The Black Dwarf HTML version

Chapter 16
--'Twas time and griefs
That framed him thus: Time, with his fairer hand,
Offering the fortunes of his former days,
The former man may make him.--Bring us to him,
And chance it as it may. ----------- OLD PLAY.
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? 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
open to my distress; but I fear--"
"Ha!" said the Solitary, "then thou art Isabella Vere? 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one, bolt and bar were then withdrawn, the heart of Isabella throbbing higher as
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 fireplace, made haste to kindle some dry furze, which presently cast a