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The Old Manor House:

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CHAPTER XVII.

To reconcile Monimia to his departure, to hide from her the anguish of his own heart at the knowledge that he must go, were no light tasks to Orlando: they were such as all his courage, all his sense of propriety, were nearly unequal to. What would become of her when he was gone? From his earliest remembrance, the certainty of seeing Monimia at the Hall had constituted his principal happiness: yet he had many other amusements abroad: he had many relations whom he loved, and who tenderly loved him; he had several pursuits to engage his mind, and several amusements to occupy his time.—Monimia! alas! what had Monimia? Almost alone in the world, she had no connection but her aunt, whose reluctant kindness and cold friendship answered but ill to the affectionate temper of the lovely girl, who would have been attached to her, all repulsive as her manners were, from gratitude, and because she believed her the only relation, if Mrs. Lennard had given her leave.—But, selfish, narrow-minded and overbearing; it was impossible for Monimia to love her; and she once remarked, when she stole for five minutes (while her aunt attended Mrs. Rayland to a morning visit) into the garden with Orlando, that she resembled a passion-flower, that having once been supported by a sort of espalier, the wood had decayed, and, nothing being put in its place, the plant crept along the ground, withering, from the dampness to which it was exposed. See, cried Monimia, this plant resembles me! It seems abandoned to its fate. Orlando remembered what he then said to drive from her mind such gloomy ideas; but now they were about to be verified. 203 If Monimia was to him all that hitherto sweetened his existence, he was at least as necessary to hers; and a thousand painful fears assailed his heart, as to what she must feel at parting, and what would be her fate when he was gone.

No overture on the affair of his accepting a commission had yet been made to Mrs. Rayland. Mr. Somerive wished Orlando to manage it himself.—Orlando, conscious that much depended upon it, and unwilling to take any decisive step, however necessary, as long as he could avoid it, had still put it off from hour to hour; saying, what was indeed true, that he was now so seldom at the Hall at hours when it was proper to speak of business, that he had found no opportunity.

The next day, however, but one after the dinner at Stockton’s, the family were much surprised by the unexpected return of Philip Somerive, who, arriving late in the evening, told his father and mother that he was come, with their permission, to pass some months at home. Tenderly anxious about him as they all were, and ever flattering themselves that a change of conduct would restore him to them, his family received him with such expressions as evinced that they were ready to kill the fatted calf; Orlando felt even more pleasure than the rest at his return: and the younger, unlike the elder brother in the parable, murmured not that there was joy and feasting when he who had been lost was found. Yet this did not arise altogether from the disinterested generosity of his nature. He would at any time have rejoiced that his brother’s appearance gave comfort to the hearts of his father and his mother: he now doubly rejoiced, because the presence of Philip Somerive at home dismissed Orlando, almost as a matter of course, to the Hall. He had at this time inhabited 204 the apartment set aside for his brother; his own was occupied by the servant of the General, who was too fine a gentleman to be sent into the attick story. West Wolverton house was not a large one; and Orlando, not so well disguising his impatience as he attempted to do, said to his mother as soon as tea was over, that he knew his stay that night must be attended with some incon­veniences and removals, and therefore he would, with her permission and his father’s, go back to the Hall. Mrs. Somerive immediately assented, and said, And you had better, if your father pleases, set out directly, Orlando, or you will not have your bed aired; and I am sure that little tapestry room where you sleep, as it is on the ground floor, and has windows only to the north, and those windows only long old-fashioned casements, must be horribly damp.

If you will have the goodness then to say to my father that I am gone, and why gone so early, said Orlando, it will be better than my disturbing the company with the ceremony of—Good night!

To this Mrs. Somerive assenting, Orlando left the room to get his horse; but as he passed through the hall, he met his sister Selina. Good night, sweet girl! said he, kissing her hand as he passed her.

Whither are you going, then, Orlando? enquired she.

To the Hall—You know there is no convenient room for me now; and since Philip is come back, I am less wanted.

At this moment Mr. Somerive passed through the hall, and catching some of these words, he put the same question to Orlando; who answered, that his mother had agreed to his going to the Hall, 205 to make room for his brother: and promised, Sir, to name it to you, added he.

Mr. Somerive paused a moment—To the Hall, said he, Orlando! You are in great haste, I see. Surely you might have staid to supper, as you have not seen your brother so long.

Orlando then gave his mother’s reason for his going earlier. That, said his father gravely, is a very good reason for your mother; and you, I have no doubt, have some of still greater weight:—but remember, Orlando, continued he more sternly, remember I will not be trifled with. Go—I wish you a good night, and as much repose as your conscience will let you taste when you render your father unhappy!

Mr. Somerive then passed on; and Selina, who had hardly ever in her life heard him speak as if half angry to her brother Orlando, remained amazed and trembling, clinging to his arm. Good God! cried she, as soon as her father had shut the parlour door, what is all this, my dear brother? what does my father mean?

Can you, Selina, said Orlando in a low and mournful voice—can you be very faithful, very guarded on a point where my life depends on secrecy? Can you, Selina, be secret as the grave, if I trust you?

Can you doubt it? answered the still more alarmed Selina.—Well then, to-morrow, perhaps—for to-morrow I must be here again—to-morrow, Selina, if I obtain permission from another person yet more interested than I am, I will perhaps tell you. In the mean time adieu, my dear sister!—If you hear Philip mention me at supper to my father, try to remember what he says.

Orlando then hastened away, fearful of being detained; and as the weather was serene, he determined 206 to go on foot, that, if he found all quiet round the apartment of Monimia, he might glide up for a moment to apprise her that they might without interruption meet in his study that evening. There was a late moon, and the night promised to be beautifully clear; he knew therefore that there was little or no hazard of brandy and tea-merchants being abroad: and as to the hint dropt by Stockton, which had at first given him so much pain, he now fancied it was merely the random folly of a drunkard, and that he knew nothing of Monimia but what he might have collected from Philip Somerive after their first unlucky meeting in the woods.

Had he now taken his horse, he must of necessity have made his return known to the stable-servants at the Hall, before he could have a moment’s conversation with Monimia: he proceeded therefore quickly on foot, meditating as he went on what had just past with his father and his sister.

He had often thought of entrusting Selina with the secret of his passion for Monimia. He had often wished they were known to each other. Equally innocent, amiable, and gentle, with a perfect resemblance in temper and in years, he believed that they would fondly love each other; and that if he could see them attached, it would be the happiest circumstance of his life. He hoped too, that the society and the soothing sweetness of Selina would be a resource of comfort to his Monimia when he was far from her. But how he could bring them together, he had yet no idea—Selina being never admitted but on days of ceremony at Rayland Hall; and Monimia being so nearly a prisoner, that the unlucky excursion which occasioned them all so much trouble, was almost the first, and was, in consequence of her stay, which had given so much offence, likely to be the last her aunt would allow her to make. 207 He proposed, however, to consult Monimia upon it and consider whether some safe means of their meeting could be found.

Between that gate of the park that lay towards West Wolverton, and the house, there were two paths. The upper one was over an eminence where the park paling enclosed part of the down, under which it spread a verdant bosom, with coppices and tall woods interspersed. The other path, which in winter or in wet seasons was inconvenient, wound down a declivity, where the furze and fern were shaded by a few old hawthorns and self-sown firs: out of the hill several streams were filtered, which uniting at its foot, formed a large and clear pond of near twenty acres, fed by several imperceptible currents from other eminences which sheltered that side of the park; and the bason between the hills and the higher parts of it being thus filled, the water found its way over a stony boundary, where it was passable by a foot bridge unless in time of floods; and from thence fell into a lower part of the ground, where it formed a considerable river; and, winding among willows and poplars for near a mile, again spread into a still larger lake, on the edge of which was a mill, and opposite, without the park paling, wild heaths, where the ground was sandy, broken, and irregular, still however marked by plantations made on it by the Rayland family. It was along the lower road, which went through woods to the edge of what was called the upper pond, that Orlando took his way. Just as he arrived at the water, from the deep gloom of the tall firs through which he passed, the moon appeared behind the opposite coppices, and threw her long line of trembling radiance on the water. It was a cold but clear evening, and, though early in November, the trees were not yet entirely 208 stripped of their discoloured leaves: a low wind sounded hollow through the firs and stone-pines over his head, and then faintly sighed among the reeds that crowded into the water: no other sound was heard, but, at distant intervals, the cry of the wild fowl concealed among them, or the dull murmur of the current, which was now low. Orlando had hardly ever felt himself so impressed with those feelings which inspire poetic effusions: Nature appeared to pause, and to ask the turbulent and troubled heart of man, whether his silly pursuits were worth the toil he undertook for them? Peace and tranquillity seemed here to have retired to a transient abode; and Orlando, as slowly he traversed the narrow path over ground made hollow by the roots of these old trees, stepped as lightly as if he feared to disturb them. Insensibly he began to compare this scene, the scenes he every day saw of rural beauty and rural content, with those into which his destiny was about to lead him. Oh, Monimia! sighed he, why cannot I remain with thee in this my native country? How happy should I be to be allowed to cultivate one of the smallest of those farms which belong to the Rayland estate, and, comprising in thy society and that of my family all my felicity, have no wish but to live and die without reading that great book which they call the World! Alas! shall I ever under­stand its language? shall I ever become an adept in the principles it teaches? and shall I be happier if I do? But they tell me that a young man should not be idle! that he must be something, a lawyer or a soldier! and yet, to assist men in ruining each other, and spoiling the simple dignity of justice, seems the business of the first; and to learn the art of destroying honourably our fellow-men, the whole concern of the second. There are, however, 209 other profes­sions, it is true—I might be a clergyman, and remain here with little to do but to ride twenty or thirty miles of a Sunday, to execute, with the hurry of a postman, the duties I should have sworn to fulfil: and can I conscien­tiously do what I see done every day? Impossible! I might too be a merchant: but that I have no talents for a profession, honourable as I allow it to be, where the mind is continually chained to the calculation of profit and loss; and if I am to enter into active life, let it be rather in any line than that which shall confine my activity to a compting-house—For then, Monimia! I must equally leave thee, and live among those who value nothing but money, and who would ridicule a passion like mine. He paused, and again looked around him. How beautiful a scene! continued he; I would that Monimia were here to enjoy it! But never am I allowed to point out to her these lovely prospects, never permitted to cultivate that pure and elegant taste which she has received from nature; and I am now about to tell her that we are to part never perhaps to meet more! Yet the die is cast: I have promised—nay, I ought to obey my father—and I go—A deep and mournful reverie succeeded, as, walking onward, his rapid imagination described to him all the sad possibilities that might arise between him and his happiness. In this desponding temper, but without meeting any one to interrupt him in his intended visit to Monimia, he reached the turret, and softly and silently ascended the stair-case. He took the usual precautions to ascertain that Monimia was alone; and then, being admitted for a moment to speak to her, he assured her that she might, without any danger, venture to his room that evening. He told her he had much to say to her—much, on which their future happiness depended, 210 to offer to her consideration; and therefore he besought her to divest herself of her fears, and to oblige him. Monimia, confiding entirely in him, promised to be ready; and Orlando, then going through the servants’ hall, as if he had that moment arrived from West Wolverton, desired Betty to make up his fire and prepare his bed, saying, that he was come back to his own apartments, on the arrival of his brother at home. He then enquired of Pattenson, if he thought Mrs. Rayland could be spoken to that evening? I know nothing of the matter, answered the old butler in a very sullen tone; you may ask the women folks, as you’re always a-dangling after them. When I saw Madam last, she was not in a way very like to be troubled with company to night.

Orlando, angry and disgusted by this rudeness, now enquired of the cook, who, though she rivalled in person and features the dame Leonarda of Gil Blas, was a great admirer of beauty in others, and had always beheld Orlando with partial eyes. Is Mrs. Rayland ill, then, Martha? said he. Not that I knows on, replied the woman—Only a few twinges of the gout about her feet, much as ordinary, that makes her, I reckon, a little peevish: and I understood that Madam was a little out of sorts at hearing nothing of you yesterday; and they’ve been a-telling her as how you dined out with them there gentlefolks at the Castle, as Madam hates worse than any varmint.

So, thought Orlando, I am at length become of consequence enough to be missed if I am longer absent than usual! but the officious malice of whoever it was that related our dinner party yesterday, has probably spoiled my reception. Can you tell me, Martha, whether your Lady is likely to see me to-night, if I send up for leave?

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Lord! I’ll answer for’t, answered the cook; ifackins, I believe Madam, if she was fairly left to herself, is always as glad to see you as can be—I’ll go up now, if you please, and let her know you be here.

This courteous offer Orlando readily accepted; and in a few moments Martha returned. Well, Martha, may I go up? enquired he. Yes, you may replied Martha; but Madam’s not in one of her sugar-plum humours, I can tell you.—She’ve got the gout in her foot, and she’ve got some vagaries in her head about your going to visit her innimies: you’ll have a few sour looks, I doubt—but, Lord! Master Orlando, you’ve such a good-looking pleasant countenance, that I’ll defy the witch of Endor to be anger’d long with you.

Then, thanking his ambassadress for the trouble she had taken, and being somewhat encouraged by her opinion of the powers of his countenance, he walked up stairs.

He tapped at the door, as was his custom; and was, by the shrill sharp voice of Mrs. Lennard, directed to come in. He was struck, on entering the room, by the sight of Monimia, who stood near the fire watching the moment when a saucepan, in which some medicine Mrs. Rayland was causing to be made, should be ready to remove. Without, however, noticing her, he approached his venerable cousin, in whose countenance, which seemed to have gained no additional sweetness, he did not read a very favourable answer to his enquiry of—how she found herself?

No matter how, replied she with abrupt asperity; if it had been of any consequence to you, you would have asked yesterday, I suppose.

I was detained all day by my father, Madam; and I do most truly assure you (and never was any 212 declaration more sincere than this of Orlando,) that I was very unhappy at being detained all day from the Hall.

Humph! cried Mrs. Rayland, your new friends no doubt made you amends. I thought, Sir, you had known that when people go there, I never desire to see them here, not I. I wish, if you like such acquaintance, you had taken the hint. But perhaps you thought that you might take to your brother’s courses, and no harm done. For my part, I shall wash my hands of any concern about it, let what will be the end on’t.

Orlando now began with calmness, yet without any thing like sycophant submission, to account for his father’s having been led by the entreaties of General Tracy, to whom he thought himself much obliged, to break through a resolution he had taken never to visit at Carloraine Castle:—a resolution, added Orlando, that he now heartily wishes he had adhered to, as he found the society such as he neither approves for me, or can endure for himself. I assure you, Madam, he never intends to repeat an experiment, which nothing but his wishes to oblige the General made him consent to now.

Well, said Mrs. Rayland, a little appeased, it is very wonderful to me that General Tracy, a man of family, can associate with these low bred upstarts—people who always will give one the notion of having got into the coaches they were designed to drive—But so goes this world! Money does every thing—money destroys all distinctions!—Your Creoles and your East-India people over-run every body—Money, money does every thing.

There is one thing, however, Madam, answered Orlando, that it does not seem to have done—It does not appear to me to have given to this Mr. Stockton, either the mind or the manners of a gentleman.

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Indeed, child! cried the old lady: Well, I am glad that you learn to distin­guish—Poor wretch! I’ve heard that his father walked up out of Yorkshire without shoes, and was taken by some rich packer to clean his ware-house, and go on errands. Well, so it is in trade!—So you think him vulgar and ill-bred?—But I suppose you had a very profuse entertainment: can you remember the dishes?

Orlando could with difficulty help smiling at the pains Mrs. Rayland took to feed her disquiet, by obtaining minute particulars of the man whose ostentatious display of wealth so continually offended her. He assured her, however, that he was, in regard to the variety of ornaments of a table, so little of an adept, that, though he knew there was both turtle and venison, he could not tell the name of any other dish. But I believe, Madam, said he, there was almost every thing that at this time of the year comes to table, dressed every way that could be imagined.

Kickshaws, and French frippery, spoiling wholesome dishes. If I had my health, cried Mrs. Rayland as if animated anew with a truly British spirit—if I had my health, I would ask the favour of General Tracy to dine at Rayland Hall. Indeed I would request his company to the tenants’ feast at my own table, and shew him, if he is too young a man to remember it, what an old English table was, when we were too wise to run after foreign gewgaws, and were content with the best of every thing dressed in the English fashion by English people.

Orlando had a thousand reasons to promote a plan as unexpected as it was desirable. Besides the hope he had that the conversation of the General might reconcile Mrs. Rayland to a plan for his independence, and engage her to contribute to its 214 being advan­tageously carried into execution, he was amused with the idea of seeing together two such originals as Mrs. Rayland and General Tracy; and he knew, that as the latter was a man of family, and so very polite, he should not risk their mutually disliking each other by bringing them together; or at least that, if such a circumstance should happen, those manners, which both piqued themselves on possessing, would prevent their shewing it.—For these, and for many other reasons, he eagerly seized on the hint Mrs. Rayland had dropped. Dear Madam, cried he, I heartily hope you will be well enough. The General would be greatly flattered by such a distinction! I know that nothing would oblige him so much. When is the tenants’ feast to be? I wish, if it is fixed, you would permit me to be your messenger to-morrow, and to carry him an invitation.

Truly, child, replied Mrs. Rayland, whose anger seemed to be quite evaporated, I am so out of the use of having company, that I don’t know well what to say to it. I find my people have fixed the tenants’ feast for Thursday next, that is, this day week; and if I were sure of being quite well—Lennard, what do you think of the matter?

Lennard, who loved nothing better than great dinners, in which she was of so much consequence, answered, Why, indeed, Ma’am, I think you’ll be quite well enough—nay, I could venture to say so positively. Your foot is getting better apace; and in other respects, when you have been free from pain for a while, I have not known you better these many years.

Well, Orlando, then, resumed the old lady, we’ll consider of it, and let you know to-morrow.—You have taken to your bed below again, I find?

I have, Madam, with your permission.

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Well, then, you may come and breakfast with me; and, for to-night, order what you please for your supper in your own room.

Orlando, rejoiced to be thus reconciled, now wished her a good-night, and retired; casting, as he went, a melancholy glance towards Monimia, who, quite unnoticed by either of the ladies, had stood the whole time with her eyes fixed on the fire, and her beautiful arms exposed to its scorching heat, while she was employed in watching the important preparation that was boiling. But Monimia herself, far from feeling her situation, would have undergone infinitely more inconvenience, for as many hours as she now had done minutes, to have enjoyed the satisfaction of hearing Orlando’s voice, even when his words were not addressed to her, and of observing the favour he was in with Mrs. Rayland; whose anger, however she seemed desirous of cherishing it, was put to flight on the first apology of her young favourite.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XVII

he had several pursuits to engage his mind
text has persuits
[The 2nd edition is illegible here, but the word “pursuit” occurs many other times in the book.]

Monimia! alas! what had Monimia?
[The author has put her finger on the nub of the problem. Unfortunately, it is a problem of her own creation.]

as soon as her father had shut the parlour door
text has palour

the dull murmur of the current
text has murmer
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]

she might, without any danger, venture to his room that evening.
final . invisible

the moment when a saucepan, in which some medicine Mrs. Rayland was causing to be made, should be ready to remove.
[The longer one looks at this sentence, the more deficient it becomes.]

a resolution, added Orlando, that he now heartily wishes he had adhered to
text unchanged
[Expected “wished”, but 2nd edition is the same.]

to clean his ware-house, and go on errands.
final . missing
[And polish up the handle of the big front door.]


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


The meeting of the evening promised to be undisturbed.

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.