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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XXVI.

Orlando could not, though he attempted it, conceal the anguish of his heart during the day; for though he had arranged with his new confident the means 320 of seeing Monimia, it was far from certain these plans would succeed; or, could he be content with the means which he had used, however desirable the end—Monimia, who, while she yielded to his earnest entreaties, had always felt, from the natural rectitude of her under­standing, the impropriety of their clandestine corre­spondence, would, he feared, be more than ever sensible of her indiscretion, when she found that a servant was entrusted with it—and on thinking over what had passed between him and the under keeper, he found more reason to entertain a good opinion of his acuteness than of his integrity.—When to these reflections were added the certainty of his immediate departure, and the uncertainty of his return; the mournful looks of his mother, who could not behold him without tears; the deep, but more silent sorrow marked on the countenance of his father, and the pensive expression of regret on those of his sisters; he could with difficulty go through the forms of a melancholy dinner, at which the General in vain attempted to call off the attention of his hosts to subjects of common conversation, and to divert them from private misery by those public topics which then interested none of them. The expulsion of the Americans from the province of Canada, which had happened the preceding August; and the victory gained by the British fleet near Crown Point against a small number of their gondolas and galleys, in the course of the following October, successes of which exaggerated official accounts were just received, were matters whereon the General triumphantly descanted, and on which he obtained more attention from his audience, because he asserted very positively that, in consequence of these amazing advantages, the whole continent of America would submit, and the troops of course return as soon as they had chastised the 321 insolent colonists sufficiently for their rebellion.—Orlando then, he assured his family, was not at all likely to join his regiment, which would almost immediately be ordered home; but would be the safe soldier of peace, and perhaps return to them in a few weeks, no otherwise altered than by his military air and a cockade. The only smile that was seen the whole day on the faces of any of the family was visible on that of Mrs. Somerive, on the General’s description of an American flight, though none had a more tender heart or a more liberal mind: but having heard only one side of the question, and having no time or inclination to investigate political matters, she now believed that the Americans were a set of rebellious exiles, who refused, on false pretences, “the tribute to Cæsar,” which she had been taught by scriptural authority ought to be paid. Thus considering them, she rejoiced in their defeat, and was insensible of their misery; though, had not the new profession of Orlando called forth her fears for him, she would probably never have thought upon the subject at all—a subject with which, at that time, men not in parliament and their families supposed they had nothing to do. They saw not the impossibility of enforcing in another country the very imposts to which, unrepresented, they would not themselves have submitted. Elate with national pride, they had learned by the successes of the preceding war to look with contempt on the inhabitants of every other part of the globe; and even on their colonists, men of their own country—little imagining that, from their spirited resistance,

“The child would rue that was unborn

“The taxing of that day.”

At length the hour arrived when Orlando obtained 322 permission to return to the Hall: he told his father that as he meant to take leave of Mrs. Rayland that night, in order to pass the greater part of Sunday with his family, it was necessary for him to pay her this last compliment. Mr. Somerive acceded to the necessity he urged; but, at parting from him, fixed his eyes on those of his son, with a look which expressed solicitude, sorrow, and pity. It questioned his sincerity, and yet seemed not to reproach him. Orlando could not bear it: he hurried away, and rode as speedily as he could to the Hall; where he sent up for leave to wait on Mrs. Rayland to tea, and then went in search of Jacob, who easily found a pretence for attending him in his Study. Orlando with a palpitating heart questioned him: Have you, cried he, discovered any means by which I can obtain access to Monimia, or get her down stairs, without the knowledge of Mrs. Lennard?

Faith, Sir, answered the man, ’tis no easy task as your honour have set me, I can tell you—However, I’ve contrived to speak to Miss—

Have you? cried Orlando eagerly: there’s an excellent fellow. And what does she say?

Aye, Sir, replied Jacob, that’s the thing. She was in a sad twitter when she know’d you had told me, and said it was impossible to do what you desired—for the room where she sleeps is a closet within Madam Lennard’s, hardly big enough to hold a bed: but it is an impossible thing to get out of a night after Madam’s in bed, by reason that her room doors are locked; and for the window, it is barred up with a long iron bar; so that if Miss had courage to get down a ladder, she could not get out—or if she did, she could never get back again. Her aunt, she says, finds her being there vastly inconvenient; and, as soon as you are gone, reckons to send her back to her own room.

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I shall be driven out of my senses, exclaimed Orlando, as he traversed the room: if I cannot see her before I go, I shall be distracted—How did you obtain admittance to her? Cannot I speak to her by the same means?—Why hardly; for you must know that I was forced to get one of the maids to help me. The new house-maid that Madam have hired this morning upon trial, is an old acquaintance of mine; I gave her an item of the matter, and so she contrived to take me up to mend the window-shutter, which she had broke on purpose; and bid me I should take a hammer and nails, and make a clatter if Madam Lennard came. I took care to make my job long enough; and when the old house-keeper ax’d me what I was a doing, I had an excuse you know pat, and it passed off very well; and not only so, but she said to me, says she—When you have done that job, Jacob, I wish you would just look at the wainscot under the window and under them there drawers of mine; for it’s as rotten as touchwood, and the rats are for ever coming in, says she; and says she, I never saw the like of this old house—it will tumble about our ears, I reckon, one day or ’nother, and yet my lady is always repairing it, says she; but the wainscoting of this here end of the wing, says she, has been up above an hundred years; and we may patch it, and patch it, and yet be never the nearer: but, for my part, I suppose it will last my time, says she.

Orlando no sooner heard that another person, the new house-maid, had been incautiously admitted to participate a secret which he had hitherto so anxiously guarded, than his vexation conquered the pleasure he had for a moment indulged, in learning that it was possible for another, and therefore for him, to see Monimia. To the latter part of the game-keeper’s oration he could not attend, occupied 324 with the idea of the new uneasiness this circumstance must give to Monimia; and agitated by innumerable fears and anxieties, he remained a moment silent after his companion had ceased to speak, and then said—She told you, I think, that after I was gone, her aunt would suffer her to return to her former apartment?

Yes, that was what she said.

Well, then, I will go. Indeed I am going by day-break to-morrow. Nay, I am going from this house to-night; and therefore I shall take leave of Mrs. Rayland this evening. He paused a moment, and then added, I suppose it is possible to convey a letter to Monimia, though I despair of seeing her?

O Lord! yes, Sir, that you may do for certain; for I told her, that if she would let down a letter for you by a string at seven o’clock, I would be there to take it; and you might send her one back the same way.

What is it o’clock now? cried Orlando.

Almost six, Sir.

It is time then for me to go to my appointment with Mrs. Rayland, whose tea I am afraid is ready. Do you be punctual to seven o’clock; and, if I can escape, I will be with you at the window. But I beseech you, Jacob, to remember, that all the obligation I shall owe you on this occasion will be cancelled, if you are not secret. I wish you had not mentioned this matter to any other person, especially to a woman—You know they are not to be trusted.

Aye! that I know well enough; they’ll cackle, I know they will, if life and death depended upon it: but, Lord! Sir, how a-name of fortune was I to get at Miss, unless I had done so? and I do believe Nanny is as trusty as most.

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It was equally useless to argue on the necessity of the measure, or the discretion of Nanny. The die was cast; and to meet Monimia safely after so much hazard had been incurred, was all that it would now answer any purpose to think of. Orlando, during his short conference with his own thoughts, had determined to take that night his last leave of Mrs. Rayland, and to say to her before Mrs. Lennard, that he was to set out the next morning early, with General Tracy, for London. He hoped, by thus acting, to persuade the aunt of Monimia that she might safely send her back to her former apartment; and that by making an appointment with her for Sunday, when he would by the people at the Hall be believed on his way to London, he should enjoy without interruption the melancholy pleasure of bidding her adieu, and settling the safest method for their future corre­spondence.

For this purpose he wrote to her; and sealing the letter, he put it into his pocket and repaired to Mrs. Rayland; who, under­standing he was come to take his leave, received him with great solemnity, yet not with less kindness than usual.

Her conversation consisted chiefly of good advice. She declaimed against the vitiated state of modern manners, and related how much better things were in her time. She warned him to beware of the gamesters and bad women, who, she said, were the ruin of all young people; and gave him, though obliquely, to under­stand, that his future favour with her depended on his behaviour in this his first appearance in life.

With her the age of chivalry did not seem to be passed; for she appeared to consider Orlando as a Damoisell, now about to make his first essay in arms. Indeed, while she talked much of modern immorality and dissipation, she knew very little of 326 modern manners, seldom seeing any of those people who are what is called people of the world; and forming her ideas of what was passing in it, only from newspapers and the Lady’s Magazine, or some such publication, which excited only wonder and disgust—while her recollection came to her relief, and carried her back to those days she herself remembered—and with still greater pleasure to the relations her father had given of what passed in his. The freedom of modern life suited so ill with the solemnity of respect that was shown towards her in her youth, that she shrunk from the uneasiness it gave her, and made around her a world of her own: of which when Orlando became an inhabitant, all that regarded him was assimilated to her own antediluvian notions.

In answer to her long and sage lecture, Orlando assured her, and with great sincerity, that he had no wishes that were not centered in the spot and neighbourhood he was about to leave: that, new as he was to the world, he yet believed it would offer him no objects that could a moment detach his affections from his family and his friends. There was so much earnestness, and something so impressive in the manner of his saying this, as not only enforced belief, but sensibly affected Mrs. Rayland. She almost repented that she had ever consented to his going; but to detain him now without acknowledging him as her heir (which she had determined never to do), was not to be thought of; and General Tracy had succeeded in convincing her, not only that it was a justice due to her young relation to give him an opportunity of seeing more of mankind; but that, as he would not quit England, he would enjoy all the advantages of an honourable profession, without losing the advantage of her protection. Without giving implicit credit to 327 the tales by which Pattenson attempted to prejudice him in her favour, she thought enough of them to let them influence in some degree her determination; and she believed that, if he had formed any improper attachment, nothing was so likely to break it as sending him from the country, and into scenes of life which would, she supposed, occupy his mind without injuring his morals.

It seemed as if towards the close of her life Mrs. Rayland had acquired, instead of losing, her sensibility; for she, who had hardly ever loved any body, now found that she could not without pain part from Orlando. She felt her pride and pleasure equally interested in exerting towards him that generosity, which from the rest of his family she had withheld; and the apparent dejection of his spirits, the reluctance with which he left the Hall, made him appear to her more worthy than ever of her favour. When therefore she had exhausted every topic of advice she could think of, and received from the manly simplicity of his answers, all the assurances that words could give of his gratefully receiving it, she presented him with a bank-note of two hundred and fifty pounds; which she told him was for the purpose of purchasing what he would have occasion for on his first entrance into the army. She had, however, so little idea of modern expences, that she really considered this as a very great sum, and such as it was an amazing effort of generosity in her to part with: yet, while she made this exertion, her kindness towards him was so far from being exhausted, that she told him he should find her always his banker, so long as he continued to give her reason to think of him as she thought now.

Orlando kissed the hand of his ancient benefactress; but the tears were in his eyes, and he 328 was unable to speak. He tried, however, to thank her for this last, and for all her former favours to him: but the words were inarticulate; and the old lady herself, “albeit unusual to the melting mood,” was now so much affected, that she could only faintly utter the blessing she gave him. You had better not say any more, Sir, said Mrs. Lennard, who seemed disposed to weep too—much better not, for indeed it will make my lady quite out of spirits. Orlando, very willing to shorten such a scene, turned to Mrs. Lennard, towards whom in a few hurried words he expressed his thanks for her past kindness, and his wishes for her health and happiness; and then hastened away, his heart oppressed by the scene that had passed, yet beating tumultuously with the thoughts of that which was to come.

He hardly dared, however, give himself time to think. He had told Mrs. Rayland a falsehood, for which his ingenuous heart already smote him. He was about to act in direct violation of all he had promised and all she expected of him. He knew that, were he detected lingering about the house, after what he had just said of his intentions of leaving it immediately, he should lose for ever all the advantage of that favour which Mrs. Rayland now so openly avowed for him; and that, if his attachment to Monimia were known, it would excite more anger and resentment than almost any of the errors against which she had been warning him. But all these consi­derations, strongly as they ought to have operated against any other indiscreet indulgence, were powerless when put in competition with his tender affection for Monimia; and to leave her without being able to speak to her and console her, was what he could not for a moment have endured to think of, if poverty, disgrace, and exile 329 from every other human being had been the alternatives.

On entering his room, he found it wanted only a few moments of seven. He glided therefore round the house, and found his punctual confident already waiting for the signal. We need not both be here, said Orlando: Go, Jacob, and wait for me in my room: I have asked leave for you to go with me to-night to carry a portmanteau to West Wolverton. Jacob obeyed; and Orlando, almost breathless with fear lest he should be disap­pointed in this his forlorn hope, waited under the window.

The casement at length softly opened, and Monimia appeared at it. He spoke to her, and bade her let down the string for a letter, on the success of which, said he, more than my life depends.—Read it then, Monimia, read it quickly, and give me an answer.

The trembling girl, whose hurry of spirits alone supported her, now hastened away with the letter; and, in an instant, threw down a piece of paper on which she had written with a pencil—If I am suffered to go back to my own room to-night, I will be ready on the usual signal; but, if I am not, I cannot write. If I am not, farewell, Orlando—farewell for ever; for I shall be too wretched to make it possible for me to live. Remember, dear Orlando, your poor friend! and may you be very happy, whatever becomes of me! Go, now, for heaven’s sake!—I am sure my aunt will be here in a few moments: and all depends upon her believing you gone.

As it was too dark for Orlando to discern these words, he was compelled to go back to his own room to read them. The doubt they left upon his mind distracted him; but it was a doubt which, if he attempted to remove it, would become a certainty 330 that would destroy this faint ray of hope. He went back, however, to the window, in hopes that he might yet speak one word to Monimia; but he saw that there was now another candle in the room; and, retiring a little farther so as to be able to see more of it, he distinctly saw Mrs. Lennard walking in the room, and apparently busied in the usual occupations to which she dedicated Saturday nights. To stay, therefore, was not only useless but dangerous; and he thought it better to make a great bustle in going, that all the inhabitants of the Hall might be apprised of his absence. He sent Jacob into the kitchen to give some farther orders about forwarding his trunks and baggage to the next market-town, as they were to be sent to London by the waggon; and then, mournfully and reluctantly prepared to leave the room where he had passed so many happy hours—the room where his mind first tasted the charms of literature, and his heart of love. It was indeed possible that he might once more revisit it, once more that evening with Monimia; but it was also possible, perhaps most probable, that he might not see her again.

A thousand painful reflections presented themselves. He left her exposed to numberless incon­veniences; and his late rashness had, perhaps, added to them by putting her into the power of servants. Yet he might be denied an opportunity to put her upon her guard against any of the circumstances he foresaw, or even to settle how she might receive his letters.

He traversed the library, yielding to these tormenting thoughts; and, by the light of the solitary candle he had set down in the window seat, every thing appeared gloomy and terrific. Every object and every sound seemed to repeat the sentence that constantly occurred to him—Orlando will revisit 331 this house no more! It is difficult to say how long he would have indulged this mournful reverie (notwith­standing his resolution just before taken to quit the house with as much noise as possible), if he had not been alarmed by the sound of a female step in the adjoining parlour. He started. It was perhaps Monimia! He flew to the door; and there, with too evident marks of disap­pointment in his countenance, he discovered it to be Mrs. Lennard herself, who, with a candle in her hand, and much perpendicular dignity in her air, stalked into the Study—I am glad, Mr. Orlando, you are not yet gone, for I have a message from my Lady. Orlando would have faced a cannon with less trepidation than he waited for this message, which his conscience told him might relate to Monimia. It proved, however, to be only that he would give to Lennard the keys of the rooms; and that she might see the window safe and barred. To this, though it disap­pointed him wholly of his hopes of meeting Monimia there, it was impossible to object. The cautious housekeeper, therefore, barricaded every avenue to this apartment, without forgetting the door that led to the chapel; and then formally enquiring if Orlando had taken out every thing he wished to have, to which he answered Yes (as his boxes had been moved the preceding day), she said she would follow him; and he left the room with an additional pang, while Mrs. Lennard locked the door and marched solemnly after him.

Towards the middle of the great parlour, through which they were passing, he stopped, and said in a voice that betrayed his emotion—You will be so good, dear Madam, to assure Mrs. Rayland of my grateful respects, and to accept yourself a repetition of my good wishes.

Thank you, Sir, answered the lady, I am sure I 332 wish you very well: but now, Mr. Orlando, since we part friends—

I hope we always were friends, Madam, said Orlando, attempting to smile, and turn the discourse, which he feared tended to the subject he most dreaded.

I hope so too, Sir; but I must say, that I am afraid in regard to that girl, my niece, there has been some wrong doings. It was not right in you, Mr. Orlando, I must say, to hold a secret corre­spondence with her, which I am very sure you did by means of that sad slut Betty, who latterly has been always giving me hints of it: but I, who did not think Monimia so cunning and artful, did not under­stand them; and, even to this day, I cannot imagine how you contrived so often to talk to her out of the window, without being seen or heard. However, it’s all over now, I hope! and I am willing to let it be forgot as a childish frolic. When you return here, Sir, you will by that time have seen too much of the world to think about such a chit as Monimia—if, indeed, she should happen to be here so long.

Orlando, divided between his joy to find that the real avenue by which they had conversed was unknown, and the pain the last hint gave him, knew not what to reply; but, confused and hesitating, he stammered out a sentence which Mrs. Lennard did not give him time to finish—Come, come, Mr. Orlando, said she, I know you are above any false repre­sentations: besides, I assure you, you cannot take an old bird with chaff—However, as I said before, there is an end of the matter—I shall take care of young Madam here; and I dare say you will find plenty of ladies where you are going, better worth looking after.

Orlando, utterly unable to answer this raillery, now wished her once more health and happiness; 333 and said (again vainly attempting to appear unconcerned)—I really do not love to contradict ladies, my dear Mrs. Lennard! so you must have your own way, however your suspicions may wrong me. He then hastened away to mount his horse, with which Jacob waited for him at the door of the servants’ hall that opened towards the stables:—but as he passed through, he found all the servants assembled at it to take leave of him. Even Pattenson was there; but by the expression of his air and manner, with very different sentiments from the rest—for they all testified their concern; while the old butler, with a contemptuous sneer on his countenance, appeared to be delighted by his departure.

At once flattered and pained by the good wishes and prayers for his prosperity with which they crowded around him, while most of the women shed tears, Orlando spoke kindly to each of them, assured them that he should rejoice in any good that might befal them: But, added he, I hope, my kind friends, we do not part for a great length of time; and that on my return I shall find you all here, unless any of you lasses should be carried off by good husbands. Then, again wishing them all well, he mounted his horse; and Jacob following, he rode away from the Hall—but not with a design of going to the house of his father; he rather meant to linger about the woods till the hour when he thought there was a chance of his finding Monimia once more in the turret.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXVI

In four-volume editions, this is Chapter I of Volume III. (In two-volume editions, Volume I continues for three more chapters.)

the victory gained by the British fleet near Crown Point
[Now known as the battle of Valcour Island, mid-October 1776, back when Benedict Arnold was still in the American Naval Hero phase of his career.]

The child would rue that was unborn / The taxing of that day.
[A bit heavy-handed there, Charlotte. The original is “Chevy Chase”, Child Ballads 162, most often canonicalized as: “The child may rue that is unborn / The hunting of that day”.]

you must know that I was forced to get one of the maids to help me
[If England and America had been on better terms, Jacob might have remembered Ben Franklin’s dictum, “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”]

the safest method for their future correspondence.
text has corrrespondence

She had, however, so little idea of modern expences, that she really considered this as a very great sum
[Er, two hundred and fifty pounds is a very great sum. It could easily support a middle-class family for a year or two.]

“albeit unusual to the melting mood”
[Or, if you prefer, unusèd to the et cetera. The variant reading is not original with our author.]


The house of West Wolverton too had its politicians


Orlando, already repenting that he had told the game-keeper so much

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.