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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XVI.

The family of Somerive was almost the only one in the country, or at least within five and twenty miles, who had not waited on Mr. Stockton after his purchasing the estates of Lord Carloraine. For this Mr. Somerive had several reasons. Though he disdained any mean compliances with the caprices of Mrs. Rayland, he thought it wrong to connect himself with a man who, on his first appearance in the country, had offended her unhandsomely enough; and he knew it would not only be impolitic in regard to her, but to the economy of his own family. His servants, plain and laborious, were at present content with their portion of work and of wages; but were they once introduced into such a servants hall as that of the Castle, where the same profusion reigned as was customary in the parlour, he knew they would immediately become discontented, and of course troublesome and useless. The people whom he found were generally assembled at the Castle, most of them young men, celebrated for their dissolute manners, were not such as he wished to have introduced to his daughters. And these causes co-operating to make him wish to avoid every acquaintance with Mr. Stockton, he had taken some pains to prevail on his eldest son to avoid it also, but Philip Somerive, who had some slight knowledge 189 of Stockton in London, hastened, in spite of his father’s remonstrances, to renew and strengthen it as soon as he settled in the neighbourhood, and was very soon more at Stockton’s than at home. The simple economy of his father’s house appeared to him a total deprivation of all that a gentleman ought to enjoy; and when contrasted with the voluptuous epicurism that reigned in the splendid mansion of his new friend, he had not the courage to return to it oftener than want of money compelled him to do: and he forgot that to these temporary gratifi­cations he was sacrificing the peace of his father, his mother, and his sisters; and laying up for himself all the miseries of indigence, and all the meannesses of dependence.

It was here he confirmed, by indulgence, that passion for play which he had acquired at college. The party at Carloraine Castle passed whole nights in gaming, where young Somerive often lost, but, alas! sometimes won; and in the triumph of his success, the pain and inconvenience of his ill fortune was forgotten. He learned some of those modes of ascertaining the matter, which he saw so happily practised by others; and, after some time, became, in some measure, one of the initiated, and had, in consequence, seldom occasion to apply to his father for money—therefore he seldom went near him: sometimes whole months therefore passed, during which his family never saw him, though they knew that much of his time was passed with Mr. Stockton, whom this circumstance contributed to render odious to Mr. Somerive.

After the acquaintance, however, commenced between Stockton and the General, Somerive found it very difficult to keep the same distance; and Stockton, who had a great inclination to see Somerive’s 190 handsome daughters, of whom he had heard so much, was so importunately civil, while General Tracy, on the other hand, promoted the acquaintance so warmly, that Somerive and Orlando engaged to dine with Stockton on one of those days when he had invited half the county. The latter went with extreme reluctance; not only because what he had heard of the man himself, and of the people who surrounded him, gave no favourable idea of the society; but because he thought it wrong to hazard offending Mrs. Rayland, in a point which, to pursue, afforded no pleasure either to his father or himself. Neither of these reasons for denial, however, could be urged to the General, who he thought already despised him for his assiduity about the old lady; and as his father had been induced to consent, Orlando could not refuse to accompany him.

The table was furnished with all that modern luxury has invented, or money could purchase: the greatest variety of expensive wines, and a superb dessert, finished a repast, at which were collected a group as various as their entertainment, though not so well chosen. The beginning of the dinner was passed in that sort of talk which relates solely to eating: when that exercise relaxed, something like an attempt at conversation was made. The last news from America was discussed; but as they all agreed in one sentiment—that the rebellious colonists ought to be extirpated—there was no room for argument, and the discourse soon languished; and then again revived on topics nearer home—game, poachers, and turnpikes: the wine had by that time circulated enough to give their conversation, if conversation it might be called, another turn. They grew noisy and offensive; and Orlando, who was never before among such a set 191 of people, nor had ever in his life heard such language, was unable to conceal his disgust, though he only shewed it by silence, and by passing from him the bottle which he saw had so affected the little under­standing that the majority of the company had possessed.

This was at length perceived by Mr. Stockton, who, accustomed to indulge himself in what he fancied shrewd sayings, and to expect that every man not so rich as himself should submit to be his butt, began to attack Orlando on the score of his being a milk-sop, and living always in the lap of the old lady at the Hall.—To this Orlando answered with good humour, perfectly indifferent what such a man as Stockton thought of him; but the latter seeing how well he bore this first attack, could not resist the temptation of pursuing his blow. Why damn it now! cried he, we know very well, Sir Rowland (that was the name which Philip Somerive gave to his brother in derision,) we know very well that you are no more of a saint than your neighbours; and that though you are in waiting on an old woman all day, you makes yourself amends at night with a young one—aye, and a devilish pretty wench she is too as ever I saw.—Egad! Belgrave was half mad about her for a week, and had a mind to have stormed the tower where this dulcinea lives, notwith­standing its being guarded by the fierce Sir Rowland.—I don’t know her name.—Tell me Sir Knight, how is your goddess called? and by the Lord we’ll drink her health in a bumper!

Mr. Somerive, who saw in the changes of Orlando’s expressive countenance, that his answer would inevitably bring on another quarrel, arose hastily, and, addressing himself to Mr. Stockton, while he commanded Orlando to be silent, he said: 192 After what passed, Mr. Stockton, in regard to Sir John Belgrave and my son, this mention of the affair can only be considered as an insult to us both. If that be your purpose, some other place than your own house should have been found for it. We will now quit it, in order to give you an opportunity of pursuing your design, without adding the breach of the laws of hospitality to those of decency and good manners.

Somerive then taking Orlando by the arm, insisted on his going with him; while the General, and some other men in the room, who were yet in possession of their senses, got round Stockton, who was very drunk, and represented how wrong it was to renew the conversation on Sir John Belgrave; an affair which had been settled with so much difficulty, and had threatened such serious consequences. The profession, birth, and riches of General Tracy, gave him great authority in the opinion of even the wealthy and insolent Stockton himself; and as he loved his ease, even beyond the indulgence of his purse-proud arrogance, he saw at once, that in gratifying the one, he had, more than he intended, risked the other. He therefore sent one of his dependents to apologise to the two Somerives, who had already left the room: General Tracy too went to assure them of Stockton’s concern for what had passed; excused it by alledging his inebriety, and declared that he should think both Mr. Somerive and his son wrong to take any further notice of the idle words of a man who was himself convinced of their impropriety. We will talk of all this at our leisure, dear General, replied the elder Somerive: at present you must allow me to take Orlando from an house, into which I am heartily concerned that either of us ever entered.

I will go with you, my dear friend, cried the 193 General; but first allow me to return to poor Stockton, who is extremely concerned for what has happened, and to tell him——

Any thing you please from yourself, Sir, said Orlando interrupting him; but nothing from me, unless it be——

Leave the matter to me, Orlando, cried Somerive sternly. You know, General, added he, addressing himself to his friend, how little it can be my wish to have this ridiculous matter go any farther; but as I never yet bore a premeditated insult myself, so I will not ask Orlando to do it, be the consequences what they may.

Good God! exclaimed the General, this was no premeditated insult; it was merely the folly of a man in a condition which disarms resentment, even from those of the most quick feelings.

He must tell me so himself, then, said Orlando.

I will undertake that he shall, answered the General; and so you leave the house satisfied I hope?

To this the elder Somerive answered drily: Blessed are the peacemakers, my good General! and then, leaving him to return, if he pleased, to his new friends, he mounted his horse, which, with that of Orlando’s, his servants had brought to the door, and they proceeded homeward together.

This was the opportunity of speaking to Orlando, that his father had been some days watching for, and the scene that had just passed, awakening all his fears about Monimia, was an additional motive to him not to neglect it.

Orlando, whose heart was bursting with indignation at the insult offered to her name, rode silently by his side, expecting, with a mixture of concern and confusion, that his father would again press him on his attachment. He was studying, without 194 being able to determine, how he should answer. He had never been guilty of a falsehood; and could he now reconcile himself to the meanness of attempting one, he believed it would be fruitless; yet, to betray the tender, trusting, timid Monimia—to acknowledge their clandestine meetings, which his father might not be persuaded were innocent—and to render himself liable to be forbidden ever again to see her—how was it possible to determine on risking it, by an avowal of the truth? There was not much time for this painful debate. Mr. Somerive put his horse into a walk, and then said, in that grave and earnest manner which always affected his son—

You see, Orlando, all the mischief to which this boyish and indiscreet love of yours has exposed, not only yourself, but the young woman who is, unluckily for her, the object of it.

Love, Sir! said Orlando, not knowing very well what to say.

Nay, Sir, cried Somerive more sternly, don’t affect ignorance; you have been playing the fool with that young girl that Lennard passes for her niece. Answer me honestly—have you not?

No, Sir—never.

Have a care, young man—I can pardon the follies of youth, but premeditated falsehood I never will forgive.

Be so good then, my dear father, to explain precisely your meaning; and when I perfectly under­stand the charge, I will answer it as truly as if I were on oath.

The girl is handsome? said Somerive.

Certainly, answered Orlando.

And you have informed her of it no doubt.

Pardon me, Sir, I never have; and I believe she is at this moment unconscious of it.

195

Really! that is wonderful. She is employed, I think, in the house as a kind of under housekeeper.

No, Sir; but she sometimes undertakes part of her aunt’s business when she is engaged or indisposed, and sometimes attends Mrs. Rayland.

And lives, I suppose, as Lennard does, in the parlour with the Lady?

Very rarely, Sir, and as a matter of great favour, she dines there; rather oftener, though still not regularly, is allowed to drink tea in the parlour.

Humph!—and at other times, I suppose, she takes her seat at the table allowed Snelcraft and Pattenson: the latter worthy man is celebrated, I think, for his various and successful amours under the roof of my very pious kinswoman. This poor girl, I suppose, is in the way of adding to the trophies of that excellent and faithful servant. Upon my word, Orlando, you may find him a very formidable rival.

Gracious Heaven, Sir! cried Orlando, who could not bear even the supposition, what mistaken notions you have formed of Monimia!

Monimia! exclaimed Somerive, who, serious as the matter was, could not help smiling: Monimia!—why thou art far gone, my poor boy, since thou hast found such a name for thy nymph—Monimia! I must be allowed, since we are talking plainly of the matter, to call her Mary.

You may call her what you please, Sir, replied Orlando very impatiently, so as you do justice to her innocence and goodness. Suffer me to speak, Sir, added he, finding his father about to interrupt him—suffer me to declare to you, that not one of your own daughters, my sisters, whom I so tenderly love, are more innocent, or more worthy of respect and esteem, and let me add, of admiration, than this young woman.

Indeed! is that your opinion? Pray, Orlando, 196 what means have you had of being so well informed of all these perfections, which you are so willing to put in comparison with those of your own family?

Continual experience, amounting to perfect conviction.

Truly that is marvellous, considering this young person, according to your own account a servant, so seldom drinks tea, and so much seldomer dines with Mrs. Rayland, where, I suppose, she is not allowed any great share of the conversation, even when she is admitted;—though you are willing to put her on a level with your sisters, I suppose you hardly so practised this levelling principle on yourself, as to pursue your studies of this miracle to the table of the great Snelcraft, and greater Pattenson.

No, Sir, retorted Orlando warmly; nor does Monimia ever sit at that table.

May I then ask, without offending this lady, whose nom de guerre is I find settled to be Monimia—where you have seen enough of her to form a judgment so much in her favour?

That may be done by seeing her once. You yourself, my dear father! added Orlando extremely moved, if you were once to see her, would not blame me for what I have said. Indeed you would not: you would own that she is all I have described.

Poor boy! cried Mr. Somerive with a deep sigh; at your age I remember thinking just the same of a very handsome girl. I too have had my Monimia! my Celinda, my Leonora; and many were the heart-aches these beauties gave me. I should, therefore, continued he, in a more solemn tone—I should, therefore, my dear Orlando! pass over this juvenile passion, and not even enquire about it, if, from the peculiarity of your situation, and that 197 of the young woman, as well as from your tendency to romantic quixotism, which perhaps I have too much encouraged, I did not fear that it may end more seriously. She is very pretty! and you are very young, and very much in love! If she is innocent——

If! Good God, Sir, what shall I say to convince you of it?

Nothing, Orlando; speak simply the truth, and I will attend to you: allow me to finish the sentence—If she is innocent and amiable, as you believe her to be, you would not certainly destroy that innocence? you would not render her unamiable?

Not for a million of worlds! cried Orlando eagerly.

Well, then, Orlando, in order to reconcile your honour with that love which it seems you do not affect to deny, it follows that you would marry her?

Most undoubtedly, Sir, I would.

To throw yourself out for ever from every hope of favour on the part of Mrs. Rayland; and, while you render your own family miserable, to entail poverty for life on the woman you love, and her children?

I know it all but too well: permit me, however, Sir, to say, that as to my family, I do not see why they should make themselves miserable about it, since the morals, the manners, the person of my wife, could be no disgrace to them: and if I chose to work for her, surely I have a right to live with whom I please.

To work! cried Somerive angrily. How work?—you who are in no profession, and could not even support yourself?

Pardon me, Sir, answered Orlando, and let it not offend you, if I say, that a young man of almost one and twenty, six feet high, and in perfect health, 198 must be a very contemptible wretch, indeed, if he is unable to obtain a provision for himself, and to provide for his wife.

Wild and ridiculous! exclaimed Somerive. If you were twelve feet high, and had as many hands as Briareus, how could you employ them? you who have been brought up to nothing, who know nothing—

That, Sir, is my misfortune—surely not my fault.

I allow it. It is a misfortune to which I see other misfortunes are annexed, if a remedy be not instantly found. I perceive, Orlando, that this matter, on which it is plain you have thought deeply, is likely to be even more serious than I apprehended. I must find a profession for you, which shall take you out of a situation so hazardous. I understood General Tracy, that if a commission could be obtained, you expressed no disin­clination to enter the army?

Certainly I do not.—And let my readiness, or rather my eagerness to embrace that offer convince you, Sir, that whatever may be my future hopes, I do not mean to involve Monimia in my present difficulties, nor to aspire to happiness till I have earned it. Put me, Sir, instantly to the proof. Procure for me a commission, or send me out a volunteer. You shall not find me shrink from any task you may impose upon me. But, in return, I expect not to be compelled to resign the hope that will alone animate me—I love Monimia passionately; I shall always love her; and I will not promise to resign her for ever.

I shall leave all that to time and absence, answered Somerive; and insist on nothing but that you will join with me in prevailing on Mrs. Rayland to hear of your entering into the army without dissatis­faction. Though I wish you to have the 199 means of being in some degree independent, it were folly to forfeit needlessly your expectations from her. Try, therefore, so to manage this as to obtain her consent.

Mrs. Rayland will not, I really believe, oppose it, said Orlando.

Try her, answered his father; on your sincerity in doing so I shall rely: and remember, Orlando, that if from any other artful quarter attempts are made to persuade her against consenting to this plan, I have only to inform her of your curious plan of marrying her housekeeper’s niece, and put her upon enquiring into the intrigue you are carrying on, and you would be banished for ever from Rayland Hall.

There would be as little wisdom in that, Sir, said Orlando with great warmth, as there is truth in imputing an intrigue or art to Monimia. However, you are to do as you please.

And you, Sir, retorted Somerive warmly, seem to think yourself authorised to say what you please.—Let not my indulgence, which has ruined your brother, and now I see is likely to be your destruction; let not my indulgence hitherto, lead you to depend too much upon it. You shall find, Sir, that if you are ungrateful and undutiful, I can be harsh, and can make myself obeyed. But here, for the present, I desire to end the discourse. We are near home, and I will not have your mother made uneasy, either by the report of what happened to-day at dinner, or by any knowledge of your folly, which has not yet reached her. I shall go immediately to my study; and I recommend it to you to go to your own room, and not appear to-night; for your mother, you know well, is so accustomed to penetrate into my thoughts and yours, that she will not fail to perceive that something is wrong—and she shall not be rendered unhappy.

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Orlando, most willing to obey his father in this respect, made no other answer than wishing him a good night; and as soon as he dismounted at home, he retired to his own room, and, with mingled sensations of resentment and sorrow, of anger and despondency, began to reflect on what had passed during the day. The insolent language used by Stockton stung him to the soul. He saw too evidently, that his nightly meetings with Monimia were suspected, if not known—known to the unprincipled and profligate Stockton, who had put the most odious construction on the conduct of the innocent Monimia. Yet he was compelled also to allow, that whatever might be the suspicions or opinions concerning her, he could not avenge or defend her, without being too well assured that consequences must ensue still more fatal to her. If their intercourse was once suspected by Mrs. Rayland, he knew that Monimia would be dismissed with disgrace; that she would probably be abandoned by her aunt, and thrown upon the world, where he had not the power of protecting her from poverty, though he might guard her from insult. The only comfort he had was, that his father, when his inter­rogatories seemed most hardly to press him to declare how and where he met Monimia, had been diverted to other discourse; that he had, therefore, not been reduced either to tell him a falsehood, or to betray the secret of the door which admitted him to the turret; a secret of which he yet hoped to avail himself, in the interval that must occur between the time of his returning to the Hall and his departure for the army, which he now saw was certain. He felt no wish more ardent than that of reconciling his Monimia to his going, exchanging with her mutual vows of eternal affection, and setting forth in the certainty of her remaining 201 under the protection of Mrs. Lennard, and in the hope that he should return in a situation that might enable him to ask her hand, and to render her subsequent life as happy as the fondest love and competent fortune could make it. But Orlando saw too plainly, that if his evening conferences were known to his father, he would, at whatever risk of ruining him for ever with Mrs. Rayland, put an end to them; and therefore, as more caution than ever was requisite, he determined, for one night, to refrain from the short and dangerous indulgence he had snatched by travelling from Wolverton to the Hall in the middle of the night; and, though Monimia expected him, to forbear seeing her till the next evening, when he hoped to have arranged in his mind what it was the most necessary to say, to make her submit with composure to their separation. Then too he hoped to know something certain of this commission, of which the General hourly expected intelligence from London; and that he should not, by speaking with uncertainty, add suspense to the other uneasy sensations he must inflict on Monimia. He flattered himself also, that he should hear of the General’s having fixed the day of his departure. He had now been a fortnight at West Wolverton; and though his stay seemed, the more it was prolonged, to yield to the rest of the family encreased satisfaction, Orlando, whom it detained from the Hall, began to think it the most tedious and uncon­scionable visit that ever one friend paid to another; and, far from suspecting the real motive, thought with astonishment on General Tracy’s living so long among people so unlike his usual associates, and so much out of his way.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XVI

The British Novelists edition misprints “XIV” for “XVI”.

and he forgot that to these temporary gratifications he was sacrificing
[I don’t believe he “forgot”. I believe the idea never entered his mind in the first place.]

Why damn it now! cried he
[Jonas the smuggler says “d—n”; gentlemen say “damn”. You would expect it to be the other way around.]

you who are in no profession, and could not even support yourself? . . . . you who have been brought up to nothing, who know nothing
[And whose fault is that, Mr. Somerive?]


Every one of the party who met at dinner were ready to worship the General


To reconcile Monimia to his departure

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.