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The Black Dwarf

Chapter 11
Three ruffians seized me yester morn,
Alas! a maiden most forlorn;
They choked my cries with wicked might,
And bound me on a palfrey white:
As sure as Heaven shall pity me,
I cannot tell what men they be. ---- CHRISTABELLE.
The course of our story must here revert a little, to detail the circumstances which
had placed Miss Vere in the unpleasant situation from which she was
unexpectedly, and indeed unintentionally liberated, by the appearance of
Earnscliff and Elliot, with their friends and followers, before the Tower of
On the morning preceding the night in which Hobbie's house was plundered and
burnt, Miss Vere was requested by her father to accompany him in a walk
through a distant part of the romantic grounds which lay round his castle of
Ellieslaw. "To hear was to obey," in the true style of Oriental despotism; but
Isabella trembled in silence while she followed her father through rough paths,
now winding by the side of the river, now ascending the cliffs which serve for its
banks. A single servant, selected perhaps for his stupidity, was the only person
who attended them. From her father's silence, Isabella little doubted that he had
chosen this distant and sequestered scene to resume the argument which they
had so frequently maintained upon the subject of Sir Frederick's addresses, and
that he was meditating in what manner he should most effectually impress upon
her the necessity of receiving him as her suitor. But her fears seemed for some
time to be unfounded. The only sentences which her father from time to time
addressed to her, respected the beauties of the romantic landscape through
which they strolled, and which varied its features at every step. To these
observations, although they seemed to come from a heart occupied by more
gloomy as well as more important cares, Isabella endeavoured to answer in a
manner as free and unconstrained as it was possible for her to assume, amid the
involuntary apprehensions which crowded upon her imagination.
Sustaining with mutual difficulty a desultory conversation, they at length gained
the centre of a small wood, composed of large oaks, intermingled with birches,
mountain-ashes, hazel, holly, and a variety of underwood. The boughs of the tall
trees met closely above, and the underwood filled up each interval between their
trunks below. The spot on which they stood was rather more open; still, however,
embowered under the natural arcade of tall trees, and darkened on the sides for
a space around by a great and lively growth of copse-wood and bushes.
"And here, Isabella," said Mr. Vere, as he pursued the conversation, so often
resumed, so often dropped, "here I would erect an altar to Friendship."
"To Friendship, sir!" said Miss Vere; "and why on this gloomy and sequestered
spot, rather than elsewhere?"
"O, the propriety of the LOCALE is easily vindicated," replied her father, with a
sneer. "You know, Miss Vere (for you, I am well aware, are a learned young