The Black Dwarf HTML version

Chapter 5
The bleakest rock upon the loneliest heath
Feels, in its barrenness, some touch of spring;
And, in the April dew, or beam of May,
Its moss and lichen freshen and revive;
And thus the heart, most sear'd to human pleasure,
Melts at the tear, joys in the smile, of woman. --- BEAUMONT
As the season advanced, the weather became more genial, and the Recluse was
more frequently found occupying the broad flat stone in the front of his mansion.
As he sate there one day, about the hour of noon, a party of gentlemen and
ladies, well mounted, and numerously attended, swept across the heath at some
distance from his dwelling. Dogs, hawks, and led-horses swelled the retinue, and
the air resounded at intervals with the cheer of the hunters, and the sound of
horns blown by the attendants. The Recluse was about to retire into his mansion
at the sight of a train so joyous, when three young ladies, with their attendants,
who had made a circuit, and detached themselves from their party, in order to
gratify their curiosity by a sight of the Wise Wight of Mucklestane-Moor, came
suddenly up, ere he could effect his purpose. The first shrieked, and put her
hands before her eyes, at sight of an object so unusually deformed. The second,
with a hysterical giggle, which she intended should disguise her terrors, asked
the Recluse, whether he could tell their fortune. The third, who was best
mounted, best dressed, and incomparably the best-looking of the three,
advanced, as if to cover the incivility of her companions.
"We have lost the right path that leads through these morasses, and our party
have gone forward without us," said the young lady. "Seeing you, father, at the
door of your house, we have turned this way to--"
"Hush!" interrupted the Dwarf; "so young, and already so artful? You came--you
know you came, to exult in the consciousness of your own youth, wealth, and
beauty, by contrasting them with age, poverty, and deformity. It is a fit
employment for the daughter of your father; but O how unlike the child of your
"Did you, then, know my parents, and do you know me?"
"Yes; this is the first time you have crossed my waking eyes, but I have seen you
in my dreams."
"Your dreams?"
"Ay, Isabel Vere. What hast thou, or thine, to do with my waking thoughts?"
"Your waking thoughts, sir," said the second of Miss Vere's companions, with a
sort of mock gravity, "are fixed, doubtless, upon wisdom; folly can only intrude on
your sleeping moments."
"Over thine," retorted the Dwarf, more splenetically than became a philosopher or
hermit, "folly exercises an unlimited empire, asleep or awake."
"Lord bless us!" said the lady, "he's a prophet, sure enough."
"As surely," continued the Recluse," as thou art a woman.--A woman!--I should
have said a lady--a fine lady. You asked me to tell your fortune--it is a simple