Somerive received his son with tenderness; but his dejection was but too visible. Orlando approached him with apprehension, and his voice trembled as he spoke the salutation of the morning. They traversed a long gravel walk twice before either of them spoke again. At length Mr. Somerive asked Orlando, if he had seen his mother and sisters? He answered, that he believed they had not yet left their chambers; and another painful silence ensued, which neither of them seemed to have resolution to break.
At length Mr. Somerive said, This, Orlando, is the last day we shall pass together for some time—let it not be clouded by dissimulation on your part; it shall not be so with remonstrance on mine: but my advice you will hear, since indeed, my son, it is for your sake, not my own, I give it—I shall soon be out of the reach of all the evils of this world!
Do not talk so, dear Sir! exclaimed Orlando, seizing his father’s hand; do not I beseech you! Such gloomy presentiments will overcloud this day with more pain for me, than your severest remonstrance. Pray think more chearfully; you are yet but in the middle of life; you have a constitution naturally good; and you may yet many years see around you a family who idolize their father.
No, Orlando; cried Somerive, interrupting him, 343 it will not be. Your brother, on whom my first hopes were fixed, he has inflicted the wound which, from long irritation, is become incurable; and where—alas! where is this family so fondly beloved? Philip is gone! for I see that nothing can save him—My eldest daughter is married into another kingdom, where I can never see her—And you, Orlando, you are now going from me: I am not superstitious, but I feel something like an assurance that we part to-day for ever; or if I am so favoured by Providence as to embrace you again, will you be the same after having entered the world; will you bring back to me the excellent heart, the ingenuous temper, the integrity of principle that has hitherto made me glory in my son?
Orlando, who expected a very different opening to this conversation, warmly repeated his protestations, that nothing should make him forget the duty he owed his father—the affection he felt for his family. Ah, Sir! cried he, if you knew how little is to be apprehended from the world, where the whole heart is already absorbed in attachment, contracted in the early dawn of life, and interwoven with the very existence, you would not feel these fears, nor wound me with these doubts.
I have lived near fifty years, Orlando; you have not yet finished your twenty-first. I have seen, though passing in obscurity much of my time—I have seen young men set out in life uncorrupted, and apparently endowed with every noble principle that could render them honours to their country or their families; yet, in a few years, I have seen them, either hardened by ambition, or degraded by debauchery, not unfrequently combining both; and if they have interest, pursuing the one only as the means of indulging in the other.
It is very true, Sir, answered Orlando: but the 344 ambition of a soldier is surely glorious ambition; it leads to honour through hardship and danger; and he who follows his profession earnestly, can have little time for the sallies of irregularity.
You are to be a soldier of peace, Orlando; but I will do you justice, I do not believe you will disappoint my hopes by becoming a gamester or a libertine.
No, Sir! said Orlando vehemently. To be the first I have no inclination, and for the second you have a security which I am sure you will believe infallible—I promised you last night that I would open my whole heart to you; dare I now then solicit your patience while I acquit myself of what I hold to be an indispensable duty, and speak with that sincerity to you, which I have reproached myself for ever neglecting to observe, though indeed it was not always possible.
I attend, said Mr. Somerive in a grave and low voice: I would not, Orlando, touch upon this subject, because I wished to see if you had candour and resolution to speak when you might have evaded it.
Orlando, whose momentary courage already failed him, now half repented that he had said so much—now shrunk from the unworthy idea of concealing any thing. He began then in a low and tremulous tone; and while his heart throbbed with a thousand painful emotions; he related to his father the whole progress of his passion, even from his first recollection of the time when he began to love Monimia better than any of his sisters; when, in going to the Hall, he thought more of seeing her than of the amusements in which he was indulged, and often refused to ride out on a horse Mrs. Rayland allowed him occasionally to have when he was about eleven years old, or to go to play with the men in the park; 345 because, at the hours when these recreations were offered him, he had opportunities of sitting with Monimia, who was employed by her aunt to pick cowslips from their stalks, to collect rose leaves, or dry flowers and herbs in the housekeeper’s room. He concealed nothing from his father that happened in the progress of his love; and as his timidity gradually vanished, he spoke of her with all the enthusiasm and all the tenderness of passion. His father sighed more deeply than he did as he proceeded in his story; when he ceased speaking, remained a moment silent; and then, with another long-drawn sigh, he said, I have always suspected something of this sort; but my conjectures were short of the truth. If I had known, Orlando, that the Hall contained so dangerous an inmate, not all the hopes that have been raised by Mrs. Rayland’s partiality to you, should have induced me to have suffered your residence there.
Good God! Sir, exclaimed the young man, can you call an angel dangerous? Oh say rather that my Monimia will prove to me a guardian seraph? In thinking of her, I find my mind elevated, and purified—I live only for her—I wish only to live worthy of her.
Just now, Orlando, you talked of living only for your family—for your mother—for your sisters: and now this angel is the only object of your future life! An angel! every idle boy that reads ballads or writes them, every scribbler that sends his rhymes to a magazine, calls the nymph who inspires him an angel; and such an angel is this Monimia of yours! and from such sort of reading you have learned to fancy yourself in love with her. The niece of Lennard is the last person in the world whom I would wish you to elect, and . . . .
And why the niece of Lennard, Sir? said Orlando 346 somewhat impatiently—surely my father is too liberal to confound their merits. Poor Monimia! She is indeed the niece of Lennard; but, believe me, she does not in any instance resemble her—And what is her birth? does it render her less amiable, less lovely?
Oh, softly! cried Somerive, interrupting him in his turn, I have not the least doubt, Orlando, but that you could prove in a moment that this seraphic damsel is not only the most perfect of human beings, but the better for belonging to a woman who has always stood between me and the countenance of my relation; a woman, who, in all probability, will finally rob me of my birth-right. Unhappy, ill-starred boy! Do you not see that, by this misplaced attachment, you have put it into the power of Mrs. Lennard to destroy all the hopes you have been cherishing? Do you not see that you have put yourself upon her mercy? that, under pretence of not knowing of this clandestine love, she has suffered it to go on? secure of being able to ruin you at any time with her Lady by discovering it, and making a merit of her own disinterested conduct.
Orlando felt that there was too much truth in this observation; but the greater those hazards were that he incurred for Monimia, the dearer she became to him.
Well, Sir, said he, and if Mrs. Rayland’s favour can be held only by the sacrifice of every honest affection, I will disclaim it. Why should she discard me for loving an amiable, beautiful girl, who—?
Nay, nay! cried his father impatiently—Why has she invincible pride, and obstinate prejudice? Why has she always held me at a distance, because my father, though her only relation, was the son of a man who could distinctly count no more than two 347 generations? Why has she always expressed her detestation of the memory of my mother, whom fortune reduced to be her companion? Why has she ever despised your mother, because she was the daughter of a man in trade! It is of no use to inveigh against, or investigate the cause of all these supercilious distinctions in the mind of our old cousin: we know that, unluckily for us, they exist; and we know they are invincible. How do you think a woman so haughty and arrogant would like to hear that the young man she has been distinguishing by her favour, and to whom there is some reason to think she may make up the injustice she has done his family, has engaged himself to marry one of her domestics; a girl brought up in her house through charity, the daughter of a nobleman’s steward, and the niece of her housekeeper?
If such are her prejudices, Sir, exclaimed Orlando warmly, that I must make myself eternally wretched lest I should offend them, I had rather, much rather, give up for ever all those hopes, of which the reality would be too dearly purchased, if the best part of my life, and all that can render it valuable, is to be the price. I thank General Tracy more than ever for giving me a commission, which, little as it will afford me, and as weak as my hopes are of preferment, will at least render me in some degree independent.
I am obliged to General Tracy too, said Mr. Somerive, for you will now be taken out of the most perilous situation that it is possible for a young man of your temper and imagination to be in. If Lennard is satisfied with having got you out of the house (for I doubt not but it was she who so much accelerated your going), it will be well;—a little more knowledge of the world will cure you of this romantic passion. I hope you are not engaged to this girl?348
If I give you no more trouble, Sir, said Orlando dejectedly, with what you are pleased to term my romantic passion, I must be forgiven if I answer no questions as to my future conduct; it shall not be such as shall disgrace my family, or give you any reasonable cause of uneasiness.
The emphasis laid on the word reasonable did not at all please Mr. Somerive—You must give me leave, Sir, said he rather sternly, to judge of the reasonableness of my feelings myself: you evade my question, after all your professions of sincerity. Good God! what a fate is mine! One of my sons is lost to me; the other is going to throw himself away, if not as unworthily, at least more irrecoverably:—your brother may be reclaimed by time and affection; but an unfortunate marriage, contracted so early in life, is certainly ruin.
This speech was ill calculated to appease the concern and impatience with which Orlando found that his father, generally so considerate and indulgent, suffered his dislike to Mrs. Lennard to stifle every generous and liberal sentiment of his heart; and he was on the point of answering with more warmth than he ever in his life ventured to use, when fortunately, to save him from repentance, which would instantly have followed if he had given his father greater pain, the General joined them, and, after a few common compliments, they were met, as they walked towards the house, by Mrs. Somerive with a summons to breakfast. Though the interposition of the General had a little relieved both, the enquiring eyes of Mrs. Somerive were not easily evaded or deceived: she saw, and trembled to see, the emotions that shook the soul of her husband; while, on the expressive features of 349 Orlando, disquiet and anguish, mingled with something of disappointment and resentment, were too visibly to be traced by paternal solicitude. The presence of the General, however, and of the three girls, prevented her speaking of what so much affected her; by degrees the clouds upon her husband’s brow seemed less heavy; but Orlando was pensive and silent: the attempts he evidently made to shake off his concern, were quite ineffectual; and as soon as his hasty breakfast was over, he took his hat, and, turning to his mother, enquired whether the dinner hour was as usual (for on Sundays the family were sometimes accustomed to dine earlier): she answered that it was; and Orlando, then slightly bowing to the rest, was leaving the room, when his father cried, I thought you were to pass this last day of your stay in the country with us, Orlando!—I shall be back to dinner, Sir, replied he as he shut the door.—Somerive, who, in the dread of his losing Mrs. Rayland’s favour, and in his hatred to Mrs. Lennard, had spoken of Monimia with more asperity than he felt, was now convinced that harshness would have little influence on the warm impetuous spirit of his son; that he would have done better to have trusted to mildness and persuasion, and to have treated him in this instance, as he had hitherto always done, rather with the gentleness of a friend, than the authority of a parent.
Stung with regret, anguish, and disappointment, Orlando wandered away from the house, hardly knowing why, or whither he was going. Instead of obtaining for Monimia his father’s protection, and the countenance of his family during his absence, with which he had fondly flattered himself, he had heard what almost amounted to a prohibition against thinking of her any more; and his own candour and sincerity, to which he had been taught so religiously to 350 adhere, had apparently done him more mischief than the hints which his brother had thrown out, who had (as he lately learned from Selina) never ceased attempting, during his last visit at home, to impress his father and mother with a notion, that Orlando had not only a correspondence, but a correspondence of the most criminal nature, with Mrs. Lennard’s niece. Mrs. Somerive, always unwilling to see the faults of one son, or to hear of the supposed faults of another, had sometimes evaded, and appeared, when she was forced to hear it, quite indifferent to this information; while Somerive, whatever credit he might give to the existence of what he thought such a foolish and boyish inclination, discouraged this invidious disposition in his eldest son; and though he sometimes felt a good deal alarmed about Orlando, he thought so contemptibly of Mrs. Lennard, because he had learned early in life to despise and dislike her, that he could hardly imagine it possible for a relation of hers to make a lasting impression on a young man of so much taste and spirit. He was however often uneasy, and particularly after the dinner party at Stockton’s, on this subject; but, upon enquiry, he could not find that Monimia was a girl likely long to captivate his son, or to engage him in a serious attachment. Some persons told him, indeed, that she was a pretty girl; others, that she was a handsome girl; but more, that there was not any thing very extraordinary in her: while from other quarters he heard that her aunt treated her like a common servant, except that she never sat in the kitchen or the servants’ hall; and that she hardly ever was seen by any of the family, being employed in attending Mrs. Rayland only when she was sick, and at other times in waiting upon or working for Mrs. Lennard in her own room. Somerive therefore thought, that whatever 351 childish affection his son might have felt for her, could hardly have any serious termination, or any that could injure him with Mrs. Rayland; and if now and then, on remarking some peculiarity in Orlando’s conduct or looks, he recollected Philip’s wild assertions about this fair maid of the Hall, as he was accustomed in ridicule to call her, the hope that such childish love would be forgotten, and the idea he had taken up that Mrs. Lennard kept her niece quite out of Orlando’s way, and treated her as a mere servant, quieted his alarms; for which indeed he had no remedy, for he could not either object to any person whom Mrs. Rayland chose should inhabit her house, or remove Orlando from it till the present period, when he had her consent and assistance.
But to whatever motives the conduct of Mr. Somerive was really owing, Orlando had seen it in that view only that was the most flattering to his sanguine hopes: they now appeared to be destroyed for ever, and he saw only despair before him. Far from being allowed to ask his mother’s permission for Selina to see his Monimia, he dared not name her again, lest he should receive an injunction which the certainty of immediate death would not compel him to obey; and his projected confession that he was going in the evening to meet her for the last time, he now had not courage to make; yet he could not disguise it; for, since the General’s residence in this family, their simplicity of living, and their hours, had been entirely changed; and instead of dining at three, as had been always their custom, they now called it four: but it was often, in compliance with the General’s habits, near an hour later; five was the hour Monimia named in her note; it was perhaps the only one in which she had a chance of escaping: therefore, whatever might be the displeasure 352 it occasioned to his father and his family, whatever might be their conjectures and remarks, he must either fail returning to dine with them, or break away perhaps before the removal of the table cloth; to do the former would have been less uneasy to himself, but he feared it would be more offensive to his family. Resolutely determined to see Monimia at all events, he fixed upon the latter; but as he could bear no more of his father’s displeasure than what he was sure (he thought) of hearing when he returned from his last dear interview, he could not resolve to go back to the house, but continued walking, almost mechanically, towards Rayland Hall, forgetting, in the extreme agitation of his spirits, how very material it was that he should not be seen after he had taken his last leave of Mrs. Rayland, and she believed him gone out of the country.
This never occurred to him till, under a hollow sand cliff that bounded one side of the great pond, near the mill, on the verge of the park, he suddenly heard the rattle of a carriage, and, looking behind him, saw Mrs. Rayland’s coach stopping at the gate, within two hundred yards of him. He then recollected the contemptible figure he should make, and the irreparable injury it would do him with her, if he were detected in a falsehood, accompanied too with apparent ingratitude; but it was almost too late to escape, for on one side was the water, and on the other a high and almost perpendicular bank, that in some places hung over the road:—he had not, however, a moment’s time to deliberate; but, seizing one of the roots that grew out of the sides, he sprang up, not without some hazard of pulling the crumbling loose soil, of which the bank was formed, upon him:—two steps brought him to the top, where, however, he would have been in a more 353 exposed situation than below, if the holly, hazle, broom, and branches of pollard oaks that clothed the top of the eminence, had not afforded him a friendly concealment:—he threw himself among them; and then, perfectly sure that he could not be seen, he peeped among the withered leaves of the oak and the thicker green of the holly, and saw very distinctly the carriage approach, in which, with a palpitating heart, he perceived Monimia sitting backwards with her aunt, while Mrs. Rayland alone occupied the opposite seat. He then recollected, that this was the day on which Mrs. Rayland usually went in state to the church of a neighbouring parish; a ceremony that was performed four times a year, when the weather did not forbid it. He was amazed at his own thoughtless indiscretion; and saw that he owed his escape from its consequences to a mere accident. On these occasions a footman went behind, and Mr. Pattenson rode in great form by the coach side. It happened that the man behind the coach had been ordered by his Lady, at the church door, to call with a message upon her tenant the miller, whom not being immediately able to find, he staid while he was enquired for; and Pattenson was under the necessity of dismounting to open the gate, which, as he was extremely unwieldy, and rode a spirited and well fed horse, was by no means the work of a moment. Orlando, after his apprehensions were at an end, found in this little incident something from which he drew a favourable omen; he was pleased to see that, in consequence of his supposed absence, Monimia was indulged with a greater degree of liberty, and appeared much in favour with Mrs. Rayland and her aunt: and it seemed as if destiny, however remotely, was determined to favour him; for, in this last, as well as in innumerable preceding instances, 354 he had trembled on the very brink of detection, and yet he had hitherto escaped; at least he had reason to rest assured that Mrs. Rayland suspected nothing, and was far from imagining that her young kinsman was devotedly attached to her little, humble Mary.
My eldest daughter is married into another kingdom
[You will find the same terminology in Children of the Abbey, a novel of almost exactly the same vintage (though a much higher level of cheesiness). Scotland, Wales and Ireland were different “kingdoms”—never mind that they all shared the same king, and had done so for a good many years.]
the memory of my mother, whom fortune reduced to be her companion
[Our author suddenly remembers the intervening Somerive generation, after forgetting it for the greater part of the volume.]
her little, humble Mary
[The author also remembers that Monimia is supposed to be known as Mary everywhere but in the servants’ hall.]
Orlando, already repenting that he had told the game-keeper so much
Sufficiently punished by the alarm he had been in, Orlando no longer ventured
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.