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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER V.

The clock in the servants’ hall struck twelve, and was answered by that in the north gallery. With yet deeper tone the hour was re-echoed from the great clock in the cupola over the stables; when Orlando, listening a moment to hear if all was quiet, proceeded through an arched passage which led from the library to the chapel, and then through the chapel itself, whose principal entrance was from a porch which opened to a sort of triangular court on the back of the house next the park. He had previously unbarred the chapel door, which was slightly secured by an iron rod: the lock had long since been rusted by time, and the key lost; for, since the death of Sir Hildebrand, who was buried with his ancestors in the chancel, the ladies his daughters had found themselves too much affected to enter the chapel (which was also the church of the small parish of Rayland), and had removed the parochial service to that of the next parish, within a mile: and as both belonged to them, the livings 49 were united, and the people of either were content to say their prayers wherever their ladies chose to appoint.

Orlando, till he found it opened his way to Monimia, without going through or near any inhabited part of the house, had never explored the chapel; but the night before that on which the experiment was to be made, he had taken care to see that in his passage through it he had no impediment to fear; for of those superstition might have raised to deter a weaker mind, or one engaged in a less animating cause, he was insensible.

He now, having convinced himself that all the family were retired, walked softly through the aisle; and having without any difficulty opened the door of the porch, that adjoined the pavement round the east or back front, he stepped with light feet along it, entered the lower room of the turret which was nearly opposite, and ascended, still as silently as he could, the narrow stair-case.

Monimia! Monimia! cried he in a half whisper, Monimia are you ready? I am, replied a low and tremulous voice. Remove the hangings, then, said Orlando. Slowly the faltering hands of the trembling girl removed them. Orlando eagerly received her as she came through the door-way. Are you here at last? cried he vehemently. Shall I be at liberty at last to see you? But how cold you are! how you tremble! Ah! Mr. Orlando, answered Monimia, half shrinking from him, ah! I am so certain that all this is wrong, I so dread a discovery, that it is impossible to conquer my terrors: besides, I have recollected that one of the windows of my aunt’s closet up stairs looks this way. If she should be in it, if she should see us!

How can she be in it without a light? She hardly sits there in the dark for her amusement. You 50 know it is impossible she can have any suspicion; yet you torment yourself, and destroy all my happiness by your timidity. Ah, Monimia! you are cruel to me.—I would not be cruel to you for a thousand worlds, Orlando, you know I would not. But, if I were to die, I cannot conquer my terrors. I tremble too with cold as well as with fright; for I have waited so long past my hour of going to bed, that I am half frozen.

And yet you are not glad to see me, Monimia, when at last I am come.

Indeed I am glad, Orlando; but hush! hark, surely I heard a noise. Listen a moment for heaven’s sake, before we go down.

It is nothing, said Orlando, after a pause, it is nothing, upon my soul, but the wind that rushes up the narrow stair-case to the top of the tower.

Speak low, however, replied Monimia, as she gave him her cold tremulous hand to lead her slowly down the ruined steps; speak very low; or rather let us be quite silent, for you remember what an echo there is in the court.

They then proceeded silently along the flag-stones that surrounded the court opening on one side to the park, and entered the porch of the chapel; where when Monimia arrived, she seemed so near fainting, that, as they were now sheltered from all observation, Orlando entreated her to sit down on one of the thick old worm-eaten wooden benches that were fixed on either side.

Unable to support herself, Orlando made her lean against him, as endeavouring to re-assure her, he besought her to conquer an alarm, for which, said he, Monimia, I cannot account. What do you fear, my sweet friend? Do you already repent having entrusted yourself with me?

51

Oh! no indeed, sighed Monimia, but the chapel!—What of the chapel? cried Orlando impatiently.—It is haunted, you know, every night, by the spirit of one of the Lady Raylands, who I know not how long ago died for love, and whose ghost now sits every night in the chancel, and sometimes walks round the house, and particularly along the galleries, at midnight, groaning and lamenting her fate.

Orlando, laughing at her simplicity, cried, And who, my dear Monimia, who has violated thy natural good sense by teaching thee these ridiculous stories? Believe me, none of the Lady Raylands, as you called them, ever died for love; indeed I never heard that any of them ever were in love but my grandmother, who saved herself the absurdity of dying, by marrying the man she liked, in despite of the opposing pride of her family; and as she was very happy, and never repented her disobedience, I do not believe her spirit walks: or if it should, Monimia, if it were possible that it should, could you not face a ghost with me for your protector?

Any living creature I should not fear, Orlando, if you were with me; but there is something so dreadful in the idea of a spirit!

This is not a place, said Orlando with quickness, this is not a place to argue with your prejudices, Monimia, for you seem half dead with cold; but come, I beseech you, into the library, where there is a fire, and trust to my arm to defend you from all supernatural beings at least, on the way.

He then drew her arm within his, and pushed open the door of the chapel. When Monimia felt the cold damp that environed her as he shut it after them, and found herself in such a place, without any other light than what was afforded by 52 two gothic windows half blocked with stone work, and almost all the rest by stained glass, at midnight, in a night of September, she again shuddered and shrunk back: but Orlando again encouraging her, and ridiculing her fears, she moved on, and passing the stone passage, he at length seated her safely by the study fire, which he now replenished with wood. As she was still pale and trembling, he brought her a glass of wine (of which Mrs. Rayland allowed him whatever he chose), which he insisted on her drinking, and then, seating himself by her, enquired with a gay smile, how she did after her encounter with the lady who died for love?

You think me ridiculous, Orlando, and perhaps I am so; but my aunt has often told me, that ghosts always appeared to people who were doing wrong, to reproach them; and, alas! Orlando, I am too sensible that I am not doing right.

Curse on her prudish falsehood! cried the impetuous Orlando. If ghosts, as you call them, were always on the watch to persecute evil doers, I believe from my soul that she would have been beset by those of all the Raylands that are packed together in the chancel.

Such was the awe of her aunt in which Monimia had been brought up, that the little respect and vehement manner in which Orlando spoke of her, had in it additional terror. She did not speak; she was not able: but the tears which had till then trembled in her eyes now stole down her cheeks. Orlando was tempted to kiss them away before they reached her bosom; but he remembered that she was wholly in his power, and that he owed her more respect than it would have been necessary to have shewn even in public.

Let us talk no more of your old aunt, re-assumed 53 Orlando; but tell me, Monimia, all that has happened in these long, long months of absence.

Happened, Mr. Orlando! repeated Monimia.

Nay, interrupted he, let me not be Mr. Orlando, my lovely friend, but call me Orlando, and try to fancy me your brother. Tell me, Monimia, how have you passed your time since I was allowed to see you last? What an age it is ago! Have you practised your writing, Monimia, and has Lennard allowed you the use of any books?

A few I got at by the assistance of Betty Richards, who has the key of this room to clean it when you are absent, Orlando; but if my aunt had found it out, she would never have forgiven either of us. I was forced therefore to hide the books she took out for me with the greatest care, and to read only by snatches. And as to writing, I have done a little of it because you desired me; but it has been very difficult; for my aunt Lennard never would allow me to have pens and ink; and Betty Richards has given me these too by stealth, when she was able to procure them, as if they were for herself, of Mr. Pattenson the butler, who was always very kind to her about such things, till a week or two ago; when he was so cross at her asking for more paper, that we thought it better to let alone applying to him again for some time.

The old thief was jealous, I suppose, answered Orlando. I believe he was, said Monimia, for he has a liking, I fancy, to Betty, though to be sure he is old enough to be her father.

Orlando was now struck with an apprehension which had never before occurred to him: he feared that, in the gratitude of her unadulterated heart for the kindness she received from this Betty Richards, she might betray to her the secret of their nocturnal visits: and he knew that the love of 54 gossiping, the love of finery, the love of nice morsels which the butler had it in his power to give, or even the love of shewing she was entrusted with a secret, were any of them sufficient to overset all the fidelity which this girl (the under house-maid) might either feel or profess to feel for Monimia.

Against this therefore it was necessary to put her on her guard; which Orlando endeavoured to do in the most impressive manner possible, and even urged her with warmth to give him her solemn promise that she never would entrust this servant with any secret, or mention to her his name on any account whatever.

Indeed, Orlando, replied Monimia, when he had finished this warm exhortation, indeed you need not be uneasy or anxious about it; for there is one reason that, if I had no other, would never permit me to tell this poor girl that I meet you unknown to my aunt.

And what is that?

It is, that Betty is, like myself, a very friendless orphan, a poor girl that my aunt has taken from the parish; and as I know very well that all our meetings will one day or other be discovered, it would entirely ruin her, and occasion the loss of her place and her character, if Betty were supposed to know any thing about it; therefore you may be assured, Orlando, that she never shall: for whatever misery it may be my fate to suffer myself, I shall not so much mind, as I should being the cause of ruining and injuring another person, especially a friendless girl, who has always been as kind to me as her situation allowed her to be.

Enchanted with her native rectitude of heart and generosity of spirit, Orlando rapturously exclaimed, Charming girl! how every sentence you utter, every sentiment of your pure and innocent mind 55 delight me! No, Monimia, I am very sure that such a security as you have given me is of equal force, perhaps superior as it ought to be, even to your faith to me—superior, Monimia, to the wish which I am sure you have, to spare me any sort of unhappiness. The fine eyes of Monimia were swimming in tears, as, tenderly pressing her hand between his, Orlando said this. You do me justice, said she in a faultering voice, and I thank you. I do not know, Orlando, why I should be ashamed to say that I love you better than any body else in the world; for indeed who is there in it that I have to love? If you were gone, it would be all a desert to me; for though I hope I am grateful, and not undutiful to my aunt Lennard, I find I do not love her as I love you. But indeed I do believe she would not have me feel affection for any body; for she is always telling me, that it is the most disgraceful and odious thing imaginable, for a young woman, dependent as I am, to think about any person, man, woman, or child; and that, if I would not be an undone and disgraced creature, I must mind nothing but praying to God, which I hope I never neglected, and learning to earn my bread by my hands. And then she tells me continually how much I owe her for taking me into her Lady’s family, and what a wicked wretch I should be if I were ungrateful.

Don’t tell me any more about your aunt, do not I entreat you, cried Orlando impatiently. I should be sorry to say any thing that should stain, even with the most remote suspicion of ingratitude, that unadulterated mind. But—I cannot—no, it is impossible to resist saying, that, like all other usurped authority, the power of your aunt is maintained by unjust means, and supported by prejudices, which if once looked at by the eye of reason would 56 fall. So slender is the hold of tyranny, my Monimia!

Dear Orlando, said Monimia smiling through her tears, you talk what is by me very little understood. No! replied he, she has taken care to fetter you in as much ignorance as possible; but your mind rises above the obscurity with which she would surround it. She has however brought in supernatural aid; and, fearful of not being able to keep you in sufficient awe by her terrific self, she has called forth all the deceased ladies of the Rayland family, and gentlemen too for aught I know, and beset you with spirits, and hobgoblins if you dare to walk about the house.

Ah! Orlando, answered Monimia timidly, and throwing round the room a half fearful glance, I do believe you injure my aunt Lennard in that notion; for I am almost sure she believes what she tells me.

Pooh! replied he, she has too much sense. A good bottle of Barbadoes water, or ratafia, would call your pious aunt in the darkest night, and just as the clock strikes twelve, into the very chancel of the chapel itself, or even into the vaults under it.

Do not laugh at such things, Orlando; do not, pray; unless you are very sure they are all foolish and superstitious fancies. I assure you, Orlando, that having been used to walk about this great old rambling house by myself, at all times of the day, and sometimes, when you have not been here, late of a night, I cannot have been much used to indulge fear; for, frightened or not frightened, I must have gone if my Lady or my aunt had ordered me. But though I am not the least afraid, or used not to be afraid, when I was assured in my own heart that I had never done or intended any harm, yet I have seen and heard——

Nay then, Monimia, tell me what you have seen 57 and heard, cried he, fixing his eyes eagerly on her face, and pulling his chair nearer to hers, and let us draw round the fire and have a discourse upon apparitions.

You will laugh at me, Orlando, said she, looking smilingly and yet grave; but what I have to tell you is true nevertheless.

Tell it then, Monimia—If any proofs have power to make me a convert, they must be yours.

Well then, Orlando, I assure you it is no fancy, but absolutely true, that some time last February, at which time my aunt was very ill by the fall she had down stairs, she used to intrust me with the keys, and to send me all about the house for things she wanted. You know that when Mr. Pattenson is out, she always insists upon having the keys of the great cellars, as well as all the rest, left with her; and that, after quarrelling some years about it, she has got the better; and, though he will not give her his keys, has my Lady’s leave to have keys of her own, which she always takes particular pleasure in using when he is out (which he happened to be that night at the christening of Mr. Butterworth’s child), whether she really wants the things she sends for or no. It was a terrible stormy night, and very dark, when my aunt, who was but just got well enough to sit in my Lady’s room, took it into her head, after every body was gone to bed, but Betty Richards and I, that she wanted some hot shrub and water. She sent me to look for shrub in her closet, where I believe she knew there was none; and when I came back to say there was none, she bade me go into the east-wing cellar, which goes, you know, under the house, towards this end of it, and fetch half a dozen bottles; and she gave me the key and a basket. I stood trembling with fear; for had I been sure of being killed even at 58 that moment, I am very certain I could not have determined to venture alone.

What is the foolish girl afraid of? said my aunt. Of going alone so far, Ma’am, said I, at this time of night.

And is not this time of night, said my aunt angrily, or is not any time of night, or any time of day, the same thing to you? Idiot!—and do you dare to affect any choice, how and when you shall obey my commands?

Oh! no indeed, my dear dear aunt, answered I trembling, no indeed; but remember—remember, before you are so angry with me, that an hundred and an hundred times you have told me, that all the galleries and passages about this house are haunted; and that you have yourself seen strange sights and heard frightful noises, though you never would tell me what they were: how shall I, my dear aunt, encounter that which has terrified you?—Pray, forgive me! or, if you will not, inflict upon me any punishment you please: only be assured, my dear dear aunt, that, terrible as your anger is to your poor girl, she had rather endure it than go into those passages and vaults alone.

Why, thou art a driveller, a perfect idiot, answered Mrs. Lennard, and art fit only for a cap and bells, clean straw, and a whirligig.—Apparitions, you stupid fool! But tell me, will you go for what I want, if this other moppet, who looks as white as a cheese-curd, will go with you?

The offer of going with Betsy Richards had somehow quite a charm with it, compared with the terrors of going alone; and therefore I readily agreed to the proposal, flattering myself that Betsy would refuse, and that I should so be excused.

But poor Betsy had, like myself, a most terrible awe of my aunt, whom ever since she could remember 59 she had been taught to fear. To be sure, I will go, said poor Betsy; to be certain, I will go, if madam she desires it; though for certain——

None of your ifs, you silly baggage! but here, take the candle; and do you, you nonsensical ninnyhammer, take the basket, and fetch instantly what I want. The old shrub stands in a bin, quite at the lower end of the farthest arched vault, next the chapel wing: put your hands elbow deep in the saw-dust, and you will feel it; bring half a dozen bottles, and mind you take care of your candle—for the whole family of Rayland are piled up in their velvet coffins within two or three feet of you; and it would be a very unhandsome thing to set their old dry bones in a blaze on their own premises.

Neither Betsy nor I dared answer; for, as my aunt spoke these last words, she waved her hands for us to go. After we were out of hearing, I, who held Betsy fast by the arm, expressed my apprehension at what had passed. I did this more particularly, because I had never heard my aunt talk so freely before. Betsy, frightened as she was at the thought of the expedition we were undertaking, could not help tittering at the surprise I expressed, and said, Lord! why, the old woman has been sitting so long after supper with madam, that she has been taking care to keep the cold out of her stomach:—meaning that Mrs. Lennard had been drinking too much, which till then I had never any notion of. I am sure, replied I to my trembling companion, as we went down the cellar stairs, and were frightened by the echo of our feet, I am sure, Betsy, we want something to keep the cold of fear out of ours.—Do I tremble as much as you do, and do I look as pale? Oh! hush, said she, hush! I shall drop if I hear a voice—it sounds so among 60 these hollow doors. Her teeth chattered in her head, and she held the candle in her hand so unsteadily that I was afraid it would have gone out. In this manner we proceeded to the bottom of the stairs, which you know are very long, and had got half a dozen paces along the passage, which is, you may remember, very high and narrow and long, when we heard a loud rushing noise at the other end of it. Something came sweep along; but Betsy let fall the candle, and fell herself against the wall, where I endeavoured in vain to support her. She sunk quite down; and, as I stooped to assist her, somebody certainly brushed by me. I know not what I heard afterwards, for fear deprived me of my senses. This, however, lasted but a moment; for, my recollection returning, I was sensible that whatever there was to hurt us, we should do more wisely to endeavour to return back to my aunt’s room than to remain in that dismal place. With great difficulty, by rubbing her hands within mine, and reasoning with her as soon as she seemed able to hear it, I prevailed upon Betsy Richards to try to walk. The apprehension that this frightful apparition might return (which she whispered me had the figure of a tall man in a white or light-coloured gown), had more effect upon her than any thing I could say; and she consented to try to return up the stairs. It was so dark, however, that we were obliged to feel our way with our hands; and I own I every moment expected to put them against the frightful figure which my companion had seen.

But you were wrong there, said the incredulous Orlando; for if it were a ghost, Monimia, you know a ghost is only air, and of course you could not have touched it.—But tell me how your aunt received you.

It was, I am sure, almost half an hour before we 61 got back, more dead than alive, to the oak parlour. She asked us very impatiently, what we had been so long about? but neither of us was presently able to answer. She saw how it was by our faces, but very sharply bade us tell her that moment what was the matter. Betsy had then more courage than I had; for I was more afraid of my aunt, if possible, than of the ghost, and so she related as well as she could all she saw or fancied she saw. Mrs. Lennard was extremely angry with us both, and scolded us for a quarter of an hour; which I thought a little unreasonable towards me, since she was angry with me now for being afraid of the very things she had been teaching me to fear. However, as there was no chance of persuading us to make another attempt that night, and she was disabled by lameness from going herself, she was forced to be content with some other of the cordials she had in her closet; and afterwards she rather wished to have the story hushed up and forgotten, for somehow or other that key of the cellar was never found after that night. The basket and the candle remained where they were dropped; yet the key, which was a very great heavy key, and which I had in my hand, was gone; and Mr. Pattenson would have made such a racket about it, that my aunt, as she had another, let the story drop, and contrived an excuse a week or two afterwards, when she was able to get about herself, to have the lock changed.

And this is all the reason you have, my Monimia, from your own observation, to believe in spirits? said Orlando.

All! replied she, and is it not then enough?

Not quite, I fear, to convince the scepticism of the present day. I do not, however, wish to prejudice your mind on the other side, by bringing 62 arguments against the possibility of their existence; but I will give your reason an opportunity of deciding for itself. Against to-morrow night, when we shall meet again, I will look out and mark for you all those stories of supernatural appearances that are related by the most reasonable people, and are the best authenticated. You shall fairly enquire whether any of those visits of the dead were ever found to be of any use to the living. We are told that they have been seen (as is reported of that vision which Clarendon tells of), to warn the persons to whom they appeared, or some others to whom they were to repeat their mission, of impending danger. But the danger, however foretold, has never been avoided; and shall we therefore believe, that an all-wise and all-powerful Being shall suffer a general law of nature to be so uselessly violated, and shall make the dead restless, only to terrify the living?

Oh! but in cases of murder you know what spectres have appeared!

Yes, Monimia, to the conscience of the guilty; but even that is not always ready to raise hideous shadows to persecute the sanguinary monsters who are stained with crimes; for if it were, Monimia, I am afraid not one of our kings or heroes could have slept in their beds.

And yet, said Monimia shuddering, and yet Orlando, you sometimes talk of being a soldier!

Ah! my sweet friend, replied Orlando, I have no choice, but must be what they would have me. Yet believe me, Monimia, if I had a choice, it would be to pass all my life in some quiet retirement with you. We should not want either of us to be very rich, for we should certainly be very happy.

To this poor Monimia felt herself quite unable to answer; but sighing deeply, from the fear that 63 it could never be, she tried to turn the discourse: Is it not very late, Orlando, said she, and had I not better go?

If you insist upon going yet, I shall be half tempted to let you travel through the chapel alone, replied he smiling, and, to revenge myself for your desertion, expose you to meet the tall man in the white dress. He then led the conversation to other subjects, gave her some books he had selected for her reading, and some materials for writing; and, after insisting upon her promise to meet him the next night, he consented that she should return to her turret. As, with his arm round her waist, he conducted her through the chapel, and still found her tremble, he gently reproached her with it. Ah! said she, Orlando, you are surely unreasonable, if you expect me to be as courageous as you are! Not at all, answered he; for you may derive your confidence from the same source, and say, as I do, I fear no evil angel, and have offended no good one.

Monimia promised to do all she could towards conquering her apprehensions. They were by this time arrived at the door of her chamber, where tenderly kissing her hand, he again bade her good night, or rather good morning, for it was near three o’clock; and waiting till he heard the door safely concealed by her bed, and hearing that all was secure, he turned to his own room, and went to rest in spirits disposed to indulge delicious dreams of happiness to come.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter V

he besought her to conquer an alarm
text has be besought her

Let us talk no more of your old aunt, re-assumed Orlando
text has “re-ass umd”
[Elsewhere in the book it is variously “reassumed” or “re-assumed”, with or without hyphen—but the expected “e” is always there.]

though I hope I am grateful, and not undutiful to my aunt Lennard, I find I do not love her as I love you
[Angela. But is it possible that you have never loved anybody? Patience. Yes, one. Ang. Ah, whom? Pa. My great-aunt— Ang. Your great-aunt doesn’t count.]

she wanted some hot shrub and water
[“Shrub” is any sweet drinkable vinegar. Half a century later, when Eliza Acton wrote her cookbook, you could buy it in bottles. Today—as in Mrs. Rayland’s day—you have to make your own.]

The offer of going with Betsy Richards
[She will remain “Betsy” for the next seven pages, after which she reverts to “Betty” for the remainder of the volume. (Spoiler: In Volume II she is set up in London by Orlando’s older brother, after which she is seen no more.)]

Something came sweep along
text unchanged
[The 2nd edition is the same.]

she was angry with me now for being afraid of the very things she had been teaching me to fear
[Now and then our author forgets herself and gives her heroine some faint trace of a personality.]

I fear no evil angel, and have offended no good one
[Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764), generally considered the first gothic novel. Unless you are working on an advanced degree in English literature, you have no reason ever to pick up the book, let alone read it from cover to cover. Stick with Ann Radcliffe. Charlotte Smith must have been quoting from memory; the actual wording is “I fear no bad angel”.]


Love rendered Orlando so politic


Another and another evening Orlando attended at the turret

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.