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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XVIII.

The meeting of the evening promised to be undisturbed. It was long since Orlando had seen his Monimia quietly seated by the fire in the Study; and now that he was once more to enjoy that happiness, he could not determine to embitter it by speaking of the probability there was that he was soon to leave her, and enter on a new mode of life. He could, when they were actually together, the less resolve to speak of this, as Monimia appeared in unusual spirits; and from what she had observed of Mrs. Rayland’s behaviour to him, in the interview at which she had been present, she found reason 216 for forming more sanguine hopes than she had ever yet indulged, that their delicious visions were not chimerical; and that Orlando, if not master of Rayland Hall, would yet be amply provided for by the favour of its present possessor.

Instead, therefore, of destroying these flattering visions, which lent to the lovely features of Monimia the most cheerful animation, he endeavoured to divest his own mind of the painful reflections it had of late entertained; and instead of talking of what was to happen, he wished to fortify the mind of Monimia against whatever might happen, by giving her a taste for reading, and cultivating her excellent under­standing. The books he had given her, the extracts she had made from them, and her remarks, afforded them conversation, and gave to Orlando exquisite delight. He had animated the lovely statue, and, like another Prometheus, seemed to have drawn his fire from heaven. The ignorance and the prejudices in which Monimia had been brought up, now gave way to such instruction as she derived from Addison and other celebrated moralists. She understood, and had peculiar pleasure in reading the poets, which Orlando had selected for her; and when she repeated, in a fascinating voice, some of the passages she particularly admired, Orlando was inspired with the most ardent wish to become a poet himself.

Very different was the way in which his elder brother passed this evening. Tormented with fear and remorse, that unfortunate young man had returned to his long-deserted home, for no other reason than because he had, during his northern expedition, lost to his companions every guinea that he could by any means raise, and had besides contracted with them a very considerable debt of honour. He knew not how to apply to his father, 217 whom he had already impoverished; yet his pride would not let him return to Mr. Stockton’s, whither some of the party were again gone, till he had the means of satisfying their demands against him. In this emergency he came home, in hopes of finding some pretence to procure the money of his mother, whom he believed he could persuade to borrow it for him of her brother Mr. Woodford, as she had done a less considerable sum once before; or at all events to gain a few days, in which he might consider what to do.

It was to the dejection he felt on the awkward circumstances to which he had reduced himself, that the gravity and steadiness of manner was owing, which his father took for contrition and reformation. It lasted, however, no longer than till the next evening, when, after tea, Mrs. Somerive as usual, in order to amuse the General, proposed cards—Mr. Somerive, however, having a person with him upon business from whom he could not disengage himself, and Orlando having returned to Rayland Hall immediately after dinner, there was not enough to make a whist table (as none of the young ladies played), and therefore young Somerive proposed to the General to sit down to piquet.

To this proposal he of course consented, and, either from chance or design, the General lost every party, and had presently paid to his antagonist twelve guineas. Animated by this success, especially as it was against a man who was known to be in habits of playing at the first clubs, Philip Somerive again proposed playing after supper. Fortune continued to be propitious; and when his father, mother and sisters retired, at a later hour than ordinary, he still continued at the table, where he was now a winner of about fifty guineas.

They were no sooner out of his way, than the 218 true spirit of gaming, which their presence had checked, broke out.

This is poor piddling work, General! exclaimed he: Do you not think hazard a better thing?

The General answered coolly, that it certainly was; but, added he, I suppose my good host would think his house polluted by having the necessary instruments in it. He has no other dice, I dare swear, than those in the back-gammon table.

Oh! as to that, answered young Somerive, I am always provided with an apparatus in case of emergency—there is no travelling without such a resource—I have the pretty creatures up stairs. What say you, General—shall we waste an hour with them?

With all my heart, replied Tracy. Let us see if you are as much befriended by chance, as you have been by skill.

Young Somerive now produced from his travelling portmanteau a box and dice: he put a green cloth over the table, that the rattling of them might not be heard in the house; and then telling the servants that none need sit up but the General’s servant, they began to play, and continued at it till morning broke, with various success—But on quitting it, Somerive found himself a very considerable gainer, and retired to his bed flushed with the hope that the General, all veteran as he appeared, and calmly as he played, was a pidgeon, from whose wings he might pluck the feathers which were wanting to repair his own.

The General, who only wanted a study of his character, and to whom hundreds were as nothing when he had any favourite project in view, was now perfectly assured that, by losing money to him, or by supplying him with it when he lost it 219 to others, this young man would become wholly subservient to his wishes, however contrary to honour or conscience. He did not dislike play, though he never regularly pursued it; and had one of those cool heads in such matters, which had prevented his ever suffering by it. He had generally been a winner, and particularly in betting:—he frequented, when he was in London, all the houses where high play is carried on; and was so much accustomed to see thousands paid and received at these places as matters of course, that he held the trifle he had paid to Philip Somerive the evening before as not worth remembering. It was therefore with some surprise that he heard Mr. Somerive, who had called him apart the next morning, express in very forcible terms, his great concern that his son had won so large a sum of him. If the General felt any concern, it was that Philip should have been unguarded enough to speak of it. He soon, however, learned that Mr. Somerive alluded solely to the fifty guineas he had won at piquet, and that of subsequent transactions of the evening he knew nothing. This therefore he carefully concealed, and, assuring Mr. Somerive that he had almost forgot they played at all, conjured him not to be uneasy about it.

I know, my dear General, said Somerive, I know perfectly well that this is a mere trifle to you; but to my son it may, nay it will have the worst consequence. He is, I see with an aching heart, too much devoted to play—Success only nourishes this ruinous passion—And distressed as I have been, and indeed am, by his conduct, I should rather have paid an hundred pounds for him than have seen him win fifty.

The General endeavoured to quiet, on this head, the apprehensions of the unhappy father, by telling 220 him that he saw nothing in the young man that was not at his age, and with his prospects, very excusable. It is surely, said he, hazardous, my good friend, to check your son too much. If home is rendered utterly unpleasant to him, his volatility seeks resource abroad; and there you know how many designing people beset a young man of his expectations.

Good God! exclaimed Somerive, what are his expectations? He has impressed you, I see, my dear Sir, with the same idea which has in fact undone him, and will undo us all. What expectations has he that can in the least be relied upon, unless it be of this small estate, which he is already dismembering, and which will soon disappear—ah! very soon indeed, in the hands of a gamester.

Tie it up, then, said the General.

I cannot, answered Somerive; for it is entailed, and, except my wife’s jointure of an hundred a year, which with difficulty I contrived to settle upon her, he may dissipate it all, and I have no doubt but he will.

You judge, I think, too hardly of him. Something is surely to be forgiven him, who has always been told that he must be heir to the great property of the Raylands, and possess one of the largest landed estates in the county.

O! would to heaven he never had been told so! said Mr. Somerive with a deep sigh. If ever, my dear General, he should talk to you about it, pray endeavour to wean him from expectations so ruinous, and, I think, so fallacious. It is true that I am heir at law to all the estates of Sir Orlando Rayland my grandfather, in default of Sir Hildebrand’s daughters having issue, but not if the survivor of them disposes of it by will, for the whole is hers without any restriction; and there 221 is not the least chance of her dying without a will, for I know she is never without one: and the people who surround her take especial care that her own family shall be excluded from it.

You do not then suppose, said the General, you do not believe it possible that these people, by whom I conclude you mean those old servants of whom I have heard you speak, have interest enough with her to secure to themselves so large a property as Mrs. Rayland possesses. I should think it more likely that though she will probably give them considerable legacies, she will leave the estate to the next heir; her pride will urge her to this, perhaps, on the condition of his taking the name of Rayland.

I fear not, answered Mr. Somerive. She has a very singular temper, and has always been taught that the sister of her father Sir Hildebrand disgraced herself by marrying my father. She has on a thousand occasions given me to under­stand, that the small portion of the Rayland blood which I have the honour to boast, is much debased by having mingled with that of a plebeian; and that the blood of my children being still a degree farther removed from the Raylands, she cannot consider them as belonging to the family, which is in her opinion extinct—She means therefore to perpetuate its remembrance by the only method in which she believes she can do it worthily; and, after giving her servants considerable legacies—perhaps something to Orlando—to have recourse to the common refuge of posthumous pride, and, with her large landed estates, to endow an hospital, which shall be called after her name.

The General exclaimed loudly against such a method of settling her property; but, after hearing on what Mr. Somerive founded his opinion, he 222 agreed that it seemed but too probable. And yet, added he, it appears to be more the interest of these servants, by whom you say she is governed, that the estate should descend to an individual—particularly that of the old housekeeper, who, from what I can make out of the scraps I have picked up here and there about this Monimia, seems to have a plan of drawing in your youngest son to marry her; and of course it must be her wish that he should be Mrs. Rayland’s heir.

I have not discovered, replied Somerive, in all I have collected from Orlando, that the aunt is at all privy to their attachment. But that indeed may be her art—She possesses more than almost any woman I ever knew; and had she much less, she must know that the bare suspicion of such an intrigue, on the part of Mrs. Rayland, would occasion the disgrace of Orlando—the expulsion of the girl from the house—and perhaps the ruin of herself, if the least idea occurred of her being of their counsel.

Upon the whole, then, my friend, cried the General, I think that the putting Orlando into some profession immediately seems the only prudent measure you can take. This will probably ascertain Mrs. Rayland’s intentions, if they are in his favour; and, if they are not, will remove him from a situation which appears in my mind a thousand times more likely to ruin him for life, than even those imprudences of which you complain in his brother: for be assured, my dear Sir, a young fellow is never so completely ruined as when he has married foolishly—Every other folly is retrievable; but an engagement of that sort blasts a man’s fortune for ever: and the wisest thing he can do afterwards is to hang himself.

Though Mr. Somerive, who was not a man of 223 the world, and who had experienced many years of happiness with a woman whom he married for love, was by no means of Tracy’s opinion as to marriages of affection in general, he saw the variety of evils such a marriage would bring on Orlando, in as strong a light as his friend could represent them. He therefore entirely acquiesced in the necessity of his being removed from Rayland Hall; and waited with impatience for Orlando’s account of what had passed in that conference which he had undertaken to hold with the old lady, on the subject of his entering the army.

Just as he parted from General Tracy, who about an hour and a half before dinner retired to his toilet, Orlando appeared on horseback. His father met him; and bidding him join him in the garden as soon as he had put his horse in the stable, he walked thither—Orlando in a moment attended him. Well, said Mr. Somerive gravely, have you had an opportunity of conversing with Mrs. Rayland on this matter? I have it every hour more at heart, and am determined that you shall be removed from your present situation, unless, what is not to be expected, she signifies her positive resolution to make you very ample amends for your loss of time, and gives me assurances of it.

Orlando, in this peremptory determination of his father, fancied he saw the machinations of his brother to get him away from the Hall; but, without expressing any part of the pain such a suspicion gave him, he answered, You know, my dear Sir, that in our last conference on this subject, I assured you of what I now desire to repeat, that I live only to obey you; but I have had no opportunity of speaking to Mrs. Rayland on this subject; for when I saw her on the first evening of my return to the Hall, it was with great difficulty I could appease 224 the anger she felt at our having dined with Stockton.

She knew it then?

Oh, yes!—Lennard and Pattenson take care she shall know every thing. At length, however, I had the good fortune, not only to obtain a remission of my offence, but to engage her to invite our family and the General to dine at her table on Thursday, when the tenants’ feast is to be held at the Hall. Mrs. Rayland piques herself on shewing the General, whom she respects as a man of family, a specimen of old English hospitality, in opposition to the modern profusion of the Castle—and her desire to obtain his suffrage in favour of the ancient mode of living at Rayland Hall, has performed what no other consideration would have effected. This unexpected project entered her head the moment I had described our visit; and all yesterday was passed in considering about it, and debating with Lennard whether she should be well enough. To-day it is decided that she shall, and I am sent with the invitation, which certainly you and my mother and sisters will accept; and I suppose General Tracy will oblige us by going also.

Of that there can be no doubt, replied Mr. Somerive.

I thought, therefore, added Orlando, that you and the General might have an opportunity, during the course of the day, of introducing the conversation relative to my entering the army; and that it would be perhaps better than my abruptly disclosing what may, in some of her humours, appear to Mrs. Rayland as a desire on my part to quit her.

You have certainly given my ancient cousin love powder, Orlando, said Mr. Somerive smiling; for I never heard that, even in her younger days, she shewed for any body as much affection, as she lately has done to you.

225

And yet, replied Orlando, I am almost certain that it goes no farther than a little present kindness, or perhaps a small legacy.

Mr. Somerive, feeling that this was too probable, and was indeed what he had just before been repeating to General Tracy, sighed deeply—and bidding Orlando go with his message of invitation to his mother and sisters, he sent up the card to the General; and then went on his usual circuit round his farm, desiring Orlando to stay dinner.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XVIII

she repeated, in a fascinating voice
text has facinating
[I would have left it, but the word—conventionally spelled—occurs several other times in the book.]

Tie it up, then, said the General. I cannot, answered Somerive; for it is entailed
[This makes no sense. If the property is entailed, then Philip will have neither more nor less control over it than his father does.]

the estates of Sir Orlando Rayland my grandfather . . . . the sister of [Mrs. Rayland’s] father Sir Hildebrand disgraced herself by marrying my father
[Sir Orlando de Rayland (Sir Hildebrand’s father, Mrs. Rayland’s grandfather) was not Somerive’s grandfather but his great-grandfather. Our author has entirely forgotten that there was an intervening Somerive—Sir Hildebrand’s nephew, Mrs. Rayland’s cousin—who married the Rayland sisters’ companion; he’s the one who disgraced himself by an imprudent marriage.]

the old housekeeper . . . seems to have a plan of drawing in your youngest son to marry [Monimia]; and of course it must be her wish that he should be Mrs. Rayland’s heir
[See? Even General Tracy, who barely knows the district, thinks it would be to Mrs. Lennard’s advantage for Orlando to get together with Monimia behind Mrs. Rayland’s back. The only person who doesn’t think so is Mrs. Lennard herself. (She’s definitely not using headology. Monimia is far too much of a doormat for reverse psychology to work.)]


To reconcile Monimia to his departure


Orlando returned to Rayland Hall carrying with him the most polite answer from General Tracy

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.
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