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The Old Manor House:

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CHAPTER XXIX.

Sufficiently punished by the alarm he had been in for his indiscretion, Orlando no longer ventured to appear where any of the tenants or servants of the hall might probably meet him; but, as he was afraid of returning to the house of his father till the whole family were assembled, lest he should hear more of the reproof he could so ill bear, he lingered about the coppices; and as a chain of them led to a sharp eminence clothed with wood, that overlooked a part of the park, where, among the venerable trees scattered around it, the Hall-house appeared, he sat himself down on an old seat which had been placed here for the prospect afforded by this woody knoll, and indulged reflections which, though far from pleasant, were mournfully soothing. He recollected that, in this copse, but a few years before, he had once been permitted with some other children to accompany Monimia in gathering the nuts with which it abounded—How gay and happy they were then! how unconscious of evils to come!—Under that tuft of hazel Monimia sat, while he threw the fruit into her lap; and there he pursued a squirrel for her, which escaped up that old beech tree!—The letters carved by the rustics, whose Sunday’s walk in summer sometimes led them to this bench, remained: he remembered them well: and, for the first time in his life, felt disposed to 2 take his share of this species of fame*; and, with his knife, he engraved on that part of this covered seat which had suffered least from

.......... “The sylvan pen

“Of rural lovers,”

the words—“Orlando, 9th December 1776”—flattering himself that this rude memorial might be seen by Monimia, and draw from her soft bosom one sigh more of tender recollection, in his absence.

* So admirably described in Cowper’s exquisite poem of The Task, where he speaks of the alcove.

. . . . . . . . . . “Impress’d

“By rural carvers, who with knives deface

“The pannels, leaving an obscure, rude name,

“In characters uncouth, and spelt amiss.”

Thomson.

Thus passed the time till the hour nearly approached when he believed the whole family would be together, and when he should therefore escape any farther conversation with his father. He made his way towards home, over hedges and through the most pathless part of this woody country; and, entering the house by the kitchen, he inquired for his mother and sisters. The servants answered, that their mistress was ill, and had lain down on the bed; but that the young ladies were in the parlour.

Concerned for his mother, whom he fondly loved, Orlando hastened into the common parlour, where he saw Isabella leaning her head on her hand, in which was an handkerchief, and Selina hanging over her, her eyes streaming with tears. Orlando, imputing all to his mother’s illness, inquired eagerly how she did, and how she so suddenly became ill? Selina, in answer, exclaimed: O dearest Orlando! how glad I am you are come back! we have been wishing and seeking for you.

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But my mother! cried Orlando, my dear mother!

She is only very much agitated, replied Selina, and I hope will be better presently: but Isabella—

What, for God’s sake has happened to you? said he, interrupting one sister, and addressing his hurried inquiry to the other. Tell him, Selina, said Isabella, and ask him how he would act if he were situated as I am?—I will go to my own room.

What is all this, my dear girl? said Orlando, as soon as she had left the room: Isabella seems less affected than you are!

Selina then related to him, that soon after breakfast her father and General Tracy had walked out together, at the desire of the latter: where the General had opened his intention of offering himself to Isabella as an husband—of making very great settlements if she accepted of him—and, in short, said Selina, he made the proposal appear so advantageous to my father, that the disparity of age seemed by no means a sufficient objection against accepting it:—he therefore referred the General wholly to Isabella herself, with whom he conversed as soon as he returned home, representing his own situation, which certainly affords us all but a melancholy prospect, Orlando. He even told Belle, in regard to our circumstances, some particulars which have been owing to Philip’s expenses, that my father says he has not ventured to tell even to my mother, because they would half kill her.—It seems that we shall not have any provision in case of our poor father’s death, as Philip has stripped him of all he had saved; and as this estate would be Philip’s, we should not have, to support us all, above fourscore pounds a year, my mother’s settlement; which, as she had so small a fortune, was all she would let my father settle upon her.—This, you know, is not 4 twenty pounds a piece for us; and Isabella would not certainly be happy with such a pittance, if it were possible for her to live upon it: only, therefore, consider what a contrast the General’s offers make—Besides the power such a match would give her to make our dear parents easy (which I own is the only circumstance that would shake my resolution were I in her place,) she would be raised so much in rank; and have such a large fortune!—so much splendour round her! things which you know Belle has no dislike to, that I believe she will consent, though she has a hundred times ridiculed the General; and when he has been making love to her.

Making love to her! said Orlando; has he long made love to her?

I think he has, replied Selina. I know very little how people make love; but I am sure if that was not making love, I cannot guess what is. Belle at first only laughed at him, and used to say such rude things about his wig and his false teeth, and the art he used to make himself look young, that I have wondered an hundred times how he bore it: but afterwards he grew more importunate, indeed I thought impertinent, and Belle threatened to speak to my father. As for my mother, we agreed to tell her the sort of language he held whenever he could get my sister alone, or with only me and Emma; and my poor mother, afraid of disobliging a man who she thought had been such a friend to you, and might be to the whole family, desired we would not tell my father, who would certainly have resented such behaviour, and contented herself with keeping us out of his way, and never suffering us to be out of her sight. So the poor General, not being able to succeed in carrying away Isabella on his own terms——

Curse on his insolent presumption! cried Orlando 5 passionately; he never could dare to think of it.

My mother, answered Selina, believes he did:—but you see he repents of his evil intentions, and is determined to be generous and honest at last.

And does my sister Belle accept of him then?

That is the matter now in debate. My father has represented the situation she will be in, if he dies and leaves her unmarried. She knows all the pecuniary advantages that attend such a situation as the General offers her: and the question only is, whether, as she has no attachment whatever, the charms of grandeur, the chance of being a Countess, (for the General’s elder brother has but one son, a poor puny boy,) and being called the honourable Mrs. Tracy, are not sufficient temptations to make her forget that the husband who is to give her all these advantages, is a good deal older than her father.

And how do you think the debate will terminate? said Orlando.

Isabella has been crying about it, as you see; and my mother’s being so extremely affected made me cry: but I believe, Orlando, that the General need not despair. Isabella, however, has desired till this evening to consider of it; when she is to give him her answer herself. He said that he could not go to town and leave undecided a matter on which the whole happiness of his life depended: nor could he bear to be in the presence of the adored object, till the hour when this decision was to be made: so as soon as he had made his fine speeches, he mounted his horse, and is gone to dine at Stockton’s.

Selina, inquired Orlando, tell me honestly, my sweet sister, what you would do, were you in Isabella’s place.

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I am very glad I am not, Orlando; but I will tell you honestly as much as I know of my own heart—Were my father to say to me, as he has said to my sister Belle, that to see me so opulently married would make his latter days easy, and save him from those hours of anguish that now torment him about the future fate of us all, I should certainly marry this old man, if he were ten thousand times more odious to me than he is. To make my father happy, Orlando, whom I now see often sinking under a weight of anxiety that is destroying him—to secure to our dear indulgent mother the comforts of affluence, if we should lose him—and to promote your interest, Orlando, and poor Philip’s, and my sister’s, I would throw myself alive into the fire; or, what would be to me much more hateful, I would marry a man whom I abhor.

The fine blue eyes of Selina, on which those of her brother were tenderly fixed, filled with tears as she said this—her voice failed her a moment—but her brother did not interrupt her, and she went on——

But were only myself in question: then, were I to see poverty and even servitude on one side, and General Tracy with his brother’s coronet in one hand, and a settlement of ten thousand a year in the other, I do assure you that I should refuse him.

Generous, charming girl; cried Orlando; I do believe you, my Selina; and I rejoice that you are not exposed to the alternative. Belle, though I love her dearly, has not, I know, quite your heart; and I hope does not so much dislike this man, if it is indeed so probable that she will accept of him—Besides, the situation in life which he can offer, has charms for her gayer and more ambitious mind, which my soft Selina cannot taste.

What shall I say to my sister is your opinion, Orlando?

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That she must consult her own heart, my dear; for I cannot, in such an affair, give any opinion. But now, Selina, as we shall not have half a moment longer together, tell me, could you contrive to go with me this evening to meet Monimia for the last time? Selina, at first, started some objections—If they both went out together, their design in going could hardly be concealed; and she should perhaps incur the displeasure of her father and mother, who would not be well content that Orlando, whom they probably wished to consult on the important affair in agitation, should quit them immediately after dinner. It was, however, after some debate, settled that he should go first; and that Selina, to whom every thing was soon rendered easy that could contribute to the happiness of her beloved brother, should follow him; for she said that she might then perhaps not be missed; because it was often her custom to sit of an evening with Emma up stairs, as they had usually a great deal of work to do for themselves and their mother; and though this was not a day when they could make that excuse, yet their habit of doing so would make their absence little remarked on an evening when a business was in debate so momentous as Isabella’s answer. The brother and sister had hardly settled their little plan of operations, before they were told the dinner was ready, and on their entering the dining-room the rest of the family were already assembled there.

Mrs. Somerive, though she had collected resolution to appear at dinner, could not conceal the agitation of her mind—Orlando so soon to leave her, and the fate of her Isabella in suspense! Her dread lest her daughter should sacrifice herself and be unhappy, opposed to her wishes that she might be established in such high affluence, made her mind a chaos of contending emotions; while Somerive 8 himself, reading in her countenance all that passed in her heart, and knowing, even better than she did, how necessary such an alliance was to the preservation of all the family, was even more affected; but he had yet strength of mind enough to conceal it better, and to appear calm, though thoughtful and melancholy, frequently turning his eyes on Isabella, who seemed in a kind of elegant languor, the effect of her debate between duty and indifference; though, in fact, it had been held much more between aversion and vanity, in which the latter hardly needed the aid of any other consideration to come off conqueror.

In a family party so situated, there was not, of course, much conversation, and the dinner passed without any body’s eating, though each pressed the other to eat, and affected to eat themselves. Orlando hardly spoke three words, and those were addressed to his mother, the interesting concern of whose still beautiful countenance wounded his very soul. Distracted between the fear of adding to that concern by his abrupt departure, and of a failing in his appointment with Monimia, he believed this dinner, useless as it was, was the very longest he ever sat down to. Just as the table-cloth was removed, he heard the clock strike five; and, looking at his watch, which went by the great clock at the Hall, he found their own was ten minutes too slow. Monimia then was waiting for him in the wood, listening to every noise, and accusing him of cruelty and delay! Before this idea, every other consideration vanished; and, starting up, without even attempting an excuse, he hurried away; nor had his father, who called to ask whither he was going—nor the more tender voice of his mother, who cried, Orlando! my son! surely you will not leave us! power to detain him a moment. He rushed out of 9 the house, and ran, with the swiftness of an Indian, to the great-pond wood.

By the time he arrived there, it was almost dark; but he discerned between the stems of the tall firs the figure of Monimia sitting on the seat he had marked to her as the place of their meeting. Never before did he seem to love her so ardently as at that moment; his heart was softened by the thoughts of their immediate separation, while oppressed with the occurrences of the day, it seemed ready to burst. Breathless from the speed with which he ran, and hardly knowing what he did, he threw himself on his knees before her, and, seizing her hands, bathed them with his tears.

The trembling girl, who had been there even earlier than her appointment, and who had, amid an hundred other fears, despaired of his coming, alarmed, and unable immediately to weep, hung over him, as with frantic gestures he spoke to her; and when she would have reproached him for the apprehensions in which he had left her, her words were inarticulate; and it was some time before either of them were able to congratulate the other that they thus met once more!

Alas! the bitter certainty that a long, long separation must soon follow, poisoned the pleasure of their meeting: neither knew how to speak of it, yet it was impossible for either to think of any thing else.

You go to-morrow, Orlando? said Monimia. Yes, answered he; and then relating what had passed in regard to Isabella, he added, that perhaps if his sister determined to accept the offers of General Tracy, as he believed she would, it might be in some respects advantageous to him; for I under­stand, said he, that the enamoured old beau means, if his love is successful, to return in a few weeks—perhaps 10 three weeks or a month, in order to carry off his young bride; and that he has hinted to my father, that from thenceforward, considering me rather as his brother than his protegé, he shall not only procure leave of absence from the General of my regiment—(for I am not in his, but in that where his nephew, Captain Warwick, has a company)—but use his utmost endeavours to procure me immediate promotion. I own, Monimia, that though I think this marriage most preposterous, and that my sister Isabella is marrying merely for money; yet I am so weak, and I am afraid so selfish, that the idea of gaining by this alliance the advantage of seeing you, which I could not often do otherwise, makes me half forget the disparity of the ages, and overlook the absurdity of a man of sixty-five marrying a girl of twenty-one: indeed, whether I approved or disapproved it, would in this case make no difference; therefore, as I could not prevent the evil, if it be one, there is, I trust, no meanness in my availing myself of the good.

Monimia felt a weight, heavy as the hand of death, taken off her heart, when he told her they were, in consequence of this new family arrangement, likely so soon to meet again. Her mind, which had dwelt with horror on the idea of a separation for months, perhaps for years, was now relieved, by supposing it might not be for more than three weeks; and knowing nothing of military rules, she supposed that after the first forms of entering on his profession were gone through, he might return to the Hall; and that if she could not, from that active watchfulness which her aunt might then renew, see him every day, she should at least know that he was under the same roof, or within a few miles of her; to know even that he was in the same county, was a satisfaction; she should hear Mrs. 11 Rayland speak of him, if she was herself deprived of the happiness of meeting him; she should see him in the park, and hear his voice speaking to others, if he was not allowed to speak to her. Perhaps Mrs. Leonard, convinced by this absence that her suspicions had been groundless, might less vigilantly oppose their future intercourse. All these hopes—for the hopes of a young and inexperienced mind, are sanguine and easily received—served so far to assuage the pain Monimia had felt on their first meeting, that she became soon able to converse with calmness; and not only quieted her own troubled spirits, but endeavoured to sooth and compose those of Orlando. Her voice had upon his heart the power of magic—deliciously soothing as it was, it excited that sort of painful pleasure which is only expressed by tears. From this state of tender sympathy they were soon awakened, by a voice calling at a distance for Orlando. Monimia started, in terror; but her lover immediately appeased her fears, by telling her what his haste and the tumult of his mind had made him before omit, that he had appointed Selina to meet them. They now therefore (as it was so nearly dark that they could hardly distin­guish their way) hastened together towards that part of the wood from whence the voice came; and they soon met the poor terrified Selina, who, almost speechless with fear, on finding herself so far from home alone, and in a night that threatened inpenetrable darkness, trembled like a leaf, and said to Orlando, as he took her arm within his, that the whole world should not have bribed her to venture what she had now done for him.

He led again towards the bench by the boat-house, though Selina pressed him to return home as soon as he could.—I tremble, said she, and am terrified 12 to death, lest I should be missed: my father indeed is never very angry; but just at this time I would not for the world add to the many causes of uneasiness which he has about the rest of us.—

Nor would I, replied her brother; no, Selina, there is not in the world any sacrifice I would not make to both or either of my parents, except that of my affections for Monimia. He then, though both urged him to put an end to this interview, which seemed indeed only productive of needless pain, insisted upon their sitting down by him; and, holding their hands, which he kissed as he united them, he besought them to love each other when he was gone, and to consider each other as more than sisters! He told Monimia, it was in cover of his letters to Selina he proposed to write to her, and not by the means of the under game-keeper, as he had once proposed; and he then inquired if they could not appoint some one day in the week when they might meet in that spot: I shall then be present with you, said he, mournfully, at least in imagination—yes, however distant my person may be, my soul will be here! I shall, in fancy at least, enjoy the delight of seeing together the two beings whom I most fondly love, and of knowing they are occupied with the thoughts of their poor Orlando! There is a story in one of the popular periodical publications, I believe in the Spectator, of two lovers, who agreed, at a certain hour to retire, each from their respective engagements, to look at the moon; the romantic satisfaction they enjoyed in knowing that the eyes of the person beloved were, at the moment they were gazing on it, fixed on the same planet, will by this means be doubled to me; for I shall know that at such an hour on such a morning my Monimia and my Selina will be just in this place; I shall 13 see them—I shall see the eagerness with which Monimia will ask for news of me—the pleasure with which Selina will give it.—Every object round this spot will be present to me; and wherever I may be, however occupied in my duty, my soul will at that moment be particularly here.

Selina, not less anxious to gratify him in this romantic fancy than Monimia herself, now named Monday, as the morning when this innocent assignation should be made; and gave as her reason for it, that on that day her mother was less likely to miss her, from her being then particularly engaged in settling her domestic concerns; and that as they did not always certainly receive letters from the neighbouring post town, except on Sundays, the morning of the following day of the week would be that, in which it would be most likely she should have those that were to be sent her for Monimia.

Poor Monimia, with a deep sigh, reflected, that if all this was necessary to soften a separation of only three weeks (for Orlando had again assured her it would not be more), a longer would be quite insupportable to them both. The deep sound of the great clock at the Hall tolling six, sullenly conveyed towards them by the water, roused her from her momentary dread of future sorrow to a perfect sense of that which was immediately before her. It was necessary to hasten this dreadful parting; there was not a moment to lose; for at a quarter past six she was to be in the parlour to make the tea for Mrs. Rayland and her aunt, and the nearest way was near a mile to the house.—Falteringly she spoke to Orlando of the danger of her stay—he heard her, but he could not answer.—Selina, who was almost as fearful of being missed as she was, repeated it.—Come, then, cried Orlando, 14 dejectedly, since it must be so, let us go.—He took one under each arm, and was moving towards Rayland Hall, when Selina cried, Dear brother! you will not go to the Hall?—No, answered he; but I will not suffer Monimia to go so far alone; therefore we will see her safe in sight of the house, and then return.—We must be very quick then, said Selina.—As quick as you can walk, my sister; answered he, still in extreme agitation: for I care not how soon the pain I endure at this moment is at an end—I suffer the tortures of the damned! The poor girls, terrified at the vehemence with which he spoke, and the wild way in which he hurried on, made no reply, and only exerted themselves to keep up with him. In silence, they ascended an high stile, which in one place separated the park; and in silence ascended the hill which arose behind the north front of the house.—Monimia then desired him to stop—We are now, said she, within sight of the house, and there can be no danger for me.—Within sight; How is that, my Monimia, when it is so dark that we are hardly within sight of each other?—No, replied she; but what I mean is, that there is nothing to fear in my crossing the park alone.—I shall go with you, however, said Orlando, to the old thorn in the dell below.—At the hazard, said Monimia, trembling, of our being met by some of the servants at the Hall, or people going home from their Sunday’s visits to them?—At the hazard, added Selina, of terrifying and displeasing my father and mother?—At the hazard of every thing! replied Orlando, with a degree of impetuosity which neither of them had courage farther to oppose. They again became silent; and as they continued to walk very fast, or rather to run, they presently reached the place which Orlando had himself named for their parting; where Monimia 15 again stopped, and disengaging her arm from his before he could prevent her, she said, faintly, And now, Orlando, God bless you!—dear, dear Selina! she was quite unable to finish the sentence; but, turning, would have left them, when Orlando, throwing his arms round her, wildly pressed her to his bosom.—Be not so much concerned, said she, trying gently to disengage herself, remember you have told me we shall meet soon—very soon again: Orlando! if you really love me—if you pity me, do not, I implore you, detain me now.—I will not, said he: God forbid that I should injure you, dearest, loveliest—! She was gone—he stood a moment like a statue, while her white clothes made her distin­guishable through the gloom.—Selina then intreated him to hasten home—No! he said dejectedly; No, I must stay here till I hear the door, by which I know she will enter the house, shut after her; and then I shall be sure she is safe. Selina could not oppose this; it could indeed take up but a moment—Hush! cried Orlando, do not speak! let us listen—ha! the door shuts! Well, Selina, I will now go back with you; and a thousand and a thousand times I thank you, my best Selina, for your indulgence to me.

They then hurried back the way they came, and with as much haste as the darkness of the night would permit: it was above three miles by the nearest path; and Orlando, occupied solely by the anguish of having parted with Monimia, uttered not a syllable; while Selina, excessively alarmed lest her mother should have missed her, felt her heart heat so much with apprehension, that it was with the utmost difficulty she could keep pace with him.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXIX

In two-volume editions, this is Chapter I of Volume II. (In four-volume editions, Volume III started several chapters ago.)

[Footnote] Cowper’s exquisite poem of The Task
[First published in 1785, which casts further doubt on the editor’s assertion that the novel was written during the American revolutionary war.]

[Footnote] Thomson
[Summer, line 1364, to be exact. Whether absent-mindedly or by design, the editor retains the Small Capitals of the original footnote.]

being called the honourable Mrs. Tracy
[English titles, including courtesy titles, are asymmetrical: a wife acquires her husband’s title, whatever it may be, but a husband never gets a title from his wife. General Tracy, as the younger son of an earl, is formally General The Honourable Firstname Tracy.]

use his utmost endeavours to procure me immediate promotion
[Promotion in wartime for someone who hasn’t seen a day of combat? Good luck with that.]

a man of sixty-five marrying a girl of twenty-one
[You don’t need to remember these ages; the author certainly won’t.]

Selina . . . trembled like a leaf
[She’s not trembling with fear; she’s shivering with cold. The same goes for Monimia, a few pages back. The author can’t be accused of forgetting the season, since she did note that by five it was almost dark.]


Somerive received his son with tenderness; but his dejection was but too visible.


On their arrival Selina was agreeably surprised

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.