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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XIX.

Orlando returned to Rayland Hall in the evening, carrying with him the most polite answer from General Tracy; and, from his own family, assurances of the grateful pleasure with which they accepted Mrs. Rayland’s invitation for the following Thursday. Poor Monimia too, though she was to have no other part in this festivity than to assist her aunt in preparing for it, heard with satisfaction from Orlando that it was fixed, because she believed that this unusual civility towards his family and their guest was an indubitable mark of Mrs. Rayland’s increasing affection for him.

Orlando, however, who from his father’s last conversation, and from his persuasion that Mrs. Rayland would not oppose it, saw that his departure was certain, and would soon happen, thought it cruel to encourage the flattering impressions which the soft heart of Monimia so readily received, and which he had himself taught her to cherish when they were apparently much less likely to be realised. He therefore, when they met this evening, renewed, what he had sometimes distantly touched upon before, 226 the probability that he must soon enter the army, and quit, at least for a time, the spot which, while she remained on it, contained all that gave value to his life. The tender, timid Monimia, in whose idea every kind of danger was attendant on the name of soldier, was thunderstruck with this intelligence; and it was not till Orlando had tried every argument to sooth and console her, that she was able to shed tears. Could we hope, my Monimia, said he when he found her composed enough to listen to him—could we hope to continue as we are, and to converse thus undiscovered for years to come, tell me if there is not too much bitter mingled with the few transient moments of happiness, to make us reasonably wish to continue it? When we meet, is it not always in fear and apprehension? and are we not ever liable to the same alarm as that from which you suffered so cruelly three weeks since?—Alas! even now we are in the power of an unprincipled ruffian, who, though he appeared willing to engage for mutual secrecy, may, in a fit of drunkenness, betray us; or, through mere insolence, tell—because he has the power of telling. He did not see you; but he knows, and indeed so does Pattenson, that somebody was with me; and the very jealousy that misleads the old rogue Pattenson, will perhaps make him watch and discover us. I need not, Monimia, describe all I should suffer for you if that were to happen; nothing would remain for us but to fly together: and surely I need not add, that if I did not fear to expose you, my angel, to the miseries of poverty, I would, without hazarding a discovery, fly to-morrow; but I am, you know, under age, and we could not marry in England. If I was thus to disoblige my father, he would abandon me for ever, and from Mrs. Rayland I could expect nothing. Such is the 227 melancholy train of thought I have been compelled to admit in reflecting on our present situation. Perhaps the line of life that is proposed for me is the only one that we can with hope look forward to for the future.—He paused a moment: Monimia stifled the sobs that convulsed her bosom; she could not speak, but sat with her handkerchief to her eyes, and her head resting on her hand, while he proceeded—It is certain that I must tear myself from you; that I must enter on a new scene of life, and perhaps encounter some difficulties and hardships: but would you not despise a man of my age, who would not so purchase independence? If I have a profession, I shall have something on which to depend, if Mrs. Rayland will not, and my father cannot provide for me; something on which, if I have tolerable fortune, I may in a few years be enabled to support my Monimia. Can I, ought I with such hopes to hesitate?

I allow, replied Monimia with a deep sigh—I allow that you ought not.

While General Tracy lives, resumed Orlando, he will be my friend; at least such are his promises to my father. He assures him that he will make a point of my speedy promotion; and his interest is certainly such as leaves no doubt of his having the power to do it.

Ah, Orlando! said Monimia in a low and broken voice, you speak only of the good, and forget or conceal the evil. What if you are maimed, or killed? What then becomes of Monimia, who could not die too, but must live perhaps the most desolate and miserable creature upon earth?

General Tracy, replied Orlando, has assured my father, that the regiment in which he means to procure me a commission, and for which they are now recruiting, is about to be immediately recalled from 228 America, where the war must very soon terminate in favour of England, and that therefore I shall certainly not be sent abroad: he even says, that as soon as I have my commission, it is highly probable that I shall be ordered into this country on a recruiting party, and may take up my quarters for two or three months in this neighbourhood.

These reasonable arguments, joined to the flattering hope that Orlando might, though he entered on a profession by which he would, she believed, become independent, still remain in England, and even be occasionally in his native county, added to the conviction that they could not long continue to see each other without being discovered, reconciled Monimia to the thoughts of his accepting the commission offered to him by the General; and she became more calm, and able to talk of it with some degree of composure. Orlando, on their parting for that time, besought her to assure him that she would make herself easy, and learn to think of his destination rather as a matter of satisfaction than apprehension. Monimia promised all he desired; but she was no sooner alone than her apprehensions again returned, and the sad possibilities that she had before enumerated recurred in all their terrors to her imagination. To these many were added of which she dared not speak to Orlando; the fears that he might forget her; and that when once entered on new scenes, and among all the beauty, elegance, and accom­plishments which she read of in magazines and newspapers, the humble Monimia would be remembered no longer. This seemed to her so probable, and was so distressing to her heart, that she thought she could better endure almost every other evil. Sleep refused to banish these cruel ideas from her mind; and the morning broke, and called her from her 229 restless bed to her task of attending on her aunt in the housekeeper’s room, before she could find any comfort in any of her reflections, unless it was the hope that Mrs. Rayland might oppose the scheme of sending Orlando away, since Monimia persuaded herself that she every day became fonder of his company.

Monimia appeared before her aunt so pale, from want of sleep, and from the acute uneasiness she had undergone, that Mrs. Lennard, notwith­standing her usual insensibility, took notice of it.

Hey-day girl! cried she, why what’s the matter now? Why you look, I protest, as if you had been up all night! Pray what have you been about?

About, aunt! said Monimia, while a faint blush, excited by fear and consciousness, wavered a moment on her cheek—I have been about nothing.

That is what you generally are about, I think, replied Mrs. Lennard harshly. But I suppose you have been sitting up after some nonsense or other—with your books or your writing. I shall put an end to Madam Betty’s career, I promise you; I know she lets you have candles, and gets books for you out of the Study, though I have time after time forbidden her to do any such thing.

Monimia, willing to let it be thought that Betty did do so, rather than excite any other suspicion by denying it, only said mildly—I hope, dear aunt, there is no harm in my trying to improve myself, if I do not therefore neglect what you order me to do?

Improve yourself!—Yes, truly, a pretty improvement—Your chalky face and padded eyes are mighty improvements: and I’d be glad to know what good your reading does you, but to give you a hankering after what you’ve no right to expect? 230 An improved lady will be above helping me, I suppose, very soon.

When I am, my dear aunt, answered Monimia, it will be time enough for you to forbid my reading; but, till then, pray don’t be angry if I endeavour to obtain a little common instruction.

Don’t be impertinent, exclaimed Mrs. Lennard; don’t be insolent—for if you are, Miss, this house is no place for you.—I see already the blessed effects of your reading—you fancy yourself a person of consequence: but I shall take care to put an end to it; for, if Betty supplies you with candles, I’ll discharge her.

She has not indeed, my dear aunt, said Monimia, whose generous mind could not bear that another should suffer for her.

She has not!—what has she not? enquired Mrs. Lennard.

She has not lately supplied me with candles, replied Monimia.

How is it, then, cried Mrs. Lennard, fixing on her a stern and enquiring eye, that light is sometimes, aye and very lately too, seen from your window, at hours when your own candle is taken away, and when you ought to be in bed?

To this Monimia could answer nothing, but that it was true sue had now and then saved a piece of wax candle herself; but, in order to put an end to an enquiry which had already made her tremble with the most cruel apprehensions, she endeavoured less to account for what had happened, and which she could not deny, than to appease her aunt by very earnest assurances that what offended her should happen no more, and that, since she so much disliked her reading of a night, she would never again practise it.

Mrs. Lennard seemed to be somewhat satisfied by 231 these protestations—though, while Monimia was with many tears repeating them, her fierce eyes were fixed on the countenance of her trembling niece with a look of questioning doubt, which made Monimia shrink with dread—for it seemed to intimate that more was suspected than was expressed.

At length, however, she condescended to appear pacified; and summoning Betty and another of the maid-servants, she gave them their employments, in preparing for the grand dinner: then ordering Monimia to take her share, and the superin­tendence of the whole, she returned to the parlour; and poor Monimia, glad to be relieved from her presence, proceeded as cheerfully in her task as her melancholy reflections on what had passed with Orlando the preceding night, and her newly-awakened dread of her aunt’s suspicions, would allow her to do.

Mr. Somerive was much at a loss to know how to act in regard to his eldest son: fondly flattering himself that this beloved son had seen the dangerous errors of his former conduct, he could not bear the idea of shewing any resentment at what was past, or that, by his being left out of the party going to Rayland Hall, he should be considered as an exile from the favour of Mrs. Rayland; yet, to let him go without an invitation, he knew, would give offence, and he knew not how to set about obtaining one. Orlando, who passed a few moments with him in the course of the preceding Wednesday, saw his father’s uneasiness, because he had felt something of the same kind himself about his brother; and he generously, though without making any merit of it, undertook to remove this source of vexation, by engaging Mrs. Rayland to invite him. This was an arduous task, as the old Lady had not seen him for more than two years, and during that 232 time had heard only evil reports of his conduct. The offence he had given her by associating with the Stockton set, and even joining in those trespasses of which she believed she had so much reason to complain, had embittered her mind against him, even more than his gaieties and extravagance: yet Orlando, by assuring Mrs. Rayland that he was now sensible of his error, that he was come home with a resolution to remain with his family, and that it would discourage him in the career of reformation if she did not seem ready to forgive, and again consider him as a part of it, so flattered her self-consequence, and soothed her resentment, that she agreed to receive Philip as one of her guests, and commissioned Orlando to carry an invitation to his brother: nor could she, with all her natural severity of temper, and little sensibility to great or generous actions, help being affected by the noble disin­terestedness of her young favourite, who thus laboured to reconcile to her a brother who would have been considered by most young men as a formidable rival in her favour, and have been assiduously kept at the distance to which he had thrown himself. This exalted goodness of heart she put down immediately to the account of the Rayland blood; and in praising Orlando to Mrs. Lennard, to whom she now often spoke of him with pleasure, she remarked, that he every day became more and more like the Rayland family—What fine eyes the young man has! cried she; and how they flashed fire when he was pleading for that sad brother of his, with so much earnestness! And then when I seemed willing to oblige him, what a fine countenance! I could almost have fancied it was my grand-father’s picture walked out of its frame, if it had not been for the difference of dress!

Mrs. Lennard assented, and encouraged every favourable 233 idea her mistress entertained of Orlando; but all this while a mine was proceeding against him, of which the success would inevitably ruin all his hopes.

This originated in the jealousy of Pattenson, who, whatever favour he obtained by dint of presents and money from his coquettish dulcinea, could never divest himself of his apprehensions that Orlando was a successful rival. This cruel fear had taken possession of his mind long before the discovery of Jonas Wilkins; and notwith­standing the girl’s solemn protestations that she was in her own bed at the time she was accused of being with Orlando in his study, and the offers of the woman who lived in the same room to confirm this by her Bible oath, Pattenson could never be persuaded but that it was Betty herself; because, having not the slightest suspicion of Monimia, who was, he knew, locked in by her aunt every night, he believed that it was impossible it could be any other person. Betty, in order to tease him, sometimes affected to be conscious that the accusation was true, while she persisted in denying it; and Orlando rather encouraged than repressed a notion that prevented any conjectures which might have glanced towards Monimia.

For three weeks, therefore, this uneasy suspicion had corroded the bosom of the amorous though venerable Mr. Pattenson, who, greatly as he loved his ease, resigned it to the gratification of his revenge; and who determined to detect Betty, and in doing so thought he should have an opportunity of ruining Orlando with his Lady, and thus getting out of his way a rival who might one day be his master; and whom he hated, not only on account of his love, but of his interest; for so highly had he been in favour with all the three ladies, that each had, in dying, given him a very considerable legacy, and recommended 234 him to the survivor; and he did not doubt but that, on the decease of his present mistress, he should find his property inferior to that of few gentlemen in the county.

The gradual increase, therefore, of the favour shewn to Orlando did not at all please him; but his attempts to injure him with Mrs. Rayland had never succeeded, and began to be displeasing to her. Still, however, he knew that, if Orlando were detected of an intrigue with one of her women-servants, it was an offence which Mrs. Rayland would never pardon; and though this discovery would certainly occasion the discharge of the fair Helen for whom he sighed, Pattenson was sure that Orlando could not take her into his protection for want of money; while, being dismissed without a character by the two inexorable vestals, his Lady and her companion, the girl would be glad to make terms with him; and he was quite rich enough to undertake to keep her in some of the neighbouring towns, till she might be supplanted by some newer object.

Such were the speculations of the politic Pattenson; but, like many other politicians, he pursued, among the many crooked paths before him, that which led him from his purpose. Instead of watching Orlando, he set himself to watch Betty, who never went in even with a message to him in his study without Pattenson following her; and on the night he engaged her to sit up for him, the butler was concealed in a closet within the servants’ hall, and heard all their conversation; and though what then passed tended directly to prove to Pattenson that he was in an error, he persuaded himself that they suspected his concealment, and had agreed upon what they should say to mislead him.

Instead, therefore, of rejoicing to find his suspicions were not confirmed, he was only irritated to 235 find that his attempts to detect the supposed lovers were baffled; and he redoubled his vigilance in watching Betty, and engaged one of the footmen in the same office. This was the same man who had seen Orlando cross the park one morning at a very early and unusual hour, and who then taking him at a distance for a poacher, had pursued and stopped him; circumstances which the fellow, who was the mere creature of Pattenson, had afterwards related to him, with conjectures as to the reason of Orlando’s appearance that had helped to raise higher those suspicions Pattenson had before entertained.

That Mrs. Rayland had determined to have company at her own table, and particularly the family of Somerive, on the day of the tenants’ feast, was a terrible vexation to Pattenson—who, instead of presiding like the master of the house in the hall, would now be only the butler at the side-board in the great dining-room; and to chagrin for the consequence he thus lost, was added the mortification of knowing that while he should be busied in attending on his Lady up stairs, Orlando, who on these occasions, which happened twice a year, always mingled with the young farmers, would have all the ladies of the hall to himself.

It had been the custom of the house, time immemorial, for the landlord, receiving his Michaelmas rents, to give the most numerously-attended entertainment of the year, and to allow the tenants’ sons and daughters, their friends, and the servants of the family, to have a fiddle in the great hall. The Mrs. Raylands, notwith­standing the state in which they had been educated, had been always, during their youth, led to the company by their father, and, accompanied by Lady Rayland, had each gone down one dance with some neighbouring gentleman who 236 was invited on purpose, or with the chaplain of the family. Those days, though long since past, with almost all the witnesses of their festivity, were still recollected by Mrs. Rayland with some degree of pleasure; and as she adhered most scrupulously to old customs, however unlike her usual mode of life, this sort of rustic ball given to the tenants had always been kept up, except in those two years that were marked by the death of two of the ladies.—Mrs. Lennard and Mr. Pattenson, who had long presided at them, loved the gaiety of the scene, and the consequence they had in it, as they were considered as the master and mistress of the feast; for though Mrs. Rayland once used to go down to honour it with her presence for ten minutes, she had now left off that custom, from age and infirmity; and her servants, to whom it was attended with some trouble and loss of time, had persuaded her that she was always ill after such an exertion. It was, therefore, usual with her to sup on this anniversary somewhat earlier than ordinary, and to go to her bed, dismissing Lennard to her post of mistress of the revel, with a strict charge to her to watch assiduously against the intrusion of drunkenness or impropriety; to see that all the guests withdrew in due season, and quite sober; and to settle every thing after their departure for the decorum and tranquillity of the next day.

Mrs. Lennard had in general adhered to these good rules, though she thought herself at liberty a little to vary from them in the detail. Thus she deemed it no breach of the regularity her Lady recommended, if she acceded to the earnest solicitations of a handsome young farmer, who, as she was persuaded, left the buxom damsel his partner, purely for the gratification of going down a dance with her; though it sometimes happened that her interest 237 in the renewal of a lease, or some building wanting on the farm, for which she could effectually intercede, were more powerful motives than even the honour or the pleasure thus obtained—notwith­standing Mrs. Lennard’s assertion, which was probably true, that she had learned to dance of the dancing-master who taught the first Duke of Cumberland and all the Princesses, and that she was celebrated for her excellence in that accom­plishment, particularly her great agility in the rigadoon.

This rigadoon, like all early and pleasing acquirements, was still recollected with gratitude for the fame it had obtained for her; and notwith­standing the lapse of years, and some rheumatic complaints, she could occasionally introduce some of its original graces into her country dance. It is true she never performed above one or two at most; but what she did, she piqued herself upon executing with a degree of spirit, which made all the operators in cotillon steps and allemands, ‘hide their diminished heels.’ But, now alas! a fall she got a few months before, and the cruel and cowardly attack of the rheumatism on the limb while it was in a disabled state, had put an end to the exhibition of this rigadoon step for ever. Yet, with the true spirit of perseverance, Mrs. Lennard, though she danced no more, loved to overlook the dancers, and not having the same reasons as Pattenson had to dislike the party proposed, had with all her interest promoted it—feeling, probably, that the pleasure she resigned in the country-dance with her rigadoon step, would be amply made up to her in appearing no longer as only house-keeper and attendant, but in the capacity of a companion and friend to Mrs. Rayland; for now her Lady was so infirm, she was introduced in that character whatever company might be in the house. Far as she was advanced in years, to 238 adorn her person was her foible; and she reflected with some pleasure on the smart and well-fancied dress with which she intended, on this important Thursday, to astonish and outshine the Somerive family. Of this vanity, however, poor Monimia was the victim; for, after many debates about what she should wear, Mrs. Lennard found something to do to every article of her dress. These alterations were entrusted to Monimia; and at night when Orlando sought her, as usual, in the hope that he might pass an hour with her in her own room, he found her not only indulged with candles, which had been so lately prohibited, but weeping over a task which she doubted whether it would be possible for her to finish, in the time assigned her, to her aunt’s satisfaction.

Orlando had a particular interest in her appearing to advantage the next day; for, though he knew she would not be allowed, nor did he wish her to be seen among the guests, he had imagined a project to introduce her and his sister Selina to each other while every other person was engaged. The more he reflected on this scheme, the more practicable it appeared, and the more it flattered his imagination. He, therefore, could not bear to think that, between fatigue and fretting, the beauty he had said so much of to Selina should not be seen in all its brilliancy. You shall not, said he, Monimia, go with me to-night, but you shall go to bed; and if those cursed things must be done, you may finish them in the morning.

Ah, no! replied Monimia, wiping away the tears which on so slight an occasion she was ashamed of letting him see—no, Orlando, not so—I must neither pass these next four or five hours with you, or in my bed; but must sit up and finish this: for I am very sure that, with the dawn of the morning, 239 my aunt, without considering how little time she has allowed me for this business, will summon me to that which must go forward in the house-keeper’s room; and that, to-morrow, I shall have the jellies and syllabubs to make, to give out every thing to the cook, and to help in all the made dishes: perhaps I shall never sit down ten minutes from the time I get up till dinner is sent in: and therefore what I have to do of this sort, must be done to-night.

Curse on the ridiculous, ostentatious old woman! exclaimed Orlando. I cannot bear to think of your being so fatigued!

Do not, said Monimia with an angelic smile—do not let us, my dear friend, be rendered uneasy by trifles, when it is but too probable that we shall have so many real sorrows so soon to contend with. What is the loss of a few hours rest? and of how many hours have not I voluntarily deprived my self! Besides, added she, seeing him gaze on her with a look of deep concern, to finish the whole is not so great an effort as I foolishly, from low spirits, owing perhaps to thinking too much on the conversation of last night, at first represented it to myself. However, Orlando, instead of my going down to your room, I must sit here.

And I must not remain with you? cried he.

A little while you may, replied Monimia; but speak low—I shall not do my millinery the worse for your sitting by me, if you will but be calm and reasonable.

They then began to consult on the proposed meeting of the next day. Monimia trembled as it was talked of; yet pleasure was mingled with the apprehension with which she thought of being made acquainted with any of his relations, particularly with his beloved Selina, whom he represented 240 as a second self. It was settled, after some little debate on the subject, that when every part of the family were engaged in the hall, Monimia should, at an hour fixed upon, find her way in the dark to the study; not through the chapel, but by the usual way through the house; and that Selina should be brought there by her brother immediately afterwards, where they might remain half an hour unsuspected, and with much less hazard than in Monimia’s room. This being arranged Orlando entreated her to spare herself as much as possible; and having extorted a promise from her, that when she found herself fatigued she would endeavour to sleep, he reluctantly left her.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XIX

it is highly probable that I shall be ordered into this country on a recruiting party
text has shall I
[Corrected from 2nd edition. Query: If everyone is so confident the war will end almost as soon as it has started, why the need to drum up fresh cannon fodder?]

had heard only evil reports of his conduct.
final . missing

even more than his gaieties and extravagance
text has gaities
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]

for the landlord, receiving his Michaelmas rents, to give the most numerously-attended entertainment of the year
[Uhmm . . . . Why are Michaelmas rents being collected in November? Even if Mrs. Rayland clung firmly to the old, pre-Gregorian calendar—which is just the kind of thing she would do—that only accounts for eleven days or so.]

made all the operators in cotillon steps and allemands, ‘hide their diminished heels.’
[Har, har. Yuk, yuk. Milton, Paradise Lost:

like the god

Of this new World—at whose sight all the stars

Hide their diminished heads—

The same paraphrase shows up in the 1915 book English ancestral homes of noted Americans (Anne Hollingsworth Wharton), describing what sounds an awful lot like Queen Elizabeth’s favorite dance, the Volta:

“Modern tangos, fox-trots, and one-steps may well hide their dimin­ished heels before the aërial flights and unusual prowess of the doughty knights of the sixteenth century” ]


The meeting of the evening promised to be undisturbed.


Monimia, secure of the tenderest affection of her lover

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.