all her vivacity, as innocent as little Emma herself, considered him merely as her father’s friend, and would have applied to him for advice, in as much expectation of receiving it with disinterested wisdom, as to her father himself. The fine speeches he took every opportunity of making, she believed partly arose from habit, and were partly proofs of his admiration; which she thought perfectly harmless, though it sometimes struck her as ridiculous. And in conversation with her sisters, 183 and sometimes with her mother, she laughingly called the General—her old beau—her venerable admirer, and said she wished he was thirty years younger. Mrs. Somerive sometimes checked her; but oftener smiled at the description she gave of the General’s solemn gallantry, and of the trouble she knew his toilet cost him; which really, cried she, grieves one’s very heart. Poor man! it must be excessively fatiguing; and after all, I think he would be a thousand times more agreeable, if he could be persuaded to appear as my father and other men do, of the same age.—Instead of putting on toupees and curls, which it requires so much art and time to make sit snug and look natural, how preferable would a good comfortable wig be to his poor old head! which I am sure must ache sadly every day, before Beaumielle has patched up the gaps that time has made!—and, besides, I know he is always in fear of some of this borrowed chevelure’s coming off, and disgracing him; I have absolutely seen him nervous about it.—Dear Isabella, said Mrs. Somerive, who was present at this description, how you run on! The General, I dare say, has no false hair; and if he has, how does it materially differ from a wig!

Oh mamma! replied her daughter, I believe it differs so much in the General’s opinion, that he had rather have his head cut off than his hair. A wig! I have seen him shudder at the idea.

You have seen him! said Mrs. Somerive: pray when?

The other day, when he rode out with us. There was a terrible high wind, and I knew the ancient beau would be ten times more discomposed by it than we were—So, as soon as we got upon the downs, I set off with a brisk canter directly against 184 it; and the poor dear General was obliged, you know, to follow us.—

Well?

Well—and so he buttoned up the cape of his great coat round his ears, and set off after us; but as ill fortune would have it, this cape, I suppose, loosened the strings of his curls, and the wind blew so unmercifully that he did not hear of their defection from his ears; but as he came gallopping up to me and Selina, who were a good way before him, these ill behaved curls deserted, and were flying, like two small birds tied by the leg, half a yard behind him; and if he had been commander of a town suddenly blown up by the enemy, he could not have looked more amazed and dismayed, than he did when I called out to him—General! General! your curls are flying away!—He put up his hand to his two ears alternately, and finding it too true that these cowardly curls had left their post, and were retained only by a bit of black twist, he gave them a twitch, and thrust them into his pocket—while he said most dolorously, Ever since that fever I got last year by overheating myself walking with the King at Windsor, I have lost my hair in some degree; and till it is restored I am under the necessity of wearing these awkward contrivances. Dear General, said I, as if I pitied his distress, I am afraid you will catch cold without them. Had you not better wrap a handkerchief about your head? I am sure you must feel a difference—I am in pain for you!—It is, indeed, an awkward contrivance; and I should think you would find more comfortable and certain accommodation in a wig.

A wig! exclaimed he—a military man in a wig!—like a turtle-eating cit, or a Stock-Exchange broker!—Impossible!—No! lovely Isabella, you can never suppose I ought to make myself such a 185 figure; and I assure you I have, when not hurt by illness, a very tolerable head of hair.

For your time of life, General! said I.—This completed the poor good man’s dismay; and he set about assuring me, that the military hardships he had gone through in the younger part of his life, and perhaps a little irregularity since, made him look at least fifteen years older than he was, and so went on making such fine speeches as he thinks becoming in so young a man.

Upon my word, Isabella, remarked Mrs. Somerive, you will offend the General by all this flippancy; and your father, I assure you, would not be at all pleased if you should.

No, indeed, my dear mamma! answered she, there is no danger of my offending him. The rattling speeches I make to him, and even my turning him into ridicule when only Selina and I are by, is so far from offending him, that he seems to like it.—Does not he, Selina?

It is not right, however, in my opinion, said Selina.

Why not, if you please, my lady Graveairs?

Because I do not think a person’s age, replied Selina, a proper subject of ridicule.

No, answered Isabella—not if they do not make it so, by attempting to appear young; but how is it possible to help laughing at a man who fancies that, at sixty, he can pass for six-and-twenty.

If it is the General’s foible, said Mrs. Somerive gravely, it seems to be the only one; and it makes him happy, and hurts nobody. He is so worthy a man that it is immaterial whether he is sixty or six-and-twenty; and if he has the weakness to prefer being thought the latter, which, however, Isabella you know is not true, he should not be rudely reminded that nobody else thinks so.

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Well, if this worthy man will flirt with and make love to girls young enough to be his grand­daughters, I must laugh, if it be wrong, cried Isabella.

Make love! exclaimed Mrs. Somerive: What do you mean, child?

Why—only, mamma, that if he were a young man, the marvellously fine speeches he studies would seem like love-making speeches. I told him the other day, that since he thought me so very charming a creature, I wished he would persuade his nephew to be of the same opinion, for there would be some sense in that.

His nephew!—Who is his nephew? enquired her mother.

I never saw him, replied Isabella; but Eliza Woodford has often, and says he is the most elegant and the handsomest young man about town.

Do you mean, said Mrs. Somerive, the son of his elder brother, Lord Taymouth?

Oh! not at all—he is a miserable looking mortal; No, this nephew, as Eliza tells me, is the only son of his sister, Lady Something Tracy, who married a Mr. Warwick, who, though a gentleman, her family thought was a match so much beneath her, that they never forgave her; and as she and her husband both died early, this young man, who was their only child, and had a very small fortune, was brought up by the General, who means to make him his heir.

He is a good creature, said Mrs. Somerive; and every thing I hear increases my esteem for him.

You would consent then, my dear mamma, replied Isabella, to my having Captain Warwick?

187

Alas! answered her mother mournfully, Captain Warwick, my dear girl, heir to the fortune of General Tracy, will never, I fear, ask my consent. Young women without fortune, though their merit be indisputable, are not likely now to marry at all; very unlikely, indeed, to meet with such high fortune.

I don’t see that at all, cried Isabella. Selina and Emma may determine to die old maids if they please; but, for my part, I’ll try, as long as I am young and good looking, for a husband; and as to this Warwick, I am bent upon setting my cap at him without mercy, if his uncle would but give me an opportunity. That he will not do; for though he is so good to him, and gives him such an handsome allowance, he hardly ever sees him; and has bought him a company in another regiment, rather than have him in his own, and so he is sent off to America—and——

You have no chance then, interrupted Mrs. Somerive, of trying your power, Isabella?

No! cried she; but it is excellent sport to teize his uncle about him, who always avoids talking of him, just like a coquettish Mamma, who hates to hear that Miss is tall and handsome.

Mrs. Somerive, again gently reproving her daughter for speaking thus of the General, put an end to the conversation by sending her daughters away to dress for dinner; while she meditated alone on what her husband had that morning said to her on the subject of Orlando’s entering the army. He had now, for the first time, explained to her all the reasons he had for wishing his son removed from Rayland Hall; and had communicated the principal of these, his suspicions of an attachment to Monimia. Mrs. Somerive felt all the truth of what her husband urged in favour of this plan; 188 and, particularly uneasy at the information he had given her about Monimia, she now tried to reason herself out of those fears for his personal safety, which yet led her to wish he might remain, on whatever terms, near her and his family.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XV

If she will [make Orlando her heir], why will she not say so? If she will not, are not you doing your son an irreparable injury, in suffering him to waste in fruitless expectation the best of his days?
[It is striking how everyone in the book except the main characters appre­ciates this obvious point.]

people whom she considers as the descendants of the Regicides
[This seems a little unjust. The main wave of Puritan emigration to New England was in the period 1620–1640, well before the Revolution.]

those wretched, ragged fellows, without discipline, money, clothes, or arms, will be unable longer to struggle for their chimerical liberty
[Reminder: Although the dramatic date is currently 1776, the novel was published in 1793. The author—and her readers—knew exactly how long the war lasted, and how it ended. In Volume II we will see some strong indica­tions of how the author felt about it all.]

procuring him a commission, and lending him all the interest which he was known to possess
[It is hard not to read “interest” as a euphemism for “money”.]

by no other means he could remove the cruel obstacles between them
text unchanged
[Expected “could he remove”, but the 2nd edition has the same words in the same order.]

The General, I dare say, has no false hair; and if he has, how does it materially differ from a wig!
[In 1793, this rhetorical question probably made perfect sense.]

as he came gallopping up to me and Selina
spelling unchanged

It is not right, however, in my opinion, said Selina.
text has ? for final .
[The preceding and following paragraphs both end in a question mark, so we can forgive the typesetter.]

it is excellent sport to teize his uncle
spelling unchanged
[The word “tease”, spelled like that, occurs several times elsewhere in the book, but the 2nd edition does have “teize” here.]


Orlando found Betty waiting for him as she had promised


The family of Somerive was almost the only one who had not waited on Mr. Stockton

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.