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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XX.

Monimia, secure of the tenderest affection of her lover, bore, without more repining, the little hardships to which her situation exposed her:—but her mind looked forward, in mournful anticipation, to the time when she should no longer hear that soothing voice lending her courage against every transient evil; no longer receive continual assurances of the ardour and generosity of his attachment; and find in his disinterested love, his attentive friendship, sufficient consolation, against her uncertain or uneasy destiny.

To obey him, was the first wish of her life; she therefore endeavoured to drive from her mind the melancholy reflections that prevented her repose, and put off the finishing her work till the next day. As soon as it glimmered through her casement, she arose to her task; which having soon 241 finished, she awaited with a lightened heart the other orders of her aunt.

The whole house was in a bustle—and Mrs. Rayland was not only in unusual health, but as anxious for the splendour and excellence of the entertainment, as if she had a deeper design than merely to outshine the newer elegancies of Carloraine Castle. All the operations of Mrs. Lennard and her attendants succeeded happily. By half after two all the guests were assembled: by half after three all the tables groaned under the weight of venison and beef. About seventy people were assembled in the hall. In the dining parlour the party consisted of General Tracy, who was placed at Mrs. Rayland’s right hand; on her left Mrs. Holly­bourn, the wife of the archdeacon of that district, a lady of a most precise, and indeed formidable demeanour: opposite to her, and next to Mrs. Somerive, sat the Doctor himself, a dignified clergyman, of profound erudition, very severe morals, and very formal manners; who was the most orthodox of men, never spoke but in sentences equally learned and indisputable, and held almost all the rest of the world in as low estimation as he considered highly his own family, and above all himself.

Between her mother and Mr. Somerive, on the other side, was placed their only daughter and heiress, Miss Ann-Jane-Eliza Holly­bourn, who, equally resembling her father and her mother, was the pride and delight of both: possessing something of each of their personal perfections, she was considered by them a model of loveliness; and her mind was adorned with all that money could purchase. The wainscot complexion of her Mamma was set off by the yellow eyebrows and hair of the Doctor. His little pug nose divested 242 of its mulberry hue, which, on the countenance of his daughter, was pronounced to be le petit nez retroussé, united with the thin lips drawn up to make a little mouth, which were peculiar to his ’better half,’ as he facetiously called his wife. The worthy archdeacon’s short legs detracted less from the height of his amiable daughter, as she had the long waist of her mother, fine sugar-loaf shoulders that were pronounced to be extremely genteel, and a head which looked as if the back of it had by some accident been flattened, since it formed a perpendicular line with her back. To dignify with mental acquirements this epitome of human loveliness, all that education could do had been lavished; masters for drawing, painting, music, French, and dancing, had been assembled around her as soon as she could speak; she learned Latin from her father at a very early period, and could read any easy sentence in Greek; was learned in astronomy, knew something of the mathematics, and, in relief of these more abstruse studies, read Italian and Spanish. Having never heard any thing but her own praises, she really believed herself a miracle of knowledge and accom­plishments; and it must be owned, that an audience less partial than those before whom she generally performed, might have allowed that she performed very long concertos, and solos without end, with infinite correctness, and much execution. Then she made most inveterate likenesses of many of her acquaintance; and painted landscapes, where very green trees were reflected in very blue water. Her French was most grammatically correct, though the accent was somewhat defective; and she knew all manner of history—could tell the dates of the most execrable actions of the most execrable of human beings—and never had occasion to consult, 243 so happy was her memory, Trusler’s Chronology. As it was believed, so it was asserted by the Doctor and his wife, that their daughter was the most accom­plished woman of her age and country; and by most of their acquaintance it was taken for granted. The gentlemen, however, whom all these elegancies were probably designed to attract, seemed by no means struck with them; some of them, who had approached her on the suggestion of her being an heiress, had declared that her fortune made no amends for her want of beauty; and others had been alarmed by the acquisitions which went so much beyond those they had made themselves. Thus, at six-and-twenty (though the lady and her parents, for some reasons of their own, called her no more than twenty-two), Miss Holly­bourn was yet unmarried; for, of those lovers who had offered, some had been rejected by the Doctor, and some by herself. She affected a great indifference, and talked of the pleasures of pursuing knowledge in an elegant retirement. But it was observed, that whenever any young men of present fortune, or of future expectation, were in the country, Dr. Holly­bourn’s family returned the visits of the ladies to whom these gentlemen belonged, with unusual punctuality.

While they were in this part of the world, they always dined once or twice at Rayland Hall, where the Doctor was well received as a most pious worthy man, his Lady as a very good kind of woman, and Miss as a mighty pretty sort of a young person. Of late the whole family had risen into higher favour; for the Doctor was the only clergyman in the country around who had resisted the good entertainment so profusely given at Carloraine Castle, and had refused to visit a man who kept a mistress. He had even gone farther, and preached a sermon 244 which all his congregation said pointed immediately at Mr. Stockton; but as Mr. Stockton did not hear it, and having heard it would not have cared for it, the reproof only edified his hearers, and raised the Doctor in the esteem of the Lady of the Hall.

The lower part of the table was filled by the four Miss Somerives and their two brothers; Orlando, at the request of Mrs. Rayland, taking his seat at the bottom.

The plenty and excellence of the table, which was furnished almost entirely from the park, farm, warren, gardens, and ponds of Rayland Hall, were highly commended by the guests, and by none with more zeal than the General and the Doctor, who vied with each other in applying that sort of flattery of which their venerable hostess was most susceptible. The General spoke in terms of the highest respect of her ancient family, and of the figure made in history by the name of Rayland. The Doctor, while he did justice to the excellent dishes before him, launched out in very sincere praise of the domain which produced them: the beautiful park which, he averred, fed the very best venison in the country; the woods abounding in game; the extensive ponds, whose living streams contained all manner of fish; the rich meadows below, that fatted such exquisite beef; the fine sheep walks on the downs above, which sent to table mutton that rivalled the Welsh mutton itself!—then, such gardens for fruit! such convenient poultry yards!—Mrs. Rayland, who loved to hear her place praised, could have listened to such eulogiums for ever; and seemed totally to have forgotten that, according to the course of nature, she should be mistress of these good things but a very little time longer, and that, when a little space in the chancel of the adjoining church would be all 245 she could occupy, they must pass into the possession of another.

Who that other was to be, appeared an enquiry which the Doctor had much at heart. From some late circumstances he had reason to suppose that Orlando would be the fortunate possessor of all the excellent accommo­dations which impressed him with so much veneration:—but he now saw the elder brother again received, and when he considered the advantages which primogeniture might give him in the mind of Mrs. Rayland, he doubted to which of the Somerives it would be politic to pay court.

Some ideas were floating in his mind, that whichever of these young men became master of Rayland Hall, could not fail to be a very proper match for the most accom­plished Miss Holly­bourn. It was certain that he had always reckoned upon a title for her; but such a deficiency might easily be made up by the successor to such a fortune. What so easy as to change a name by the King’s most gracious license? and to renew the old title of Baronet, which had been so long in the family?—Sir Philip Rayland! Sir Orlando Rayland! either sounded extremely well. Both were very well looking young men, and the youngest remarkably handsome. The more the Doctor considered this project, the more feasible it appeared; and he now began to study the chances, which he thought he could do from Mrs. Rayland’s behaviour.

A very little observation determined him in favour of Orlando. He saw that Mrs. Rayland seemed to look upon him as her son, while towards his brother her manners were cold and stately. When dinner was over, the gentlemen, after a short stay over their wine, followed the ladies to another apartment. General Tracy was, at the desire of 246 Mrs. Rayland, shewn into the gallery of portraits by Orlando—and the young ladies, at the request of Miss Holly­bourn, who had never seen all the pictures in the house, were permitted by their mother to be of the party; while Philip Somerive, who went out under pretence of accompanying them, slipped away as soon as he left the drawing-room, and went after his own imagination.

It was now dark, and these portraits were to be shewn by candle-light to General Tracy, who cared not a straw if the whole race of Raylands had been swept from the memory of mankind; though he had, partly by guess, and partly from recollection, been incessantly talking to Mrs. Rayland about the glory of her ancestors. By this he perceived he had made a very unexpected progress in her favour; which he would by no means forfeit by shewing any indifference to her proposal of visiting the repre­sentations of the eminent men in whose praise he had been so eloquent. But a much stronger inducement was his hope to find an opportunity of speaking to Isabella, while he pretended to contemplate with admiration the picture of her great grandfather.

But this hope was rendered abortive by the presence of Miss Holly­bourn, who leaning on Isabella’s arm, continued to question Orlando as to the history of every portrait, and then made her remarks upon it—sometimes addressing herself to the General, and sometimes to Orlando, who were equally weary of her, and who would both have given the world for her absence; for Orlando dreaded her detaining him beyond the time that he had fixed for the meeting between his sister Selina and Monimia; and the General detested her for being in the way when he fancied he could otherwise, by some means or other, have enjoyed that notice from Isabella which 247 he found it so very difficult to obtain in the house of Mr. Somerive; where, since he had spoke more plainly to her of his passion, she had not only shunned him, but had assured him that she would repeat his conversation to her father. Twice, therefore, he had been forced to apologize, and turn off his profes­sions as a joke, because he could never find her long enough alone to allow of his using those arguments that he thought must be successful; and he had been eagerly solicitous to accept the invitation from Mrs. Rayland, because he hoped that in such a great house, in a day of universal festivity, such an opportunity would be found.

Miss Hollybourn, having sufficiently shewn her knowledge both in painting and history, and imagining her auditors were amazed and edified by both, requested to know if the house did not furnish many other portraits of remarkable persons, or pictures by eminent hands. Orlando answered coldly, that there were some in other parts of the house, but none particularly worthy her attention. She desired, however, he would have the goodness to shew her round that suit of rooms. It was the side of the house formerly set apart for company, but now was very rarely inhabited. The furniture was rich, but old fashioned:—the beds were of cut velvet or damask, with high testers, some of them with gilt cornices:—the chairs were worked, or of coloured velvets, fringed with silk and gold, and had gilt feet:—fine japanned cabinets, beautiful pieces of china, large glasses, and some valuable pictures, were to be seen in every room, which, though now so rarely inhabited were kept in great order; and the oak floors were so nicely waxed, that to move upon them was more like skating than walking.

Miss Hollybourn had something to say on every 248 object she beheld. One bespoke the grandeur, another the taste, a third the antiquity of the family who were owners of the mansion; but still, among all this common-place declamation, it was easy to see that the most amiable moveable in it at present was, in her opinion, the handsome, interesting Orlando.

General Tracy, accustomed to study the fair, perceived this immediately. He perceived too, that Orlando disliked her as much as she seemed charmed with him, and that therefore this rich heiress would not be the means of preventing the plan they had in agitation from taking effect. He therefore ventured to say to him, when he had an opportunity as they descended the great stair-case—You are a fortunate man, Sir!

Fortunate, Sir! said Orlando, who had nothing in his head but his intended meeting with Monimia—How do you mean fortunate?

Nay, replied the General, most young men would, I believe, think it fortunate to be so highly approved of by such a young lady!

What lady, Sir! cried Orlando, in increased alarm, and still thinking of Monimia.

Miss Hollybourn, replied the General—the accomplished Miss Holly­bourn.

Miss Hollybourn! exclaimed Orlando with a contemptuous look; yet recollecting that he had no right to despise her whether the General’s conjecture was just or not, he added, The approbation of such a young lady is certainly what I neither desire nor deserve.

This passed as they waited on the stair-case, while Miss Holly­bourn explained to the two Miss Somerives the Loves of Cupid and Psyche, which were painted on the wall; though the picture was so little illuminated by the two wax-candles, carried by 249 Orlando and a servant, that nothing but her passion to display her universal knowledge, could have induced her to attempt clearing up the obscurity in which the wavering and unequal light involved a story not very clearly told by the painter. At length the dissertation finished; and the whole party returned to the drawing-room, where they found the good Doctor had supported the conversation during their absence. In about half an hour afterwards Mr. Pattenson came in great form to announce that the tenants were assembled in the hall, and requested to know if their Lady was well enough to oblige them with her presence during their first dance. This was the established etiquette. Mrs. Rayland answered, that she would be there; and then addressing herself to her company, she said, That it had always been her custom in the time of Sir Hildebrand, her father, to lead down, with her dear deceased sisters, the first dance at the tenants’ feast; that the custom had been long since laid aside; but if any of the friends whom I have now the pleasure of seeing assembled, will condescend to go down a dance with the tenantry and domestics——

The General and the Doctor eagerly interrupted her—

I am not a dancing man, Madam, cried the General: I never was fond of dancing. How much I now, in looking at that beautiful group of young ladies, have cause to regret it! and much I shall envy the young men, who no doubt will take advantage of such an opportunity.

I, Madam, cried the Doctor, quitting his seat and waddling to her, am neither by nature or profession a dancing man; but to shew you how much I honour so excellent a custom, there is my substitute (pointing to his daughter), and I will venture to say that few men ever boasted a better.

250

Mrs. Rayland, then looking round the room, said, Mr. Orlando Somerive, you will have the honour of beginning the dance with Miss Holly­bourn.

Orlando, who would have heard of an impending earthquake with as much pleasure, hesitated, and said, My brother, Madam—my brother has a superior claim to that happiness.

No, no, child! cried Mrs. Rayland; not at all—you are, as it were, at home here, and therefore I will have you begin. Besides, I don’t see your brother:—when he returns, he may take your eldest sister; and the two youngest ladies may dance together, for I suppose you will all choose to dance.

Mrs. Somerive assented for her daughters, and said, Perhaps, Madam, Philip is already below.

However that may be, replied Mrs. Rayland coldly, it is quite time to begin; the people are, no doubt, impatient. Therefore, if you General Tracy, and you Dr. Holly­bourn, and you Mr. Somerive will have the kindness to see the ladies to the hall, my people will help me thither in a few moments.

The man of war, and the man of peace, now declared how happy they should esteem themselves to be permitted the honour of being her attendants; but she told them, only Pattenson and Lennard had been used to it, and again desired they would conduct the other ladies. The General, under the cruel necessity of offering his hand to Mrs. Somerive, or Mrs. Holly­bourn, cast a wistful look towards Isabella, and took the hand of the latter on seeing Mrs. Somerive conducted by the Doctor; while Orlando, with a heavy heart, led Miss Holly­bourn, and his sisters followed. It was now within a quarter of an hour of the time that he had hoped to meet his Monimia; and he saw himself tied down 251 to an engagement from which he feared there was little hope of escaping in time. Philip, to whom he most earnestly wished to transfer the little coveted honour designed him by his partner, appeared not; and poor Orlando stood awaiting his arrival at the head of fifteen or sixteen couple who were going to dance, execrating his ill fortune, which seemed to have brought this odious heiress on purpose to disap­point him of the exquisite pleasure with which he had on this night fondly flattered himself—that of forming a lasting and tender friendship between the sister he so fondly loved, and his adored Monimia.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XX

she learned Latin from her father at a very early period, and could read any easy sentence in Greek; was learned in astronomy, knew something of the mathematics, and, in relief of these more abstruse studies, read Italian and Spanish
[Whoa there, Charlotte. Slow your roll. If your object is to make me sneer at Miss Holly­bourn, you’re going about it the wrong way.]

no more than twenty-two)
[Missing close-parenthesis supplied from 2nd edition.]

the four Miss Somerives and their two brothers
[Has the author forgotten that Philippa got married and moved to Ireland? That leaves only Isabella, Selina—explicitly identified in Chapter VIII as the third—and Emma—explicitly identified in Chapter XIII as the youngest. In fact it is surprising to see Emma here at all, since she is only thirteen or so. No matter how you slice it, the Somerives are all collected around the bottom (“foot” is the more tactful term) of the table:

Mrs. Rayland
General Tracy
Dr Hollybourn
Mrs Somerive
[young Somerive]
[young Somerive]
    Mrs Hollybourn
Miss Hollybourn
Mr Somerive
[young Somerive]
[young Somerive]
Orlando ]

the picture of [Isabella’s] great grandfather
[We noticed in Chapter XVIII that the author seems to have forgotten one Somerive generation, after all the trouble she went to in Chapter I explaining the genealogy. Here, again, she probably means Isabella’s great-great-grandfather, Sir Orlando Rayland, whose daughter married a Somerive.]

to shew her round that suit of rooms
text unchanged
[2nd edition has the same spelling.]

Miss Hollybourn explained to the two Miss Somerives
[Inquiring minds want to know: Which two?]

he may take your eldest sister; and the two youngest ladies may dance together
[Whew. Charlotte has finally counted Somerive sisters and arrived at the correct total.]

the people are, no doubt, impatient
text has on doubt
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]

poor Orlando stood awaiting his arrival
text has arival


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


At length Mrs. Rayland was seated

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.