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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XXII.

Selina, as timid, and almost as new to the world as Monimia herself, was too much terrified at the risk Orlando ran, and at what she herself hazarded, to be soon composed. She could hardly, indeed, have been in greater trepidation had she escaped from the company to have met a lover of her own. Her eyes, however, were occupied in examining the face and figure of Monimia; and no feminine envy induced her to deny the existence of that beauty or sweetness of which Orlando had said so much. She even thought Monimia more lovely than her brother had described her, yet she saw her to little advantage; for, the alarming situation she had been 267 in for almost an hour and a half, the apprehension lest Orlando should not come, the reflections which arose while she waited for him, and the emotion with which she now for the first time beheld his sister, had robbed her fair cheeks of their tender bloom; her eyes were swollen, and her voice was faultering and faint. Orlando seated her near Selina, and, sitting down by them, threw one arm round each of them: and, looking with a smile on both, said, Why, what silent girls you are! Selina! is it thus you greet your new friend? You who will talk to me of her for an hour, and never ceased soliciting of me to contrive this unhoped-for meeting? And you Monimia! Come, come, I must have you more conversable. Let us consider, my dear girls, how you may meet hereafter; for, without accom­plishing that, the present meeting will only serve to tantalize us all.

The tears, which she had for a moment restrained, again filled the eyes of Monimia. But, turning them tenderly on Orlando, she sighing said, Ah! how can I hope your sister Selina, amiable and indulgent as she seems, will again incur, for me, hazard which I see now makes her tremble, and fears which I myself can hardly endure? Indeed, Orlando, if you did but know what I have suffered since I waited here in expectation of your coming!—I know it, cried Orlando, imagining she alluded to his father’s having been at the door of the study—But luckily you had taken the precaution to lock the door; which I, little suspecting that this part of the house would be visited, had neglected to desire. So, as my father neither saw nor suspected any thing but that my brother was in this room, there is no harm done, nor any thing to fear.

Monimia sighed, but thought it was improper, before Selina, to repeat the dialogue that she had 268 heard between Mr. Philip Somerive and his female companion. She was far, however, from believing there was nothing to fear; and their short conference was to her embittered with the dread of a discovery, which she could not conquer. Selina, trusting to the judgment of her brother, and desirous of obliging him, succeeded better in conquering the restraint she had at first felt; and, charmed with the voice, the manner and person of Monimia, she eagerly entered into his views, and talked over the means by which they might sometimes meet, if, as was too probable, invincible obstacles continued to be opposed to their seeing each other by the consent of Mr. and Mrs. Somerive—that of Mrs. Rayland could not be asked, and that of Mrs. Lennard they were sure would not be granted.

In this conversation Orlando spoke of what was to happen when he was gone, in terms that signified how certain he was that he should go. Monimia’s heart sunk as he repeated, When I am not here, I cannot see that there can be any objection to your openly seeing my sisters.—Alas! thought she, what wretched company shall we then be to each other! yet to see the sisters of Orlando will always be a comfort to me. Selina too heard with extreme pain the frequent mention he made of his departure; and having, from many observations she had made on the behaviour of General Tracy, during his residence of almost five weeks in her father’s house, conceived a very unfavourable opinion of him—her dislike amounted almost to detestation when she considered him as being the principal mover of the plan which was thus to rob her of her beloved brother. Whatever she thought of his conduct in other respects, she had the prudence to keep to herself, and affected to dislike him only on account of Orlando.

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Among the various little schemes which were considered for the future acquaintance of Selina and Monimia, none seemed sufficiently safe to be adopted without farther consideration; but Orlando promised to think of them all, and to acquaint them both with the result of his reflections. It was by this time necessary to part—Orlando proposed leading his sister back to the room, and carrying her immediately to his mother, to tell her that she had been in his apartment, that any surprize excited by her absence might be ended without farther enquiry; while Monimia hoped to find her way back to her own room, as safely as she had before traversed the house in her way from it.

They were then reluctantly bidding adieu, when they were thunderstruck by an attempt from without to force open the door. Orlando, thrown for a moment entirely off his guard, turned pale; and casting towards Monimia a look of anguish and terror, he cried, Who can it be? what shall we do?—The tender timid Monimia had at this instant more presence of mind than he had: Let me go, said she, into your bed-chamber—there I can lock myself in: then ask who it is; and, if it is one who has a right to enquire into your actions, open the door, and let him see you are sitting here with your sister. There was not a moment to deliberate, for the person without still tried to open the door. Orlando waved his hand to Monimia to execute her project:—she glided away, and shut after her the door, which was hung on both sides with tapestry and shut without noise, while Orlando demanded, in a loud and angry voice, who was at the door, and what was their business? At first a feigned voice answered, Open the door, good friends, and you shall know our business. Orlando answered, I shall not open it till I know to whom;—and then a violent 270 burst of laughter discovered it to be Philip—who cried, Soho! have I caught you, Sir Rowland? Is this my good, pious and immaculate brother? What folly is this! said Orlando angrily as he opened the door—and is it not strange that I can not sit a moment in my own room with Selina, but you must break in upon us like a drunken constable? Gently, Sir Knight! answered Philip Somerive as he staggered into the room—fair and softly, if you please! no hard words to your elders, most valorous chevalier!—Selina is it?—By this light so it is! Well—I did not think, my good brother, you were so eager to put off your precious bargain upon me, only for the pleasure of a tête-a-tête with our little simple Selina. I thought you had very different game in view—Egad, I’m not clear now that I have been mistaken—Heh, child! added he turning to Selina, are you very sure you are not a blind? why, my dear little whey face, what makes you look so pale?

Your strange behaviour, brother, said Selina, who tried to collect spirit enough to speak without betraying the agitation she was thrown into. Come, come, child! replied he, lectured as I am on all hands, I shall not let babes and sucklings preach to me. Your mamma, miss, won’t be very well pleased, I can tell you, if she does not find you with the other misses; they are just going away, I believe. The old woman is gone up to her apartment, and the misses are ordered off. There’s the General, like my mother’s gentleman-usher, hunting the fair bevy together, and there will be a hue and cry after you in a moment.—Very well! answered Selina; Mamma will not be angry when she knows I am only with Orlando. And I, said Orlando, shall take care of her back; therefore you need not, Philip, be under any concern about her.

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Well, then, cried this tormentor, as I am cursed tired, my dear knight, and have got a devilish head ach, prithee, when thou art gone, lend me thy apartment for half an hour’s quiet. I’ve promised George Green and half a dozen more of them, to meet them by and by in Pattenson’s room, and make out the night according to good old custom; and if I get a nap while the sober party, the cats and the kittens, are trundling off, I shall escape all the plaguy formality of—Wish you good night, dear ma’am!—hope you’ll catch no cold!—shall be glad to hear you got home safe!—most agreeable evening indeed!—wish we may meet here this time twelvemonth!—and such mawkish cant; and I shall be as fresh as morning to meet the good fellows by and by—So, come, Sir Rowly, lend me your bed for a little. I’ll send in pretty Betty, added he leering, to make it for you before you come to bed.

Orlando, fearing, from this strange proposal, his brother was aware how impossible it was for him to grant it, now looked more confused than ever, and said very peevishly, You are so drunk now, Philip, that it will be much wiser and more decent for you to go home directly—I at least will have nothing to do with your stay. Come, Selina, let us go—Philip, I will follow you.

No, indeed you will not! replied he, sitting himself down by the fire. If you won’t lend me your bed, you will at least let me have a chair.

I will leave nobody in my room, said Orlando warmly.

What! hast got any bank-notes? has thy old woman given thee a little hoard? Egad she has!—I’ve a good mind to rummage, that I may know what brotherly help thou couldst give in case of a bad run.

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This is insupportable! cried Orlando:—What shall I do with him? whispered he to Selina. Poor Selina, unable to advise, was in as great consternation as the half distracted Orlando, who walked about the room a moment, considering by what means he could disengage himself from this troublesome visitor; but unable to think of any, he was beginning, in mere despair, to expostulate with him anew, when the approach of other persons was heard in the parlour; and Mr. Somerive himself, apparently in great displeasure, entered the Library.

Orlando! cried he, Philip! Selina! what is all this? to what purpose are ye all here?—Selina! your mother is much amazed at your absence.

Orlando, then collecting his scattered thoughts, related, that he had merely brought Selina thither for a few moments to shew her his apartments, which she had never seen; and that while they were sitting quietly together, Philip, whose situation, Sir, you see, said he, came in, and I could not prevail upon him to leave us, or to suffer us to return altogether to the company.

Mr. Somerive, now speaking with an air of authority and concern to his eldest son, received only an account of his request to Orlando, which, he insisted upon it, was a very reasonable one. You are indeed, said his father, fit only to go to bed; but it must not be in Mrs. Rayland’s house—you must come, Sir, with me.

Young Somerive then arose to obey; for his father, when he was present, and had resolution to be peremptory, still retained some power over him. He staggered however so much that he was unable to proceed. Mr. Somerive bade Orlando assist him, which he was willing enough to do; but as Philip leaned upon him he whispered, Sir 273 Knight! if I can give the reverend senior the slip, I will still have my nap, and finish the evening with those joyous souls; d—me if I don’t!

This threat terrified Orlando more than ever; he knew how likely it was to be executed; and therefore, in the hope that he might be able presently to return and release Monimia, whose longer absence from her room might be attended with the most alarming consequences, he hastily determined to lock the study door, and thus convince his brother that his scheme of returning thither, to which he saw he adhered either with the stupid obstinacy of intoxication, or disguising, under its appearance, knowledge more destructive, was impracticable. He therefore, as soon as they were all out of the room, locked the door, and, saying aloud he had done so, he proceeded before his father, with a candle in his hand, to the apartment where Mrs. Rayland, much fatigued with the exertions of the evening, was taking leave of her guests. Philip, who seemed by no means in a condition to appear before her, had been consigned, in the way, to the care of one of the men-servants, who had seated him by the fire in a passage parlour, where he was in a few moments fast asleep.

Mrs. Somerive, to whom Selina’s absence was easily accounted for, gently chid her for not saying whither she was going; and the long ceremonies of good night on all hands being at length over, Orlando handed to her coach the nymph whom he had, in her opinion, so ungallantly forsaken. He found her so much hurt at being made over to his brother, who probably had not acquitted himself to her satisfaction, that he found it necessary to apologize, at which however he was extremely awkward, assuring her, with much hesitation, that 274 he was not aware that she would so soon quit the dancing-room, and that he flattered himself with the expectation of being honoured with her hand in a dance, where he could acquit himself in a manner more worthy so excellent a partner.

The Lady received his excuses with coldness and disdain; but the Doctor, who heard, seemed more willing to accept them in good part. I never suspected, Sir, cried the consequential Divine, that, with your under­standing, you could fail to appreciate the Lady whose hand you held—It is not the fond partiality of the father, but common candour, which leads me to say, that of equals she has few in merit, superiors none. I hope we shall meet here again, Mr. Orlando; and that we shall see you, with good Mr. and Mrs. Somerive, and their fine family, at Combe Park. Good Mrs. Rayland, I heartily hope, that most worthy lady, who bears her years surprisingly well, will be able, before the winter’s rigorous advances lay an embargo on valetudi­narians; I say, I hope my excellent old friend will fix on some day to grace our poor abode, and sacrifice with us to the hospitable deities.

Orlando bowed his assent to a speech which he began to fear would last all night.—No effort of his, however, could have stopped the stream of the Doctor’s eloquence, when once it began to flow; but fortunately Mrs. Holly­bourn found it cold, and said peevishly, Dear Doctor! you keep Ann in a thorough air—Pray consider—she has been dancing, and I tremble for the effects of such a current of air——

Blessings on your care! thought Orlando, who was in the most extreme uneasiness all this time, lest Monimia, who he knew could not escape from his room, should be missed in her own. The 275 parade, however, that was yet made before this family were seated in their carriage, took up several minutes more; and even when Orlando had at length the satisfaction to see them driven from the door, he was compelled to attend to the disposal of his father, his mother, his four sisters, and the General, who could not for some time settle how they should return—the General being solicitous to take two of the young ladies in his post chaise, to which Mrs. Somerive very peremptorily objected, to the amazement of her husband, who, not having the least idea of her motives, cried, Bless me, my dear; it will be better surely to put any two of the girls under the care of General Tracy, than to crowd him with me and Philip, who, if we can find him, is not I fear, in a state to travel without incommoding his companions.—Well, then, replied Mrs. Somerive, frightened at having said more than she intended, I will have the pleasure of going in the General’s carriage, and Emma can sit between us without inconvenience. In this arrangement the General was obliged to acquiesce, and even to appear pleased with it, though it baffled the schemes he had been laying the whole evening. This second carriage then departed; and now Orlando, who could well have left his sisters in the care of his father, would have flown to his imprisoned Monimia—But a new difficulty arose: his brother, for whom search had been making, as well in the room where he had been left sleeping, as in every other part of the house that had been opened for company, was no where to be found.

The Somerive family had all taken their leave of Mrs. Rayland, and waited in a parlour near the hall. Mr. Somerive now expressed great alarm at the ill success of those inquiries that had been made 276 after his eldest son. Perhaps, Sir, said Orlando—perhaps my brother, finding himself, when he awoke, unfit to appear, is gone home on foot. Orlando had indeed very different conjectures; and, in the whole tenor of his behaviour that evening, found reason to fear that he had but too positive information relative to Monimia, and was determined to detect her. This apprehension, and the dread of her being missed by her aunt, who would in all probability visit her room as soon as the company were dispersed, gave to Orlando’s manner such wildness and confusion as increased the distress of his father. Orlando repeated, I am persuaded, Sir, Philip is gone home—I dare say you may yourself return quite easy.

Are you so easy yourself then? answered Mr. Somerive—I think not, Orlando, from your countenance. Even admitting that my son has walked homeward, and will not commit any impropriety which shall expose him, or injure him in the opinion of Mrs. Rayland, is there nothing to fear for the safety of a man who has such a road to travel, in such a state?

Let me, Sir, go then, and seek for him on that road; and do you, I entreat you, return home and make yourself easy. A longer delay will not only alarm my mother, but occasion enquiries on the part of Mrs. Rayland, who will probably hear of it by her servants;—nor can it indeed answer any purpose, since every search that can be made has already been made within the house.

Have you the key of your own apartment?

I have, Sir, replied Orlando, trembling lest his father was about to ask for it. I locked the door of the Study when we all left it together.

He cannot therefore be there, said Mr. Somerive, musing—I cannot conjecture where he can be!

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Pray, Sir, cried Orlando, pray be composed, and suffer me to go the park-way homeward—I am persuaded my brother is safe.

He does not indeed, said Mr. Somerive with a deep sigh—he does not deserve the solicitude I feel for him. Orlando, on you I depend for finding and conducting him home.

Orlando solemnly assured his father and his sisters that he would do so; and as their remaining longer at the Hall contributed nothing towards relieving their uneasiness, they at length determined to go.

When they were gone, Orlando hoped that the alarms of the night were over, and that Mrs. Lennard, as the tenants and all the servants were still dancing in the hall, would not have time to think of the usual ceremony of locking Monimia’s door at ten o’clock. It was now however twelve.

With a palpitating heart then he went to find her. She was still locked in his bed-chamber, where, half distracted by fears of every kind, she had had sufficient time to reflect on all the hazards she incurred by these clandestine meetings with Orlando; and sometimes determined, if she escaped detection this time, never to be prevailed upon to venture it again.—Then the sad recollection, that he would soon cease to ask it, and that, if she did not meet him thus, she must relinquish the pleasure of ever speaking to him at all, shook the resolution which fear and prudence united to produce; and she almost wished, dreadful as it would at the moment be, that a discovery might compel them to the expedient Orlando once named—that of their flying together, and trusting to Providence for the rest.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXII

Selina . . . was too much terrified
[Selina and Monimia should get along like a house afire. They can compare the benefits and side effects of the various medications they have tried.]

Orlando proposed leading his sister back to the room
text has leaded
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]

his father, his mother, his four sisters, and the General
[Perhaps Charlotte Smith simply couldn’t count above two, and had to pick numbers at random.]


At length Mrs. Rayland was seated


Orlando found Monimia alarmed and dejected

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.