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The Old Manor House:

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CHAPTER XXXI.

A moment’s reflection recalled the confused and dissipated thoughts of Orlando back to the transactions of the day. He had never liked General Tracy much; and he now liked him less than ever, and regretted that Isabella was to be his wife. He almost doubted whether he ever meant to make her so; and the idea of any deception raised his indignation. But he had nobody to whom he could communicate his thoughts: and it was perhaps fortunate for him that he had not; for his open, unguarded temper, incapable of dissimulation, and despising it wherever it appeared, was very likely to have betrayed him into confidence with his uncle which would have hurt his father.

The moment, however, he saw Woodford, he shrunk into himself; and instead of remembering that he had not yet been at home to receive him, felt only concern that he was come home at all.

Warm from a city dinner, the boisterous manners of his uncle appeared particularly disgusting to Orlando, who had lately been accustomed to associate only with women, or with his father and the General; the conversation of the former of whom was pensively mild, and that of the latter so extremely courtly that he seemed always to fancy himself in the drawing room. Orlando, therefore, was almost stunned with the halloo of his uncle on receiving him: he shook him, however, heartily by the hand, crying—Well, my boy! I’m glad to see thee: though devilishly thou art bit, my little hero, to find that all that old Tabby’s fine promises end in sending thee to carry a rag upon a pole, and get shot through the gizzard by the Yankies.—Aha! I was right, you see.—Take my word another time. I 28 know the world, and never saw that waiting for such chances answered—A young fellow may wait till he is grey on one of those hags, and the devil a bit find himself the forwarder at last.—They never die; for o’ my conscience I believe they have each of them as many lives as a cat: and when at last they have the conscience to turn the corner, it’s ten to one but they bilk you after all.—No, no; take my advice another time—never depend upon them; ’tis better to shift for one’s self.

Well, Sir, said Orlando, whom this harangue equally tired and disgusted, you see that I have followed your advice, by embracing a profession——

A profession! cried Woodford with a contemptuous look; and what a profession!—To be shot at for about five-and-thirty pounds a year! Hey? or how much is it? thereabouts, I believe.—A rare profession, when a man ties himself down to be at the command of about a dozen others!—In this manner he ran on, nothing doubting the shrewdness of his remarks, and not meaning to be rude and brutal in making them: yet Orlando felt that he was both; nor was he much relieved by the change in the conversation that brought the General’s intended match into discussion. Woodford was at once flattered by such an alliance, and mortified that his own daughters had missed it. He felt proud that he should boast of having the Honourable Lieutenant-General Tracy his nephew, but was vexed that he had not had any share in bringing it about; and this contrariety of sensations found vent in the coarse raillery he uttered to Orlando, who was once or twice on the point of losing his temper, before the entrance of the ladies and their party from the play put an end to a dialogue so very disagreeable to him.

Young Woodford, who, having quitted trade to study the law, was now a motley composition, between 29 a city buck and a pert Templar, accompanied his mother and sisters; which he took care to signify was a great favour, and not owing to his wish to oblige them—but to see how he liked a young woman they had with them from the city, and who was the only daughter of a rich broker of the tribe of Israel, who had, however, married a Christian, and was indifferent enough about his own religion to let his daughter be called a Christian also. Her fortune was supposed to be at least seventy thousand pounds; and Mr. Woodford had long been scheming to procure a match between her and his Jemmy:—to which Jemmy declared he would condescend, if he could but bring himself to like the girl. But he thought her confounded ugly, and had no notion of sacrificing himself to money. The girl herself, just come from a boarding-school, her head full of accom­plishments and romance, was in great haste for a lover. Mr. James Woodford was reckoned, by some of his young acquaintance, a very smart, fashionable man; and Miss Cassado needed very little persuasion to fancy herself in love with him.

The intended husband of Maria Woodford, and a young man who seemed to have pretensions to the other sister, were the rest of the party: who, preceded by Mrs. Woodford, now appeared. The ladies of the family spoke with cool civility to Orlando—the younger Woodford, with the air that he imagined a man of fashion would assume for the reception of his country cousin: but under this apparent contempt he concealed the mortification he felt from the observation that Orlando, who was always admired by the women, was much improved in his person since he last saw him.

With his two female cousins Orlando had never been a favourite, notwith­standing his acknowledged beauty; and that for no other reason, than because 30 he had never paid to their charms the tribute of admiration they expected from every body. Eliza particularly disliked him, because he had refused a sort of a proposal made by her father to give him her hand and a share of the business. But the young Jewess, who consulted only her eyes, immediately discovered, by their information, that this stranger was the sweetest, handsomest, most enchanting man in the world; and that James Woodford was nothing to him. She had her imagination filled with heroes of novels, and the figure and face of Orlando exactly corresponded with the ideas of perfection she had gathered from them; while the natural good-breeding which accompanied whatever he said, and that sort of pensive reserve he maintained in such a company, which gave to his manner peculiar softness, placed him at once among the dear interesting creatures with which her head was always full; and she either so little knew, or so little wished to conceal the impression he had made, that James Woodford and his mother perceived it, both with an accession of ill humour which did not sweeten their manners towards Orlando.

At supper every body talked together; though their eagerness to be heard could not be justified by the importance of what they had to say, which was chiefly remarks on the players, criticism on their acting, or anecdotes of their lives, of which the younger Mr. Woodford had apparently a great fund. Orlando, who knew none of them, and for whose conversation there was no vacancy if he had been disposed to converse, sat a silent auditor of this edifying discourse; now wondering at the importance affixed to people and events which appeared to him of so little consequence—now comparing the noisy group in which he sat, with the dear circle at home, and his delicious tête-à-têtes 31 with his soft and sensible Monimia—and not unfrequently looking with some degree of wonder on the rosy cheeks, disfigured forms, and dispro­portioned heads of the ladies—but especially on that of Mrs. Woodford, whose cheeks were as red, and whose plumage waved as formidably as that of any of the misses. He soon determined, that till he could finish his business about his commission, and prepare for his duty, he would take a lodging, and not remain where he was likely to find so little society to his taste, and where his reception was hardly civil.

Having taken this resolution for the morrow, he felt no other wish but that the disagreeable night would end; and totally neglected by every body but Miss Cassado, who now and then addressed herself to him in a sweet sentimental tone, he had disengaged his mind from the scene around him, and was picturing in his imagination the turret of his Monimia. He saw her sleeping; and her innocent dreams were of him! Every piece of furniture in the room, the books, and the work that lay scattered about it, were present to him. It was the image only of Orlando that sat at the table of Mr. Woodford; the soul that animated that image was at Rayland Hall.

But from this illusion he was startled by Woodford; who, giving him a smart blow on the shoulder with his open hand, cried, Why, Captain; you are in the clouds! Hey-day! what pretty plump dairy-maid at the Hall is the object of this brown study? Never mind, my lad—a soldier finds a mistress wherever he goes; and though I dare swear thou hast broken a sixpence with her as a token of true love—she will not break her heart, I warrant her, while there’s a sturdy young carter in the county of Sussex—Come, most magnanimous Captain, 32 cheer up! We are going to drink, in a bumper of such claret as thou hast not often tasted, Confusion to the Yankees, and that there may soon be not a drop of American blood in their rebellious hearts!—As thou art going to fight against them, thou wilt help us drink against them—Come; your glass, Sir; your glass! and when that toast has passed, I have another.

Orlando, who was more shocked and disgusted by every word his uncle spoke, now took his glass in silence; and Woodford, engaged in some of that conversation which he called roasting, with another of the young men, let him drink the wine without insisting on his repeating words, from which, almost ignorant as he was of the nature of the contest with America, his reason and humanity alike recoiled.

But he did not so escape from the future toast with which his insupportable uncle had threatened him. When the whole company had drawn round the fire (for their supper was now concluded), and every glass was again by the order of Mr. Woodford charged—he, who in dining out, and in liberal potations he had taken since he came home, had already swallowed more than was sufficient to elevate his robust spirits, stood up with his back to the fire in the middle of his family and his guests, and there gave a toast which had a very direct reference to General Tracy’s marriage with his niece Isabella, in terms so very improper, that Orlando, to whom it was particularly addressed, felt every principle of personal honour or general propriety insulted by it, and positively refused not only to drink it, but to stay in the room while it was drank. Being once roused, and feeling himself right, the vulgar ridicule of his uncle had as little effect as the more serious and angry remonstrance of his coxcomb 33 cousin, who assured him, that only his little knowledge of the world, and rustic education, could cover him from the most serious resentment. A severe pang touched the sensible heart of Orlando, as he recollected that his beloved mother would be vexed at this difference between her brother and her son: but, when he related the cause, he was sure she would not blame but commend him; and conscious of all the dignity of an unadulterated mind, scorning to stoop to even an unworthy expression because it was authorized by custom, or insisted upon by a relation, he took his hat, and, wishing the ladies good-night with great politeness, was leaving the house, when Woodford himself overtook him at the door, and apologised for his unguarded proposal, by which, however, he protested he meant not to offend him. On this apology, and on an assurance that he should hear no more of such offensive conversation, Orlando returned to the room, though fully determined to leave the house the next day.

The licentious and vulgar mirth, however, which Mr. Woodford chose to call conviviality, was at an end after this incident. James Woodford, already detesting Orlando, could hardly be civil to him; the lady of the house beheld him with a mixture of envy, contempt and terror: the misses, his cousins, felt only resentment and contempt: but the little Jessica, gone already an age in love, admired his spirit, and adored his beauty; and when her father’s chariot, with an old Hilpah who acted as a sort of Duenna in it, came to fetch her home, she made a tolerably confident advance to engage the brave pretty creature to escort her home. Orlando, however, either did not or would not under­stand her; and James Woodford, piqued at the preference given to Orlando, which the lady was at no pains to conceal, suffered her to depart alone.

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The rest of the party immediately separated: the young barrister retired to his chambers, hardly deigning to wish his country cousin good-night—Orlando, whose trouble no kindness from this family had power to allay, as their neglect had no power to increase it, went to his room little disposed to sleep; fatigue of body and mind gave him up to a few hours of forgetfulness. At dawn of morning he awoke, and, as he knew it would be long before any of the servants rose in an house where night was converted into day, he dressed himself; and as the day was to be dedicated to business, and he wished to lose as little time as possible, he went to breakfast at a coffee-house, and left a note for his uncle, saying, in civil but cold terms, that, as he had so many affairs to transact in a very short time, he must keep very irregular hours, and therefore should be a troublesome inmate in a family; for which reason he should take a lodging near the part of the town where his engagements lay, and should only occasionally trespass upon him for a dinner.

From the coffee-house where he breakfasted he wrote to General Tracy, requesting his directions, as he determined not to call at his house. To this letter, however, he did not expect an answer till after one o’clock, as the General was seldom visible sooner; and he employed the long interval in writing to his family a short account of his safe arrival in London, and in pouring out his whole heart to Monimia in a letter, which he inclosed in one to his sister Selina.

General Tracy was in the mean time suffering on one side, all the apprehensions of what would be thought and said, when his intended marriage should be known, by those whose interest it was to keep him single; and, on the other side, from his 35 fears of losing Isabella, his passion for whom absence did not promise to do much towards curing. Warwick had been returned from his recruiting party above a week, and had been several times in Grosvenor Place inquiring for his uncle; and the behaviour of the lady of the house towards her ancient lover was such as gave him great reason to suppose that his intended reform was suspected, if not known. Of this, however, he had no longer any doubt, when, going late in the evening after his arrival in town to the house he usually frequented in St. James’s-street, he was attacked upon this tender subject by all his old friends, and rallied without mercy. As he could not deny an affair of which they seemed so well acquainted with the particulars, he took at once the resolution to avow it; their ridicule then ceased, and Tracy returned home, glad that this first burst of laughter was over.

But much was yet to come of a more serious nature, against which he armed himself as well as he could, by reflecting that he had a very good right to please himself, and that neither Captain Warwick, nor any of those other persons to whom he had given a claim over him, had any other dependence than on his bounty. To the women on whom he had made settlements, he knew he must pay them; but whatever he had done for Warwick was entirely voluntary; and as his nephew had no other dependence, he would hardly, for his own sake, so behave as to cut himself off from a share of his future fortune because he could not have it all.

Armed with these reflections, he determined to end this disagreeable state at once, by telling Warwick what he intended for himself, and for him. And when his nephew, apprised of his being returned 36 to London, waited on him the next morning at breakfast, Tracy, though he would rather have mounted a breach, plunged at once into the subject—informed Captain Warwick of his intention to marry, and of the immediate present, as well as future provision he intended for him.

Warwick, who had always feared his uncle’s very youthful propensities would, as he advanced in life, betray him into the very folly he was now about to commit, received this intelligence with more concern than surprise. He was himself of the gayest and most inconsiderate disposition. In the height of health, youth, and spirits, the admiration of every woman he saw, and the life of every company he went into, his vanity did not allow him to suppose that he owed any part of that admiration to the prospect he had of being heir to General Tracy’s wealth; and, imputing it all to his own merit, he fancied himself superior to the malice of fortune. There were many possibilities which, on a moment’s reflection, weakened the blow which this intelligence seemed at first to give to his fairest hopes—His uncle might change his mind a day before it was executed—the young woman might jilt him—or, even if the marriage took place, he would probably have no children; and then he should himself be so little injured by this match, that it was not worth thinking about with any degree of concern—The thousand pounds too, which his uncle promised him, was a douceur that considerably abated the bitterness of such intelligence; and Warwick, rather through the carelessness of his nature than from motives of prudence or policy, received this intelligence so much more calmly than Tracy expected, that his uncle appeared to be in a better humour with him than ever. This uneasy subject once discussed, Tracy proceeded to inform 37 him, that the brother of his intended bride, for whom he had procured an Ensign’s commission in his (Warwick’s) regiment, though not in the same company, had accompanied him to London, in order to equip himself for the service, and to join that part of the corps that were in England. While he was thus speaking, Orlando’s note was brought in; and on Tracy hinting that such were his wishes, Captain Warwick immediately offered to go himself to the young soldier, and give him every assistance and information that could be useful to him.

Instead, therefore, of a written answer to his note, Orlando heard a gentleman inquiring for him in the coffee-room; and on his appearing, Captain Warwick, whose figure and address immediately prejudiced every body in his favour, introduced himself as the nephew of General Tracy.

If Orlando instantly conceived a favourable opinion of Warwick, he was yet more struck with his new acquaintance. From his uncle’s account, and from what his own imagination added to it, he supposed that he was to be a temporary bear-leader to a tall straight-haired cub just come from school, who wanted a drill serjeant rather than a fashionable acquaintance; but when he saw, and only for a moment had conversed with Orlando, he perceived that he was one of those beings for whom education can do little, and whom nature has so highly favoured that nothing can be added by art. The two young men, thus highly pleased with each other, soon entered into conversation, with that unguarded familiarity which accompanies generous tempers in the candid days of youth. Orlando spoke his mind very freely on the absurdity of the match meditated by the venerable General; and Warwick as freely ridiculed it, while he could not 38 help expressing some curiosity as to Isabella, whose charms had thus brought about what so many artful women of all descriptions had been trying at for the last thirty years at least. Orlando described his sister as he really thought her—a very handsome girl, full of spirit and vivacity, with a great deal of good humour—a good share of under­standing, which did not, however, exempt her from being very vain, and somewhat of a coquette. It was on inquiries relative to her person, which he said must be extraordinary, that Warwick dwelt the most—Really, said Orlando, I have seen many women who are as handsome, some handsomer. For example, I think Selina, my third sister, infinitely more beautiful, though I own to you she is not generally reckoned so.—Upon my soul, replied Warwick, your family, Somerive, must be a very dangerous one—I suppose, though, I am pretty secure; for my good old uncle, or young uncle—I cry him mercy! will not let me have a peep, for the world, at this future aunt of mine! Orlando was glad to see that Warwick received with so much gaieté de cœur, an event which would have raised in the minds of most other persons, so situated, inveterate enmity against his whole family. Warwick engaged him to dine at a tavern in Pall-Mall; and they then went out together, that Orlando might know where to find the tradesmen for whom he had occasion.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXI

a rich broker of the tribe of Israel, who had, however, married a Christian, and was indifferent enough about his own religion to let his daughter be called a Christian also
[Indifference doesn’t enter into it. If the mother is not “of the tribe of Israel”, whether by birth or by conversion, then neither are the children.]

She had her imagination filled with heroes of novels
[Not many years in the future, Northanger Abbey will have something to say about the absurdity of letting characters in a novel—never mind the author of a novel—profess to despise novels.]

His uncle might change his mind a day before it was executed
text has exectued


On their arrival Selina was agreeably surprised


For Orlando, there could not be a more dangerous companion than Captain Warwick.

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.