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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XLIV.

When you left us, my brother, said Selina, we hardly thought it possible that any sorrow could exceed what your departure and the apparent estrangement of Philip inflicted on us all; yet in a very few days we learned that, heavy as these evils were, they were only the beginning of that long train of calamity which was about to overtake us. Isabella disappeared within two days, and left a letter to say that she was gone with Captain Warwick to America.

And pray tell me, said Orlando, interrupting her, was my poor father extremely hurt at her elopement?

Not so much at her elopement, as at her having deceived him; for I do not believe, Orlando, that my father ever thought of Isabella’s marrying General Tracy without pain and doubts of her future happiness. But it grieved him severely to reflect that Isabella was capable of deception, which, notwith­standing the rashness of her going away with a man she hardly knew, must have been meditated for some days.

Did my father believe me to have been a party in this deception?

Of that he sometimes doubted: yet, after dwelling on those doubts a moment, he would say, No—Orlando could never be acquainted with the plan 209 of these two young people;—Orlando would not have concealed their intentions from me—Orlando never in his life deceived me—He is all integrity and candour—

And in this persuasion my father died?

Yes; and never spoke of you, Orlando, but as the hope and reliance of us all.

Orlando sighed deeply, reflecting that he had not deserved in this single instance the confidence of his father; yet he rejoiced that, believing him ignorant of his sister’s flight, this opinion of his integrity had not been impaired where it could have done no good to have known the truth, and would only have inflicted another wound on his father’s heart. Selina proceeded.

We received your letter from Portsmouth, and some days afterwards another from Isabella—I believe it was near a fortnight afterwards—She was about to embark for America with her husband, who had hired a small vessel for that purpose, having missed his passage. This, in some degree, quieted the apprehensions of my father about my sister: though, as General Tracy almost immediately disinherited his nephew, we had the mortification of knowing that Isabella had married in what is called a very indiscreet way. However, as nothing could be objected to Captain Warwick, but his conduct towards his uncle, and his consequent want of fortune; and as the young people seemed to be passionately attached to each other, my father seemed gradually to lose his anger, and to recover his spirits; when a new instance of Philip’s cruel disregard for us all threw him into an illness of so dangerous a nature, or rather so hastened the progress of that which uneasiness about him had first brought on, that he was soon given up by the physicians. It was then that believing himself dying, and feeling more concern 210 for the state in which he was about to leave us than for his own dissolution, he sent to Mrs. Rayland to come to him—a step which, he said, was very hazardous, but which he could not satisfy himself without taking. She came; we were none of us present at the conversation—but my father told us, as soon as she was gone, that his mind was now quite easy, and that he should die content, at least as far as related to pecuniary affairs: for Mrs. Rayland had assured him, that in her last will she had given you the Rayland estate, and entailed it all upon your posterity, on condition of your taking the name and bearing the arms of Rayland only; that she had set apart a sum for the purchase of a baronet’s title; and that was the only money, except legacies to her servants to the amount of eight thousand pounds in the whole, which she had appropriated—having given you all the rest of her real and personal estate; and my father said that the latter had accumulated much more than he was aware of.

I am sure, said he, when he had told us this—I am sure that Orlando will use, as he ought to do, the power that is thus put into his hands to secure the provision for you, my love (speaking to my mother), and for our dear girls—Nay, that, if our poor unhappy Philip should, as my fears prognosticate, utterly dissipate his paternal fortune, that he too will find a resource in the fraternal affection of his younger brother. In this persuasion my father became much easier, and, we hoped, grew much better: but a discovery that he very unluckily made by opening a letter intended for my brother, which, from the names being alike, he thought was his own—a discovery that Philip was actually in treaty with Stockton for the sale of his future interest in the estate at West Wolverton, quite undid all the good effects of Mrs. Rayland’s generosity, 211 and in less than a fortnight we lost our dear father—who, alas! Orlando, died of a broken heart!

I will not distress you with a description of the terrible scene—I mean that of his last hours; for though he died calmly, recommending us to your protection and to that of Heaven, the distraction of my mother is not to be described; and I never think of it but my heart sinks within me.—When the first shock was a little over, my mother reflected on the necessity of her living for us, unprotected and helpless as we were, and she became more tranquil; though I am sorry to say that the presence of my brother Philip, who came down as soon as he heard of my father’s death, did not serve to assist her in the recovery of her spirits. On the contrary, his evident wish that we might soon remove from the house, and his bringing down a mistress, whom he seemed impatient to put into it, were far from being cordials to a mind so oppressed with her recent loss.—The only hope that sustained her was your return and succeeding to the Rayland estate: but even this comfortable hope was diminished and embittered by a thousand fears:—days, and weeks, and months, were passed, and we had not heard of your arrival at New York; but learned that the fleet of transports, with which you sailed, was dispersed by a storm, and some of the vessels lost. This I heard, for ill news is communicated early; but I kept it from my mother till Mrs. Rayland’s impatience, who sent continually for news of you, and at length expressed her fears for you, in consequence of the accounts she saw in the newspapers, discovered it; and added to all the sufferings of my poor mother, doubts of your safety, which were more dreadful than any.

Mrs. Rayland, who had always disliked my mother, and, as I thought, us till now, seemed much 212 more disposed than she used to be to shew us all kindness, and really seemed concerned for my father’s death. She made us all a present for mourning; and used to invite us often to the Hall, and I believe would have taken us to live there if Mrs. Lennard would have let her. But that good for nothing old woman, who had her own purposes to answer by it, would never leave any of us a moment alone with Mrs. Rayland—who often seemed to have an inclination to speak to my mother, and to be checked in what she intended to say by the presence of Lennard, who, in proportion as the old lady became more feeble through age, and as her mind became weaker, seemed to acquire over her more power: though it often appeared to me that Mrs. Rayland submitted to it rather from habit than from choice, and had not resolution to throw off a yoke she had been accustomed to so many years—

But, my Selina, cried Orlando, you have not all this while said a word of Monimia.

We contrived to meet, replied Selina, every Monday, according to your injunction; except when my poor father lay so dangerously ill, and after his death. And though these short interviews were passed almost always in tears on both sides, they were the only pleasure we either of us tasted; and we have often said, that the consolation of the rest of the week was, that Monday would return at the beginning of the next!

I missed meeting Monimia for three weeks, for the melancholy reason I have assigned; and on the fourth I hastened, at the usual hour, to the place of our appointment, the bench near the boat-house, where I saw Monimia waiting for me. If my mourning and dejected looks struck her with concern, I was not less shocked to see her look so very 213 pale, thin, and dejected—We could neither of us speak for some time, for our tears choked us, till at length she recovered voice enough to say, with deep sobs that seemed almost to burst her heart, that she should never see me more; that even this little comfort of meeting by stealth was denied her; for that her aunt had determined to send her away, and to put her apprentice to a person who kept an haberdasher’s and milliner’s shop at Winchester, who had agreed to take her for a small premium, and that she was to go in two days.

Amazed and distressed by this intelligence, I inquired why her aunt would do this? and she told me, that the importunity of Sir John Belgrave, and his perpetual attempts to see her by the same means by which you had formerly found access to her room, compelled her, in order to avoid him, to tell her aunt of the door in the turret; and after enduring a great deal of very cruel usage, and having been repeatedly threatened with Mrs. Rayland’s displeasure and with being turned out of the house, her aunt first removed her into her room; and then, finding that inconvenient, had the door in the lower room at the bottom of the stairs bricked up, and Monimia returned to her former apartment—from whence she was hardly ever suffered to stir out but for a walk in the park, and even then was ordered not to go out of sight of the house. So that it had always been at a great risk that, while we did meet, she used to run as far as the fir-wood on those mornings.—My aunt, said poor Monimia as she told me all this, my aunt was always very cruel to me; but now she was much more so than ever; for the strange and ridiculous fancy she had taken to Roker, who now lived almost always in the house, though Mrs. Rayland did not know it, made her jealous of every body, but particularly of me, who 214 detested the man so much that I was quite as desirous to avoid him, as she was that I should not meet him—while the odious fellow affected to be jealous of her attachment to me, though all the time he took every opportunity of speaking to me very impertinently; but between my aunt’s watchfulness that I should never be in the room with him, and my own to shun him, I escaped tolerably well from his insolent speeches, and never regretted my confinement, unless when I feared, my dear Selina, it would prevent my seeing you.—Now, however, for some reason or other, my aunt has taken it into her head that I shall not stay at the Hall any longer.—I cannot guess why I am more obnoxious to her than formerly, as she seems to have settled to marry and secure her dear Mr. Roker to herself, unless it is because Mrs. Rayland seems lately to grow more fond of me; and as my aunt is engaged with her lover more than with her mistress, I have been more about her, and she seems always satisfied with my services—which makes Mrs. Lennard quite in a rage with me sometimes; and often of late she tells me I am a sly, deceitful girl, and she’ll blow me up with her lady—such is her expression, if I dare to fancy that I have any interest with her. This she has repeated so often lately, that knowing as I do that the discovery she has made of my meeting Orlando would entirely ruin him with Mrs. Rayland, I think that, however dreadful it is, Selina, for me to leave this place, where only I can have an opportunity of weeping with you and talking of him, I had much better do so than hazard, by my stay, incurring my aunt’s unreasonable displeasure, since it may so much hurt Orlando;—and as she told me again, about ten days since, that she was determined to send me off to Winchester, and had given her lady such good reasons for it that she advised 215 it, and had promised to give me the apprentice fee, I answered, that I had rather go than be burthensome to her.—So she wrote immediately, and the answer came yesterday, which fixes my departure for next Thursday. Thus, my dear brother, our dear injured Monimia related to me the circumstances which had produced this resolution, so distressing to me. Some of them indeed, particularly what related to that hateful Sir John Belgrave, I had heard before; for he used not only to persecute poor Monimia with attempts to speak to her by means of a servant—Jacob I think she called him—who was unluckily let into the secret, but wrote to her continually letters which, from the high promises they contained, might have tempted many young women so uncomfortably situated as she was—Eternal curses light on him! exclaimed Orlando; he shall feel, the scoundrel shall feel, that she is not now so unprotected as to suffer him to make his insulting proposals with impunity.

Alarmed by his vehemence, Selina repented that she had said so much; yet, by way of palliation, added—The last letter Monimia shewed me . . . .

Why did she open—why receive his d—d letters? cried Orlando.

They were forced upon her, answered his sister, in a thousand ways, which I hope she will one day have an opportunity of telling you herself, though it would take up too much time were I to do it now.—However, I am sure that when she related to me how she was beset with them, I saw no cause at all to blame her; and as for the last letter, of which I was going to speak, it was sent in form under cover of one to her aunt, and contained a proposal of marriage.

Of marriage!

Yes, indeed, and even offered settlements—and 216 begged pardon for his former ill behaviour: it was after Monimia was obliged to complain to Mrs. Lennard of his behaviour, and was removed to her room. And one great cause of her aunt’s displeasure afterwards was, that Monimia positively refused to marry Sir John, which her aunt insisted that, if he was in earnest, she should do. Monimia, however, wrote to him a refusal, in the most positive terms we could invent together; and after that she heard no more of him till she left the Hall.

Well, said Orlando! but, for Heaven’s sake tell me! has she heard of him then since she left the Hall?—and where is she now?

Would to God, my dearest brother, replied Selina, that I could tell you!—We settled to correspond, not without some difficulty, because, though my mother herself, if I had dared to tell her the truth, would not I am sure have refused to let me write to and hear from her; yet as I did not dare, and she knows I have no corre­spondents but my sister Philippa, who now and then writes to me from Ireland, it is very natural for her to ask what letter I receive. However, I contrived it, and did for you, Orlando, what worlds should not bribe me to do for myself; I mean, deceive my mother, or rather act without her knowledge; yet I hope it was innocent.

Not only innocent, but meritorious, said Orlando warmly; but you still do not answer me, Selina, where is Monimia now?

Alas! Orlando, have I not already undergone the pain of telling you that I do not know?

Not know!

Indeed, I do not—Amidst all the wretched scenes I passed through upon Mrs. Rayland’s death—our very cruel disap­pointment in reading a will, so unlike what we were taught to expect—and Philip’s horrible conduct, which drove us from the country, 217 and from our father’s house, now sold, with every thing almost in it, to Mr. Stockton;—amidst all the exertions I was compelled to make to support my poor mother, who seemed to be sinking under our complicated misfortunes; misfortunes rendered almost insupportable by the dreadful increase of our fears for your life:—believe me, Orlando, amidst all this, I never forgot to write punctually, according to our agreement, to our beloved Monimia; and for some time she punctually answered my letters:—but for these last five weeks never having any letter from her, I grew very uneasy, and last week wrote to the person with whom her aunt had placed her, and a few days since I had an answer.

What answer? inquired Orlando, with breathless eagerness.

None from the person herself to whom my sweet friend was bound, but from a relation of hers, who informed me that Mrs. Newill had, in consequence of some embarrassment in her affairs, left Winchester, and was gone to London with her apprentice, where she was under the necessity of remaining concealed till her affairs were settled; and then proposed going into business in London, if she could find friends to set her up.

Distraction and death! cried Orlando, striking his hands together, and starting from his chair, I shall be driven to phrensy!—And is it to a person thus situated that my poor Monimia is entrusted? and, under the pretence of becoming an apprentice, is she given up to a mean servitude? or perhaps sold to that detestable Belgrave, by her necessitous mistress? But I will pursue him to the end of the world.—Good God! added he, walking quickly about the room, if something very dreadful had not happened to her, she would have written to you—surely, 218 Selina, she would have written, wherever situated.

Perhaps, replied Selina, still more apprehensive of the effects of that despair he seemed to feel at this account—perhaps her not having written may have been owing to her having never received that letter of mine, which contained a direction whither to write to me.

What direction? inquired Orlando.

To this house, replied his sister, where we have only been about a month; having got it cheap of a gentleman who was obliged to go abroad, and was glad to let it on reasonable terms, for the few remaining months of his lease. We were before in lodgings in Holles-Street, and I knew nothing of our removal hither till a few days before it happened. The moment I did, I wrote to Monimia; but that letter was among those she never received.

This conversation, in which the impatient anguish of Orlando only found increase, was now interrupted by the entrance of his youngest sister, who came down to tell him and Selina that Mrs. Somerive, hearing them talk below, and supposing the melancholy account Selina had to give Orlando might affect him too much, entreated him to put off any farther conversation till the next day, but for the present to take some refreshment and go to bed.

Orlando, vexed that the agitation of his mind had betrayed him into vehemence which had alarmed and distressed his mother, promised to obey; and endeavouring to stifle his torments, he consented to sit down to supper, and requested that he might see his mother, and endeavour to calm the inquietude she expressed for his health. She desired he would come up to her; but when he approached the bed, he could not speak to her—he could only take the hand she gave him, and bathe it with tears, in spite 219 of his endeavours to check them, as he pressed it to his lips. In a broken voice, however, he at length collected resolution enough to assure her, in answer to her tender inquiries, that it was true he had been much affected by the detail his sister had at his own request given him, yet that he was now recovered, and after a night’s rest should regain fortitude enough to consider his own situation, and what it was best to do, without shrinking from any task, by executing which he would contribute to her comfort. His mother blessed him—and, expressing the utmost solicitude about his health, said—Make yourself, dear Orlando, easy about me; for, after so great, so unexpected, and I fear so undeserved a blessing as having you restored to me, and to your dear sisters, I should be unthankful and unworthy of such happiness if I dared to murmur.

As the repose of Mrs. Somerive would not, Orlando thought, be much promoted by the continuance of this affecting conversation, he shortened it as much as he could, and, in pursuance of his promise, went, in hopes of transient forgetfulness, to his bed.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLIV

a sum for the purchase of a baronet’s title
[I don’t think it was quite that straightforward.]

after enduring a great deal of very cruel usage
text has usuage
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]

Eternal curses light on him! exclaimed Orlando
text has ; for !
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]

the last letter . . . contained a proposal of marriage
[Sir John Belgrave, noticing that his own surname begins with B, adopts Pamela as his model.]


The variety of uneasy emotions which passed through the mind of Orlando, as he journeyed towards London


If Orlando had known Monimia was in safety

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.