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an humble friend, but grateful and faithful. By unceasing exertion, and repeated invocation of justice, he at length succeeded in obtaining his patron's freedom, and reinstatement in the management of his own property, to which was soon added that of his intended bride, who, having died without male issue, her estate reverted to him, as heir of entail. But freedom and wealth were unable to restore the equipoise of his mind; to the former his grief made him indifferent—the latter only served him as far as it afforded him the means of indulging his strange and wayward fancy. He had renounced the Catholic religion, but perhaps some of its doctrines continued to influence a mind, over which remorse and misanthropy now assumed, in appearance, an unbounded authority. His life has since been that alternately of a pilgrim and a hermit, suffering the most severe privations, not indeed in ascetic devotion, but in abhorrence of mankind. Yet no man's words and actions have been at such a wide difference, nor has any hypocritical wretch ever been more ingenious in assigning good motives for his vile actions, than this unfortunate in reconciling to his abstract principles of misanthropy, a conduct which flows from his natural generosity and kindness of feeling."
"Still, Mr. Ratcliffe—still you describe the inconsistencies of a madman."
"By no means," replied Ratcliffe. " That the imagination of this gentleman is disordered, I will not pretend to dispute; I have already told you that it has sometimes broken out into paroxysms approaching to real mental alienation. But it is of his common state of mind that I speak ; it is irregular, but not deranged ; the shades are as gradual as those that divide the light of noon-day from midnight. The courtier who ruins his fortune for the attainment of a title which can do him no good, or power of which he can make no suitable or creditable use ; the miser who hoards his useless wealth, and the prodigal who squanders it, are all marked with a certain shade of insanity. To criminals who are guilty of enormities, when the temptation to a sober mind bears no proportion to the horror of the act, or the probability of detection and punishment, the same observation applies; and every violent passion, as well as anger, may be termed a short madness."
"This may be all good philosophy, Mr. Ratcliffe," answered Miss Vere; "but, excuse me, it by no means emboldens me to visit, at this late hour, a person whose extravagance of imagination you yourself can only palliate."
"Rather, then," said Ratcliffe, " receive my solemn assurances that you do not incur the slightest danger. But what I have been hitherto afraid to mention for fear of alarming you, is, that now when we are within sight of his retreat, for I can discover it through the twilight, I must go no farther with you ; you must proceed alone."
"Alone 1—I dare not."
"You must," continued Ratcliffe; "I will remain here and wait for you."
"You will not then stir from this place," said Miss Vere ; "yet the distance is so great, you could not hear me were 1 to cry for assistance."
"Fear nothing," said her guide; "or observe, at least, the utmost caution in stifling every expression of timidity. Remember that his predominant and most harassing apprehension arises from a consciousness of the hideousne93 of his appearance. Your path lies straight beside yon half-fallen willow; keep the left side of it; the marsh lies on the right. Farewell for a time. Remember the evil you are threatened with, and let it overcome at once your fears and scruples."
"Mr. Ratcliffe," said Isabella, "farewell; if you have deceived one so unfortunate as myself, you have forever forfeited the fair character for probity and honour to which I have trusted."
"On my life—on my soul," continued Ratcliffe, raising his voice as the distance between them increased, 'you are safe—perfectly safe."
'Twas time and griefs
The sounds of Ratcliffe's voice had died on Isabella's ear ; but as she frequently looked back, it was some encouragement to her to discern his form now darkening in the gloom. Ere, however, she went much farther, she lost the object in the increasing shade. The last glimmer of the twilight placed her before the hut of the Solitary. She twice extended her hand to the door, and twice she withdrew it; and when she did at length make the effort, the knock did not equal in violence the throb of her own bosom. Her next effort was louder; her third was reiterated, for the fear of not obtaining the protection from which Ratcliffe promised so much, began to overpower the terrors of his presence from whom she was to request it. At length, as she still received no answer, she repeatedly called upon the Dwarf by his assumed name, and requested him to answer and open to her.
"What miserable being is reduced," said the appalling voice of the Solitary, " to seek refuge here 9 Go hence; when the heath-fowl need shelter, they seek it not in the nest of the night-raven."
"I come to you, father," said Isabella, " in my hour of adversity, even as you yourself commanded, when you promised your heart and your door should be opened to my distress; but I fear"
"Ha !" said the Solitary, "then thou art Isabella Vere 9 give me a token that thou art she."
"I have brought you back the rose which you gave me: it has not had time to fade ere the hard fate you foretold has come upon me!"
"And if thou hast thus redeemed thy pledge," said the Dwarf, " I will not forfeit mine. The heart and the door that are shut against every other earthly being, shall be open to thee and to thy sorrows."
She heard him move in his hut, and presently afterwards strike a light. One by one, bolt and bar were then withdrawn, the heart of Isabella throbbing higher a'j these obstacles to their meeting were successively removed. The door opened, and the Solitary stood before her, his uncouth form and features illuminated by the iron lamp which he held in his hand.
"Enter, daughter of affliction," he said,—" enter the house of misery."
She entered, and observed, with a precaution which increased her trepidation, that the Recluse's first act, after setting the lamp upon the table, was to replace the numerous bolts which secured the door of his hut. She shrunk as she heard the noise which accompanied this ominous operation, yet remembered Ratcliffe's caution, and endeavoured to suppress all appearance of apprehension. The light of the lamp was weak and uncertain ; but the Solitary, without taking immediate notice of Isabella, otherwise than by motioning her to sit down on a small settle beside the fire-place, made haste to kindle some dry furze which presently cast a blaze through the cottage. Wooden shelves, which bore a few books, some bundles of dried herbs, and one or two wooden cups and platters, were on one side of the fire; on the other, were placed some ordinary tools of field-labour, mingled with those used by mechanics. Where the bed should have been, there was a wooden frame, strewed with withered moss and rushes, the couch of the ascetic. The whole space of the cottage did not exceed ten feet by six within the walls; and its only furniture, besides what we have mentioned, was a table and two stools formed of rough deals.
Within these narrow precincts, Isabella now found herself enclosed with a being whose history had nothing to reassure her, and the fearful conformation of whose hid eous countenance inspired an almost superstitious terror. Ho occupied the seat opposite to her, and dropping his huge arid shaggy w* brows over his piercing black eyes, gazed at her in silence, as if agitated by a variety of contending feelings. On the other side, sat Isabella, pale as death, her long hair uncurled by the evening damps, and falling over her shoulders and breast, as the wet streamers droop from the mast when the storm has passed away, and left the vessel stranded on the beach. The Dwarf first broke the silence with the sudden, abrupt, and alarming question, T—" Woman, what evil fate has brought thee hither V
"My father's danger, and your own command," she replied faintly, but firmly.
"And you hope for aid from me V*
"If you can bestow it," she replied, still in the same (one of mild submission.
"And how should I possess that power V continued the Dwarf, with a bitter sneer; " Is mine the form of a redresser of wrongs 1 Is this the castle in which one powerful enough to be sued to by a fair suppliant is likely to hold his residence') I but mocked thee, girl, when I said [ would relieve thee."
"Then must I depart, and face my fate as I best may!"
"No !" said the Dwarf, rising and interposing between her and the door, and motioning to her sternly to resume her seat—" No! you leave me not in this way; we must have farther conference. Why should one being desire aid of another 9 Why should not each be sufficient to itself 1 Look round you—I, the most despised and most decrepit on Nature's common, have required sympathy and help from no one. These stones are of my own piling ; these utensils 1 framed with my own hands ; and
with this" and he laid his hand with a fierce smile on
the long dagger which he always wore beneath his garment, and unsheathed it so far that the blade glimmered clear in the fire-light—" With this," he pursued, as he thrust the weapon back into the scabbard, "I can, if necessary, defend the vital spark enclosed in this poor trunk, against the fairest and strongest that shall threaten me with injury."