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It was with difficulty, Isabella refrained from screaming out aloud ; but she did refrain.
"This," continued the Recluse, " is the life of nature, solitary, self-sufficing, and independent. The wolf calls not the wolf to aid him in forming his den; and the vulture invites not another to assist her in striking down her prey."
"And when they are unable to procure themselves support," said Isabella, judiciously thinking that he would be most accessible to argument, couched in his own metaphorical style, " what then, is to befall them T'
"Let them starve, die, and be forgotten; it is the common lot of humanity."
"It is the lot of the wild tribes of nature," said Isabella, " but chiefly of those who are destined to support themselves by rapine, which brooks no partner; but it is not the law of nature in general; even the lower orders have confederacies for mutual defence. But mankind— the race would perish did they cease to aid each other.— From the time that the mother binds the child's head, till the moment that some kind assistant wipes the deathdamp from the brow of the dying, we cannot exist without mutual help. All, therefore, that need aid, have right to ask it of their fellow-mortals; no one who has the power of granting can refuse it without guilt."
"And in this simple hope, poor maiden," said the Solitary, " thou hast come into the desert, to seek one whose wish it were that the league thou hast spoken of were broken forever, and that in very truth, the whole race should perish 9 Wert thou not frightened 9"
"Misery," said Isabella, firmly, " is superior to fear."
"Hast thou not heard it said in thy mortal world, that I have leagued myself with other powers, deformed to the eye and malevolent to the human race as myself 1
Hast thou not heard this And dost thou seek my cell
at midnight V
"The Being I worship supports me against such idle fears," said Isabella ; but the increasing agitation of her bosom belied the affected courage which her words expressed.
13 vOL. I.
"Ho ! ho !" said the Dwarf, "thou vauntest thyself a philosopher? Yet shouldst thou not have thought of the danger of entrusting thyself, young and beautiful, in the power of one so spited against humanity, as to place his chief pleasure in defacing, destroying, and degrading her fairest works?"
Isabella much alarmed, continued to answer, with firmness, " Whatever injuries you may have sustained in the world, you are incapable of revenging them on one who never wronged you, nor, wilfully, any other."
"Ay, but maiden," he continued, his dark eyes flashing with an expression of malignity which communicated itself to his wild and distorted features, " revenge is the hungry wolf, which asks only to tear flesh, and lap blood. Think you the lamb's plea of innocence would be listened to by him 9"
"Man !" said Isabella, rising and expressing herself with much dignity, " I fear not the horrible ideas with which you would impress me. I cast them from me with disdain. Be you mortal or fiend, you would not offer injury to one who sought you as a suppliant in her utmost need. You would not—you durst not."
"Thou say'st truly, maiden," rejoined the Solitary; "I dare not—I would not. Begone to thy dwelling. Fear nothing with which they threaten thee. Thou hast asked my protection—thou shalt find it effectual."
"But, father, this very night I have consented to wed the man that I abhor, or I must put the seal to my father's ruin."
"This night 9—at what hour 9"
"And twilight," said the Dwarf, " has already passed away. But fear nothing, there is ample time to protect thee."
"And my father?" continued Isabella, in a supphant tone.
"Thy father," replied the Dw*f, " has been, and is, my most bitter enemy. But fear not; thy virtue shall save him. And now, begone; were I to keep thee longer by me, I might again fall into the stupid dreams concerning human worth from which I have been so fearfully awakened. But fear nothing, at the very foot of the altar, I will redeem thee. Adieu, time presses, and I must act!"
He led her to the door of the hut, which he opened for her departure. She remounted her horse which had been feeding in the outer inclosure, and pressed him forward by the light of the moon, which was now rising, to the spot where she had left Ratcliffe.
"Have you succeeded?" was his first eager question
"I have obtained promises from him to whom you sent me ; but how can he possibly accomplish them?"
"Thank God!" said Ratcliffe; "doubt not his power to fulfil his promise."
At this moment a shrill whistle was heard to resound along the heath.
"Hark!" said Ratcliffe, " he calls me—Miss Vere return home, and leave unbolted the postern-door of the garden; to that which opens on the back-stairs I have a private key."
A second whistle was heard, yet more shrill and prolonged than the first.
"I come, I come," said Ratcliffe; and, setting spurs to his horse, rode over the heath in the direction of the Recluse's hut. Miss Vere returned to the castle, the mettle of the animal on which she rode, and her own anxiety of mind, combining to accelerate her journey.
She obeyed Ratcliffe's directions, though without well apprehending their purpose, and leaving her horse at large in a paddock near the garden, hurried to her own apartment, which she reached without observation. She now unbolted her door, and rang her bell for lights. Her father appeared along with the servant who answered her summons.
"He had been twice," he said, " listening at her door during the two hours that had elapsed since he left her, and, not hearing her»speak, had become apprehensive that she was taken ill."
"And now, my dear father," she said, " permit me tc claim the promise you so kindly gave; let the last moments of freedom which I am to enjoy be mine without interruption ; and protract to the last moment the respite which is allowed me."
"I will," said her father; "nor shall you be again interrupted. But this disordered dress—this dishevelled hair—do not let me find you thus when I call on you again ; the sacrifice to be beneficial must be voluntary."
"Must it be so V she replied, " then fear not, my father ! the victim shall be adorned."
This looks not like a nuptial.
Much Ado about Nothing.
The chapel in the castle of Ellieslaw, destined to be the scene of this ill-omened union, was a building of much older date than the castle itself, though that claimed considerable antiquity. Before the wars between England and Scotland had become so common and of such long duration, that the buildings along both sides of the Border were chiefly dedicated to warlike purposes, there had Deen a small settlement of monks at Ellieslaw, a dependency, it is believed by antiquaries, on the rich Abbey of Jedburgh. Their possessions had long passed away under the changes introduced by war and mutual ravage. A feudal castle had arisen on the ruin of their cells, and their chapel was included in its precincts.
The edifice, in its round arches and massive pillars, the simplicity of which referred their date to what has Deen called the Saxon architecture, presented at all times a dark and sombre appearance, and had been frequently used as the cemetery of the family of the feudal lords, as well as formerly of the monastic brethren. But it looked doubly gloomy by the effect of the few and smoky torches which were used to enlighten it on the present occasion, and which, spreading a glare of yellow light in their immediate vicinity, were surrounded beyond by a red and purple halo reflected from their own smoke, and beyond that again by a zone of darkness which magnified the extent of the chapel, while it rendered it impossible for the eye to ascertain its limits. Some injudicious ornaments, adopted in haste for the occasion, rather added to the dreariness of the scene. Old fragments of tapestry, torn from the walls of other apartments, had beeti hastily and partially disposed around those of the chapel, and mingled inconsistently with scutcheons and funeral emblems of the dead, which they elsewhere exhibited. On each side of the stone altar was a monument, the appearance of which formed an equally strange contrast. On the one was the figure, in stone, of some grim hermit, or monk, who had died in the odour of sanctity; he was represented as recumbent, in his cowl and scapulaire, with his face turned upward as in the act of devotion, and his hands folded, from which his string of beads was dependent. On the other side was a tomb, in the Italian taste; composed of the most beautiful statuary marble, and accounted a model of modern art. It was erected to the memory of Isabella's mother, the late Mrs. Vere of Ellieslaw, who was represented as in a dying posture, while a weeping cherub, with eyes averted, seemed in the act of extinguishing a dying lamp as emblematic of her speedy dissolution. It was, indeed, a master-piece of art, but misplaced in the rude vault to which it had been consigned. Many were surprised, and even scandalized, that Ellieslaw, not remarkable for attention to his lady while alive, should erect after her death such a costly mausoleum in affected sorrow; others cleared him from the imputation of hypocrisy, and averred that the monument 13* vOL. I.