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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER VI.

Another and another evening Orlando attended at the turret, and the apprehensions of Monimia 64 decreased in proportion as her reason, aided by her confidence in him, taught her that there was in reality little to fear from the interposition of supernatural agency. The dread of being discovered by people in the house, however, still interrupted the hours which passed with imperceptible rapidity while they were together. This might happen a thousand ways, which Monimia was ingenious in finding out; while Orlando was sometimes successful, and sometimes failed, in ridiculing those apprehensions, which he could not always help sharing.

The mind of the innocent Monimia had been till now like that of Miranda in her desert island. To her, the world that was past, and that which was now passing, were alike unknown; and all the impressions that her infant under­standing had received, tended only to confirm the artificial influence which her aunt endeavoured to establish over her imagination. Her poverty, her dependence, the necessity of her earning a subsistence by daily labour, had been the only lessons she had been taught; and the only hope held out to her, that of passing through life in an obscure service.

But she had learned now that abject and poor as she was, she was an object of affection to Orlando, who seemed in her eyes the repre­sentation of divinity. The reading he had directed her to pursue, had assisted in teaching her some degree of self-value. She found that to be poor was not disgraceful in the eye of Heaven, or in the eyes of the good upon earth; and that the great Teacher of that religion which she had been bid to profess, though very little instructed in it, was himself poor, and the advocate and friend of poverty. In addition to all this knowledge, so suddenly acquired, she had lately made another discovery. Her aunt had always told 65 her that she was a very plain girl, had a bad person, and was barely fit to be seen; but since the marriage of the servant who had lived at the Hall during the infancy of Monimia, Betty Richards, the under house-maid, had been ordered to do the little that Monimia was allowed to have done in her room. Mrs. Lennard had taken her from the parish officers as an apprentice; and having long seen her only in her coarse gown and nailed shoes, and observed in her manner only a great deal of rustic simplicity, had not the least idea that under that semblance she concealed the cunning and the vanity of a country coquette; and that the first week she passed in Mrs. Rayland’s family had called forth these latent qualities. She was a ruddy, shewy girl, with a large but rather a good figure; and her face was no sooner washed, and her hair combed over a roll, than she became an object which attracted the attention of the great Mr. Pattenson himself; who, proceeding in the usual way by which he had won the favour of so many of the subaltern nymphs in Mrs. Rayland’s kitchen, began to make her many presents, and to talk of her beauty; and as she could not forbear repeating all these extravagant expressions of his admiration, Monimia could as little help reflecting, though she was somehow humbled as she made the comparison, that if Betty was so handsome, she could not herself be so ugly as her aunt had always represented her. The fineries which her new friend received Monimia beheld without any wish to enjoy such herself; though on Betty, a poor girl bred in a work-house, they had a most intoxicating effect. They were given under the strictest injunctions of secrecy, which was tolerably well observed towards the rest of the house; and the finery, which at first consisted only of beads and ribbons, was reserved for Sunday afternoons, 66 and put on at a friend’s cottage near a distant church. But it was not in female nature to conceal these acquisitions from Monimia; and it was in her drawers that they were often deposited, when there was reason to apprehend that the little deal box, which had till lately been amply sufficient for the check apron and linsey-woolsey gown of Betty, might not safely conceal the ribbands “colour of emperors’ eyes,” the flowered shawls, the bugle necklaces, and caps with new edging to them, which she now possessed.

Sometimes, when Betty obtained leave to go out, and thought that, Mrs. Lennard being engaged with her Lady, and the other servants gone different ways, she should escape unnoticed across the park, she persuaded Monimia, who knew not how to refuse her any thing, to let her dress at her little glass; and there the progress of rural coquetry had full power to display itself. She tried on her various topknots, disposed her hair in a thousand fanciful ways, and called to Monimia for her opinion, which of them was most becoming; appealing for the authority of these variations to a certain pocket-book, presented her also from the same quarter, which represented in one of its leaves “six young ladies in the most fashionable head-dresses for 1776.”

Monimia, with all her ingenuous simplicity, had sense enough to smile at the ridiculous vanity of the girl; and to know, that her accepting all this finery from the old butler was quite wrong. But she felt also that to reprove her for it would look like envy, and that to remonstrate would probably be vain. She contented herself therefore with keeping as much out of her confidence as she could: and had reasons enough of her own, which were continually strengthened by the exhortations of Orlando, 67 for keeping her from being a too frequent visitor in her room.

But the remarks she made upon all this, and upon numberless circumstances in the house which Betty related to her, no longer left her in her original ignorance. In a great house there are among the servants as many cabals, and as many schemes, as among the leaders of a great nation; and few exhibited a greater variety of interests than did the family of Mrs. Rayland. Mrs. Lennard at once hated, feared, and courted Pattenson, who having been taken a boy from the plough, had been gradually promoted till he became the favourite footman of the elder Mrs. Rayland, who, on the death of an old man who had long occupied that post, made him butler; where he was supposed to have accumulated in the course of five-and-twenty years a great deal of money, was known to have several sums out at interest, and had bought two or three small farms in the county, with the approbation of his Lady, whose favour had never once failed him, though various attempts had been made to injure him in her opinion by complaints of his amours. Though he was a perfect Turk in morals, and though in his advanced life he rather indulged than corrected this propensity to libertinism, he had hitherto contrived to escape his Lady’s wrath; and indeed knew that nobody but Mrs. Lennard or the old coachman had, among the domestics, interest enough to shake her good opinion of him; and of both the one and the other, though aware that neither of them bore him any good will, he was tolerably secure.

How the prudent and guarded Mrs. Lennard came to be in his power was never fully understood; but in his power she certainly felt herself: for though they were in habits of frequent squabbling about trifles, which indeed with the Lady seemed 68 necessary to break the tedious uniformity of her life, yet whenever she found Mr. Pattenson really angry, she, albeit unused to the condescending mood, began to palliate and apologize—and peace was generally made over some nice thing, and some fine old wine, by way of a petit souper in Mr. Pattenson’s parlour, after Mrs. Rayland was gone to bed.

The old coachman, who was the other favourite servant, was always a third in these peace-making meetings. He was a man grown unwieldy from excess of good living, and more than seventy years old; but he possessed an infinite deal of cunning, and knew how to get and how to keep money, with which it was his ambition to portion his two daughters, and to marry them to gentlemen, and his dealings in contraband goods, as Rayland Hall was only eight miles from the coast, his having the management of the great farms in hand, and his concern in buying and selling horses, were together supposed to have rendered this object of ambition an easy attainment. Of deeper sagacity than the other two, he foresaw that the time could not be far distant when Rayland Hall, and all the wealth that belonged to it, must change its possessor. It was a plan of Mrs. Lennard and Pattenson to enjoy and to secure all they could now, and to be well assured of a very considerable legacy hereafter. But old Snelcraft had farther hopes; and for that reason, though he had at first opposed as much as he could the reception of Orlando, and since expressed displeasure towards him, he of late had in his head floating visions of the probability there was that, if Orlando came to the estate, he might marry his favourite daughter, Miss Patty Snelcraft, who would have such a fine fortune, and was, as her father believed, the very extract of all beauty. Ridiculous and chimerical as such a project was, 69 the old man, in the dotage of his purse-proud vanity, believed it not only possible but probable: for, though he knew that Mrs. Rayland would have disinherited her own son for entertaining such an idea for a moment, yet he saw that Mr. Orlando had no pride at all; and he was pretty sure, from the arrangements that he believed were made as to money, that, great as the sum of ready money would perhaps be that Mrs. Rayland might leave behind her, none of it would be suffered to go to Mr. Orlando. Miss Patty Snelcraft was, as this precious plan got more entirely the possession of her father’s imagination, taken from a boarding-school at a neighbouring town, and one luckless day brought to church in all the finery which she had there been accustomed to wear. But the effect was very far from that her parents intended, who expected that Madam would have sent for her to the Hall, as she used to do at breaking up, and have commended her beauty and elegance; instead of which, Mrs. Rayland no sooner arrived at home than she sent for Robin, as she still called her old servant, who now was seldom able to mount the box himself, and asked if it was possible that the tawdry thing she had seen with his wife was his daughter? He answered in all humility that it was his eldest daughter, who, as she had now finished her learning, he had taken home from boarding-school.

Finished her learning! exclaimed the old lady; and is that what she has learned, to dress herself out like a stage-player, like a mountebank’s doxy? Upon my word, Robin, I am sorry for you. I thought you and your wife had more sense. What! is that a dress for a sober girl, who ought to be a help to her mother, and to take care of her father in his old age?

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She does, Ma’am, do both, I’ll assure you, answered Robin, terribly stung by this reproof, and is a very good and dutiful child. And as to her fineries, Ma’am, and such like, you are sensible that I’m not myself, no judge of them there things; and my wife I believe thought, that seeing how by your goodness and my long and faithful service we are well to pass, for our condition and circumstances and such like, there would not be no offence whatsumdever in dressing our poor girls, being we have but two, a little dessent and neat, just to shew that one is no beggar after having served in such a good family so many years.

The lady, a little softened by this speech, which was made in almost a crying tone of voice, replied, Well well, good Robin, I know how to make allowances; but do you and your wife learn for the future to make a more modest use of the means you are blessed with, and never encourage your girls to vanity and extravagance. Here’s Mary here, Lennard’s niece, whom I give leave to be in the house (Monimia stood waiting all this time with the chocolate, which the old lady always swallowed as soon as she came in from her devotions), she, I assure you, comes of parents that many people would call genteel; and yet you see, as it has pleased Providence to make her a dependant and a servant, I never suffer her to stick herself out in feathers and flowers like a May-day girl.

The lecture ended, and the old coachman withdrew, extremely discontent that his Patty had been compared to the house-keeper’s niece, who was, as he muttered to himself, a mere pauper; and Monimia was not at all flattered by being brought forward as a comparison for Miss Snelcraft, whom the servants, and particularly Betty, had been turning into ridicule for her awkward finery and 71 airs of consequence—nor did the expression, that she was born of parents whom some people would call genteel, at all sweeten the bitterness of this comparison. Monimia, who had before in the course of the day received a severe mortification from her aunt, in being refused leave to go to church, now, as soon as her service in waiting on Mrs. Rayland with the chocolate was performed, withdrew to her own room, and indulged her tears. At length she recollected that, though all the rest of the world might despise and contemn her, the heart of Orlando was hers; she was secure of his affection; he would repeat it to her at night, when he had promised to fetch her to his room: and these reflections dried her eyes, and dissipated her sorrows: they even lent her force to bear, without betraying her impatience, the intrusion of Betty Richards, who soon after asked leave to come in. Oh, laud! my dear miss, cried she, as soon as she entered the room, how we be shut up in this here old place like two little singing-birds in a cage!—I’ve been trying to persuade old Jenny to let me take her turn this afternoon to go to church, and have promised to give her two turns for one; but the cross old witch says indeed she chooses to go herself—Oh lud lud! I’d give a little finger to go.

And why are you so eager to go to day, Betty, more than any other afternoon?

Oh gad! replied the girl, for five hundred reasons:—first, because it’s so early that I could get away to West Wolverton church with all the ease in the world, and ’tis such a sweet afternoon, and winter will be here now soon; besides that—but you must not tell for an hundred pounds—my good old fat sweetheart brought me home last night the most beautifullest bonnet, such as the millener told him 72 was worn by the tip-top quality in Lonnon—and I die to wear it, and to go to West Wolverton church in it this very afternoon; for at ours, you know, I dares as well jump into the fire as put it on.

But why do your bonnet and your piety conspire to carry you so far just this very evening, Betty, said Monimia smiling, when both East Wolverton, and Bartonwick have an evening church, and are not much more than half as far?

Oh! thereby hangs a tale—What! you han’t heard then, I suppose, of all the great doings at West Wolverton?

This was the name of the village in which was situated the house of Mr. Somerive.—Great doings! repeated Monimia, changing colour; no, I have heard of nothing.

Why then you must know, Miss, that Mr. Orlando, who was not here last night—

(Monimia knew it well, for they had agreed two nights before not to meet till the present evening)—

Mr. Orlando, I say, came over about an hour ago, just as my Lady came from church, and after walking backwards and forwards in his melancholy fashion, with a book in his hand, upon the broad pavement in the chapel court, which really oft-times rives one’s very heart to see him, he went away to his study. For my part, I was sitting in the window up stairs for a moment, for I had just been making up my Lady’s fire before she came from church—when all of a sudden I saw John Dickman, ’Squire Somerive’s groom, come riding up; so down I went to speak to him. He gived me a letter, which I carried in to Orlando, who seemed monstrous surprised at it, as he was but that minute as ’twere come from home; and when I went back to the kitchen, John told me, he was ordered to wait for his 73 young master—for that Madam Somerive’s brother, the London merchant, was come down, with some of his family, sons and daughters, and the gentleman from some part beyond sea, who was to marry the eldest Miss Somerive, for he had got his father’s consent; and the wedding was to take place out of hand. And so, added Betty, who had almost talked herself out of breath, and so, as Mr. Phil. is out, gone as he always is upon a visit to they newcomers up at Castle, the ’Squire he ordered John to fetch our Orlando out of hand home to entertain all this grand company.

And he went! said Monimia in a faint voice, who had changed colour a dozen times during this narration.

Oh, Lord! yes, to be sure he went, replied Betty; yet somehow he looked to me as if he had rather of stay’d; and hung about for some time, as thof unwilling to go. Lord! sir, said I, as I went to shut up his windows before he lock’d the study door—Lord, how strange it is that you are not like other young men, and never cares nothing for company and such like! He only sighed, a sweet creature!—when I’m sure, if all the grand lords and dukes, and even the King, and the Prince of Wales, and the Archbishop of Osnabig, and all his majesty’s court, were to be collected together, there’s not one of them to be compared to young ’Squire Orlando—Lord! what would I give to see all these gentlefolks together at West Wolverton church, and that dear sweet Orlando out-shining them all.

And that was the reason, said Monimia in a still fainter voice, that you are satisfied with no church but West Wolverton? But after all, Betty, pray are you sure these ladies and gentlemen will be there?

As sure as five pence—for John Dickman told me 74 so. Oh! that I could but go!—for Orlando, you know, Miss, who is the sweetest temper’d good-naturdest cretur in all England, would never tell if he saw one ever so smartly drest:—No, egollys! he’s more like to give one some trifle or other to help one out, than to blab to get one anger.

Has he ever given you any thing, Betty? said Monimia, in a voice the tremor of which she could not disguise; for, mingled with numberless other sensations, something like a half-formed jealousy and suspicious apprehension now entered her heart—tell me, Betty, what has he ever given you?

Why I assure you, replied the girl pertly, not above a month ago neither, after he had been here for almost a fortnight, he called me to him as I was a dusting of them there guns and arrows and what d’yecallums, as hangs over the chimney in that parlour as you goes through to get to his study—And so, says he, Betty, you’ve a good deal of trouble in cleaning of my room and making my fire, and perhaps your lady may not recollect it, and so may not make you a consideration for it; and therefore, Betty, I beg you’ll accept this, and I wish I had it in my power to do better.—And if you’ll believe me, Miss, it was a brand new crown, quite new, a crown piece they told me it was. I would have given any thing not to have changed it, but to have laid it up as a keepsake—But there!—I had not money enough without it to buy my new cotton gown, when Alexander Macgill the Scotchman called here; and so away went my poor dear crown, though I had leverer have parted with one of my fingers.

You did right, however, said Monimia coldly; the gown you wanted, and the crown, I dare say, Mr. Orlando meant you should use.

I suppose he did, a dear sweet creature!—Lord a 75 mercy! what would I give to have a peep at his sweet face this afternoon! I’ll tell you what, Miss, though you cannot go to church, nor I neither, we might ten to one see these gentlefolks ride by, if we could but steal up to the upper park, and so through the little common. ’Tis not much better than three miles, and we might not be miss’d.

No, said Monimia drily, I shall run no such risk indeed of making my aunt angry; and besides, what would Mr. Somerive, or Mr. Orlando, or any other of them think if they saw us there?

Hang their thoughts! replied Betty; what would it signify to us what any body thought, if we pleased ourselves? I’ll go and see how the land lays, and if the two old girls have done their dinner, and are feet down together to take their afternoon’s dose.

Do not come back then, Betty, said Monimia; for I certainly will not go out without leave, and you know it’s nonsense to ask it—therefore, if you like it, go; but I assure you I shall not.

Having thus released herself from her importunate visitor, Monimia sat down to consider all she had told her. That Orlando should quit the house without telling her, gave her at first extreme pain; yet a moment’s reflection convinced her that, unless he had made a confidante of Betty, of which she now saw all the danger, there was no possible way of his conveying to her intelligence of the sudden summons he had received from his father; for Mrs. Lennard was at home, and had shut herself up in her own room to do twenty little services which she frequently chose to have performed on Sunday mornings. A thousand doubts now arose in the mind of Monimia, whether he would be able to call for her at night; a thousand apprehensions lest the people he was with, particularly his uncle’s daughters, whom he had said were very pretty 76 women, should estrange his thoughts from her, and rob her of his affections. These fears were so acute, that she was trying to drive them from her, when Betty returned, and, finding the door of her room fastened, tapped softly at it, and cried, Miss, miss! who will refuse to go into the park now?

You have not surely got leave!

No, nor I have not asked it; but the old ladies are hard set in to their good things. Madam has had a gouty feel in her stomach all day, she says, and that’s always a symptom for a double dose; and as to your aunt, she has been ailing too, and will not flinch her share, you know very well.

Monimia, alarmed at the loud whisper, had opened the door before the end of this speech, and let in her unwelcome companion, who now repeated, that every body was safely bestowed who could interrupt them; and that as it was still very early, they might have a good chance of seeing some of these comers, and above all Orlando, in their evening ride. But Monimia, who was displeased with the familiar way in which the girl named Orlando, and knew that he would object to her walking with her, assumed a virtue when she had it not; and though she believed they might safely go the way she proposed, and return before the hour when it was likely her aunt would want her; though she would have given half the world only for the chance of seeing Orlando at a distance, she positively refused—and had the resolution to see Betty set out by herself, with her new most beautifullest bonnet pinned under her petticoat, which she proposed putting on when she got clear of the house; and then Monimia, forcing her attention from what had the last few hours engaged it, sat down to the sort of lesson which Orlando had last marked for her, and which she had promised to make herself mistress 77 of before she saw him again;—though, alas! while she read, the idea of the superior advantages enjoyed by the Miss Woodfords, his cousins, their beauty, and the probability there was that one of them might be intended for him, too frequently distracted her thoughts, and impeded her good intentions.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter VI

“colour of emperors’ eyes”
[Do the quotation marks mean that the author has some parti­cular text in mind? It is also found in French, as œil de l’empereur; one late-19th-century source describes it as a “pale purple lilac”.]

Mrs. Lennard at once hated, feared, and courted Pattenson
. in “Mrs.” missing

How the prudent and guarded Mrs. Lennard came to be in his power was never fully understood
[Spoiler: “was never fully understood” here means “the author couldn’t be bothered to make up a backstory”.]

if Orlando came to the estate, he might marry his favourite daughter
[Patty Snelcraft must be around the same age as Orlando, who is nineteen. Her father is over 70. A coachman would not have married young, but this really seems to be pushing it.]

such as the millener told him was worn
spelling unchanged

the sweetest temper’d good-naturdest cretur in all England
spelling “good-naturdest” unchanged


The clock in the servants’ hall struck twelve


The day had been unusually warm; but towards evening a thunder-storm came on

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.