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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XL.

In a very few days after leaving this temporary settlement, Orlando arrived at Quebec.—He there found means to convince his Indian friend, that to permit him to go would be much more to his interest than to detain him.—But he was without 154 money, and without clothes.—His Canadian acquaintance, however, persuaded him that, on proper application to the Governor, he would be furnished with necessaries as a British officer:—and, after encountering a few difficulties of office, he had an opportunity of submitting his situation to the then Governor; who being convinced, notwith­standing his present appearance, that he was the person whom he described himself to be, gave orders for his being received and treated as an officer in the service of his Britannic Majesty. Orlando referred himself to his Excellency for orders—He had now no longer a regiment to return to, as that to which he belonged was one of those that had surrendered at Saratoga—Though he was not actually among those who suffered there the humiliation of laying down their arms, having been sent away with dispatches two days before, he knew not how far he was included in their captivity, or might consider himself freed by it to serve in any other regiment, or to return to Europe.

The Governor advised him to proceed to New-York, there to receive the orders of the Commander in Chief of the British forces. A small vessel was preparing to sail in about a fortnight; and in this Orlando, once more restored to the appearance of an Englishman (though much changed by the hardships he had undergone, and by the loss of his hair, which had been remarkably fine), embarked five weeks after his arrival at Quebec. He took leave of his Iroquois protector, with a thousand protestations of gratitude for all the services he had rendered him, and promised to remit him a present of such articles as were most acceptable, to Quebec, as soon as he returned to England, or arrived in any port where they could be obtained; and these promises he meant religiously to fulfil.

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The vessel on board of which the luckless adventurer hoped to make his way to New-York, was a small sloop sent with dispatches from the Governor of Quebec to the Commander in Chief; and the master, who knew the importance of his commission, took every precaution to secure the execution of it. But all were fruitless; for at some leagues distance from the mouth of the Delaware, he was seen and chased by two French frigates despatched from the fleet of Count D’Estaing; and though he was an excellent seaman, and his vessel sailed well, he found it impossible to escape.—His dispatches, however, were thrown overboard; but the sloop immediately surrendered to force which it would have been folly to have resisted, and Orlando was once more a prisoner.

His captivity was, however, much less terrible than that he had formerly sustained. He received from the French officers all those attentions which, among civilized nations, ought to soften the horrors of war. Nor was he sorry to learn that the Fleur de Lys, in which he was, was to return to the fleet from which she was detached, only for her last orders, and then to proceed to France.—The Chevalier de Stainville, who commanded her, made a point of testifying, by his behaviour to Orlando, his regard and respect for the English nation: divested by the candour of his mind, and the strength of his under­standing, of all national prejudice, he conceived an esteem for Orlando the moment he conversed with him; and agreed most willingly to give him his parole as soon as he arrived in France (that he should not serve during the present war either against America or France), and to assist him in returning to England, which he thought no military engagement now prevented his doing with a perfect adherence to duty and propriety.

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The Fleur de Lys, after receiving her dispatches for the court of Versailles from Count D’Estaing, proceeded with a fair wind; and in six weeks Orlando saw himself once more on European ground. He landed at Brest, and felt such sensations as are only known to those who, after having resigned all hope of ever being restored again to their friends and their country, see themselves almost within reach of all they hold dear upon earth. France, contrasted with his banishment in America, seemed to him to be part of his country, and in every Frenchman he saw, not a natural enemy, but a brother.

Had the Chevalier de Stainville been really so, he could not have behaved to Orlando with more generosity, or more kindness. He was himself under the necessity of going immediately to Paris:—but he placed his English friend in the house of a merchant, whom he commissioned to supply him with every thing he might want; and recommending him also to the protection of his second captain while he remained in Brest, this generous captor took leave with regret of his interesting English prisoner—not, however, without procuring him a proper passport, giving him a certificate, and taking his parole. Orlando, eager and anxious as he was to return to his own country, had now a wish that went farther; it was to have an opportunity of renewing his acquaintance, and testifying his gratitude to this amiable officer.

He staid only a few days after him at Brest, when, taking from the merchant, who was ordered to supply him, as much money as he supposed would be requisite for his journey, he set out by the diligence for St. Malo, where he was told, he might perhaps get a conveyance to Jersey or Guernsey. The name of those islands brought 157 afresh into his mind all his fears concerning the fate of his sister Isabella: eighteen months had nearly elapsed since her departure with Warwick; and the mention made of her in Monimia’s letter dated in the following June, was the only intelligence he had received of her. Nor was this the sole mournful recollection to which Orlando was subject in his journey—It was, alas! almost as long since he had received any information relating to the destiny of his Monimia. As to the situation of his family—Gracious Heaven! how many events might in that time have occurred, any one of which would embitter, with eternal regret, his return to his native country.

At St. Malo he could not find the conveyance he sought, and therefore journeyed along the coast in as cheap a manner as he could to Havre; but, there being no open communication now between France and England, he found the accommodation he wanted extremely difficult to obtain, and it was not till almost the end of October that he found means to engage a large fishing-bark, which under that pretence was employed in smuggling on the coast, to land him at Southampton; and this bargain was made at the price of all the money he had, with a promise of a farther reward if he arrived safely at an English port, where he doubted not but that, upon making himself known, he should find friends who would enable him to fulfil his promises. There was considerable hazard to his conductors in attempting to land at any port of Hampshire, when so many vessels lay at Portsmouth; an hazard on which they took care to insist with great vehemence, after they had got their passenger on board. Orlando, who had infinitely rather have been landed on the coast of Sussex, proposed to them to make for some part of that county; but even this proposal did not 158 seem to please them, and two of the three men appeared to be very surly and savage.

They agreed, however, to go up the Channel; and the wind, though very high, served them for the purpose. It was already night when they adopted this resolution. With the dawn of morning Orlando saw the white cliffs for which his heart had so long languished. It was, the Frenchmen told him, the back of the Isle of Wight; and Orlando, whose impatience to touch English ground was redoubled, entreated them there to put him on shore; but this they refused, as they alleged that their bark would there be in the most imminent danger of being seen and seized by the vessels cruizing round the island; and their only way was to haul off the English coast, and affect to be fishing. Orlando, supposing them practised in these sort of deceptions, and having no remedy even if he had not approved of their plan, submitted to do whatever they thought safest.

They kept, therefore, as near their own coast as if they had intended landing there; but towards evening, the wind being still strong and favourable, they stretched away for the Sussex coast, and Orlando saw the land where all his hopes reposed!—He was little disposed to dispute with these men any terms they now wished to impose upon him; but he began to think them very unreasonable, when they told him that, as he must land at night, and on the open coast, he could not pay them the farther reward he had promised them on his getting safely on shore; and, therefore, they expected that he would make up to them that failure, by giving up part of his baggage. This was so little, after the casual supplies he had received at Quebec and at Brest, that as he was now within a few miles of his home, it appeared to him no object. But if he had more tenaciously 159 intended to preserve his little wardrobe, it could not have been attempted without rashness. He was alone, and unarmed, in the boat with three very stout fellows, who were answerable for his life to nobody, and who might, with safety to themselves, have thrown him overboard. He yielded, therefore, to this robbery with as good a grace as he could; and at sun-set, in a stormy evening at the beginning of November, he was set on shore between Shoreham and Worthing, with two pieces of twelve sous in one pocket, which had escaped the rapacity of his piratical conductors, and a shirt in the other; his sword, which he had got at Quebec, and which was returned to him immediately by De Stainville on his being captured, his high and romantic spirit might have been unwilling to surrender to those rapacious wretches; but fortunately perhaps both for them and for himself, this his only weapon had slipt from under his arm as he was violently staggered by a sudden tossing of the boat, and to the vexation of his guides, who meant to make it their prize, it fell overboard, and was irrecoverably lost. All the other articles of his little property, which they coveted, he granted them very readily: with these petty acquisitions they hurried from the English coast, and were very soon out of sight. Orlando, who had waded through a heavy surf to the land, kissed the beloved soil the moment he reached it; and was unconscious that he was half drowned, and knew not where to lay his head. To be on English ground, to be within a few miles of his native place, was happiness he so little expected ever to have enjoyed, that the tumult of his spirits would not give him leave for some time to think of any thing else. He was, however, so breathless, and so much agitated by his bodily exertion, and the various 160 sensations of his mind, that he sat down a moment to recollect and compose himself.

It was not yet so dark hut that he knew nearly where he was; but it was necessary to proceed along the shore to some town or village, where he might procure an horse, on which he meant to hasten instantly to the Hall. The village of Worthing was the nearest to the place where he wished to be. He walked therefore along the sands: but a storm from the south-west, which had been long threatening, now came on with such violence that he took the first shelter he could find, in a little ale-house built under the low cliffs, and serving as a receptacle for the inferior contraband trader, or those of even a more humble description.

A light, however, invited him into a place than which nothing could be more dreary or desolate, and the group he found around a fire in a miserable little room black with smoke, and filled with the fumes of tobacco and gin, did not contribute to give him a more favourable idea of this receptacle: but he had lived near ten months among the Iroquois; and evil is only by comparison. He saw that his entrance very much disturbed the people who were assembled here. Some took him for a Frenchman, and some for an Exciseman; two beings extremely obnoxious, it seems, to some or other of the party. All agreed that he was a spy, and heartily wished him away.

Orlando now spoke to the landlady, and begged of her to give him something to eat; for he had fared very ill on board the fishing-boat. To this, and to his request that he might be allowed to dry his clothes by her fire, she answered in a way which convinced Orlando she doubted his power of paying for the accommodation he desired. To remove 161 an objection so natural, and so incon­trovertible, he put his hand into his pocket, and produced two pieces, which the hostess, not a novice in the value of French money, knew was hardly equal in amount to an English shilling. This (and Orlando had actually forgotten that it was all he possessed) was, however moderate, enough to pay for the coarse repast he expected: but the woman seemed more discontent than before, and the people surveyed him with eyes more severely scrutinizing; being convinced he was a French spy, or some person whose appearance there boded them no good: and these their suspicions, now that they found he was poor, they very openly professed; and the landlady, telling him “she never took no French money, not she—nor let folks bide in her house as she know’d nothing of, because as why? it made her liable to lose her license,” desired him to walk out: a request with which, though the storm continued with some violence, Orlando found it necessary to comply; and, fatigued as he was, determined to attempt finding his way through the darkness and the tempest to Shoreham, where he thought there must be some person who would believe his story, and assist him for so short a journey as he had to perform.

In this resolution he set out to go back the way he came; but mortified that such brutish inhospitality as what he had just experienced could exist in British bosoms, and lamenting that there were Englishmen less humane than the rude savages of the wilds of America.

Cold, hungry, wet, and fatigued, he pursued his walk: it was soon so extremely dark that he could not distin­guish the cliff, on which he was walking, from the beach over which it hung. The rain, driven by violence, almost blinded him, and the roaring of the wind and sea deafened him. Hardly 162 able to stand against the tempest, he frequently stopped, debating whether he had not better wait the return of morning before he attempted to proceed.

His impatience, however, to get to Rayland Hall, conquered every idea of present danger—and he went on, contending against the united opposition of darkness and storm. After a walk of above a mile, he was nearly overcome with fatigue and cold, when lights, which he thought he distin­guished through the comfortless gloom, animated him to new exertions, and he went on.

His hope did not deceive him; but, in the eagerness to pursue it, he forgot the precaution with which he had walked before, and fell headlong from the top to the bottom of the cliff, which fortunately for him was not at this place above ten or twelve feet deep, and he reached the bottom, without breaking any of his limbs, at the expense of some contusions. Recovering immediately from the surprise, he found himself able to walk; and kept along the cliff till he reached the town, which was not till between twelve and one.

It was then with some difficulty that he discovered a house of public entertainment; and when he did, it was with more difficulty still he obtained admittance. At length, after telling his story, which the man who heard it did not seem to believe, he was suffered to enter the kitchen of an abode between an inn and an alehouse; where some embers of fire were renewed, and where, though suspicion evidently appeared to be very unfavourable to him, the man who had let him in brought him some cold meat, beer and bread, none of it of a very promising appearance, but such as his hunger made extremely welcome. This being appeased, he inquired if he might have a bed, as he could go 163 no farther that night. There either was no bed, or the person to whom he spoke thought him a traveller whom it was unsafe to admit to one; for this man answered drily, that they made up no beds in that house; but that he might go into the stable, where there was plenty of clean straw. There seemed to be no alternative, as the man objected to his proposal of sitting by the fire all night. To the stable, therefore, the unhappy wanderer was led, and in his wet clothes threw himself down on the straw in one of the stalls; where, in despite of his uncomfortable situation, extreme fatigue gave him up to sleep.

The noise of men entering to take care of their horses awakened him at the early dawn of the morning: and awakened him to such a sense of pain, from the bruises he had received, and the damp clothes in which he had lain, that it was with some difficulty he was able to move from his straw into the kitchen, where he had been the night before. Two sailors were drinking there, who, having nothing else to do, began questioning the stranger. Orlando related in a few words his melancholy adventures, and saw that these honest fellows not only believed him, but pitied his distress, and wished to contribute to his relief. His sufferings were now so acute from the bruises received in his fall, that all his fortitude could not conceal them. One of his new friends went to get him “something comfortable,” which in his opinion was a large glass of spirits, while the other assisted him in drying his clothes, which were still wet; and as during this operation Orlando surveyed himself in a little looking-glass stuck against the wall, he found, in the appearance he made, some excuse for the coldness of his reception the night before.

His face was covered with blood and dirt, for his nose had bled from the fall; an old hat, which his 164 pirate-fishermen had given him in place of a very good one they took, had been torn at the same time, and seemed only half a hat; his great coat was gone, and his coat was French; his waistcoat being the only part of his dress that was the same as he brought from Quebec. He had no buckles in his shoes, for the fishermen had desired them; and his hair, which had not had time to grow long since his coiffure was in the mode of the Iroquois, and now presented what is called a shock head. Having amended his appearance as much as he could, he inquired if he could have an horse? but he was told that none were let there, nor did they know of any to be had in the town. By this time several other men were assembled in the kitchen; and the same inquiry being renewed, one of them said, that he could let him have a horse for fifteen shillings: but then how was it to come back? and besides, he must be paid for it upon the spot. This Orlando at once confessed his inability to do, and the reasonable man who offered it made no farther attempt to accommodate him.

Orlando then determined to set out on foot. The very little money he had in his pocket was insufficient to pay for even such entertainment as he had had, and he proposed leaving the shirt he had in his pocket as a pledge for the rest, when the two honest seamen offered to discharge his reckoning between them, and even to lend him each a shilling to carry him homeward—an offer he without hesitation accepted; made a memorandum of their names, as he doubted not of having an immediate opportunity, not only of repaying them, but of returning their kindness fourfold; and then he set out on foot, notwith­standing the pain he suffered, taking leave of the honest tars with many acknow­ledgments, and giving them his address at Rayland-Hall. He was 165 told that a stage would pass along about eleven o’clock; which if he did not miss it by getting out of the high-road, would carry him some part of the seventeen or eighteen miles that was between him and the place where he wished to be. This route was farther about; but he determined to pursue it, because he found himself unable to walk with his usual activity; nor could any less forcible inducement than the excessive impatience he felt to be at the Hall, have supported him in such an undertaking, worn out as he was with the fatigue he had sustained, and his limbs almost dislocated by the injuries he had received the night before.

His progress was slow; and when at length the stage, by which he had been promised a conveyance part of the way, overtook him, he found it carried only so small a part of his way that he had then seven miles to walk. He knew that by going over the downs, he could reach Rayland-Hall by a nearer way than continuing along the turnpike high-road; and therefore, quitting the vehicle, he again proceeded on foot.

So little was he able to walk as he used to do, that as the days were now short, it was almost dusk before he reached the top of an high chalky down—the same where on his departure, he had taken a last look of the place that contained all that was dear to him—and he again beheld it, its antique grey towers rising among the fading woods; he distin­guished the turret; and recollecting that so long a space had intervened since he left there the object so dear to his soul, and how many distressing circumstances might have occurred within that time to destroy all his happiness, he became breathless through excess of agitation, and was under the necessity of sitting down on the turf to recover himself.

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Beyond the Hall, which was within a mile and a half of the foot of the hill, he distin­guished the country round West Wolverton:—the house was concealed: but a wood, or rather shrubbery, on a rising ground behind it, and some part of the offices, were clearly discernible. With sensations of mingled dread and delight he surveyed the well known spot. Dear paternal house, cried he, in what a situation do I return to your asylum; but of how little consequence is that if your beloved inhabitants are well!—Oh, my father; are you now thinking of your Orlando, unconscious that he is within a few miles of you! The son whom you perhaps regret as dead is returning—a beggar indeed but not dishonoured—to your arms, and to find in the bosom of his family ample consolation for all his misfortunes.

When, in indulging these mixed sensations, Orlando had a little recovered his breath and his resolution, he descended the hill; and was soon, by crossing the nearest way the few fields that intervened, at one of those gates at Rayland park where there was no lodge. He found it locked; but there was a style near it, and he was soon under those well-known shades where he had passed the pleasantest hours of his life. Every thing seemed just as it had been left about the park. With a heart almost throbbing through his bosom, he approached the house, and wondered to see no servants round it; nor the dogs who were usually running out on the approach of strangers. All was mournfully silent; and most of the windows were shut. Certain of not being known, he was unable to resist the temptation he felt, to try the door of the lower turret—It was locked, and he proceeded round the house to the stable yard. There was no person to be seen where formerly there had been 167 four or five servants: there was no appearance of horses; no poultry pecking about: all was still as death, and the grass had grown up among the pavement. Orlando’s heart sunk within him; yet he knew not what to fear! the approach of the evening lent new gloom to the desolate appearance of all that he beheld.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XL

In four-volume editions, this is Chapter I of Volume IV.

As to the situation of his family—Gracious Heaven!
[Gracious Heaven indeed. In the year-and-a-half since he left for America, this is the first time Orlando has given a moment’s thought to anyone in his family besides Isabella.]

two pieces of twelve sous in one pocket
[I’ll take her word for it. But it seems an odd coinage, since the sou—the inspiration for the English shilling—was 1/20 livre. Is it possible the coins were really one sou, or twelve deniers?]

began questioning the stranger.
final . invisible

but there was a style near it
[Editor’s spelling; the 2nd edition has the expected “stile”.]


The small party dispatched on this hazardous adventure


An apprehension of the truth, vague as it was

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.