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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XXXII.

For a young man of the temper and disposition of Orlando, there could not be a more dangerous companion than Captain Warwick. Indulged from 39 his infancy, by his uncle, in every thing that did not interfere with his own pleasures, and having no parents to restrain him, Warwick never dreamed of checking himself in whatever gratified his passions or flattered his imagination. His spirit and vivacity recommended him to societies of men, where he learned to be an agreeable debauché, to drink without losing his reason, but not always to play without losing his money. His very fine person, and the softness of manners he could occasionally assume, endeared him to the women, among whom he was called the handsome Warwick, and with them lost his time—but hitherto without losing his heart. With all his acquired imperfections, he retained many inherent good qualities—He was humane, generous, and candid: his soldiers adored him; and his friends, amid all that fashionable dissipation in which most of them lived, were more attached to Warwick than fashionable men usually are to any body. Orlando, in the simplicity of his heart, thought him the man in the world most calculated to be his friend. Warwick was recruiting at Barnet; but, however, had obtained leave to be in London: and Orlando, who, after passing a few days with him, could less than ever endure the sort of society he found at Mr. Woodford’s, took a lodging near Warwick’s, and they became almost inseparable. The General, embarrassed between his love for Isabella Somerive, which he could not conquer, and his present connections, which he knew not how to break, passed in a state of mind by no means enviable the first week after his return to London; but the greatest torments he was to experience had not yet overtaken him, for the societies of fashionable women, among which he had been the oracle, were not yet assembled for the winter. He dreaded, when he met them, not only the loss of his consequence, 40 but the scorn and ridicule he should be exposed to. He wished to be once married, when common civility would repress those sarcasms to which he knew he should be otherwise exposed; yet as the preparations necessary for this important event, which he assured Mr. Somerive he would hasten, were to be begun, his resolution failed: he wished he had not gone so far, but had adhered to his former cruel plan, of waiting till the death of her father, and the distress and dispersion of her family, which that event threatened, had thrown her into a situation in which it was likely she might be tempted to accept less honourable proposals. While the mind of the ancient lover thus fluctuated between the fear of losing her quite, and the reluctance he felt to resign his liberty to obtain her, Isabella discovered no impatience for his return; but waited for her promised dignities with tranquillity, which her father was far from sharing. The painful idea of sacrificing his daughter to mercenary consi­derations, was not more supportable than that of leaving her destitute, together with the rest of his family, of a comfortable subsistence; but, above all, the cruel desertion of his eldest son, of whom he had now heard nothing for many weeks, corroded his heart with unceasing torments; and those torments were increased by the necessity he imposed upon himself, of concealing them as much as possible from his wife.

The letters he received from Orlando were his only consolation; yet even these were embittered, by hearing, in every one of them, that all his inquiries after his brother had hitherto been fruitless. Warwick, who found great pleasure in his company, had, very early in their acquaintance, learned the source of that anxiety which often clouded the open countenance of his friend; and in 41 hopes of meeting Philip Somerive, they had gone together, not only to public places, and to all parts of them which it was likely he might frequent, but to gaming houses and taverns of the second class, where, from Orlando’s description of his brother’s style of conversation, Warwick thought it most likely he would be found: but they gained no intelligence of him; and the very research was not made with impunity by Warwick, who could seldom help engaging in any thing that was going forward. But Orlando’s affection for his family, and for Monimia, secured him effectually from the infection of such societies—he had strength of mind enough to consider how much he owed to them and to himself, and to reflect how unpardonable his conduct must appear to his father, if, in undertaking to recover his brother he should lose himself. These reflections, and an heart almost insensible of all pleasures but what were derived from the hope of passing the summer of his life with Monimia, were antidotes even to the influence of Warwick’s example, who often gaily rallied his country prejudices, but never seriously attempted to pervert his principles—and sometimes, in their more serious conversations, was candid enough to own that he should himself be a happier man if he did not, rather than incur the ridicule of those for whose opinion he felt only contempt, plunge into vices for which he had no taste, and call pursuits pleasurable, which, in fact, had no power to bestow pleasure.

Orlando had now been three weeks in London; for the plan of returning to pass his Christmas at Wolverton, which had been once proposed, had been given up. The General, contented with having introduced him to Captain Warwick, had seen no more of him since than common civility required, and was now gone to pass that space of time 42 between the end of the old and the beginning of the new year, when it is very unfashionable to be in London, at the house of his brother, Lord Barhaven, who usually remained at his northern residence till the end of January. The General had originally proposed to return to Somerive’s house at this time; but not having yet recovered the doubting qualms which he had since felt, he thought a fortnight at his brother’s, where he hoped and believed no idea of his intentions could yet have been heard, would give his arguments on both sides fair play, which now were so equally balanced: he should be alike removed from the fascinating charms of the blooming Isabella, and from those rivals who, in London, had many established claims on his heart and his pocket.—He should not, on one hand, be delighted with the spectacle of family happiness and domestic comfort, which the circle at Somerive’s house offered to him; nor, on the other, dread the ridiculous light into which the wit of his London friends threw his intended marriage with a beautiful rustic, young enough to be his grand-daughter. For these reasons he wrote to Somerive, lamenting the necessity he was under to change his plan; and alleging that it was family engagements alone that impelled him to do so, but that as soon as they were fulfilled he should hasten on the wings of rapture to West Wolverton, he set out for the north.

Orlando continued another month in town without hearing of his return, or wishing to hear it for any other reason than because it would, he thought, be the signal of their going down together to the house of his father.—At the end of that time he became impatient—he had been now above six weeks absent, and the letters he had from his family, but still more those he less frequently received from Monimia, irritated this impatience. The anguish 43 of mind that every week increased, while Mr. Somerive had no news of his eldest son, was by his letters forcibly expressed to Orlando, while his mother and his sisters gave him mournful accounts of his father’s health. Mrs. Rayland’s letters were, though very rare, the greatest alleviations to his uneasiness that Orlando received; for they were as expressive of kindness, and of increasing attachment to him, as the reserve of her manner, and the formality of her style, would permit them to be; and it was a great and very unusual degree of favour towards any one, that alone could urge her to write at all. The two letters he received from her, therefore, were considered by Orlando as being more unequivocal proofs of her settled affection for him, than any she had yet given.

Still the time that was to intervene before he should be permitted to return to the dear paternal spot, around which were assembled all the future hopes of his life, seemed insupportably long.—He was now in Hertfordshire with his men; and only occasionally obtained a few days to pass with his friend Warwick in London. In the tedious days he passed almost alone in a little country town, his resource was in books, and to such as he could attain he applied himself with more avidity than he had ever done at the Hall. Thus passed the month of February, and part of March. Mr. Somerive then believing, with great appearance of reason, that Tracy was trifling with his daughter, wrote to the General in such a way as must bring on a decision. In consequence of this, the General, still wavering, returned to London, from whence, and from his duty in Parliament, he had absented himself since the beginning of the session on pretence of ill health. On his arrival in town a circumstance awaited him, which called him back to his honest resolutions; for 44 the young woman, on whom he had profusely lavished great sums of money, who was established in his house, and whose settlement he had lately increased in consequence of his proposed marriage, had quitted his house the evening before that on which she knew he was to return to it, leaving a letter, in which she turned him, and all her former profes­sions of attachment to him into ridicule. She took with her all the presents he had made her, to a very considerable amount—gave him the name of a person whom she had authorised to receive the annual sum he was to pay her—informed him she was gone to Italy with a young man of fashion, whom she named to him, and was his most obedient humble servant.

As the excessive vanity of the General had blinded him so far as to make him believe he was extremely beloved by this young woman, who had always laughed at and imposed upon him, he was thunderstruck by an incident so unexpected, and cruelly mortified to find, that while he was meditating how to soften to her the pain of parting, she was thinking only of flying from him with a younger lover. His resolutions in favour of matrimony, which pride and the dread of ridicule had at least suspended, now returned in all their force. He immediately wrote to Somerive, excusing, as plausibly as he could, his late apparent backwardness, and acquainted him that he only waited for the drafts of the settlements, which, as particular circumstances in his affairs rendered much attention to them necessary, his solicitor had promised to have drawn up and laid before two of the most eminent counsel—all which he was assured would not take up above a fortnight, at the end of which time he should lay himself and his fortune at the feet of his adorable Isabella.

The General however, though he was now really 45 in earnest, could not prevail on men of law to make a forced march in his favour; and the fortnight elapsed in queries and questions in which there seemed no other end to be obtained than that of increasing the fees of the gentlemen of the long robe, and the bill of attendance to the attorney. Somerive again thought himself trifled with; and the General, in order to convince him he was not, went down on a sudden to West Wolverton, where the charms of Isabella regained at once all their power; and after staying ten days, and renewing, in the most solemn manner, his engagements with Somerive, he returned to London, to make the last preparations for his marriage, which was fixed to be within three weeks. As it had long been settled that Orlando was then to return home to be present at the celebration of these nuptials, he heard that all was at length settled, with a mixture of pleasure and pain.—The delight he felt at the idea of returning to friends so dear to him—above all of seeing his Monimia, was embittered by reflecting on the sacrifice his sister was about to make in this unequal marriage; nor could he reflect without regret on the injury it would do to the interest of his friend Warwick, who, however, spoke of it himself with philosophic gaiety.

It was near the end of April before the General, who now remained steady to his engagements, could prevail upon the tardy special pleader, the puzzling counsel, and the parchment-loving solicitor, to complete their parts in this intended contract. At last however the General, attended by two of them, set out for West Wolverton, and in a few days was followed by Orlando.

The day after his arrival was occupied till it was almost dark, with the ceremony of hearing these endless settlements read; and, as he was a party to 46 them all, it was impossible to escape even on pretence of the indisputably necessary visit to Mrs. Rayland; but the instant they were signed he flew eagerly to the Hall.

The sight of the many well known objects on his way—every tree, every shrub, recalled to his mind a thousand pleasing ideas; and as he passed hastily through the fir wood, where in a dreary night of December he had last parted from Monimia, or at least passed a few agitated moments previous to their parting, he compared his present sensations with what he had at that time felt, and laughed at the superstitious impression given him then, and on some former occasions, by the gloom of the winter sky—when he fancied that, in the hollow murmur of the breeze, he heard, “Orlando will revisit these scenes no more!”

Every object, then wrapped in real and imaginary horrors, was now gay and joyous. It was a lovely glowing evening, towards the end of April.—The sun was set, but his beams still tinged with vivid colours the western clouds, and their reflection gave the water of the lake that warm and roseate hue which painting cannot reach.—The tender green of spring formed to this a lovely contrast, and, where the wood of ancient pines ceased, his path lay through a coppice of low underwood and young self-planted firs—the ground under them thickly strewn with primroses and the earliest wild flowers of the year.

Hope and pleasure seemed to breathe around him,—Hope and pleasure filled the heart and flashed in the eyes of Orlando; and perhaps the moment when he reached the door of the old Hall, though he was forced to stop a moment to recover his breath and recollection, was one of the happiest in his life.

47

It had been the established custom, from his first admission to the Hall, never to enter the apartment of Mrs. Rayland but on permission; but now, as he had informed her from London, that he intended to be at the Hall in a few days, and had received an answer most cordially inviting him, his impatience would not permit him to wait for this ceremony; and he hardly felt the ground beneath him, as he sprang up the stairs that led to her usual sitting parlour, and opening the door, saw, by the faint light which the old gothic casements afforded at that hour of the evening, Monimia sitting on the opposite window-seat alone. He flew towards her, forgetting, at that moment, that the world contained any other being. Surprise and pleasure deprived her as much of her recollection as they had done her lover; but it returned sooner, and she intreated him to forbear those frantic expressions of tenderness which were so dangerous in such a place.—Where are the old ladies then? cried he—they are only walking in the gallery, replied Monimia, as Mrs. Rayland was not well enough to go out to-day—they will be back immediately.—That cannot be, cried Orlando impatiently, for you know how slow their progress is; but let us not lose a moment in talking of them.—Tell me, Monimia, can I see you at night as I used to do?—Are you still in your turret, with the same means of leaving it?—Tell me, Monimia, I must not—I cannot be refused.

Ah, Orlando! answered the faltering Monimia, dearest Orlando! how often have I repented of those dangerous, those improper meetings; with how much difficulty we escaped, and how impossible it would have been for any other circumstance than your absence to have quieted the suspicions of my aunt! And ought we now to renew this hazardous corre­spondence—ought we to incur again such danger? Orlando interrupted her: Ought we! exclaimed 48 he. Is that a question Monimia would have made after so long an absence, if Monimia was not changed! Changed, Orlando! can you think me changed? Prove then that you are not, said he, again impatiently interrupting her: let me see you to night; my leave of absence is only for a few days, till my sister is married, and I must not—I will not be trifled with. Oh, hush! hush! whispered she, there is a noise! they are coming from the gallery! I had better not be found here with you. Promise then Monimia—promise me, and you shall go. I will hazard every thing, even an immediate discovery, if you refuse me. Monimia, trembling at his vehemence, then sighed her consent—and hardly knowing what she was about, gathered up the work that lay in the window-seat, and softly left the room, while Orlando walked to the other end of it, assuming, as well as he was able, an air of unconcern; but before he had made a second turn Mrs. Rayland entered—and started at the sight of him, though she had expected him either that day or the next.

He approached her with all that affection which is inspired by gratitude; and as he respectfully kissed her hand, she expressed her pleasure at seeing him returned. He then paid his compliments to Mrs. Lennard, whose eyes, he saw were thrown round the room for Monimia; she returned his civilities, however, with great good humour. Candles were ordered, and Mrs. Rayland invited him to supper, and to take up his residence at the Hall—favours which, with unfeigned pleasure, he accepted. The old lady, who had now long been accustomed to contemplate Orlando as a creature of her own forming, was pleased to fancy him improved, both in his person and his manners, during his short absence. He had acquired a military air—he was more easy, but not less respectful; and she fancied 49 that he resembled her grandfather’s picture more than he used to do; but she expressed some surprize not to see him in uniform, which she said, in her time, all gentlemen of the army appeared in usually.

Orlando promised he would conform to what she thought right in that respect—not however without some apprehensions, that as he advanced in life she would propose to him, in order that he might be still more like Sir Orlando Rayland, whose portrait she wished him to resemble, to purchase a tye wig, and brandish a sword, of which the guard should be lost in an immense sleeve.

As Mrs. Rayland was not very well, having lately had an attack of the gout, to which she was in the spring particularly subject, she dismissed the young soldier early: and it was with inexpressible delight that Orlando took possession once more of his old apartments, which had been carefully prepared for him. It would not be easy to describe the subsequent meeting between him and Monimia, who suffered herself to be persuaded to renew that clandestine intercourse, which they had both so often condemned as wrong, and renounced as dangerous; but when Monimia could prevail upon him to talk less of his present happiness, and to be more reasonable, she related to him all that had passed during his absence. Her life had, however, afforded very little variety, but was rather amended in regard to Mrs. Lennard’s treatment of her, who employed her more than usual in attendance on Mrs. Rayland, in order to save herself trouble, gave her more liberty, and was rather less harsh towards her than formerly. She related, that she was now often suffered to go to church, which had afforded her the opportunities she had snatched to meet Selina and correspond with him. Her aunt had apparently forgotten her suspicions and anger when he was 50 no longer near the Hall; and the disappearance of Betty Richards, who was said to have gone off (according to her own assertions) to Philip Somerive, and was reported to be supported by him in London, had been the means of eradicating entirely from the mind of Mrs. Rayland all those suspicions which the gossip of the country, collected and repeated by the jealousy of the old butler, had made on her mind; and she now thought better of Orlando than if those doubts had never been raised.

Orlando, in collecting all this from Monimia, saw too clearly the reason why his brother had so carefully avoided him; and amid all the delight of which his heart was sensible in this conference, it felt a sharp pang, when he reflected how great an accession of pain this intelligence, which did not seem to have reached him yet, would give to the already wounded heart of his father.

Day unwelcomely appeared, and it was dangerous for Monimia to stay a moment longer. Orlando conducted her safely back, extorting from her a promise that they should meet every night during the short time he was to stay. When he left her his spirits would not allow him to sleep. The morning was delicious, and a thousand birds from the woods, on every side the park, seemed to hail his arrival. Again all the enchanting visions with which youth and hope had formerly soothed his mind reappeared—never did they seem to him so likely to be realised. His sanguine imagination, no longer repressed by doubts of Mrs. Rayland’s intentions towards him, which were now every thing but actually declared, represented to him the most bewitching scenes of future happiness. The only alloy was his brother’s indiscretions and his father’s health; but he believed he should be able to obviate the incon­veniences of the one, and to restore 51 the other, when he should possess, what the course of nature rendered likely to be at no great distance, the property of Mrs. Rayland, which he meant to resign to his father for his life.

Happy pliability of the human spirit! Happy that period, when youth, and health, and hope, unite to paint in brilliant colours the uncertain future—when no sad experience, no corrosive disap­pointment, throws dark hues over the animating landscape; or, if they do, are softened into those shades that only add to its beauty! Orlando would not distin­guish, in that his fancy was busied in drawing any but agreeable objects—Monimia infinitely more lovely, and, if possible, more beloved than ever, was the principal figure. He saw her the adored mistress of that house, where she had been brought up in indigence, in obscurity, almost in servitude; this gem, which he alone had found, was set where nature certainly intended it to have been placed—it was to him, not only its discovery, but its lusture was owing—he saw it sparkle with genuine beauty, and illuminate his future days; and he repressed every thought which seemed to intimate the uncertainty of all he thus fondly anticipated, and even of life itself.

The cool tranquillity of morning, the freshness of the air, the beauty of the country whithersoever he turned his eyes, had not sufficient power to sooth and tranquillize his spirits—he believed a book which should for a moment carry him out of himself would do it more effectually; and returning to the library, he took from the shelves two or three small volumes of poetry which he had purchased, and retiring to an elevated spot in the park, which commanded a view of Monimia’s turret, he attempted in vain to read; but the sensations he felt were so much under the influence of fancy, 52 that they suddenly assumed a poetical form in the following verses:

HYMN to LOVE and HOPE.

Twin stars of light! whose blended rays

Illuminate the darkest road,

Where fortune’s roving exile strays,

When doubt and care the wanderer load,

And drive him far from joy’s abode.

Propitious Love and smiling Hope!

Be you my guides, and guardian powers,

If, doom’d with adverse fate to cope,

I quit in Honour’s rigid hours

These dear, these bliss-devoted towers.

Yet here, O still, most radiant! here

(Attend this prayer of fond concern)

To beauty’s bosom life endear,

Presaging as ye brightly burn

The rapture of my blest return.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXII

the preparations necessary for this important event . . . were to be begun
text has where to be

Warwick thought it most likely he would be found
text has would he found

never seriously attempted to pervert his principles
text has prevert

who usually remained at his northern residence till the end of January
text has northen


A moment’s reflection recalled the confused and dissipated thoughts of Orlando


Three happy days now passed rapidly away.

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.