The Black Dwarf HTML version

Chapter 14
He brings Earl Osmond to receive my vows.
O dreadful change! for Tancred, haughty Osmond.
Mr. Vere, whom long practice of dissimulation had enabled to model his very gait
and footsteps to aid the purposes of deception, walked along the stone passage,
and up the first flight of steps towards Miss Vere's apartment, with the alert, firm,
and steady pace of one who is bound, indeed, upon important business, but who
entertains no doubt he can terminate his affairs satisfactorily. But when out of
hearing of the gentlemen whom he had left, his step became so slow and
irresolute, as to correspond with his doubts and his fears. At length he paused in
an antechamber to collect his ideas, and form his plan of argument, before
approaching his daughter.
"In what more hopeless and inextricable dilemma was ever an unfortunate man
involved!" Such was the tenor of his reflections.--"If we now fall to pieces by
disunion, there can be little doubt that the government will take my life as the
prime agitator of the insurrection. Or, grant I could stoop to save myself by a
hasty submission, am I not, even in that case, utterly ruined? I have broken
irreconcilably with Ratcliffe, and can have nothing to expect from that quarter but
insult and persecution. I must wander forth an impoverished and dishonoured
man, without even the means of sustaining life, far less wealth sufficient to
counterbalance the infamy which my countrymen, both those whom I desert and
those whom I join, will attach to the name of the political renegade. It is not to be
thought of. And yet, what choice remains between this lot and the ignominious
scaffold? Nothing can save me but reconciliation with these men; and, to
accomplish this, I have promised to Langley that Isabella shall marry him ere
midnight, and to Mareschal, that she shall do so without compulsion. I have but
one remedy betwixt me and ruin--her consent to take a suitor whom she dislikes,
upon such short notice as would disgust her, even were he a favoured lover --But
I must trust to the romantic generosity of her disposition; and let me paint the
necessity of her obedience ever so strongly, I cannot overcharge its reality."
Having finished this sad chain of reflections upon his perilous condition, he
entered his daughter's apartment with every nerve bent up to the support of the
argument which he was about to sustain. Though a deceitful and ambitious man,
he was not so devoid of natural affection but that he was shocked at the part he
was about to act, in practising on the feelings of a dutiful and affectionate child;
but the recollections, that, if he succeeded, his daughter would only be trepanned
into an advantageous match, and that, if he failed, he himself was a lost man,
were quite sufficient to drown all scruples.
He found Miss Vere seated by the window of her dressing-room, her head
reclining on her hand, and either sunk in slumber, or so deeply engaged in
meditation, that she did not hear the noise he made at his entrance. He
approached with his features composed to a deep expression of sorrow and