On their arrival, however, at the house, Selina was agreeably surprised to find, from little Emma, who was reading in the room they shared above stairs, that she had never been inquired for; that the General had arrived just before, to tea, which was, on his account, ordered later than usual; and that Isabella, who had been below ever since dinner, with her father and mother, was now, she believed, alone with the General, to whom she was to give her answer.
The palpitating heart of Selina then became quieter: she took off her hat and cloak, adjusted her hair, and prepared for the summons she expected to have to make the tea. Orlando, a moment afterwards, glided up to them; he said there had been no inquiries for Selina, and all was right.—I went, said he, as is my general custom when I come home, into my father’s study, but I found nobody; and, from what I can gather from the servants, this important answer has been given, and our old brother is with his papa and mamma, and with his future bride; they are all settling the ceremony together.
How can you laugh, Orlando, said Selina, at any thing so serious?
Nay, replied he, assuming a levity he was far from feeling, you would not have me cry, Selina! If Isabella is happy in this match, surely her family have reason to be glad of it; but one cannot help thinking of January and May! Selina had read but little, and knew not to what he alluded; nor had she time to reply, for at that moment Mrs. Somerive looked in upon them; she smiled, as it seemed, through tears—Orlando, said she, I am glad you are 17 returned—Why did you leave us so abruptly after dinner? But come, my children, we wait for you below.—And are we to find there a new relation, Madam? said Orlando. Is the General to compose hereafter a part of our family?—Your sister has decided that it shall be so, replied Mrs. Somerive, stifling a sigh; and you, Orlando, will be pleased to see how much pleasure this alliance (notwithstanding there is certainly a too great disparity of years) gives to your dear father. The difference of age is indeed the only objection: in every other respect General Tracy is a match infinitely superior to what any of my daughters could have pretensions to. Mrs. Somerive then led the way down stairs, and her children followed her.
During supper the General assumed, as well as he could, the triumphant air of a young successful lover. Isabella was silent, and affected resignation to the will of her parents; while her father looked at her with eyes in which doubt and concern were mingled with hope and satisfaction. It seemed as if he at once rejoiced in having his daughter so well established, and yet feared that to the dazzling advantages of rank and fortune she might sacrifice her happiness. None of the party seemed much disposed for conversation; and as the General and Orlando were to depart early the next morning, they separated sooner than usual: Mrs. Somerive in better spirits than she would have been, if the General had not assured her that he would himself bring Orlando down with him, when he returned to claim the happiness of becoming allied to her, and might call himself the most fortunate of men.
Calmed by these promises, of which she saw nothing that should impede the execution, she beheld her son depart on the following morning, without any of those paroxysms of grief which Orlando 18 had so much dreaded, and which he was so ill able to bear. Before the travellers got into the chaise, in which they were to go post to London, the General demanded an audience of his future bride; and Orlando was at the same time closeted by his father, who enjoined him to preserve his morals, to attend to the cultivation of that good opinion with which the General honoured him (points which a little experience proved to be incompatible), and lastly, to make inquiry after his brother, and if he could find him, to endeavour by every possible means to persuade him to return home.
Orlando promised to obey all these injunctions, to the utmost of his power; and glad to escape hearing any other charges, which he might have found it impossible to obey, he received the summons now sent him to attend the General with pleasure; for nothing is more painful than the sensations which arise at the moment of separation from such friends, even though the absence be but transient. The General had paid his compliments all round, and Orlando now embraced his family with tears in his eyes. His father wrung his hand, and once more gave him his blessing.—His mother could not utter the last adieu! but went back into the parlour with her daughters; while Orlando, seated by his military patron, left his paternal mansion as fast as four post-horses could carry him.
He was not disposed to talk; but as the distance increased between him and Monimia—between him and his family, all he held dear in the world! the depression of his spirits increased also; while his companion, as he approached the scene of his former habits, and thought of the raillery he should encounter upon his new system of reformation, became more silent and contemplative: the clamours of his mistresses, of whom he had now three upon 19 his hands, and the ridicule of his friends, arose to his imagination in a very formidable light: but then the beauty, youth, and vivacity of Isabella Somerive seemed excuses for a much greater folly than he was about to commit. He recollected many of his acquaintance, whom he was willing to suppose much older than himself, who had married young women without half her attractions. He fancied, that he was weary of the dissipated life he had hitherto led; that as he would soon be no longer a young man, but be declining towards middle age, it was time to have somebody who should be truly attached to him; while his being married did not at all preclude him from gallantries, which he saw every body else pursue whether they were married or not. The greatest inconvenience he foresaw, was what arose from the precipitate affection he had shewn towards his nephew, Captain Warwick, the orphan son of his sister, whom he had taught to consider himself as heir to his fortune, who would be much mortified at the disappointment. However, he reconciled himself to this objection, by reflecting that it would be very hard indeed if his kindness to his nephew should prevent his gratifying himself; and by resolving to make young Warwick an immediate present of a thousand pounds, and to settle a very handsome income upon him after his death, that he might not be quite thrown out of those expectations to which he had been brought up, when the General should have a family of his own.
Nothing was farther from the General’s intentions than to marry Isabella Somerive, even when he had first changed his battery, and pretended to her honourable love; but he found so little prospect of succeeding with her, even if all was to happen in her family as he had foreseen, and he felt it so impossible 20 to live without her, that what he had begun with the most insidious designs, concluded at last in an honest, though an absurd one: and having once taken the resolution to commit matrimony, he endeavoured to reason himself out of every objection that pride, libertinism, or the fear of ridicule, continually raised against it. Isabella, whose heart was perfectly free from every impression in favour of any other man, had so behaved as to make the enamoured General believe, that only her charming reserve, owing to her rustic education, prevented her avowing her attachment to his person; though, on a thousand occasions previous to his serious declaration, she had placed his vanity and affectation of youth in the most ridiculous point of view, and had shewn him that she did not care a straw for him.
But such power has vanity in obscuring the best understandings, that her ancient lover really supposed he could inspire her with sincere affection for him. Still, however, he felt an awkward kind of sensation when he thought of the numberless gay young men with whom his blooming Isabella would be surrounded when she was his wife. Above all, he reflected with disquiet on his nephew, who was reckoned one of the handsomest men of the times—he was three-and-twenty; and the General felt no satisfaction in being called uncle—Uncle! it sounded so antique. Warwick, indeed, was never admitted to live with him; and he now repented that he had procured leave for him to come home from America, in consequence of a wound he received there, and heartily wished him back again; but his return thither was not, according to the General’s own account, very likely to happen. If the presence of Warwick at his own house in Grosvenor Place was not agreeable to him, 21 that of Orlando was as little so; and though not for quite the same reason, for another very similar. Before the last conquest made by Isabella Somerive over the susceptible heart of General Tracy, at least a third of it had been possessed by a young woman, whom he had purchased of her mother, and whose assumed virtue and great attractions had induced him to admit her into his house, where she had reigned ever since very despotically. As he had not yet settled whether he should part with her or not, or acquired courage to tell her his intentions, she must, till he could make up his mind on this point, remain where she was; and, whatever might be his future resolution, he did not greatly like that the handsome young Orlando should be introduced to her acquaintance. As he could not give this reason to Mr. Somerive for not asking Orlando to take up his abode in his house, he had sedulously avoided mentioning it at all. Orlando had never thought about it; but occupied solely by what he had left, he considered not a matter so inconsequential as whither he was to go when he got to town. Tracy had once or twice led the conversation to topics which he thought would engage Orlando to say what he intended in this respect; but Orlando took no notice of it, till, at length, just as they crossed Fulham Bridge, Tracy said, Mr. Somerive, shall my chaise and horses put you down in London?—You know I stop on this side the turn-pike, at Hyde-Park Corner; but the chaise shall go with you wherever you please.
I am much obliged to you, Sir, answered Orlando, who never till that moment recollected that the General had not invited him to his house—but there is no sort of occasion to take your carriage.—I shall go, added he, this evening to Mr. Woodford’s.22
That was a plan that the General did not quite approve of; he knew that, if his intended marriage was once known at that house, it would be instantly spread among his friends by means of the communication Woodford had with many of their families, which was a circumstance he was not yet prepared for. The ambition of Woodford himself, and the malice and disappointment of the two young ladies, would busy them all in circulating the report; and the General, in love as he was, and determined to marry, had not yet prepared himself to stand the ironical congratulations of his male or female friends, but particularly the latter, on his resolution of uniting himself in holy matrimony to the niece of his wine-merchant. These thoughts made Orlando’s intentions of going to Woodford’s, which however he might easily have foreseen, very unpleasing to him; and he remained silent some time, considering how he might guard against the inconveniencies he apprehended.
His reasons for not giving him an apartment in his own house kept their ground; but he would very fain have prevented his going to Woodford’s, at least till he had himself taken some means to parry the first burst of the ridicule he so much dreaded. He could not take one very obvious means to prevent the circulation of the news of his intended marriage; by requesting Orlando not to speak of it; for he had often remarked that he was quick-spirited, not without a considerable share of pride, and affectionate solicitude for the honour of his sisters: to affect, therefore, making a secret in London of what he had so openly avowed in the country, could hardly fail of awakening the high-spirited Orlando to some degree of resentment, if not of doubt in regard to the reality of his intentions. After a long debate on the subject, the General at last recollected 23 that it was impossible to suppose Somerive himself would not write to a brother-in-law, whom he was so much accustomed to consult, on a subject so interesting and important; and that, therefore, any precautions he might take in regard to Orlando would be useless. It is true that his being by his intended marriage allied to his own wine-merchant, had before given him many severe qualms, which a glance from the arch and bright eyes of Isabella had at once dissipated: but now, as he approached his town-house and saw those bright eyes no longer, these fits of half repentance, originating in pride and prejudice, recurred with more force; and when he arrived at his own door, he started from one of the reveries thus brought on, and again said to Orlando, Shall my servants get you an hackney-coach?
There was something in the abrupt manner of asking this, which suddenly convinced Orlando that the General had no inclination to ask him into his house. Piqued by this observation, he answered coldly, that there was no occasion to trouble his servants, for that he should walk to the house of his uncle, and would send a porter for the small portmanteau he had in the chaise.—By this time the General’s valet de chambre had opened the chaise-door, and Orlando, who was on that side, got out. He stopped; and the General, as he followed him, asked, in a low voice, some question of one of the footmen who had been left in town, and who came to the chaise-door also: to which question the man answered aloud, No, Sir, she is gone out. The General, turning to Orlando, who was coolly wishing him a good evening, said—You will certainly do me the favour to walk in.
Orlando by this time comprehending that there was some lady usually resident with him who was not to be seen, and that he was only asked in because 24 she was at this time absent, answered, that he would not then intrude upon him:—but as I shall want the advantage of your instructions, Sir, said he, on many things of which I am totally ignorant, I shall be obliged to you to tell me where I am to receive your orders.
There was a coldness, and indeed a haughtiness, in the manner of Orlando’s saying this, that convinced the General he saw and was offended by the evident design he had himself formed of evading to give him an invitation. More disconcerted than he had almost ever felt in his life, he had again pressed him to go into the house, which Orlando again refused; and then saying he hoped to hear from him at Mr. Woodford’s, when and where he might attend him for the purpose of receiving those instructions relative to his future proceedings which he had promised his father to give him, he again wished him a good evening, and walked away.
Orlando had never been in London but once when he was about sixteen, and had then only attended his mother on a visit for about a week in the spring, which she had passed with her brother. He remembered that he never was so happy as when they left it, and, on a fine evening of May, returned from the smoke of the Strand, in one of the streets of which Mr. Woodford lived, to his dear native county, where only there seemed to be any happiness for him. Since that time he had never felt a wish to revisit London; and in a melancholy mood he now proceeded along the streets, recollecting little more than his way from Piccadilly to the Strand. Every object wore a very different appearance from what they did when he saw them before. It was now a dreary, foggy evening in December, and just at the hour when the inhabitants of the part of the town he was in were at their desserts, so that 25 hardly any carriages but a few straggling hackney-coaches and drays were rumbling over the pavement. As he approached Charing-Cross the bustle became more; and the farther he advanced, the throng of coaches coming out of the city, and going towards the play-house from other parts of the town, deafened him with noise: but it was a mournful reflection, that, among all the human beings he saw around him, there was not one interested for him. While the dirt through which he waded, and the thickness of the air, filled him with disgust, his mind went back to the dear group at home: he saw them all assembled round the fire in the little parlour—his father trying to dissipate with a book the various anxieties that assailed him for his children, now and then communicating some remarkable occurrence to his wife as she sat at her work-table:—he saw Isabella employed in making some little smart article of dress, and fancying how well she should look in it—and Selina, while she and Emma were assisting his mother in completing some linen for him, more attentive to her father’s reading, often asking questions and soliciting information.
But when he had finished this picture, his fancy, with more pain and more pleasure, fled to the lovely figure of his Monimia in her solitary turret, sighing over the tender recollection of those hours which would never perhaps return, sometimes wishing she had never known them, but oftener regretting that they were now at an end.—He saw her stepping cautiously into the library, whenever she could find it open, to take or to replace some book which they had read together—she shed tears as she read over the well-known passages he had particularly pointed out to her—she dwelt on the pages where he had with a pencil marked some peculiar beauty in the 26 poetry. He fancied he saw her take out the lock of his hair which he had given her in a little crystal locket, press it to her lips, and then imagining she heard the footsteps of her aunt, return it hastily into her bosom, and place it near her heart. A thousand tender images crowded on his mind; he quite forgot whither he was going, and was roused from this absent state of mind only by finding himself at Temple-Bar. Recalled then from the indulgence of his visionary happiness to the realities around him, he recollected that he had passed the street where his uncle lived: with some inquiries, however, he found his way back; and, on arriving at the house, he heard that Mr. Woodford was out, having dined in the city; and that his wife and her daughters were gone to the play with a party of friends who were to sup with them. He was told however, by the maid-servant who let him in, that he was expected, and that a bed had been prepared for him by direction of her master, who had received notice of his intended arrival by a letter from the country the day before. Orlando could not help remarking to himself, that he was likely to have but a cool reception in an house, the inhabitants of which could not one of them stay at home to receive him; but he was new to the world, and his heart open to all the generous sympathies of humanity. He thought that relations loved one another as well in London as in the country; but he soon saw enough of these to make him resign, with perfect composure, a too strict adherence to old-fashioned claims of kindred.
as fast as four post-horses could carry him
[When the General first arrived at the Somerives’, several months ago, the author made a point of telling us that he preferred to travel with his own horses.]
I shall go . . . to Mr. Woodford’s.
[If your memory is as short as mine: Mr. Woodford is Mrs. Somerive’s brother, who was going to take Orlando into business if Mrs. Rayland had not put her foot down.]
the Strand, in one of the streets of which Mr. Woodford lived
[Does London consist entirely of Strand? At time of preparation, I had only just finished Our House and London Out of Our Windows.]
He fancied he saw her take out the lock of his hair which he had given her in a little crystal locket
[Our author belatedly realizes that Orlando ought to have given Monimia a lock of his hair, and retcons accordingly.]
Sufficiently punished by the alarm he had been in, Orlando no longer ventured
A moment’s reflection recalled the confused and dissipated thoughts of Orlando
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.