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The Old Manor House:

89

CHAPTER VIII.

Mr. Somerive, after many debates with himself, and many consultations with his wife, at length determined to write to Mrs. Rayland: it was indeed necessary to pay her the compliment of consulting her on the marriage of his daughter; and he thought it not an improper opportunity to try what were her intentions in regard to Orlando, by hinting that an occasion now offered to establish him advan­tageously in trade.

The arguments of Mr. Woodford had not on this point so much influence as to prevent his fearing the experiment he was about to make; but the conduct of his eldest son, which nothing could restrain, made him look forward with fear to the future. He found his own health very much injured, by the uneasiness he had lately undergone; and he knew that should he die, the only dependance of his wife and his unmarried daughters must be on Orlando, and on the friendship of Woodford. To put his son therefore into business with his wife’s brother was certainly a very desirable plan, if Mrs. Rayland did not intend better to provide for him; and it was certainly time to know whether she had or had not any such intentions in his favour.

The letter then which Orlando so dreaded, was written, after great precautions in choosing the words. It requested her approbation of his eldest daughter’s marriage with Mr. Fitz-Owen the only son of an eminent merchant at Corke; and said, that as Orlando was now of an age in which it became necessary to think of his future establishment, thoughts were entertained of putting him into business with his uncle; but that nothing 90 would be concluded upon without the entire approbation of Mrs. Rayland, to whose notice and protection he was so much obliged.

A servant was sent with this letter about noon. It was received and read in due form, and a verbal message returned, that Mrs. Rayland would at her leisure write an answer, and send one of her own servants with it.

On this occasion Mrs. Rayland talked to Lennard—not to consult her, for it was an affair in which she thought herself alone competent to judge—but to give vent to her spleen, and to express her dislike of all people in trade, and particularly of poor Mrs. Somerive. Those vulgar mundungus folks, said she, will not suffer the family to better by their chance connection with a gentleman—Let them marry their girls, if they will, to dealers and chapmen; I shall never interfere: they are all like the mother, and may make good tradesmen’s wives; though, if Mr. Somerive had not, like his foolish father, had a low taste, his daughters might have married men of family, who would have been proud to be allied, though distantly, to ours. As it is, they must carry their cherry cheeks to a lower market—I shall never oppose it. But for Orlando, there was something of an air of good blood about him, that almost made me doubt at times his birth by his mother’s side. However, if he gets these buying and selling notions in his head, and chooses his mother’s low origin should continue to be remembered, I have done. I suppose he’s got among them—a fine flashy set of trades-folks—and enters into their amusements and views; and if so, I shall never disturb him, let him go his own way; only I shall not choose to have a shopkeeper an inmate at Rayland Hall.

Monimia, who was called down a moment before 91 to assist in cutting out linen, was present during this harangue, for they considered her as a mere cypher. She found herself terribly affected by the opening of it; but when it proceeded to speak of Orlando, she measured four times instead of two, notched a piece of Irish cloth in the wrong place, and was beginning to use her scissars the wrong way, when a severe look from Mrs. Lennard, who snatched it out of her hand, with, What are you about, mope? restored her to her recollection. She begged pardon; and another look from her aunt bade her beware that she did not offend a second time—when Mrs. Rayland thus went on:

After a taste for such company, this place must be very dull: drinking and jollity, I suppose, are soon learned. And so Mr. Orlando has not been here these two days! Mighty well: he is his own master—Lennard! he has not called this morning, has he?

Monimia, by a glance of her eye, saw him at that moment pensively and dejectedly crossing the park on foot. She dared not however say so; but finding herself quite unequal to the misery of being present at an interview, in which she foresaw that, in consequence of this fatal letter, he would be forbidden the house, and seeing that her aunt determined she should stay, she hung her foot as if by accident in the long roll of linen that was on the ground, and, in pretending to disengage it, fell with some violence against an old heavy gilt leather skreen that went across one side of the large room, and ran the sharp-pointed scissars, with which she was cutting the linen, into her arm a little above the wrist.

Her aunt, however, did not perceive it, till the blood streamed from her arm, round which, without any complaint, she wrapped her handkerchief. The paleness and faintness, which she could not disguise, were accounted for when Mrs. Lennard saw the 92 handkerchief bathed in blood. Monimia, who was actually sinking to the earth, though not from the wound, was then dismissed, while Betty was called to take care of the careless girl, and ordered to put some Friar’s balsam to the cut; and she just tottered out of one door as Orlando, after sending up for permission, entered at the other. This was fortunate; for, had he beheld her in such a situation, and had she at that moment seen him, their intelligence could hardly have been concealed. The looks Mrs. Lennard had cast on her, when she first appeared confused, had impressed her with terror, and, she fancied, menaced all that was dreadful. With difficulty, and leaning on Betty’s arm, she reached her turret; where, under pretence that the accident of having hurt her arm had turned her sick, she begged a glass of water, and lay down, being otherwise unable to conceal from Betty the agitation of her spirits, and the terror she was in for the reception of Orlando.

Mrs. Rayland, instead of the kindness she was used to shew him, now received him with the most cold and repulsive formality. Your servant, Mr. Orlando—Please to take a chair, was all she said; and in the manner of her saying it, Orlando saw abundant cause to fear that his father’s letter had undone him with Mrs. Rayland.

I find we are to lose you, Sir!—you are going to turn merchant, or shop keeper!

Not, Madam, replied Orlando, if you think my doing so a wrong measure.

Oh! Sir, I never pretend to dictate. Every one knows their own affairs best; and by all means you ought to follow your father’s orders and your own inclinations.

Alas, dear Madam! replied Orlando, with a sort of spirited humility that well became him, my 93 father’s orders would, I believe, in this case be given with reluctance; and though I should obey them, it would be with reluctance indeed!

What, Sir! (relaxing a little of her vinegar aspect) is it not your own desire then that you should be put apprentice or journeyman to this person, this brother of your mother’s? I thought, for my part, that finding perhaps, like your brother and other gay young men, that the country was very dull, you chose probably to figure in London; for it is trades-people now that can best afford to shew away, as witness the new comers at poor Lord Carloraine’s fine place—those what dy’e callums—they were trades-people—yet nobody can attempt to live as they do. If such things can be done by trade, no wonder young men are eager to begin. The Hall, Mr. Orlando, must be a dull place when once you have got these fine doings in your head.

Madam, said Orlando trembling, for he newfound that his fate depended on the event of this dialogue—Madam, I have always avoided the meanness of adulation, nor will I use it now; you ought to despise me if I did; and I know you have generosity enough to have bestowed all the favours I have received from you, without expecting me to sacrifice my integrity or my freedom.

Mrs. Rayland did not very clearly comprehend this sentence. It was partly complimentary, and therefore to her taste; but the words sacrifice and freedom, at the end, on which a strong emphasis was laid, sounded a little like rebellion. She therefore screwed up her visage to its former asperity, and answered: No indeed, Sir, I expect no sacrifices from any body; and as to freedom—every body is free to do as they like best in their own affairs, as I told you before.

You will not then, Madam, suspect me of meanness 94 unworthy equally of my respect for you and what I owe myself, if I declare to you, that I have no wish to enter into trade, for which I am very certain I have no talents; and that, though I must obey my father if he insists upon it, yet I shall be very unhappy, and had rather, infinitely rather, if you will have the goodness to permit it, remain at home, with the advantage of being allowed sometimes, in paying my respects to you, to have, as I have had for some months, the use of your library; where I hope I am qualifying myself for one of the liberal profes­sions against the time when my father can find an opportunity to place me in one: and in the mean time, I call God to witness, that, to associate with such people as Mr. Stockton, or to emulate his splendour, is so far from being my wish, that to be compelled to do it would be the greatest punishment that could be inflicted upon me.

I believe, cousin Orlando, I believe—and I am pleased to see it—you have some under­standing: and indeed, young man, I think too well of you to wish to see you a tradesman. Cousin Orlando, were, he well knew, words that always portended good humour, and were never used but on days of high favour. They now sounded most soothingly in the ears of Orlando. Will you then, Madam, be so very good, when you take the trouble to answer my father’s letter, to express your sentiments on this matter? and I am sure he will then press it no farther.

I shall tell him, child, replied she, that I think you may do better; and for the present, as you are not idle, that you may go on with your studies at the Hall.

Orlando, in raptures at having carried his point, thanked his venerable cousin a thousand times. He never thought her so reasonable before: she never 95 fancied him so much like her grandfather Sir Orlando; and so many civilities passed between them, that, before they parted, she gave him a bank-note of ten pounds, and he was admitted to the honour of kissing her hands. In this excellent humour, which Mrs. Lennard did not discourage, he left her, went into the study to secure his admittance in the evening, and to recover himself of the extreme perturbation he was in, before he returned to the party with whom he was to dine at home.

Mrs. Rayland then having called for her writing materials, which seldom saw the sun, and being placed in form at her rose-wood writing-box, lined with green velvet and mounted in silver, produced, at the end of four hours, the following letter, piquing herself on spelling as her father spelt, and disdaining those idle novelties by which a few superfluous letters are saved.

Raylande Hall, 12th day of September, A. D. 1776.

Sir, my kinsman,

I have received youre letter, and am oblidged by your taking the troubbel to informe me of youre famely affairs, to the wich I am a sinceer goode wisher. In respecte to youre daughter Philippa must begge to be excused from giving my opinion, not haveing the pleasure to knowe the gentleman, and being from my retired life no judge of the personnes charactere, who are remote and in bisness, as I under­stande this personne is; wherefore I can onleye thereupon saie, that doubtlesse you, being as you are a goode and carefulle father, will take due care and precaution that youre daughtere shall not, by her marriage, be exposed to the mischances of becoming reduced by bankruptcies and other accidents, whereby peopel in trade are oft times grate sufferers—But your care herein for your 96 daughter’s securitye is not to be questionned. Furthermore, respecting youre youngest sonne, Mr. Orlando, he is very certainelye at youre disposal also, and you are, it may be, the most competent judge of that which is fitting to bee done for his future goode and advantage. I wish him very well; he seeming to me to be a sober, promising, and well conditioned youthe; and such a one as, were I his neerer relation, I shoulde thinke a pitye to put to a trade. I am at present alwaies glad of his companie at the Hall, and willinge to give anye littel encouragement to his desier of learninge in the liberal sciences fitting for a gentleman, the wich his entring on a shoppe or warehouse would destroye and put an ende to. However that may bee, I saie again, that you, being his father, are to be sure the propperest personne to determine for him, and he is dutiefullie inclined, and willinge to obey you. Yet by the discourse I have had with him there-uponne, it doth not appeare that the youthe himself is inclined to become a dealer, as you purpose.

Heartilie recommending you in my prayers to the Disposer of all goode giftes, and hoping he will directe you in all thinges for the well-doing of your famely, I remaine,

Sir, my kinsman,

youre well-wisher

and humbel servant,

GRACE RAYLANDE.

This letter was received at Wolverton while Mr. Somerive, his two sons, Mr. Woodford and Mr. Fitz-Owen were yet over their wine. The anxious father opened it with a palpitating heart, nor were the younger part of the audience less solicitous to know its contents. As there were none of them towards whom secrecy was absolutely necessary, 97 though it might have been more prudent, Mr. Somerive, at the request of his eldest son, put it across the table to him—who, with that thoughtless indiscretion which marked his character, read it aloud, with comments serving to turn into ridicule the writer, and the sentiments it contained. The description of Orlando—under that of a sober, promising, and well-conditioned youth—was read with a burst of laughter; while the slighting way in which trade was mentioned, and the contempt thrown on shopkeepers, under which Mrs. Rayland seemed to describe wine-merchants and every person in business, raised the indignation of Mr. Woodford and Mr. Fitz-Owen, who both agreed in declaring that the opinion of such an old crone was not worth consulting; that she was in a perfect dotage, as well from pride as old age; and that it was a condescension in Mr. Somerive to have consulted her at all. Orlando, however, saw all this with concern mingled with joy. He was pretty sure, from the countenance of his father, which he solicitously watched as he perused the letter, that the part of it which related to himself was kinder than he expected; that it had turned the fluctuating and undecided opinion of his father in his favour; and that he should not now, by being sent with his uncle Woodford, be condemned to the double misery of quitting Monimia, and associating with persons whose manners and ideas were so different from his own, that it was a perpetual punishment to him to be in their company. The displeasure of his brother at the partiality Mrs. Rayland expressed for him was easily accounted for; and Orlando had long accustomed himself to bear his rough jokes, and even his sarcastic reproaches, which he vented whenever they met, without much uneasiness.

As soon as Mr. Somerive could disengage himself 98 from his company, he withdrew to consult with his wife on the purport of Mrs. Rayland’s letter, and made a sign to Orlando to follow him in a few moments.—He did so, and found his father and mother in consultation in the garden. The mother, whose heart was half broken at the idea of parting with her daughter so suddenly, was weeping with joy to find that Orlando would not yet leave her: flattering herself, from the purport of the letter, that the affluent fortune of Mrs. Rayland would at last centre with Orlando, and putting the most favourable construction on every expression that related to him, she agreed with Mr. Somerive, that nothing would be so imprudent as to think of removing him; and it was even determined, that Mr. Somerive should that evening write to her again, thanking her for her advice about his daughter, and leaving the future fate of Orlando wholly to her disposal; that Orlando should himself carry the letter, and ask leave to take his former apartments for some time—only returning once again to Wolverton to take leave of his eldest sister, whom he was to see no more before she went to Ireland—and of his second sister Isabella, who was to accompany her to London, and to pass some time with her uncle and aunt Woodford.

Never did Orlando obey his father with more alacrity than on this occasion; and on his return Mrs. Rayland never received him more kindly. He was now again invited to partake of her supper: without putting much force on himself, he shewed her exactly that sort of attention which was the most agreeable to her, and appeared grateful without being servile. At length he was dismissed; and, when the house was perfectly quiet, he flew to Monimia, who accompanied him to the study; and when he related how much more happily the events 99 of the day had passed than he had at its beginning expected, she shed tears of delight; and the sweet sensations of hope, which they now dared to indulge more than there ever yet appeared reason to indulge them, made this one of the happiest evenings they had ever passed together.

The following day Orlando returned to the house of his father, and found that, in regard to some parts of his family, a new arrangement had taken place. Mrs. Somerive, as the hour approached for her two eldest daughters to leave her—one to be separated from her perhaps for years, and to enter into another family—found herself so much affected, that her husband, who was very indulgent to her, agreed she should accompany the party to London, be present at the wedding of her daughter, and return in a fortnight, bringing Isabella back with her, if the idea of leaving her was at the end of that time uneasy to her. This being settled, Orlando took leave of his mother and sisters that evening: the former rejoicing that he would remain in the country; and the latter, but particularly the eldest, lamenting their separation with many tears: for Orlando, who was tenderly attentive to his sisters, was fondly beloved by them all; though to Selina, the third, who was a year younger than himself, he was more attached than to the rest.

Pensively he returned back to the Hall after this melancholy parting: it was the first time the family had been thus separated; for, except the unhappy eccen­tricities of his eldest son, the union of Mr. Somerive’s children, and the promise they all gave of excellence, had hitherto made him amends for much of the difficulty he found in supporting them. But Orlando saw that the hour was now come when his father felt equal pain for the fate of those who were about to be what is called 100 established in the world, and for those whom he knew not how to establish, or, in case of his death, to provide for. All that filial tenderness and good sense could suggest to his ingenuous and generous mind, he said to console his father; but with infinite concern he observed, that the wounds inflicted by the profligacy of his brother festered more deeply every day, and that all he could do had too little power to assuage the constant pain arising from this source; from which, though his father did not complain, Orlando thought it but too evident that his health was gradually impaired.

Against the uneasiness these observations gave him he found the only respite in his books, to which he assiduously applied himself—and in his evening conferences with Monimia, who every hour became more dear to him, and whose personal charms seemed every hour heightened by the progress of her under­standing. As the nights became longer, and more obscure, they met earlier, and with less apprehension of detection; and as Mrs. Lennard seemed to become more and more remiss in her office of duenna, the opportunities they had of seeing each other in the course of the day (though they rarely ventured to hold any conversation) sweetened the tedious hours between their meetings.

Thus almost a fortnight passed after the departure of Mrs. Somerive and her daughters for London; Orlando remaining constantly at the Hall, except dining occasionally with his father, or riding over in a morning to enquire after him, Mrs. Rayland seeming every day more fond of his company; and every body about the house, even the old servants, who had hitherto had such an ascendancy, appearing to consider him as the future master of the domain, where he was now invested with powers he had never before enjoyed. The game-keeper was 101 ordered to suffer no other person to have the liberty of shooting on the extensive manors, and Mrs. Rayland was pleased when the game that was brought to her table was killed by Orlando; while, whatever diminution of consequence the confidential servants might suffer by this growing fondness of their mistress for him, there was something in his manner so fascinating, that their jealousy and anger were insensibly converted into attachment; and all, even the austere Mrs. Lennard herself, seemed to wish him well; except Mr. Pattenson, who, in proportion as he became in favour with others, appeared to dislike him.—Orlando had some time before remarked his rudeness, and often fancied that he watched him, and had some suspicion of his evening conversations with Monimia—yet if he had, it was more likely he would speak of what he knew, than secretly resent what he had in fact nothing to do with: but some resentment he appeared to harbour; and, whenever he met Orlando, surveyed him with looks which expressed anger, scorn, and apprehension. Orlando, conscious of never having injured him, and fearful only in one point, endeavoured to guard against any mischief he could do by discovering his evening visits to the turret, or those of Monimia to the library; and, for the rest, despised his wrath too much to attempt appeasing or resenting it.

Mrs. Lennard, to whom the constant residence of Orlando at the Hall might be supposed to be disagreeable, was much more civil to him, now that he was a fine young man, than ever she had been during his childhood; to her he was always extremely obliging; and though he disdained to stoop to the meanness of flattering Mrs. Rayland, where money might be supposed to be his sole object, he did not think it equally unworthy to use a little art 102 to promote the interest of his love. Mrs. Lennard was remarkably open to two sorts of adulation—She loved to be thought a woman of sense, and to hear how fine her person must have been in her younger days. She was even now accustomed to say, that though not so well to meet, she was still well to follow; for she fancied her tall perpendicular figure exhibited still a great deal of dignity and grace. These foibles were so evident, and, whenever she was not with Mrs. Rayland, she took so little pains to conceal them, that Orlando, who thought it too probable that on her the future happiness of his life depended, believed it not wrong to take advantage of them to acquire her favour; and he succeeded so well by adroitly administering now and then a little well-timed flattery, that Mrs. Lennard not only held him in high esteem, but endeavoured to secure his, by cultivating the graces he had remarked. She entered on a new course of reading, and a little modernised her appearance. To have made too many and too rapid improvements in the latter respect, would have been attended with the hazard of displeasing Mrs. Rayland; her’s therefore were confined to that sort of emendations which she was not likely to perceive.

It happened that, in the progress of these refinements, Mrs. Lennard had occasion for some articles which Betty Richards (who was a very great favourite, from the assiduity which she affected in her service particularly) was commissioned to buy. The place she was to go to was rather a large village than a town, and was about three miles and a half from the Hall; the way to it leading partly through the park, and partly through some hanging woods and coppices which belonged to Mrs. Rayland. Monimia happened to be in the room when Mrs. Lennard was giving Betty this commission for 103 the next morning; and as her aunt had promised her a few articles for herself, for which she had immediate occasion, she ventured to solicit leave to go with Betty to make these purchases. Dear Madam, said she, do indulge me this once. I have hardly been out of the park twice in my life; and though I have no desire to go any where when you disapprove of it, surely there can be no harm in my walking to such a place with Betty, just to buy what you are so good as to allow me. We shall not be gone above two hours and a half, for I will go as early as you please in the morning.

Mrs. Lennard, who happened to be in a better humour than usual when this request was made, agreed to it, under some restrictions. She said, that if Monimia did go, she must be back by nine o’clock at the very latest, and not go into any house but that of the universal dealer with whom her business was; that she must make no acquaintance, and enter into conversation with nobody. To all this Monimia most willingly agreed; and she believed that Orlando, whom she determined to consult in the evening, would not object to her going, on such an occasion, so little a way, whatever dislike he had to her associating much with Betty.

To Orlando, therefore, she communicated her design as soon as they met, who did not seem much pleased with it; but, to a matter apparently so trifling, he was ashamed of making any serious opposition, when she said that she really wanted the articles her aunt had given her leave to buy, which no other opportunity might afford her. He therefore, after expressing his hopes that she would continue upon her guard against Betty, whom he told her he saw more and more cause to mistrust and dislike, consented to the little expedition she meditated, 104 and directed her the nearest way through the woods and the preserved pheasant-grounds of Mrs. Rayland. I shall be out with my gun to-morrow, said he; but I suppose I must not venture to meet you as if it were by chance?

I think, answered Monimia, you had better not. Were we to meet, it would perhaps look like design; and as we could not venture to enter into conversation, it is hardly worth the risk of Betty’s talking about it, since we should only just pass each other in the woods.

I believe, replied Orlando, it will be better not; especially as I told Mrs. Rayland at dinner yesterday, and while your aunt was present, that I should walk with my gun to my father’s, and try round his lands for some game to send up to my mother and sister.

Mrs. Lennard had probably recollected this circumstance when she so easily gave Monimia the permission she asked, her walk lying quite on the opposite side of the country. It was agreed, therefore, that Orlando should not incur any suspicion of a corre­spondence between them, by changing his plan for the next day; and after that was settled, Orlando read to her a letter he had that day received from his mother. It related to the marriage of Philippa, and her immediate departure for Ireland—described the state of her own mind on bidding adieu to her daughter—and said, that Mr. Woodford had insisted on her staying another week in town to recover her spirits; which however she should rather do to indulge Isabella, who had never been in town before, with the sight of the play-houses and other public places; for that her own spirits would be infinitely more relieved by collecting around her the rest of her children. But, added she, while a tear had blistered the paper where the 105 sentence was written, why do I thus fondly flatter myself, and forget that your brother, my Orlando, is almost a stranger to us, and is, I much fear, by his thoughtless conduct, slowly destroying the invaluable life of your dear father? Alas! while I remember this, I know not how I should support myself if I did not find comfort in thinking of you.

Orlando’s tears, while he read this letter, fell where the paper was marked by those of this beloved parent. The delightful visions he had been indulging but the moment before, disappeared; and he hardly dared think of Monimia, if it must be at the expence of wounding the peace and destroying the hopes of his parents. One look, however, from her, the sound of her voice as she soothingly spoke of his mother, dissipated these mournful thoughts; and, as he led her to her turret, he fancied that, if his mother could see her, she would love her as much as he did, and be happy to add to the family she wished to collect around her, so amiable and interesting a creature.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter VIII

she measured four times instead of two
[Nothing wrong with that. “Measure four times, cut once” will still get you where you want to go.]

finding herself quite unequal to the misery of being present at an interview
[Every time you think Monimia’s brain has hit rock bottom, you run into something like this. She may have been a “cypher” to Mmes. Rayland and Lennard—but you can bet that the moment Orlando is announced, they will remember her presence and bung her out. No need for the “as if by acci­dent” business.]

Mrs. Rayland did not very clearly comprehend this sentence.
[That makes two of us.]

I hope I am qualifying myself for one of the liberal professions
[I wish I knew what professions he is talking about. I’m pretty sure Orlando himself has no idea. He’s not planning to seek a post as a librarian or secre­tary, is he?]

piquing herself on spelling as her father spelt
[I hate to say it, Charlotte, but the quoted letter really doesn’t come across as late-17th-century spelling. It reads like someone trying to imitate late-17th-century spelling. Was there nothing in your library you could consult for guidance? I under­stand the writer is harking back to the days when e’s were cheap and plentiful, but there’s no reason to say “youre” when a simple “yr” would be just as convincing.]

her husband, who was very indulgent to her, agreed she should . . . be present at the wedding of her daughter
[Gosh. That’s big of him. I’m surprised Mr. Fitz-Owen hasn’t had second thoughts about marrying a woman whose own father can’t be bothered to attend her wedding. (And, by the way, who’s going to pay for it, if not the father of the bride? Uncle Woodford?)]

The game-keeper was ordered
text has gamekeeper without hyphen
[All other occurrences of the word are hyphenated. This one happened to come at a line break in the 2nd edition, which may explain a typesetter’s goof.]

I believe, replied Orlando, it will be better not
[Orlando, I believe the words you’re groping for are “I agree with you”.]


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


Early on the following morning, Monimia prepared herself

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.