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The Old Manor House:

11

CHAPTER II.

The confidential servant, or rather companion and femme de charge of Mrs. Rayland, was a woman of nearly her own age, of the name of Lennard.—This person, who was as well as her mistress a spinster, had been well educated, and was the daughter of a merchant who lost the fruits of a long course of industry in the fatal year 1720. He died of a broken heart, leaving his two daughters, who had been taught to expect high affluence, to the mercy of the world. Mrs. Rayland, whose pride was gratified in having about her the victim of unsuccessful trade, for which she had always a most profound contempt, received Mrs. Lennard as her own servant. She was however so much superior to her mistress in under­standing, that she soon governed her entirely; and while the mean pliability of her spirit made her submit to all the contemptuous and unworthy treatment, which the paltry pride of Mrs. Rayland had pleasure in inflicting, she secretly triumphed in the consciousness of superior abilities, and knew that she was in fact the mistress of the supercilious being whose wages she received.

Every year she became more and more necessary to Mrs. Rayland, who, after the death of both her sisters, made her not only governess of her house, but her companion. Her business was, to sit with her in her apartment when she had no company; to read the newspaper; to make tea; to let in and out the favourite dogs (the task of combing and washing them was transferred to a deputy); to collect and report at due seasons intelligence of all that happened in the neighbouring families; to give regular returns of the behaviour of all the servants, except the old butler and the old coachman, who 12 had each a jurisdiction of their own; to take especial care that the footmen and helpers behaved respectfully to the maids (who were all chosen by herself, and exhibited such a group, as secured, better than her utmost vigilance, this decorous behaviour from the male part of the family); to keep the keys; to keep her mistress in good humour with herself, and as much as possible at a distance from the rest of the world, above all, from that part of it who might interfere with her present and future views; which certainly were to make herself amends for the former injustice of fortune, by securing to her own use a considerable portion of the great wealth possessed by Mrs. Rayland.

Of the accomplishment of this she might well entertain a reasonable hope; for she was some few years younger than her mistress (though she artfully added to her age, whenever she had occasion to speak of it), and was besides of a much better constitution, possessing one of those frames where a good deal of bone and no flesh seem to defy the gripe of disease. The sister of this Mrs. Lennard had experienced a very different destiny—She had been taken at the time of her father’s misfortunes into the family of a nobleman; she had married the chaplain, and retired with him on a small living, where she died in a few years, leaving several children; among others a daughter, to whom report imputed uncommon beauty, and scandal a too intimate connexion with the noble patron of her father. Certain it is that, on his marriage, he gave her a sum of money, and she became the wife of a young attorney, who was a kind of steward, by whom she had three children; of which none survived their parents but a little girl born after her father’s death, and whose birth occasioned that of her mother. To this little orphan, her great aunt 13 Mrs. Lennard, who with all her starched prudery had a considerable share of odd romantic whim in her composition, had given the dramatic and uncommon name of Monimia—Such at least was the history given in Mrs. Rayland’s family of an infant girl, which at about four years old had been by the permission of her patroness taken, as it was said, from nurse, at a distant part of the county, and received by Mrs. Lennard at Rayland Hall; where she at first never appeared before the Lady but by accident, but was the inhabitant of the housekeeper’s room, and under the immediate care of the still-room maid, who was a person much devoted to Mrs. Lennard.

Mrs. Rayland had an aversion to children, and had consented to the admission of this into her house, on no other condition, but that she should never hear it cry, or ever have any trouble about it.—Her companion easily engaged for that; as Rayland Hall was so large, that les enfans trouvés at Paris might have been the inhabitants of one of its wings, without alarming a colony of ancient virgins at the other. The little Monimia, though she was described as having been

“The child of misery, baptiz’d in tears.” Langhorn.

was not particularly disposed to disturb, by infantine expressions of distress, the chaste and silent solitudes of the Hall; for though her little fair countenance had at times something of a melancholy cast, there was more of sweetness than of sorrow in it; and if she ever shed tears, they were so mingled with smiles, that she might have sat to the painter of the Seasons for the represen­tative of infant April. Her beauty however was not likely to recommend her to the favour of her aunt’s affluent patroness; but as to recommend her was the design of Mrs. Lennard, she saw that a beauty 14 of four or five years old would be much less obnoxious than one of fifteen, or even nine or ten; and therefore she contrived to introduce her by degrees; that when she grew older, her charms, by being long seen, might lose their power to offend.

She contrived that Mrs. Rayland might first see the little orphan as by chance; then she sent her in, when she knew her mistress was in good humour, with a basket of fruit, an early pine, some preserves in brandy, or something or other which was acceptable to her Lady’s palate; and on these occasions Monimia acquitted herself to a miracle; and presented her little offering, and made her little curtsey, with so much innocent grace, that Hecate in the midst of her rites might have suspended her incantations to have admired her. At six years old she had so much won upon the heart of Mrs. Rayland, that she became a frequent guest in the parlour, and saved her aunt the trouble of opening the door for Bella, and Pompey, and Julie. From the tenderness of her nature she became an admirable nurse for the frequent litters of kittens, with which two favourite cats continually increased the family of her protectress; and the numerous daily applications from robins and sparrows under the windows, were never so well attended to as since Monimia was entrusted with the care of answering their demands.

But her name—Monimia—was an incessant occasion of reproach—Why, said Mrs. Rayland, why would you, Lennard, give the child such a name? As the girl will have nothing, why put such romantic notions in her head, as may perhaps prevent her getting her bread honestly?—Monimia!—I protest I don’t love even to repeat the name; it puts me so in mind of a very hateful play, which I remember shocked me so when I was a mere girl, that 15 I have always detested the name. Monimia!—’tis so very unlike a Christian’s name, that, if the child is much about me, I must insist upon having her called Mary.

To this Mrs. Lennard of course consented, excusing herself for the romantic impropriety of which her Lady accused her, by saying, that she understood Monimia signified an orphan, a person left alone and deserted; and therefore had given it to a child who was an orphan from her birth—but that, as it was displeasing, she should at least never be called so. The little girl then was Mary in the parlour; but among the servants, and with the people around the house, she was still Monimia.

Among those who fondly adhered to her original name was Orlando; who, when he first became a frequent visitor as a school-boy at the Hall, stole often into the still-room to play with the little girl, who was three years younger than himself—and insensibly grew as fond of her as of one of his sisters. Mrs. Lennard always checked this innocent mirth; and when she found it impossible wholly to prevent two children who were in the same house from playing with each other, she took every possible precaution to prevent her Lady’s ever seeing them together; and threatened the severest punishment to the little Monimia, if she at any time even spoke to Master Somerive, when in the presence of Mrs. Rayland.——But nothing could be so irksome to a healthy and lively child of nine or ten years old, as the sort of confinement to which Monimia was condemned in consequence of her admission to the parlour; where she was hardly ever suffered to speak, but sat at a distant window, where, whether it was winter or summer, she was to remain no otherwise distin­guished from a statue than by being employed in making the household linen, and sometimes 16 in spinning it with a little wheel which Mrs. Rayland, who piqued herself upon following the notable maxims of her mother, had bought for her, and at which she kept her closely employed when there was no other work to do.—When any company came, then and then only she was dismissed; but this happened very rarely; and many many hours poor Monimia vainly prayed for the sight of a coach or chaise at the end of the long avenue, which was to her the blessed signal of transient liberty.

Her dress, the expence of which Mrs. Rayland very graciously took upon herself, was such as indicated to all who saw her, at once the charity and prudence of her patroness, who repeatedly told her visitors, that she had taken the orphan niece of her old servant Lennard, not with any view of making her a gentlewoman, but to bring her up to get her bread honestly; and therefore she had directed her to be dressed, not in gauzes and flounces, like the flirting girls she saw so tawdry at church, but in a plain stuff; not flaring without a cap, which she thought monstrously indecent for a female at any age, but in a plain cap, and a clean white apron, that she might never be encouraged to vanity by any kind of finery that did not become her situation.—Monimia, though dressed like a parish girl, or in a way very little superior, was observed by the visitors who happened to see her, and to whom this harangue was made, to be so very pretty, that nothing could conceal or diminish her beauty. Her dark stuff gown gave new lustre to her lovely complexion; and her thick muslin cap could not confine her luxuriant dark hair. Her shape was symmetry itself, and her motions so graceful, that it was impossible to behold her, even attached to her humble employment at the wheel, without acknowledging 17 that no art could give what nature had bestowed upon her.

Orlando, who had loved her as a play-fellow while they were both children, now began to feel a more tender and more respectful affection for her; though unconscious himself that it was her beauty that awakened these sentiments. On the last of his holidays, before he entirely left school, the vigilance of Mrs. Lennard was redoubled, and she so contrived to confine Monimia, that their romping was at an end, and they hardly ever saw each other, except by mere chance, at a distance, or now and then at dinner, when Monimia was suffered to dine at table; an honour which she was not always allowed, but which Mrs. Lennard cautiously avoided entirely suspending when Orlando was at the Hall, as there was nothing she seemed to dread so much as alarming Mrs. Rayland with any idea of Orlando’s noticing her niece. This however never happened at that time to occur to the old Lady; not only because Mrs. Lennard took such pains to lead her imagination from any such probability, but because she considered them both as mere children, and Monimia as a servant.

It was however at this time that a trifling incident had nearly awakened such suspicions, and occasioned such displeasure, as it would have been very difficult to have subdued or appeased. Mrs. Rayland had been long confined by a fit of the gout; and the warm weather of Whitsuntide had only just enabled her to walk, leaning on a crutch on one side, and on Mrs. Lennard on the other, in a long gallery which reached the whole length of the south wing, and which was hung with a great number of family pictures.—Mrs. Rayland had peculiar satisfaction in relating the history of the heroes and dames of her family, who were represented 18 by these portraits.—Sir Roger De Coverley never went over the account of his ancestors with more correctness or more delight. Indeed, the reflections of Mrs. Rayland were uninterrupted by any of those little blemishes in the history of her progenitors, that somewhat bewildered the good knight; for she boasted that not one of the Rayland family had ever condescended to degrade himself by trade; and that the marriage of Mrs. Somerive, her aunt, was the only instance in which a daughter of the Raylands had stooped to an inferior alliance.—The little withered figure, bent down with age and infirmity, and the last of a race which she was thus arrogantly boasting—a race which in a few years, perhaps a few months, might be no more remembered—was a ridiculous instance of human folly and human vanity, at which Lennard had sense enough to smile internally, while she affected to listen with interest to stories which she had heard repeated for near forty years. It was in the midst of her attention to an anecdote which generally closed the relation of a speech made by Queen Anne to the last Lady Rayland on her having no son, that a sudden and violent bounce towards the middle of the gallery occasioned an interruption of the story, and equal amazement in the Lady and her confidante; who both turning round, not very nimbly indeed, demanded of Monimia, who had been sitting in one of the old-fashioned bow-windows of which the casement was open, what was the matter?

Monimia, covered with blushes, and in a sort of scuffle to conceal something with her feet, replied, hesitating and trembling, that she did not know.

Mrs. Lennard, who probably guessed the truth, declared loudly that she would immediately find out. But it was not the work of a moment to set 19 her Lady safely on one of the leathern settees, while she herself hastened to the window to discover, if possible, who had from the court below thrown in the something that had thus alarmed them. Before she reached the window, therefore, the court was clear; and Monimia had recovered from her confusion, and went on with her work.

Mrs. Lennard now thought proper to give another turn to the incident. She said, it must have been some accidental noise, from the wainscot’s cracking in dry weather—though I could have sworn at the moment, cried she, that something very hard, like a stone or a stick, had been thrown into the room. However, to be sure, I must have been mistaken, for certainly there is nobody in the court: and really one does recollect hearing in this gallery very odd noises, which, if one was superstitious, might sometimes make one uneasy.—Many of the neighbours some years ago used to say to me, that they wondered I was not afraid of crossing it of a night by myself, when you, Ma’am, used to sleep in the worked bed-chamber, and I lay over the house-keeper’s room. But I used to say, that you had such an under­standing, that I should offend you by shewing any foolish fears; and that all the noble family that owned this house time out of mind, were such honourable persons, that none of them could be supposed likely to walk after their decease, as the spirits of wicked persons are said to do. But, however, they used to answer in reply to that, that some of your ancestors, Ma’am, had hid great sums of money and valuable jewels in this house, to save it from the wicked rebels in the time of the blessed Martyr; and that it was to reveal these treasures that the appearances of spirits had been seen and strange noises heard about the house.

This speech was so exactly calculated to please 20 the Lady to whom it was addressed, that it almost obliterated the recollection of the little alarm she had felt, and blunted the spirit of enquiry, which the twinges of the gout also contributed to diminish; and fortunately the arrival of the apothecary, who was that moment announced, and whose visits were always a matter of importance, left her no longer any time to interrogate Monimia. But Mrs. Lennard, having led her down to her great chair, and seen her safely in conference with her physical friend, returned hastily to the gallery, where Monimia still remained demurely at work; and peremptorily insisted on knowing what it was that had bounced into the room, and struck against the picture of Sir Hildebrand himself; who in armour, and on a white horse whose flanks were overshadowed by his stupendous wig, pranced over the great gilt chimney-piece, just as he appeared at the head of a county association in 1707.

Monimia was a poor dissembler, and had never in her life been guilty of a falsehood. She was as little capable of disguising as of denying the truth; and the menaces of her aunt frightened her into an immediate confession, that it was Mr. Orlando, who passing through the court to go to cricket in the park, had seen her sitting at the window, and, not thinking any harm, had thrown up his ball only in play, to make her jump; but that it had unluckily gone through the window, and hit against the picture.

And what became of it afterwards? angrily demanded Mrs. Lennard.

It bounded, answered the innocent culprit—it bounded across the floor, and I rolled it away with my feet, under the chairs.

And how dared you, exclaimed the aunt, how dared you, artful little hussey, conceal the truth 21 from me? how dared you encourage any such abominable doings?—A pretty thing indeed to have happen!—Suppose the good-for-nothing boy had hit my Lady or me upon the head or breast, as it was a mercy he did not—there would have been a fine story!—Or suppose he had broke the windows, shattered the panes, and cut us with the glass!—or what if he had beat the stained glass of my Lady’s coat of arms, up at top there, all to smash—what d’ye think would have become of you, you worthless little puss! what punishment would have been bad enough for you?

My dear aunt, said the weeping Monimia, how could I help it? I am sure I did not know what Mr. Orlando was going to do; I saw him but a moment before; and you know that, if I had known he intended to throw the ball up, I dared not have spoken to him to have prevented it.

Have spoken to him, indeed?—No I think not; and remember this, girl, that you have come off well this time, and I shan’t say any thing of the matter to my Lady; but if I ever catch you speaking to that wicked boy, or even daring to look at him, I will turn you out of doors that moment—and let this teach you that I am in earnest. Having thus said, she gave the terrified trembling girl a violent blow, or what was in her language a good box on the ear, which forcing her head against the stone window-frame almost stunned her: she then repeated it on the lovely neck of her victim, where the marks of her fingers were to be traced many days afterwards; and flounced out of the room, and, composing herself, went down to give her share of information, as to her lady’s complaint, to the apothecary.

The unhappy Monimia, who had felt ever since her earliest recollection the misery of her situation, 22 was never so sensible of it as at this moment. The work fell from her hands—she laid her head on a marble slab, that was on one side of the bow window, and gave way to an agony of grief.—Her cap had fallen from her head, and her fine hair concealed her face, which resting on her arms was bathed in tears. Sobs, that seemed to rend her heart, were the only expression of sorrow she was able to utter; she heard, she saw nothing—but was suddenly startled by something touching her hand as it hung lifelessly over the table. She looked up—and beheld, with mingled emotions of surprise and fear, Orlando Somerive: who, with tears in his eyes, and in a faultering whisper, conjured her to tell him what was the matter. The threat so recently uttered yet vibrated in her ears—and her terror, lest her aunt should return and find Orlando there, was so great, that, without knowing what she did, she started up and ran towards the door; from whence she would have fled, disordered as she was, down stairs, and through the very room where Mrs. Rayland, her aunt, and the apothecary were in conference, if Orlando, with superior strength and agility, had not thrown himself before her, and, setting his back against the door, insisted upon knowing the cause of her tears before he suffered her to stir.

Gasping for breath, trembling and inarticulately she tried to relate the effects of his indiscretion, and that therefore her aunt had threatened and struck her. Orlando, whose temper was naturally warm, and whose generous spirit revolted from every kind of injustice, felt at once his indignation excited by this act of oppression, and his anger that Mrs. Lennard should arraign him for a childish frolic, and thence take occasion so unworthily to treat an innocent girl; and being too rash to reflect on consequences, 23 he declared that he would go instantly into the parlour, confess to Mrs. Rayland what he had done, and appeal against the tyranny and cruelty of her woman.

It was now the turn of poor Monimia to entreat and implore; and she threw herself half frantic on her knees before him, and besought him rather to kill her, than to expose her to the terrors and distress such a step would inevitably plunge her into. Indeed, dear Orlando, cried she, you would not be heard against my aunt. Mrs. Rayland, if she forgave you, would never forgive me; but I should be immediately turned out of the house with disgrace; and I have no friend, no relation in the world but my aunt, and must beg my bread. But it is not so much that, added she, while sobs broke her utterance, it is not so much that I care for—I am so unfortunate that it does not signify what becomes of me: I can work in the fields, or can go through any hardship; but Mrs. Rayland will be very angry with you, and will not suffer you to come to the Hall again, and I shall—never—never see you any more.

This speech, unguarded and simple as it was, had more effect on Orlando than the most studied eloquence. He took the weeping, trembling Monimia up in his arms, seated her in a chair; and drying her eyes, he besought her to be comforted, and to assure herself, that whatever he might feel, he would do nothing that should give her pain.—Oh! go then, for Heaven’s sake go from hence instantly! replied Monimia.—If my aunt should come to look for me, as it is very likely she will, we should be both undone!

Good God! exclaimed Orlando, why should it be so?—why are we never to meet? and what harm to any one is done by my friendship for you, Monimia?

24

Alas! answered she, every moment more and more apprehensive of the arrival of her aunt, alas! Orlando, I know not; I am sure it was once, before my aunt was so enraged at it, all the comfort I had in the world; but now it is my greatest misery, because I dare not even look at you when I happen to meet you.—Yet I am sure I meant no hurt to any body; nor can it do my cruel aunt any harm, that you pity a poor orphan who has no friend upon earth.

I will, however, replied he warmly, pity and love you too—love you as well as I do any of my sisters—even the sister I love best—and I should hate myself if I did not. But, dear Monimia, tell me, if I cannot see you in the day time, is it possible for you to walk out of an evening, when these old women are in bed?—When I am not at the Hall they would suspect nothing; and I should not mind walking from home, after our people are in bed, to meet you for half an hour any where about these grounds.

Ignorant of the decorum required by the world, and innocent, even to infantine simplicity, as Monimia was, at the age of something more than fourteen, she had that natural rectitude of under­standing, that at once told her these clandestine meetings would be wrong. Ah no, Mr. Orlando! said she sighing, that must not be; for if it should be known——

It cannot, it shall not be known, cried he, eagerly interrupting her.

But it is impossible, my good friend, if it were not wrong; for you remember that to-day is Saturday, and your school begins on Monday.

Curse on the school! I had indeed forgot it.—Well, but promise me then, Monimia, promise me that you will make yourself easy now; and that when I come from school entirely, which I shall do 25 at Christmas, we shall contrive to meet sometimes, and to read together, as we used to do, the Fairy Tales and the Arabian Nights, last year, and the year before.—Will you promise me, Monimia?

Monimia, whose apprehensions every moment increased, and who even fancied she heard the rustle of Mrs. Lennard’s gown upon the private stair-case that led down from the gallery, was ready to promise any thing.—Oh! yes, yes, Orlando!—I promise—do but go now, and we shall not perhaps be so unhappy: my aunt may not be so very ill-humoured when you come home again.

And say you will not cry any more now!

I will not, indeed I will not—but for God’s sake go!—I’m sure I hear somebody.

There is nobody indeed; but I will go, to make you easy.—He then, trembling as much as she did, hastily kissed the hand he held; and gliding on tiptoe to the other end of the gallery, went through the apartments that led down the great stair-case, and taking a circuit round another part of the house, entered the room where Mrs. Rayland was sitting, as if he had been just come from cricket in the park.

He had not left the gallery a moment before Mrs. Lennard came to look for Monimia, whom she found in greater agitation than she had left her, and still drowned in tears. She again began in the severest terms to reprove her; and as the sobs and sighs of the suffering girl deprived her of the power of answering her invectives, she violently seized her arm; and, dragging rather than leading her to her own room, she bade her instantly undress and go to bed—that you may not, said she, expose your odious blubbered face.

Poor Monimia was extremely willing to obey.—She sat down and began to undress, listening as 26 patiently as she could to the violent scolding which her indefatigable aunt still kept up against her; who having at length exhausted her breath, bounced out and locked the door.

Monimia, then left alone, again began to indulge her tears; but her room was in a turret over a sort of lumber-room, where the game-keeper kept his nets and his rods, and where Orlando used to deposit his bow, his cricket-bats, and other instruments of sport, with which he was indulged with playing in the park. She now heard him come in, with one of the servants; for such an effect had his voice, that she could distin­guish it amid a thousand others, and when it did not seem to be audible to any one else.—Though she could not now distin­guish the words, she heard him discoursing as if he seemed to be bidding the place farewell for that time. She got upon a chair (for the long narrow window was so far from the ground that she could not see through it as she stood); and she perceived Orlando cross the park on foot, and slowly and reluctantly walk towards that part of it that was next to his father’s house. She continued to look at him till a wood, through which he had to pass, concealed him from her view. She then retired to her bed, and shed tears. Orlando left his home the next day, for his last half-year at the school (having that evening taken leave of Mrs. Rayland); and it was six months before Monimia saw him again.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter II

the dramatic and uncommon name of Monimia
[Title character of Thomas Otway’s 1680 play The Orphan. It must still have been somewhat familiar in the following century, even if only remembered in some quarters as “a very hateful play”.]

will not suffer you to come to the Hall again, and I shall—never—never see you any more
[Make sense, Monimia. If you are “turned out of the house” then it doesn’t matter if Orlando is or is not allowed to visit the Hall; you’d never see him again either way.]

his last half-year at the school
[Orlando’s school has a very peculiar calendar. Earlier, he said he would be home for good at Christmas. Why is he leaving just when the Long Vacation should be starting?]


In an old Manor House in one of the most southern counties of England


However trifling the incident was

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.