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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XXIV.

Instead of the reproaches Orlando expected to hear, Mrs. Rayland received him, if not with so much cordial kindness as usual, at least without any appearance of anger. After the usual compliments on his part, and some enquiries on hers, whether all those who were immediately her guests had gone as soon as they left her, Mrs. Lennard withdrew, and Orlando was left alone with the old Lady, and again trembled lest some remonstrances were to be made; for his mind was so entirely occupied by that subject that he forgot it was possible for the attention of others to be differently engaged.

His apprehensions increased, when Mrs. Rayland, after a solemn silence, thus began:

I believe, Mr. Orlando, I have given you abundant proof that I esteem you above the rest of my kinsman’s family.

Orlando bowed, and would have said that he was sensible of and grateful for her kindness; he could make nothing of the sentence—but blushed, and faltered while Mrs. Rayland went on.

Your father has once or twice proposed sending 290 you out into the world, and has consulted me upon the occasion. I suppose you are not unacquainted with the plan he has lately thought proper to propose for you.

Orlando, relieved by hearing that her discourse did not tend whither he feared it would, said that he knew General Tracy had offered his father to procure him a commission; an offer, Madam, continued he, of which I waited to hear your opinion before I myself ventured to form any wishes upon the subject.

This was carrying his complaisance farther than he had ever yet done. But, confused and apprehensive as he was, he said any thing which might turn the discourse from what he most dreaded, without having his mind enough at liberty to enquire rigorously into the truth or propriety of what he uttered; and even the independent spirit he had always prided himself on supporting, was lost amid his fears for Monimia.

Mrs. Rayland looked at him steadily for a moment—

You are ready then, said she, to follow any line of life, Orlando, which your friends approve?

I am, Madam! and always have been.

And you do not dislike the army?

Very far from it, Madam.

I have been accustomed from my youth, reassumed the old Lady after another pause, to consider the profession of arms as one of those which is the least derogatory to the name of a gentleman.

It is honourable, Madam, to any name.

My grandfather, continued Mrs. Rayland, after whom you were by the permission of our family called—my grandfather, I say, Sir Orlando Rayland, appeared with distin­guished honour in the service of his master in 1685, against the rebel 291 Monmouth, though not of the religion of King James. My father Sir Hildebrand distin­guished himself under Marlborough, when he was a younger brother, and saw much service in Flanders. Of remoter ancestors, I could tell you of Raylands who bled in the civil wars; we were always Lancastrians, and lost very great property by our adherence to that unhappy family during the reigns of Edward the Fourth and Richard the Third. My great great grandfather, who was also called Orlando . . . . . . . . .

Mrs. Rayland had soon totally forgotten the young hero who was before her, while she ran over the names and exploits of heroes past; and, lost in their loyalty and their prowess, she forgot that hardly any other record of them remained upon earth than what her memory and their pictures in the gallery above afforded. Orlando, however, heard her not only with patience but with pleasure, In recurring thus to them when the question of his professional choice was before her, it appeared that she had somehow associated the idea of his future welfare with that of their past consequence; and besides the satisfaction this discovery afforded him, he began to hope that his fears of any discovery were quite groundless.

Mrs. Rayland having at length completed the catalogue of the warriors of her family, and having no more to say, returned to the subject which had given rise to this discussion.—Therefore, young kinsman, I say, that if this worthy General Tracy will favour you with his countenance, if your father and your relations approve of it, and if you yourself are disposed for the profession of arms, I shall be glad not only to give you some assistance towards setting out, but to aid you from time to time 292 in such means of promotion as the General may point out to me.

Orlando, who now found the whole affair decided, felt one pang at the certainty which presented itself, that he must quit, soon quit his beloved Monimia; it was severe, but momentary: and with equal warmth and sincerity he thanked Mrs. Rayland for her goodness, and assured her that he was ready to avail himself of her generous intentions in his favour.

But are you sure, Mr. Orlando, added Mrs. Rayland interrupting his acknow­ledgments—are you quite sure that no unworthy connection, no improper attachment here, will make the departure for your regiment disagreeable to you?

The blood that had so often been the treacherous emissary of conscience before, now flew to the cheeks of Orlando; indeed his whole countenance changed so much that Mrs. Rayland, though not very clear-sighted, perceived it. Her brow took that severe look which it almost always lost in the presence of her young favourite—I see, cried she, observing Orlando still hesitate—I see that I have not been misinformed.

Every thing seemed to depend on the presence of mind which he was at this moment able to exert. He recovered himself, and said, in a firm and calm tone, I know not, Madam, what information you have received; but this I know, and do most solemnly assure you, that I have no unworthy connection, no improper attachment—and, added he, animated by reflecting that his love for the innocent, amiable Monimia was neither—and when you discover that I deceive you, I am content to relinquish your favour for ever.

Indeed you will lose it, answered Mrs. Rayland, a little relaxing of her severity;—and that I may 293 still have the pleasure of supposing you worthy my good opinion, and that well disposed young man which I have always wished to find you, your leaving this place a while may not be amiss. I know how to make some allowance for the arts of wicked girls; but I shall take care that no such person disgraces my family for the future. In regard to you, cousin, I hope you are above any such unworthy thoughts. It must be my business to give proper directions for the rest, and for the due regulations of my family. You will prepare, cousin, for your commission, which the worthy General tells me he expects every day: he assures me it is worth upwards of four hundred pounds. Your father is very happy in having met with a real friend.—Orlando, thunderstruck by a speech which he believed related to Monimia, stood like a statue. It was fortunate for him that Mrs. Rayland, after the words wicked girls, continued to speak; for, had she not done so, Orlando would infallibly have betrayed himself by entering into a warm defence of Monimia; he would indeed have confessed without reserve, their long attachment, and frequent interviews; but the rest of her speech and the entrance of Mrs. Lennard, for whom she rung just as she concluded it, gave him time to recollect himself: yet when Mrs. Rayland, in her usual way, dismissed him, he doubted whether his honour and his love did not call upon him to come to an immediate explanation. The consideration and kindness which Mrs. Rayland expressed for him, so unlike the usual prudish asperity of her disposition, were offensive and hateful to him when he believed she acquitted him at the expence of Monimia. He hastened however to his own apartment, because it was necessary to see what was become of his brother. It was some alleviation to his confusion 294 and distress to find Philip was gone; and he sat down, endeavouring to collect his thoughts, and to determine on what was to be done.

That Monimia was on his account to be dismissed from the house of Mrs. Rayland, and the protection of her only relation, the circumstances of the preceding night, added to what he had just heard, left him but little reason to doubt. What then was to become of her? and how could he make her any reparation for the injury he had done her, but by instantly declaring the truth, and relinquishing all prospect of future prosperity, from which she must be excluded?—Desperate as he felt this step to be, he was in a state of mind that urged him to decide on any thing that might bring their fate to a crisis: and, believing himself finally determined, he started up from his short counsel with himself, and was going hastily to the apartment of Mrs. Rayland, when at the door he was stopped by Betty, who with her hat on, and a small bundle in her hand, dropped him a curtsey, and said, with an arch smile, I’m come to take my leave of you, ’Squire, and to wish you well.

Whither are you going then, Betty? said Orlando.

Lord, Sir, cried the girl, you’re such another hard-hearted gentleman!—What I warrant you don’t know that Madam have sent me down my wages, with orders to go out of her house directly, and all upon your account.

Upon my account!—Pattenson it seems have been telling more false lies to Madam. He won’t believe ever since that night that somebody was seen in your room—I don’t know who, not I—but that you and I be too great: Madam Lennard would never hear on’t till to-day; but now they’ve found out, by laying their old noddles together, that I was 295 out of the house last night, and they say ’twas along a you. Knowing my own innocence, I bears it all; for I be clear of the charge, as you know very well: I wish every body could say as much; but I know what I know.

Orlando now instantly comprehended that it was of Betty Mrs. Rayland had spoken, and not of the innocent Monimia, whom his rash impatience was again on the point of betraying. Sensible of his good fortune in having been thus prevented, he was still confused and agitated. Whatever you know, Betty, said he, of me, I am at least very sorry you have, by any mistake relative to me, lost your place, and Mrs. Lennard’s favour.

As to her favour, answered the girl pertly, I values it no more than that; and she had better keep her tongue within her teeth about me, I can tell her that; and as for places, there’s more in the world. One should have a fine time on’t, indeed, to pass all one’s life in this here old dungeon, among rats, and ghosts, and old women. However young ’Squire, I advises you, as a friend, to take more care for the future: some people are very sly; but for my part I scorn to betray ’um—but mayhap the next housemaid mid’nt be so willing as I have been to bear the blame for things she’s as innocent of as the child unborn.

I cannot tell to what you allude, replied Orlando in a hurried voice; but this I know, that if I have done you any injury, I am very sorry for it, and willing to make you any reparation in my power. He then took a guinea from his pocket—Accept of this, cried he, and be assured I shall on any future occasion be happy to serve you.—The girl took the guinea, but without expressing any gratitude either for that, or his apparent wishes to make her what amends he could for the loss of her 296 place: she flippantly told him, she hoped, for all Madam’s injustice, and the malice of her enemies, she had friends who would not let her be beholden to nobody—She then left the house.

Orlando, thus relieved from the most acute uneasiness he had ever suffered, returned to his room. He most ardently wished to communicate to Monimia the joy he felt in finding that the suspicions excited by so many awkward circumstances, had by some means or other fallen upon this servant; and apparently without doing her any injury, which would have considerably lessened his satisfaction. Far from regretting her dismission, she seemed pleased with having had an opportunity given her to be dismissed; and Orlando, who had long known her to be a very improper associate for Monimia, found many reasons to be glad of her departure. That she knew, or very strongly suspected their meetings, seemed very evident; she was much less dangerous anywhere than within the house—and as to what she might say without, which might be prejudicial to the character of Monimia, he determined to prevent the ill effects of that where it might be most prejudicial, by confessing, before he left the country, the very extent of his fault to his father, who already suspected so much of the truth.

However earnestly he wished to speak to Monimia, and however uneasy the idea of her suspense and dejection made him, he could find no opportunity of speaking to her during the morning, without hazard, which he had too recently suffered for, so immediately to incur again. Though Mrs. Lennard had artfully made Betty the victim there was still reason to believe she was not without suspicions; and to irritate or increase them now, would be to preclude himself from the last pleasure he was likely to taste during the rest of his short residence at the 297 Hall—the pleasure of soothing his beloved Monimia, and, at the few interviews which they might yet obtain, reconciling her soft heart to the necessity of that separation that was so soon to happen.

He was summoned to dinner with Mrs. Rayland, who seemed pleased to find he was still at the Hall. Never did the old Lady appear in such good humour with him, or so relaxed from the starch prudery of her usual character.—She gave way to her love of telling anecdotes and stories of her own family; and, pleased with the attention Orlando gave to her narratives, she hinted to him, though still with great ambiguity, that it would be his own fault if he was not one day or other the repre­sentative of a family so illustrious. She then spoke of his elder brother with anger and contempt, which Orlando generously tried to soften; of his mother with her usual coldness and dislike; and of his sisters as good, pretty-behaved girls—that is, I mean, the two youngest. As to Miss Belle—she’s a London lady already: I protest it hurts me to see young women so bold—but she has been cried up for a beauty. ’Tis vanity ruins all girls—no good is ever to be expected from them when once they get conceited notions into their heads of being handsome.

Orlando undertook the defence of his sister with more zeal than prudence; but Mrs. Rayland, though not to be convinced that Isabella was not a vain coquet, which indeed her unguarded gaiety gave the old Lady very good reason to believe, was however in a humour to be pleased with all Orlando said. Her attachment to him had been long insensibly increasing; and though, like another Elizabeth, she could not bear openly to acknowledge her successor, she was as little proof as the royal ancient virgin, against the attractions of an amiable and handsome young man, whom she loved to consider 298 as the child of her bounty, and the creature of her smiles. Though determined to keep him dependent during her life, and even to send him out a soldier of fortune, she really meant to give him, at her death, the whole of her landed property; and the machinations of Pattenson, whose jealousy and avarice alike excited his hatred to Orlando, had hitherto had an effect so different from what he expected, that he found his politics entirely baffled, and that he was more likely to lose, by farther attempts, his Lady’s regard, than to shake that she entertained for the young favourite.

A few years before, the very suspicion of an intrigue would have shut for ever the doors of Rayland Hall against the supposed delinquent; but now the attempts to impute such to Orlando had ended in nothing but the dismissing a servant—a circumstance proving at once, that though some credit was given to the accusation, no resentment towards him was entertained.

Mrs. Lennard, who had more sense and more art than Pattenson, and who had opportunities more closely to observe her Lady, had long seen the progress of her affection for Orlando, and long ceased to counteract it.—She was not weak enough to imagine, as Pattenson did, that such great property as Mrs. Rayland possessed would be divided among her servants—but she knew that she should herself possess a very considerable legacy; and she thought it better that Orlando should inherit the bulk of the fortune, than either his father, who had always considered the old servants about her as his enemies, or any public charity—to some of which Mrs. Rayland had, in former fits of ill humour, expressed an intention to leave the Rayland estate.

Mrs. Rayland had, in common with many old people, a strange aversion to speaking of her will, 299 or of what was to happen after her death; and far advanced as she was in life, she talked of future years as if she believed herself immortal. Mrs. Lennard had, however, once seen part of a will—with which, in respect to herself, she had great reason to be satisfied. She knew that Mrs. Rayland had lately made another, to which she was not a witness;—for such was the peculiarity of her Lady in this respect, that she had sent for a lawyer and witnesses from London, that none of the neighbouring attornies, or even her confidential servants, might know its contents. Mrs. Lennard did not doubt but that Orlando was in this made heir of almost all the landed property; but she had no reason, from Mrs. Rayland’s behaviour to her, to apprehend that this new will was at all prejudicial to herself.

Still, however, it was not her interest to encourage the affection which many circumstances gave her reason to believe Orlando entertained for her niece. She knew that, if the rashness of youth and passion should urge them to marry, it would not only ruin Orlando, who would then be a beggar; but that she should herself be accused of having promoted this fatal indiscretion, and lose her own advantages without obtaining any for her niece, whom she by no means wished to see independent of her, even if independence could thus have been obtained; and whom she treated with redoubled rigour, when she found reason to believe that Orlando felt for her that attachment which she had from their childhood foreseen and attempted to prevent.

The more Orlando gained on the favour of Mrs. Rayland, the more apprehensive Mrs. Lennard became of his affection for Monimia: she had however persuaded herself, that, with the precautions 300 she took, their clandestinely meeting or carrying on any corre­spondence was impracticable; and, satisfied that Monimia was confined to her room, her vigilance had now and then slumbered. But it awakened by the late reports that obtained in the house and about the country; reports which originated in the gossip of Orlando’s nocturnal visitor; of his being missing at unusual hours, and from Betty’s hints. When, therefore, Pattenson’s jealousy was so far roused as to urge him to speak to his Lady of a supposed intimacy between Orlando and this his faithless favourite, Mrs. Lennard let it make its impression; and Betty’s pertness, who had before agreed with Philip Somerive to take the first opportunity of going off to him, gave her a pretence immediately to discharge her. Mrs. Rayland, content to part with her favourite Orlando, because she thought it for his advantage to see something of the world in an honourable profession—and because she believed, if youth and idleness had concurred with the art of the girl with whom he was accused, to lead him into any improper connection, this was the best way to break it—determined on his departure with satisfaction, since the General assured her there was at present no probability of his leaving England.

Mrs. Lennard, who thought herself fortunate in having all the suspicions fall on Betty, kept as a profound secret those she entertained herself relative to Monimia, whom she resolved narrowly to watch till Orlando was gone. And Pattenson, glad that the young minion was to go, as he termed it, for a soldier, reconciled himself by that reflection to the failure of his original plan, which had been totally to ruin him with Mrs. Rayland. As to the loss of his fair one, he knew she would not remove far; and that resentment for his accusations would 301 not make her long relentless, while he had presents and money to offer her.

Such were, at this juncture, the politics of Rayland Hall.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXIV

In this chapter, we finally get an explanation of Mrs. Lennard’s ongoing hostility to Orlando, and her resistance to his affection for Monimia. At first glance, her reasoning makes sense. But on longer consideration, I’m not buying it. Yes, it is to Mrs. Lennard’s advantage to keep the attachment between Orlando and Monimia a secret—during Mrs. Rayland’s lifetime. The moment the old Lady dies, the situation will be reversed. If Orlando doesn’t instantly turn around and marry Monimia, he will have no incentive to keep Mrs. Lennard around. The really clever approach would have been to manipulate things so that Mrs. Rayland ever-so-gradually comes to dote on Monimia, to become increasingly dependent on her, and eventually to believe that Orlando’s attachment to Monimia was all her own idea. Play your cards right, and she will end up ordering Orlando to marry Monimia.

but mayhap the next housemaid mid’nt be so willing as I have been
text has will-/ling at line break


Orlando found Monimia alarmed and dejected


The house of West Wolverton too had its politicians

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.