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The Old Manor House:

CHAPTER IX.

Early on the following morning, Monimia, awaking from her short repose, prepared herself for her little journey, which, unused as she was to go farther than about the park, or in the walled gardens was to her an event of some importance. The best dress she had was a white gown, which she put on to make her appearance in the village, with a little straw hat tied under her chin with blue ribband. Her fine hair, which she had never attempted to distort with irons, or change by powder, was arranged only by the hands of nature; and a black 106 gauze handkerchief, which her aunt had given her from her own wardrobe, was tied over her shoulders. Nothing could be more simple than her whole appearance; but nothing could conceal the beautiful symmetry of her figure, or lessen the grace which accompanied her motions. Her companion Betty, as eager as she was for the walk, entered her room before she was quite ready, dressed in all the finery she dared shew at home, while she reserved her most splendid ornaments to put on at the park-stile, and to be restored to her pocket at the same place on their return.

It was a clear morning in the middle of October when they set out. They happily executed their commissions; but Betty had so much to say, so many things to look at, and so many wishes for the pretty things she saw—and the man and his wife, who kept the shop, were so glad to see the ladies, as they called them both, and so willing to shew all the newest things from the next provincial town, as very fashionable, and pressed them so earnestly to go into their parlour, and eat some cake and drink some of their currant wine, that Betty had quite forgot Mrs. Lennard’s injunction to return at nine o’clock; nor could the repeated remonstrances of Monimia prevail upon her to leave the house till the clock struck eleven. Monimia, very much alarmed, and fearing that her aunt would, in consequence of this disobedience, never allow her to go out again, then prevailed upon her companion to set out; and to save as much time as they could, they walked as fast as possible up the path which led from the village, through a copse that clothed the steep acclivity of a hill, which, at the end of about three quarters of a mile, led to Mrs. Rayland’s woods. They passed with equal speed through the first of these woods, the path still ascending; but 107 when they came to the second, Monimia, from unusual exertion, from the heat (for the sun had yet great power and force), and the apprehensions of her aunt’s anger, was quite exhausted, and begged Betty to let her rest a moment on the steps or the stile; to which she, who feared Mrs. Lennard’s displeasure much less than Monimia, readily assented.

Lord, Miss, cried she, as they sat down, how frighted you be at nothing! Why, what can your aunt do, child? She can’t kill you; and as for a few angry words, I’ve no notion of minding ’em, not I: ’tis hard indeed if one’s to be always a slave, and never dares to stir ever so little;—one might as well be a negur.

I would not for the world, answered Monimia, offend my aunt when she is kind to me; and it was very good in her to give me money to buy these things, and to let me go for them.

I see no mighty matter of goodness in it, cried the other: who is to provide for you, if she does not, who is your own natural relation? Egollys! Miss, if I was you, I should be very apt to shew her the difference. Why, very often she uses you like a dog, and I’m sure she makes you work like a servant. There’s Mr. Pattenson always a-telling me, that handsome girls have no occasion to be drudges as I be, or as I have been; for that in London they may make their fortunes, and live like the finest ladies of the land.—Thus she ran on, while Monimia, hardly hearing, and not at all attending to her conversation, sat silent, considering how extraordinary Orlando would think it, if by any accident he should know she was out so long—and trying to recover her breath that they might proceed—when suddenly several spaniels ran out of the wood, a pheasant flew up near them, and the report of two guns was heard so near that Monimia started in some 108 degree of terror; while Betty, whose nerves were much stronger, clapped her hands, and, laughing aloud, cried: Oh jingo! if here ben’t some gentlemen shooting—let’s stay and see who they be!

No, no! said Monimia, let us go.

She then arose to walk on; but the voices of the persons who were shooting were now heard immediately before them, and she turned pale when she thought she distin­guished that of Orlando. Instan­taneously, however, the sportsmen broke out of the thick underwood into the path before them, and Monimia beheld a young man, whom, from his distant resemblance to Orlando, she immediately knew to be his elder brother. With him were two other gentlemen, and a servant who carried their nets. Oh ho! cried the elder Somerive; what have we here! two cursed pretty wenches—hey, Stockton? Here’s a brace of birds that it may be worth while to mark, damme! He then approached Monimia, who shrunk back terrified behind her companion; while Betty, far from feeling any apprehension, advanced with a curtsey and a giggle, and Pray, Sir, let us pass.

Not so quickly, my little dear, said Mr. Stockton; I am a new comer into this country, and have a great inclination to be acquainted with all my pretty neighbours—By Heaven, you are as handsome as an angel!—Pray, my dear, where do you live?

With Mrs. Rayland, Sir, said Betty, dropping another curtsey; and I beg your honour will not stop us, for my Lady will be very angry.

Damn her anger, cried Stockton; does she think to shut up all the beauty in the country in her old fortification? If she’s angry, you pretty little rogue, leave her to vent it on her jolly favourite butler, that fellow who looks like the confessor to the convent, and do you come to me—I keep open house 109 for the reception of all pretty damsels in distress—and bring your companion here with you.

He then looked forward towards Monimia, and saw her in an agony of tears; for the conversation of Philip Somerive and his companion, to whom he gave the title of Sir John, had terrified her so much that she could no longer command herself.—Why, what the devil’s the matter? cried Stockton. Why, Sir John—why, Somerive, what have you said to that sweet girl?

We’ve been asking her who she is, replied Sir John; and it seems she does not know.

You are the housekeeper’s niece, are you not? said Somerive.

Tell me, my dear, addressing himself to Betty, is not this little simpleton, that falls a-crying so prettily, the reputed niece of that old formal piece of hypocrisy, Lennard? Come, tell us—you have more sense than to cry because one asks a civil question.

Lord, Sir, replied Betty, to be sure you are such another wild gentleman that I don’t at all wonder you’ve frighted our Miss, who, poor thing! has scarcely ever been out of our house all her life.—Yes, Sir, ’tis Miss Monimee, Sir, Madam Lennard’s kinswoman; and I hope, Sir, you’ll please to give us leave to pass, for we shall have a deal of anger for being out so much longer than Madam Lennard she gived us leave to stay.

Tell us then, said Sir John, taking both Monimia’s hands, which she in vain endeavoured to disengage from his grasp—tell us where and when we can see you again, and then you shall go.—Yes, cried Stockton, addressing himself to Betty, tell us, my dear girl, when can we see you again? We shall not easily relinquish the acquaintance, interrupted Somerive; and if you are to be met with only at the Hall, I shall contrive to get into favour again 110 with that immortal old frump, and I can tell you that’s no small compliment.

Oh! dear, Sir, giggled Betty, I vow and declare you put me all in a twitter with your wild ways. Indeed, Sir, you can’t see us no where; for, as to Miss, she never goes out, not at all.—For my share, to be sure, I now and tan be at church, and such like; but for all that, it’s morrally impossible for us to see you nohow at all.

Well then, cried Stockton, we’ll have a kiss a-piece somehow at all, now we do see you.

Yes, yes, said Somerive, that we will.

Well, gentlemen, replied Betty, I am sure this is very rude behaviour (Lord, Miss, why d’ye cry so? I warrant they won’t do no harm); and if you insist upon it, I hope you’ll let us go then.

Yes, answered Somerive, we’ll let you go then.

Betty went through the ceremony without making many difficulties; but when Stockton advanced towards Monimia, to whom Sir John had all this time been making profes­sions of violent love, she retreated from him; and her alarm was so evidently unaffected that Sir John stopped him.—Don’t, Stockton, cried he; Miss is apparently very new to the world, and we have distressed her. Well, well, answered Stockton, we won’t distress her then. Come, Somerive, we shall meet these charming girls some other time; I see you are taking care of that, (for he continued whispering Betty,) so let us now go on to beat the wood. Somerive, who seemed to have made, during his momentary conversation, some arrangement with Betty, now agreed to this; and, as he passed Monimia, looked earnestly under her hat, and said in a half whisper, Upon my honour! that sober well-conditioned young man, Mr. Orlando, has a fine time of it; these are his studies at the Hall!—Poor Monimia, 111 sinking with terror and confusion, now endeavoured to disengage herself from Sir John, and to follow Betty, who, making more half-curtseys, and looking smilingly after the gentlemen, was walking on; but he, who had attached himself to Monimia, was not so easily shaken off. He told Stockton and Somerive, that he should go home another way, and should shoot no more. Good morrow, therefore, added he, I shall wait upon these ladies through the woods; and as you do not want Ned (speaking of his servant), he may as well go with me and take home the birds. To this the other two assenting departed; while Sir John, giving his servant a hint to enter into conversation with Betty, and discover as much as he could relative to Monimia, again joined her, though she had walked forward as quickly as possible, and desired her, as he said she seemed tired, to accept of his arm. Monimia, more terrified every step she took, and dreading lest he should insist upon following her to the Hall, now acquired courage to entreat that he would leave her; while he, regardless of the distress so evident in her countenance, endeavoured to prevail upon her to listen to him; and in this manner they had proceeded nearly to the part of the woods which open directly into the park, when suddenly, at a sharp turn of the path, Orlando, with his gun upon his shoulder, stood before them.

Amazement and indignation were pictured in his countenance when he beheld a stranger walking close to Monimia, and seeming to have his arm round her waist. Thrown totally off his guard by an appearance so sudden and so extraordinary, he cried, Pray, who is this gentleman?—Pray, what does this mean! Betty, who had been detained some paces behind, now approached; and Orlando, 112 recollecting himself, took no other notice of Monimia, who would, had she dared, have flown to him for protection; but slightly touching his hat, he advanced to Sir John, and said, I suppose, Sir, you have Mrs. Rayland’s permission to shoot in these preserved grounds?

I always shoot, Sir, answered Sir John, haughtily, in all grounds that happen to suit me, whether they are preserved or no, and take no trouble to ask leave of any body.

Then, Sir, said Orlando with quickness, you must allow me to say that you do a very unhandsome thing.

And I, rejoined the other, say, whether you allow it or no, that you are a very impertinent fellow.

The blood rushed into the face of Orlando: and even the pale and terrified countenance of Monimia, who caught hold of Betty for support, did not deter him from resenting this insolence. Who are you, cried he, seizing Sir John by the collar, that thus dare to insult me?

And who are you, scoundrel, answered his antagonist, endeavouring to disengage himself, who dare to behave with such confounded impudence to a man of my consequence?

Curse on your consequence! exclaimed the enraged Orlando, throwing him violently from him: If you are a gentleman, which I doubt, give me an opportunity of telling you properly who I am.

If I am a gentleman? cried the other. Am I questioned by a park-keeper? or by some dirty valet?

Sir John, who was quite the modern man of fashion, did not much approve of the specimen Orlando had given him of athletic powers;—he 113 liked him still less when he replied—My name is Somerive—my usual residence at West Wolverton, or Rayland Hall. Now, Sir, as you speak neither to a park keeper nor a valet, you must tell me from whom I have received this brutal insult.

My servant will tell you, replied he; and, if you are likely to forget his information, you shall hear it properly from me to-morrow. In the mean time, my dear girl, added he, turning familiarly to Monimia, let us leave this fierce drawcansir to watch the old lady’s pheasants; and as you seem much alarmed by his ridiculous fury, let me have the pleasure of seeing you safe home.

He would then have taken the arm of the trembling Monimia within his; but she shrunk from him, and would have passed on. He still insisted, however, on being permitted to attend her home; when Orlando, quite unable to command himself, sprung forward, and, seizing the arm of Monimia, cried, This young lady, being under the protection of Mrs. Rayland, is under mine; and I insist on her not being troubled with your impertinent familiarity. Come, Madam, if you will give me leave, I will conduct you to your aunt. He then, without waiting for any farther reply, walked hastily away; while Sir John, filled with rage and contempt, bade his servant follow him, and inform him that the person whom he had thus grossly affronted was Sir John Berkely Belgrave, baronet, of Belgrave Park in Suffolk, brother-in-law to the Earl of Glenlyon of Scotland, and member of parliament. Orlando heard this list of dignities with contemptuous coolness; and then, as he continued to walk on, bade the servant tell his master, Sir John Berkely Belgrave, of Belgrave Park in Suffolk, brother-in-law to the Earl of Glenlyon of Scotland, and member 114 of parliament, that he expected to hear from him.

They were no sooner out of sight, than Orlando, addressing himself to Betty (for Monimia was quite unable to answer him), said: Where did you meet this man? and how came you to be with him?

Lord, said Betty, pertly, how could we help it? and pray where was the harm? For my part, I always speak to gentlefolks that speak to me; I’ve no notion of sitting mum chance, when gentlemen are so civil as to speak genteel to one. Here’s a fuss, indeed, about nothing! And so you’ve gone and made a fine piece of work, and had a mind for to have fit that baron knight—I suppose there will be a pretty to do.

But where did you meet him? repeated Orlando impatiently.

Don’t bite one’s nose off, said Betty: Gemini! what a passion you put yourself into—Met him!—why we met him, and two more very obliging civil gentlemen as I ever wish to see; your brother was one of them, and what then? I’m sure it’s wast ridiculous to quarrel and fall out about a few nasty pheasants with all the gentlefolks about. That’s the reason that Mistress never has nobody come to see her at the Hall; and one may as well live in a prison. I’m quite sick of it, for my share.

As nothing but mutterings were to be obtained from Betty, Orlando no longer questioned her; but as his first emotion of something like anger mingled with vexation towards Monimia had now subsided, he said to her, in a low and mournful voice, This is all very disagreeable: would to God you had never gone this unlucky walk.

Would to God I never had! for now I see nothing but misery will arise from it. But let us part here: (they were now in the park) it is quite 115 enough for me to have gone through what has passed within this hour; there is no occasion to add to my terror, by letting my aunt see us together. I thought I should suffer enough by being so late home; but, good God! what is that fear in comparison of what I suffer now about this quarrel?

The quarrel, as you call it, will be of no consequence, Monimia: I shall probably hear no more of it;—or, if I do, Mrs. Rayland will not be displeased at my having spoken to these men, who have so long impertinently trespassed on her manors.

But who, said Monimia, who shall ensure your safety, Orlando, if you do hear more of it?

I must take my chance about that. Do not, my Monimia, whispered he, make yourself uneasy about it: I shall see you at night; and now, perhaps, it will be better to part. He then said aloud, that Betty might hear, who was a few paces behind, Since you seem now to be delivered from the persecution of this impertinent stranger, I wish you a good morning. Orlando then walked another way, as if pursuing his diversion of shooting; and Betty joining Monimia, they proceeded together towards the house.

As they went, Betty, who was very much displeased with Orlando, because he seemed to have given all that attention to Monimia which she had herself a great inclination to monopolize, began again to exclaim against the folly of his having driven away and quarrelled with a baron knight, as she emphatically termed it. Why one would have thof, cried she, actually that the gentleman, who is in my mind a pretty gentleman, had done some great harm. If Mr. Orlando had been your sweetheart, Miss, he couldn’t have brustled up in a greater passion.

My sweetheart! said Monimia faintly; how 116 can he be my sweetheart, when you know, Betty, I have hardly exchanged ten words with him in my whole life?

Well, Miss, you nid not colour so about it—Lord, I suppose people have had sweethearts before now; and the better’s their luck:—not that I say Mr. Orlando is yours, for I knows to the contrary.

I believe, said Monimia, making an effort to command herself, I believe, Betty, it will be as well, on many accounts, not to say any thing about all this at home. If this unlucky quarrel should go any farther, which I hope it will not, it will make my aunt very angry if she knows we were present at it;—and, upon the whole, I wish you would make a resolution not to speak of it.

Not I, answered Betty, I shan’t speak of it, not I. I’m none of your blabs—and scorn to say any thing to make mischief; besides, we shall have anger enough for staying so much later than we were bid to stay. Yes; we shall have a fine rattle; and there stands Madam Lennard at the window, watching for us. They were now near the house, and poor Monimia, looking up, saw her aunt indeed watching their return. She trembled so much, that she could hardly find strength to get into the house, where as soon as Betty arrived she was hastening to the kitchen; but Monimia finding it impossible to meet, alone, the first rage of her aunt, entreated her to go up stairs.

Do not leave me, dear Betty, said the timid Monimia; I am in such terror already, that if my aunt is very violent against me, I really believe I shall die on the spot. You have more courage than I have—for Heaven’s sake, do not leave me.

I don’t know any good I can do, replied Betty; but however, if I must go, I must. They then ascended the stairs together, and entered the room 117 where Mrs. Lennard waited for them in the disposition of an hungry tigress who has long been disap­pointed of her prey. She scolded with such vehemence for near half an hour, that she absolutely exhausted every form of invective and reproach which her very fertile genius, and the vocabulary of Billingsgate, could furnish her with; and then taking Monimia rudely by the arm, she led her to her turret, and locked her in, protesting that, so far from ever suffering her to go junketing out again to the village, she should not leave her room for a week. With this threat she left her weeping niece, and turned the key upon her: but Monimia, somewhat relieved by her departure, felt with secret delight that it was not in her power to confine her—and that at night she should see Orlando. Yet the danger he had run into recurred to her with redoubled force; and never did she pass such miserable hours as those that intervened between her aunt’s fierce remonstrance, and that when she expected the signal from Orlando.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter IX

nor could the repeated remonstrances of Monimia prevail upon her to leave the house till the clock struck eleven
[By this point in the story, the reader knows better than to expect Monimia to assert herself and leave for home alone at eight o’clock so that she can be back in time, with or without Betty.]

Monimia . . . shrunk back terrified
[In the course of this episode, the words “terror” or “terrified” occur eight separate times, along with similar words like “fear”, “fright” and “alarm”. What, exactly, is Monimia afraid of? She has had an absurdly sheltered upbringing, and has never read a novel. So this cannot be the immediate, physical fear that might reasonably be felt by a low-status woman coming face to face with a group of high-status men in an isolated area.]

by a park-keeper? or by some dirty valet?
[Fun fact: “valet” and “varlet” are etymologically the same word.]

my usual residence at West Wolverton
text has Woolverton

how can he be my sweetheart, when . . . I have hardly exchanged ten words with him in my whole life?
[If Monimia had had a properly configured brain, she would have figured out how to make this not-my-sweetheart assertion without outright lying—especially since we were told way back in Chapter II that she is no good at it.]


Mr. Somerive determined to write to Mrs. Rayland


The unfortunate rencontre which promised to produce so much uneasiness

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.