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private door, which entered into the chapel from the backstair, she heard the voice of the female-servants as they were employed in the task of cleaning it.
“ Married ! and to sae bad a man-Ewhow, sirs ! onything rather than that."
“ They are right--they are right,” said Miss Vere, “ anything rather than that !”
She hurried to the garden. Mr. Ratcliffe was true to his appointment—the horses stood saddled at the gardengate, and in a few minutes they were advancing rapidly towards the hut of the Solitary.
While the ground was favourable, the speed of their journey was such as to prevent much communication ; but when a steep ascent compelled them to slacken their pace, a new cause of apprehension occurred to Miss Vere's mind.
" Mr. Ratcliffe,” she said, pulling up her horse's bridle, “ let us prosecute no farther a journey, which nothing but the extreme agitation of my mind can vindicate my having undertaken-I am well aware that this man passes among the vulgar as being possessed of supernatural powers, and carrying on an intercourse with beings of another world; but I would have you aware I am neither to be imposed on by such follies, nor, were I to believe in their existence, durst I, with my feelings of religion, apply to this being in my distress.”
"I should have thought, Miss Vere,” replied Ratcliffe, “ my character and habits of thinking were so well known to you, that you might have held me exculpated from crediting in such absurdity.”
" But in what other mode,” said Isabella, “ can a being, so miserable, himself in appearance, possess the power of assisting me?”
• Miss Vere,” said Ratcliffe, after a momentary pause, “I am bound by a solemn oath of secrecy-You must, without farther explanation, be satisfied with my pledged assurance, that he does possess the power, if you can inspire him with the will; and that, I doubt not, you will be able to do."
“ Mr. Ratcliffe," said Miss Vere, “you may yourself he mistaken ; you ask an unlimited degree of confidence from me."
“ Recollect, Miss Vere," he replied, “ that when, ik: your humanity, you asked me to interfere with your father in favour of Haswell and his ruined family when you requested me to prevail on him to do a thing most abhorrent to his nature—to forgive an injury and remit a penalty-I stipulated that you should ask me no questions concerning the sources of my influence-You found no reason to distrust me then, do not distrust me now."
66 But the extraordinary mode of life of this man," said Miss Vere; “ his seclusion-his figure the deepness of misanthropy which he is said to express in his language--Mr. Ratcliffe, what can I think of him if he really possesses the powers you ascribe to him ?"
- This man, young lady, was bred a catholic, a sect which affords a thousand instances of those who have retired from power and affluence to voluntary privations more strict even than his.”
“ But he avows no religious motive," replied Miss Vere.
6. No," replied Ratcliffe ; 6 disgust with the world has operated his retreat from it without assuming the veil of superstition. Thus far I may tell you—He was born to great wealth, which his parents designed should become greater by his union with a kinswoman, whom for that purpose they bred up in their own house. You have seen his figure ; judge what the young lady must have thought of the lot to which she was destined-Yet, habituated to his appearance, she showed no reluctance, and the friends of — of the person whom I speak of, doubted not that the excess of his attachment, the various acquisitions of his mind, his many and amiable qualities, had overcome the natural horror which his destined bride must have entertained at an exterior so dreadfully inauspicious."
" And did they judge truly ?" said Isabella.
“ You shall hear. He, at least, was fully aware of his own deficiency; the sense of it haunted him like a
phantom. I am,' was his own expression to me,-1 mean to a man whom he trusted,—'I am, in spite of what you would say, a poor miserable outcast, fitter to have been smothered in the cradle, than to have been brought up to scare the world in which I crawl.' The person whom he addressed, in vain endeavoured to impress him with the indifference to external form, which is the natural result of philosophy, or intreat him to recall the superiority of mental talents to the more attractive attributes chat are merely personal. I hear you,' he would reply ; but you speak the voice of cold blooded Stoicism, or, at least, of friendly partiality. But look at every book which we have read, those excepted of that abstract philosophy which feels no responsive voice in our natural feelings. Is not personal form, such as at least can be tolerated without horror and disgust, always represented as essential to our ideas of a friend, far more a lover ? Is not such a mis-shapen monster as I am, excluded, by the very fiat of nature, from her fairest enjoyments ? What but my wealth prevents all-perhaps even Letitia, or you, from shunning me as something foreign to your nature, and more odious, by bearing that distorted resemblance to humanity, which we observe in the animal tribes that are more hateful to man because they seem his caricature ?'"
“ You repeat the sentiments of a madman,” said Miss Vere.
“ No," replied her conductor, “ unless a morbid and excessive sensibility on such a subject can be termed insanity. Yet I will not deny that this governing feeling and apprehension carried the person who entertained it, to lengths which indicated a deranged imagination. He appeared to think that it was necessary for him, by exuberant, and not always well-chosen instances of liberality, and even profusion, to unite himself to the human race, from which he conceived himself naturally dissevered. The benefits which he bestowed, from a disposition naturally philanthropical in an uncommon degree, were ex.
12* VOL. I.
aggerated by the influence of the goading reflection, that more was necessary from him than from others,-lavishing his treasures as if to bribe mankind to receive him into their class. It is scarcely necessary to say, that the bounty which flowed from a source so capricious was often abused, and his confidence frequently betrayed. These disappointments, which occur to all, more or less, and most to such as confer benefits without just discrimination, his diseased fancy set down to the hatred and contempt excited by his personal deformity.-But I fatigue you, Miss Vere?"
“ No, by no means; 1-1 could not prevent my attention from wandering an instant ; pray proceed.”
He became at length,” continued Ratcliffe, “the most ingenious self-tormentor of whom I have ever heard ; the scoff of the rabble, and the sneer of the yet more brutal vulgar of his own rank, was to him agony and breaking on the wheel. He regarded the laugh of the common people whom he passed on the street, and the suppressed titter, or yet more offensive terror of the young girls to whom he was introduced in company, as proofs of the true sense which the world entertained of him, as a prodigy unfit to be received among them on the usual terms of society, and as vindicating the wisdom of his purpose in withdrawing himself from among them. On the faith and sincerity of two persons alone, he seemed to rely implicitly-on that of his betrothed bride, and of a friend eminently gifted in personal accomplishments, who seemed, and indeed probably was, sincerely attached to him. He ought to have been so at least, for he was literally loaded with benefits by him whom you are now about to see. The parents of the subject of my story died within a short space or each other. Their death postponed the marriage, for which the day had been fixed. The lady did not seem greatly to mourn this delay,- perhaps that was not to have been expected; but she intimated no change of intention, when, after a decent interval, a second day was named for their union. The friend of whom I spoke was then a constant resident at the hall. In an evil hour, at the earnest request and entreaty of this friend, they joined a
general party, where men of different political opinions were mingled, and where they drank deep. A quarrel ensued; the friend of the Recluse drew his sword with others, and was thrown down and disarmed, by a more powerful antagonist. They fell in the struggle at the feet of the Recluse, who, maimed and truncated as his form appears, possesses, nevertheless, great strength, as well as violent passions. He caught up a sword, pierced the heart of his friend's antagonist, was tried, and his life, with difficulty, redeemed from justice at the expense of a year's close imprisonment, the punishment of manslaughter. The incident affected him most deeply, the more that the deceased was a man of excellent character, and had sustained gross insult and injury ere he drew his sword. I think, from that inoment, I observed—I beg pardon—The fits of morbid sensibility which had tormented this unfortunate gentleman, were rendered henceforth more acute by remorse, which he, of all men, was least capable of having incurred, or of sustaining, when it became his unhappy lot. His paroxysms of agony could not be concealed from the lady to whom he was betrothed ; and it must be confessed they were of an alarming and fearful nature. He comforted himself, that at the expiry of his imprisonment, he could 'form with his wife and friend a society, encircled by which he might dispense with more extensive communication with the world. He was deceived ; before that term elapsed, his friend and his betrothed bride were man and wife. The effects of a shock so dreadful on an ardent temperament, a disposition already soured by bitter remorse, and loosened by the indulgence of a gloomy imagination from the rest of mankind, I cannot describe to you; it was as if the last cable at which the vessel rode had suddenly parted, and left her abandoned to all the wild fury of the tempest. He was placed under medical restraint. As a temporary measure this might have been justifiable ; but his hard-hearted friend, who, in consequence of his marriage, was now his nearest ally, prolonged his confinement, in order to enjoy the management of his immense estates. There was one who owed his all to the sufferer