Early on the following morning Orlando left Winchester; but it was between three and four o’clock before he arrived at that part of the New Forest which is near Christchurch, and the frost, now set in with great severity, had made the roads very difficult for a horse, especially the way which he was directed to pursue, through the forest to the residence of Mrs. Fleming.—It was a deep, hollow road, only wide enough for waggons, and was in some places shaded by hazle and other brush-wood; in 258 others, by old beech and oaks, whose roots wreathed about the bank, intermingled with ivy, holly, and ever-green fern, almost the only plants that appeared in a state of vegetation, unless the pale and sallow misletoe, which here and there partially tinted with faint green the old trees above them.
Orlando, as slowly he picked his way over the rugged road, whose poached surface, now hardened by the frost, hardly allowed a footing to his horse, recollected the hunting parties in the snow, which had amused him in America; but the scene on each side of him was very different. The scanty appearance of foliage was quite unlike an American forest, where, in only a few hours after the severest weather, which had buried the whole country in snow, burst into bloom, and presented, beneath the tulip tree and the magnolia, a more brilliant variety of flowers than art can collect in the most cultivated European garden. Orlando, however, loved England, and had early imbibed that fortunate prejudice, that it is in England only an Englishman can be happy; yet he now thought, that were he once sure Monimia was lost to him (and his fears of finding it so became every hour more alarming) he should be more wretched in his own country than in any other, since every object would remind him of their cruel separation. In this disposition, trying to accustom himself to reflect on a circumstance which now distracted him, he made a sort of determination, that if all his endeavours to find Monimia were baffled, as they had hitherto been, he would remain only to see the termination of the suit relative to the Rayland estate, in hopes of leaving his mother, brother, and sisters, in a more fortunate situation; and reserving for himself only, as much as would support him in the itinerant life he should embrace, to wander alone over Europe 259 and America. While he pursued these contemplations, the way became almost impassable; for a small current of water filtering through the rocky bank, had spread itself over the road, and formed a sheet of ice, on which his horse was every moment in danger of falling, though the precaution had been taken to turn the shoes.—He had before dismounted, and now contrived to get his horse up the least steep part of the hollow, and then, still leading it by the bridle, he followed the foot-path which led along its edge.
The tufts of trees and thick underwood now became more frequent; and though it was a fine clear evening, the winter sun, almost sunk beneath the horizon, lent only pale and cold rays among the intervening wood.—Orlando supposing, that if he were benighted, he should no longer distinguish the path, quickened his pace; and the path he followed, diverging a little from the horse road, brought him to a place where the inequalities of the ground, half shaded with brush-wood, shewed that beneath it were concealed more considerable fragments of ruins, than what appeared above among the trees, from whence the masses of stone were so mantled with ivy, they could hardly be distinguished. The path which Orlando continued to pursue, wound among them, and led under broken arches and buttresses, which had resisted the attacks of time and of violence, towards an old gateway, whose form was yet entire.
Every thing was perfectly still around; even the robin, solitary songster of the frozen woods, had ceased his faint vespers to the setting sun, and hardly a breath of air agitated the leafless branches. This dead silence was interrupted by no sound, but the slow progress of his horse, as the hollow ground beneath his feet sounded as if he trod on 260 vaults. There was in the scene, and in this dull pause of nature, a solemnity not unpleasing to Orlando, in his present disposition of mind.—Certain that the path he was pursuing must lead to some village or farm-house, and little apprehensive of the inconvenience that could in this country befal a man accustomed to traverse the deserts of America, he stopped a moment or two indulging a mournful reverie, before he began to remove, in order to make a passage for his horse, a kind of bar, or rather broken gate, which, with thorns, and a faggot or two piled under it, passed from one side to the other of the broken arch, and made here, with an hedge that was carried among the ruins, a division of the forest, or perhaps one of its boundaries.
As he meditated here, he heard, not far from him, human voices, which seemed to be those of children; and, leaning over the bar, to see if he could discern the persons who spoke, he observed a female figure seated on a mass of fallen stone, and apparently waiting for two girls, one about nine, the other seven years old, who were prattling together, as they peeped about in search of something among the fern-stacks and low tufts of broom that were near. The woman, whose face was turned towards them, seemed lost in thought—Her straw bonnet was tied down close to her face, and she was wrapped in a long black cloak; a little basket stood by her, and her appearance, as well as that of the children, was such as seemed to denote, that though they were not of the peasantry of the country, they were as little to be ranked among its most affluent inhabitants.
Orlando, apprehending that the approach of a stranger, in such a place, and at such a time, might alarm so defenceless a party, proceeded with as 261 little noise as possible to unfasten the bar; but, on his approach, the young woman arose, and in apparent hurry said, Come, my loves! you forget how late it is, and that your mamma will expect us.
The voice rivetted Orlando to the spot for a moment; he then involuntarily stepped forward, and saw—Monimia!
He repeated her name wildly, as if he doubted whether he possessed his senses; and as he clasped her to his bosom, and found it was indeed his own Monimia, she was unable, from excess of pleasure and surprise, to answer the incoherent questions he asked her. Half frantic with joy as he was, he soon perceived that the suddenness of this meeting had almost overwhelmed her. Silent, breathless, and trembling, she leaned on his arm, without having the power to tell him, what he at length understood from the two little girls, who had been at first frightened, and then amazed at the scene—That Monimia, or, as they called her, Miss Morysine, was now, and had been for some time, under the protection of that very Mrs. Fleming, the widow of his gallant friend, whom he was now going to visit. Neither of them knew how they arrived at her humble retirement, a cottage among the woods fitted up and enlarged with two additional rooms by a sea officer, the distant relation of Fleming, who was now in America, and who had lent this pleasant, solitary house as a shelter to his widow and her children.—Nor was it for some time possible for Orlando properly to explain to Mrs. Fleming who he was, or how different those motives were, which induced him now to see her, from any hope of finding, in the pious office of visiting the family of his deceased friend, the sole happiness of his life.262
When at length, amid this disjointed and broken conversation, Mrs. Fleming was brought not only to recollect the young man, who, on her husband’s embarkation for America, had taken so much pains to be useful to him, in the trying moment of separation from his family, but to acknowledge him who had actually received his last breath, and now brought her his dying blessing; her own afflictions, to a lively sense of which Orlando’s account of Fleming’s death had awakened her, prevented her, for some time, from attending to the unexpected happiness of her young friends. Unable to hear, with composure, the account which Orlando held himself bound to give, yet solicitously asking questions, the answers to which made her heart bleed afresh, Mrs. Fleming at length requested leave to retire: and taking her children with her, Monimia was left at liberty to give to the impatient Orlando the account he so eagerly desired to hear, of what had happened to her since the date of the only letter he had ever received from her, which was written not more than six weeks after his departure.—She doubted of her own strength to give, and of his patience to hear this recital: but he appeared so very solicitous, that she determined to attempt it; and while his eyes were ardently fixed on her face, and watched every turn of her expressive features, which, though she was pale and thin, Orlando thought more lovely than ever, she thus in a soft and low voice began:
As well as I can recollect, Orlando, I related to you, in my long letter, the troublesome and impertinent intrusion of Sir John Belgrave; and Selina has told you since, that, as he carried his persecutions so far as to come into the house, and endeavour to force his way into my room, I was under the necessity of telling my aunt how he found admittance, 263 and of betraying a secret I had so many reasons to wish might never have been discovered.—Alas! Orlando, how much did I not suffer from the bitterness of her reproaches! sufferings which were sharpened by my being compelled to acknowledge, that I had in some measure deserved them, by having carried on a correspondence contrary to what I knew was my duty.—Indeed the punishment I now underwent, from day to day, seemed sometimes much heavier than the crime deserved; especially when my aunt, to whom my moving was inconvenient (though certainly, in that great house, there was room enough for me without interfering with her), began to make the discovery, I had thus been compelled to make, an everlasting theme of reproach to me: to say, that such a cunning, intriguing creature was not fit to be in any house, and to threaten me continually to ruin you, Orlando, with Mrs. Rayland, by blowing us up, as she was pleased to term it. All this I bore, however hard it was to bear, with silence, and, I hope, with patience, flattering myself, my dear friend! that the anger we had perhaps mutually deserved would thus be exhausted on me, and that I alone should be the victim, if a victim were required: yet, when my cruel aunt, unmoved by my resignation and submission, seemed so desirous of getting rid of me, that I believe she would have been glad to have sold me to Sir John Belgrave; and when she insisted upon my consenting to marry him, though I do not believe he ever intended it, and only made that a pretence for getting me into his power; I own there were moments, when in absolute despair, I thought it would hardly have been criminal to have put an end to a life so very insupportable; nor could I, I think, have lived, if some of those books you taught me to read, and to understand, had 264 not instructed me, that it was impious to murmur or resist the dispensations of Providence, who knew best what we were able to bear.—Perhaps too, the hope, the dear hope of living in your affection, and of being beloved by you, however hard my lot, lent me a portion of fortitude, for which, surely, nobody ever had more occasion: for in proportion, Orlando, as Mrs. Lennard became attached to that odious Roker, the little affection she had ever shewn me declined, and was changed into dislike and hatred.—She was sometimes so much off her guard, as to suffer her excessive and ridiculous attachment to him to diminish her attention to her mistress, and on these occasions, I used to supply her place;—yet then, if Mrs. Rayland seemed pleased with my attendance, she would quarrel with me for attending, and say, that she supposed the next thing such an artful slut would think of, would be to supplant her with her lady; and then again she would threaten to blow you up.
Indeed, I believe, that no situation could be less enviable than that of my poor aunt was at this time; for though certainly, at her age, one would have thought she might have been exempt from suffering much pain from love, she did really appear so tormented by her excessive passion for Roker, and her fears of losing him, that she was an object of pity.—If I was below with her lady, while she was with him, then she was afraid of my getting into favour with Mrs. Rayland; and if I was above, and he was in the house, she was in terror lest so intriguing a creature should carry off her lover. When I so firmly resisted all the insidious offers of Sir John Belgrave, she doubted whether this delectable Mr. Roker was not the cause of it; and even when he happened to come into the room where 265 I was, though she was present, she turned pale with jealousy, and, I suppose, tormented the man who, though one of the most horrid-tempered monsters existing, commanded himself so much, that he bore it all with an apparent increase of affection; and pretending, in his turn, to be jealous, said, that he could not bear to divide her affections even with me.
I saw that they were determined to get rid of me, but could not immediately settle how; for though Roker, from time to time, started some plan for that purpose, the lady, always suspecting that he liked me, was fearful lest he should only divide me from her, to secure me to himself.
Execrable villain! cried Orlando starting up—he dared not think of it.
Be patient, Orlando, or I shall never have courage to go on. I know not what was in his imagination, though certainly he took every opportunity of making very improper speeches to me; but detestable as I believe his morals are, his avarice is greater than any other of his odious passions; and this he found he might gratify, when the success of any other was uncertain; and therefore he affected to be as anxious as my aunt was, to remove me from Rayland Hall.
Ah, my dear friend, what an autumn was that I passed there! yet my fate, dreary as it appeared to me, was not then at the worst; I had still some sweeteners of my melancholy existence; for I sometimes met Selina, and wept with her; and sometimes, when I was convinced Sir John Belgrave no longer lingered about the park (where for many weeks I could never go without being insulted by him,) I used to get out alone; and stealing away to some of those places we used to visit together, I would lean my head against a tree, or hide my face 266 with my hands, and listening, with closed eyes, to the sounds that were then familiar to us, used to fancy I heard your footsteps among the leaves, or your voice whispering in the air that sighed among the trees. Once, at the old seat on the Hurst hill, I saw your name, so lately cut as the very day before you went away; and could I have wept on the letters, I believe the tears I afterwards shed there would have worn them out.—I took a fancy to the place, which nobody else ever thought of frequenting; and often as autumn came on, and the days grew short, I staid till I was frightened at being out so late, and have run home terrified at every noise.—If a pheasant flew up, or an hare darted across the path, they threw me into such terrors, that I could hardly reach the house. On these occasions, all was well if my aunt’s Adonis was with her; but if it happened that he was out when I was, she took it into her head that we were together, or that we might meet, and then she was, I really believe, out of her senses. Very unluckily for me, I came in one evening later than usual, breathless with my foolish fears, and found my poor aunt in terrible agitation, because Mr. Roker had promised her to be in at tea-time, and he was not yet arrived.—She questioned me sharply where I had been; and I said in the mill wood, which was the truth; for I had that met Selina. She asked me, with still more asperity, if I had not met somebody? The consciousness that I had, made me blush, I believe, very deeply, and I faltered as I said No! In a moment Roker came in, half drunk, and the poor old lady flew at him like a turkey-cock, and him which way he came? As he was less upon his good-behaviour than usual, he said, Came! why I came by the mill; which way should I come from the place where I have been? This confirmed, she 267 thrust me out of the room, and ordering me to go up stairs to bed that moment, she threw herself into a fit, as Rebecca told me afterwards. I do not know how Mr. Roker contrived to appease her—she was reconciled to him the next day; but I was the victim, and was, after that time, forbidden to go out without her leave. This, hard as it was, I could still have borne, because it was just at that time Mrs. Rayland seemed to grow particularly kind to me; and to have even a degree of pleasure in talking to me of you. It was now time to expect to hear from you, and I observed her anxiety every day increase.—She often sighed when she spoke of you; and once said, that her house seemed to have lost all its cheerfulness since you had left it;—and often she would look at an old enamelled picture of Sir Orlando, her grandfather, and, comparing his features with yours, admire the likeness—then, again, regret your absence, and sink into low spirits. Indeed her health seemed every day to decline: and I sometimes thought she was discontented with Mrs. Lennard, though from long habit she was more entirely governed by her than ever. Pattenson’s having dealt so largely in smuggled goods, and having even made her house a receptacle for them, was discovered by his not being able or willing to bribe a new officer who succeeded some of his old friends, and who, upon that Jonas Wilkins’s turning informer, came one night to the Hall, and made a seizure of about two hundred pounds worth of spirits, tea, and lace: a thing that offended Mrs. Rayland extremely, as she thought it derogatory to her dignity, and a profanation of her cellars, which, as we know, (and Monimia faintly smiled) are immediately adjoining to the family vault of the Raylands. This, and other things, particularly some of his amours, which now came to her knowledge, had occasioned 268 her to dismiss Pattenson, and to think higher of you for the pains Pattenson had taken to prejudice her against you: but the dismission, and soon afterwards the death of Pattenson, and the disgrace of the old coachman, who was a party concerned in this contraband business (and who had besides displeased Mrs. Rayland by setting up a whisky, and dressing his daughters in the most expensive fashion), threw the old lady more than ever into the power of my aunt; though, how she escaped being included in the charge, I never could imagine: I know she was acquainted with, and I believe she was concerned in the clandestine trade which had for so many years been carried on at Rayland Hall; but probably Pattenson dared not impeach her, lest, though he might ruin her, he should at the same time provoke her to discover some things in his life which would have effectually cut him off from that portion of favour he still possessed with Mrs. Rayland; who, angry as she was with him, stocked the farm he retired to, furnished his house, and continued to him almost every advantage he enjoyed at the Hall, except the opportunity of making it a receptacle for smuggled goods.
However that was, my aunt certainly continued to have great influence over Mrs. Rayland, though I often thought it was more through habit than love; and I am persuaded that if she had not always guarded against the inclination which Mrs. Rayland at times betrayed to take your mother and sisters into favour, they would by degrees have acquired that ascendancy over her from their own merit, which Mrs. Lennard had now only from habit—But my aunt was too cunning to give them an opportunity: and that, I believe, was partly the reason why she was so afraid of my being taken into Mrs. Rayland’s kindness, since nothing was more natural than 269 for me to speak in their favour. She need not, however, have dreaded this; for, however willing or anxious I might be, my awe of Mrs. Rayland was too great for me to aspire to the character of her confident: and she looked upon me as a mere child.—Probably our ages differed too much to allow any great sympathy between us—and I could give her no other pleasure than by attending to the stories she used to love to repeat, of the days of her youth.—But Mrs. Lennard, though by no means desirous of being herself the auditor, and never easy but when she could remain unmolested with her dear Mr. Roker, was still jealous lest her lady should feel any degree of kindness for me; and, I believe, by imputing to me faults which Mrs. Rayland took her word for, contrived gradually to get her consent to my going apprentice, under the idea of my being enabled to get my own bread honestly in business; while she obviated the inconvenience of my departure by introducing a new servant to be about her lady, who was entirely devoted to her own interest—and kept away the old cook as much as she could, whom Mrs. Rayland never would part with, but whom my aunt feared and disliked, because she was an honest blunt creature, who never feared speaking her mind, and was particularly a friend of yours, as you may, I am sure, recollect. Latterly she became more than usually disagreeable to my aunt and Roker, because she used to rejoice in the thought that her dear young captain would one day or other be master of the Hall; and when Lennard angrily asked her how she dared talk of any one’s being master of the Hall while her lady lived? she replied, that she dared talk so, because Madam herself had told her so.
And where, my Monimia, is this good old friend of mine now? said Orlando—Her evidence may be 270 of great importance to us.—Alas! replied she, I know not: I only heard from your sister, that Dr. Hollybourn, who acted as executor to the only will that was produced, immediately discharged all the servants, giving to each of them a present above the two years’ wages which Mrs. Rayland had in that will given to each of the inferior ones; and, with many good words, got as many as he could of them into other services, at a distance from the country—But I recollect that the cook had relations in the neighbourhood of the Hall, of whom, I dare say, intelligence about her may be procured.
Ah, dear Orlando! if the account I have already given you of my unhappy life after your departure has affected you, what will you feel when I relate what passed afterwards, to which all my preceding sufferings were nothing!—It is true that, as I lay listening of a night to the howling of the wind in the great melancholy room at the end of the north gallery, where I was locked up every night, I have frequently started at the visions my fancy raised; and as the dark green damask hangings swelled with the air behind them, I have been so much terrified as to be unable to move or to summon to my recollection all the arguments you were wont to use against superstitious fear—Then too I have been glad even to hear the rats as they raced round the skirting boards, because it convinced me there were some living creatures near me, and helped me to account for the strange noises I sometimes heard. As winter came on, my misery in this great room became worse and worse; and such was my terror, that I could hardly ever sleep—I once contrived to get candles, and set up a light in my room; but this only served to shew me the great grim picture over the chimney, of one of the Rayland family in armour, with a sword in his hand: and I was 271 indeed, besides this, effectually cured of wishing for a light on the second night I tried it—for a party of my friendly rats, perceiving the candle, which was to them a delicate treat, took it very composedly out of the socket, and began to eat the end of it which was not alight.—This compelled me to leave my bed to put it out, and them to flight; while the terror I suffered was only increased by this attempt to mitigate it.—Good God! how weak I was to add imaginary horrors to the real calamities of my situation; rather than try to acquire strength of mind to bear the evils from which I could not escape!
It was at this time that Sir John Belgrave, who, on finding his insulting proposals treated with the contempt they deserved, had left the country for some time, returned thither; and as Jacob, his confident, could no longer find means to put his letters in my way, or to harass and alarm me by coming to the door of the turret, he changed his plan, and pretended that his views were highly honourable. In a letter to my aunt he entreated her interest with me, and that she would prevail upon me to see him: and then it was, Orlando, that my sufferings were almost beyond the power of endurance.
What! exclaimed Orlando, was the infamous woman base enough then to betray you to this villain?
Have patience, I entreat you, Orlando!—She betrayed me then, so far as to insist upon my seeing Sir John, and hearing what I had to say.
Eternal curses blast them both! exclaimed Orlando:—but I terrify you, my angel!
You do, indeed, answered Monimia; and I shall never, Orlando, conclude my mournful narrative, if you will not be more calm.272
I will, replied he; at least I will try at it—Pray go on.
I resisted this proposal of seeing Sir John Belgrave for many days; till my aunt, enraged at what she called my stupid idiotism, declared to me that, if I persisted to behave so senselessly, she would relate to Mrs. Rayland all my clandestine meetings with you, and then turn me out of the house to take my own courses.—I would willingly have left the house, and, rather than have undergone one day longer the misery I hourly experienced, I would have begged my way to you in America (Orlando sighed and shuddered); but when my cruel aunt threatened to take such means as I knew would ruin you, and blast all those hopes on which alone I lived, of seeing you return to happiness and independence, I own I could not bear to hazard it, and at length consented to see this detested suitor—not without some hope that my peremptory refusal repeated (for I had already given it him in writing) might put an end to all his hateful pretensions. A day therefore was fixed: but Sir John, either repenting that he had gone so far, or from some caprice, wrote to my aunt to say he was that day sent for express to London, to attend a dying relation from whom he expected a great acquisition of fortune. This might be true—I cared not whether it was or no, but blessed the fortunate relief from persecution. In the interim your father, who was taken ill some time before, died.—Oh! how much did I see Selina suffer during his illness—how much did I suffer myself! and all was aggravated to an indescribable degree of wretchedness, by our believing that you, Orlando, were lost in your passage to America!—If I thought my former condition insupportable, what was the increase of my sorrows now, when torn from the last consolation I had left, 273 that of weeping sometimes with Selina!—My aunt, almost as soon as Sir John Belgrave had left the country, informed me that she had found a person at Winchester willing to take me for a small premium, and that I was to go the following Thursday.—I never knew how all this was settled; but very certain it is, that it was arranged between her, her lover Mr. Roker, and Sir John Belgrave. She was impatient to have me gone; and sent the old cook, to take care of me, as far as Havant, where Mrs. Newill, to whom I was consigned, met me, and conducted me to a little miserable apartment, which, with a small bow-windowed shop, she inhabited at Winchester, and where she was to teach me a business which I soon found she did not know herself.
Mrs. Newill was said to have been well brought up; but, if she were, her having long associated with people in very inferior life had considerably obliterated the traces of a good education; and the inconvenient circumstances to which she had been exposed, in consequence of having had a brutal and extravagant husband, seemed at once to have soured her temper, and relaxed her morals.—She had some remains of beauty, and was fonder of talking of its former power than I thought redounded much to her honour.—Her husband had possessed a place in the dock-yard at Portsmouth, from whence he had been dismissed for some heavy offences; and lived now upon the wide world; while his wife was, by the assistance of her friends, trying to get into business to support herself; their only son, a young man of twenty, was in the navy.—The greatest personal hardship I endured on this my change of abode, was sleeping in the same bed with Mrs. Newill, which I did for the first week; but fortunately for me, though it was probably 274 much otherwise to her, her husband, believing she had money, for he had heard of her having taken an apprentice, came suddenly to her house, or rather lodging, and I was dismissed to a little closet in a garret with a truckle bed: but it was paradise compared with my share of Mrs. Newill’s; for now I could weep at liberty, and pray for you!
The arrival of such a man as Mr. Newill did not much contribute to the prosperity of his wife’s business—Those who, from their former knowledge of her, were willing to promote her welfare, grew cold when they found their bounty served only to support her husband in drunkenness, and her distress became very great, of which I was a sharer; but I endeavoured to do all I could to continue her business, which was now almost entirely neglected.
This went on for six weeks, when a regiment came thither to assist in guarding the prisoners at the castle; and Sir John Belgrave suddenly made his appearance, protesting to me, that he knew nothing of my being there, and only came down on a visit to some of his friends in the newly arrived corps.
I did not believe this, and found every day more cause to suppose that Mrs. Newill’s necessities had driven her to the inhuman expedient of betraying me to him. Though I had often ridiculed the stories in novels where young women are forcibly carried away, I saw great reason to believe some such adventure might happen to me, for I was totally unprotected, and I believe absolutely sold.
Orlando, starting up, traversed the room; nor could, for some time, the soothing voice of Monimia restore him to sufficient composure to attend to her narrative.
At length his anxiety to know what he yet trembled 275 to hear obliged him to reassume his seat, and she thus proceeded:
Surely, Orlando, you do not suppose that any distress, any misery, could have induced me to listen to Sir John Belgrave, though, instead of the advantages he affected to offer me, he could have laid empires at my feet.—It is true that I now suffered every species of mortification, and even much personal inconvenience; but my heart felt only the horrid tidings I received from Selina. Mrs. Rayland’s death, and the total disappointment of your family’s hopes, were very melancholy; but when Perseus arrived, and your death, Orlando, was confirmed by the testimony of a man who had seen you fall, my wretchedness so much exceeded all that I believed it possible to bear, that I became stupefied and insensible to every thing else, and walked about without hearing or seeing the objects around me. I never slept, but with the aid of laudanum—I could not shed a tear, and my heart seemed to be turned to marble. I had nobody to hear my complaints, and therefore I did not complain; and the only circumstance that roused me from this state of mind, was the renewal of Sir John Belgrave’s visits, who after an absence of seven or eight days, returned with new proposals, and dared to triumph in the knowledge that his rival, as he insolently called you, was no longer in his way.
It was now, Orlando, that a new method was pursued. He contrived, what was not indeed very difficult, to gain over Mr. Newill to his interest.—I was now treated with great respect—A room was hired for me in the same house, and Mrs. Newill offered me credit for any clothes I chose to have. I, who was hardly conscious of my existence, who mechanically performed the business of the day, 276 and cared not whether I ever again saw the light of the sun, refused her offers, and desired nothing but that I might be protected from the affront of Sir John Belgrave’s visits. If I sat at work in the shop he was there:—if I quitted it he came into the work-room, under pretence of speaking to Mr. Newill. I found that Newill was a wretch who would have sacrificed a daughter of his own for a few guineas, with which to purchase his favourite indulgencies; and Sir John Belgrave scrupled not to say, that, since I had refused his honourable offers, he held it no dishonour to compel me, by any means, to exchange my present wretched dependence, for affluence and prosperity—that I could not now have the pretence of constancy to you, and that his excessive love for me would in time induce me to return it.—Such were the terms in which he pressed his suit, giving me at the same time to understand that I was in his power.
But, liberal as I have reason to believe he was to Mr. Newill, his debts were too numerous and extensive to be so settled; and, in consequence of one of these, to the amount of five hundred pounds, he was arrested in London, and sent for his wife to attend him in the King’s-Bench.
This the unhappy woman prepared to do in two or three days; and, in that time, made over the little stock for sale to one of her friends, who had advanced money for her.—But what was to become of me?—As she had no longer a business, she could have no occasion for an apprentice, and I could be only a burthen to her; but I soon found that it was her husband’s directions that she should take me with her, and I determined at all events not to go.
I now again wrote to my cruel aunt, who though she almost immediately after Mrs. Rayland’s death 277 settled within twelve miles of the town whither she had sent me, had never taken any other notice of me than to send me a small supply of clothes and two guineas, together with a verbal message, that the reason she had not answered any of my former, nor should answer any of my future letters, was, that she would not encourage in her perverseness a person so blind to her own interest, and that, till I knew how to behave to Sir John Belgrave I should find no friend in her. It was in vain I wrote to her, urging every plea that I thought might move her, and soliciting her pity and protection, as the only friend I had in the world. She either hardened her heart against me, or perhaps never got my letters. The business that detained Mrs. Newill at Winchester, could not be settled so expeditiously as she expected. In the mean time, what a situation was mine! I had nothing to hope but death, and death only could deliver me from the fear of evils infinitely more insupportable. Orlando, how earnestly did I pray to join you in heaven! how often did I invoke you to hear me! and casting towards the west my swollen eyes (for I was now able to weep in repeating your name,) how often have I addressed the setting sun, which, as it sunk away from our horizon, might illuminate, I thought, that spot in the wilderness of America where all my happiness was buried!
Orlando kissed away the tears that now fell on her lovely cheeks, and mingled his own with them; when Monimia, after a little time, recovered her voice, and went on—It was to indulge such meditations, the only comfort I had, that I stole out whenever I could be secure that my persecutor was with his military friends; and as I dared not go far, the church-yard on that side of the cathedral 278 where the soldiers did not parade, or sometimes the cathedral itself, were the only places where there was a chance of my not being molested; and there, if I could ever procure quiet for a quarter of an hour, the daws that inhabited the old buildings, and who were now making their nests (for it was early spring,) recalled to my mind, by the similarity of sounds, Rayland-Hall; and when I compared my present condition with even the most comfortless hours I passed there, I reproached myself for my former discontent, and envied all who were at peace beneath the monumental stones around me.—Later than usual one evening I returned from this mournful walk, and, making my way with some difficulty through the crowds who were assembling in the streets to celebrate some victory or advantage in America (and at the very name of America my heart sickened within me,) I was overtaken near the door of Mrs. Newill’s lodgings, by the person whom I most dreaded to meet—Sir John Belgrave, evidently in a state of intoxication, with three officers in the same situation, who insisted on seeing me home. I was within a few yards of the door, and hastened on to disengage myself from them; but they followed me, or rather Sir John Belgrave with one arm round my waist hurried me on, talking to me in a style of which I was too much terrified to know more than that it was most insulting and improper.
In this way, however, while I remonstrated, and trembled, and entreated in vain, I was forced into a little room behind the shop, where Mrs. Newill usually sat, where, instead of her, there sat by the side of a small fire (for the weather was yet cold) a young man in the naval uniform, who starting up on the abrupt entrance of such a party, stood amazed a moment at the language of Sir John Belgrave and 279 his friends, and then, fiercely demanding what business they had in that house, ordered them to leave it; and, taking my hand, he said—I am ashamed, gentlemen, of your treatment of this young woman—Don’t be alarmed, miss—I will protect you.
I most willingly put myself into the protection he offered, when Belgrave, enraged at being thus addressed by a person whom he considered as so much his inferior, uttered a great oath, and said—And, pray, fellow, who are you? and what the devil have you to do with this girl?—Master of my mother’s apartment, (replied the young sailor, who I now understood was Mrs. Newill’s son)—and an Englishman! As the first, I shall prevent any ruffian’s insulting a woman here; as the second, I shall defend her from insult any where.—You be d—d! cried Belgrave; you impudent puppy, do you think that black stock makes you on a footing with a gentleman?—Belgrave’s companions had by this time wisely retired; for, as I was not their pursuit, they saw no occasion to incur the danger of a quarrel in it. The only answer the stranger gave to this additional insolence of Belgrave was a violent blow which drove the aggressor against the side of the wainscot, that in so narrow a room prevented his falling; and then young Newill seizing him by the collar, with a sudden jerk threw him out of the room, and shut the door. The noise all this made brought Mrs. Newill down stairs, who demanded of her son what was the matter? He answered, that some brutal officers, very drunk, had insulted a young lady who had taken shelter in that room, and whom he had rescued from their impertinence by turning them out of it. His mother, in additional consternation, then turned to me, What! said she, it was you, miss, was it? And I suppose the gentleman 280 was Sir John Belgrave—Fine doings! And so, William, this is the way you affront my friends?
I care not whose friends I affront, replied he: if they behave like brutes to a woman, I would affront them if they were emperors. His mother, who I am afraid had been solacing herself above stairs with some of those remedies to which she often applied for consolation, now began to cry and lament herself; and, in her pathetic complaints, bemoaned her ill luck that had given her an apprentice that, so far from being an assistant, was only a trouble to her, and did nothing but offend her customers. Young Newill then, for the first time, understood that I was this apprentice; and as I sat weeping in a corner, I saw he pitied me—Come, come, Madam, said he to his mother, no more of this, if you please—nobody has offended your customers; but, on the contrary, your customers, as you call them, have offended me; let us look a little after this good friend of yours, perhaps he may have some farther commands for me—it is unhandsome to sink such a fine fair-weather jack, without lending a hand to heave him up. He then, in despite of his mother’s entreaties, opened the door; but no Sir John Belgrave appeared, and the sailor observed that he had set all his canvas and scudded off. So now, dear mother, said he, pr’ythee let’s have no more foul weather: but let us sit down to supper, for I’m sure this young woman must be glad of something after her fright—poor little soul, how she trembles still!—and you should remember that I have rode from Portsmouth since dinner, and a seaman just come from two months’ cruise must eat. Mrs. Newill still however appearing to think more of Sir John Belgrave than her son, he became presently impatient; and going out to a neighbouring 281 inn, he ordered a supper and some kind of wine or punch; which being soon brought, Mrs. Newill consented to partake of it, though she still behaved to me with such rude reserve, that I would immediately have retired, if young Newill had not insisted on my sitting down to supper with them, and I was too much obliged to him to refuse.
You were certainly obliged to him, said Orlando in a hurried voice; but after such a scene I wonder you were able to remain with these people—What sort of a man is young Newill? Is he a well-looking man?
Yes, replied Monimia, rather so; but I hardly knew then how he looked—and in the scene I have described, I rather recollected it afterwards, than attended to it at the time.
Pardon me, interrupted Orlando, with quickness—you must have attended to it at the time, or you could not have recollected it afterwards. Have you often seen this Mr. Newill since? What is become of him now?
He is gone to sea, replied Monimia.
You have not then seen him since?
Yes, certainly I have—I saw him the next day.
Where? cried Orlando, impatiently.
I was obliged, answered Monimia, because Mrs. Newill was now going immediately to join her imprisoned husband, to be up early to pack up some things in the shop for the person who had bought them; and while I did it, all my sorrows pressing with insupportable weight on my mind, and above all, your loss, Orlando—I wept as I proceeded in my task of tying up band-boxes and parcels, and yet I hardly knew I wept; when young Newill entered the place where I was, and offered to help me—Good God! said he, you are crying! He took my hand, it was wet with tears.282
And he kissed them off, cried Orlando, again wildly starting from his chair, I know he did—yes! this stranger, infinitely more dangerous than Belgrave . . . . .
Oh! dear Orlando, said Monimia, with a deep and tremulous sigh, what is it you suspect me of? Do not, I beseech you, destroy me as soon as we have met, by suspicions, which indeed if you will hear me with patience . . . . . .
Go on, Monimia, said he, recovering himself—go on, and I will be as patient as I can—but this Newill—Always, said Monimia, behaved to me like the tenderest brother, and it is to him alone I am indebted for the safety and protection I have found. Yet it is true, Orlando, and I will not attempt to conceal it from you, that young Newill in this first interview professed himself my lover; but when I assured him that all my affections were buried with you, that it was out of my power to make him any other return to the regard he expressed for me, than gratitude; and if he would be so much my friend as to influence his mother, either to prevail upon my aunt to receive me, or to let me remain with any creditable person in the country, instead of taking me to London (where I had too much reason to believe I was to be exposed anew to the persecutions of Sir John Belgrave), I should be eternally indebted to him—this he promised to undertake, and seemed to acquiesce in my refusal of his addresses, which had I been capable of listening to them, it would have been very indiscreet on his part to have pursued; for he was possessed of nothing but the pay of a midshipman, and out of that little had often contributed to relieve the distresses of his parents; and now on hearing of his father’s confinement, immediately after his return from a cruise, in which 283 the frigate he was on board had taken two small prizes, he hastened to their assistance; and bearing with sailor-like philosophy all present evils, and never considering those of the future, he was treating for the advance of his pay for the next half year, in order to enable his mother to discharge some debts for which her creditors were very clamorous, before she left the town. Yet did he, under such circumstances, think very seriously of a wife—I believe that he supposed the dejection of my spirits was rather owing to my forlorn situation, than to an attachment which he had no notion of as existing after the death of its object, and that I should gradually be induced to listen to his love.
Yet, cried Orlando warmly, yet you talk of the brotherly and of the disinterested regard of this new friend of yours.
It was so in effect, Orlando, and I did not too minutely inquire into the motive of his conduct. Allow me to go on and you will own that we are both much obliged to him. When he fully understood the nature of my situation, my invincible aversion to Sir John Belgrave, and my fears, which, mortifying as they must be to him, I could not help expressing, lest his father should prevail on Mrs. Newill to betray me entirely into his power—he expressed in his rough sea language so much pity for me, and so much indignation at the conduct of his family, that I became persuaded I might trust him. But alas! I had nothing to entrust him with—no means of escape from the evils I dreaded to propose to him—except Mrs. Roker, I had no friend or relation in the world.—I had written three letters to Selina, but I received no answer—and she too had, I feared, by the troubles of her own family, been compelled to appear for a while unmindful of her unhappy Monimia.—Young 284 Mr. Newill desired a few hours to consider what he could do for me; and in that time he talked to his mother of her ungenerous and base conduct in regard to me, with so much effect, that, after a struggle between her necessities and her conscience, she promised her son to receive no more the bribes of Sir John Belgrave, and even to let me quit her, if I insisted upon it. Having obtained thus much, he returned to me, and I was then to determine whither I would go. Oh! how gladly would I then have accepted of the lowest service! But who would take a creature apparently so slight as not to be able to do any kind of household work; and from such a woman as Mrs. Newill, who was but little esteemed either for her morals or her œconomy? In this distress I wrote again to Selina, entreating her to inquire for a place for me: but no answer came in the usual course of the post, and Newill’s leave of absence expiring in three days, it became necessary to determine on something. Fruitless as every written application had hitherto been to Mrs. Roker, I could think of nothing better than to address her in person; and as I dared not go so far alone, being ever in apprehension of meeting Sir John Belgrave, Mr. Newill offered to go with me, and . . . .
How did you go? said Orlando, interrupting her.
In the stage to Alresford, replied Monimia; and from thence we walked to the house, where, however, I was refused admittance by a sister of Roker’s, who told me her poor dear sister-in-law was in a bad state of health; that nobody could be admitted to see her; and advised me by all means not to depend upon any thing she could do for me, since her condition put all attention to business out of the question; and Miss Roker was sorry indeed to remind me, that my perverse undutiful 285 behaviour had not a little contributed to derange the faculties of my worthy relation. I could have answered, that her faculties were certainly deranged when she married Mr. Roker; but I had no opportunity to make this observation if I had had courage enough—for the woman shut the door in my face, repeating in very rude terms, that any visits there would be to no purpose.
Thus driven from the habitation of my only relation, I returned more broken-hearted than I set out to Winchester.—And your protector, I suppose, renewed his solicitations by the way? said Orlando.
No, indeed, answered Monimia, he had too much sensibility; and whatever he might intend for the future, he too much respected the grief into which this cruel repulse had plunged me. The next day but one he was to go back to his duty, with a young shipmate who was visiting his mother then at Southampton, who was to call upon him, that they might return together. While I was yet undetermined what to do, time passed away, and this comrade of Mr. Newill’s arrived. It was young Fleming, the eldest son of your friend, whom his mother’s relation, an old captain of a man of war, had taken from Winchester college at eighteen, and adopted at his father’s death upon condition of his becoming a sailor—a condition which Mrs. Fleming, who had so recently lost her husband, lamented, but dared not oppose. War had just deprived her of her first support; yet him on whom she next relied she was compelled to part with for the same dreadful trade, because her pension, as a lieutenant’s widow, which was almost her sole dependence, was very insufficient for the support of her four other children; the two little girls you saw with me this night, another yet younger, and 286 her second boy, whom her relation partly supports at an academy, intending him also for the sea—and who would have been so much offended, had she thwarted him in regard to taking the eldest son from college, that he would have renounced the whole family.
To this young man, who was his most intimate friend, Newill communicated, but not without first asking my permission, the difficulties I was under: concealing however those circumstances that seemed to reflect so much disgrace on his mother. They consulted together what I could do . . .
Excellent and proper counsellors truly! exclaimed Orlando impatiently.
Less improper than you imagine, replied Monimia. Fleming had not, like Newill, been so long at sea as to acquire that steadiness of mind which enables men of that profession to look on all personal danger with indifference, and on moral evil as a matter of course. But yet, recollecting not only his classics, but the romances he had delighted in at school, he had that natural and acquired tenderness of mind which made him sensible at once of all the discomforts of my situation. He saw in me a poor, deserted heroine of a novel, and nothing could be in his opinion so urgent as my relief—Accustomed in all emergencies to apply to his mother, to whom he is the most affectionate and dutiful of sons . . . .
What is become of this Fleming? inquired Orlando, is he often at home with his
No; he went almost immediately after my first becoming acquainted with her, to the East-Indies—but your impatience, Orlando, will not let me conclude my sad story. Fleming seeing the affair in the light I have described, settled with his friend Newill that the latter should return alone to the 287 ship—make some excuse for Fleming’s being absent two days longer, while he would return to his mother, and endeavour by her means to find some proper asylum for me. The readiness with which Newill consented to this plan, convinced me of his disinterestedness; though I own I had little hope of its success. I supposed that Mrs. Fleming would have suspected the zeal of so young a man for a woman of my age, in distress, and would decline interfering for a person of whom she could know nothing. But the generosity of my young advocate rendered him eloquent; and she to whom he pleaded was not only naturally of the most candid and humane disposition, but her own sorrows had so softened her heart, that calamity never pleaded to her in vain, though her circumstances are such as do not always enable her to relieve it, as her heart dictates.
This excellent woman reflected, that there must be something remarkable in the situation which had made so great an impression on her son; and that even if I was a young woman whom necessity had reduced to a discreditable mode of life, her kindness might yet save me from deeper destruction. With this humane persuasion, and remembering always the maxim of doing as she would be done by, she came herself to Winchester, to inquire what she could do for me—thinking, as she has since told me, that she ought to do this if she hoped for the mercy of Heaven towards her own girls, who might, by so likely an event as her death, be as desolate and friendless as I was—I am too much exhausted, Orlando, to be particular now in relating our first interview. We shall, I hope, have frequent opportunities of admiring the simplicity of character, the goodness of heart, and the attractive manners of my benefactress, who from your description of 288 your mother, is almost her counterpart. It is sufficient if I tell you that Mrs. Fleming not only implicitly believed my melancholy story, but, as nothing immediately occurred to her for my permanent relief, determined to take me home with her, till some eligible situation could be found. When she had been a little accustomed to me, she would not part with me; I have been so happy as to make myself useful to her and her children; and in acquitting myself as far as I could of my debt of gratitude, I have found the best and only defence against that regret and anguish which devoured me. She had sorrows enough of her own; I forbore therefore to oppress her with mine, and I tried to be calm when I could not be cheerful; but when the conversation turned on the loss she had sustained in her husband, I mingled my tears with hers, and wept for Orlando.
Orlando, forgetting in this tender confession the little jealousies he had felt, while he considered her liable to the addresses of a rival, now pressed her fondly to his heart; and seeing her quite overcome by the fatigue of relating so long a narrative, and the violence of those emotions she had so lately experienced, consented to leave her, and they parted for the night; though Orlando could not wish her good night without protesting to her that he would never again consent to be separated from her even for a day; for that if ever he was absent from her again, the insolent Sir John Belgrave would incessantly pursue her in imagination, and he should believe her exposed again to dangers and insults which it almost drove him to madness to recollect she had already endured.
the tulip tree and the magnolia
[I was going to take issue with this description, before remembering that I have personally seen magnolias growing outdoors in New York state. They’re just not as big and showy as the Southern ones.]
though the precaution had been taken to turn the shoes
[Search me. I’m inclined to think it means turning back-to-front for greater traction. Today there’s a whole array of winter horseshoes, just as there are assorted chains and snow tires for motor vehicles, depending on the exact terrain.]
Monimia . . . had been for some time, under the protection of that very Mrs. Fleming, the widow of his gallant friend
[By 18th-century cheesy-novel standards, this barely even counts as a coincidence. It’s on a par with saying that it is raining on your house and also on the house across the street.]
they threw me into such terrors, that I could hardly reach the house
[Yup, that’s our Monimia.]
I had that evening met Selina
text has even-/ning at line break
and asked him which way he came?
text has aked
to which all my preceding sufferings were nothing
[Has she ever been homeless? No. Has she ever been hungry? No. Has she ever been ill or injured? No. Has she ever been in immediate physical danger? No. Even Sir John Belgrave’s attempts on her virtue were thoughtfully made in the presence of multiple witnesses who had not been paid to look the other way.]
a party of my friendly rats, perceiving the candle, which was to them a delicate treat, took it very composedly out of the socket, and began to eat the end of it which was not alight
[Direct ancestors of Pizza Rat.]
sometimes the [Winchester] cathedral itself
[Thank you, New Vaudeville Band, for that earworm.]
Pardon me, interrupted Orlando . . . you must have attended to it at the time, or you could not have recollected it afterwards.
[The sole narrative function of this interruption is to make Orlando sound like a jerk—or, if you prefer, like even more of a jerk than he does in the rest of the scene. What did the author intend its function to be?]
I could have answered, that her faculties were certainly deranged when she married Mr. Roker
[I wish she had done so. It would have been the first sign of spirit displayed by Monimia from the beginning to the end of her narrative.]
What is become of this Fleming? inquired Orlando, is he often at home with his mother?
text has ! for final ?
[Corrected from 2nd edition.]
a woman of my age
[At the time of these events, somewhere in 1778, Monimia can’t be older than 19, if that. In the following chapter—back in the primary narrative, putting us very early in 1779—we are explicitly told that she is still under age.]
the fatigue of relating so long a narrative
[She’s not exaggerating. Monimia’s story has taken up almost a whole chapter—and the chapter is twice as long as the average.]
At Salisbury Orlando determined to make some slight alteration in his plan
In retiring to the room Mrs. Fleming had ordered to be prepared
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.