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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XXXIII.

Three days, three happy days to Orlando, now passed rapidly away. Divided between his father’s house and the Hall, and appearing to constitute the comfort of both, he was himself gay and cheerful, in the certainty that at night he should see Monimia. The charms of the season; the beauty of the country, to which he was attached as well from taste as habit; the tender affection of Monimia, which, though more guarded, was more lively than on their early acquaintance; the delight of knowing that his father’s sorrows were soothed and suspended by his presence; and that his mother looked upon his attention to her as overpaying her for every other anxiety; all conspired to give 53 value to his existence, and to blunt the asperity of those reflections in regard to his brother, which now and then would interpose and give him momentary disquiet. He was not quite content about Isabella, who, through the air of gaiety she assumed did not seem to be really so well pleased as she affected to appear. The fulsome fondness of her ancient military lover sometimes raised her ridicule, but oftener disgust, which Orlando saw with concern. But on these occasions he reflected that nothing in this world is without its alloy; and that so many advantages would accrue to his family by the marriage of Isabella, that as she did not seem herself averse to it, it was folly in him to think of it with concern.

On the morning of the fourth day after his arrival, he had just walked over from the Hall, where Mrs. Rayland had detained him to breakfast, and was engaged in conversation in the parlour with his father and the General, when a dark-coloured chariot, drawn by four sleek dock-tailed horses that might have matched the set at Rayland Hall, was seen to approach the house, followed by three servants in purple liveries.

Mr. Somerive expressed some surprise at this, as he had not the least recollection of the equipage: their inquiry, however, who it would be, was immediately answered by the appearance of Doctor Holly­bourn; who, waddling out, inquired for Mr. Somerive, and was shewn into the room where he was sitting.

Mr. Somerive was so little accustomed to receive visits of civility from Doctor Holly­bourn, or indeed any visits at all, that he was as much surprised at this as he could be at a matter of so little consequence. The very great condescension of the good Doctor, who bowed as low as his prominent 54 stomach would let him, and whose speeches were interlarded by all kinds of flattery, Mr. Somerive accounted for by recollecting that the Doctor was extremely fond of the company of persons of title, and never so happy as when he could introduce some anecdote which related to his brother the Bishop, or some Right Honourable or Right Reverend Friend. He had, on the occasion of their meeting at Rayland Hall the preceding November, paid his court most assiduously to the General; and enlarged upon the beauty of his brother the Lord Barhaven’s seats; all of which, he said, he had visited. Somerive now therefore concluded that it was to the report of his honourable guest, and of his intended alliance with the family, that he owed this very obliging visit; which, however, he began to think very tedious, and dreaded its lasting till the evening: when, at length, the good Doctor, after a pompous preface, said that he had an affair of some consequence to communicate to Mr. Somerive, on whose time he begged to trespass alone for ten minutes.

Somerive, who could not imagine what a man with whom he had so slight an acquaintance could have to say to him, immediately applied this unexpected circumstance to the idea always present to his mind. He fancied some ill had befallen his eldest son, and that one of his friends had commissioned this man of the church to break to him the horrid tidings; and then to pour into his wounded mind the consolation his profession enabled him to bestow.

In an agony not to be described, therefore, Somerive led the way into his study; where the Doctor, after another flourishing preface, which Somerive in the confusion of his mind took for a preparatory discourse, offered to him for Orlando 55 his daughter, the fair and accom­plished heiress, to whom he declared he would give twenty thousand pounds down, with an engagement that at his death that sum should be trebled.

Though the proposal gave no great pleasure to Somerive, because he disliked Doctor Holly­bourn, and was almost sure Orlando disliked his daughter; yet this conversation, so different from what he expected to hear, gave, while it relieved him from the most dreadful apprehensions, the appearance of joy to his countenance; he thanked the consequential Doctor for the honour he did his family, promised to communicate to Orlando the purport of their conference, and to wait upon him with an answer, or send Orlando on the following day. They then returned to the General and Orlando—the conversation turned on common topics; and the Doctor, though asked to stay dinner, withdrew with his usual dignity.

The General was now considered as part of the family; and before him Somerive, who had hardly yet recovered from his surprise, related to Orlando, as soon as he was gone, the purport of his visit.

Mr. Somerive seemed at first but little disposed to listen to proposals of such a nature from a man whom he had always rather disliked, and who now seemed to have made them, only because it was generally understood that Orlando was acknowledged as the intended heir to the great estates of the Rayland family.

Orlando very plainly declared his disinclination to hear of them; while the General, by no means accustomed to consider pecuniary advantages as matters to be slightly thought of, or hastily rejected, asked such questions as led Somerive to explain the particulars of Miss Holly­bourn’s fortune and expectations; after which he contrived to turn the 56 conversation to indifferent matters for a few moments, and then walked away with Somerive, whom he very seriously advised to reconsider the matter before he suffered Orlando to throw from him this opportunity of becoming a man of fortune and independence.

The Doctor’s proposal, however flattering it would have been to many young men, even though they declined accepting it, gave to Orlando no other pleasure than what for a moment arose in reflecting, that, in thus refusing an affluent fortune, he gave to Monimia an additional proof of his affection. His father, however, after his late conversation with the General, and some reflection alone, began to see this offer in a more favourable light than it had at first appeared to him; and notwith­standing the little inclination he felt for the family of Holly­bourn, he was now of an age and under circumstances which gave to such a fortune as Orlando was now offered its full value in his opinion. His mind, already accustomed to contemplate the marriage of General Tracy with Isabella as a desirable event, more easily accommodated itself to think with approbation of another match equally dazzling, when opposed to the present uncertain situation of Orlando. After taking, therefore, some turns in his study alone, he sent for his son, and entreated of him to forbear giving the Doctor an answer at least for two or three days.

Orlando, who had never hesitated himself what answer to give, imagined it impossible to give it too soon—Surely, Sir, said he, as I cannot accept this good Doctor’s very obliging proposals, it will be useless and uncivil to delay a moment saying so, which I will say in a letter in the least displeasing manner I can; but which, however, I must beg leave to do this evening.

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I beg then that you will not, said Somerive in a more peremptory tone than he was accustomed to use—In such an affair I will not act without consulting Mrs. Rayland.

Mrs. Rayland, Sir, answered Orlando, will, I am very sure, either not interfere, or, if she does, it will not be to recommend Miss Holly­bourn.

We will inquire that, replied his father coldly; in the mean time you have my directions not to write to Dr. Holly­bourn.

Till when, Sir?

At least not till after I know Mrs. Rayland’s opinion.

All the opinions upon earth, Sir, cried Orlando, will not make me change my resolutions.

I thank you, however, Orlando, said Somerive, for avowing how little deference you pay to mine.

Dear Sir, it was only half an hour since you seemed as little disposed to listen to this unexpected overture as I am.

I had not then thought of it properly. You are young and rash enough to determine on the most important matters in ten minutes—I am not; and therefore I again desire you will not write to Dr. Holly­bourn this afternoon.

Orlando, a good deal hurt at this change in his father’s sentiments, and dreading importunity on an affair of such a nature, then inquired if he might himself wait upon Mrs. Rayland?—Somerive answered, You may, if you will at the same time deliver a letter from me in explanation, and say nothing yourself till that letter shall be read.

This Orlando promised, being pretty certain that Mrs. Rayland would be much less anxious for this connection than Mr. Somerive supposed, who now desired him to send his mother into the study.—He 58 obeyed; and left them to consult together on this unexpected offer, and to write to Mrs. Rayland, with whom he proposed dining, and had engaged to return to his father with her answer early in the evening.

Orlando now saw only persecution and trouble preparing for him at home during his short stay, for the tears and tenderness of his mother were infinitely more formidable to him than any other mode of interference.—To Selina, whom he called out to walk with him in the shrubbery, while this conference was holding, and this letter writing, he communicated all he felt. She had only tears to give him; for, to resist her father’s commands, or even his wishes, seemed to her impossible. She trembled at the idea of Orlando’s withstanding those wishes, yet knew enough of his invincible attachment to Monimia to be assured that he could never yield to them.

A servant at length brought to Orlando the letter to Mrs. Rayland for which he had waited, and he took his way to the Hall.

As he had promised his father not to speak upon it before Mrs. Rayland had read the contents, he sent it up by one of the footmen with a message importing that he waited her commands.

In this uneasy interval he dared not go in search of Monimia, nor could he detach his thoughts a moment from the subject of a proposal which threatened to empoison the few days of delight which he had promised himself. Restless and anxious, he walked backwards and forwards in the study with uncertain steps, now listening to every noise in hopes of receiving a summons to attend Mrs. Rayland; and now believing, from the delay, that she saw the proposal of Dr. Holly­bourn in a favourable light, and was writing to his father to enforce its acceptance.

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At length he was desired to walk up stairs; and, with a fluttering heart, he entered the apartment of Mrs. Rayland, who began by saying—You know, I suppose, the contents of the letter my kinsman Mr. Somerive has taken the trouble to send me?

Orlando answered, that he certainly did.

And pray. Sir, have you any wish to accept this offer? An offer!—The world methinks is strangely changed!—For a man to offer his daughter is such an indecorum—in my time such a proceeding was unheard of—But however we live and learn! I have heard that the way of these days is to send young women to market like cattle: but there is something perfectly shocking in it to me.—However, I suppose, to people of the world it is nothing new or extraordinary—Pray, Sir, what are your intentions?

Orlando immediately saw, and saw with inexpressible pleasure, that Mrs. Rayland was averse to the alliance with Dr. Holly­bourn. He answered therefore—My intentions, Madam, are to decline an offer which certainly lays me under great obligations to Dr. Holly­bourn, but which the profession I have chosen, and my inability to offer Miss Holly­bourn an heart such as her fortune and merit give her a right to expect, render it impossible for me to accept.

Mrs. Rayland, pleased to see that Orlando had no desire to become independent of her, or to force her to a positive declaration of her future intentions in regard to him, which she fancied his father wished to do by engaging her to give her sentiments on his proposal, now smiled very graciously upon him, and said, I think you right, cousin Orlando.—Dr. Holly­bourn is to be sure a very worthy man:—his daughter, they say, is a young person well brought up, and the fortune is very 60 large, which first and last he can give her, besides what he is always telling me he is to expect from his brother the bishop.—But, you are yet a very young man, cousin; and in truth it seems to me to be time enough to think of marrying—The fortune of this young woman is certainly very considerable: but, perhaps, not greater than at some time or other—(she hesitated as if afraid of saying too much)—I say, by the time your settling in life is advisable, perhaps you may not have occasion to make fortune an object in marrying, so much as a good family.—Dr. Holly­bourn talks of his indeed, which is not well judged; for there are people who recollect both the Doctor and his brother, the bishop, in very humble stations compared to what they are now. God forbid, though, that I should despise them therefore! not at all; that is not my meaning—And to be sure your family, my cousin, has not of itself much pretensions to match with ancient blood—(and again she hesitated as fearing to betray her intentions too far)—I say if ever you are in a situation to marry, I would advise that you think of a woman of a good family at least.

Orlando waited with impatience for the conclusion of this speech; and then falteringly and eagerly asked of Mrs. Rayland, if she would have the goodness to put into writing her opinion on this subject?

This, however, she refused, as she said she would not appear to interfere in it upon any account.—Will you then, Madam, take the trouble to see my father?—Will you allow him to wait upon you?—for he is so anxious for me, and, I believe, thinks this affair likely to be so agreeable to you, that he will be hardly easy unless he hears your sentiments.

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Mrs. Rayland, drawing herself up, as was her way, said—I shall be glad to see Mr. Somerive on any matter that relates to you, cousin, though on this occasion I own it seems very needless. However, you have my leave to say, that I shall be ready to talk over this business with my kinsman, provided, as I said before, I am not supposed by Dr. Holly­bourn or his family to interfere.

Orlando, impatient to have this affair concluded at once and for ever, now asked if his father might wait upon her that afternoon?—When he pleased, was the answer;—and Orlando, fearing that if she was left long to consider of it she might change her mind as his father had done before, now ran to West-Wolverton with the utmost speed, quite forgetting that he was to have dined with Mrs. Rayland, or that dining at all was necessary.

When he arrived there, he hastened to relate to his father and his mother, whom he found together, the purport of his conference with Mrs. Rayland; to whom Mr. Somerive agreed to go immediately after dinner, though he seemed visibly disap­pointed, while Mrs. Somerive, who had for a moment indulged herself with the hopes that her Orlando, instead of continuing in dependence on the caprice of Mrs. Rayland, and of being separated from her by an hazardous profession, might be placed at once in great affluence, and in the immediate neighbourhood, relinquished those hopes, with a deep sigh, but said nothing to her son on a point where it would now be useless.

Mr. Somerive, finding the General was gone on a visit to Stockton’s, from whence it was probable he would not return till half an hour after four, determined to hasten to Mrs. Rayland before dinner. He got on horseback, therefore; and, attended by Orlando, on their arrival at the Hall he 62 expressed to his son some apprehensions that the lady of the house might be at dinner: but Orlando, whose impatience could brook no delay, declared, without a very strict inquiry into the hour, that it was not yet time, and that he was sure they might go to the parlour where she usually sat, as she had so positively said they might come at any time.

Somerive, almost as anxious for the conference as his son, though from very different motives, agreed then to proceed. Orlando would have sent up a servant, had he met one; but none happened to appear, and he walked before his father up the stairs, and, opening the door of Mrs. Rayland’s sitting room, he saw her at table, with Mrs. Lennard on one side of it, and Monimia on the other. He would have retreated; but it was too late. He was already in the room—his father already at the table, apologising to Mrs. Rayland for his unseasonable intrusion. She received him with civility, but without any degree of kindness or warmth—desired he would take a chair and sit down, and then said to Monimia, who stood blushing and trembling, and not daring to look up—Mary, you will withdraw, I have business with my kinsman.

I beg I may not disturb any body, cried Mr. Somerive turning his eyes towards Monimia, and immediately comprehending who she was—I beg I may be allowed to retire till dinner is over.—No, Sir, answered Mrs. Rayland; I shall be glad to hear your business now, and I will dismiss my people.

Mr. Somerive again looked at Monimia as she left the room, and he saw that Orlando was lost, if his being so depended upon his attachment: for the extreme beauty, sweetness and grace of Monimia, so unlike the cherry-cheeked coarse rustic 63 which his fancy had represented her, amazed and grieved him. He felt at once, that a young man whose heart was devoted to her, could never think of Miss Holly­bourn, and that he himself could not blame an attachment to an object so lovely, however imprudent, or however ruinous.

Mrs. Lennard now offered to withdraw; but her lady bade her finish her dinner, while poor Orlando cast a melancholy look after Monimia, and then on the seat she had left, which Mrs. Rayland desired him to take. The dinner was soon removed; and then Mr. Somerive, in a few words, repeated the purport of his letter. Mrs. Rayland, even more strongly than she had done to Orlando, expressed her wish that the offer of Dr. Holly­bourn might be politely declined; and though she evaded giving her reasons for it, Somerive thought he saw them unequivocally, and that, though she studiously avoided declaring it, she had determined to put Orlando into a situation in which it would be not at all necessary that he should marry, for money, a woman to whom he was indifferent.

Mrs. Rayland had very little art; yet she fancied herself a profound politician, and never considered that, while she forebore positively or even remotely to give Orlando assurances of possessing her estate, her insisting upon the propriety of his marrying, whenever he did marry, a woman of family, was in effect declaring that she meant he should be the person who was to perpetuate hers, on which she put so high a value, and thus to efface, in the illustrious blood of his posterity, that alloy which the inferiority of the Somerives had mingled with that of the Raylands.

Somerive, convinced of this even from the pains she took to conceal it, yielded at once to her wishes, and assured her he would permit Orlando with 64 great politeness to decline Dr. Holly­bourn’s proposal; yet as he continued to listen to her harangues upon family, he could not help looking significantly at Orlando—looks which his son perfectly understood to say, How will this accord with your attachment to the young person who was this moment dismissed by Mrs. Rayland as one of her people.

The old lady, however, was hardly ever in so good a humour with her relations as she became after this affair was discussed; and Mr. Somerive never left the house so full of hopes that his family would be its possessors as he did after this interview, when he returned home in good spirits, though entirely relinquishing the idea of Orlando’s becoming the nephew of a bishop.

Orlando himself, though impatient to write and dispatch the letter to Dr. Holly­bourn, yet staid at the Hall to drink tea, by the desire of Mrs. Rayland, who gently chid him for deserting her at dinner. It was with more pain than pleasure that he heard Monimia sent for to make the tea, which had hardly happened twice within the last three years when he was in the house. Mrs. Lennard cast a look at him when her lady ordered her niece to be called: but she could make no objection without raising those suspicions which she ever appeared so solicitous to prevent. Monimia then attended. Orlando treated her as a stranger, whom he was slightly acquainted with; and Mrs. Rayland did not appear to have the remotest suspicion that he had any particular regard for her: so friendly to him, as it happened, had been the mistakes and inter­pretations which the jealousy of Pattenson had put upon those circumstances that had so frequently threatened to betray him.

He had settled with Monimia the preceding night, to stay supper with his father, and return to their 65 usual rendezvous; and their stolen glances during the half hour that they were together, in the presence of the two old ladies, confirmed this appointment.

Early in the evening, then, Orlando took leave of Mrs. Rayland, and went back to the house of his father, whose uncommon good spirits had diffused more than usual gaiety among his family. Mrs. Somerive and Selina were particularly cheerful—the mother, because she saw her husband for a moment happy, and forgetting the concern he continually felt about Philip, in looking forward to the prosperity of his brother—while Selina, who had trembled for the teasing persecution she apprehended for Orlando, was delighted to find that her father would forbear to urge him on such a subject, and had acquired new confidence in the future intentions of Mrs. Rayland.

Isabella, whose marriage was now within a week to take place, and who had just received from London some of those elegant clothes which her father had ordered for her, as well as some magnificent presents from the General, was the least gay of the party: amidst all her endeavours to persuade herself that she was happy, she had of late, and particularly since she had possessed these fineries, often inquired of herself whether they had really any power to bestow happiness. She had tried on her diamond ear-rings, and a valuable pearl necklace; but she could not discover that she looked at all handsomer in them than when she wore nothing but a simple ribband. The General’s valet de chambre had dressed her hair: but she thought the mode unbecoming to her face, and the beautiful dark auburn hue, which had been so much admired, was no longer distin­guishable. As for her intended husband, he was so far from having made any progress 66 in her affections since he had been received as such, that her contempt was converted into disgust. His servants had been talking among those of Somerive, of his gallantries, and, above all, of the sudden desertion of the lady who lived with him; of all which Isabella had heard from her maid, and the longer she listened to, or thought of the anecdotes thus collected, the greater became her repugnance; and yet she knew not how to retract, and was not always sure that she wished it.

Her gravity was easily accounted for, as the day approached that was to divide her from her family; and she was suffered, after some gentle raillery, to be silent and pensive amidst the cheerful conversation of the rest.

It was a lovely evening in early May. Orlando having dispatched his letter, dismissed Dr. Holly­bourn and the disagreeable heiress from his mind, and gave it up only to pleasurable impressions and flattering hopes. In a happier frame of mind than he almost ever was in before, he joined his family in their evening walk. When they reached the house, they stopped in the court before it, to admire the beauty of the moon, and to listen to the nightingale, who seemed to be addressing to that beautiful planet her plaintive orisons. Orlando wished himself with Monimia: and thought with delight that within two hours he should be so, and should relate the unpleasant alarm of the day, only to tell her it was over, and had eventually been fortunate in drawing from Mrs. Rayland declarations more than ever favourable to his future hopes.

The whole party sat down to supper in this cheerful disposition. The General, like a happy lover, was particularly animated; and the younger girls were much amused by some anecdotes he was relating, when a servant entered hastily, and said that 67 a gentleman who was just come post from London desired to speak to General Tracy.

To me! cried the General, changing countenance: Impossible! I know no business any one can have with me that should give him that trouble. Pray, inquire his name, or send my servants to inquire.

I will go myself, General, said Orlando. I thank you, cried Tracy, affecting great unconcern; but I dare say it is nothing worth your troubling yourself to go out for.

Orlando, however, went out, and instantly returned, bringing with him Captain Warwick.

Surprise was visible on the faces of all the party, but that of General Tracy expressed consternation—Why Warwick came he could not conjecture; but he felt it to be extremely disagreeable to him that he came at all. Warwick was covered with dust, and had that wild and fatigued look that announces tumult of spirit from an hot and rapid journey. The person, however, that nature had given him, was such as no disadvan­tageous circumstance could obscure. He looked like a young hero just returned unhurt from the field to recount its triumphs.

After addressing his uncle, and being introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Somerive, he turned gaily to Orlando, and, shaking him by the hand, said, I don’t know, my friend, how you can ever forgive the man whose fortune it is to announce to you that you must quit immediately such a circle of friends as I now find you in!

Quit them! exclaimed Mrs. Somerive. Quit us! leave us! cried her husband. Yes, indeed! answered Warwick with less vivacity: That part of our regiment which is in England, consisting of two companies, is ordered to join the troops that are going thither, and are to sail from Portsmouth next 68 week. The moment I was sure of this, which was not till late last night, I thought it best to come down myself; because the time is so short that my friend here, the young ancient*, had better proceed immediately from hence to Portsmouth.

Never was a greater, a more sudden change, than these few words made in the dispositions of all present—except Tracy, whose only distress was the appearance of Warwick, where he so little wished to see him. Mrs. Somerive, struck to the heart by the cruel idea of losing Orlando, retired in silent tears; and her daughters, little less affected, followed her. Somerive bore this painful intelligence with more apparent fortitude; but he felt it with even greater severity, and with something like a prepossession that he should never see Orlando again if he left England. He stifled, however, his emotions, and endeavoured to do the honours of his house to his unexpected visitor; but the effort was too painful to be long supported, and in a few moments he left the room, saying to Orlando, that as the General and Captain Warwick might perhaps have some business, they would leave them together.

* Ensign.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XXXIII

the Doctor . . . offered to him for Orlando his daughter
[Dr. Hollybourn has found a loophole in ironclad social law. A lady is not allowed to propose marriage—but nobody said her father can’t.]

say nothing yourself till that letter shall be read
text has dothing
[Corrected from 2nd edition; I would otherwise have speculated that the author originally intended to put “say or do nothing”.]

The world methinks is strangely changed!—For a man to offer his daughter is such an indecorum
[Took the words right out of my mouth.]

Orlando would have sent up a servant, had he met one; but none happened to appear
[Local burglars, please take note.]

That part of our regiment which is in England . . . is ordered to join the troops that are going thither
[Er, going whither? Was this the 18th-century equivalent of “Over There”?]


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


Mr. Somerive exclaimed, Good God; what is to be done now?

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.