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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER XLV.

If Orlando had known Monimia was in safety—if he had known where, after this cruel absence, he might find her, and assure her of the sentiments of an heart more fondly than ever devoted to her, all the cruel circumstances that had happened in his absence would have been supportable; but when, in addition to the death of his father, and the dispersion of his family, his loss of the Rayland estate, and the ruin of his brother (for, being now 220 utterly undone, and unable to carry on the law-suits he had begun, he had for some time disappeared, and no one knew what was become of him,)—when to all these distracting certainties was added his fear of finding Monimia, or finding her innocent, lovely, and devoted to him, as he had left her; he was no longer able to check the violence of his apprehension; nor could he, for some hours after awaking from his short and disturbed sleep, collect his thoughts enough to form any plan for his future conduct.

Two things, however, were immediately necessary: one was, to find some method of tracing his lost Monimia; and the other, to find the means of subsisting, not only without being a burthen to his mother, whose income was so very small, but to endeavour if possible to make hers and his sisters’ situation more comfortable. This he knew the slender pay of an ensign would not enable him to do; and, while he knew that nothing could be more dreadful to his mother than the idea of his going abroad again, he felt that few means of passing his time would to him be so disagreeable as that of remaining unoccupied, and disarmed as he was by his parole, while he yet called and considered himself as a soldier.

He at length determined to inquire how far, as his commission was given him, he could dispose of it; and if that could be done, to put the money it would produce into some business. But even this arrangement was secondary to his ardent desire to gain some intelligence of Monimia. He wrote as soon as he arose in the morning to the relation of the person with whom she lived at Winchester, entreating a direction to that person, and assuring her to whom he wrote, that his inquiry was not meant to do any injury, but rather might produce some advantage to the person under inconvenient circumstances. He 221 then, after some deliberation, determined to write to Mrs. Lennard, or, as she was now called, Mrs. Roker;—and, as he had now no longer any thing to fear from the resentment of his benefactress, he openly avowed to Mrs. Roker the purpose of his inquiry; informing her that, if her niece was unmarried, and still retained for him her former affection, he intended to offer her his hand.

Having thus taken all the means which his anxiety immediately suggested, he joined his mother and sisters at breakfast with some degree of apparent composure, and gave them, as he found his mother now better able to bear it, a sketch of his adventures upon the road; at which they were so much affected, that he soon found it necessary to drop the conversation; and saying he should walk out till dinner, he took his way to a coffee-house much frequented by military men, near St. James’s, where he hoped to hear something of Warwick, as well as to learn whether the General (whom he dared not mention to his mother lest it should occasion inquiries about Isabella which he could not answer) had consoled himself with some other young woman for his cruel mortification in regard to Isabella, and revenged himself by disinheriting his nephew for the loss of his intended bride.

He met several of his old acquaintance; one of whom very willingly gave him all the information he wanted about his commission; but told him that he could not, he thought, dispose of it without applying to General Tracy, from whose hands he had received it. This Orlando determined to do; and as he was impatient to be at some certainty, he went immediately to his house in Grosvenor-Place.

It happened that the General, who was now almost always a martyr to the gout, had given orders to be denied to every body who might chance to 222 call, except two persons whom he named, and for one of whom the man who opened the door, and who had only lately come into the house, mistook Orlando, who was therefore ushered up stairs, where, in a magnificent room, the General sat in a great chair, supported by pillows, and his limbs wrapped in flannel. Orlando was much altered, and the General was near-sighted: so that he was obliged to approach, and to announce himself. Forgetting for a moment his disabled limbs, Tracy almost started out of his chair; but then recollecting probably that a man of fashion should never suffer himself to appear discomposed at any thing, he recovered himself, and coldly desired Orlando to sit down.

Orlando, affected by seeing a man whom he had last seen as a guest of his father, gave, in a mild and low voice, into a little history of his adventures; the parole he had given, which precluded him from serving during the present war; and his wish therefore to transfer his commission to some one who might not be under the same disadvantages.

General Tracy heard him with repulsive indifference, and then said—Well, Sir, the commission is yours, and you are perfectly at liberty to keep or to dispose of it. I am very far from meaning to trouble you with my advice; but as your expectations of Mrs. Rayland’s fortune are all disap­pointed, I should have supposed a profession might have been found useful to you. However, Sir, you are the best judge. The commission is yours—I am sorry I am too much indisposed to have the pleasure of your company longer, and I wish you a good day. He then rang, and his valet appearing, he bade him open the door.

Orlando, thus dismissed, retired in anger, which he had no means of venting; and went back to the coffee-house, where his friend waited for him to 223 whom he forbore, however, to speak of Tracy’s behaviour; because he could not but feel that if he believed him, as he probably did, concerned in the elopement of Isabella with Warwick, he had some grounds for his resentment—a resentment which, when Orlando reflected on his humiliation, and his being now tormented by bodily infirmities, he was too generous not to forgive. His friend, a lieutenant in the 51st, now went with him to the office of an agent, to treat about his commission; and, as they went, related to him, that it was believed at the War Office, Warwick had perished at sea, as there never was an instance of a man’s being missing for so many months; and that, had he been taken prisoner by an American or French privateer, and carried to some of their places of rendezvous, he would before now have written home, or he would have been exchanged. This appeared to be but too probable; but still Orlando, in recollecting how he had been situated himself, entertained a faint hope that they might yet hear of his friend and his sister, though the dangers and difficulties to which the latter might have been exposed made him tremble. Having put his business in the proper train, he returned home, meditating, as he went, on all the strange and disagreeable occurrences that had happened since he used to traverse these streets with Warwick, who had lodgings in Bond-street. All the scenes he had passed through arose in lively succession in his mind, and that for the first time since his landing in England; for the shocks he received on his arrival at Rayland Hall, and by hearing of the death of his father, had for a while absorbed all other recollections. He now considered that, when his commission was disposed of, his whole fortune would be only between three and four hundred pounds; yet, with the sanguine spirit of a 224 young man, which his former severe disap­pointments had not checked, he believed that, with a sum so moderate, he could, by dint of perseverance and industry, find some reputable employment, by which he might not only be enabled to assist his mother, but to keep a wife—as he was resolved, the moment he could find Monimia, to marry her; and in this only he thought he might be forgiven for not consulting his mother—to his duty and affection towards whom he never meant that any other attachment should be injurious.

He had not yet bad time to talk to Selina, of the law-suit which he heard Philip had instituted for the recovery of the Rayland estate; but he had in the evening an opportunity of talking about it to Selina, and heard that it now languished, partly for want of money, and partly through Philip’s neglect, who had of late again disappeared, and therefore nothing was likely to be made of the suit.

Orlando inquired against whom, and on what grounds it was begun?—and learned, though Selina did not very clearly under­stand the terms, that it was against the reverend body who claimed the estate; one of whom (Doctor Holly­bourn) had administered as executor; because the will nominated to that office the dean of the diocese for the time being, to which the doctor had succeeded a few days only before Mrs. Rayland’s death: and that there was not only a suit at common law, but in chancery.

As there was great reason to believe that there was another will entirely in his favour, which had been either secreted or destroyed, Orlando determined to attempt discovering this, and got a recommen­dation from his friend the lieutenant (for he was too much disgusted by the reception he met 225 with from Mr. Woodford to trouble him again) to a young attorney, before whom he laid the affair, and who gave him great encouragement to pursue it.

But the occupation in which this engaged him, or in which he was engaged by the sale of his commission, that was now within a few days of being completed, could not for a moment detach his mind from those fears which continually haunted him for Monimia.—He waited with anxiety for the answer he expected from Winchester, which he had hoped to have, as he had very earnestly pressed for it, by the return of the post; but that and another, and another post arrived without any letter; and he wrote again, waited again three days, and was again disap­pointed of an answer.—He now determined to go down himself, and find out the woman from whom Selina had received the information of Monimia’s removal; but the day on which he had hired an horse, and was on the point of setting out for that place, he was visited by a man of between fifty and sixty, who sent in his name, in great form, as Mr. Roker.

If a painter had occasion to put upon his canvas a figure that should give an horrible idea of the worst, meanest and most obnoxious passions—and to represent the most detestable character in Pandæmonium, where, on the brow, villany sits enjoying the misery it occasions—where every rascal vice, concealed by cowardice and cunning, are mingled with arrogance, malice and cruelty—where a nose, the rival of Bardolph’s, depends over a mouth “grinning horribly a ghastly smile,”—and scornful eyes, askance, seemed to be watching with inverted looks, the birth of chicanery in the brain—this fiend-like wretch would have been a fine study. His shambling figure appeared to have 226 been repaired with straw and rags, since it had suffered depredations on a well-earned gibbet—A figure more adapted to the purpose of scaring crows, was never exhibited in former days as Guy Vaux, the Pope, or the Pretender.

Orlando was somewhat surprised to behold this strange being, who strutting up close to him, put his nose almost in his face, and then, in a sonorous voice, said——

Your name, Sir, is Somerive?

I suppose you know it is, replied Orlando, since you come to seek me by it.

You wrote, Sir, to my nephew’s wife, Mrs. Rachel Roker—

Well, Sir, and I expected Mrs. Rachel Roker would have answered my letter.

No, Sir—We make it a rule never to put our hands to any thing—We desire to know, Sir, your reasons for writing—I call, Sir, in behalf of Mrs. Rachel Roker—You ask after a young woman, Sir, whom she kept out of charity—Now, Sir, though we never do give answers to matters so irrelevant, my client, that is my niece, Mrs. Rachel Roker, does hereby inform you, that she the said Rachel—

Orlando, anxious as he was, and trembling in the expectation of hearing something of Monimia, could not check his indignation and impatience—Your niece! your client!—What is all this to me? said he.

Sir, cried the fiend, have patience if you please—I go on in this matter according to the due course, and such as I always observe in all my business, whether it relates to Sir John Winnerton Weezle, Baronet, my very worthy client, or any other. Now, Sir,—Nay, Sir—(seeing Orlando about to speak)—nay, Sir, hear me! and when I have done, Sir, you shall speak in turn—

227

You will be pleased then, said Orlando, to be brief, as patience is not my forte.

He felt much disposed to prove this assertion by turning the fellow down stairs; but, recollecting that he might thus lose all trace of Monimia, which her aunt might otherwise afford him, he checked himself: and the man proceeded in an harangue of some length, tending to give an high opinion of his abilities, and of his skill in conducting causes; laying much stress on the confidence with which he was treated by Sir John Winnerton Weezle, Baronet, and his brother Thomas Weezle, Esquire, who seemed to have taken, from their rank, great hold on his imagination: and he at length concluded with saying, that the girl Orlando inquired after had behaved most ungratefully to his niece Mrs. Rachel Roker, and had contemp­tuously refused to marry advan­tageously, to a Baronet, a man of great rank, Sir John Berkely Belgrave, Baronet;—an acquaintance of his client, and very good friend, Sir John Winnerton Weezle, Baronet, and Thomas Weezle, Esquire, his brother:—wherefore Mrs. Rachel Roker had discarded her; and the person to whom she was bound apprentice was now a prisoner for debt in some of the London prisons, and this girl had left her for another service, nobody knowing whither she was gone.

This account almost drove Orlando to distraction. From the man’s coming himself on a message with which he had so little to do; and from several other observations he made while he was talking, it seemed as if he had some particular reason for wishing to put an end to all farther inquiry on the part of Orlando—who now, stifling his detestation, asked if he could not see Mrs. Roker, formerly Mrs. Lennard? The attorney said, No! that she was not only at a great distance from London, but kept her 228 bed, and saw nobody. In the course of these inquiries, which he now insisted upon some answer to, he found that this Roker and his nephew were employed by the reverend body of clergy to defend their right to the Rayland estate against Philip Somerive; and it was easy to see, that the arrival of Orlando in England was the thing in the world these worthy gentlemen the least expected and the least wished.—

When this hateful being was gone, Orlando, after a moment’s reflection, resolved upon visiting all those receptacles of misery in London where poverty is punished by loss of liberty, and where, in a land eminent for its humanity, many thousands either perish, or are rendered by confinement and desperation unfit to return to society—where vice and misfortune are confounded, and patient wretchedness languishes unpitied, unrelieved, unknown—while villany shews that, if there is money to support it, it will triumph in despite of punishment.

Selina knew the name of the person—Mrs. Newill, to whom Monimia had been consigned; and Orlando, making a memorandum of it in his pocket-book, with such other circumstances as might lead to a discovery, set out on his melancholy search.

He had now been near a fortnight in London, and had in a great measure recovered his looks—so that he was no longer a stranger to the few acquaintance he had; and his mother beheld with satisfaction the same Orlando, on whose fine figure and ingenuous countenance she had formerly so fondly prided herself.

His first visit was to the Fleet-prison—He inquired of every one likely to inform him, if the person whom he named to them was there? But mistrust seemed universal in that scene of legal wretchedness; 229 and, with an heart bleeding at the thoughts of there being such complicated miseries, and that man had the power to inflict them on his fellow-creatures, he almost wished himself again among the cypress swamps and pathless woods of uncultivated America, that he might fly from the legal crimes to which such scenes were owing; when, indulging this mournful train of thought, he quitted the prison, and walked slowly up Holborn Hill.

There was a crowd just before he reached St. Andrew’s church, and several coaches stood at the door of an haberdasher’s shop. In making his way by them, a female figure, very smartly and somewhat tawdrily drest, took his arm and cried—Ah, Sir! your name is Mr. Orlando Somerive? It is, indeed, replied Orlando; but I do not know, Madam, how I deserve the honour of your being acquainted with it.

What! have you forgot me then? said the lady: Lord! how soon old acquaintance are forgot!

Orlando then thought he knew the voice, and had some recollection of the face; but he still hesitated, unable to remember where he had heard or seen either.—Have you far to go? said she, still detaining him:—I have a carriage here, and can put you down—Lord! why, have you really forgot Betsy Richards?

Orlando now immediately recollected his former acquaintance, and what he had heard of her being entertained as a mistress by Philip occurred to him: as he had been very solicitous ever since his return to see his brother, he now eagerly inquired where he was. Ah, Lord! cried the girl, shaking her head, I have but very so-so news to tell you about him, that’s the truth—But, dear! one can’t talk of them sort of things in the street—why, I shan’t bite you, Sir—you may as well get into the coach with me. 230 Orlando, though unwilling to be seen with such a companion, yet, on finding she could give him some information of his brother, determined to accept the offer; and the lady, who called herself Mistress Filmer, then ordered her carriage to advance: and Orlando seated himself by her, in an hired chariot with a black boy in a turban and feathers behind.

Though he was persuaded nobody knew him, he was very much ashamed of the equipage; but, applying himself immediately to learn of his fair companion what he so much wished to know, he listened to her very attentively—and, after some circum­locution in a style peculiar to herself, he learned with inexpressible concern that his brother Philip was a prisoner for a debt of an hundred and twenty pounds in the place he had just been visiting; and that Mrs. Filmer, though now under the protection of another person, yet retained so much recollection of her first seducer, and so much gratitude for the sums he had lavished upon her, that she had that morning been to visit him, and only stopped in Holborn to make some purchases before she went to her lodgings in Charlotte-Street.

Orlando could not bear to hear that his unhappy brother was in such a place, without going immediately to him. He staid only, therefore, a moment longer, to inquire of Mrs. Filmer, if she had, when she was in the country with his brother (for they had not long before, she said, been down at Stockton’s together), heard what was become of Monimia. She would have rallied him on his constancy, but he could not a moment endure to be trifled with; and, finding she knew nothing of importance, he said he recollected some material business in the city, whither he must return.—Then, stopping the chariot, he wished her a good day, and hastened back to the Fleet-prison.

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On inquiry for the person he wanted, he still found some difficulty in being admitted to him: but, on signifying that he was brother to Mr. Somerive, which his resemblance to him immediately confirmed, a turnkey, to whom he gave a shilling, walked before him to the apartment where Philip was confined.

On his entrance, the neglected and altered figure of his brother struck him with the deepest concern.—He was sitting at piquet with another prisoner, on a dirty table where some empty porter pots seemed to signify that they had lately taken their dinner. Philip hardly looked up; and Orlando stood a moment unnoticed, till the man who was with him cried—Why, squire, here’s your honour’s brother.

The devil it is! replied Philip—By the Lord, though, but—let me see—It is he!—why, hast had a resurrection, my honest Rowland?—Thou wert killed and scalped, I thought, by the Cherokees.

I almost wish I had, Philip, answered Orlando, for I think I should have preferred death to what I now see.

Why, to be sure, pleasanter sights may be seen if a man is in luck—For example, it would have been pleasanter for thee to have come home master of Rayland Hall—Eh! Sir Knight?

Good God! exclaimed Orlando, will you never, my brother, be reasonable? Will you never believe that, notwith­standing your repeated unkindness to me, I can never consider you otherwise than as my brother, and can have no motive in coming hither but to do you good?

And what good canst do me? Canst let me out of this cage? Hast brought any money from the Yankies? any plunder, my little soldier? Canst lend me the ready to pay this confounded debt?

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The person who was with Orlando, now supposing they might be upon business, left them together: and Philip finding from the generous earnestness of Orlando, that though he had very little money (in fact no more than the price of his commission, which he was to receive in a few days), he was willing to pay his debt, and to share with him all that he should then have left, began to grow more civil to his brother, and did not refuse to lay before him, though his pride seemed cruelly mortified as he did it, the state of his affairs.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XLV

the slender pay of an ensign
[It has taken Orlando only two chapters to remember that he’s officially still in the Army.]

the answer he expected from Winchester, which he had hoped to have
text has which, with superfluous comma
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]

“grinning horribly a ghastly smile”
[18th- and 19th-century writers loved this line. Canonically it’s “Death grinn’d horrible a ghastly smile” from Paradise Lost, but the “grinning horribly” paraphrase was equally popular. (Trivia: Current rules about quotation marks did not become carved in stone until quite late in the 19th century. Before then, it was perfectly accep­table to use quotation marks around something that was not, in fact, a verbatim quote.)]

many thousands either perish, or are rendered by confinement and desperation unfit to return to society
[The author would know, since her husband—as pointed out in the editor’s introduction—spent a good deal of time in the Fleet. Debtors’ prisons in the UK were abolished in 1869 at the request of creditors. It had taken them only a few centuries to figure out that putting a man in prison—permanently—is a good way to ensure that he will never be able to pay anyone anything. In the US, debtors’ prisons were abolished on the Federal level in 1833; on the state level, imprisonment for debt is still perfectly legal.]

He had now been near a fortnight in London, and had in a great measure recovered his looks
[Orlando’s hair resolutely declined to start growing again until he was back in England, at which point it hurried to make up for lost time.]

the cypress swamps and pathless woods of uncultivated America
[In 1778, did cypress swamps extend as far north as New York state? I have some doubts.]

how soon old acquaintance are forgot!
[She could say this with a straight face, because Burns would not write Auld Lang Syne until 1788, ten years in the (dramatic) future.]

Thou wert killed and scalped, I thought, by the Cherokees.
[I wish I could object to this as a wild anachronism, on the grounds that the Cherokee didn’t become established as Generic Indians until decades later. But the novel was, in fact, published in 1793—and the second edition was physically printed in the same year—so the author must have had some reason for putting these words into Philip’s mouth.]


When you left us, my brother, said Selina


The unfortunate brother of Orlando

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.