The house of West Wolverton too had its politicians, but none of them were so content with their past operations, or future prospects, as the venerable group last described.
Isabella, wild and coquettish as she was, could no longer affect to misunderstand the language with which General Tracy ventured to address her. For some time, however, she attempted to laugh it off; but at length resolved, by the counsel of Selina, to speak to her mother, and entreat that, if the General remained any longer their guest, she might not be so often left to hear professions so insulting, which the presence of her sisters did not always restrain. Mrs. Somerive, whose heart was half broken by the behaviour of Philip, and who saw, with inexpressible anguish, the ravage which the uneasiness arising from that source was hourly making on the constitution of her husband, had been fondly flattering herself, during the first weeks of the General’s visit, that in him Mr. Somerive had found a sincere friend, and their children a powerful protector. The solicitude he expressed for Orlando, and the consideration with which he treated Philip, made her sanguinely believe that he would provide for one, and possibly reclaim the other. The sums which the latter had won from him at play—Mrs. Somerive, who knew nothing of their nightly gambling, supposed the 302 General had lent him; when her heart, overflowing with gratitude towards this generous friend, was suddenly struck with the intelligence Isabella gave her.
She at first fancied the vanity of Isabella might have given meaning to his expressions which they were never meant to convey; but, upon questioning her and Selina repeatedly, and from the observations she made the two following days, she was convinced that their representations of his behaviour were just. This cruel certainty she determined however to conceal from her husband, and to guard, by her own prudent watchfulness, against the artifices of the General without bringing on a rupture between him and Somerive that might be attended with consequences she sickened to think of.
The General, however, who paid her the most assiduous court, was soon sensible of a change in her manners; for she was incapable of the dissimulation which people of the world so successfully practise. From hence, and from the behaviour of Isabella, the General found that a longer stay would betray his insidious designs without contributing at all to their success, and he prepared to go; yet could not bear to relinquish for ever his hopes of gaining Isabella, with whom he was more in love than ever. He lingered, therefore, notwithstanding all the discouragement he received; and Somerive, who believed him the best and most sincere friend that ever man had, communicated to him all his affairs, and all his anxiety—by which the General perceived plainly, he was in such a state of mind as must hasten him to the grave; and he had learned that, impressed with ideas of his (the General’s) friendship for all his family, he had made him executor, and trusted the welfare of his wife and daughters entirely to him and to Orlando.303
Though Tracy therefore could neither give up his pursuit, nor succeed in it at present, he believed that the death of the father, the indigence to which the whole family would be reduced, and the absence of Orlando, would together make easy the project of obtaining Isabella for a mistress; and that patience and dissimulation alone were necessary to keep up his influence in the family, till they should be wholly in his power. He determined, therefore, to check himself; to make no more professions with which Isabella could be offended, but to express his contrition that he had said what she construed into want of respect; to hint remotely at honourable intentions; and thus, without engaging himself, or, as the fashionable phrase is, committing himself, to retain his influence over the whole family, as well as over the father; and to be assured that, whenever he chose to return, he should be received with pleasure. As to any suspicion that Isabella might think him of an age so disproportionate as to hear even his honourable offers with disdain and ridicule, it never occurred to the General; and he was pretty well assured, from the pecuniary circumstances of the family, that every other member of it would receive the remotest hint of an intended alliance with transport. The behaviour of Mrs. Somerive, on the evening of the tenants’ ball, convinced him that Isabella had not merely threatened when she protested she would speak to her mother of his behaviour; and he found that though Mr. Somerive, whenever he talked of going, pressed his stay, it was time to depart.
The messenger, who was sent to the post town on the following evening for letters, brought to General Tracy a large pacquet, arrived that day by the stage. On opening it, it was found to 304 contain the commission of an ensign for Orlando Somerive, executed in due form, from the War Office. This he hastened to offer, with a florid speech, to Mrs. Somerive; who had hardly recovered from the emotions with which the sight of it, and his peculiar and studied manner of presenting it, occasioned, when Orlando, anxious to know at what time his brother had got home, and how his mother and sisters were after the fatigue and uneasiness of the night before, arrived.
On his first entrance, he enquired eagerly after his brother.—Your brother! cried Mr. Somerive: he is not at home, Orlando, nor have we seen him since last night;—believing he was with you, and indeed supposing it possible that he was not well enough to leave your apartment, I made myself tolerably easy about him.—But when did he leave you? and where is he now?
Orlando replied, that he had left his bed about eleven o’clock; and then, to quiet the uneasiness which he saw this unexpected absence gave to them all, he added, But he is gone, I dare say, to Mr. Stockton’s, where he has talked some time of intending to pass a day or two, and probably will not return home till to-morrow or next day.
Gone to Mr. Stockton’s! exclaimed Mrs. Somerive—What! without linen or change of clothes, though there is an house full of company?
Mr. Somerive, who saw how much his wife was alarmed and affected, endeavoured to speak lightly of the absence of her son—You know, my love, said he, that Philip does not pique himself on being a beau; and that the party at Mr. Stockton’s are only men. He can probably borrow any linen he wants of his friends; and as he means to be at home so soon, and has no servant with him, 305 perhaps preferred doing so to the trouble of sending home for his own. Mrs. Somerive sighed, and cast a desponding look on her husband, who added, But, come, my dear Bella, you and I have something to say to Orlando—we will go all together into my study for a few moments, and the girls will have tea ready against our return.—So saying, he took his wife’s hand, and, Orlando following them, they left the room.
Mrs. Somerive was no sooner released from the restraint which the presence of the General imposed, than she threw herself into a chair, and fell into an agony of tears. Her husband gently chid her for emotion which he endeavoured to persuade her was much beyond the occasion; and, having succeeded in rendering her somewhat more calm, he told Orlando that his commission was arrived, and enquired whether any conversation had passed between him and Mrs. Rayland in consequence of what had been held between her and General Tracy the preceding evening? Orlando related it all as nearly as he could recollect it, save only that sentence which related to some fancied attachment; and Mr. Somerive received, with great pleasure, what appeared to him equal to a confirmation of the most sanguine hopes he had ever entertained on his son’s behalf.—Mrs. Somerive however was less elated: she could not comprehend how Mrs. Rayland, if she had so much affection for Orlando, could not only bear to part with him but promote his departure; or how, if she meant to make him her heir, she could determine to send him out in the world a soldier of fortune. The representations of her husband, however, and the content which Orlando expressed, reconciled her by degrees to what she could not now recall. She gave him, but not without many tears, the commission 306 with which General Tracy had just presented her—but as she tried to give him her blessing with it, she relapsed into convulsive sorrow. Mr. Somerive found it would only distress her to return to the parlour; he therefore bade Orlando lead his mother to her own room, while he, returning to where his daughters were sitting with General Tracy, bade them go to her, and send their brother down to the parlour.
Orlando, on his entrance, addressed himself to Tracy, whom he thanked in the most graceful terms. The General answered his compliment with politeness, and the three gentlemen then began to discourse of the departure of Orlando for that party of his regiment that were in England, which Tracy told him could not properly be deferred longer than till the following week. He advised therefore that Orlando should set out for London on the following Monday—when, said he, as I shall go thither myself, I can have the pleasure of giving you a place in my post-chaise.
Mr. Somerive, while he expressed regret that the General was to leave him so soon (though his stay had been prolonged to almost six weeks), yet embraced this offer with avidity. He foresaw, that in the equipment of Orlando, of which Mrs. Rayland was, he understood, to defray the expence, the directions of such a friend could not fail of being extremely useful, and that his instructions might in a thousand more material instances be of advantage to him.—It was therefore settled among them, that, on the evening of the following Sunday, Orlando should take leave of his ancient benefactress, and repair to his father’s house, to be ready to attend General Tracy to town the next morning.
Orlando was now impatient to return to the Hall—He 307 hoped to have a few moments conversation with Monimia that evening; alas! only one more was to intervene before his departure: and the painful task of reconciling her to his going so soon and of taking a long—long leave, seemed to require an age!—His restlessness became so evident that his father noticed it—You will stay here to-night, Orlando? said he. No, Sir, answered his son; I wish with your leave to return to the Hall.—Mrs. Rayland often asks for me at breakfast, and you will allow that just at this period I should not seem in the slightest degree to neglect her.—You are right in returning, said Mr. Somerive, fixing his eyes steadily on those of his son, if that is your only motive.—Orlando, not able to bear the penetrating looks of his father, turned away, and said hastily—Besides, Sir, I wish to enquire after my brother—for, however I affected before my mother to believe he was at Stockton’s, I assure you I do not know he is there, nor have I any guess about him but what makes me uneasy.—Go, then, replied his father with a deep sigh—but remember, Orlando, that from you I expect sincerity.—And you shall not be disappointed, Sir, answered Orlando warmly; before I take my leave of you, and ask your last blessing, my heart shall be laid open to you, which I would rather pierce with my own hand than suffer it to harbour ingratitude or dissimulation towards so good a father.—Tears were in the eyes of the father and the son.—Orlando! said Somerive in a faltering voice, go to your mother before you leave the house, and give her all the comfort you can—the absence of your brother overwhelms her with fear and distress; and before we see you to-morrow, my son—for I suppose we shall see you . . . . . . .
Certainly, Sir! at any time you name.308
Make that convenient to yourself, Orlando: only, before we do see you, endeavour to find your brother, and persuade him to return, or at least bring us some news of him.
Orlando promised he would; and then went to his mother, who had by this time reasoned herself into a more calm state of mind. Having taken leave of her and his sisters for the night, he set out on foot to return to the Hall.
The night was overcast and gloomy; chill and hollow the wind whistled among the leafless trees, or groaned amid the thick firs in the dark and silent wood;—the water-falls murmured hollow in the blast, and only the owl’s cry broke those dull and melancholy sounds, which seemed to say—Orlando, you will revisit these scenes no more! He endeavoured to reason himself out of these comfortless presages. He tried to figure to himself the happier days, that never seemed so likely as now to be his, and at no very remote period. Though Mrs. Rayland was, from peculiarity of temper, averse to naming her successor, she was not at all likely to hold out hopes she never meant to realize, and certainly she never gave any so strong as what her conversation of that morning had offered. He endeavoured therefore to persuade himself, that the time was not very far distant when, if he was not actually the possessor of Rayland Hall, he should at least have such a competency as should enable him to settle in this his native country with his beloved Monimia. He tried to animate his drooping spirits with the idea that, in the profession into which he was now entering, he might find the means of accelerating this happy period: But then the frightful interval that must intervene occurred to him, with all the possibilities that might happen in it; and the destitute state of Monimia, the ill health 309 of his father (which, though he did not complain, was visible to every body), the unhappy misconduct of his brother, threatening the ruin and dispersion of his family, and the possibility that Mrs. Rayland might disappoint the expectations she had raised, all combined to sink and depress him, and again to lend to the well-known paths he was traversing, horrors not their own, while every object repeated—Orlando will revisit these scenes no more!
By the time he reached that part of the park from whence the house was visible at a distance, it was quite dark, and, had he not almost instinctively known his way, he could not have discerned it—for no light glimmered from the Gothic windows of the Hall, not even in that part of the house inhabited by the servants; and Orlando imagined that most of them, fatigued the night before, were gone earlier than usual to bed. He fixed his eyes earnestly on Monimia’s turret:—all was dark; and he doubted whether her aunt had not removed her, in consequence of the suspicions that originated in the circumstances of the preceding evening. This apprehension made his spirits sink still more heavily; and when he was within an hundred yards of the house, he stopped, and gazed mournfully on the place, which perhaps no longer contained the object of his affection.
There is hardly a sensation more painful than the blank that strikes on the heart, when, instead of the light we expect streaming from some beloved spot where our affections are fondly fixed, all is silent and dark.—Ah! how often in life we feel this yet stronger, when the friend on whom we rely becomes suddenly cold and repulsive; Orlando, who was passionately fond of poetry, recollected the simply 310 descriptive stanza in the ballad of Hardyknute:
“Theirs nae licht in my lady’s bowir,
“Theirs nae licht in the hall;
“Nae blink shynes round my fairly fair—”
And, like the dismayed hero of the song,
“Black feir he felt, but what to fear
“He wist not zit with dreid.”
Quiet as every thing appeared round the house, he knew it was earlier than the hour when Mrs. Lennard usually locked the door of Monimia’s apartment for the night; it was possible that she might have detained her niece in her own room longer than was her general custom.
In hopes that he might see the light at length glimmer through the casement, which would assure him Monimia was there, he determined to watch for it a little longer, where he might not be himself observed.
It was indeed so very dark that he was sure it was impossible for any one to discern him from the house, or at least to distinguish his figure from that of the deer who were feeding around him. He sat down therefore on the turf; but the dreary moments passed, and still no light appeared—though Orlando was sure that if a light was in the room he must see it, because of the want of shutters towards the upper part of this long window. A thousand conjectures disturbed him, and grew, as time wore away, more and more painful. Perhaps Monimia was indisposed, and had gone early to bed; perhaps the alarms she had suffered the preceding evening, and uneasiness at his not having seen her, might have overcome her tender spirits, and, together with the harsh reproaches of her aunt, have rendered her really ill. His warm and rapid imagination 311 now represented her sinking under anguish of mind which she dared not communicate—and tenderly reproaching him for being the cause of all her sufferings. It was he who had disturbed the innocent serenity of her bosom—and persuaded her to grant him interviews, with which she continually reproached herself. Or, if this was not the case, if her lovely frame was not overwhelmed by sickness arising from sorrow, perhaps she was more strictly confined in some part of the house where it would be impossible for him to see her; from whence it would be equally impossible for her to escape to him, to indulge him in the last sad pleasure of a parting interview. This last conjecture appeared highly probable, from what Mrs. Lennard had said to him in the morning; and he found it too intolerable, even while it was but conjecture, to be supported with patience. The great clock now struck eleven: every vibration seemed to fall on his heart.—He traversed yet a little longer the turf immediately under the windows of the turret; and at length saw a light from the servants’ hall, whither he went, hoping, yet fearing, to gain some intelligence which he dreaded to ask. He entered, however; but found only Pattenson there, who was putting out the fire. It was in vain Orlando addressed him with great civility. The sulky old butler, who imputed to him the alacrity with which his favourite nymph had left the house, looked at him with a countenance cloudy and indignant, and deigned not even to give him the candle he asked for.—There are candles, if you want them! was all he could obtain from him. He enquired if Mrs. Rayland was gone to her room? if he could speak to Mrs. Lennard? To which Pattenson, turning sullenly away, replied, The women’s side of the house has been shut up these two hours—you’ll hardly get 312 any admittance to make your flummering speeches to any on ’em to-night.—Orlando, already irritated by vexation, was so much provoked at this insolence, that he was tempted to knock down the consequential Mr. Pattenson; but he fortunately recollected that he was an old man, and a servant, and that it was unworthy of him to strike such a person, whatever might be the provocation. He could not however help expressing his anger for this insult, in terms stronger than he usually allowed himself; and then, half frantic, went to his own room, merely because he knew not what to do to obtain some intelligence of Monimia.
After a moment’s consideration, he went through the chapel, and to the lower room of the turret. If Mrs. Lennard had discovered the door of communication, he thought he should perceive it by some means or other—but all below was as he left it:—he then mounted the stairs, and listened at the door behind Monimia’s bed, but all was profoundly silent. He ventured to tap softly at the door, their usual signal, which Monimia never failed, when she was alone, to answer instantly; but now no answer was returned. He spoke—but no soft voice, in tremulous whispers, replied. Again he rapped, and spoke louder; but still all was dead silence around him.—Yet he waited a moment or two—lost in distracting conjectures—Monimia was certainly not in her room—what then was become of her, or whither was she gone? He felt as if he should never see her more, though it was impossible to suppose she was removed from the house. At length he returned to his own apartment again, more wretched than he left it;—and not seeing any probability of discovering that night what could thus have robbed him of the sight of Monimia, he went to his bed—but not to sleep, though he had 313 suffered so many hours of mental and bodily fatigue. He watched the earliest dawn of light; and as soon as he could discern the objects about the park, he dressed himself and went out—walking slowly round the house, and looking up at all the windows, in hopes that if Monimia was as restless as he was, she might appear at that of the room she was confined in, in the expectation of seeing him. But he made his melancholy tour repeatedly in vain. He then returned to his own room, furnished himself with materials for shooting, and went into the kitchen under pretence of drying some powder; that, while he watched it carefully himself, he might have an excuse for staying to talk a little with the cook. This woman, whose admiration of Orlando’s beauty had made her much his friend, was willing enough to gossip with him, and talked much of Betty’s being so suddenly discharged, declaimed against her, and hinted that it was pity such a young ’squire should undervalue himself so as to take a liking to such a tawdry trollop.—Orlando, who cared very little what was thought of him in regard to Betty, rather humoured than denied the oblique charge; but endeavouring to lead the conversation towards Mrs. Lennard, whom she called a covetous cross old frump; and as for that, added the woman, she uses that sweet child, her niece as they call her, no better than a dog.
Why, how does she use her? cried Orlando faltering and in a hurried voice: What! has she lately done any thing?
Not as I knows on; but I knows she is always rating her, so as the poor young thing have no peace of her life—and if she offer for to come to speak to any of us sarvants, there’s a rare to do! Fine airs truly for mother Lennard to give herself—as if her niece was a bit better than we be! If she’s so proud 314 that she won’t let the girl speak to no sarvants, I think she mid as well not make her work like one—which I’m sure she does, and shuts her up like as a felon in a jail.
Where, said Orlando, does she shut her up?
Why, in her own room, don’t she? From morning to night, and from one year’s end to another, she’s lock’d up in that there place, that’s just for all the world like a belfry.
And is she there now? cried Orlando eagerly.
Yes, replied the cook, I suppose so—I think, ’squire, instead of running after such a drab as Bet, you’d better help Miss out of her cage.
This was said merely at random; but Orlando’s confusion was evident. He found that whatever removal Mrs. Lennard had projected and executed for her niece, she had not communicated her intentions, or the motives of them, to this servant, and probably not to any of the others. His distracting suspence was now almost insupportable. He had promised his father to enquire after Philip; he was under the necessity of seeing Mrs. Rayland; and must pass some part of the day with his family. Thus circumstanced, it was impossible, unless he gained some immediate intelligence of Monimia, that he could acquaint her with the decision made in the course of the preceding day in regard to his departure for London—impossible to contrive a meeting, on which his hopes had so long dwelt, when he might reconcile her to his going, and offer her those vows of everlasting attachment which he meant most religiously to keep. It now occurred to him, that he would take his gun, and fire it on that side of the house that was next Mrs. Lennard’s apartment, in hopes that Monimia might come to the window for the chance of seeing if it was he who fired. Retiring therefore hastily from the 315 kitchen, without seeming to attend to the raillery of the servant with whom he had been talking, he said there was a hawk about the park, which he had seen early that morning strike a young hare; and that he would endeavour to shoot it. He went then almost under the windows of Mrs. Lennard’s room, and fired repeatedly, without obtaining what he wished for. At length he saw through the casement the figure of Monimia. He clasped his hands together, as if to entreat her to stay, and to express the anguish he laboured under. She looked fearfully behind her, as if dreading her aunt, and then beckoned to him to approach. He flew under the window—she opened the casement, and said, while fear made her voice almost inarticulate, My aunt suspects us, and has removed me into her closet—Come after it is dark under the window, and I will tell you farther.
Gracious Heaven! exclaimed Orlando, I go from hence on Monday, and we shall meet then no more.
I dare not stay, cried the trembling Monimia—Pray, come as soon as it is dark!
To what purpose, exclaimed Orlando, if I am only to see you thus? By Heaven I shall lose my senses!
Oh! if you knew, said Monimia, what I have suffered, you would not terrify me now—For mercy’s sake go! She then shut the window; and Orlando, not caring and hardly knowing what he did, went again round the house—half tempted to turn the mouth of his gun against himself. The wildness and distraction of his countenance struck one of the under keepers, who, believing he was really in pursuit of some bird of prey, came to offer his assistance. The impatience however of Orlando’s answers, so unlike his general obliging manners, convinced the fellow that the report he had heard in the family was true, and that Orlando was in despair 316 because handsome Betty, as she was called among the servants, had left the family on his account. The young man loved Orlando, as did indeed every creature who approached him; and he now endeavoured to console him—If I was you, Sir, said he, as he walked after him, I would not take this to heart so much. What! cried Orlando peevishly, take what to heart? Why about this young woman, answered the keeper: to be sure you be parted, but perhaps all’s for the best; who knows?
Orlando, whose head and heart were full of Monimia, imagined that it was of her the man spoke; and turning hastily to him, he said in an eager, yet angry way—
What is it you mean, Jacob, and what is for the best?
Nay, Sir, answered Jacob, I only say, that worse might have come of it; for to my knowledge there have been a deal said, and the talk of the country sure enough it have been. There was t’other night at the Three Horse Shoes—there was three or four of us of the Hall, and John Button and Richard Williams at Mill, and Stokes and Smith and some more—and so they were speaking of this here young body; and Stokes, who is a free spoken man, he said, says he—What scoundrel, exclaimed Orlando, enraged and thrown wholly off his guard, what infamous lying scoundrel shall dare to traduce her? I will tear the soul out of any rascal, who shall breathe even a suspicion against Monimia.
Monimia, Sir! cried the man, who was thunderstruck by the violence of Orlando, Lord, I was speaking of Betty—she as went away this morning because of your keeping company with her—I’m sure, Sir, I never thought no harm of Miss Monimmy, nor scarce ever see her twice in my life.
Orlando now repented him of his rashness. Well, 317 well, said he—I believe you, Jacob—I’m sure you would not say or think any harm of an innocent young lady, especially, Jacob, if you thought it would displease me, and do me a great deal of harm. Jacob now most earnestly protested not only his unwillingness to offend, but his desire to oblige his honour.—Orlando, whose spirits were yet in such a tumult, that he could not arrange the ideas that crowded on his mind, now bade Jacob follow him into his study. Unwilling as he had always been to put Monimia into the power of servants, he knew that something decisive must be hazarded, or that he must resign all hopes of seeing her before he went: he was the less scrupulous, as he was so soon to go, and he hoped he could make it this young man’s interest to be faithful to him. It occurred to him, that even when he was gone, some person must be in his confidence, who would receive, and deliver to Monimia, the letters which he knew he dared not direct to her at the Hall. This mistake therefore, which had for a moment vexed and confused him, he now thought a fortunate circumstance, and, without farther reflection, disclosed to this young man his long affection for Monimia; the difficulties he was in at the present moment about seeing her; and his wish to find some means of corresponding with her hereafter. Jacob entered into his situation with an appearance of intelligence and interest with which Orlando was well satisfied. They agreed upon a plan for the evening—by which Orlando hoped to procure an interview with Monimia, instead of merely seeing her at the window; and elated with his hope, he forgot the hazard and impropriety of the means he had used to obtain it.
Having however talked over and settled every thing with his new confident, he went to pay his compliments to Mrs. Rayland, to whom he reported 318 the arrival of his commission, and whom he found in the same disposition as when he last saw her—Then having obtained her leave to dine at his father’s, he set out in pursuit of his brother, in hopes of carrying some intelligence to his family that might dissipate their uneasiness, of which his own did not render him unmindful. He rode therefore to Mr. Stockton’s, where he learned from the servants, that Mr. Philip Somerive had been there about one o’clock; that he had borrowed linen of their master, with whom he stayed till after a late dinner, and then had set out in a post-chaise, as he said, for London. This was information but little likely to quiet the uneasiness of his father and his family—with a heavy heart, therefore, Orlando proceeded to give it. Mr. Somerive received it with a deep sigh, but without any comment; his wife with tears; while the General, from whom they concealed nothing, endeavoured to console them by speaking light of it. I am persuaded, said he, my good friends, that your extreme solicitude and anxiety for your children often carry you beyond the line that dispassionate reason would mark for your conduct towards them.—Then addressing himself in his insinuating way to Mrs. Somerive he added—For example, now, my dear good friend—you no sooner hear that it is right for you to part with your younger son for the army, than you imagine that he will be killed. No sooner is your elder missing upon one of those little excursions, which a young man of high spirit, without any present employment, very naturally indulges himself in, than you figure to yourself I know not what evil consequence. Believe me, Orlando will not sleep in the bed of honour, nor our more eccentric Philip be devoured by the Philistines. Make yourselves easy, therefore, I beg of you. Your 319 son is gone to London for four or five days perhaps—what then?—Here is your other son going with me—and we will make it our business to see Philip, if you will but make yourselves easy—and I dare say you will have him with you again, before you eat your Christmas dinner, safe and sound.
Mr. Somerive, who saw from sad experience the departure of Philip in a very different light, would not however dwell longer on a subject so affecting and so useless. It was of no avail to discuss now the reasons he had to dread the conduct of his eldest son, in this unexpected absence; nor did he wonder, for he had often seen it in others, at the composure with which General Tracy argued against the indulgence of uneasiness, which he himself could never feel; and he repeated to himself, as he longed to say to his friend, that it is easy to recommend patience with an untouched or insensible heart, patience in evils, that either can never reach the preacher, or which he is incapable of feeling.—Some lines of Shakespeare, applicable to the General’s remonstrance, and the uneasy state of his thoughts, occurred to him as he walked into the garden to conceal those thoughts from his wife.
“No, no! ’tis all men’s office to speak patience
“To those that wring under a load of sorrow;
“But no man’s virtue or sufficiency
“To be so moral, when he shall endure
“The like himself. Therefore give me no comfort.”
the commission of an ensign for Orlando Somerive
[Today we think of “ensign” as a naval rank. But until 1870 ensigns were also the lowest-ranking officers in the British infantry. The General was obviously not prepared to spring for a cavalry commission, which would have been more prestigious—but also more expensive.]
the ballad of Hardyknute
[The quoted bits are from the final stanzas, XLI and XLII, of a fairly successful literary hoax dating from 1719. Literarily successful, that is. As a hoax it didn’t go far, since the author was quickly identified as Elizabeth, Lady Wardlaw (1677–1727). This didn’t stop “Hardyknute” from taking pride of place in Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads: Chiefly Ancient—mark the word “Chiefly”—from 1808. The editor, John Finlay, summarizes the author’s life and goes on to editorialize:
It is difficult which most to admire, the mind capable of producing such a poem, or the modesty of sending it into the world anonymously.
I am not certain that I would have the nerve to use the word “modesty” in describing the perpetration of a literary hoax. Incidentally, the two stanzas that so impressed Charlotte Smith were added by Lady Wardlaw after the ballad’s authenticity was called into question. Did she write better under pressure?]
“He wist not zit with dreid”
[Crystal ball says it’s a yogh: ȝit.]
her niece as they call her
[This is not the first time someone has hinted, in Orlando’s hearing, that Monimia is not really Mrs. Lennard’s niece. If he were a little swifter on the uptake, we might learn something of interest—or, then again, we might learn that the speaker has no evidence whatsoever for making this claim. It is possible the author really was planning some Big Reveal for late in the second volume, and then either forgot about it or couldn’t think of anything sufficiently lurid.]
To what purpose, exclaimed Orlando
[Orlando, will you STFU before Mrs. Lennard hears you?]
Therefore give me no comfort
[The line is really “give me no counsel”. The context is otherwise appropriate, since the speaker is Leonato (Hero’s father) in Much Ado about Nothing.]
Instead of the reproaches Orlando expected to hear
Orlando could not conceal the anguish of his heart
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.