Skip to main content

Full text of "Varney the Vampire: Or the Feast of Blood"

See other formats


The Project Gutenberg EBook of Varney the Vampire, by Thomas Preskett Prest

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net


Title: Varney the Vampire
       Or the Feast of Blood

Author: Thomas Preskett Prest

Release Date: January 29, 2005 [EBook #14833]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK VARNEY THE VAMPIRE ***




Produced by Charles Franks, Debra Storr, Sandra Brown and the PG
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.





[Transcriber's note: This book was originally published in "penny
dreadful" form. This edition does not include the entire 109
episodes, which were published in three volumes. Authorship has
also been ascribed to James Malcolm Rymer.

The Table of Contents was added by the transcriber.]



[Illustration:

No. 1.) Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are Presented, Gratis, with this No. |Price 1d.

VARNEY THE VAMPIRE

OR THE

FEAST OF BLOOD

A ROMANCE OF EXCITING INTEREST

BY THE AUTHOR OF

"GRACE RIVERS, OR, THE MERCHANT'S DAUGHTER."

LONDON  E. LLOYD, SALISBURY SQUARE, AND ALL BOOKSELLERS]




VARNEY, THE VAMPYRE:

OR,

THE FEAST OF BLOOD.

A Romance.

"Art thou a spirit of health or goblin damned?"

LONDON:

PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY E. LLOYD, 12, SALISBURY-SQUARE, FLEET-STREET.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER I.--MIDNIGHT.--THE HAIL-STORM.--THE DREADFUL VISITOR.--THE
VAMPYRE.

CHAPTER II.--THE ALARM.--THE PISTOL SHOT.--THE PURSUIT AND ITS
CONSEQUENCES.

CHAPTER III.--THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE BODY.--FLORA'S RECOVERY AND
MADNESS.--THE OFFER OF ASSISTANCE FROM SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.

CHAPTER IV.--THE MORNING.--THE CONSULTATION.--THE FEARFUL SUGGESTION.

CHAPTER V.--THE NIGHT WATCH.--THE PROPOSAL.--THE MOONLIGHT.--THE
FEARFUL ADVENTURE.

CHAPTER VI.--A GLANCE AT THE BANNERWORTH FAMILY.--THE PROBABLE
CONSEQUENCES OF THE MYSTERIOUS APPARITION'S APPEARANCE.

CHAPTER VII.--THE VISIT TO THE VAULT OF THE BANNERWORTHS, AND ITS
UNPLEASANT RESULT.--THE MYSTERY.

CHAPTER VIII.--THE COFFIN.--THE ABSENCE OF THE DEAD.--THE MYSTERIOUS
CIRCUMSTANCE, AND THE CONSTERNATION OF GEORGE.

CHAPTER IX.--THE OCCURRENCES OF THE NIGHT AT THE HALL.--THE SECOND
APPEARANCE OF THE VAMPYRE, AND THE PISTOL-SHOT.

CHAPTER X.--THE RETURN FROM THE VAULT.--THE ALARM, AND THE SEARCH
AROUND THE HALL.

CHAPTER XI.--THE COMMUNICATIONS TO THE LOVER.--THE HEART'S DESPAIR.

CHAPTER XII.--CHARLES HOLLAND'S SAD FEELINGS.--THE PORTRAIT.--THE
OCCURRENCE OF THE NIGHT AT THE HALL.

CHAPTER XIII.--THE OFFER FOR THE HALL.--THE VISIT TO SIR FRANCIS
VARNEY.--THE STRANGE RESEMBLANCE.--A DREADFUL SUGGESTION.

CHAPTER XIV.--HENRY'S AGREEMENT WITH SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.--THE SUDDEN
ARRIVAL AT THE HALL.--FLORA'S ALARM.

CHAPTER XV.--THE OLD ADMIRAL AND HIS SERVANT.--THE COMMUNICATION FROM
THE LANDLORD OF THE NELSON'S ARMS.

CHAPTER XVI.--THE MEETING OF THE LOVERS IN THE GARDEN.--AN AFFECTING
SCENE.--THE SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.

CHAPTER XVII.--THE EXPLANATION.--THE ARRIVAL OF THE ADMIRAL AT THE
HOUSE.--A SCENE OF CONFUSION, AND SOME OF ITS RESULTS.

CHAPTER XVIII.--THE ADMIRAL'S ADVICE.--THE CHALLENGE TO THE
VAMPYRE.--THE NEW SERVANT AT THE HALL.

CHAPTER XIX.--FLORA IN HER CHAMBER.--HER FEARS.--THE MANUSCRIPT.--AN
ADVENTURE.

CHAPTER XX.--THE DREADFUL MISTAKE.--THE TERRIFIC INTERVIEW IN THE
CHAMBER.--THE ATTACK OF THE VAMPYRE.

CHAPTER XXI.--THE CONFERENCE BETWEEN THE UNCLE AND NEPHEW, AND THE
ALARM.

CHAPTER XXII.--THE CONSULTATION.--THE DETERMINATION TO LEAVE THE HALL.

CHAPTER XXIII.--THE ADMIRAL'S ADVICE TO CHARLES HOLLAND.--THE CHALLENGE
TO THE VAMPYRE.

CHAPTER XXIV.--THE LETTER TO CHARLES.--THE QUARREL.--THE ADMIRAL'S
NARRATIVE.--THE MIDNIGHT MEETING.

CHAPTER XXV.--THE ADMIRAL'S OPINION.--THE REQUEST OF CHARLES.

CHAPTER XXVI.--THE MEETING BY MOONLIGHT IN THE PARK.--THE TURRET WINDOW
IN THE HALL.--THE LETTERS.

CHAPTER XXVII.--THE NOBLE CONFIDENCE OF FLORA BANNERWORTH IN HER
LOVER.--HER OPINION OF THE THREE LETTERS.--THE ADMIRAL'S ADMIRATION.

CHAPTER XXVIII.--MR. MARCHDALE'S EXCULPATION OF HIMSELF.--THE SEARCH
THROUGH THE GARDENS.--THE SPOT OF THE DEADLY STRUGGLE.--THE MYSTERIOUS
PAPER.

CHAPTER XXIX.--A PEEP THROUGH AN IRON GRATING.--THE LONELY PRISONER IN
HIS DUNGEON.--THE MYSTERY.

CHAPTER XXX.--THE VISIT OF FLORA TO THE VAMPYRE.--THE OFFER.--THE
SOLEMN ASSEVERATION.

CHAPTER XXXI.--SIR FRANCIS VARNEY AND HIS MYSTERIOUS VISITOR.--THE
STRANGE CONFERENCE.

CHAPTER XXXII.--THE THOUSAND POUNDS.--THE STRANGER'S PRECAUTIONS.

CHAPTER XXXIII.--THE STRANGE INTERVIEW.--THE CHASE THROUGH THE HALL.

CHAPTER XXXIV.--THE THREAT.--ITS CONSEQUENCES.--THE RESCUE, AND SIR
FRANCIS VARNEY'S DANGER.

CHAPTER XXXV.--THE EXPLANATION.--MARCHDALE'S ADVICE.--THE PROJECTED
REMOVAL, AND THE ADMIRAL'S ANGER.

CHAPTER XXXVI.--THE CONSULTATION.--THE DUEL AND ITS RESULTS.

CHAPTER XXXVII.--SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S SEPARATE OPPONENTS.--THE
INTERPOSITION OF FLORA.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.--MARCHDALE'S OFFER.--THE CONSULTATION AT BANNERWORTH
HALL.--THE MORNING OF THE DUEL.

CHAPTER XXXIX.--THE STORM AND THE FIGHT.-THE ADMIRAL'S REPUDIATION OF
HIS PRINCIPAL.

CHAPTER XL.--THE POPULAR RIOT.--SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S DANGER.--THE
SUGGESTION AND ITS RESULTS.

CHAPTER XLIV.--VARNEY'S DANGER, AND HIS RESCUE.--THE PRISONER AGAIN,
AND THE SUBTERRANEAN VAULT.

CHAPTER XLV.--THE OPEN GRAVES.--THE DEAD BODIES.--A SCENE OF TERROR.

CHAPTER XLVI.--THE PREPARATIONS FOR LEAVING BANNERWORTH HALL, AND THE
MYSTERIOUS CONDUCT OF THE ADMIRAL AND MR. CHILLINGWORTH.

CHAPTER XLVII.--THE REMOVAL FROM THE HALL.--THE NIGHT WATCH, AND THE
ALARM.

CHAPTER XLVIII--THE STAKE AND THE DEAD BODY.

CHAPTER XLIX--THE MOB'S ARRIVAL AT SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S.--THE ATTEMPT
TO GAIN ADMISSION.

CHAPTER L.--THE MOB'S ARRIVAL AT SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S.--THE ATTEMPT TO
GAIN ADMISSION.

CHAPTER LI.--THE ATTACK UPON THE VAMPYRE'S HOUSE.--THE STORY OF THE
ATTACK.--THE FORCING OF THE DOORS, AND THE STRUGGLE.

CHAPTER LII.--THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE MOB AND SIR FRANCIS
VARNEY.--THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE.--THE WINE CELLARS.

CHAPTER LIII.--THE DESTRUCTION OF SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S HOUSE BY
FIRE.--THE ARRIVAL OF THE MILITARY, AND A SECOND MOB.

CHAPTER LIV.--THE BURNING OF VARNEY'S HOUSE.--A NIGHT SCENE.--POPULAR
SUPERSTITION.

CHAPTER LV.--THE RETURN OF THE MOB AND MILITARY TO THE TOWN.--THE
MADNESS OF THE MOB.--THE GROCER'S REVENGE.

CHAPTER LVI.--THE DEPARTURE OF THE BANNERWORTHS FROM THE HALL.--THE NEW
ABODE.--JACK PRINGLE, PILOT.

CHAPTER LVII.--THE LONELY WATCH, AND THE ADVENTURE IN THE DESERTED
HOUSE.

CHAPTER LVIII.--THE ARRIVAL OF JACK PRINGLE.--MIDNIGHT AND THE
VAMPYRE.--THE MYSTERIOUS HAT.

CHAPTER LIX.--THE WARNING.--THE NEW PLAN OF OPERATION.--THE INSULTING
MESSAGE FROM VARNEY.

CHAPTER LX.--THE INTERRUPTED BREAKFAST AT SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S.

CHAPTER LXI.--THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER.--THE PARTICULARS OF THE SUICIDE
AT BANNERWORTH HALL.

CHAPTER LXII.--THE MYSTERIOUS MEETING IN THE RUIN AGAIN.--THE VAMPYRE'S
ATTACK UPON THE CONSTABLE.

CHAPTER LXIII.--THE GUESTS AT THE INN, AND THE STORY OF THE DEAD UNCLE.

CHAPTER LXIV.--THE VAMPIRE IN THE MOONLIGHT.--THE FALSE FRIEND.

CHAPTER LXV.--VARNEY'S VISIT TO THE DUNGEON OF THE LONELY PRISONER IN
THE RUINS.

CHAPTER LXVI.--FLORA BANNERWORTH'S APPARENT INCONSISTENCY.--THE
ADMIRAL'S CIRCUMSTANCES AND ADVICE.--MR. CHILLINGWORTH'S MYSTERIOUS
ABSENCE.

CHAPTER LXVII.--THE ADMIRAL'S STORY OF THE BEAUTIFUL BELINDA.

CHAPTER LXVIII.--MARCHDALE'S ATTEMPTED VILLANY, AND THE RESULT.

CHAPTER LXIX.--FLORA BANNERWORTH AND HER MOTHER.--THE EPISODE OF
CHIVALRY.

CHAPTER LXX.--THE FUNERAL OF THE STRANGER OF THE INN.--THE POPULAR
COMMOTION, AND MRS. CHILLINGWORTH'S APPEAL TO THE MOB.--THE NEW
RIOT.--THE HALL IN DANGER.

CHAPTER LXXI.--THE STRANGE MEETING AT THE HALL BETWEEN MR.
CHILLINGWORTH AND THE MYSTERIOUS FRIEND OF VARNEY.

CHAPTER LXXII.--THE STRANGE STORY.--THE ARRIVAL OF THE MOB AT THE HALL,
AND THEIR DISPERSION.

CHAPTER LXXIII.--THE VISIT OF THE VAMPIRE.--THE GENERAL MEETING.

CHAPTER LXXIV.--THE MEETING OF CHARLES AND FLORA.

CHAPTER LXXV.--MUTUAL EXPLANATIONS, AND THE VISIT TO THE RUINS.

CHAPTER LXXVI.--THE SECOND NIGHT-WATCH OF MR. CHILLINGWORTH AT THE
HALL.

CHAPTER LXXVII.--VARNEY IN THE GARDEN.--THE COMMUNICATION OF DR.
CHILLINGWORTH TO THE ADMIRAL AND HENRY.

CHAPTER LXXVIII.--THE ALTERCATION BETWEEN VARNEY AND THE EXECUTIONER IN
THE HALL.--THE MUTUAL AGREEMENT.

CHAPTER LXXIX.--THE VAMPYRE'S DANGER.--THE LAST REFUGE.--THE RUSE OF
HENRY BANNERWORTH.

CHAPTER LXXX.--THE DISCOVERY OF THE BODY OF MARCHDALE IN THE RUINS BY
THE MOB.--THE BURNING OF THE CORPSE.--THE MURDER OF THE HANGMAN.

CHAPTER LXXXI.--THE VAMPYRE'S FLIGHT.--HIS DANGER, AND THE LAST PLACE
OF REFUGE.

CHAPTER LXXXII.--CHARLES HOLLAND'S PURSUIT OF THE VAMPYRE.--THE
DANGEROUS INTERVIEW.

CHAPTER LXXXIII.--THE MYSTERIOUS ARRIVAL AT THE INN.--THE HUNGARIAN
NOBLEMAN.--THE LETTER TO VARNEY.

CHAPTER LXXXIV.--THE EXCITED POPULACE.--VARNEY HUNTED.--THE PLACE OF
REFUGE.

CHAPTER LXXXV.--THE HUNGARIAN NOBLEMAN GETS INTO DANGER.--HE IS FIRED
AT, AND SHOWS SOME OF HIS QUALITY.

CHAPTER LXXXVI.--THE DISCOVERY OF THE POCKET BOOK OF MARMADUKE
BANNERWORTH.--ITS MYSTERIOUS CONTENTS.

CHAPTER LXXXVII.--THE HUNT FOR VARNEY.--THE HOUSE-TOPS.--THE MIRACULOUS
ESCAPE.--THE LAST PLACE OF REFUGE.--THE COTTAGE.

CHAPTER LXXXVIII.--THE RECEPTION OF THE VAMPYRE BY FLORA.--VARNEY
SUBDUED.

CHAPTER LXXXIX.--TELLS WHAT BECAME OF THE SECOND VAMPYRE WHO SOUGHT
VARNEY.

CHAPTER XC.--DR. CHILLINGWORTH AT THE HALL.--THE ENCOUNTER OF
MYSTERY.--THE CONFLICT.--THE RESCUE, AND THE PICTURE.

CHAPTER XCI.--THE GRAND CONSULTATION BROKEN UP BY MRS. CHILLINGWORTH,
AND THE DISAPPEARANCE OF VARNEY.

CHAPTER XCII.--THE MISADVENTURE OF THE DOCTOR WITH THE PICTURE.

CHAPTER XCIII.--THE ALARM AT ANDERBURY.--THE SUSPICIONS OF THE
BANNERWORTH FAMILY, AND THE MYSTERIOUS COMMUNICATION.

CHAPTER XCIV.--THE VISITOR, AND THE DEATH IN THE SUBTERRANEAN PASSAGE.

CHAPTER XCV.--THE MARRIAGE IN THE BANNERWORTH FAMILY ARRANGED.

CHAPTER XCVI.--THE BARON TAKES ANDERBURY HOUSE, AND DECIDES UPON GIVING
A GRAND ENTERTAINMENT.




PREFACE


The unprecedented success of the romance of "Varney the Vampyre," leaves
the Author but little to say further, than that he accepts that success
and its results as gratefully as it is possible for any one to do
popular favours.

A belief in the existence of Vampyres first took its rise in Norway and
Sweden, from whence it rapidly spread to more southern regions, taking a
firm hold of the imaginations of the more credulous portion of mankind.

The following romance is collected from seemingly the most authentic
sources, and the Author must leave the question of credibility entirely
to his readers, not even thinking that he his peculiarly called upon to
express his own opinion upon the subject.

Nothing has been omitted in the life of the unhappy Varney, which could
tend to throw a light upon his most extraordinary career, and the fact
of his death just as it is here related, made a great noise at the time
through Europe and is to be found in the public prints for the year
1713.

With these few observations, the Author and Publisher, are well content
to leave the work in the hands of a public, which has stamped it with an
approbation far exceeding their most sanguine expectations, and which is
calculated to act as the strongest possible incentive to the production
of other works, which in a like, or perchance a still further degree may
be deserving of public patronage and support.

To the whole of the Metropolitan Press for their laudatory notices, the
Author is peculiarly obliged.

_London Sep. 1847_




VARNEY, THE VAMPYRE;

OR

THE FEAST OF BLOOD

A Romance




CHAPTER I.

    ----"How graves give up their dead.
    And how the night air hideous grows
    With shrieks!"

MIDNIGHT.--THE HAIL-STORM.--THE DREADFUL VISITOR.--THE VAMPYRE.


[Illustration]

The solemn tones of an old cathedral clock have announced midnight--the
air is thick and heavy--a strange, death like stillness pervades all
nature. Like the ominous calm which precedes some more than usually
terrific outbreak of the elements, they seem to have paused even in
their ordinary fluctuations, to gather a terrific strength for the great
effort. A faint peal of thunder now comes from far off. Like a signal
gun for the battle of the winds to begin, it appeared to awaken them
from their lethargy, and one awful, warring hurricane swept over a whole
city, producing more devastation in the four or five minutes it lasted,
than would a half century of ordinary phenomena.

It was as if some giant had blown upon some toy town, and scattered many
of the buildings before the hot blast of his terrific breath; for as
suddenly as that blast of wind had come did it cease, and all was as
still and calm as before.

Sleepers awakened, and thought that what they had heard must be the
confused chimera of a dream. They trembled and turned to sleep again.

All is still--still as the very grave. Not a sound breaks the magic of
repose. What is that--a strange, pattering noise, as of a million of
fairy feet? It is hail--yes, a hail-storm has burst over the city.
Leaves are dashed from the trees, mingled with small boughs; windows
that lie most opposed to the direct fury of the pelting particles of ice
are broken, and the rapt repose that before was so remarkable in its
intensity, is exchanged for a noise which, in its accumulation, drowns
every cry of surprise or consternation which here and there arose from
persons who found their houses invaded by the storm.

Now and then, too, there would come a sudden gust of wind that in its
strength, as it blew laterally, would, for a moment, hold millions of
the hailstones suspended in mid air, but it was only to dash them with
redoubled force in some new direction, where more mischief was to be
done.

Oh, how the storm raged! Hail--rain--wind. It was, in very truth, an
awful night.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is an antique chamber in an ancient house. Curious and quaint
carvings adorn the walls, and the large chimney-piece is a curiosity of
itself. The ceiling is low, and a large bay window, from roof to floor,
looks to the west. The window is latticed, and filled with curiously
painted glass and rich stained pieces, which send in a strange, yet
beautiful light, when sun or moon shines into the apartment. There is
but one portrait in that room, although the walls seem panelled for the
express purpose of containing a series of pictures. That portrait is of
a young man, with a pale face, a stately brow, and a strange expression
about the eyes, which no one cared to look on twice.

There is a stately bed in that chamber, of carved walnut-wood is it
made, rich in design and elaborate in execution; one of those works of
art which owe their existence to the Elizabethan era. It is hung with
heavy silken and damask furnishing; nodding feathers are at its
corners--covered with dust are they, and they lend a funereal aspect to
the room. The floor is of polished oak.

God! how the hail dashes on the old bay window! Like an occasional
discharge of mimic musketry, it comes clashing, beating, and cracking
upon the small panes; but they resist it--their small size saves them;
the wind, the hail, the rain, expend their fury in vain.

The bed in that old chamber is occupied. A creature formed in all
fashions of loveliness lies in a half sleep upon that ancient couch--a
girl young and beautiful as a spring morning. Her long hair has escaped
from its confinement and streams over the blackened coverings of the
bedstead; she has been restless in her sleep, for the clothing of the
bed is in much confusion. One arm is over her head, the other hangs
nearly off the side of the bed near to which she lies. A neck and bosom
that would have formed a study for the rarest sculptor that ever
Providence gave genius to, were half disclosed. She moaned slightly in
her sleep, and once or twice the lips moved as if in prayer--at least
one might judge so, for the name of Him who suffered for all came once
faintly from them.

She has endured much fatigue, and the storm does not awaken her; but it
can disturb the slumbers it does not possess the power to destroy
entirely. The turmoil of the elements wakes the senses, although it
cannot entirely break the repose they have lapsed into.

Oh, what a world of witchery was in that mouth, slightly parted, and
exhibiting within the pearly teeth that glistened even in the faint
light that came from that bay window. How sweetly the long silken
eyelashes lay upon the cheek. Now she moves, and one shoulder is
entirely visible--whiter, fairer than the spotless clothing of the bed
on which she lies, is the smooth skin of that fair creature, just
budding into womanhood, and in that transition state which presents to
us all the charms of the girl--almost of the child, with the more
matured beauty and gentleness of advancing years.

Was that lightning? Yes--an awful, vivid, terrifying flash--then a
roaring peal of thunder, as if a thousand mountains were rolling one
over the other in the blue vault of Heaven! Who sleeps now in that
ancient city? Not one living soul. The dread trumpet of eternity could
not more effectually have awakened any one.

The hail continues. The wind continues. The uproar of the elements seems
at its height. Now she awakens--that beautiful girl on the antique bed;
she opens those eyes of celestial blue, and a faint cry of alarm bursts
from her lips. At least it is a cry which, amid the noise and turmoil
without, sounds but faint and weak. She sits upon the bed and presses
her hands upon her eyes. Heavens! what a wild torrent of wind, and rain,
and hail! The thunder likewise seems intent upon awakening sufficient
echoes to last until the next flash of forked lightning should again
produce the wild concussion of the air. She murmurs a prayer--a prayer
for those she loves best; the names of those dear to her gentle heart
come from her lips; she weeps and prays; she thinks then of what
devastation the storm must surely produce, and to the great God of
Heaven she prays for all living things. Another flash--a wild, blue,
bewildering flash of lightning streams across that bay window, for an
instant bringing out every colour in it with terrible distinctness. A
shriek bursts from the lips of the young girl, and then, with eyes fixed
upon that window, which, in another moment, is all darkness, and with
such an expression of terror upon her face as it had never before known,
she trembled, and the perspiration of intense fear stood upon her brow.

"What--what was it?" she gasped; "real, or a delusion? Oh, God, what was
it? A figure tall and gaunt, endeavouring from the outside to unclasp
the window. I saw it. That flash of lightning revealed it to me. It
stood the whole length of the window."

There was a lull of the wind. The hail was not falling so
thickly--moreover, it now fell, what there was of it, straight, and yet
a strange clattering sound came upon the glass of that long window. It
could not be a delusion--she is awake, and she hears it. What can
produce it? Another flash of lightning--another shriek--there could be
now no delusion.

A tall figure is standing on the ledge immediately outside the long
window. It is its finger-nails upon the glass that produces the sound so
like the hail, now that the hail has ceased. Intense fear paralysed the
limbs of that beautiful girl. That one shriek is all she can utter--with
hands clasped, a face of marble, a heart beating so wildly in her bosom,
that each moment it seems as if it would break its confines, eyes
distended and fixed upon the window, she waits, froze with horror. The
pattering and clattering of the nails continue. No word is spoken, and
now she fancies she can trace the darker form of that figure against the
window, and she can see the long arms moving to and fro, feeling for
some mode of entrance. What strange light is that which now gradually
creeps up into the air? red and terrible--brighter and brighter it
grows. The lightning has set fire to a mill, and the reflection of the
rapidly consuming building falls upon that long window. There can be no
mistake. The figure is there, still feeling for an entrance, and
clattering against the glass with its long nails, that appear as if the
growth of many years had been untouched. She tries to scream again but a
choking sensation comes over her, and she cannot. It is too
dreadful--she tries to move--each limb seems weighed down by tons of
lead--she can but in a hoarse faint whisper cry,--

"Help--help--help--help!"

And that one word she repeats like a person in a dream. The red glare of
the fire continues. It throws up the tall gaunt figure in hideous relief
against the long window. It shows, too, upon the one portrait that is in
the chamber, and that portrait appears to fix its eyes upon the
attempting intruder, while the flickering light from the fire makes it
look fearfully life-like. A small pane of glass is broken, and the form
from without introduces a long gaunt hand, which seems utterly destitute
of flesh. The fastening is removed, and one-half of the window, which
opens like folding doors, is swung wide open upon its hinges.

And yet now she could not scream--she could not move.
"Help!--help!--help!" was all she could say. But, oh, that look of
terror that sat upon her face, it was dreadful--a look to haunt the
memory for a lifetime--a look to obtrude itself upon the happiest
moments, and turn them to bitterness.

The figure turns half round, and the light falls upon the face. It is
perfectly white--perfectly bloodless. The eyes look like polished tin;
the lips are drawn back, and the principal feature next to those
dreadful eyes is the teeth--the fearful looking teeth--projecting like
those of some wild animal, hideously, glaringly white, and fang-like. It
approaches the bed with a strange, gliding movement. It clashes together
the long nails that literally appear to hang from the finger ends. No
sound comes from its lips. Is she going mad--that young and beautiful
girl exposed to so much terror? she has drawn up all her limbs; she
cannot even now say help. The power of articulation is gone, but the
power of movement has returned to her; she can draw herself slowly along
to the other side of the bed from that towards which the hideous
appearance is coming.

But her eyes are fascinated. The glance of a serpent could not have
produced a greater effect upon her than did the fixed gaze of those
awful, metallic-looking eyes that were bent on her face. Crouching down
so that the gigantic height was lost, and the horrible, protruding,
white face was the most prominent object, came on the figure. What was
it?--what did it want there?--what made it look so hideous--so unlike an
inhabitant of the earth, and yet to be on it?

Now she has got to the verge of the bed, and the figure pauses. It
seemed as if when it paused she lost the power to proceed. The clothing
of the bed was now clutched in her hands with unconscious power. She
drew her breath short and thick. Her bosom heaves, and her limbs
tremble, yet she cannot withdraw her eyes from that marble-looking face.
He holds her with his glittering eye.

The storm has ceased--all is still. The winds are hushed; the church
clock proclaims the hour of one: a hissing sound comes from the throat
of the hideous being, and he raises his long, gaunt arms--the lips move.
He advances. The girl places one small foot from the bed on to the
floor. She is unconsciously dragging the clothing with her. The door of
the room is in that direction--can she reach it? Has she power to
walk?--can she withdraw her eyes from the face of the intruder, and so
break the hideous charm? God of Heaven! is it real, or some dream so
like reality as to nearly overturn the judgment for ever?

The figure has paused again, and half on the bed and half out of it that
young girl lies trembling. Her long hair streams across the entire width
of the bed. As she has slowly moved along she has left it streaming
across the pillows. The pause lasted about a minute--oh, what an age of
agony. That minute was, indeed, enough for madness to do its full work
in.

With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen--with a strange howling
cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized
the long tresses of her hair, and twining them round his bony hands he
held her to the bed. Then she screamed--Heaven granted her then power to
scream. Shriek followed shriek in rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell
in a heap by the side of the bed--she was dragged by her long silken
hair completely on to it again. Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered
with the agony of her soul. The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran
over that angelic form with a hideous satisfaction--horrible
profanation. He drags her head to the bed's edge. He forces it back by
the long hair still entwined in his grasp. With a plunge he seizes her
neck in his fang-like teeth--a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking
noise follows. _The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous
repast!_




CHAPTER II.

THE ALARM.--THE PISTOL SHOT.--THE PURSUIT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.


[Illustration]

Lights flashed about the building, and various room doors opened; voices
called one to the other. There was an universal stir and commotion among
the inhabitants.

"Did you hear a scream, Harry?" asked a young man, half-dressed, as he
walked into the chamber of another about his own age.

"I did--where was it?"

"God knows. I dressed myself directly."

"All is still now."

"Yes; but unless I was dreaming there was a scream."

"We could not both dream there was. Where did you think it came from?"

"It burst so suddenly upon my ears that I cannot say."

There was a tap now at the door of the room where these young men were,
and a female voice said,--

"For God's sake, get up!"

"We are up," said both the young men, appearing.

"Did you hear anything?"

"Yes, a scream."

"Oh, search the house--search the house; where did it come from--can you
tell?"

"Indeed we cannot, mother."

Another person now joined the party. He was a man of middle age, and, as
he came up to them, he said,--

"Good God! what is the matter?"

Scarcely had the words passed his lips, than such a rapid succession of
shrieks came upon their ears, that they felt absolutely stunned by them.
The elderly lady, whom one of the young men had called mother, fainted,
and would have fallen to the floor of the corridor in which they all
stood, had she not been promptly supported by the last comer, who
himself staggered, as those piercing cries came upon the night air. He,
however, was the first to recover, for the young men seemed paralysed.

"Henry," he cried, "for God's sake support your mother. Can you doubt
that these cries come from Flora's room?"

The young man mechanically supported his mother, and then the man who
had just spoken darted back to his own bed-room, from whence he returned
in a moment with a pair of pistols, and shouting,--

"Follow me, who can!" he bounded across the corridor in the direction of
the antique apartment, from whence the cries proceeded, but which were
now hushed.

That house was built for strength, and the doors were all of oak, and of
considerable thickness. Unhappily, they had fastenings within, so that
when the man reached the chamber of her who so much required help, he
was helpless, for the door was fast.

"Flora! Flora!" he cried; "Flora, speak!"

All was still.

"Good God!" he added; "we must force the door."

"I hear a strange noise within," said the young man, who trembled
violently.

"And so do I. What does it sound like?"

"I scarcely know; but it nearest resembles some animal eating, or
sucking some liquid."

"What on earth can it be? Have you no weapon that will force the door? I
shall go mad if I am kept here."

"I have," said the young man. "Wait here a moment."

He ran down the staircase, and presently returned with a small, but
powerful, iron crow-bar.

"This will do," he said.

"It will, it will.--Give it to me."

"Has she not spoken?"

"Not a word. My mind misgives me that something very dreadful must have
happened to her."

"And that odd noise!"

"Still goes on. Somehow, it curdles the very blood in my veins to hear
it."

The man took the crow-bar, and with some difficulty succeeded in
introducing it between the door and the side of the wall--still it
required great strength to move it, but it did move, with a harsh,
crackling sound.

"Push it!" cried he who was using the bar, "push the door at the same
time."

The younger man did so. For a few moments the massive door resisted.
Then, suddenly, something gave way with a loud snap--it was a part of
the lock,--and the door at once swung wide open.

How true it is that we measure time by the events which happen within a
given space of it, rather than by its actual duration.

To those who were engaged in forcing open the door of the antique
chamber, where slept the young girl whom they named Flora, each moment
was swelled into an hour of agony; but, in reality, from the first
moment of the alarm to that when the loud cracking noise heralded the
destruction of the fastenings of the door, there had elapsed but very
few minutes indeed.

"It opens--it opens," cried the young man.

"Another moment," said the stranger, as he still plied the
crowbar--"another moment, and we shall have free ingress to the chamber.
Be patient."

This stranger's name was Marchdale; and even as he spoke, he succeeded
in throwing the massive door wide open, and clearing the passage to the
chamber.

To rush in with a light in his hand was the work of a moment to the
young man named Henry; but the very rapid progress he made into the
apartment prevented him from observing accurately what it contained, for
the wind that came in from the open window caught the flame of the
candle, and although it did not actually extinguish it, it blew it so
much on one side, that it was comparatively useless as a light.

"Flora--Flora!" he cried.

Then with a sudden bound something dashed from off the bed. The
concussion against him was so sudden and so utterly unexpected, as well
as so tremendously violent, that he was thrown down, and, in his fall,
the light was fairly extinguished.

All was darkness, save a dull, reddish kind of light that now and then,
from the nearly consumed mill in the immediate vicinity, came into the
room. But by that light, dim, uncertain, and flickering as it was, some
one was seen to make for the window.

Henry, although nearly stunned by his fall, saw a figure, gigantic in
height, which nearly reached from the floor to the ceiling. The other
young man, George, saw it, and Mr. Marchdale likewise saw it, as did the
lady who had spoken to the two young men in the corridor when first the
screams of the young girl awakened alarm in the breasts of all the
inhabitants of that house.

The figure was about to pass out at the window which led to a kind of
balcony, from whence there was an easy descent to a garden.

Before it passed out they each and all caught a glance of the side-face,
and they saw that the lower part of it and the lips were dabbled in
blood. They saw, too, one of those fearful-looking, shining, metallic
eyes which presented so terrible an appearance of unearthly ferocity.

No wonder that for a moment a panic seized them all, which paralysed any
exertions they might otherwise have made to detain that hideous form.

But Mr. Marchdale was a man of mature years; he had seen much of life,
both in this and in foreign lands; and he, although astonished to the
extent of being frightened, was much more likely to recover sooner than
his younger companions, which, indeed, he did, and acted promptly
enough.

"Don't rise, Henry," he cried. "Lie still."

Almost at the moment he uttered these words, he fired at the figure,
which then occupied the window, as if it were a gigantic figure set in a
frame.

The report was tremendous in that chamber, for the pistol was no toy
weapon, but one made for actual service, and of sufficient length and
bore of barrel to carry destruction along with the bullets that came
from it.

"If that has missed its aim," said Mr. Marchdale, "I'll never pull a
trigger again."

As he spoke he dashed forward, and made a clutch at the figure he felt
convinced he had shot.

The tall form turned upon him, and when he got a full view of the face,
which he did at that moment, from the opportune circumstance of the lady
returning at the instant with a light she had been to her own chamber to
procure, even he, Marchdale, with all his courage, and that was great,
and all his nervous energy, recoiled a step or two, and uttered the
exclamation of, "Great God!"

That face was one never to be forgotten. It was hideously flushed with
colour--the colour of fresh blood; the eyes had a savage and remarkable
lustre; whereas, before, they had looked like polished tin--they now
wore a ten times brighter aspect, and flashes of light seemed to dart
from them. The mouth was open, as if, from the natural formation of the
countenance, the lips receded much from the large canine looking teeth.

A strange howling noise came from the throat of this monstrous figure,
and it seemed upon the point of rushing upon Mr. Marchdale. Suddenly,
then, as if some impulse had seized upon it, it uttered a wild and
terrible shrieking kind of laugh; and then turning, dashed through the
window, and in one instant disappeared from before the eyes of those who
felt nearly annihilated by its fearful presence.

"God help us!" ejaculated Henry.

Mr. Marchdale drew a long breath, and then, giving a stamp on the floor,
as if to recover himself from the state of agitation into which even he
was thrown, he cried,--

"Be it what or who it may, I'll follow it"

"No--no--do not," cried the lady.

"I must, I will. Let who will come with me--I follow that dreadful
form."

As he spoke, he took the road it took, and dashed through the window
into the balcony.

"And we, too, George," exclaimed Henry; "we will follow Mr. Marchdale.
This dreadful affair concerns us more nearly than it does him."

The lady who was the mother of these young men, and of the beautiful
girl who had been so awfully visited, screamed aloud, and implored of
them to stay. But the voice of Mr. Marchdale was heard exclaiming
aloud,--

"I see it--I see it; it makes for the wall."

They hesitated no longer, but at once rushed into the balcony, and from
thence dropped into the garden.

The mother approached the bed-side of the insensible, perhaps the
murdered girl; she saw her, to all appearance, weltering in blood, and,
overcome by her emotions, she fainted on the floor of the room.

When the two young men reached the garden, they found it much lighter
than might have been fairly expected; for not only was the morning
rapidly approaching, but the mill was still burning, and those mingled
lights made almost every object plainly visible, except when deep
shadows were thrown from some gigantic trees that had stood for
centuries in that sweetly wooded spot. They heard the voice of Mr.
Marchdale, as he cried,--

"There--there--towards the wall. There--there--God! how it bounds
along."

The young men hastily dashed through a thicket in the direction from
whence his voice sounded, and then they found him looking wild and
terrified, and with something in his hand which looked like a portion of
clothing.

"Which way, which way?" they both cried in a breath.

He leant heavily on the arm of George, as he pointed along a vista of
trees, and said in a low voice,--

"God help us all. It is not human. Look there--look there--do you not
see it?"

They looked in the direction he indicated. At the end of this vista was
the wall of the garden. At that point it was full twelve feet in height,
and as they looked, they saw the hideous, monstrous form they had traced
from the chamber of their sister, making frantic efforts to clear the
obstacle.

Then they saw it bound from the ground to the top of the wall, which it
very nearly reached, and then each time it fell back again into the
garden with such a dull, heavy sound, that the earth seemed to shake
again with the concussion. They trembled--well indeed they might, and
for some minutes they watched the figure making its fruitless efforts to
leave the place.

"What--what is it?" whispered Henry, in hoarse accents. "God, what can
it possibly be?"

"I know not," replied Mr. Marchdale. "I did seize it. It was cold and
clammy like a corpse. It cannot be human."

"Not human?"

"Look at it now. It will surely escape now."

"No, no--we will not be terrified thus--there is Heaven above us. Come
on, and, for dear Flora's sake, let us make an effort yet to seize this
bold intruder."

"Take this pistol," said Marchdale. "It is the fellow of the one I
fired. Try its efficacy."

"He will be gone," exclaimed Henry, as at this moment, after many
repeated attempts and fearful falls, the figure reached the top of the
wall, and then hung by its long arms a moment or two, previous to
dragging itself completely up.

The idea of the appearance, be it what it might, entirely escaping,
seemed to nerve again Mr. Marchdale, and he, as well as the two young
men, ran forward towards the wall. They got so close to the figure
before it sprang down on the outer side of the wall, that to miss
killing it with the bullet from the pistol was a matter of utter
impossibility, unless wilfully.

Henry had the weapon, and he pointed it full at the tall form with a
steady aim. He pulled the trigger--the explosion followed, and that the
bullet did its office there could be no manner of doubt, for the figure
gave a howling shriek, and fell headlong from the wall on the outside.

"I have shot him," cried Henry, "I have shot him."




CHAPTER III.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE BODY.--FLORA'S RECOVERY AND MADNESS.--THE OFFER
OF ASSISTANCE FROM SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.


[Illustration]

"He is human!" cried Henry; "I have surely killed him."

"It would seem so," said Mr. Marchdale. "Let us now hurry round to the
outside of the wall, and see where he lies."

This was at once agreed to, and the whole three of them made what
expedition they could towards a gate which led into a paddock, across
which they hurried, and soon found themselves clear of the garden wall,
so that they could make way towards where they fully expected to find
the body of him who had worn so unearthly an aspect, but who it would be
an excessive relief to find was human.

So hurried was the progress they made, that it was scarcely possible to
exchange many words as they went; a kind of breathless anxiety was upon
them, and in the speed they disregarded every obstacle, which would, at
any other time, have probably prevented them from taking the direct road
they sought.

It was difficult on the outside of the wall to say exactly which was the
precise spot which it might be supposed the body had fallen on; but, by
following the wall in its entire length, surely they would come upon it.

They did so; but, to their surprise, they got from its commencement to
its further extremity without finding any dead body, or even any
symptoms of one having lain there.

At some parts close to the wall there grew a kind of heath, and,
consequently, the traces of blood would be lost among it, if it so
happened that at the precise spot at which the strange being had seemed
to topple over, such vegetation had existed. This was to be ascertained;
but now, after traversing the whole length of the wall twice, they came
to a halt, and looked wonderingly in each other's faces.

"There is nothing here," said Harry.

"Nothing," added his brother.

"It could not have been a delusion," at length said Mr. Marchdale, with
a shudder.

"A delusion?" exclaimed the brother! "That is not possible; we all saw
it."

"Then what terrible explanation can we give?"

"By heavens! I know not," exclaimed Henry. "This adventure surpasses all
belief, and but for the great interest we have in it, I should regard it
with a world of curiosity."

"It is too dreadful," said George; "for God's sake, Henry, let us return
to ascertain if poor Flora is killed."

"My senses," said Henry, "were all so much absorbed in gazing at that
horrible form, that I never once looked towards her further than to see
that she was, to appearance, dead. God help her! poor--poor, beautiful
Flora. This is, indeed, a sad, sad fate for you to come to.
Flora--Flora--"

"Do not weep, Henry," said George. "Rather let us now hasten home, where
we may find that tears are premature. She may yet be living and restored
to us."

"And," said Mr. Marchdale, "she may be able to give us some account of
this dreadful visitation."

"True--true," exclaimed Henry; "we will hasten home."

They now turned their steps homeward, and as they went they much blamed
themselves for all leaving home together, and with terror pictured what
might occur in their absence to those who were now totally unprotected.

"It was a rash impulse of us all to come in pursuit of this dreadful
figure," remarked Mr. Marchdale; "but do not torment yourself, Henry.
There may be no reason for your fears."

At the pace they went, they very soon reached the ancient house, and
when they came in sight of it, they saw lights flashing from the
windows, and the shadows of faces moving to and fro, indicating that the
whole household was up, and in a state of alarm.

Henry, after some trouble, got the hall door opened by a terrified
servant, who was trembling so much that she could scarcely hold the
light she had with her.

"Speak at once, Martha," said Henry. "Is Flora living?"

"Yes; but--"

"Enough--enough! Thank God she lives; where is she now?"

"In her own room, Master Henry. Oh, dear--oh, dear, what will become of
us all?"

Henry rushed up the staircase, followed by George and Mr. Marchdale, nor
paused he once until he reached the room of his sister.

"Mother," he said, before he crossed the threshold, "are you here?"

"I am, my dear--I am. Come in, pray come in, and speak to poor Flora."

"Come in, Mr. Marchdale," said Henry--"come in; we make no stranger of
you."

They all then entered the room.

Several lights had been now brought into that antique chamber, and, in
addition to the mother of the beautiful girl who had been so fearfully
visited, there were two female domestics, who appeared to be in the
greatest possible fright, for they could render no assistance whatever
to anybody.

The tears were streaming down the mother's face, and the moment she saw
Mr. Marchdale, she clung to his arm, evidently unconscious of what she
was about, and exclaimed,--

"Oh, what is this that has happened--what is this? Tell me, Marchdale!
Robert Marchdale, you whom I have known even from my childhood, you will
not deceive me. Tell me the meaning of all this?"

"I cannot," he said, in a tone of much emotion. "As God is my judge, I
am as much puzzled and amazed at the scene that has taken place here
to-night as you can be."

The mother wrung her hands and wept.

"It was the storm that first awakened me," added Marchdale; "and then I
heard a scream."

The brothers tremblingly approached the bed. Flora was placed in a
sitting, half-reclining posture, propped up by pillows. She was quite
insensible, and her face was fearfully pale; while that she breathed at
all could be but very faintly seen. On some of her clothing, about the
neck, were spots of blood, and she looked more like one who had suffered
some long and grievous illness, than a young girl in the prime of life
and in the most robust health, as she had been on the day previous to
the strange scene we have recorded.

"Does she sleep?" said Henry, as a tear fell from his eyes upon her
pallid cheek.

"No," replied Mr. Marchdale. "This is a swoon, from which we must
recover her."

Active measures were now adopted to restore the languid circulation,
and, after persevering in them for some time, they had the satisfaction
of seeing her open her eyes.

Her first act upon consciousness returning, however, was to utter a loud
shriek, and it was not until Henry implored her to look around her, and
see that she was surrounded by none but friendly faces, that she would
venture again to open her eyes, and look timidly from one to the other.
Then she shuddered, and burst into tears as she said,--

"Oh, Heaven, have mercy upon me--Heaven, have mercy upon me, and save me
from that dreadful form."

"There is no one here, Flora," said Mr. Marchdale, "but those who love
you, and who, in defence of you, if needs were would lay down their
lives."

"Oh, God! Oh, God!"

"You have been terrified. But tell us distinctly what has happened? You
are quite safe now."

[Illustration]

She trembled so violently that Mr. Marchdale recommended that some
stimulant should be given to her, and she was persuaded, although not
without considerable difficulty, to swallow a small portion of some wine
from a cup. There could be no doubt but that the stimulating effect of
the wine was beneficial, for a slight accession of colour visited her
cheeks, and she spoke in a firmer tone as she said,--

"Do not leave me. Oh, do not leave me, any of you. I shall die if left
alone now. Oh, save me--save me. That horrible form! That fearful face!"

"Tell us how it happened, dear Flora?" said Henry.

"Or would you rather endeavour to get some sleep first?" suggested Mr.
Marchdale.

"No--no--no," she said, "I do not think I shall ever sleep again."

"Say not so; you will be more composed in a few hours, and then you can
tell us what has occurred."

"I will tell you now. I will tell you now."

She placed her hands over her face for a moment, as if to collect her
scattered, thoughts, and then she added,--

"I was awakened by the storm, and I saw that terrible apparition at the
window. I think I screamed, but I could not fly. Oh, God! I could not
fly. It came--it seized me by the hair. I know no more. I know no more."

She passed her hand across her neck several times, and Mr. Marchdale
said, in an anxious voice,--

"You seem, Flora, to have hurt your neck--there is a wound."

"A wound!" said the mother, and she brought a light close to the bed,
where all saw on the side of Flora's neck a small punctured wound; or,
rather two, for there was one a little distance from the other.

It was from these wounds the blood had come which was observable upon
her night clothing.

"How came these wounds?" said Henry.

"I do not know," she replied. "I feel very faint and weak, as if I had
almost bled to death."

"You cannot have done so, dear Flora, for there are not above
half-a-dozen spots of blood to be seen at all."

Mr. Marchdale leaned against the carved head of the bed for support, and
he uttered a deep groan. All eyes were turned upon him, and Henry said,
in a voice of the most anxious inquiry,--

"You have something to say, Mr. Marchdale, which will throw some light
upon this affair."

"No, no, no, nothing!" cried Mr. Marchdale, rousing himself at once from
the appearance of depression that had come over him. "I have nothing to
say, but that I think Flora had better get some sleep if she can."

"No sleep-no sleep for me," again screamed Flora. "Dare I be alone to
sleep?"

"But you shall not be alone, dear Flora," said Henry. "I will sit by
your bedside and watch you."

She took his hand in both hers, and while the tears chased each other
down her cheeks, she said,--

"Promise me, Henry, by all your hopes of Heaven, you will not leave me."

"I promise!"

She gently laid herself down, with a deep sigh, and closed her eyes.

"She is weak, and will sleep long," said Mr. Marchdale.

"You sigh," said Henry. "Some fearful thoughts, I feel certain, oppress
your heart."

"Hush-hush!" said Mr. Marchdale, as he pointed to Flora. "Hush! not
here--not here."

"I understand," said Henry.

"Let her sleep."

There was a silence of some few minutes duration. Flora had dropped into
a deep slumber. That silence was first broken by George, who said,--

"Mr. Marchdale, look at that portrait."

He pointed to the portrait in the frame to which we have alluded, and
the moment Marchdale looked at it he sunk into a chair as he
exclaimed,--

"Gracious Heaven, how like!"

"It is--it is," said Henry. "Those eyes--"

"And see the contour of the countenance, and the strange shape of the
mouth."

"Exact--exact."

"That picture shall be moved from here. The sight of it is at once
sufficient to awaken all her former terrors in poor Flora's brain if she
should chance to awaken and cast her eyes suddenly upon it."

"And is it so like him who came here?" said the mother.

"It is the very man himself," said Mr. Marchdale. "I have not been in
this house long enough to ask any of you whose portrait that may be?"

"It is," said Henry, "the portrait of Sir Runnagate Bannerworth, an
ancestor of ours, who first, by his vices, gave the great blow to the
family prosperity."

"Indeed. How long ago?"

"About ninety years."

"Ninety years. 'Tis a long while--ninety years."

"You muse upon it."

"No, no. I do wish, and yet I dread--"

"What?"

"To say something to you all. But not here--not here. We will hold a
consultation on this matter to-morrow. Not now--not now."

"The daylight is coming quickly on," said Henry; "I shall keep my sacred
promise of not moving from this room until Flora awakens; but there can
be no occasion for the detention of any of you. One is sufficient here.
Go all of you, and endeavour to procure what rest you can."

"I will fetch you my powder-flask and bullets," said Mr. Marchdale; "and
you can, if you please, reload the pistols. In about two hours more it
will be broad daylight."

This arrangement was adopted. Henry did reload the pistols, and placed
them on a table by the side of the bed, ready for immediate action, and
then, as Flora was sleeping soundly, all left the room but himself.

Mrs. Bannerworth was the last to do so. She would have remained, but for
the earnest solicitation of Henry, that she would endeavour to get some
sleep to make up for her broken night's repose, and she was indeed so
broken down by her alarm on Flora's account, that she had not power to
resist, but with tears flowing from her eyes, she sought her own
chamber.

And now the calmness of the night resumed its sway in that evil-fated
mansion; and although no one really slept but Flora, all were still.
Busy thought kept every one else wakeful. It was a mockery to lie down
at all, and Henry, full of strange and painful feelings as he was,
preferred his present position to the anxiety and apprehension on
Flora's account which he knew he should feel if she were not within the
sphere of his own observation, and she slept as soundly as some gentle
infant tired of its playmates and its sports.




CHAPTER IV.

THE MORNING.--THE CONSULTATION.--THE FEARFUL SUGGESTION.


[Illustration]

What wonderfully different impressions and feelings, with regard to the
same circumstances, come across the mind in the broad, clear, and
beautiful light of day to what haunt the imagination, and often render
the judgment almost incapable of action, when the heavy shadow of night
is upon all things.

There must be a downright physical reason for this effect--it is so
remarkable and so universal. It seems that the sun's rays so completely
alter and modify the constitution of the atmosphere, that it produces,
as we inhale it, a wonderfully different effect upon the nerves of the
human subject.

We can account for this phenomenon in no other way. Perhaps never in his
life had he, Henry Bannerworth, felt so strongly this transition of
feeling as he now felt it, when the beautiful daylight gradually dawned
upon him, as he kept his lonely watch by the bedside of his slumbering
sister.

That watch had been a perfectly undisturbed one. Not the least sight or
sound of any intrusion had reached his senses. All had been as still as
the very grave.

And yet while the night lasted, and he was more indebted to the rays of
the candle, which he had placed upon a shelf, for the power to
distinguish objects than to the light of the morning, a thousand uneasy
and strange sensations had found a home in his agitated bosom.

He looked so many times at the portrait which was in the panel that at
length he felt an undefined sensation of terror creep over him whenever
he took his eyes off it.

He tried to keep himself from looking at it, but he found it vain, so he
adopted what, perhaps, was certainly the wisest, best plan, namely, to
look at it continually.

He shifted his chair so that he could gaze upon it without any effort,
and he placed the candle so that a faint light was thrown upon it, and
there he sat, a prey to many conflicting and uncomfortable feelings,
until the daylight began to make the candle flame look dull and sickly.

Solution for the events of the night he could find none. He racked his
imagination in vain to find some means, however vague, of endeavouring
to account for what occurred, and still he was at fault. All was to him
wrapped in the gloom of the most profound mystery.

And how strangely, too, the eyes of that portrait appeared to look upon
him--as if instinct with life, and as if the head to which they belonged
was busy in endeavouring to find out the secret communings of his soul.
It was wonderfully well executed that portrait; so life-like, that the
very features seemed to move as you gazed upon them.

"It shall be removed," said Henry. "I would remove it now, but that it
seems absolutely painted on the panel, and I should awake Flora in any
attempt to do so."

He arose and ascertained that such was the case, and that it would
require a workman, with proper tools adapted to the job, to remove the
portrait.

"True," he said, "I might now destroy it, but it is a pity to obscure a
work of such rare art as this is; I should blame myself if I were. It
shall be removed to some other room of the house, however."

Then, all of a sudden, it struck Henry how foolish it would be to remove
the portrait from the wall of a room which, in all likelihood, after
that night, would be uninhabited; for it was not probable that Flora
would choose again to inhabit a chamber in which she had gone through so
much terror.

"It can be left where it is," he said, "and we can fasten up, if we
please, even the very door of this room, so that no one need trouble
themselves any further about it."

The morning was now coming fast, and just as Henry thought he would
partially draw a blind across the window, in order to shield from the
direct rays of the sun the eyes of Flora, she awoke.

"Help--help!" she cried, and Henry was by her side in a moment.

"You are safe, Flora--you are safe," he said.

"Where is it now?" she said.

"What--what, dear Flora?"

"The dreadful apparition. Oh, what have I done to be made thus
perpetually miserable?"

"Think no more of it, Flora."

"I must think. My brain is on fire! A million of strange eyes seem
gazing on me."

"Great Heaven! she raves," said Henry.

"Hark--hark--hark! He comes on the wings of the storm. Oh, it is most
horrible--horrible!"

Henry rang the bell, but not sufficiently loudly to create any alarm.
The sound reached the waking ear of the mother, who in a few moments was
in the room.

"She has awakened," said Henry, "and has spoken, but she seems to me to
wander in her discourse. For God's sake, soothe her, and try to bring
her mind round to its usual state."

"I will, Henry--I will."

"And I think, mother, if you were to get her out of this room, and into
some other chamber as far removed from this one as possible, it would
tend to withdraw her mind from what has occurred."

"Yes; it shall be done. Oh, Henry, what was it--what do you think it
was?"

"I am lost in a sea of wild conjecture. I can form no conclusion; where
is Mr. Marchdale?"

"I believe in his chamber."

"Then I will go and consult with him."

Henry proceeded at once to the chamber, which was, as he knew, occupied
by Mr. Marchdale; and as he crossed the corridor, he could not but pause
a moment to glance from a window at the face of nature.

As is often the case, the terrific storm of the preceding evening had
cleared the air, and rendered it deliciously invigorating and life-like.
The weather had been dull, and there had been for some days a certain
heaviness in the atmosphere, which was now entirely removed.

The morning sun was shining with uncommon brilliancy, birds were singing
in every tree and on every bush; so pleasant, so spirit-stirring,
health-giving a morning, seldom had he seen. And the effect upon his
spirits was great, although not altogether what it might have been, had
all gone on as it usually was in the habit of doing at that house. The
ordinary little casualties of evil fortune had certainly from time to
time, in the shape of illness, and one thing or another, attacked the
family of the Bannerworths in common with every other family, but here
suddenly had arisen a something at once terrible and inexplicable.

He found Mr. Marchdale up and dressed, and apparently in deep and
anxious thought. The moment he saw Henry, he said,--

"Flora is awake, I presume."

"Yes, but her mind appears to be much disturbed."

"From bodily weakness, I dare say."

"But why should she be bodily weak? she was strong and well, ay, as well
as she could ever be in all her life. The glow of youth and health was
on her cheeks. Is it possible that, in the course of one night, she
should become bodily weak to such an extent?"

"Henry," said Mr. Marchdale, sadly, "sit down. I am not, as you know, a
superstitious man."

"You certainly are not."

"And yet, I never in all my life was so absolutely staggered as I have
been by the occurrences of to-night."

"Say on."

"There is a frightful, a hideous solution of them; one which every
consideration will tend to add strength to, one which I tremble to name
now, although, yesterday, at this hour, I should have laughed it to
scorn."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, it is so. Tell no one that which I am about to say to you. Let the
dreadful suggestion remain with ourselves alone, Henry Bannerworth."

"I--I am lost in wonder."

"You promise me?"

"What--what?"

"That you will not repeat my opinion to any one."

"I do."

"On your honour."

"On my honour, I promise."

Mr. Marchdale rose, and proceeding to the door, he looked out to see
that there were no listeners near. Having ascertained then that they
were quite alone, he returned, and drawing a chair close to that on
which Henry sat, he said,--

"Henry, have you never heard of a strange and dreadful superstition
which, in some countries, is extremely rife, by which it is supposed
that there are beings who never die."

"Never die!"

"Never. In a word, Henry, have you never heard of--of--I dread to
pronounce the word."

"Speak it. God of Heaven! let me hear it."

"A _vampyre_!"

Henry sprung to his feet. His whole frame quivered with emotion; the
drops of perspiration stood upon his brow, as, in, a strange, hoarse
voice, he repeated the words,--

"A vampyre!"

"Even so; one who has to renew a dreadful existence by human blood--one
who lives on for ever, and must keep up such a fearful existence upon
human gore--one who eats not and drinks not as other men--a vampyre."

Henry dropped into his scat, and uttered a deep groan of the most
exquisite anguish.

"I could echo that groan," said Marchdale, "but that I am so thoroughly
bewildered I know not what to think."

"Good God--good God!"

"Do not too readily yield belief in so dreadful a supposition, I pray
you."

"Yield belief!" exclaimed Henry, as he rose, and lifted up one of his
hands above his head. "No; by Heaven, and the great God of all, who
there rules, I will not easily believe aught so awful and so monstrous."

"I applaud your sentiment, Henry; not willingly would I deliver up
myself to so frightful a belief--it is too horrible. I merely have told
you of that which you saw was on my mind. You have surely before heard
of such things."

"I have--I have."

"I much marvel, then, that the supposition did not occur to you, Henry."

"It did not--it did not, Marchdale. It--it was too dreadful, I suppose,
to find a home in my heart. Oh! Flora, Flora, if this horrible idea
should once occur to you, reason cannot, I am quite sure, uphold you
against it."

"Let no one presume to insinuate it to her, Henry. I would not have it
mentioned to her for worlds."

"Nor I--nor I. Good God! I shudder at the very thought--the mere
possibility; but there is no possibility, there can be none. I will not
believe it."

"Nor I."

"No; by Heaven's justice, goodness, grace, and mercy, I will not believe
it."

"Tis well sworn, Henry; and now, discarding the supposition that Flora
has been visited by a vampyre, let us seriously set about endeavouring,
if we can, to account for what has happened in this house."

"I--I cannot now."

"Nay, let us examine the matter; if we can find any natural explanation,
let us cling to it, Henry, as the sheet-anchor of our very souls."

"Do you think. You are fertile in expedients. Do you think, Marchdale;
and, for Heaven's sake, and for the sake of our own peace, find out some
other way of accounting for what has happened, than the hideous one you
have suggested."

"And yet my pistol bullets hurt him not; he has left the tokens of his
presence on the neck of Flora."

"Peace, oh! peace. Do not, I pray you, accumulate reasons why I should
receive such a dismal, awful superstition. Oh, do not, Marchdale, as you
love me!"

"You know that my attachment to you," said Marchdale, "is sincere; and
yet, Heaven help us!"

His voice was broken by grief as he spoke, and he turned aside his head
to hide the bursting tears that would, despite all his efforts, show
themselves in his eyes.

"Marchdale," added Henry, after a pause of some moments' duration, "I
will sit up to-night with my sister."

"Do--do!"

"Think you there is a chance it may come again?"

"I cannot--I dare not speculate upon the coming of so dreadful a
visitor, Henry; but I will hold watch with you most willingly."

"You will, Marchdale?"

"My hand upon it. Come what dangers may, I will share them with you,
Henry."

"A thousand thanks. Say nothing, then, to George of what we have been
talking about. He is of a highly susceptible nature, and the very idea
of such a thing would kill him."

"I will; be mute. Remove your sister to some other chamber, let me beg
of you, Henry; the one she now inhabits will always be suggestive of
horrible thoughts."

"I will; and that dreadful-looking portrait, with its perfect likeness
to him who came last night."

"Perfect indeed. Do you intend to remove it?"

"I do not. I thought of doing so; but it is actually on the panel in the
wall, and I would not willingly destroy it, and it may as well remain
where it is in that chamber, which I can readily now believe will become
henceforward a deserted one in this house."

"It may well become such."

"Who comes here? I hear a step."

There was a tip at the door at this moment, and George made his
appearance in answer to the summons to come in. He looked pale and ill;
his face betrayed how much he had mentally suffered during that night,
and almost directly he got into the bed-chamber he said,--

I shall, I am sure, be censured by you both for what I am going to say;
but I cannot help saying it, nevertheless, for to keep it to myself
would destroy me."

"Good God, George! what is it?" said Mr. Marchdale.

"Speak it out!" said Henry.

"I have been thinking of what has occurred here, and the result of that
thought has been one of the wildest suppositions that ever I thought I
should have to entertain. Have you never heard of a vampyre?"

Henry sighed deeply, and Marchdale was silent.

"I say a vampyre," added George, with much excitement in his manner. "It
is a fearful, a horrible supposition; but our poor, dear Flora has been
visited by a vampyre, and I shall go completely mad!"

He sat down, and covering his face with his hands, he wept bitterly and
abundantly.

"George," said Henry, when he saw that the frantic grief had in some
measure abated--"be calm, George, and endeavour to listen to me."

"I hear, Henry."

"Well, then, do not suppose that you are the only one in this house to
whom so dreadful a superstition has occurred."

"Not the only one?"

"No; it has occurred to Mr. Marchdale also."

"Gracious Heaven!"

"He mentioned it to me; but we have both agreed to repudiate it with
horror."

"To--repudiate--it?"

"Yes, George."

"And yet--and yet--"

"Hush, hush! I know what you would say. You would tell us that our
repudiation of it cannot affect the fact. Of that we are aware; but yet
will we disbelieve that which a belief in would be enough to drive us
mad."

"What do you intend to do?"

"To keep this supposition to ourselves, in the first place; to guard it
most zealously from the ears of Flora."

"Do you think she has ever heard of vampyres?"

"I never heard her mention that in all her reading she had gathered even
a hint of such a fearful superstition. If she has, we must be guided by
circumstances, and do the best we can."

"Pray Heaven she may not!"

"Amen to that prayer, George," said Henry. "Mr. Marchdale and I intend
to keep watch over Flora to-night."

"May not I join you?"

"Your health, dear George, will not permit you to engage in such
matters. Do you seek your natural repose, and leave it to us to do the
best we can in this most fearful and terrible emergency."

"As you please, brother, and as you please, Mr. Marchdale. I know I am a
frail reed, and my belief is that this affair will kill me quite. The
truth is, I am horrified--utterly and frightfully horrified. Like my
poor, dear sister, I do not believe I shall ever sleep again."

"Do not fancy that, George," said Marchdale. "You very much add to the
uneasiness which must be your poor mother's portion, by allowing this
circumstance to so much affect you. You well know her affection for you
all, and let me therefore, as a very old friend of hers, entreat you to
wear as cheerful an aspect as you can in her presence."

"For once in my life," said George, sadly, "I will; to my dear mother,
endeavour to play the hypocrite."

"Do so," said Henry. "The motive will sanction any such deceit as that,
George, be assured."

The day wore on, and Poor Flora remained in a very precarious situation.
It was not until mid-day that Henry made up his mind he would call in a
medical gentleman to her, and then he rode to the neighbouring
market-town, where he knew an extremely intelligent practitioner
resided. This gentleman Henry resolved upon, under a promise of secrecy,
makings confidant of; but, long before he reached him, he found he might
well dispense with the promise of secrecy.

He had never thought, so engaged had he been with other matters, that
the servants were cognizant of the whole affair, and that from them he
had no expectation of being able to keep the whole story in all its
details. Of course such an opportunity for tale-bearing and gossiping
was not likely to be lost; and while Henry was thinking over how he had
better act in the matter, the news that Flora Bannerworth had been
visited in the night by a vampyre--for the servants named the visitation
such at once--was spreading all over the county.

As he rode along, Henry met a gentleman on horseback who belonged to the
county, and who, reining in his steed, said to him,

"Good morning, Mr. Bannerworth."

"Good morning," responded Henry, and he would have ridden on, but the
gentleman added,--

"Excuse me for interrupting you, sir; but what is the strange story that
is in everybody's mouth about a vampyre?"

Henry nearly fell off his horse, he was so much astonished, and,
wheeling the animal around, he said,--

"In everybody's mouth!"

"Yes; I have heard it from at least a dozen persons."

"You surprise me."

"It is untrue? Of course I am not so absurd as really to believe about
the vampyre; but is there no foundation at all for it? We generally find
that at the bottom of these common reports there is a something around
which, as a nucleus, the whole has formed."

"My sister is unwell."

"Ah, and that's all. It really is too bad, now."

"We had a visitor last night."

"A thief, I suppose?"

"Yes, yes--I believe a thief. I do believe it was a thief, and she was
terrified."

"Of course, and upon such a thing is grafted a story of a vampyre, and
the marks of his teeth being in her neck, and all the circumstantial
particulars."

"Yes, yes."

"Good morning, Mr. Bannerworth."

Henry bade the gentleman good morning, and much vexed at the publicity
which the affair had already obtained, he set spurs to his horse,
determined that he would speak to no one else upon so uncomfortable a
theme. Several attempts were made to stop him, but he only waved his
hand and trotted on, nor did he pause in his speed till he reached the
door of Mr. Chillingworth, the medical man whom he intended to consult.

Henry knew that at such a time he would be at home, which was the case,
and he was soon closeted with the man of drugs. Henry begged his patient
hearing, which being accorded, he related to him at full length what had
happened, not omitting, to the best of his remembrance, any one
particular. When he had concluded his narration, the doctor shifted his
position several times, and then said,--

"That's all?"

"Yes--and enough too."

"More than enough, I should say, my young friend. You astonish me."

"Can you form any supposition, sir, on the subject?"

"Not just now. What is your own idea?"

"I cannot be said to have one about it. It is too absurd to tell you
that my brother George is impressed with a belief a vampyre has visited
the house."

"I never in all my life heard a more circumstantial narrative in favour
of so hideous a superstition."

"Well, but you cannot believe--"

"Believe what?"

"That the dead can come to life again, and by such a process keep up
vitality."

"Do you take me for a fool?"

"Certainly not."

"Then why do you ask me such questions?"

"But the glaring facts of the case."

"I don't care if they were ten times more glaring, I won't believe it. I
would rather believe you were all mad, the whole family of you--that at
the full of the moon you all were a little cracked."

"And so would I."

"You go home now, and I will call and see your sister in the course of
two hours. Something may turn up yet, to throw some new light upon this
strange subject."

With this understanding Henry went home, and he took care to ride as
fast as before, in order to avoid questions, so that he got back to his
old ancestral home without going through the disagreeable ordeal of
having to explain to any one what had disturbed the peace of it.

When Henry reached his home, he found that the evening was rapidly
coming on, and before he could permit himself to think upon any other
subject, he inquired how his terrified sister had passed the hours
during his absence.

He found that but little improvement had taken place in her, and that
she had occasionally slept, but to awaken and speak incoherently, as if
the shock she had received had had some serious affect upon her nerves.
He repaired at once to her room, and, finding that she was awake, he
leaned over her, and spoke tenderly to her.

"Flora," he said, "dear Flora, you are better now?"

"Harry, is that you?"

"Yes, dear."

"Oh, tell me what has happened?"

"Have you not a recollection, Flora?"

"Yes, yes, Henry; but what was it? They none of them will tell me what
it was, Henry."

"Be calm, dear. No doubt some attempt to rob the house."

"Think you so?"

"Yes; the bay window was peculiarly adapted for such a purpose; but now
that you are removed here to this room, you will be able to rest in
peace."

"I shall die of terror, Henry. Even now those eyes are glaring on me so
hidiously. Oh, it is fearful--it is very fearful, Henry. Do you not pity
me, and no one will promise to remain with me at night."

"Indeed, Flora, you are mistaken, for I intend to sit by your bedside
armed, and so preserve you from all harm."

She clutched his hand eagerly, as she said,--

"You will, Henry. You will, and not think it too much trouble, dear
Henry."

"It can be no trouble, Flora."

"Then I shall rest in peace, for I know that the dreadful vampyre cannot
come to me when you are by-"

"The what, Flora!"

"The vampyre, Henry. It was a vampyre."

"Good God, who told you so?"

"No one. I have read of them in the book of travels in Norway, which Mr.
Marchdale lent us all."

"Alas, alas!" groaned Henry. "Discard, I pray you, such a thought from
your mind."

"Can we discard thoughts. What power have we but from that mind, which
is ourselves?"

"True, true."

"Hark, what noise is that? I thought I heard a noise. Henry, when you
go, ring for some one first. Was there not a noise?"

"The accidental shutting of some door, dear."

"Was it that?"

"It was."

"Then I am relieved. Henry, I sometimes fancy I am in the tomb, and that
some one is feasting on my flesh. They do say, too, that those who in
life have been bled by a vampyre, become themselves vampyres, and have
the same horrible taste for blood as those before them. Is it not
horrible?"

"You only vex yourself by such thoughts, Flora. Mr. Chillingworth is
coming to see you."

"Can he minister to a mind diseased?"

"But yours is not, Flora. Your mind is healthful, and so, although his
power extends not so far, we will thank Heaven, dear Flora, that you
need it not."

She sighed deeply, as she said,--

"Heaven help me! I know not, Henry. The dreadful being held on by my
hair. I must have it all taken off. I tried to get away, but it dragged
me back--a brutal thing it was. Oh, then at that moment, Henry, I felt
as if something strange took place in my brain, and that I was going
mad! I saw those glazed eyes close to, mine--I felt a hot, pestiferous
breath upon my face--help--help!"

"Hush! my Flora, hush! Look at me."

"I am calm again. It fixed its teeth in my throat. Did I faint away?"

"You did, dear; but let me pray you to refer all this to imagination; or
at least the greater part of it."

"But you saw it."

"Yes--"

"All saw it."

"We all saw some man--a housebreaker--It must have been some
housebreaker. What more easy, you know, dear Flora, than to assume some
such disguise?"

"Was anything stolen?"

"Not that I know of; but there was an alarm, you know."

Flora shook her head, as she said, in a low voice,--

"That which came here was more than mortal. Oh, Henry, if it had but
killed me, now I had been happy; but I cannot live--I hear it breathing
now."

"Talk of something else, dear Flora," said the much distressed Henry;
"you will make yourself much worse, if you indulge yourself in these
strange fancies."

"Oh, that they were but fancies!"

"They are, believe me."

"There is a strange confusion in my brain, and sleep comes over me
suddenly, when I least expect it. Henry, Henry, what I was, I shall
never, never be again."

"Say not so. All this will pass away like a dream, and leave so faint a
trace upon your memory, that the time will come when you will wonder it
ever made so deep an impression on your mind."

"You utter these words, Henry," she said, "but they do not come from
your heart. Ah, no, no, no! Who comes?"

The door was opened by Mrs. Bannerworth, who said,--

"It is only me, my dear. Henry, here is Dr. Chillingworth in the
dining-room."

Henry turned to Flora, saying,--

"You will see him, dear Flora? You know Mr. Chillingworth well."

"Yes, Henry, yes, I will see him, or whoever you please."

"Shew Mr. Chillingworth up," said Henry to the servant.

In a few moments the medical man was in the room, and he at once
approached the bedside to speak to Flora, upon whose pale countenance he
looked with evident interest, while at the same time it seemed mingled
with a painful feeling--at least so his own face indicated.

"Well, Miss Bannerworth," he said, "what is all this I hear about an
ugly dream you have had?"

"A dream?" said Flora, as she fixed her beautiful eyes on his face.

"Yes, as I understand."

She shuddered, and was silent.

"Was it not a dream, then?" added Mr. Chillingworth.

She wrung her hands, and in a voice of extreme anguish and pathos,
said,--

"Would it were a dream--would it were a dream! Oh, if any one could but
convince me it was a dream!"

"Well, will you tell me what it was?"

"Yes, sir, it was a vampyre."

Mr. Chillingworth glanced at Henry, as he said, in reply to Flora's
words,--

"I suppose that is, after all, another name, Flora, for the nightmare?"

"No--no--no!"

"Do you really, then, persist in believing anything so absurd, Miss
Bannerworth?"

"What can I say to the evidence of my own senses?" she replied. "I saw
it, Henry saw it, George saw, Mr. Marchdale, my mother--all saw it. We
could not all be at the same time the victims of the same delusion."

"How faintly you speak."

"I am very faint and ill."

"Indeed. What wound is that on your neck?"

A wild expression came over the face of Flora; a spasmodic action of the
muscles, accompanied with a shuddering, as if a sudden chill had come
over the whole mass of blood took place, and she said,--

"It is the mark left by the teeth of the vampyre."

The smile was a forced one upon the face of Mr. Chillingworth.

"Draw up the blind of the window, Mr. Henry," he said, "and let me
examine this puncture to which your sister attaches so extraordinary a
meaning."

[Illustration]

The blind was drawn up, and a strong light was thrown into the room. For
full two minutes Mr. Chillingworth attentively examined the two small
wounds in the neck of Flora. He took a powerful magnifying glass from
his pocket, and looked at them through it, and after his examination was
concluded, he said,--

"They are very trifling wounds, indeed."

"But how inflicted?" said Henry.

"By some insect, I should say, which probably--it being the season for
many insects--has flown in at the window"

"I know the motive," said Flora "which prompts all these suggestions it
is a kind one, and I ought to be the last to quarrel with it; but what I
have seen, nothing can make me believe I saw not, unless I am, as once
or twice I have thought myself, really mad."

"How do you now feel in general health?"

"Far from well; and a strange drowsiness at times creeps over me. Even
now I feel it."

She sunk back on the pillows as she spoke and closed her eyes with a
deep sigh.

Mr. Chillingworth beckoned Henry to come with him from the room, but the
latter had promised that he would remain with Flora; and as Mrs.
Bannerworth had left the chamber because she was unable to control her
feelings, he rang the bell, and requested that his mother would come.

She did so, and then Henry went down stairs along with the medical man,
whose opinion he was certainly eager to be now made acquainted with.

As soon as they were alone in an old-fashioned room which was called the
oak closet, Henry turned to Mr. Chillingworth, and said,--

"What, now, is your candid opinion, sir? You have seen my sister, and
those strange indubitable evidences of something wrong."

"I have; and to tell you candidly the truth, Mr. Henry, I am sorely
perplexed."

"I thought you would be."

"It is not often that a medical man likes to say so much, nor is it,
indeed, often prudent that he should do so, but in this case I own I am
much puzzled. It is contrary to all my notions upon all such subjects."

"Those wounds, what do you think of them?"

"I know not what to think. I am completely puzzled as regards them."

"But, but do they not really bear the appearance of being bites?"

"They really do."

"And so far, then, they are actually in favour of the dreadful
supposition which poor Flora entertains."

"So far they certainly are. I have no doubt in the world of their being
bites; but we not must jump to a conclusion that the teeth which
inflicted them were human. It is a strange case, and one which I feel
assured must give you all much uneasiness, as, indeed, it gave me; but,
as I said before, I will not let my judgment give in to the fearful and
degrading superstition which all the circumstances connected with this
strange story would seem to justify."

"It is a degrading superstition."

"To my mind your sister seems to be labouring under the effect of some
narcotic."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; unless she really has lost a quantity of blood, which loss has
decreased the heart's action sufficiently to produce the languor under
which she now evidently labours."

"Oh, that I could believe the former supposition, but I am confident she
has taken no narcotic; she could not even do so by mistake, for there is
no drug of the sort in the house. Besides, she is not heedless by any
means. I am quite convinced she has not done so."

"Then I am fairly puzzled, my young friend, and I can only say that I
would freely have given half of what I am worth to see that figure you
saw last night."

"What would you have done?"

"I would not have lost sight of it for the world's wealth."

"You would have felt your blood freeze with horror. The face was
terrible."

"And yet let it lead me where it liked I would have followed it."

"I wish you had been here."

"I wish to Heaven I had. If I though there was the least chance of
another visit I would come and wait with patience every night for a
month."

"I cannot say," replied Henry. "I am going to sit up to-night with my
sister, and I believe, our friend Mr. Marchdale will share my watch with
me."

Mr. Chillingworth appeared to be for a few moments lost in thought, and
then suddenly rousing himself, as if he found it either impossible to
come to any rational conclusion upon the subject, or had arrived at one
which he chose to keep to himself, he said,--

"Well, well, we must leave the matter at present as it stands. Time may
accomplish something towards its development, but at present so palpable
a mystery I never came across, or a matter in which human calculation
was so completely foiled."

"Nor I--nor I."

"I will send you some medicines, such as I think will be of service to
Flora, and depend upon seeing me by ten o'clock to-morrow morning."

"You have, of course, heard something," said Henry to the doctor, as he
was pulling on his gloves, "about vampyres."

"I certainly have, and I understand that in some countries, particularly
Norway and Sweden, the superstition is a very common one."

"And in the Levant."

"Yes. The ghouls of the Mahometans are of the same description of
beings. All that I have heard of the European vampyre has made it a
being which can be killed, but is restored to life again by the rays of
a full moon falling on the body."

"Yes, yes, I have heard as much."

"And that the hideous repast of blood has to be taken very frequently,
and that if the vampyre gets it not he wastes away, presenting the
appearance of one in the last stage of a consumption, and visibly, so to
speak, dying."

"That is what I have understood."

"To-night, do you know, Mr. Bannerworth, is the full of the moon."

Henry started.

"If now you had succeeded in killing--. Pshaw, what am I saying. I
believe I am getting foolish, and that the horrible superstition is
beginning to fasten itself upon me as well as upon all of you. How
strangely the fancy will wage war with the judgment in such a way as
this."

"The full of the moon," repeated Henry, as he glanced towards the
window, "and the night is near at hand."

"Banish these thoughts from your mind," said the doctor, "or else, my
young friend, you will make yourself decidedly ill. Good evening to you,
for it is evening. I shall see you to-morrow morning."

Mr. Chillingworth appeared now to be anxious to go, and Henry no longer
opposed his departure; but when he was gone a sense of great loneliness
came over him.

"To-night," he repeated, "is the full of the moon. How strange that this
dreadful adventure should have taken place just the night before. 'Tis
very strange. Let me see--let me see."

He took from the shelves of a book case the work which Flora had
mentioned, entitled, "Travels in Norway," in which work he found some
account of the popular belief in vampyres.

He opened the work at random, and then some of the leaves turned over of
themselves to a particular place, as the leaves of a book will
frequently do when it has been kept open a length of time at that part,
and the binding stretched there more than anywhere else. There was a
note at the bottom of one of the pages at this part of the book, and
Henry read as follows:--

"With regard to these vampyres, it is believed by those who are inclined
to give credence to so dreadful a superstition, that they always
endeavour to make their feast of blood, for the revival of their bodily
powers, on some evening immediately preceding a full moon, because if
any accident befal them, such as being shot, or otherwise killed or
wounded, they can recover by lying down somewhere where the full moon's
rays will fall upon them."

Henry let the book drop from his hands with a groan and a shudder.




CHAPTER V.

THE NIGHT WATCH.--THE PROPOSAL.--THE MOONLIGHT.--THE FEARFUL ADVENTURE.


[Illustration]

A kind of stupefaction came over Henry Bannerworth, and he sat for about
a quarter of an hour scarcely conscious of where he was, and almost
incapable of anything in the shape of rational thought. It was his
brother, George, who roused him by saying, as he laid his hand upon his
shoulder,--

"Henry, are you asleep?"

Henry had not been aware of his presence, and he started up as if he had
been shot.

"Oh, George, is it you?" he said.

"Yes, Henry, are you unwell?"

"No, no; I was in a deep reverie."

"Alas! I need not ask upon what subject," said George, sadly. "I sought
you to bring you this letter."

"A letter to me?"

"Yes, you see it is addressed to you, and the seal looks as if it came
from someone of consequence."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, Henry. Read it, and see from whence it comes."

There was just sufficient light by going to the window to enable Henry
to read the letter, which he did aloud.

It ran thus:--

     "Sir Francis Varney presents his compliments to Mr. Beaumont, and
     is much concerned to hear that some domestic affliction has
     fallen upon him. Sir Francis hopes that the genuine and loving
     sympathy of a neighbour will not be regarded as an intrusion, and
     begs to proffer any assistance or counsel that may be within the
     compass of his means.

     "Ratford Abbey."

"Sir Francis Varney!" said Henry, "who is he?"

"Do you not remember, Henry," said George, "we were told a few days ago,
that a gentleman of that name had become the purchaser of the estate of
Ratford Abbey."

"Oh, yes, yes. Have you seen him?"

"I have not."

"I do not wish to make any new acquaintance, George. We are very
poor--much poorer indeed than the general appearance of this place,
which, I fear, we shall soon have to part with, would warrant any one
believing. I must, of course, return a civil answer to this gentleman,
but it must be such as one as shall repress familiarity."

"That will be difficult to do while we remain here, when we come to
consider the very close proximity of the two properties, Henry."

"Oh, no, not at all. He will easily perceive that we do not want to make
acquaintance with him, and then, as a gentleman, which doubtless he is,
he will give up the attempt."

"Let it be so, Henry. Heaven knows I have no desire to form any new
acquaintance with any one, and more particularly under our present
circumstances of depression. And now, Henry, you must permit me, as I
have had some repose, to share with you your night watch in Flora's
room."

"I would advise you not, George; your health, you know, is very far from
good."

"Nay, allow me. If not, then the anxiety I shall suffer will do me more
harm than the watchfulness I shall keep up in her chamber."

This was an argument which Henry felt himself the force of too strongly
not to admit it in the case of George, and he therefore made no further
opposition to his wish to make one in the night watch.

"There will be an advantage," said George, "you see, in three of us
being engaged in this matter, because, should anything occur, two can
act together, and yet Flora may not be left alone."

"True, true, that is a great advantage."

Now a soft gentle silvery light began to spread itself over the heavens.
The moon was rising, and as the beneficial effects of the storm of the
preceding evening were still felt in the clearness of the air, the rays
appeared to be more lustrous and full of beauty than they commonly were.

Each moment the night grew lighter, and by the time the brothers were
ready to take their places in the chamber of Flora, the moon had risen
considerably.

Although neither Henry nor George had any objection to the company of
Mr. Marchdale, yet they gave him the option, and rather in fact urged
him not to destroy his night's repose by sitting up with them; but he
said,--

"Allow me to do so; I am older, and have calmer judgment than you can
have. Should anything again appear, I am quite resolved that it shall
not escape me."

"What would you do?"

"With the name of God upon my lips," said Mr. Marchdale, solemnly, "I
would grapple with it."

"You laid hands upon it last night."

"I did, and have forgotten to show you what I tore from it. Look
here,--what should you say this was?"

He produced a piece of cloth, on which was an old-fashioned piece of
lace, and two buttons. Upon a close inspection, this appeared to be a
portion of the lapel of a coat of ancient times, and suddenly, Henry,
with a look of intense anxiety, said,--

"This reminds me of the fashion of garments very many years ago, Mr.
Marchdale."

"It came away in my grasp as if rotten and incapable of standing any
rough usage."

"What a strange unearthly smell it has!"

"Now you mention it yourself," added Mr. Marchdale, "I must confess it
smells to me as if it had really come from the very grave."

"It does--it does. Say nothing of this relic of last night's work to any
one."

"Be assured I shall not. I am far from wishing to keep up in any one's
mind proofs of that which I would fain, very fain refute."

Mr. Marchdale replaced the portion of the coat which the figure had worn
in his pocket, and then the whole three proceeded to the chamber of
Flora.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was within a very few minutes of midnight, the moon had climbed high
in the heavens, and a night of such brightness and beauty had seldom
shown itself for a long period of time.

Flora slept, and in her chamber sat the two brothers and Mr. Marchdale,
silently, for she had shown symptoms of restlessness, and they much
feared to break the light slumber into which she had fallen.

Occasionally they had conversed in whispers, which could not have the
effect of rousing her, for the room, although smaller than the one she
had before occupied, was still sufficiently spacious to enable them to
get some distance from the bed.

Until the hour of midnight now actually struck, they were silent, and
when the last echo of the sounds had died away, a feeling of uneasiness
came over them, which prompted some conversation to get rid of it.

"How bright the moon is now," said Henry, in a low tone.

"I never saw it brighter," replied Marchdale. "I feel as if I were
assured that we shall not to-night be interrupted."

"It was later than this," said Henry.

"It was--it was."

"Do not then yet congratulate us upon no visit."

"How still the house is!" remarked George; "it seems to me as if I had
never found it so intensely quiet before."

"It is very still."

"Hush! she moves."

Flora moaned in her sleep, and made a slight movement. The curtains were
all drawn closely round the bed to shield her eyes from the bright
moonlight which streamed into the room so brilliantly. They might have
closed the shutters of the window, but this they did not like to do, as
it would render their watch there of no avail at all, inasmuch as they
would not be able to see if any attempt was made by any one to obtain
admittance.

A quarter of an hour longer might have thus passed when Mr. Marchdale
said in a whisper,--

"A thought has just struck me that the piece of coat I have, which I
dragged from the figure last night, wonderfully resembles in colour and
appearance the style of dress of the portrait in the room which Flora
lately slept in."

"I thought of that," said Henry, "when first I saw it; but, to tell the
honest truth, I dreaded to suggest any new proof connected with last
night's visitation."

"Then I ought not to have drawn your attention to it," said Mr.
Marchdale, "and regret I have done so."

"Nay, do not blame yourself on such an account," said Henry. "You are
quite right, and it is I who am too foolishly sensitive. Now, however,
since you have mentioned it, I must own I have a great desire to test
the accuracy of the observation by a comparison with the portrait."

"That may easily be done."

"I will remain here," said George, "in case Flora awakens, while you two
go if you like. It is but across the corridor."

Henry immediately rose, saying--

"Come, Mr. Marchdale, come. Let us satisfy ourselves at all events upon
this point at once. As George says it is only across the corridor, and
we can return directly."

"I am willing," said Mr. Marchdale, with a tone of sadness.

There was no light needed, for the moon stood suspended in a cloudless
sky, so that from the house being a detached one, and containing
numerous windows, it was as light as day.

Although the distance from one chamber to the other was only across the
corridor, it was a greater space than these words might occupy, for the
corridor was wide, neither was it directly across, but considerably
slanting. However, it was certainly sufficiently close at hand for any
sound of alarm from one chamber to reach another without any difficulty.

A few moments sufficed to place Henry and Mr. Marchdale in that antique
room, where, from the effect of the moonlight which was streaming over
it, the portrait on the panel looked exceedingly life like.

And this effect was probably the greater because the rest of the room
was not illuminated by the moon's rays, which came through a window in
the corridor, and then at the open door of that chamber upon the
portrait.

Mr. Marchdale held the piece of cloth he had close to the dress of the
portrait, and one glance was sufficient to show the wonderful likeness
between the two.

"Good God!" said Henry, "it is the same."

Mr. Marchdale dropped the piece of cloth and trembled.

"This fact shakes even your scepticism," said Henry.

"I know not what to make of it."

"I can tell you something which bears upon it. I do not know if you are
sufficiently aware of my family history to know that this one of my
ancestors, I wish I could say worthy ancestors, committed suicide, and
was buried in his clothes."

"You--you are sure of that?"

"Quite sure."

"I am more and more bewildered as each moment some strange corroborative
fact of that dreadful supposition we so much shrink from seems to come
to light and to force itself upon our attention."

There was a silence of a few moments duration, and Henry had turned
towards Mr. Marchdale to say something, when the cautious tread of a
footstep was heard in the garden, immediately beneath that balcony.

A sickening sensation came over Henry, and he was compelled to lean
against the wall for support, as in scarcely articulate accents he
said--

"The vampyre--the vampyre! God of heaven, it has come once again!"

"Now, Heaven inspire us with more than mortal courage," cried Mr.
Marchdale, and he dashed open the window at once, and sprang into the
balcony.

Henry in a moment recovered himself sufficiently to follow him, and when
he reached his side in the balcony, Marchdale said, as he pointed
below,--

"There is some one concealed there."

"Where--where?"

"Among the laurels. I will fire a random shot, and we may do some
execution."

"Hold!" said a voice from below; "don't do any such thing, I beg of
you."

"Why, that is Mr. Chillingworth's voice," cried Henry.

"Yes, and it's Mr. Chillingworth's person, too," said the doctor, as he
emerged from among some laurel bushes.

"How is this?" said Marchdale.

"Simply that I made up my mind to keep watch and ward to-night outside
here, in the hope of catching the vampyre. I got into here by climbing
the gate."

"But why did you not let me know?" said Henry.

"Because I did not know myself, my young friend, till an hour and a half
ago."

"Have you seen anything?"

"Nothing. But I fancied I heard something in the park outside the wall."

"Indeed!"

"What say you, Henry," said Mr. Marchdale, "to descending and taking a
hasty examination of the garden and grounds?"

"I am willing; but first allow me to speak to George, who otherwise
might be surprised at our long absence."

Henry walked rapidly to the bed chamber of Flora, and be said to
George,--

"Have you any objection to being left alone here for about half an hour,
George, while we make an examination of the garden?"

"Let me have some weapon and I care not. Remain here while I fetch a
sword from my own room."

Henry did so, and when George returned with a sword, which he always
kept in his bed-room, he said,--

"Now go, Henry. I prefer a weapon of this description to pistols much.
Do not be longer gone than necessary."

"I will not, George, be assured."

George was then left alone, and Henry returned to the balcony, where Mr.
Marchdale was waiting for him. It was a quicker mode of descending to
the garden to do so by clambering over the balcony than any other, and
the height was not considerable enough to make it very objectionable, so
Henry and Mr. Marchdale chose that way of joining Mr. Chillingworth.

"You are, no doubt, much surprised at finding me here," said the doctor;
"but the fact is, I half made up my mind to come while I was here; but I
had not thoroughly done so, therefore I said nothing to you about it."

"We are much indebted to you," said Henry, "for making the attempt."

"I am prompted to it by a feeling of the strongest curiosity."

"Are you armed, sir?" said Marchdale.

"In this stick," said the doctor, "is a sword, the exquisite temper of
which I know I can depend upon, and I fully intended to run through any
one whom I saw that looked in the least of the vampyre order."

"You would have done quite right," replied Mr. Marchdale. "I have a
brace of pistols here, loaded with ball; will you take one, Henry, if
you please, and then we shall be all armed."

Thus, then, prepared for any exigency, they made the whole round of the
house; but found all the fastenings secure, and everything as quiet as
possible.

"Suppose, now, we take a survey of the park outside the garden wall,"
said Mr. Marchdale.

This was agreed to; but before they had proceeded far, Mr. Marchdale
said,--

"There is a ladder lying on the wall; would it not be a good plan to
place it against the very spot the supposed vampyre jumped over last
night, and so, from a more elevated position, take a view of the open
meadows. We could easily drop down on the outer side, if we saw anything
suspicious."

"Not a bad plan," said the doctor. "Shall we do it?"

"Certainly," said Henry; and they accordingly carried the ladder, which
had been used for pruning the trees, towards the spot at the end of the
long walk, at which the vampyre had made good, after so many fruitless
efforts, his escape from the premises.

They made haste down the long vista of trees until they reached the
exact spot, and then they placed the ladder as near as possible, exactly
where Henry, in his bewilderment on the evening before, had seen the
apparition from the grave spring to.

"We can ascend singly," said Marchdale; "but there is ample space for us
all there to sit on the top of the wall and make our observations."

This was seen to be the case, and in about a couple of minutes they had
taken up their positions on the wall, and, although the height was but
trifling, they found that they had a much more extensive view than they
could have obtained by any other means.

"To contemplate the beauty of such a night as this," said Mr.
Chillingworth, "is amply sufficient compensation for coming the distance
I have."

"And who knows," remarked Marchdale, "we may yet see something which may
throw a light upon our present perplexities God knows that I would give
all I can call mine in the world to relieve you and your sister, Henry
Bannerworth, from the fearful effect which last night's proceedings
cannot fail to have upon you."

"Of that I am well assured, Mr. Marchdale," said Henry. "If the
happiness of myself and family depended upon you, we should be happy
indeed."

"You are silent, Mr. Chillingworth," remarked Marchdale, after a slight
pause.

"Hush!" said Mr. Chillingworth--"hush--hush!"

"Good God, what do you hear?" cried Henry.

The doctor laid his hand upon Henry's arm as he said,--

"There is a young lime tree yonder to the right."

"Yes--yes."

"Carry your eye from it in a horizontal line, as near as you can,
towards the wood."

Henry did so, and then he uttered a sudden exclamation of surprise, and
pointed to a rising spot of ground, which was yet, in consequence of the
number of tall trees in its vicinity, partially enveloped in shadow.

"What is that?" he said.

"I see something," said Marchdale. "By Heaven! it is a human form lying
stretched there."

"It is--as if in death."

"What can it be?" said Chillingworth.

"I dread to say," replied Marchdale; "but to my eyes, even at this
distance, it seems like the form of him we chased last night."

"The vampyre?"

"Yes--yes. Look, the moonbeams touch him. Now the shadows of the trees
gradually recede. God of Heaven! the figure moves."

Henry's eyes were riveted to that fearful object, and now a scene
presented itself which filled them all with wonder and astonishment,
mingled with sensations of the greatest awe and alarm.

As the moonbeams, in consequence of the luminary rising higher and
higher in the heavens, came to touch this figure that lay extended on
the rising ground, a perceptible movement took place in it. The limbs
appeared to tremble, and although it did not rise up, the whole body
gave signs of vitality.

"The vampyre--the vampyre!" said Mr. Marchdale. "I cannot doubt it now.
We must have hit him last night with the pistol bullets, and the
moonbeams are now restoring him to a new life."

Henry shuddered, and even Mr. Chillingworth turned pale. But he was the
first to recover himself sufficiently to propose some course of action,
and he said,--

"Let us descend and go up to this figure. It is a duty we owe to
ourselves as much as to society."

"Hold a moment," said Mr. Marchdale, as he produced a pistol. "I am an
unerring shot, as you well know, Henry. Before we move from this
position we now occupy, allow me to try what virtue may be in a bullet
to lay that figure low again."

"He is rising!" exclaimed Henry.

Mr. Marchdale levelled the pistol--he took a sure and deliberate aim,
and then, just as the figure seemed to be struggling to its feet, he
fired, and, with a sudden bound, it fell again.

"You have hit it," said Henry.

"You have indeed," exclaimed the doctor. "I think we can go now."

"Hush!" said Marchdale--"Hush! Does it not seem to you that, hit it as
often as you will, the moonbeams will recover it?"

"Yes--yes," said Henry, "they will--they will."

"I can endure this no longer," said Mr. Chillingworth, as he sprung from
the wall. "Follow me or not, as you please, I will seek the spot where
this being lies."

"Oh, be not rash," cried Marchdale. "See, it rises again, and its form
looks gigantic."

"I trust in Heaven and a righteous cause," said the doctor, as he drew
the sword he had spoken of from the stick, and threw away the scabbard.
"Come with me if you like, or I go alone."

Henry at once jumped down from the wall, and then Marchdale followed
him, saying,--

"Come on; I will not shrink."

They ran towards the piece of rising ground; but before they got to it,
the form rose and made rapidly towards a little wood which was in the
immediate neighbourhood of the hillock.

"It is conscious of being pursued," cried the doctor. "See how it
glances back, and then increases its speed."

"Fire upon it, Henry," said Marchdale.

He did so; but either his shot did not take effect, or it was quite
unheeded if it did, by the vampyre, which gained the wood before they
could have a hope of getting sufficiently near it to effect, or
endeavour to effect, a capture.

"I cannot follow it there," said Marchdale. "In open country I would
have pursued it closely; but I cannot follow it into the intricacies of
a wood."

"Pursuit is useless there," said Henry. "It is enveloped in the deepest
gloom."

"I am not so unreasonable," remarked Mr. Chillingworth, "as to wish you
to follow into such a place as that. I am confounded utterly by this
affair."

"And I," said Marchdale. "What on earth is to be done?"

"Nothing--nothing!" exclaimed Henry, vehemently; "and yet I have,
beneath the canopy of Heaven, declared that I will, so help me God!
spare neither time nor trouble in the unravelling of this most fearful
piece of business. Did either of you remark the clothing which this
spectral appearance wore?"

"They were antique clothes," said Mr. Chillingworth, "such as might have
been fashionable a hundred years ago, but not now."

"Such was my impression," added Marchdale.

"And such my own," said Henry, excitedly. "Is it at all within the
compass of the wildest belief that what we have seen is a vampyre, and
no other than my ancestor who, a hundred years ago, committed suicide?"

There was so much intense excitement, and evidence of mental suffering,
that Mr. Chillingworth took him by the arm, saying,--

"Come home--come home; no more of this at present; you will but make
yourself seriously unwell."

"No--no--no."

"Come home now, I pray you; you are by far too much excited about this
matter to pursue it with the calmness which should be brought to bear
upon it."

"Take advice, Henry," said Marchdale, "take advice, and come home at
once."

"I will yield to you; I feel that I cannot control my own feelings--I
will yield to you, who, as you say, are cooler on this subject than I
can be. Oh, Flora, Flora, I have no comfort to bring to you now."

Poor Henry Bannerworth appeared to be in a complete state of mental
prostration, on account of the distressing circumstances that had
occurred so rapidly and so suddenly in his family, which had had quite
enough to contend with without having superadded to every other evil the
horror of believing that some preternatural agency was at work to
destroy every hope of future happiness in this world, under any
circumstances.

He suffered himself to be led home by Mr. Chillingworth and Marchdale;
he no longer attempted to dispute the dreadful fact concerning the
supposed vampyre; he could not contend now against all the corroborating
circumstances that seemed to collect together for the purpose of proving
that which, even when proved, was contrary to all his notions of Heaven,
and at variance with all that was recorded and established is part and
parcel of the system of nature.

"I cannot deny," he said, when they had reached home, "that such things
are possible; but the probability will not bear a moment's
investigation."

"There are more things," said Marchdale, solemnly, "in Heaven, and on
earth, than are dreamed of in our philosophy."

"There are indeed, it appears," said Mr. Chillingworth.

"And are you a convert?" said Henry, turning to him.

"A convert to what?"

"To a belief in--in--these vampyres?"

"I? No, indeed; if you were to shut me up in a room full of vampyres, I
would tell them all to their teeth that I defied them."

"But after what we have seen to-night?"

"What have we seen?"

"You are yourself a witness."

"True; I saw a man lying down, and then I saw a man get up; he seemed
then to be shot, but whether he was or not he only knows; and then I saw
him walk off in a desperate hurry. Beyond that, I saw nothing."

"Yes; but, taking such circumstances into combination with others, have
you not a terrible fear of the truth of the dreadful appearance?"

"No--no; on my soul, no. I will die in my disbelief of such an outrage
upon Heaven as one of these creatures would most assuredly be."

"Oh! that I could think like you; but the circumstance strikes too
nearly to my heart."

"Be of better cheer, Henry--be of better cheer," said Marchdale; "there
is one circumstance which we ought to consider, it is that, from all we
have seen, there seems to be some things which would favour an opinion,
Henry, that your ancestor, whose portrait hangs in the chamber which was
occupied by Flora, is the vampyre."

"The dress was the same," said Henry.

"I noted it was."

"And I."

"Do you not, then, think it possible that something might be done to set
that part of the question at rest?"

"What--what?"

"Where is your ancestor buried?"

"Ah! I understand you now."

"And I," said Mr. Chillingworth; "you would propose a visit to his
mansion?"

"I would," added Marchdale; "anything that may in any way tend to assist
in making this affair clearer, and divesting it of its mysterious
circumstances, will be most desirable."

Henry appeared to rouse for some moments and then he said,--

"He, in common with many other members of the family, no doubt occupies
place in the vault under the old church in the village."

"Would it be possible," asked Marchdale, "to get into that vault without
exciting general attention?"

"It would," said Henry; "the entrance to the vault is in the flooring of
the pew which belongs to the family in the old church."

"Then it could be done?" asked Mr. Chillingworth.

"Most undoubtedly."

"Will you under take such an adventure?" said Mr. Chillingworth. "It may
ease your mind."

"He was buried in the vault, and in his clothes," said Henry, musingly;
"I will think of it. About such a proposition I would not decide
hastily. Give me leave to think of it until to-morrow."

"Most certainly."

[Illustration]

They now made their way to the chamber of Flora, and they heard from
George that nothing of an alarming character had occurred to disturb him
on his lonely watch. The morning was now again dawning, and Henry
earnestly entreated Mr. Marchdale to go to bed, which he did, leaving
the two brothers to continue as sentinels by Flora's bed side, until the
morning light should banish all uneasy thoughts.

Henry related to George what had taken place outside the house, and the
two brothers held a long and interesting conversation for some hours
upon that subject, as well as upon others of great importance to their
welfare. It was not until the sun's early rays came glaring in at the
casement that they both rose, and thought of awakening Flora, who had
now slept soundly for so many hours.




CHAPTER VI.

A GLANCE AT THE BANNERWORTH FAMILY.--THE PROBABLE CONSEQUENCES OF THE
MYSTERIOUS APPARITION'S APPEARANCE.


[Illustration]

Having thus far, we hope, interested our readers in the fortunes of a
family which had become subject to so dreadful a visitation, we trust
that a few words concerning them, and the peculiar circumstances in
which they are now placed, will not prove altogether out of place, or
unacceptable. The Bannerworth family then were well known in the part of
the country where they resided. Perhaps, if we were to say they were
better known by name than they were liked, on account of that name, we
should be near the truth, for it had unfortunately happened that for a
very considerable time past the head of the family had been the very
worst specimen of it that could be procured. While the junior branches
were frequently amiable and most intelligent, and such in mind and
manner as were calculated to inspire goodwill in all who knew them, he
who held the family property, and who resided in the house now occupied
by Flora and her brothers, was a very so--so sort of character.

This state of things, by some strange fatality, had gone on for nearly a
hundred years, and the consequence was what might have been fairly
expected, namely--that, what with their vices and what with their
extravagances, the successive heads of the Bannerworth family had
succeeded in so far diminishing the family property that, when it came
into the hands of Henry Bannerworth, it was of little value, on account
of the numerous encumbrances with which it was saddled.

The father of Henry had not been a very brilliant exception to the
general rule, as regarded the head of the family. If he were not quite
so bad as many of his ancestors, that gratifying circumstance was to be
accounted for by the supposition that he was not quite so bold, and that
the change in habits, manners, and laws, which had taken place in a
hundred years, made it not so easy for even a landed proprietor to play
the petty tyrant.

He had, to get rid of those animal spirits which had prompted many of
his predecessors to downright crimes, had recourse to the gaming-table,
and, after raising whatever sums he could upon the property which
remained, he naturally, and as might have been fully expected, lost them
all.

He was found lying dead in the garden of the house one day, and by his
side was his pocket-book, on one leaf of which, it was the impression of
the family, he had endeavoured to write something previous to his
decease, for he held a pencil firmly in his grasp.

The probability was that he had felt himself getting ill, and, being
desirous of making some communication to his family which pressed
heavily upon his mind, he had attempted to do so, but was stopped by the
too rapid approach of the hand of death.

For some days previous to his decease, his conduct had been extremely
mysterious. He had announced an intention of leaving England for
ever--of selling the house and grounds for whatever they would fetch
over and above the sums for which they were mortgaged, and so clearing
himself of all encumbrances.

He had, but a few hours before he was found lying dead, made the
following singular speech to Henry,--

"Do not regret, Henry, that the old house which has been in our family
so long is about to be parted with. Be assured that, if it is but for
the first time in my life, I have good and substantial reasons now for
what I am about to do. We shall be able to go some other country, and
there live like princes of the land."

Where the means were to come from to live like a prince, unless Mr.
Bannerworth had some of the German princes in his eye, no one knew but
himself, and his sudden death buried with him that most important
secret.

There were some words written on the leaf of his pocket-book, but they
were of by far too indistinct and ambiguous a nature to lead to
anything. They were these:--

"The money is ----------"

And then there was a long scrawl of the pencil, which seemed to have
been occasioned by his sudden decease.

Of course nothing could be made of these words, except in the way of a
contradiction as the family lawyer said, rather more facetiously than a
man of law usually speaks, for if he had written "The money is not," he
would have been somewhere remarkably near the truth.

However, with all his vices he was regretted by his children, who chose
rather to remember him in his best aspect than to dwell upon his faults.

For the first time then, within the memory of man, the head of the
family of the Bannerworths was a gentleman, in every sense of the word.
Brave, generous, highly educated, and full of many excellent and noble
qualities--for such was Henry, whom we have introduced to our readers
under such distressing circumstances.

And now, people said, that the family property having been all
dissipated and lost, there would take place a change, and that the
Bannerworths would have to take to some course of honourable industry
for a livelihood, and that then they would be as much respected as they
had before been detested and disliked.

Indeed, the position which Henry held was now a most precarious one--for
one of the amazingly clever acts of his father had been to encumber the
property with overwhelming claims, so that when Henry administered to
the estate, it was doubted almost by his attorney if it were at all
desirable to do so.

An attachment, however, to the old house of his family, had induced the
young man to hold possession of it as long as he could, despite any
adverse circumstance which might eventually be connected with it.

Some weeks, however, only after the decease of his father, and when he
fairly held possession, a sudden and a most unexpected offer came to him
from a solicitor in London, of whom he knew nothing, to purchase the
house and grounds, for a client of his, who had instructed him so to do,
but whom he did not mention.

The offer made was a liberal one, and beyond the value of the place.
The lawyer who had conducted Henry's affairs for him since his father's
decease, advised him by all means to take it; but after a consultation
with his mother and sister, and George, they all resolved to hold by
their own house as long as they could, and, consequently, he refused the
offer.

He was then asked to let the place, and to name his own price for the
occupation of it; but that he would not do: so the negotiation went off
altogether, leaving only, in the minds of the family, much surprise at
the exceeding eagerness of some one, whom they knew not, to get
possession of the place on any terms.

There was another circumstance perhaps which materially aided in
producing a strong feeling on the minds of the Bannerworths, with regard
to remaining where they were.

That circumstance occurred thus: a relation of the family, who was now
dead, and with whom had died all his means, had been in the habit, for
the last half dozen years of his life, of sending a hundred pounds to
Henry, for the express purpose of enabling him and his brother George
and his sifter Flora to take a little continental or home tour, in the
autumn of the year.

A more acceptable present, or for a more delightful purpose, to young
people, could not be found; and, with the quiet, prudent habits of all
three of them, they contrived to go far and to see much for the sum
which was thus handsomely placed at their disposal.

In one of those excursions, when among the mountains of Italy, an
adventure occurred which placed the life of Flora in imminent hazard.

They were riding along a narrow mountain path, and, her horse slipping,
she fell over the ledge of a precipice.

In an instant, a young man, a stranger to the whole party, who was
travelling in the vicinity, rushed to the spot, and by his knowledge and
exertions, they felt convinced her preservation was effected.

He told her to lie quiet; he encouraged her to hope for immediate
succour; and then, with much personal exertion, and at immense risk to
himself, he reached the ledge of rock on which she lay, and then he
supported her until the brothers had gone to a neighbouring house,
which, bye-the-bye, was two good English miles off, and got assistance.

There came on, while they were gone, a terrific storm, and Flora felt
that but for him who was with her she must have been hurled from the
rock, and perished in an abyss below, which was almost too deep for
observation.

Suffice it to say that she was rescued; and he who had, by his
intrepidity, done so much towards saving her, was loaded with the most
sincere and heartfelt acknowledgments by the brothers as well as by
herself.

He frankly told them that his name was Holland; that he was travelling
for amusement and instruction, and was by profession an artist.

He travelled with them for some time; and it was not at all to be
wondered at, under the circumstances, that an attachment of the
tenderest nature should spring up between him and the beautiful girl,
who felt that she owed to him her life.

Mutual glances of affection were exchanged between them, and it was
arranged that when he returned to England, he should come at once as an
honoured guest to the house of the family of the Bannerworths.

All this was settled satisfactorily with the full knowledge and
acquiescence of the two brothers, who had taken a strange attachment to
the young Charles Holland, who was indeed in every way likely to
propitiate the good opinion of all who knew him.

Henry explained to him exactly how they were situated, and told him that
when he came he would find a welcome from all, except possibly his
father, whose wayward temper he could not answer for.

Young Holland stated that he was compelled to be away for a term of two
years, from certain family arrangements he had entered into, and that
then he would return and hope to meet Flora unchanged as he should be.

It happened that this was the last of the continental excursions of the
Bannerworths, for, before another year rolled round, the generous
relative who had supplied them with the means of making such delightful
trips was no more; and, likewise, the death of the father had occurred
in the manner we have related, so that there was no chance as had been
anticipated and hoped for by Flora, of meeting Charles Holland on the
continent again, before his two years of absence from England should be
expired.

Such, however, being the state of things, Flora felt reluctant to give
up the house, where he would be sure to come to look for her, and her
happiness was too dear to Henry to induce him to make any sacrifice of
it to expediency.

Therefore was it that Bannerworth Hall, as it was sometimes called, was
retained, and fully intended to be retained at all events until after
Charles Holland had made his appearance, and his advice (for he was, by
the young people, considered as one of the family) taken, with regard to
what was advisable to be done.

With one exception this was the state of affairs at the hall, and that
exception relates to Mr. Marchdale.

He was a distant relation of Mrs. Bannerworth, and, in early life, had
been sincerely and tenderly attached to her. She, however, with the want
of steady reflection of a young girl, as she then was, had, as is
generally the case among several admirers, chosen the very worst: that
is, the man who treated her with the most indifference, and who paid her
the least attention, was of course, thought the most of, and she gave
her hand to him.

That man was Mr. Bannerworth. But future experience had made her
thoroughly awake to her former error; and, but for the love she bore her
children, who were certainly all that a mother's heart could wish, she
would often have deeply regretted the infatuation which had induced her
to bestow her hand in the quarter she had done so.

About a month after the decease of Mr. Bannerworth, there came one to
the hall, who desired to see the widow. That one was Mr. Marchdale.

It might have been some slight tenderness towards him which had never
left her, or it might be the pleasure merely of seeing one whom she had
known intimately in early life, but, be that as it may, she certainly
gave him a kindly welcome; and he, after consenting to remain for some
time as a visitor at the hall, won the esteem of the whole family by his
frank demeanour and cultivated intellect.

He had travelled much and seen much, and he had turned to good account
all he had seen, so that not only was Mr. Marchdale a man of sterling
sound sense, but he was a most entertaining companion.

His intimate knowledge of many things concerning which they knew little
or nothing; his accurate modes of thought, and a quiet, gentlemanly
demeanour, such as is rarely to be met with, combined to make him
esteemed by the Bannerworths. He had a small independence of his own,
and being completely alone in the world, for he had neither wife nor
child, Marchdale owned that he felt a pleasure in residing with the
Bannerworths.

Of course he could not, in decent terms, so far offend them as to offer
to pay for his subsistence, but he took good care that they should
really be no losers by having him as an inmate, a matter which he could
easily arrange by little presents of one kind and another, all of which
he managed should be such as were not only ornamental, but actually
spared his kind entertainers some positive expense which otherwise they
must have gone to.

Whether or not this amiable piece of manoeuvring was seen through by the
Bannerworths it is not our purpose to inquire. If it was seen through,
it could not lower him in their esteem, for it was probably just what
they themselves would have felt a pleasure in doing under similar
circumstances, and if they did not observe it, Mr. Marchdale would,
probably, be all the better pleased.

Such then may be considered by our readers as a brief outline of the
state of affairs among the Bannerworths--a state which was pregnant with
changes, and which changes were now likely to be rapid and conclusive.

How far the feelings of the family towards the ancient house of their
race would be altered by the appearance at it of so fearful a visitor as
a vampyre, we will not stop to inquire, inasmuch as such feelings will
develop themselves as we proceed.

That the visitation had produced a serious effect upon all the household
was sufficiently evident, as well among the educated as among the
ignorant. On the second morning, Henry received notice to quit his
service from the three servants he with difficulty had contrived to keep
at the hall. The reason why he received such notice he knew well enough,
and therefore he did not trouble himself to argue about a superstition
to which he felt now himself almost, compelled to give way; for how
could he say there was no such thing as a vampyre, when he had, with his
own eyes, had the most abundant evidence of the terrible fact?

He calmly paid the servants, and allowed them to leave him at once
without at all entering into the matter, and, for the time being, some
men were procured, who, however, came evidently with fear and trembling,
and probably only took the place, on account of not being able, to
procure any other. The comfort of the household was likely to be
completely put an end to, and reasons now for leaving the hall appeared
to be most rapidly accumulating.




CHAPTER VII.

THE VISIT TO THE VAULT OF THE BANNERWORTHS, AND ITS UNPLEASANT
RESULT.--THE MYSTERY.


[Illustration]

Henry and his brother roused Flora, and after agreeing together that it
would be highly imprudent to say anything to her of the proceedings of
the night, they commenced a conversation with her in encouraging and
kindly accents.

"Well, Flora," said Henry, "you see you have been quite undisturbed
to-night."

"I have slept long, dear Henry."

"You have, and pleasantly too, I hope."

"I have not had any dreams, and I feel much refreshed, now, and quite
well again."

"Thank Heaven!" said George.

"If you will tell dear mother that I am awake, I will get up with her
assistance."

The brothers left the room, and they spoke to each other of it as a
favourable sign, that Flora did not object to being left alone now, as
she had done on the preceding morning.

"She is fast recovering, now, George," said Henry. "If we could now but
persuade ourselves that all this alarm would pass away, and that we
should hear no more of it, we might return to our old and comparatively
happy condition."

"Let us believe, Henry, that we shall."

"And yet, George, I shall not be satisfied in my mind, until I have paid
a visit."

"A visit? Where?"

"To the family vault."

"Indeed, Henry! I thought you had abandoned that idea."

"I had. I have several times abandoned it; but it comes across my mind
again and again."

"I much regret it."

"Look you, George; as yet, everything that has happened has tended to
confirm a belief in this most horrible of all superstitions concerning
vampyres."

"It has."

"Now, my great object, George, is to endeavour to disturb such a state
of things, by getting something, however slight, or of a negative
character, for the mind to rest upon on the other side of the question."

"I comprehend you, Henry."

"You know that at present we are not only led to believe, almost
irresistibly that we have been visited here by a vampyre but that that
vampyre is our ancestor, whose portrait is on the panel of the wall of
the chamber into which he contrived to make his way."

"True, most true."

"Then let us, by an examination of the family vault, George, put an end
to one of the evidences. If we find, as most surely we shall, the coffin
of the ancestor of ours, who seems, in dress and appearance, so horribly
mixed up in this affair, we shall be at rest on that head."

"But consider how many years have elapsed."

"Yes, a great number."

"What then, do you suppose, could remain of any corpse placed in a vault
so long ago?"

"Decomposition must of course have done its work, but still there must
be a something to show that a corpse has so undergone the process common
to all nature. Double the lapse of time surely could not obliterate all
traces of that which had been."

"There is reason in that, Henry."

"Besides, the coffins are all of lead, and some of stone, so that they
cannot have all gone."

"True, most true."

"If in the one which, from the inscription and the date, we discover to
be that of our ancestor whom we seek, we find the evident remains of a
corpse, we shall be satisfied that he has rested in his tomb in peace."

"Brother, you seem bent on this adventure," said George; "if you go, I
will accompany you."

"I will not engage rashly in it, George. Before I finally decide, I will
again consult with Mr. Marchdale. His opinion will weigh much with me."

"And in good time, here he comes across the garden," said George, as he
looked from the window of the room in which they sat.

It was Mr. Marchdale, and the brothers warmly welcomed him as he entered
the apartment.

"You have been early afoot," said Henry.

"I have," he said. "The fact is, that although at your solicitation I
went to bed, I could not sleep, and I went out once more to search about
the spot where we had seen the--the I don't know what to call it, for I
have a great dislike to naming it a vampyre."

"There is not much in a name," said George.

"In this instance there is," said Marchdale. "It is a name suggestive of
horror."

"Made you any discovery?" said Henry.

"None whatever."

"You saw no trace of any one?"

"Not the least."

"Well, Mr. Marchdale, George and I were talking over this projected
visit to the family vault."

"Yes."

"And we agreed to suspend our judgments until we saw you, and learned
your opinion."

"Which I will tell you frankly," said Mr. Marchdale, "because I know you
desire it freely."

"Do so."

"It is, that you make the visit."

"Indeed."

"Yes, and for this reason. You have now, as you cannot help having, a
disagreeable feeling, that you may find that one coffin is untenanted.
Now, if you do find it so, you scarcely make matters worse, by an
additional confirmation of what already amounts to a strong supposition,
and one which is likely to grow stronger by time."

"True, most true."

"On the contrary, if you find indubitable proofs that your ancestor has
slept soundly in the tomb, and gone the way of all flesh, you will find
yourselves much calmer, and that an attack is made upon the train of
events which at present all run one way."

"That is precisely the argument I was using to George," said Henry, "a
few moments since."

"Then let us go," said George, "by all means."

"It is so decided then," said Henry.

"Let it be done with caution," replied Mr. Marchdale.

"If any one can manage it, of course we can."

"Why should it not be done secretly and at night? Of course we lose
nothing by making a night visit to a vault into which daylight, I
presume, cannot penetrate."

"Certainly not."

"Then let it be at night."

"But we shall surely require the concurrence of some of the church
authorities."

"Nay, I do not see that," interposed Mr. Marchdale. "It is the vault
actually vested in and belonging to yourself you wish to visit, and,
therefore, you have right to visit it in any manner or at any time that
may be most suitable to yourself."

"But detection in a clandestine visit might produce unpleasant
consequences."

"The church is old," said George, "and we could easily find means of
getting into it. There is only one objection that I see, just now, and
that is, that we leave Flora unprotected."

"We do, indeed," said Henry. "I did not think of that."

"It must be put to herself, as a matter for her own consideration," said
Mr. Marchdale, "if she will consider herself sufficiently safe with the
company and protection of your mother only."

"It would be a pity were we not all three present at the examination of
the coffin," remarked Henry.

"It would, indeed. There is ample evidence," said Mr. Marchdale, "but we
must not give Flora a night of sleeplessness and uneasiness on that
account, and the more particularly as we cannot well explain to her
where we are going, or upon what errand."

"Certainly not."

"Let us talk to her, then, about it," said Henry. "I confess I am much
bent upon the plan, and fain would not forego it; neither should I like
other than that we three should go together."

"If you determine, then, upon it," said Marchdale, "we will go to-night;
and, from your acquaintance with the place, doubtless you will be able
to decide what tools are necessary."

"There is a trap-door at the bottom of the pew," said Henry; "it is not
only secured down, but it is locked likewise, and I have the key in my
possession."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; immediately beneath is a short flight of stone steps, which
conduct at once into the vault."

"Is it large?"

"No; about the size of a moderate chamber, and with no intricacies about
it."

"There can be no difficulties, then."

"None whatever, unless we meet with actual personal interruption, which
I am inclined to think is very far from likely. All we shall require
will be a screwdriver, with which to remove the screws, and then
something with which to wrench open the coffin."

"Those we can easily provide, along with lights," remarked Mr.
Marchdale.

"I hope to Heaven that this visit to the tomb will have the effect of
easing your minds, and enabling you to make a successful stand against
the streaming torrent of evidence that has poured in upon us regarding
this most fearful of apparitions."

"I do, indeed, hope so," added Henry; "and now I will go at once to
Flora, and endeavour to convince her she is safe without us to-night."

"By-the-bye, I think," said Marchdale, "that if we can induce Mr.
Chillingworth to come with us, it will be a great point gained in the
investigation."

"He would," said Henry, "be able to come to an accurate decision with
respect to the remains--if any--in the coffin, which we could not."

"Then have him, by all means," said George. "He did not seem averse last
night to go on such an adventure."

"I will ask him when he makes his visit this morning upon Flora; and
should he not feel disposed to join us, I am quite sure he will keep the
secret of our visit."

All this being arranged, Henry proceeded to Flora, and told her that he
and George, and Mr. Marchdale wished to go out for about a couple of
hours in the evening after dark, if she felt sufficiently well to feel a
sense of security without them.

Flora changed colour, and slightly trembled, and then, as if ashamed of
her fears, she said,--

"Go, go; I will not detain you. Surely no harm can come to me in
presence of my mother."

"We shall not be gone longer than the time I mention to you," said
Henry.

"Oh, I shall be quite content. Besides, am I to be kept thus in fear all
my life? Surely, surely not. I ought, too, to learn to defend myself."

Henry caught at the idea, as he said,--

"If fire-arms were left you, do you think you would have courage to use
them?"

"I do, Henry."

"Then you shall have them; and let me beg of you to shoot any one
without the least hesitation who shall come into your chamber."

"I will, Henry. If ever human being was justified in the use of deadly
weapons, I am now. Heaven protect me from a repetition of the visit to
which I have now been once subjected. Rather, oh, much rather would I
die a hundred deaths than suffer what I have suffered."

"Do not allow it, dear Flora, to press too heavily upon your mind in
dwelling upon it in conversation. I still entertain a sanguine
expectation that something may arise to afford a far less dreadful
explanation of what has occurred than what you have put upon it. Be of
good cheer, Flora, we shall go one hour after sunset, and return in
about two hours from the time at which we leave here, you may be
assured."

Notwithstanding this ready and courageous acquiescence of Flora in the
arrangement, Henry was not without his apprehension that when the night
should come again, her fears would return with it; but he spoke to Mr.
Chillingworth upon the subject, and got that gentleman's ready consent
to accompany them.

He promised to meet them at the church porch exactly at nine o'clock,
and matters were all arranged, and Henry waited with much eagerness and
anxiety now for the coming night, which he hoped would dissipate one of
the fearful deductions which his imagination had drawn from recent
circumstances.

He gave to Flora a pair of pistols of his own, upon which he knew he
could depend, and he took good care to load them well, so that there
could be no likelihood whatever of their missing fire at a critical
moment.

"Now, Flora," he said, "I have seen you use fire-arms when you were much
younger than you are now, and therefore I need give you no instructions.
If any intruder does come, and you do fire, be sure you take a good aim,
and shoot low."

"I will, Henry, I will; and you will be back in two hours?"

"Most assuredly I will."

The day wore on, evening came, and then deepened into night. It turned
out to be a cloudy night, and therefore the moon's brilliance was
nothing near equal to what it had been on the preceding night Still,
however, it had sufficient power over the vapours that frequently
covered it for many minutes together, to produce a considerable light
effect upon the face of nature, and the night was consequently very far,
indeed, from what might be called a dark one.

George, Henry, and Marchdale, met in one of the lower rooms of the
house, previous to starting upon their expedition; and after satisfying
themselves that they had with them all the tools that were necessary,
inclusive of the same small, but well-tempered iron crow-bar with which
Marchdale had, on the night of the visit of the vampyre, forced open the
door of Flora's chamber, they left the hall, and proceeded at a rapid
pace towards the church.

"And Flora does not seem much alarmed," said Marchdale, "at being left
alone?"

"No," replied Henry, "she has made up her mind with a strong natural
courage which I knew was in her disposition to resist as much as
possible the depressing effects of the awful visitation she has
endured."

"It would have driven some really mad."

"It would, indeed; and her own reason tottered on its throne, but, thank
Heaven, she has recovered."

"And I fervently hope that, through her life," added Marchdale, "she may
never have such another trial."

"We will not for a moment believe that such a thing can occur twice."

"She is one among a thousand. Most young girls would never at all have
recovered the fearful shock to the nerves."

"Not only has she recovered," said Henry, "but a spirit, which I am
rejoiced to see, because it is one which will uphold her, of resistance
now possesses her."

"Yes, she actually--I forgot to tell you before--but she actually asked
me for arms to resist any second visitation."

"You much surprise me."

"Yes, I was surprised, as well as pleased, myself."

"I would have left her one of my pistols had I been aware of her having
made such a request. Do you know if she can use fire-arms?"

"Oh, yes; well."

"What a pity. I have them both with me."

"Oh, she is provided."

"Provided?"

"Yes; I found some pistols which I used to take with me on the
continent, and she has them both well loaded, so that if the vampyre
makes his appearance, he is likely to meet with rather a warm
reception."

"Good God! was it not dangerous?"

"Not at all, I think."

"Well, you know best, certainly, of course. I hope the vampyre may come,
and that we may have the pleasure, when we return, of finding him dead.
By-the-bye, I--I--. Bless me, I have forgot to get the materials for
lights, which I pledged myself to do."

"How unfortunate."

"Walk on slowly, while I run back and get them."

"Oh, we are too far--"

"Hilloa!" cried a man at this moment, some distance in front of them.

"It is Mr. Chillingworth," said Henry.

"Hilloa," cried the worthy doctor again. "Is that you, my friend, Henry
Bannerworth?"

"It is," cried Henry.

Mr. Chillingworth now came up to them and said,--

"I was before my time, so rather than wait at the church porch, which
would have exposed me to observation perhaps, I thought it better to
walk on, and chance meeting with you."

"You guessed we should come this way?'

"Yes, and so it turns out, really. It is unquestionably your most direct
route to the church."

"I think I will go back," said Mr Marchdale.

"Back!" exclaimed the doctor; "what for?"

"I forgot the means of getting lights. We have candles, but no means of
lighting them."

"Make yourselves easy on that score," said Mr. Chillingworth. "I am
never without some chemical matches of my own manufacture, so that as
you have the candles, that can be no bar to our going on a once."

"That is fortunate," said Henry.

"Very," added Marchdale; "for it seems a mile's hard walking for me, or
at least half a mile from the hall. Let us now push on."

They did push on, all four walking at a brisk pace. The church, although
it belonged to the village, was not in it. On the contrary, it was
situated at the end of a long lane, which was a mile nearly from the
village, in the direction of the hall, therefore, in going to it from
the hall, that amount of distance was saved, although it was always
called and considered the village church.

It stood alone, with the exception of a glebe house and two cottages,
that were occupied by persons who held situations about the sacred
edifice, and who were supposed, being on the spot, to keep watch and
ward over it.

It was an ancient building of the early English style of architecture,
or rather Norman, with one of those antique, square, short towers, built
of flint stones firmly embedded in cement, which, from time, had
acquired almost the consistency of stone itself. There were numerous
arched windows, partaking something of the more florid gothic style,
although scarcely ornamental enough to be called such. The edifice stood
in the centre of a grave-yard, which extended over a space of about half
an acre, and altogether it was one of the prettiest and most rural old
churches within many miles of the spot.

Many a lover of the antique and of the picturesque, for it was both,
went out of his way while travelling in the neighbourhood to look at it,
and it had an extensive and well-deserved reputation as a fine specimen
of its class and style of building.

In Kent, to the present day, are some fine specimens of the old Roman
style of church, building; and, although they are as rapidly pulled down
as the abuse of modern architects, and the cupidity of speculators, and
the vanity of clergymen can possibly encourage, in older to erect
flimsy, Italianised structures in their stead, yet sufficient of them
remain dotted over England to interest the traveller. At Walesden there
is a church of this description which will well repay a visit. This,
then, was the kind of building into which it was the intention of our
four friends to penetrate, not on an unholy, or an unjustifiable errand,
but on one which, proceeding from good and proper motives, it was highly
desirable to conduct in as secret a manner as possible.

The moon was more densely covered by clouds than it had yet been that
evening, when they reached the little wicket-gate which led into the
churchyard, through which was a regularly used thoroughfare.

"We have a favourable night," remarked Henry, "for we are not so likely
to be disturbed."

"And now, the question is, how are we to get in?" said Mr.
Chillingworth, as he paused, and glanced up at the ancient building.

"The doors," said George, "would effectually resist us."

"How can it be done, then?"

"The only way I can think of," said Henry, "is to get out one of the
small diamond-shaped panes of glass from one of the low windows, and
then we can one of us put in our hands, and undo the fastening, which is
very simple, when the window opens like a door, and it is but a step
into the church."

"A good way," said Marchdale. "We will lose no time."

They walked round the church till they came to a very low window indeed,
near to an angle of the wall, where a huge abutment struck far out into
the burial-ground.

"Will you do it, Henry?" said George.

"Yes. I have often noticed the fastenings. Just give me a slight hoist
up, and all will be right."

George did so, and Henry with his knife easily bent back some of the
leadwork which held in one of the panes of glass, and then got it out
whole. He handed it down to George, saying,--

"Take this, George. We can easily replace it when we leave, so that
there can be no signs left of any one having been here at all."

George took the piece of thick, dim-coloured glass, and in another
moment Henry had succeeded in opening the window, and the mode of
ingress to the old church was fair and easy before them all, had there
been ever so many.

"I wonder," said Marchdale, "that a place so inefficiently protected has
never been robbed."

"No wonder at all," remarked Mr. Chillingworth. "There is nothing to
take that I am aware of that would repay anybody the trouble of taking."

"Indeed!"

"Not an article. The pulpit, to be sure, is covered with faded velvet;
but beyond that, and an old box, in which I believe nothing is left but
some books, I think there is no temptation."

"And that, Heaven knows, is little enough, then."

"Come on," said Henry. "Be careful; there is nothing beneath the window,
and the depth is about two feet."

Thus guided, they all got fairly into the sacred edifice, and then Henry
closed the window, and fastened it on the inside as he said,--

"We have nothing to do now but to set to work opening a way into the
vault, and I trust that Heaven will pardon me for thus desecrating the
tomb of my ancestors, from a consideration of the object I have in view
by so doing."

"It does seem wrong thus to tamper with the secrets of the tomb,"
remarked Mr. Marchdale.

"The secrets of a fiddlestick!" said the doctor. "What secrets has the
tomb I wonder?"

"Well, but, my dear sir--"

"Nay, my dear sir, it is high time that death, which is, then, the
inevitable fate of us all, should be regarded with more philosophic eyes
than it is. There are no secrets in the tomb but such as may well be
endeavoured to be kept secret."

"What do you mean?"

"There is one which very probably we shall find unpleasantly revealed."

"Which is that?"

"The not over pleasant odour of decomposed animal remains--beyond that I
know of nothing of a secret nature that the tomb can show us."

"Ah, your profession hardens you to such matters."

"And a very good thing that it does, or else, if all men were to look
upon a dead body as something almost too dreadful to look upon, and by
far too horrible to touch, surgery would lose its value, and crime, in
many instances of the most obnoxious character, would go unpunished."

"If we have a light here," said Henry, "we shall run the greatest chance
in the world of being seen, for the church has many windows."

"Do not have one, then, by any means," said Mr. Chillingworth. "A match
held low down in the pew may enable us to open the vault."

"That will be the only plan."

Henry led them to the pew which belonged to his family, and in the floor
of which was the trap door.

"When was it last opened?" inquired Marchdale.

"When my father died," said Henry; "some ten months ago now, I should
think."

"The screws, then, have had ample time to fix themselves with fresh
rust."

"Here is one of my chemical matches," said Mr. Chillingworth, as he
suddenly irradiated the pew with a clear and beautiful flame, that
lasted about a minute.

The heads of the screws were easily discernible, and the short time that
the light lasted had enabled Henry to turn the key he had brought with
him in the lock.

"I think that without a light now," he said, "I can turn the screws
well."

"Can you?"

"Yes; there are but four."

"Try it, then."

Henry did so, and from the screws having very large heads, and being
made purposely, for the convenience of removal when required, with deep
indentations to receive the screw-driver, he found no difficulty in
feeling for the proper places, and extracting the screws without any
more light than was afforded to him from the general whitish aspect of
the heavens.

"Now, Mr. Chillingworth," he said "another of your matches, if you
please. I have all the screws so loose that I can pick them up with my
fingers."

"Here," said the doctor.

In another moment the pew was as light as day, and Henry succeeded in
taking out the few screws, which he placed in his pocket for their
greater security, since, of course, the intention was to replace
everything exactly as it was found, in order that not the least surmise
should arise in the mind of any person that the vault had been opened,
and visited for any purpose whatever, secretly or otherwise."

"Let us descend," said Henry. "There is no further obstacle, my friends.
Let us descend."

"If any one," remarked George, in a whisper, as they slowly descended
the stairs which conducted into the vault--"if any one had told me that
I should be descending into a vault for the purpose of ascertaining if a
dead body, which had been nearly a century there, was removed or not,
and had become a vampyre, I should have denounced the idea as one of the
most absurd that ever entered the brain of a human being."

"We are the very slaves of circumstances," said Marchdale, "and we never
know what we may do, or what we may not. What appears to us so
improbable as to border even upon the impossible at one time, is at
another the only course of action which appears feasibly open to us to
attempt to pursue."

They had now reached the vault, the floor of which was composed of flat
red tiles, laid in tolerable order the one beside the other. As Henry
had stated, the vault was by no means of large extent. Indeed, several
of the apartments for the living, at the hall, were much larger than was
that one destined for the dead.

The atmosphere was dump and noisome, but not by any means so bad as
might have been expected, considering the number of months which had
elapsed since last the vault was opened to receive one of its ghastly
and still visitants.

"Now for one of your lights. Mr. Chillingworth. You say you have the
candles, I think, Marchdale, although you forgot the matches."

"I have. They are here."

Marchdale took from his pocket a parcel which contained several wax
candles, and when it was opened, a smaller packet fell to the ground.

"Why, these are instantaneous matches," said Mr. Chillingworth, as he
lifted the small packet up.

"They are; and what a fruitless journey I should have had back to the
hall," said Mr. Marchdale, "if you had not been so well provided as you
are with the means of getting a light. These matches, which I thought I
had not with me, have been, in the hurry of departure, enclosed, you
see, with the candles. Truly, I should have hunted for them at home in
vain."

Mr. Chillingworth lit the wax candle which was now handed to him by
Marchdale, and in another moment the vault from one end of it to the
other was quite clearly discernible.




CHAPTER VIII.

THE COFFIN.--THE ABSENCE OF THE DEAD.--THE MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCE, AND
THE CONSTERNATION OF GEORGE.


[Illustration]

They were all silent for a few moments as they looked around them with
natural feelings of curiosity. Two of that party had of course never
been in that vault at all, and the brothers, although they had descended
into it upon the occasion, nearly a year before, of their father being
placed in it, still looked upon it with almost as curious eyes as they
who now had their first sight of it.

If a man be at all of a thoughtful or imaginative cast of mind, some
curious sensations are sure to come over him, upon standing in such a
place, where he knows around him lie, in the calmness of death, those in
whose veins have flowed kindred blood to him--who bore the same name,
and who preceded him in the brief drama of his existence, influencing
his destiny and his position in life probably largely by their actions
compounded of their virtues and their vices.

Henry Bannerworth and his brother George were just the kind of persons
to feel strongly such sensations. Both were reflective, imaginative,
educated young men, and, as the light from the wax candle flashed upon
their faces, it was evident how deeply they felt the situation in which
they were placed.

Mr. Chillingworth and Marchdale were silent. They both knew what was
passing in the minds of the brothers, and they had too much delicacy to
interrupt a train of thought which, although from having no affinity
with the dead who lay around, they could not share in, yet they
respected. Henry at length, with a sudden start, seemed to recover
himself from his reverie.

"This is a time for action, George," he said, "and not for romantic
thought. Let us proceed."

"Yes, yes," said George, and he advanced a step towards the centre of
the vault.

"Can you find out among all these coffins, for there seem to be nearly
twenty," said Mr. Chillingworth, "which is the one we seek?"

"I think we may," replied Henry. "Some of the earlier coffins of our
race, I know, were made of marble, and others of metal, both of which
materials, I expect, would withstand the encroaches of time for a
hundred years, at least."

"Let us examine," said George.

There were shelves or niches built into the walls all round, on which
the coffins were placed, so that there could not be much difficulty in a
minute examination of them all, the one after the other.

When, however, they came to look, they found that "decay's offensive
fingers" had been more busy than they could have imagined, and that
whatever they touched of the earlier coffins crumbled into dust before
their very fingers.

In some cases the inscriptions were quite illegible, and, in others, the
plates that had borne them had fallen on to the floor of the vault, so
that it was impossible to say to which coffin they belonged.

Of course, the more recent and fresh-looking coffins they did not
examine, because they could not have anything to do with the object of
that melancholy visit.

"We shall arrive at no conclusion," said George. "All seems to have
rotted away among those coffins where we might expect to find the one
belonging to Marmaduke Bannerworth, our ancestor."

"Here is a coffin plate," said Marchdale, taking one from the floor.

He handed it to Mr. Chillingworth, who, upon an inspection of it, close
to the light, exclaimed,--

"It must have belonged to the coffin you seek."

"What says it?"

"Ye mortale remains of Marmaduke Bannerworth, Yeoman. God reste his
soule. A.D. 1540."

"It is the plate belonging to his coffin," said Henry, "and now our
search is fruitless."

"It is so, indeed," exclaimed George, "for how can we tell to which of
the coffins that have lost the plates this one really belongs?"

"I should not be so hopeless," said Marchdale. "I have, from time to
time, in the pursuit of antiquarian lore, which I was once fond of,
entered many vaults, and I have always observed that an inner coffin of
metal was sound and good, while the outer one of wood had rotted away,
and yielded at once to the touch of the first hand that was laid upon
it."

"But, admitting that to be the case," said Henry, "how does that assist
us in the identification of a coffin?"

"I have always, in my experience, found the name and rank of the
deceased engraved upon the lid of the inner coffin, as well as being set
forth in a much more perishable manner on the plate which was secured to
the outer one."

"He is right," said Mr. Chillingworth. "I wonder we never thought of
that. If your ancestor was buried in a leaden coffin, there will be no
difficulty in finding which it is."

Henry seized the light, and proceeding to one of the coffins, which
seemed to be a mass of decay, he pulled away some of the rotted wood
work, and then suddenly exclaimed,--

"You are quite right. Here is a firm strong leaden coffin within, which,
although quite black, does not otherwise appear to have suffered."

"What is the inscription on that?" said George.

With difficulty the name on the lid was deciphered, but it was found not
to be the coffin of him whom they sought.

"We can make short work of this," said Marchdale, "by only examining
those leaden coffins which have lost the plates from off their outer
cases. There do not appear to be many in such a state."

He then, with another light, which he lighted from the one that Henry
now carried, commenced actively assisting in the search, which was
carried on silently for more than ten minutes.

Suddenly Mr. Marchdale cried, in a tone of excitement,--

"I have found it. It is here."

They all immediately surrounded the spot where he was, and then he
pointed to the lid of a coffin, which he had been rubbing with his
handkerchief, in order to make the inscription more legible, and said,--

"See. It is here."

By the combined light of the candles they saw the words,--

"Marmaduke Bannerworth, Yeoman, 1640."

"Yes, there can be no mistake here," said Henry. "This is the coffin,
and it shall be opened."

"I have the iron crowbar here," said Marchdale. "It is an old friend of
mine, and I am accustomed to the use of it. Shall I open the coffin?"

"Do so--do so," said Henry.

They stood around in silence, while Mr. Marchdale, with much care,
proceeded to open the coffin, which seemed of great thickness, and was
of solid lead.

It was probably the partial rotting of the metal, in consequence of the
damps of that place, that made it easier to open the coffin than it
otherwise would have been, but certain it was that the top came away
remarkably easily. Indeed, so easily did it come off, that another
supposition might have been hazarded, namely, that it had never at all
been effectually fastened.

[Illustration]

The few moments that elapsed were ones of very great suspense to every
one there present; and it would, indeed, be quite sure to assert, that
all the world was for the time forgotten in the absorbing interest which
appertained to the affair which was in progress.

The candles were now both held by Mr. Chillingworth, and they were so
held as to cast a full and clear light upon the coffin. Now the lid slid
off, and Henry eagerly gazed into the interior.

There lay something certainly there, and an audible "Thank God!" escaped
his lips.

"The body is there!" exclaimed George.

"All right," said Marchdale, "here it is. There is something, and what
else can it be?"

"Hold the lights," said Mr. Chillingworth; "hold the lights, some of
you; let us be quite certain."

George took the lights, and Mr. Chillingworth, without any hesitation,
dipped his hands at once into the coffin, and took up some fragments of
rags which were there. They were so rotten, that they fell to pieces in
his grasp, like so many pieces of tinder.

There was a death-like pause for some few moments, and then Mr.
Chillingworth said, in a low voice,--

"There is not the least vestige of a dead body here."

Henry gave a deep groan, as he said,--

"Mr. Chillingworth, can you take upon yourself to say that no corpse has
undergone the process of decomposition in this coffin?"

"To answer your question exactly, as probably in your hurry you have
worded it," said Mr. Chillingworth, "I cannot take upon myself to say
any such thing; but this I can say, namely, that in this coffin there
are no animal remains, and that it is quite impossible that any corpse
enclosed here could, in any lapse of time, have so utterly and entirely
disappeared."

"I am answered," said Henry.

"Good God!" exclaimed George, "and has this but added another damning
proof, to those we have already on our minds, of one of the must
dreadful superstitions that ever the mind of man conceived?"

"It would seem so," said Marchdale, sadly.

"Oh, that I were dead! This is terrible. God of heaven, why are these
things? Oh, if I were but dead, and so spared the torture of supposing
such things possible."

"Think again, Mr. Chillingworth; I pray you think again," cried
Marchdale.

"If I were to think for the remainder of my existence," he replied, "I
could come to no other conclusion. It is not a matter of opinion; it is
a matter of fact."

"You are positive, then," said Henry, "that the dead body of Marmaduke
Bannerworth is not rested here?"

"I am positive. Look for yourselves. The lead is but slightly
discoloured; it looks tolerably clean and fresh; there is not a vestige
of putrefaction--no bones, no dust even."

They did all look for themselves, and the most casual glance was
sufficient to satisfy the most sceptical.

"All is over," said Henry; "let us now leave this place; and all I can
now ask of you, my friends, is to lock this dreadful secret deep in your
own hearts."

"It shall never pass my lips," said Marchdale.

"Nor mine, you may depend," said the doctor. "I was much in hopes that
this night's work would have had the effect of dissipating, instead of
adding to, the gloomy fancies that now possess you."

"Good heavens!" cried George, "can you call them fancies, Mr.
Chillingworth?"

"I do, indeed."

"Have you yet a doubt?"

"My young friend, I told you from the first, that I would not believe in
your vampyre; and I tell you now, that if one was to come and lay hold
of me by the throat, as long as I could at all gasp for breath I would
tell him he was a d----d impostor."

"This is carrying incredulity to the verge of obstinacy."

"Far beyond it, if you please."

"You will not be convinced?" said Marchdale.

"I most decidedly, on this point, will not."

"Then you are one who would doubt a miracle, if you saw it with your own
eyes."

"I would, because I do not believe in miracles. I should endeavour to
find some rational and some scientific means of accounting for the
phenomenon, and that's the very reason why we have no miracles
now-a-days, between you and I, and no prophets and saints, and all that
sort of thing."

"I would rather avoid such observations in such a place as this," said
Marchdale.

"Nay, do not be the moral coward," cried Mr. Chillingworth, "to make
your opinions, or the expression of them, dependent upon any certain
locality."

"I know not what to think," said Henry; "I am bewildered quite. Let us
now come away."

Mr. Marchdale replaced the lid of the coffin, and then the little party
moved towards the staircase. Henry turned before he ascended, and
glanced back into the vault.

"Oh," he said, "if I could but think there had been some mistake, some
error of judgment, on which the mind could rest for hope."

"I deeply regret," said Marchdale, "that I so strenuously advised this
expedition. I did hope that from it would have resulted much good."

"And you had every reason so to hope," said Chillingworth. "I advised it
likewise, and I tell you that its result perfectly astonishes me,
although I will not allow myself to embrace at once all the conclusions
to which it would seem to lead me."

"I am satisfied," said Henry; "I know you both advised me for the best.
The curse of Heaven seems now to have fallen upon me and my house."

"Oh, nonsense!" said Chillingworth. "What for?"

"Alas! I know not."

"Then you may depend that Heaven would never act so oddly. In the first
place, Heaven don't curse anybody; and, in the second, it is too just to
inflict pain where pain is not amply deserved."

They ascended the gloomy staircase of the vault. The countenances of
both George and Henry were very much saddened, and it was quite evident
that their thoughts were by far too busy to enable them to enter into
any conversation. They did not, and particularly George, seem to hear
all that was said to them. Their intellects seemed almost stunned by the
unexpected circumstance of the disappearance of the body of their
ancestor.

All along they had, although almost unknown to themselves, felt a sort
of conviction that they must find some remains of Marmaduke Bannerworth,
which would render the supposition, even in the most superstitious
minds, that he was the vampyre, a thing totally and physically
impossible.

But now the whole question assumed a far more bewildering shape. The
body was not in its coffin--it had not there quietly slept the long
sleep of death common to humanity. Where was it then? What had become of
it? Where, how, and under what circumstances had it been removed? Had it
itself burst the bands that held it, and hideously stalked forth into
the world again to make one of its seeming inhabitants, and kept up for
a hundred years a dreadful existence by such adventures as it had
consummated at the hall, where, in the course of ordinary human life, it
had once lived?

All these were questions which irresistibly pressed themselves upon the
consideration of Henry and his brother. They were awful questions.

And yet, take any sober, sane, thinking, educated man, and show him all
that they had seen, subject him to all to which they had been subjected,
and say if human reason, and all the arguments that the subtlest brain
could back it with, would be able to hold out against such a vast
accumulation of horrible evidences, and say--"I don't believe it."

Mr. Chillingworth's was the only plan. He would not argue the question.
He said at once,--

"I will not believe this thing--upon this point I will yield to no
evidence whatever."

That was the only way of disposing of such a question; but there are not
many who could so dispose of it, and not one so much interested in it as
were the brothers Bannerworth, who could at all hope to get into such a
state of mind.

The boards were laid carefully down again, and the screws replaced.
Henry found himself unequal to the task, so it was done by Marchdale,
who took pains to replace everything in the same state in which they had
found it, even to the laying even the matting at the bottom of the pew.

Then they extinguished the light, and, with heavy hearts, they all
walked towards the window, to leave the sacred edifice by the same means
they had entered it.

"Shall we replace the pane of glass?" said Marchdale.

"Oh, it matters not--it matters not," said Henry, listlessly; "nothing
matters now. I care not what becomes of me--I am getting weary of a life
which now must be one of misery and dread."

"You must not allow yourself to fall into such a state of mind as this,"
said the doctor, "or you will become a patient of mine very quickly."

"I cannot help it."

"Well, but be a man. If there are serious evils affecting you, fight out
against them the best way you can."

"I cannot."

"Come, now, listen to me. We need not, I think, trouble ourselves about
the pane of glass, so come along."

He took the arm of Henry and walked on with him a little in advance of
the others.

"Henry," he said, "the best way, you may depend, of meeting evils, be
they great or small, is to get up an obstinate feeling of defiance
against them. Now, when anything occurs which is uncomfortable to me, I
endeavour to convince myself, and I have no great difficulty in doing
so, that I am a decidedly injured man."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; I get very angry, and that gets up a kind of obstinacy, which
makes me not feel half so much mental misery as would be my portion, if
I were to succumb to the evil, and commence whining over it, as many
people do, under the pretence of being resigned."

"But this family affliction of mine transcends anything that anybody
else ever endured."

"I don't know that; but it is a view of the subject which, if I were
you, would only make me more obstinate."

"What can I do?"

"In the first place, I would say to myself, 'There may or there may not
be supernatural beings, who, from some physical derangement of the
ordinary nature of things, make themselves obnoxious to living people;
if there are, d--n them! There may be vampyres; and if there are, I defy
them.' Let the imagination paint its very worst terrors; let fear do
what it will and what it can in peopling the mind with horrors. Shrink
from nothing, and even then I would defy them all."

"Is not that like defying Heaven?"

"Most certainly not; for in all we say and in all we do we act from the
impulses of that mind which is given to us by Heaven itself. If Heaven
creates an intellect and a mind of a certain order, Heaven will not
quarrel that it does the work which it was adapted to do."

"I know these are your opinions. I have heard you mention them before."

"They are the opinions of every rational person. Henry Bannerworth,
because they will stand the test of reason; and what I urge upon you is,
not to allow yourself to be mentally prostrated, even if a vampyre has
paid a visit to your house. Defy him, say I--fight him.
Self-preservation is a great law of nature, implanted in all our hearts;
do you summon it to your aid."

"I will endeavour to think as you would have me. I thought more than
once of summoning religion to my aid."

"Well, that is religion."

"Indeed!"

"I consider so, and the most rational religion of all. All that we read
about religion that does not seem expressly to agree with it, you may
consider as an allegory."

"But, Mr. Chillingworth, I cannot and will not renounce the sublime
truths of Scripture. They may be incomprehensible; they may be
inconsistent; and some of them may look ridiculous; but still they are
sacred and sublime, and I will not renounce them although my reason may
not accord with them, because they are the laws of Heaven."

No wonder this powerful argument silenced Mr. Chillingworth, who was one
of those characters in society who hold most dreadful opinions, and who
would destroy religious beliefs, and all the different sects in the
world, if they could, and endeavour to introduce instead some horrible
system of human reason and profound philosophy.

But how soon the religious man silences his opponent; and let it not be
supposed that, because his opponent says no more upon the subject, he
does so because he is disgusted with the stupidity of the other; no, it
is because he is completely beaten, and has nothing more to say.

The distance now between the church and the hall was nearly traversed,
and Mr. Chillingworth, who was a very good man, notwithstanding his
disbelief in certain things of course paved the way for him to hell,
took a kind leave of Mr. Marchdale and the brothers, promising to call
on the following morning and see Flora.

Henry and George then, in earnest conversation with Marchdale, proceeded
homewards. It was evident that the scene in the vault had made a deep
and saddening impression upon them, and one which was not likely easily
to be eradicated.




CHAPTER IX.

THE OCCURRENCES OF THE NIGHT AT THE HALL.--THE SECOND APPEARANCE OF THE
VAMPYRE, AND THE PISTOL-SHOT.


[Illustration]

Despite the full and free consent which Flora had given to her brothers
to entrust her solely to the care of her mother and her own courage at
the hall, she felt greater fear creep over her after they were gone than
she chose to acknowledge.

A sort of presentiment appeared to come over her that some evil was
about to occur, and more than once she caught herself almost in the act
of saying,--

"I wish they had not gone."

Mrs. Bannerworth, too, could not be supposed to be entirely destitute of
uncomfortable feelings, when she came to consider how poor a guard she
was over her beautiful child, and how much terror might even deprive of
the little power she had, should the dreadful visitor again make his
appearance.

"But it is but for two hours," thought Flora, "and two hours will soon
pass away."

There was, too, another feeling which gave her some degree of
confidence, although it arose from a bad source, inasmuch as it was one
which showed powerfully how much her mind was dwelling on the
particulars of the horrible belief in the class of supernatural beings,
one of whom she believed had visited her.

That consideration was this. The two hours of absence from the hall of
its male inhabitants, would be from nine o'clock until eleven, and those
were not the two hours during which she felt that she would be most
timid on account of the vampyre.

"It was after midnight before," she thought, "when it came, and perhaps
it may not be able to come earlier. It may not have the power, until
that time, to make its hideous visits, and, therefore, I will believe
myself safe."

She had made up her mind not to go to bed until the return of her
brothers, and she and her mother sat in a small room that was used as a
breakfast-room, and which had a latticed window that opened on to the
lawn.

This window had in the inside strong oaken shutters, which had been
fastened as securely as their construction would admit of some time
before the departure of the brothers and Mr. Marchdale on that
melancholy expedition, the object of which, if it had been known to her,
would have added so much to the terrors of poor Flora.

It was not even guessed at, however remotely, so that she had not the
additional affliction of thinking, that while she was sitting there, a
prey to all sorts of imaginative terrors, they were perhaps gathering
fresh evidence, as, indeed, they were, of the dreadful reality of the
appearance which, but for the collateral circumstances attendant upon
its coming and its going, she would fain have persuaded herself was but
the vision of a dream.

It was before nine that the brothers started, but in her own mind Flora
gave them to eleven, and when she heard ten o'clock sound from a clock
which stood in the hall, she felt pleased to think that in another hour
they would surely be at home.

"My dear," said her mother, "you look more like yourself, now."

"Do, I, mother?"

"Yes, you are well again."

"Ah, if I could forget--"

"Time, my dear Flora, will enable you to do so, and all the fear of what
made you so unwell will pass away. You will soon forget it all."

"I will hope to do so."

"Be assured that, some day or another, something will occur, as Henry
says, to explain all that has happened, in some way consistent with
reason and the ordinary nature of things, my dear Flora."

"Oh, I will cling to such a belief; I will get Henry, upon whose
judgment I know I can rely, to tell me so, and each time that I hear
such words from his lips, I will contrive to dismiss some portion of the
terror which now, I cannot but confess, clings to my heart."

Flora laid her hand upon her mother's arm, and in a low, anxious tone of
voice, said,--"Listen, mother."

Mrs. Bannerworth turned pale, as she said,--"Listen to what, dear?"

"Within these last ten minutes," said Flora, "I have thought three or
four times that I heard a slight noise without. Nay, mother, do not
tremble--it may be only fancy."

[Illustration]

Flora herself trembled, and was of a death-like paleness; once or twice
she passed her hand across her brow, and altogether she presented a
picture of much mental suffering.

They now conversed in anxious whispers, and almost all they said
consisted in anxious wishes for the return of the brothers and Mr.
Marchdale.

"You will be happier and more assured, my dear, with some company," said
Mrs. Bannerworth. "Shall I ring for the servants, and let them remain in
the room with us, until they who are our best safeguards next to Heaven
return?"

"Hush--hush--hush, mother!"

"What do you hear?"

"I thought--I heard a faint sound."

"I heard nothing, dear."

"Listen again, mother. Surely I could not be deceived so often. I have
now, at least, six times heard a sound as if some one was outside by the
windows."

"No, no, my darling, do not think; your imagination is active and in a
state of excitement."

"It is, and yet--"

"Believe me, it deceives you."

"I hope to Heaven it does!"

There was a pause of some minutes' duration, and then Mrs. Bannerworth
again urged slightly the calling of some of the servants, for she
thought that their presence might have the effect of giving a different
direction to her child's thoughts; but Flora saw her place her hand upon
the bell, and she said,--

"No, mother, no--not yet, not yet. Perhaps I am deceived."

Mrs. Bannerworth upon this sat down, but no sooner had she done so than
she heartily regretted she had not rung the bell, for, before, another
word could be spoken, there came too perceptibly upon their ears for
there to be any mistake at all about it, a strange scratching noise upon
the window outside.

A faint cry came from Flora's lips, as she exclaimed, in a voice of
great agony,--

"Oh, God!--oh, God! It has come again!"

Mrs. Bannerworth became faint, and unable to move or speak at all; she
could only sit like one paralysed, and unable to do more than listen to
and see what was going on.

The scratching noise continued for a few seconds, and then altogether
ceased. Perhaps, under ordinary circumstances, such a sound outside the
window would have scarcely afforded food for comment at all, or, if it
had, it would have been attributed to some natural effect, or to the
exertions of some bird or animal to obtain admittance to the house.

But there had occurred now enough in that family to make any little
sound of wonderful importance, and these things which before would have
passed completely unheeded, at all events without creating much alarm,
were now invested with a fearful interest.

When the scratching noise ceased, Flora spoke in a low, anxious whisper,
as she said,--

"Mother, you heard it then?"

Mrs. Bannerworth tried to speak, but she could not; and then suddenly,
with a loud clash, the bar, which on the inside appeared to fasten the
shutters strongly, fell as if by some invisible agency, and the shutters
now, but for the intervention of the window, could be easily pushed open
from without.

Mrs. Bannerworth covered her face with her hands, and, after rocking to
and fro for a moment, she fell off her chair, having fainted with the
excess of terror that came over her.

For about the space of time in which a fast speaker could count twelve,
Flora thought her reason was leaving her, but it did not. She found
herself recovering; and there she sat, with her eyes fixed upon the
window, looking more like some exquisitely-chiselled statue of despair
than a being of flesh and blood, expecting each moment to have its eyes
blasted by some horrible appearance, such as might be supposed to drive
her to madness.

And now again came the strange knocking or scratching against the glass
of the window.

This continued for some minutes, during which it appeared likewise to
Flora that some confusion was going on at another part of the house, for
she fancied she heard voices and the banging of doors.

It seemed to her as if she must have sat looking at the shutters of that
window a long time before she saw them shake, and then one wide hinged
portion of them slowly opened.

Once again horror appeared to be on the point of producing madness in
her brain, and then, as before, a feeling of calmness rapidly ensued.

She was able to see plainly that something was by the window, but what
it was she could not plainly discern, in consequence of the lights she
had in the room. A few moments, however, sufficed to settle that
mystery, for the window was opened and a figure stood before her.

One glance, one terrified glance, in which her whole soul was
concentrated, sufficed to shew her who and what the figure was. There
was the tall, gaunt form--there was the faded ancient apparel--the
lustrous metallic-looking eyes--its half-opened month, exhibiting the
tusk-like teeth! It was--yes, it was--_the vampyre!_

It stood for a moment gazing at her, and then in the hideous way it had
attempted before to speak, it apparently endeavoured to utter some words
which it could not make articulate to human ears. The pistols lay before
Flora. Mechanically she raised one, and pointed it at the figure. It
advanced a step, and then she pulled the trigger.

A stunning report followed. There was a loud cry of pain, and the
vampyre fled. The smoke and the confusion that was incidental to the
spot prevented her from seeing if the figure walked or ran away. She
thought she heard a crashing sound among the plants outside the window,
as if it had fallen, but she did not feel quite sure.

It was no effort of any reflection, but a purely mechanical movement,
that made her raise the other pistol, and discharge that likewise in the
direction the vampyre had taken. Then casting the weapon away, she rose,
and made a frantic rush from the room. She opened the door, and was
dashing out, when she found herself caught in the circling arms of some
one who either had been there waiting, or who had just at that moment
got there.

The thought that it was the vampyre, who by some mysterious means, had
got there, and was about to make her his prey, now overcame her
completely, and she sunk into a state of utter insensibility on the
moment.




CHAPTER X.

THE RETURN FROM THE VAULT.--THE ALARM, AND THE SEARCH AROUND THE HALL.


[Illustration]

It so happened that George and Henry Bannerworth, along with Mr.
Marchdale, had just reached the gate which conducted into the garden of
the mansion when they all were alarmed by the report of a pistol. Amid
the stillness of the night, it came upon them with so sudden a shock,
that they involuntarily paused, and there came from the lips of each an
expression of alarm.

"Good heavens!" cried George, "can that be Flora firing at any
intruder?"

"It must be," cried Henry; "she has in her possession the only weapons
in the house."

Mr. Marchdale turned very pale, and trembled slightly, but he did not
speak.

"On, on," cried Henry; "for God's sake, let us hasten on."

As he spoke, he cleared the gate at a bound, and at a terrific pace he
made towards the house, passing over beds, and plantations, and flowers
heedlessly, so that he went the most direct way to it.

Before, however, it was possible for any human speed to accomplish even
half of the distance, the report of the other shot came upon his ears,
and he even fancied he heard the bullet whistle past his head in
tolerably close proximity. This supposition gave him a clue to the
direction at all events from whence the shots proceeded, otherwise he
knew not from which window they were fired, because it had not occurred
to him, previous to leaving home, to inquire in which room Flora and his
mother were likely to be seated waiting his return.

He was right as regarded the bullet. It was that winged messenger of
death which had passed his head in such very dangerous proximity, and
consequently he made with tolerable accuracy towards the open window
from whence the shots had been fired.

The night was not near so dark as it had been, although even yet it was
very far from being a light one, and he was soon enabled to see that
there was a room, the window of which was wide open, and lights burning
on the table within. He made towards it in a moment, and entered it. To
his astonishment, the first objects he beheld were Flora and a stranger,
who was now supporting her in his arms. To grapple him by the throat was
the work of a moment, but the stranger cried aloud in a voice which
sounded familiar to Harry,--

"Good God, are you all mad?"

Henry relaxed his hold, and looked in his face.

"Gracious heavens, it is Mr. Holland!" he said.

"Yes; did you not know me?"

Henry was bewildered. He staggered to a seat, and, in doing so, he saw
his mother, stretched apparently lifeless upon the floor. To raise her
was the work of a moment, and then Marchdale and George, who had
followed him as fast as they could, appeared at the open window.

Such a strange scene as that small room now exhibited had never been
equalled in Bannerworth Hall. There was young Mr. Holland, of whom
mention has already been made, as the affianced lover of Flora,
supporting her fainting form. There was Henry doing equal service to his
mother; and on the floor lay the two pistols, and one of the candles
which had been upset in the confusion; while the terrified attitudes of
George and Mr. Marchdale at the window completed the strange-looking
picture.

"What is this--oh! what has happened?" cried George.

"I know not--I know not," said Henry. "Some one summon the servants; I
am nearly mad."

Mr. Marchdale at once rung the bell, for George looked so faint and ill
as to be incapable of doing so; and he rung it so loudly and so
effectually, that the two servants who had been employed suddenly upon
the others leaving came with much speed to know what was the matter.

"See to your mistress," said Henry. "She is dead, or has fainted. For
God's sake, let who can give me some account of what has caused all this
confusion here."

"Are you aware, Henry," said Marchdale, "that a stranger is present in
the room?"

He pointed to Mr. Holland as he spoke, who, before Henry could reply,
said,--

"Sir, I may be a stranger to you, as you are to me, and yet no stranger
to those whose home this is."

"No, no," said Henry, "you are no stronger to us, Mr. Holland, but are
thrice welcome--none can be more welcome. Mr. Marchdale, this is Mr
Holland, of whom you have heard me speak."

"I am proud to know you, sir," said Marchdale.

"Sir, I thank you," replied Holland, coldly.

It will so happen; but, at first sight, it appeared as if those two
persons had some sort of antagonistic feeling towards each other, which
threatened to prevent effectually their ever becoming intimate friends.

The appeal of Henry to the servants to know if they could tell him what
had occurred was answered in the negative. All they knew was that they
had heard two shots fired, and that, since then, they had remained where
they were, in a great fright, until the bell was rung violently. This
was no news at all and, therefore, the only chance was, to wait
patiently for the recovery of the mother, or of Flora, from one or the
other of whom surely some information could be at once then procured.

Mrs. Bannerworth was removed to her own room, and so would Flora have
been; but Mr. Holland, who was supporting her in his arms, said,--

"I think the air from the open window is recovering her, and it is
likely to do so. Oh, do not now take her from me, after so long an
absence. Flora, Flora, look up; do you not know me? You have not yet
given me one look of acknowledgment. Flora, dear Flora!"

The sound of his voice seemed to act as the most potent of charms in
restoring her to consciousness; it broke through the death-like trance
in which she lay, and, opening her beautiful eyes, she fixed them upon
his face, saying,--

"Yes, yes; it is Charles--it is Charles."

She burst into a hysterical flood of tears, and clung to him like some
terrified child to its only friend in the whole wide world.

"Oh, my dear friends," cried Charles Holland, "do not deceive me; has
Flora been ill?"

"We have all been ill," said George.

"All ill?"

"Ay, and nearly mad," exclaimed Harry.

Holland looked from one to the other in surprise, as well he might, nor
was that surprise at all lessened when Flora made an effort to extricate
herself from his embrace, as she exclaimed,--

"You must leave me--you must leave me, Charles, for ever! Oh! never,
never look upon my face again!"

"I--I am bewildered," said Charles.

"Leave me, now," continued Flora; "think me unworthy; think what you
will, Charles, but I cannot, I dare not, now be yours."

"Is this a dream?"

"Oh, would it were. Charles, if we had never met, you would be
happier--I could not be more wretched."

"Flora, Flora, do you say these words of so great cruelty to try my
love?"

"No, as Heaven is my judge, I do not."

"Gracious Heaven, then, what do they mean?"

Flora shuddered, and Henry, coming up to her, took her hand in his
tenderly, as he said,--

"Has it been again?"

"It has."

"You shot it?"

"I fired full upon it, Henry, but it fled."

"It did--fly?"

"It did, Henry, but it will come again--it will be sure to come again."

"You--you hit it with the bullet?" interposed Mr. Marchdale. "Perhaps
you killed it?"

"I think I must have hit it, unless I am mad."

Charles Holland looked from one to the other with such a look of intense
surprise, that George remarked it, and said at once to him,--

"Mr. Holland, a full explanation is due to you, and you shall have it."

"You seem the only rational person here," said Charles. "Pray what is it
that everybody calls '_it_?'"

"Hush--hush!" said Henry; "you shall hear soon, but not at present."

"Hear me, Charles," said Flora. "From this moment mind, I do release you
from every vow, from every promise made to me of constancy and love; and
if you are wise, Charles, and will be advised, you will now this moment
leave this house never to return to it."

"No," said Charles--"no; by Heaven I love you, Flora! I have come to say
again all that in another clime I said with joy to you. When I forget
you, let what trouble may oppress you, may God forget me, and my own
right hand forget to do me honest service."

[Illustration]

"Oh! no more--no more!" sobbed Flora.

"Yes, much more, if you will tell me of words which shall be stronger
than others in which to paint my love, my faith, and my constancy."

"Be prudent," said Henry. "Say no more."

"Nay, upon such a theme I could speak for ever. You may cast me off,
Flora; but until you tell me you love another, I am yours till the
death, and then with a sanguine hope at my heart that we shall meet
again, never, dearest, to part."

Flora sobbed bitterly.

"Oh!" she said, "this is the unkindest blow of all--this is worse than
all."

"Unkind!" echoed Holland.

"Heed her not," said Henry; "she means not you."

"Oh, no--no!" she cried. "Farewell, Charles--dear Charles."

"Oh, say that word again!" he exclaimed, with animation. "It is the
first time such music has met my ears."

"It must be the last."

"No, no--oh, no."

"For your own sake I shall be able now, Charles, to show you that I
really loved you."

"Not by casting me from you?"

"Yes, even so. That will be the way to show you that I love you."

She held up her hands wildly, as she added, in an excited voice,--

"The curse of destiny is upon me! I am singled out as one lost and
accursed. Oh, horror--horror! would that I were dead!"

Charles staggered back a pace or two until he came to the table, at
which he clutched for support. He turned very pale as he said, in a
faint voice,--

"Is--is she mad, or am I?"

"Tell him I am mad, Henry," cried Flora. "Do not, oh, do not make his
lonely thoughts terrible with more than that. Tell him I am mad."

"Come with me," whispered Henry to Holland. "I pray you come with me at
once, and you shall know all."

"I--will."

"George, stay with Flora for a time. Come, come, Mr. Holland, you ought,
and you shall know all; then you can come to a judgment for yourself.
This way, sir. You cannot, in the wildest freak of your imagination,
guess that which I have now to tell you."

Never was mortal man so utterly bewildered by the events of the last
hour of his existence as was now Charles Holland, and truly he might
well be so. He had arrived in England, and made what speed he could to
the house of a family whom he admired for their intelligence, their high
culture, and in one member of which his whole thoughts of domestic
happiness in this world were centered, and he found nothing but
confusion, incoherence, mystery, and the wildest dismay.

Well might he doubt if he were sleeping or waking--well might he ask if
he or they were mad.

And now, as, after a long, lingering look of affection upon the pale,
suffering face of Flora, he followed Henry from the room, his thoughts
were busy in fancying a thousand vague and wild imaginations with
respect to the communication which was promised to be made to him.

But, as Henry had truly said to him, not in the wildest freak of his
imagination could he conceive of any thing near the terrible strangeness
and horror of that which he had to tell him, and consequently he found
himself closeted with Henry in a small private room, removed from the
domestic part of the hall, to the full in as bewildered a state as he
had been from the first.




CHAPTER XI.

THE COMMUNICATIONS TO THE LOVER.--THE HEART'S DESPAIR.


[Illustration]

Consternation is sympathetic, and any one who had looked upon the
features of Charles Holland, now that he was seated with Henry
Bannerworth, in expectation of a communication which his fears told him
was to blast all his dearest and most fondly cherished hopes for ever,
would scarce have recognised in him the same young man who, one short
hour before, had knocked so loudly, and so full of joyful hope and
expectation, at the door of the hall.

But so it was. He knew Henry Bannerworth too well to suppose that any
unreal cause could blanch his cheek. He knew Flora too well to imagine
for one moment that caprice had dictated the, to him, fearful words of
dismissal she had uttered to him.

Happier would it at that time have been for Charles Holland had she
acted capriciously towards him, and convinced him that his true heart's
devotion had been cast at the feet of one unworthy of so really noble a
gift. Pride would then have enabled him, no doubt, successfully to
resist the blow. A feeling of honest and proper indignation at having
his feelings trifled with, would, no doubt, have sustained him, but,
alas! the case seemed widely different.

True, she implored him to think of her no more--no longer to cherish in
his breast the fond dream of affection which had been its guest so long;
but the manner in which she did so brought along with it an irresistible
conviction, that she was making a noble sacrifice of her own feelings
for him, from some cause which was involved in the profoundest mystery.

But now he was to hear all. Henry had promised to tell him, and as he
looked into his pale, but handsomely intellectual face, he half dreaded
the disclosure he yet panted to hear.

"Tell me all, Henry--tell me all," he said. "Upon the words that come
from your lips I know I can rely."

"I will have no reservations with you," said Henry, sadly. "You ought to
know all, and you shall. Prepare yourself for the strangest revelation
you ever heard."

"Indeed!"

"Ay. One which in hearing you may well doubt; and one which, I hope, you
will never find an opportunity of verifying."

"You speak in riddles."

"And yet speak truly, Charles. You heard with what a frantic vehemence
Flora desired you to think no more of her?"

"I did--I did."

"She was right. She is a noble-hearted girl for uttering those words. A
dreadful incident in our family has occurred, which might well induce
you to pause before uniting your fate with that of any member of it."

"Impossible. Nothing can possibly subdue the feelings of affection I
entertain for Flora. She is worthy of any one, and, as such, amid all
changes--all mutations of fortune, she shall be mine."

"Do not suppose that any change of fortune has produced the scene you
were witness to."

"Then, what else?"

"I will tell you, Holland. In all your travels, and in all your reading,
did you ever come across anything about vampyres?"

"About what?" cried Charles, drawing his chair forward a little. "About
what?"

"You may well doubt the evidence of your own ears, Charles Holland, and
wish me to repeat what I said. I say, do you know anything about
vampyres?"

Charles Holland looked curiously in Henry's face, and the latter
immediately added,--

"I can guess what is passing in your mind at present, and I do not
wonder at it. You think I must be mad."

"Well, really, Henry, your extraordinary question--"

"I knew it. Were I you, I should hesitate to believe the tale; but the
fact is, we have every reason to believe that one member of our own
family is one of those horrible preternatural beings called vampyres."

"Good God, Henry, can you allow your judgment for a moment to stoop to
such a supposition?"

"That is what I have asked myself a hundred times; but, Charles Holland,
the judgment, the feelings, and all the prejudices, natural and
acquired, must succumb to actual ocular demonstration. Listen to me, and
do not interrupt me. You shall know all, and you shall know it
circumstantially."

Henry then related to the astonished Charles Holland all that had
occurred, from the first alarm of Flora, up to that period when he,
Holland, caught her in his arms as she was about to leave the room.

"And now," he said, in conclusion, "I cannot tell what opinion you may
come to as regards these most singular events. You will recollect that
here is the unbiassed evidence of four or five people to the facts, and,
beyond that, the servants, who have seen something of the horrible
visitor."

"You bewilder me, utterly," said Charles Holland.

"As we are all bewildered."

"But--but, gracious Heaven! it cannot be."

"It is."

"No--no. There is--there must be yet some dreadful mistake."

"Can you start any supposition by which we can otherwise explain any of
the phenomena I have described to you? If you can, for Heaven's sake do
so, and you will find no one who will cling to it with more tenacity
than I."

"Any other species or kind of supernatural appearance might admit of
argument; but this, to my perception, is too wildly improbable--too much
at variance with all we see and know of the operations of nature."

"It is so. All that we have told ourselves repeatedly, and yet is all
human reason at once struck down by the few brief words of--'We have
seen it.'"

"I would doubt my eyesight."

"One might; but many cannot be labouring under the same delusion."

"My friend, I pray you, do not make me shudder at the supposition that
such a dreadful thing as this is at all possible."

"_I_ am, believe me, Charles, most unwilling to oppress anyone with the
knowledge of these evils; but you are so situated with us, that you
ought to know, and you will clearly understand that you may, with
perfect honour, now consider yourself free from all engagements you have
entered into with Flora."

"No, no! By Heaven, no!"

"Yes, Charles. Reflect upon the consequences now of a union with such a
family."

"Oh, Henry Bannerworth, can you suppose me so dead to all good feeling,
so utterly lost to honourable impulses, as to eject from my heart her
who has possession of it entirely, on such a ground as this?"

"You would be justified."

"Coldly justified in prudence I might be. There are a thousand
circumstances in which a man may be justified in a particular course of
action, and that course yet may be neither honourable nor just. I love
Flora; and were she tormented by the whole of the supernatural world, I
should still love her. Nay, it becomes, then, a higher and a nobler duty
on my part to stand between her and those evils, if possible."

"Charles--Charles," said Henry, "I cannot of course refuse to you my
meed of praise and admiration for your generosity of feeling; but,
remember, if we are compelled, despite all our feelings and all our
predilections to the contrary, to give in to a belief in the existence
of vampyres, why may we not at once receive as the truth all that is
recorded of them?"

"To what do you allude?"

"To this. That one who has been visited by a vampyre, and whose blood
has formed a horrible repast for such a being, becomes, after death, one
of the dreadful race, and visits others in the same way."

"Now this must be insanity," cried Charles.

"It bears the aspect of it, indeed," said Henry; "oh, that you could by
some means satisfy yourself that I am mad."

"There may be insanity in this family," thought Charles, with such an
exquisite pang of misery, that he groaned aloud.

"Already," added Henry, mournfully, "already the blighting influence of
the dreadful tale is upon you, Charles. Oh, let me add my advice to
Flora's entreaties. She loves you, and we all esteem you; fly, then,
from us, and leave us to encounter our miseries alone. Fly from us,
Charles Holland, and take with you our best wishes for happiness which
you cannot know here."

"Never," cried Charles; "I devote my existence to Flora. I will not play
the coward, and fly from one whom I love, on such grounds. I devote my
life to her."

Henry could not speak for emotion for several minutes, and when at
length, in a faltering voice, he could utter some words, he said,--

"God of heaven, what happiness is marred by these horrible events? What
have we all done to be the victims of such a dreadful act of vengeance?"

"Henry, do not talk in that way," cried Charles. "Rather let us bend all
our energies to overcoming the evil, than spend any time in useless
lamentations. I cannot even yet give in to a belief in the existence of
such a being as you say visited Flora."

"But the evidences."

"Look you here, Henry: until I am convinced that some things have
happened which it is totally impossible could happen by any human means
whatever, I will not ascribe them to supernatural influence."

"But what human means, Charles, could produce what I have now narrated
to you?"

"I do not know, just at present, but I will give the subject the most
attentive consideration. Will you accommodate me here for a time?"

"You know you are as welcome here as if the house were your own, and all
that it contains."

"I believe so, most truly. You have no objection, I presume, to my
conversing with Flora upon this strange subject?"

"Certainly not. Of course you will be careful to say nothing which can
add to her fears."

"I shall be most guarded, believe me. You say that your brother George,
Mr. Chillingworth, yourself, and this Mr. Marchdale, have all been
cognisant of the circumstances."

"Yes--yes."

"Then with the whole of them you permit me to hold free communication
upon the subject?"

"Most certainly."

"I will do so then. Keep up good heart, Henry, and this affair, which
looks so full of terror at first sight, may yet be divested of some of
its hideous aspect."

"I am rejoiced, if anything can rejoice me now," said Henry, "to see you
view the subject with so much philosophy."

"Why," said Charles, "you made a remark of your own, which enabled me,
viewing the matter in its very worst and most hideous aspect, to gather
hope."

"What was that?"

"You said, properly and naturally enough, that if ever we felt that
there was such a weight of evidence in favour of a belief in the
existence of vampyres that we are compelled to succumb to it, we might
as well receive all the popular feelings and superstitions concerning
them likewise."

"I did. Where is the mind to pause, when once we open it to the
reception of such things?"

"Well, then, if that be the case, we will watch this vampyre and catch
it."

"Catch it?"

"Yes; surely it can be caught; as I understand, this species of being is
not like an apparition, that may be composed of thin air, and utterly
impalpable to the human touch, but it consists of a revivified corpse."

"Yes, yes."

"Then it is tangible and destructible. By Heaven! if ever I catch a
glimpse of any such thing, it shall drag me to its home, be that where
it may, or I will make it prisoner."

"Oh, Charles! you know not the feeling of horror that will come across
you when you do. You have no idea of how the warm blood will seem to
curdle in your veins, and how you will be paralysed in every limb."

"Did you feel so?"

"I did."

"I will endeavour to make head against such feelings. The love of Flora
shall enable me to vanquish them. Think you it will come again
to-morrow?"

[Illustration]

"I can have no thought the one way or the other."

"It may. We must arrange among us all, Henry, some plan of watching
which, without completely prostrating our health and strength, will
always provide that one shall be up all night and on the alert."

"It must be done."

"Flora ought to sleep with the consciousness now that she has ever at
hand some intrepid and well-armed protector, who is not only himself
prepared to defend her, but who can in a moment give an alarm to us all,
in case of necessity requiring it."

"It would be a dreadful capture to make to seize a vampyre," said Henry.

"Not at all; it would be a very desirable one. Being a corpse
revivified, it is capable of complete destruction, so as to render it no
longer a scourge to any one."

"Charles, Charles, are you jesting with me, or do you really give any
credence to the story?"

"My dear friend, I always make it a rule to take things at their worst,
and then I cannot be disappointed. I am content to reason upon this
matter as if the fact of the existence of a vampyre were thoroughly
established, and then to think upon what is best to be done about it."

"You are right."

"If it should turn out then that there is an error in the fact, well and
good--we are all the better off; but if otherwise, we are prepared, and
armed at all points."

"Let it be so, then. It strikes me, Charles, that you will be the
coolest and the calmest among us all on this emergency; but the hour now
waxes late, I will get them to prepare a chamber for you, and at least
to-night, after what has occurred already, I should think we can be
under no apprehension."

"Probably not. But, Henry, if you would allow me to sleep in that room
where the portrait hangs of him whom you suppose to be the vampyre, I
should prefer it."

"Prefer it!"

"Yes; I am not one who courts danger for danger's sake, but I would
rather occupy that room, to see if the vampyre, who perhaps has a
partiality for it, will pay me a visit."

"As you please, Charles. You can have the apartment. It is in the same
state as when occupied by Flora. Nothing has been, I believe, removed
from it."

"You will let me, then, while I remain here, call it my room?"

"Assuredly."

This arrangement was accordingly made to the surprise of all the
household, not one of whom would, indeed, have slept, or attempted to
sleep there for any amount of reward. But Charles Holland had his own
reasons for preferring that chamber, and he was conducted to it in the
course of half an hour by Henry, who looked around it with a shudder, as
he bade his young friend good night.




CHAPTER XII.

CHARLES HOLLAND'S SAD FEELINGS.--THE PORTRAIT.--THE OCCURRENCE OF THE
NIGHT AT THE HALL.


[Illustration]

Charles Holland wished to be alone, if ever any human being had wished
fervently to be so. His thoughts were most fearfully oppressive.

The communication that had been made to him by Henry Bannerworth, had
about it too many strange, confirmatory circumstances to enable him to
treat it, in his own mind, with the disrespect that some mere freak of a
distracted and weak imagination would, most probably, have received from
him.

He had found Flora in a state of excitement which could arise only from
some such terrible cause as had been mentioned by her brother, and then
he was, from an occurrence which certainly never could have entered into
his calculations, asked to forego the bright dream of happiness which he
had held so long and so rapturously to his heart.

How truly he found that the course of true love ran not smooth; and yet
how little would any one have suspected that from such a cause as that
which now oppressed his mind, any obstruction would arise.

Flora might have been fickle and false; he might have seen some other
fairer face, which might have enchained his fancy, and woven for him a
new heart's chain; death might have stepped between him and the
realization of his fondest hopes; loss of fortune might have made the
love cruel which would have yoked to its distresses a young and
beautiful girl, reared in the lap of luxury, and who was not, even by
those who loved her, suffered to feel, even in later years, any of the
pinching necessities of the family.

All these things were possible--some of them were probable; and yet none
of them had occurred. She loved him still; and he, although he had
looked on many a fair face, and basked in the sunny smiles of beauty,
had never for a moment forgotten her faith, or lost his devotion to his
own dear English girl.

Fortune he had enough for both; death had not even threatened to rob him
of the prize of such a noble and faithful heart which he had won. But a
horrible superstition had arisen, which seemed to place at once an
impassable abyss between them, and to say to him, in a voice of
thundering denunciation,--

"Charles Holland, will you have a vampyre for your bride?"

The thought was terrific. He paced the gloomy chamber to and fro with
rapid strides, until the idea came across his mind that by so doing he
might not only be proclaiming to his kind entertainers how much he was
mentally distracted, but he likewise might be seriously distracting
them.

The moment this occurred to him he sat down, and was profoundly still
for some time. He then glanced at the light which had been given to him,
and he found himself almost unconsciously engaged in a mental
calculation as to how long it would last him in the night.

Half ashamed, then, of such terrors, as such a consideration would seem
to indicate, he was on the point of hastily extinguishing it, when he
happened to cast his eyes on the now mysterious and highly interesting
portrait in the panel.

The picture, as a picture, was well done, whether it was a correct
likeness or not of the party whom it represented. It was one of those
kind of portraits that seem so life-like, that, as you look at them,
they seem to return your gaze fully, and even to follow you with their
eyes from place to place.

By candle-light such an effect is more likely to become striking and
remarkable than by daylight; and now, as Charles Holland shaded his own
eyes from the light, so as to cast its full radiance upon the portrait,
he felt wonderfully interested in its life-like appearance.

"Here is true skill," he said; "such as I have not before seen. How
strangely this likeness of a man whom I never saw seems to gaze upon
me."

Unconsciously, too, he aided the effect, which he justly enough called
life-like, by a slight movement of the candle, such as any one not
blessed with nerves of iron would be sure to make, and such a movement
made the face look as if it was inspired with vitality.

Charles remained looking at the portrait for a considerable period of
time. He found a kind of fascination in it which prevented him from
drawing his eyes away from it. It was not fear which induced him to
continue gazing on it, but the circumstance that it was a likeness of
the man who, after death, was supposed to have borrowed so new and so
hideous an existence, combined with its artistic merits, chained him to
the spot.

"I shall now," he said, "know that face again, let me see it where I
may, or under what circumstances I may. Each feature is now indelibly
fixed upon my memory--I never can mistake it."

He turned aside as he uttered these words, and as he did so his eyes
fell upon a part of the ornamental frame which composed the edge of the
panel, and which seemed to him to be of a different colour from the
surrounding portion.

Curiosity and increased interest prompted him at once to make a closer
inquiry into the matter; and, by a careful and diligent scrutiny, he was
almost induced to come to the positive opinion, that it no very distant
period in time past, the portrait had been removed from the place it
occupied.

When once this idea, even vague and indistinct as it was, in consequence
of the slight grounds he formed it on, had got possession of his mind,
he felt most anxious to prove its verification or its fallacy.

He held the candle in a variety of situations, so that its light fell in
different ways on the picture; and the more he examined it, the more he
felt convinced that it must have been moved lately.

It would appear as if, in its removal, a piece of the old oaken carved
framework of the panel had been accidentally broken off, which caused
the new look of the fracture, and that this accident, from the nature of
the broken bit of framing, could have occurred in any other way than
from an actual or attempted removal of the picture, he felt was
extremely unlikely.

He set down the candle on a chair near at hand, and tried if the panel
was fast in its place. Upon the very first touch, he felt convinced it
was not so, and that it easily moved. How to get it out, though,
presented a difficulty, and to get it out was tempting.

"Who knows," he said to himself, "what may be behind it? This is an old
baronial sort of hall, and the greater portion of it was, no doubt,
built at a time when the construction of such places as hidden chambers
and intricate staircases were, in all buildings of importance,
considered a disiderata."

That he should make some discovery behind the portrait, now became an
idea that possessed him strongly, although he certainly had no definite
grounds for really supposing that he should do so.

Perhaps the wish was more father to the thought than he, in the partial
state of excitement he was in, really imagined; but so it was. He felt
convinced that he should not be satisfied until he had removed that
panel from the wall, and seen what was immediately behind it.

After the panel containing the picture had been placed where it was, it
appeared that pieces of moulding had been inserted all around, which had
had the effect of keeping it in its place, and it was a fracture of one
of these pieces which had first called Charles Holland's attention to
the probability of the picture having been removed. That he should have
to get two, at least, of the pieces of moulding away, before he could
hope to remove the picture, was to him quite apparent, and he was
considering how he should accomplish such a result, when he was suddenly
startled by a knock at his chamber door.

Until that sudden demand for admission at his door came, he scarcely
knew to what a nervous state he had worked himself up. It was an odd
sort of tap--one only--a single tap, as if some one demanded admittance,
and wished to awaken his attention with the least possible chance of
disturbing any one else.

"Come in," said Charles, for he knew he had not fastened his door; "come
in."

There was no reply, but after a moment's pause, the same sort of low tap
came again.

Again he cried "come in," but, whoever it was, seemed determined that
the door should be opened for him, and no movement was made from the
outside. A third time the tap came, and Charles was very close to the
door when he heard it, for with a noiseless step he had approached it
intending to open it. The instant this third mysterious demand for
admission came, he did open it wide. There was no one there! In an
instant he crossed the threshold into the corridor, which ran right and
left. A window at one end of it now sent in the moon's rays, so that it
was tolerably light, but he could see no one. Indeed, to look for any
one, he felt sure was needless, for he had opened his chamber-door
almost simultaneously with the last knock for admission.

"It is strange," he said, as he lingered on the threshold of his room
door for some moments; "my imagination could not so completely deceive
me. There was most certainly a demand for admission."

Slowly, then, he returned to his room again, and closed the door behind
him.

"One thing is evident," he said, "that if I am in this apartment to be
subjected to these annoyances, I shall get no rest, which will soon
exhaust me."

This thought was a very provoking one, and the more he thought that he
should ultimately find a necessity for giving up that chamber he had
himself asked as a special favour to be allowed to occupy, the more
vexed he became to think what construction might be put upon his conduct
for so doing.

"They will all fancy me a coward," he thought, "and that I dare not
sleep here. They may not, of course, say so, but they will think that my
appearing so bold was one of those acts of bravado which I have not
courage to carry fairly out."

Taking this view of the matter was just the way to enlist a young man's
pride in staying, under all circumstances, where he was, and, with a
slight accession of colour, which, even although he was alone, would
visit his cheeks, Charles Holland said aloud,--

"I will remain the occupant of this room come what may, happen what may.
No terrors, real or unsubstantial, shall drive me from it: I will brave
them all, and remain here to brave them."

Tap came the knock at the door again, and now, with more an air of
vexation than fear, Charles turned again towards it, and listened. Tap
in another minute again succeeded, and much annoyed, he walked close to
the door, and laid his hand upon the lock, ready to open it at the
precise moment of another demand for admission being made.

He had not to wait long. In about half a minute it came again, and,
simultaneously with the sound, the door flew open. There was no one to
be seen; but, as he opened the door, he heard a strange sound in the
corridor--a sound which scarcely could be called a groan, and scarcely a
sigh, but seemed a compound of both, having the agony of the one
combined with the sadness of the other. From what direction it came he
could not at the moment decide, but he called out,--

"Who's there? who's there?"

The echo of his own voice alone answered him for a few moments, and then
he heard a door open, and a voice, which he knew to be Henry's, cried,--

"What is it? who speaks?"

"Henry," said Charles.

"Yes--yes--yes."

"I fear I have disturbed you."

"You have been disturbed yourself, or you would not have done so. I
shall be with you in a moment."

Henry closed his door before Charles Holland could tell him not to come
to him, as he intended to do, for he felt ashamed to have, in a manner
of speaking, summoned assistance for so trifling a cause of alarm as
that to which he had been subjected. However, he could not go to Henry's
chamber to forbid him from coming to his, and, more vexed than before,
he retired to his room again to await his coming.

He left the door open now, so that Henry Bannerworth, when he had got on
some articles of dress, walked in at once, saying,--

"What has happened, Charles?"

"A mere trifle, Henry, concerning which I am ashamed you should have
been at all disturbed."

"Never mind that, I was wakeful."

"I heard a door open, which kept me listening, but I could not decide
which door it was till I heard your voice in the corridor."

"Well, it was this door; and I opened it twice in consequence of the
repeated taps for admission that came to it; some one has been knocking
at it, and, when I go to it, lo! I can see nobody."

"Indeed!"

[Illustration]

"Such is the case."

"You surprise me."

"I am very sorry to have disturbed you, because, upon such a ground, I
do not feel that I ought to have done so; and, when I called out in the
corridor, I assure you it was with no such intention."

"Do not regret it for a moment," said Henry; "you were quite justified
in making an alarm on such an occasion."

"It's strange enough, but still it may arise from some accidental cause;
admitting, if we did but know it, of some ready enough explanation."

"It may, certainly, but, after what has happened already, we may well
suppose a mysterious connexion between any unusual sight or sound, and
the fearful ones we have already seen."

"Certainly we may."

"How earnestly that strange portrait seems to look upon us, Charles."

"It does, and I have been examining it carefully. It seems to have been
removed lately."

"Removed!"

"Yes, I think, as far as I can judge, that it has been taken from its
frame; I mean, that the panel on which it is painted has been taken
out."

"Indeed!"

"If you touch it you will find it loose, and, upon a close examination,
you will perceive that a piece of the moulding which holds it in its
place has been chipped off, which is done in such a place that I think
it could only have arisen during the removal of the picture."

"You must be mistaken."

"I cannot, of course, take upon myself, Henry, to say precisely such is
the case," said Charles.

"But there is no one here to do so."

"That I cannot say. Will you permit me and assist me to remove it? I
have a great curiosity to know what is behind it."

"If you have, I certainly will do so. We thought of taking it away
altogether, but when Flora left this room the idea was given up as
useless. Remain here a few moments, and I will endeavour to find
something which shall assist us in its removal."

Henry left the mysterious chamber in order to search in his own for some
means of removing the frame-work of the picture, so that the panel would
slip easily out, and while he was gone, Charles Holland continued gazing
upon it with greater interest, if possible, than before.

In a few minutes Henry returned, and although what he had succeeded in
finding were very inefficient implements for the purpose, yet with this
aid the two young men set about the task.

It is said, and said truly enough, that "where there is a will there is
a way," and although the young men had no tools at all adapted for the
purpose, they did succeed in removing the moulding from the sides of the
panel, and then by a little tapping at one end of it, and using a knife
at a lever at the other end of the panel, they got it fairly out.

Disappointment was all they got for their pains. On the other side there
was nothing but a rough wooden wall, against which the finer and more
nicely finished oak panelling of the chamber rested.

"There is no mystery here," said Henry.

"None whatever," said Charles, as he tapped the wall with his knuckles,
and found it all hard and sound. "We are foiled."

"We are indeed."

"I had a strange presentiment, now," added Charles, "that we should make
some discovery that would repay us for our trouble. It appears, however,
that such is not to be the case; for you see nothing presents itself to
us but the most ordinary appearances."

"I perceive as much; and the panel itself, although of more than
ordinary thickness, is, after all, but a bit of planed oak, and
apparently fashioned for no other object than to paint the portrait on."

"True. Shall we replace it?"

Charles reluctantly assented, and the picture was replaced in its
original position. We say Charles reluctantly assented, because,
although he had now had ocular demonstration that there was really
nothing behind the panel but the ordinary woodwork which might have been
expected from the construction of the old house, yet he could not, even
with such a fact staring him in the face, get rid entirely of the
feeling that had come across him, to the effect that the picture had
some mystery or another.

"You are not yet satisfied," said Henry, as he observed the doubtful
look of Charles Holland's face.

"My dear friend," said Charles, "I will not deceive you. I am much
disappointed that we have made no discovery behind that picture."

"Heaven knows we have mysteries enough in our family," said Henry.

Even as he spoke they were both startled by a strange clattering noise
at the window, which was accompanied by a shrill, odd kind of shriek,
which sounded fearful and preternatural on the night air.

"What is that?" said Charles.

"God only knows," said Henry.

The two young men naturally turned their earnest gaze in the direction
of the window, which we have before remarked was one unprovided with
shutters, and there, to their intense surprise, they saw, slowly rising
up from the lower part of it, what appeared to be a human form. Henry
would have dashed forward, but Charles restrained him, and drawing
quickly from its case a large holster pistol, he levelled it carefully
at the figure, saying in a whisper,--

"Henry, if I don't hit it, I will consent to forfeit my head."

He pulled the trigger--a loud report followed--the room was filled with
smoke, and then all was still. A circumstance, however, had occurred, as
a consequence of the concussion of air produced by the discharge of the
pistol, which neither of the young men had for the moment calculated
upon, and that was the putting out of the only light they there had.

In spite of this circumstance, Charles, the moment he had discharged the
pistol, dropped it and sprung forward to the window. But here he was
perplexed, for he could not find the old fashioned, intricate fastening
which held it shut, and he had to call to Henry,--

"Henry! For God's sake open the window for me, Henry! The fastening of
the window is known to you, but not to me. Open it for me."

Thus called upon, Henry sprung forward, and by this time the report of
the pistol had effectually alarmed the whole household. The flashing of
lights from the corridor came into the room, and in another minute, just
as Henry succeeded in getting the window wide open, and Charles Holland
had made his way on to the balcony, both George Bannerworth and Mr.
Marchdale entered the chamber, eager to know what had occurred. To their
eager questions Henry replied,--

"Ask me not now;" and then calling to Charles, he said,--"Remain where
you are, Charles, while I run down to the garden immediately beneath the
balcony."

"Yes--yes," said Charles.

Henry made prodigious haste, and was in the garden immediately below the
bay window in a wonderfully short space of time. He spoke to Charles,
saying,--

"Will you now descend? I can see nothing here; but we will both make a
search."

George and Mr. Marchdale were both now in the balcony, and they would
have descended likewise, but Henry said,--

"Do not all leave the house. God only knows, now, situated as we are,
what might happen."

"I will remain, then," said George. "I have been sitting up to-night as
the guard, and, therefore, may as well continue to do so."

Marchdale and Charles Holland clambered over the balcony, and easily,
from its insignificant height, dropped into the garden. The night was
beautiful, and profoundly still. There was not a breath of air
sufficient to stir a leaf on a tree, and the very flame of the candle
which Charles had left burning in the balcony burnt clearly and
steadily, being perfectly unruffled by any wind.

It cast a sufficient light close to the window to make everything very
plainly visible, and it was evident at a glance that no object was
there, although had that figure, which Charles shot at, and no doubt
hit, been flesh and blood, it must have dropped immediately below.

As they looked up for a moment after a cursory examination of the
ground, Charles exclaimed,--

"Look at the window! As the light is now situated, you can see the hole
made in one of the panes of glass by the passage of the bullet from my
pistol."

They did look, and there the clear, round hole, without any starring,
which a bullet discharged close to a pane of glass will make in it, was
clearly and plainly discernible.

"You must have hit him," said Henry.

"One would think so," said Charles; "for that was the exact place where
the figure was."

"And there is nothing here," added Marchdale. "What can we think of
these events--what resource has the mind against the most dreadful
suppositions concerning them?"

Charles and Henry were both silent; in truth, they knew not what to
think, and the words uttered by Marchdale were too strikingly true to
dispute for a moment. They were lost in wonder.

"Human means against such an appearance as we saw to-night," said
Charles, "are evidently useless."

"My dear young friend," said Marchdale, with much emotion, as he grasped
Henry Bannerworth's hand, and the tears stood in his eyes as he did
so,--"my dear young friend, these constant alarms will kill you. They
will drive you, and all whose happiness you hold dear, distracted. You
must control these dreadful feelings, and there is but one chance that I
can see of getting now the better of these."

"What is that?"

"By leaving this place for ever."

"Alas! am I to be driven from the home of my ancestors from such a cause
as this? And whither am I to fly? Where are we to find a refuge? To
leave here will be at once to break up the establishment which is now
held together, certainly upon the sufferance of creditors, but still to
their advantage, inasmuch as I am doing what no one else would do,
namely, paying away to within the scantiest pittance the whole proceeds
of the estate that spreads around me."

"Heed nothing but an escape from such horrors as seem to be accumulating
now around you."

"If I were sure that such a removal would bring with it such a
corresponding advantage, I might, indeed, be induced to risk all to
accomplish it."

"As regards poor dear Flora," said Mr. Marchdale, "I know not what to
say, or what to think; she has been attacked by a vampyre, and after
this mortal life shall have ended, it is dreadful to think there may be
a possibility that she, with all her beauty, all her excellence and
purity of mind, and all those virtues and qualities which should make
her the beloved of all, and which do, indeed, attach all hearts towards
her, should become one of that dreadful tribe of beings who cling to
existence by feeding, in the most dreadful manner, upon the life blood
of others--oh, it is too dreadful to contemplate! Too horrible--too
horrible!"

"Then wherefore speak of it?" said Charles, with some asperity. "Now, by
the great God of Heaven, who sees all our hearts, I will not give in to
such a horrible doctrine! I will not believe it; and were death itself
my portion for my want of faith, I would this moment die in my disbelief
of anything so truly fearful!"

"Oh, my young friend," added Marchdale, "if anything could add to the
pangs which all who love, and admire, and respect Flora Bannerworth must
feel at the unhappy condition in which she is placed, it would be the
noble nature of you, who, under happier auspices, would have been her
guide through life, and the happy partner of her destiny."

"As I will be still."

"May Heaven forbid it! We are now among ourselves, and can talk freely
upon such a subject. Mr. Charles Holland, if you wed, you would look
forward to being blessed with children--those sweet ties which bind the
sternest hearts to life with so exquisite a bondage. Oh, fancy, then,
for a moment, the mother of your babes coming at the still hour of
midnight to drain from their veins the very life blood she gave to them.
To drive you and them mad with the expected horror of such
visitations--to make your nights hideous--your days but so many hours of
melancholy retrospection. Oh, you know not the world of terror, on the
awful brink of which you stand, when you talk of making Flora
Bannerworth a wife."

"Peace! oh, peace!" said Henry.

"Nay, I know my words are unwelcome," continued Mr. Marchdale. "It
happens, unfortunately for human nature, that truth and some of our best
and holiest feelings are too often at variance, and hold a sad
contest--"

"I will hear no more of this," cried Charles Holland.--"I will hear no
more."

"I have done," said Mr. Marchdale.

"And 'twere well you had not begun."

"Nay, say not so. I have but done what I considered was a solemn duty."

"Under that assumption of doing duty--a solemn duty--heedless of the
feelings and the opinions of others," said Charles, sarcastically, "more
mischief is produced--more heart-burnings and anxieties caused, than by
any other two causes of such mischievous results combined. I wish to
hear no more of this."

"Do not be angered with Mr. Marchdale, Charles," said Henry. "He can
have no motive but our welfare in what he says. We should not condemn a
speaker because his words may not sound pleasant to our ears."

"By Heaven!" said Charles, with animation, "I meant not to be illiberal;
but I will not because I cannot see a man's motives for active
interference in the affairs of others, always be ready, merely on
account of such ignorance, to jump to a conclusion that they must be
estimable."

"To-morrow, I leave this house," said Marchdale.

"Leave us?" exclaimed Henry.

"Ay, for ever."

"Nay, now, Mr. Marchdale, is this generous?"

"Am I treated generously by one who is your own guest, and towards whom
I was willing to hold out the honest right hand of friendship?"

Henry turned to Charles Holland, saying,--

"Charles, I know your generous nature. Say you meant no offence to my
mother's old friend."

"If to say I meant no offence," said Charles, "is to say I meant no
insult, I say it freely."

"Enough," cried Marchdale; "I am satisfied."

"But do not," added Charles, "draw me any more such pictures as the one
you have already presented to my imagination, I beg of you. From the
storehouse of my own fancy I can find quite enough to make me wretched,
if I choose to be so; but again and again do I say I will not allow this
monstrous superstition to tread me down, like the tread of a giant on a
broken reed. I will contend against it while I have life to do so."

"Bravely spoken."

"And when I desert Flora Bannerworth, may Heaven, from that moment,
desert me!"

"Charles!" cried Henry, with emotion, "dear Charles, my more than
friend--brother of my heart--noble Charles!"

"Nay, Henry, I am not entitled to your praises. I were base indeed to be
other than that which I purpose to be. Come weal or woe--come what may,
I am the affianced husband of your sister, and she, and she only, can
break asunder the tie that binds me to her."




CHAPTER XIII.

THE OFFER FOR THE HALL.--THE VISIT TO SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.--THE STRANGE
RESEMBLANCE.--A DREADFUL SUGGESTION.


[Illustration]

The party made a strict search through every nook and corner of the
garden, but it proved to be a fruitless one: not the least trace of any
one could be found. There was only one circumstance, which was pondered
over deeply by them all, and that was that, beneath the window of the
room in which Flora and her mother sat while the brothers were on their
visit to the vault of their ancestors, were visible marks of blood to a
considerable extent.

It will be remembered that Flora had fired a pistol at the spectral
appearance, and that immediately upon that it had disappeared, after
uttering a sound which might well be construed into a cry of pain from a
wound.

That a wound then had been inflicted upon some one, the blood beneath
the window now abundantly testified; and when it was discovered, Henry
and Charles made a very close examination indeed of the garden, to
discover what direction the wounded figure, be it man or vampyre, had
taken.

[Illustration]

But the closest scrutiny did not reveal to them a single spot of blood,
beyond the space immediately beneath the window;--there the apparition
seemed to have received its wound, and then, by some mysterious means,
to have disappeared.

At length, wearied with the continued excitement, combined with want of
sleep, to which they had been subjected, they returned to the hall.

Flora, with the exception of the alarm she experienced from the firing
of the pistol, had met with no disturbance, and that, in order to spare
her painful reflections, they told her was merely done as a
precautionary measure, to proclaim to any one who might be lurking in
the garden that the inmates of the house were ready to defend themselves
against any aggression.

Whether or not she believed this kind deceit they knew not. She only
sighed deeply, and wept. The probability is, that she more than
suspected the vampyre had made another visit, but they forbore to press
the point; and, leaving her with her mother, Henry and George went from
her chamber again--the former to endeavour to seek some repose, as it
would be his turn to watch on the succeeding night, and the latter to
resume his station in a small room close to Flora's chamber, where it
had been agreed watch and ward should be kept by turns while the alarm
lasted.

At length, the morning again dawned upon that unhappy family, and to
none were its beams more welcome.

The birds sang their pleasant carols beneath the window. The sweet,
deep-coloured autumnal sun shone upon all objects with a golden luster;
and to look abroad, upon the beaming face of nature, no one could for a
moment suppose, except from sad experience, that there were such things
as gloom, misery, and crime, upon the earth.

"And must I," said Henry, as he gazed from a window of the hall upon the
undulating park, the majestic trees, the flowers, the shrubs, and the
many natural beauties with which the place was full,--"must I be chased
from this spot, the home of my self and of my kindred, by a
phantom--must I indeed seek refuge elsewhere, because my own home has
become hideous?"

It was indeed a cruel and a painful thought! It was one he yet would
not, could not be convinced was absolutely necessary. But now the sun
was shining: it was morning; and the feelings, which found a home in his
breast amid the darkness, the stillness, and the uncertainty of night,
were chased away by those glorious beams of sunlight, that fell upon
hill, valley, and stream, and the thousand sweet sounds of life and
animation that filled that sunny air!

Such a revulsion of feeling was natural enough. Many of the distresses
and mental anxieties of night vanish with the night, and those which
oppressed the heart of Henry Bannerworth were considerably modified.

He was engaged in these reflections when he heard the sound of the lodge
bell, and as a visitor was now somewhat rare at this establishment, he
waited with some anxiety to see to whom he was indebted for so early a
call.

In the course of a few minutes, one of the servants came to him with a
letter in her hand.

It bore a large handsome seal, and, from its appearance, would seem to
have come from some personage of consequence. A second glance at it
shewed him the name of "Varney" in the corner, and, with some degree of
vexation, he muttered to himself,

"Another condoling epistle from the troublesome neighbour whom I have
not yet seen."

"If you please, sir," said the servant who had brought him the letter,
"as I'm here, and you are here, perhaps you'll have no objection to give
me what I'm to have for the day and two nights as I've been here, cos I
can't stay in a family as is so familiar with all sorts o' ghostesses: I
ain't used to such company."

"What do you mean?" said Henry.

The question was a superfluous one--: too well he knew what the woman
meant, and the conviction came across his mind strongly that no domestic
would consent to live long in a house which was subject to such dreadful
visitations.

"What does I mean!" said the woman,--"why, sir, if it's all the same to
you, I don't myself come of a wampyre family, and I don't choose to
remain in a house where there is sich things encouraged. That's what I
means, sir."

"What wages are owing to you?" said Henry.

"Why, as to wages, I only comed here by the day."

"Go, then, and settle with my mother. The sooner you leave this house,
the better."

"Oh, indeed. I'm sure I don't want to stay."

This woman was one of those who were always armed at all points for a
row, and she had no notion of concluding any engagement, of any
character whatever, without some disturbance; therefore, to see Henry
take what she said with such provoking calmness was aggravating in the
extreme; but there was no help for such a source of vexation. She could
find no other ground of quarrel than what was connected with the
vampyre, and, as Henry would not quarrel with her on such a score, she
was compelled to give it up in despair.

When Henry found himself alone, and free from the annoyance of this
woman, he turned his attention to the letter he held in his hand, and
which, from the autograph in the corner, he knew came from his new
neighbour, Sir Francis Varney, whom, by some chance or another, he had
never yet seen.

To his great surprise, he found that the letter contained the following
words:--

     Dear Sir,--"As a neighbour, by purchase of an estate contiguous
     to your own, I am quite sure you have excused, and taken in good
     part, the cordial offer I made to you of friendship and service
     some short time since; but now, in addressing to you a distinct
     proposition, I trust I shall meet with an indulgent
     consideration, whether such proposition be accordant with your
     views or not.

     "What I have heard from common report induces me to believe that
     Bannerworth Hall cannot be a desirable residence for yourself, or
     your amiable sister. If I am right in that conjecture, and you
     have any serious thought of leaving the place, I would earnestly
     recommend you, as one having some experience in such descriptions
     of property, to sell it at once.

     "Now, the proposition with which I conclude this letter is, I
     know, of a character to make you doubt the disinterestedness of
     such advice; but that it is disinterested, nevertheless, is a
     fact of which I can assure my own heart, and of which I beg to
     assure you. I propose, then, should you, upon consideration,
     decide upon such a course of proceeding, to purchase of you the
     Hall. I do not ask for a bargain on account of any extraneous
     circumstances which may at the present time depreciate the value
     of the property, but I am willing to give a fair price for it.
     Under these circumstances, I trust, sir, that you will give a
     kindly consideration to my offer, and even if you reject it, I
     hope that, as neighbours, we may live long in peace and amity,
     and in the interchange of those good offices which should subsist
     between us. Awaiting your reply,

     "Believe me to be, dear sir,

     "Your very obedient servant,

     "FRANCIS VARNEY.

     "To Henry Bannerworth, Esq."

Henry, after having read this most unobjectionable letter through,
folded it up again, and placed it in his pocket. Clasping his hands,
then, behind his back, a favourite attitude of his when he was in deep
contemplation, he paced to and fro in the garden for some time in deep
thought.

"How strange," he muttered. "It seems that every circumstance combines
to induce me to leave my old ancestral home. It appears as if everything
now that happened had that direct tendency. What can be the meaning of
all this? 'Tis very strange--amazingly strange. Here arise circumstances
which are enough to induce any man to leave a particular place. Then a
friend, in whose single-mindedness and judgment I know I can rely,
advises the step, and immediately upon the back of that comes a fair and
candid offer."

There was an apparent connexion between all these circumstances which
much puzzled Henry. He walked to and fro for nearly an hour, until he
heard a hasty footstep approaching him, and upon looking in the
direction from whence it came, he saw Mr. Marchdale.

"I will seek Marchdale's advice," he said, "upon this matter. I will
hear what he says concerning it."

"Henry," said Marchdale, when he came sufficiently near to him for
conversation, "why do you remain here alone?"

"I have received a communication from our neighbour, Sir Francis
Varney," said Henry.

"Indeed!"

"It is here. Peruse it for yourself, and then tell me, Marchdale,
candidly what you think of it."

"I suppose," said Marchdale, as he opened the letter, "it is another
friendly note of condolence on the state of your domestic affairs,
which, I grieve to say, from the prattling of domestics, whose tongues
it is quite impossible to silence, have become food for gossip all over
the neighbouring villages and estates."

"If anything could add another pang to those I have already been made to
suffer," said Henry, "it would certainly arise from being made the food
of vulgar gossip. But read the letter, Marchdale. You will find its
contents of a more important character than you anticipate."

"Indeed!" said Marchdale, as he ran his eyes eagerly over the note.

When he had finished it he glanced at Henry, who then said,--

"Well, what is your opinion?"

"I know not what to say, Henry. You know that my own advice to you has
been to get rid of this place."

"It has."

"With the hope that the disagreeable affair connected with it now may
remain connected with it as a house, and not with you and yours as a
family."

"It may be so."

"There appears to me every likelihood of it."

"I do not know," said Henry, with a shudder. "I must confess, Marchdale,
that to my own perceptions it seems more probable that the infliction we
have experienced from the strange visitor, who seems now resolved to
pester us with visits, will rather attach to a family than to a house.
The vampyre may follow us."

"If so, of course the parting with the Hall would be a great pity, and
no gain."

"None in the least."

"Henry, a thought has struck me."

"Let's hear it, Marchdale."

"It is this:--Suppose you were to try the experiment of leaving the Hall
without selling it. Suppose for one year you were to let it to some one,
Henry."

"It might be done."

"Ay, and it might, with very great promise and candour, be proposed to
this very gentleman, Sir Francis Varney, to take it for one year, to see
how he liked it before becoming the possessor of it. Then if he found
himself tormented by the vampyre, he need not complete the purchase, or
if you found that the apparition followed you from hence, you might
yourself return, feeling that perhaps here, in the spots familiar to
your youth, you might be most happy, even under such circumstances as at
present oppress you."

"Most happy!" ejaculated Henry.

"Perhaps I should not have used that word."

"I am sure you should not," said Henry, "when you speak of me."

"Well--well; let us hope that the time may not be very far distant when
I may use the term happy, as applied to you, in the most conclusive and
the strongest manner it can be used."

"Oh," said Henry, "I will hope; but do not mock me with it now,
Marchdale, I pray you."

"Heaven forbid that I should mock you!"

"Well--well; I do not believe you are the man to do so to any one. But
about this affair of the house."

"Distinctly, then, if I were you, I would call upon Sir Francis Varney,
and make him an offer to become a tenant of the Hall for twelve months,
during which time you could go where you please, and test the fact of
absence ridding you or not ridding you of the dreadful visitant who
makes the night here truly hideous."

"I will speak to my mother, to George, and to my sister of the matter.
They shall decide."

Mr. Marchdale now strove in every possible manner to raise the spirits
of Henry Bannerworth, by painting to him the future in far more radiant
colours than the present, and endeavouring to induce a belief in his
mind that a short period of time might after all replace in his mind,
and in the minds of those who were naturally so dear to him, all their
wonted serenity.

Henry, although he felt not much comfort from these kindly efforts, yet
could feel gratitude to him who made them; and after expressing such a
feeling to Marchdale, in strong terms, he repaired to the house, in
order to hold a solemn consultation with those whom he felt ought to be
consulted as well as himself as to what steps should be taken with
regard to the Hall.

The proposition, or rather the suggestion, which had been made by
Marchdale upon the proposition of Sir Francis Varney, was in every
respect so reasonable and just, that it met, as was to be expected, with
the concurrence of every member of the family.

Flora's cheeks almost resumed some of their wonted colour at the mere
thought now of leaving that home to which she had been at one time so
much attached.

"Yes, dear Henry," she said, "let us leave here if you are agreeable so
to do, and in leaving this house, we will believe that we leave behind
us a world of terror."

"Flora," remarked Henry, in a tone of slight reproach, "if you were so
anxious to leave Bannerworth Hall, why did you not say so before this
proposition came from other mouths? You know your feelings upon such a
subject would have been laws to me."

"I knew you were attached to the old house," said Flora; "and, besides,
events have come upon us all with such fearful rapidity, there has
scarcely been time to think."

"True--true."

"And you will leave, Henry?"

"I will call upon Sir Francis Varney myself, and speak to him upon the
subject."

A new impetus to existence appeared now to come over the whole family,
at the idea of leaving a place which always would be now associated in
their minds with so much terror. Each member of the family felt happier,
and breathed more freely than before, so that the change which had come
over them seemed almost magical. And Charles Holland, too, was much
better pleased, and he whispered to Flora,--

"Dear Flora, you will now surely no longer talk of driving from you the
honest heart that loves you?"

"Hush, Charles, hush!" she said; "meet me an hour hence in the garden,
and we will talk of this."

"That hour will seem an age," he said.

Henry, now, having made a determination to see Sir Francis Varney, lost
no time in putting it into execution. At Mr. Marchdale's own request, he
took him with him, as it was desirable to have a third person present in
the sort of business negotiation which was going on. The estate which
had been so recently entered upon by the person calling himself Sir
Francis Varney, and which common report said he had purchased, was a
small, but complete property, and situated so close to the grounds
connected with Bannerworth Hall, that a short walk soon placed Henry and
Mr. Marchdale before the residence of this gentleman, who had shown so
kindly a feeling towards the Bannerworth family.

"Have you seen Sir Francis Varney?" asked Henry of Mr. Marchdale, as he
rung the gate-bell.

"I have not. Have you?"

"No; I never saw him. It is rather awkward our both being absolute
strangers to his person."

"We can but send in our names, however; and, from the great vein of
courtesy that runs through his letter, I have no doubt but we shall
receive the most gentlemanly reception from him."

A servant in handsome livery appeared at the iron-gates, which opened
upon a lawn in the front of Sir Francis Varney's house, and to this
domestic Henry Bannerworth handed his card, on which he had written, in
pencil, likewise the name of Mr. Marchdale.

"If your master," he said, "is within, we shall be glad to see him."

"Sir Francis is at home, sir," was the reply, "although not very well.
If you will be pleased to walk in, I will announce you to him."

Henry and Marchdale followed the man into a handsome enough
reception-room, where they were desired to wait while their names were
announced.

"Do you know if this gentleman be a baronet," said Henry, "or a knight
merely?"

"I really do not; I never saw him in my life, or heard of him before he
came into this neighbourhood."

"And I have been too much occupied with the painful occurrences of this
hall to know anything of our neighbours. I dare say Mr. Chillingworth,
if we had thought to ask him, would have known something concerning
him."

"No doubt."

This brief colloquy was put an end to by the servant, who said,--

"My master, gentlemen, is not very well; but he begs me to present his
best compliments, and to say he is much gratified with your visit, and
will be happy to see you in his study."

Henry and Marchdale followed the man up a flight of stone stairs, and
then they were conducted through a large apartment into a smaller one.
There was very little light in this small room; but at the moment of
their entrance a tall man, who was seated, rose, and, touching the
spring of a blind that was to the window, it was up in a moment,
admitting a broad glare of light. A cry of surprise, mingled with
terror, came from Henry Bannerworth's lip. _The original of the portrait
on the panel stood before him!_ There was the lofty stature, the long,
sallow face, the slightly projecting teeth, the dark, lustrous, although
somewhat sombre eyes; the expression of the features--all were alike.

"Are you unwell, sir?" said Sir Francis Varney, in soft, mellow accents,
as he handed a chair to the bewildered Henry.

"God of Heaven!" said Henry; "how like!"

"You seem surprised, sir. Have you ever seen me before?"

Sir Francis drew himself up to his full height, and cast a strange
glance upon Henry, whose eyes were rivetted upon his face, as if with a
species of fascination which he could not resist.

"Marchdale," Henry gasped; "Marchdale, my friend, Marchdale. I--I am
surely mad."

"Hush! be calm," whispered Marchdale.

"Calm--calm--can you not see? Marchdale, is this a dream?
Look--look--oh! look."

"For God's sake, Henry, compose yourself."

"Is your friend often thus?" said Sir Francis Varney, with the same
mellifluous tone which seemed habitual to him.

"No, sir, he is not; but recent circumstances have shattered his nerves;
and, to tell the truth, you bear so strong a resemblance to an old
portrait, in his house, that I do not wonder so much as I otherwise
should at his agitation."

"Indeed."

"A resemblance!" said Henry; "a resemblance! God of Heaven! it is the
face itself."

"You much surprise me," said Sir Francis.

[Illustration]

Henry sunk into the chair which was near him, and he trembled violently.
The rush of painful thoughts and conjectures that came through his mind
was enough to make any one tremble. "Is this the vampyre?" was the
horrible question that seemed impressed upon his very brain, in letters
of flame. "Is this the vampyre?"

"Are you better, sir?" said Sir Francis Varney, in his bland, musical
voice. "Shall I order any refreshment for you?"

"No--no," gasped Henry; "for the love of truth tell me! Is--is your name
really Varney!"

"Sir?"

"Have you no other name to which, perhaps, a better title you could
urge?"

"Mr. Bannerworth, I can assure you that I am too proud of the name of
the family to which I belong to exchange it for any other, be it what it
may."

"How wonderfully like!"

"I grieve to see you so much distressed. Mr. Bannerworth. I presume ill
health has thus shattered your nerves?"

"No; ill health has not done the work. I know not what to say, Sir
Francis Varney, to you; but recent events in my family have made the
sight of you full of horrible conjectures."

"What mean you, sir?"

"You know, from common report, that we have had a fearful visitor at our
house."

"A vampyre, I have heard," said Sir Francis Varney, with a bland, and
almost beautiful smile, which displayed his white glistening teeth to
perfection.

"Yes; a vampyre, and--and--"

"I pray you go on, sir; you surely are far above the vulgar superstition
of believing in such matters?"

"My judgment is assailed in too many ways and shapes for it to hold out
probably as it ought to do against so hideous a belief, but never was it
so much bewildered as now."

"Why so?"

"Because--"

"Nay, Henry," whispered Mr. Marchdale, "it is scarcely civil to tell Sir
Francis to his face, that he resembles a vampyre."

"I must, I must."

"Pray, sir," interrupted Varney to Marchdale, "permit Mr. Bannerworth to
speak here freely. There is nothing in the whole world I so much admire
as candour."

"Then you so much resemble the vampyre," added Henry, "that--that I know
not what to think."

"Is it possible?" said Varney.

"It is a damning fact."

"Well, it's unfortunate for me, I presume? Ah!"

Varney gave a twinge of pain, as if some sudden bodily ailment had
attacked him severely.

"You are unwell, sir?" said Marchdale.

"No, no--no," he said; "I--hurt my arm, and happened accidentally to
touch the arm of this chair with it."

"A hurt?" said Henry.

"Yes, Mr. Bannerworth."

"A--a wound?"

"Yes, a wound, but not much more than skin deep. In fact, little beyond
an abrasion of the skin."

"May I inquire how you came by it?"

"Oh, yes. A slight fall."

"Indeed."

"Remarkable, is it not? Very remarkable. We never know a moment when,
from same most trifling cause, we may receive really some serious bodily
harm. How true it is, Mr. Bannerworth, that in the midst of life we are
in death."

"And equally true, perhaps," said Henry, "that in the midst of death
there may be found a horrible life."

"Well, I should not wonder. There are really so many strange things in
this world, that I have left off wondering at anything now."

"There are strange things," said Henry. "You wish to purchase of me the
Hall, sir?"

"If you wish to sell."

"You--you are perhaps attached to the place? Perhaps you recollected it,
sir, long ago?"

"Not very long," smiled Sir Francis Varney. "It seems a nice comfortable
old house; and the grounds, too, appear to be amazingly well wooded,
which, to one of rather a romantic temperament like myself, is always an
additional charm to a place. I was extremely pleased with it the first
time I beheld it, and a desire to call myself the owner of it took
possession of my mind. The scenery is remarkable for its beauty, and,
from what I have seen of it, it is rarely to be excelled. No doubt you
are greatly attached to it."

"It has been my home from infancy," returned Henry, "and being also the
residence of my ancestors for centuries, it is natural that I should be
so."

"True--true."

"The house, no doubt, has suffered much," said Henry, "within the last
hundred years."

"No doubt it has. A hundred years is a tolerable long space of time, you
know."

"It is, indeed. Oh, how any human life which is spun out to such an
extent, must lose its charms, by losing all its fondest and dearest
associations."

"Ah, how true," said Sir Francis Varney. He had some minutes previously
touched a bell, and at this moment a servant brought in on a tray some
wine and refreshments.




CHAPTER XIV.

HENRY'S AGREEMENT WITH SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.--THE SUDDEN ARRIVAL AT THE
HALL.--FLORA'S ALARM.


[Illustration]

On the tray which the servant brought into the room, were refreshments
of different kinds, including wine, and after waving his hand for the
domestic to retire, Sir Francis Varney said,--

"You will be better, Mr. Bannerworth, for a glass of wine after your
walk, and you too, sir. I am ashamed to say, I have quite forgotten your
name."

"Marchdale."

"Mr. Marchdale. Ay, Marchdale. Pray, sir, help yourself."

"You take nothing yourself?" said Henry.

"I am under a strict regimen," replied Varney. "The simplest diet alone
does for me, and I have accustomed myself to long abstinence."

"He will not eat or drink," muttered Henry, abstractedly.

"Will you sell me the Hall?" said Sir Francis Varney.

Henry looked in his face again, from which he had only momentarily
withdrawn his eyes, and he was then more struck than ever with the
resemblance between him and the portrait on the panel of what had been
Flora's chamber. What made that resemblance, too, one about which there
could scarcely be two opinions, was the mark or cicatrix of a wound in
the forehead, which the painter had slightly indented in the portrait,
but which was much more plainly visible on the forehead of Sir Francis
Varney. Now that Henry observed this distinctive mark, which he had not
done before, he could feel no doubt, and a sickening sensation came over
him at the thought that he was actually now in the presence of one of
those terrible creatures, vampyres.

"You do not drink," said Varney. "Most young men are not so modest with
a decanter of unimpeachable wine before them. I pray you help yourself."

"I cannot."

Henry rose as he spoke, and turning to Marchdale, he said, in
addition,--

"Will you come away?"

"If you please," said Marchdale, rising.

"But you have not, my dear sir," said Varney, "given me yet any answer
about the Hall?"

"I cannot yet," answered Henry, "I will think. My present impression is,
to let you have it on whatever terms you may yourself propose, always
provided you consent to one of mine."

"Name it."

"That you never show yourself in my family."

"How very unkind. I understand you have a charming sister, young,
beautiful, and accomplished. Shall I confess, now, that I had hopes of
making myself agreeable to her?"

"You make yourself agreeable to her? The sight of you would blast her
for ever, and drive her to madness."

"Am I so hideous?"

"No, but--you are--"

"What am I?"

"Hush, Henry, hush," cried Marchdale. "Remember you are in this
gentleman's house."

"True, true. Why does he tempt me to say these dreadful things? I do not
want to say them."

"Come away, then--come away at once. Sir Francis Varney, my friend, Mr.
Bannerworth, will think over your offer, and let you know. I think you
may consider that your wish to become the purchaser of the Hall will be
complied with."

"I wish to have it," said Varney, "and I can only say, that if I am
master of it, I shall be very happy to see any of the family on a visit
at any time."

"A visit!" said Henry, with a shudder. "A visit to the tomb were far
more desirable. Farewell, sir."

"Adieu," said Sir Francis Varney, and he made one of the most elegant
bows in the world, while there came over his face a peculiarity of
expression that was strange, if not painful, to contemplate. In another
minute Henry and Marchdale were clear of the house, and with feelings of
bewilderment and horror, which beggar all description, poor Henry
allowed himself to be led by the arm by Marchdale to some distance,
without uttering a word. When he did speak, he said,--

"Marchdale, it would be charity of some one to kill me."

"To kill you!"

"Yes, for I am certain otherwise that I must go mad."

"Nay, nay; rouse yourself."

"This man, Varney, is a vampyre."

"Hush! hush!"

"I tell you, Marchdale," cried Henry, in a wild, excited manner, "he is
a vampyre. He is the dreadful being who visited Flora at the still hour
of midnight, and drained the life-blood from her veins. He is a vampyre.
There are such things. I cannot doubt now. Oh, God, I wish now that your
lightnings would blast me, as here I stand, for over into annihilation,
for I am going mad to be compelled to feel that such horrors can really
have existence."

"Henry--Henry."

"Nay, talk not to me. What can I do? Shall I kill him? Is it not a
sacred duty to destroy such a thing? Oh, horror--horror. He must be
killed--destroyed--burnt, and the very dust to which he is consumed must
be scattered to the winds of Heaven. It would be a deed well done,
Marchdale."

"Hush! hush! These words are dangerous."

"I care not."

"What if they were overheard now by unfriendly ears? What might not be
the uncomfortable results? I pray you be more cautious what you say of
this strange man."

"I must destroy him."

"And wherefore?"

"Can you ask? Is he not a vampyre?"

"Yes; but reflect, Henry, for a moment upon the length to which you
might carry out so dangerous an argument. It is said that vampyres are
made by vampyres sucking the blood of those who, but for that
circumstance, would have died and gone to decay in the tomb along with
ordinary mortals; but that being so attacked during life by a vampyre,
they themselves, after death, become such."

"Well--well, what is that to me?"

"Have you forgotten Flora?"

A cry of despair came from poor Henry's lips, and in a moment he seemed
completely, mentally and physically, prostrated.

"God of Heaven!" he moaned, "I had forgotten her!"

"I thought you had."

"Oh, if the sacrifice of my own life would suffice to put an end to all
this accumulating horror, how gladly would I lay it down. Ay, in any
way--in any way. No mode of death should appal me. No amount of pain
make me shrink. I could smile then upon the destroyer, and say,
'welcome--welcome--most welcome.'"

"Rather, Henry, seek to live for those whom you love than die for them.
Your death would leave them desolate. In life you may ward off many a
blow of fate from them."

"I may endeavour so to do."

"Consider that Flora may be wholly dependent upon such kindness as you
may be able to bestow upon her."

"Charles clings to her."

"Humph!"

"You do not doubt him?"

"My dear friend, Henry Bannerworth, although I am not an old man, yet I
am so much older than you that I have seen a great deal of the world,
and am, perhaps, far better able to come to accurate judgments with
regard to individuals."

"No doubt--no doubt; but yet--"

"Nay, hear me out. Such judgments, founded upon experience, when uttered
have all the character of prophecy about them. I, therefore, now
prophecy to you that Charles Holland will yet be so stung with horror at
the circumstance of a vampyre visiting Flora, that he will never make
her his wife."

"Marchdale, I differ from you most completely," said Henry. "I know that
Charles Holland is the very soul of honour."

"I cannot argue the matter with you. It has not become a thing of fact.
I have only sincerely to hope that I am wrong."

"You are, you may depend, entirely wrong. I cannot be deceived in
Charles. From you such words produce no effect but one of regret that
you should so much err in your estimate of any one. From any one but
yourself they would have produced in me a feeling of anger I might have
found it difficult to smother."

"It has often been my misfortune through life," said Mr. Marchdale,
sadly, "to give the greatest offence where I feel the truest friendship,
because it is in such quarters that I am always tempted to speak too
freely."

"Nay, no offence," said Henry. "I am distracted, and scarcely know what
I say. Marchdale, I know you are my sincere friend--but, as I tell you,
I am nearly mad."

"My dear Henry, be calmer. Consider upon what is to be said concerning
this interview at home."

"Ay; that is a consideration."

"I should not think it advisable to mention the disagreeable fact, that
in your neighbour you think you have found out the nocturnal disturber
of your family."

"No--no."

"I would say nothing of it. It is not at all probable that, after what
you have said to him this Sir Francis Varney, or whatever his real name
may be will obtrude himself upon you."

"If he should he die."

"He will, perhaps, consider that such a step would be dangerous to him."

"It would be fatal, so help me. However, and then would I take especial
care that no power of resuscitation should ever enable that man again to
walk the earth."

"They say that only way of destroying a vampyre is to fix him to the
earth with a stake, so that he cannot move, and then, of course,
decomposition will take its course, as in ordinary cases."

"Fire would consume him, and be a quicker process," said Henry. "But
these are fearful reflections, and, for the present, we will not pursue
them. Now to play the hypocrite, and endeavour to look composed and
serene to my mother, and to Flora while my heart is breaking."

The two friends had by this time reached the hall, and leaving his
friend Marchdale, Henry Bannerworth, with feelings of the most
unenviable description, slowly made his way to the apartment occupied by
his mother and sister.

[Illustration]




CHAPTER XV.

THE OLD ADMIRAL AND HIS SERVANT.--THE COMMUNICATION FROM THE LANDLORD OF
THE NELSON'S ARMS.


[Illustration]

While those matters of most grave and serious import were going on at
the Hall, while each day, and almost each hour in each day, was
producing more and more conclusive evidence upon a matter which at first
had seemed too monstrous to be at all credited, it may well be supposed
what a wonderful sensation was produced among the gossip-mongers of the
neighbourhood by the exaggerated reports that had reached them.

The servants, who had left the Hall on no other account, as they
declared, but sheer fright at the awful visits of the vampyre, spread
the news far and wide, so that in the adjoining villages and
market-towns the vampyre of Bannerworth Hall became quite a staple
article of conversation.

Such a positive godsend for the lovers of the marvellous had not
appeared in the country side within the memory of that sapient
individual--the oldest inhabitant.

And, moreover, there was one thing which staggered some people of better
education and maturer judgments, and that was, that the more they took
pains to inquire into the matter, in order, if possible, to put an end
to what they considered a gross lie from the commencement, the more
evidence they found to stagger their own senses upon the subject.

Everywhere then, in every house, public as well as private, something
was being continually said of the vampyre. Nursery maids began to think
a vampyre vastly superior to "old scratch and old bogie" as a means of
terrifying their infant charges into quietness, if not to sleep, until
they themselves became too much afraid upon the subject to mention it.

But nowhere was gossiping carried on upon the subject with more
systematic fervour than at an inn called the Nelson's Arms, which was in
the high street of the nearest market town to the Hall.

There, it seemed as if the lovers of the horrible made a point of
holding their head quarters, and so thirsty did the numerous discussions
make the guests, that the landlord was heard to declare that he, from
his heart, really considered a vampyre as very nearly equal to a
contested election.

It was towards evening of the same day that Marchdale and Henry made
their visit to Sir Francis Varney, that a postchaise drew up to the inn
we have mentioned. In the vehicle were two persons of exceedingly
dissimilar appearance and general aspect.

One of these people was a man who seemed fast verging upon seventy years
of age, although, from his still ruddy and embrowned complexion and
stentorian voice, it was quite evident he intended yet to keep time at
arm's-length for many years to come.

He was attired in ample and expensive clothing, but every article had a
naval animus about it, it we may be allowed such an expression with
regard to clothing. On his buttons was an anchor, and the general
assortment and colour of the clothing as nearly assimilated as possible
to the undress naval uniform of an officer of high rank some fifty or
sixty years ago.

His companion was a younger man, and about his appearance there was no
secret at all. He was a genuine sailor, and he wore the shore costume of
one. He was hearty-looking, and well dressed, and evidently well fed.

As the chaise drove up to the door of the inn, this man made an
observation to the other to the following effect,--

"A-hoy!"

"Well, you lubber, what now?" cried the other.

"They call this the Nelson's Arms; and you know, shiver me, that for the
best half of his life he had but one."

"D--n you!" was the only rejoinder he got for this observation; but,
with that, he seemed very well satisfied.

"Heave to!" he then shouted to the postilion, who was about to drive the
chaise into the yard. "Heave to, you lubberly son of a gun! we don't
want to go into dock."

"Ah!" said the old man, "let's get out, Jack. This is the port; and, do
you hear, and be cursed to you, let's have no swearing, d--n you, nor
bad language, you lazy swab."

"Aye, aye," cried Jack; "I've not been ashore now a matter o' ten years,
and not larnt a little shore-going politeness, admiral, I ain't been
your _walley de sham_ without larning a little about land reckonings.
Nobody would take me for a sailor now, I'm thinking, admiral."

"Hold your noise!"

"Aye, aye, sir."

Jack, as he was called, bundled out of the chaise when the door was
opened, with a movement so closely resembling what would have ensued had
he been dragged out by the collar, that one was tempted almost to
believe that such a feat must have been accomplished all at once by some
invisible agency.

He then assisted the old gentleman to alight, and the landlord of the
inn commenced the usual profusion of bows with which a passenger by a
postchaise is usually welcomed in preference to one by a stage coach.

"Be quiet, will you!" shouted the admiral, for such indeed he was. "Be
quiet."

"Best accommodation, sir--good wine--well-aired beds--good
attendance--fine air--"

"Belay there," said Jack; and he gave the landlord what no doubt he
considered a gentle admonition, but which consisted of such a dig in the
ribs, that he made as many evolutions as the clown in a pantomime when
he vociferates hot codlings.

"Now, Jack, where's the sailing instructions?" said his master.

"Here, sir, in the locker," said Jack, a he took from his pocket a
letter, which he handed to the admiral.

"Won't you step in, sir?" said the landlord, who had begun now to
recover a little from the dig in the ribs.

"What's the use of coming into port and paying harbour dues, and all
that sort of thing, till we know if it's the right, you lubber, eh?"

"No; oh, dear me, sir, of course--God bless me, what can the old
gentleman mean?"

The admiral opened the letter, and read:--

     "If you stop at the Nelson's Aims at Uxotter, you will hear of
     me, and I can be sent for, when I will tell you more.

     "Yours, very obediently and humbly,

     "JOSIAH CRINKLES."

"Who the deuce is he?"

"This is Uxotter, sir," said the landlord; "and here you are, sir, at
the Nelson's Arms. Good beds--good wine--good--"

"Silence!"

"Yes, sir--oh, of course"

"Who the devil is Josiah Crinkles?"

"Ha! ha! ha! ha! Makes me laugh, sir. Who the devil indeed! They do say
the devil and lawyers, sir, know something of each other--makes me
smile."

"I'll make you smile on the other side of that d----d great hatchway of
a mouth of yours in a minute. Who is Crinkles?"

"Oh, Mr. Crinkles, sir, everybody knows, most respectable attorney, sir,
indeed, highly respectable man, sir."

"A lawyer?"

"Yes, sir, a lawyer."

"Well, I'm d----d!"

Jack gave a long whistle, and both master and man looked at each other
aghast.

"Now, hang me!" cried the admiral, "if ever I was so taken in in all my
life."

"Ay, ay, sir," said Jack.

"To come a hundred and seventy miles see a d----d swab of a rascally
lawyer."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"I'll smash him--Jack!"

"Yer honour?"

"Get into the chaise again."

"Well, but where's Master Charles? Lawyers, in course, sir, is all
blessed rogues; but, howsomdever, he may have for once in his life this
here one of 'em have told us of the right channel, and if so be as he
has, don't be the Yankee to leave him among the pirates. I'm ashamed on
you."

"You infernal scoundrel; how dare you preach to me in such a way, you
lubberly rascal?"

"Cos you desarves it."

"Mutiny--mutiny--by Jove! Jack, I'll have you put in irons--you're a
scoundrel, and no seaman."

"No seaman!--no seaman!"

"Not a bit of one."

"Very good. It's time, then, as I was off the purser's books. Good bye
to you; I only hopes as you may get a better seaman to stick to you and
be your _walley de sham_ nor Jack Pringle, that's all the harm I wish
you. You didn't call me no seaman in the Bay of Corfu, when the bullets
were scuttling our nobs."

"Jack, you rascal, give us your fin. Come here, you d----d villain.
You'll leave me, will you?"

"Not if I know it."

"Come in, then"

"Don't tell me I'm no seaman. Call me a wagabone if you like, but don't
hurt my feelings. There I'm as tender as a baby, I am.--Don't do it."

"Confound you, who is doing it?"

"The devil."

"Who is?"

"Don't, then."

Thus wrangling, they entered the inn, to the great amusement of several
bystanders, who had collected to hear the altercation between them.

"Would you like a private room, sir?" said the landlord.

"What's that to you?" said Jack.

"Hold your noise, will you?" cried his master. "Yes, I should like a
private room, and some grog."

"Strong as the devil!" put in Jack.

"Yes, sir-yes, sir. Good wines--good beds--good--"

"You said all that before, you know," remarked Jack, as he bestowed upon
the landlord another terrific dig in the ribs.

"Hilloa!" cried the admiral, "you can send for that infernal lawyer,
Mister Landlord."

"Mr. Crinkles, sir?"

"Yes, yes."

"Who may I have the honour to say, sir, wants to see him?"

"Admiral Bell."

"Certainly, admiral, certainly. You'll find him a very conversible,
nice, gentlemanly little man, sir."

"And tell him as Jack Pringle is here, too," cried the seaman.

"Oh, yes, yes--of course," said the landlord, who was in such a state of
confusion from the digs in the ribs he had received and the noise his
guests had already made in his house, that, had he been suddenly put
upon his oath, he would scarcely have liked to say which was the master
and which was the man.

"The idea now, Jack," said the admiral, "of coming all this way to see a
lawyer."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"If he'd said he was a lawyer, we would have known what to do. But it's
a take in, Jack."

"So I think. Howsomdever, we'll serve him out when we catch him, you
know."

"Good--so we will."

"And, then, again, he may know something about Master Charles, sir, you
know. Lord love him, don't you remember when he came aboard to see you
once at Portsmouth?"

"Ah! I do, indeed."

"And how he said he hated the French, and quite a baby, too. What
perseverance and sense. 'Uncle,' says he to you, 'when I'm a big man,
I'll go in a ship, and fight all the French in a heap,' says he. 'And
beat 'em, my boy, too,' says you; cos you thought he'd forgot that; and
then he says, 'what's the use of saying that, stupid?--don't we always
beat 'em?'"

The admiral laughed and rubbed his hands, as he cried aloud,--

"I remember, Jack--I remember him. I was stupid to make such a remark."

"I know you was--a d----d old fool I thought you."

"Come, come. Hilloa, there!"

"Well, then, what do you call me no seaman for?"

"Why, Jack, you bear malice like a marine."

"There you go again. Goodbye. Do you remember when we were yard arm to
yard arm with those two Yankee frigates, and took 'em both! You didn't
call me a marine then, when the scuppers were running with blood. Was I
a seaman then?"

"You were, Jack--you were; and you saved my life."

"I didn't."

"You did."

"I say I didn't--it was a marlin-spike."

"But I say you did, you rascally scoundrel.--I say you did, and I won't
be contradicted in my own ship."

"Call this your ship?"

"No, d--n it--I--"

"Mr. Crinkles," said the landlord, flinging the door wide open, and so
at once putting an end to the discussion which always apparently had a
tendency to wax exceedingly warm.

"The shark, by G--d!" said Jack.

A little, neatly dressed man made his appearance, and advanced rather
timidly into the room. Perhaps he had heard from the landlord that the
parties who had sent for him were of rather a violent sort.

"So you are Crinkles, are you?" cried the admiral. "Sit down, though you
are a lawyer."

"Thank you, sir. I am an attorney, certainly, and my name as certainly
is Crinkles."

"Look at that."

The admiral placed the letter in the little lawyer's hands, who said,--

"Am I to read it?"

"Yes, to be sure."

"Aloud?"

"Read it to the devil, if you like, in a pig's whisper, or a West India
hurricane."

"Oh, very good, sir. I--I am willing to be agreeable, so I'll read it
aloud, if it's all the same to you."

He then opened the letter, and read as follows:--

     "To Admiral Bell.

     "Admiral,--Being, from various circumstances, aware that you take
     a warm and a praiseworthy interest in your nephew, Charles
     Holland, I venture to write to you concerning a matter in which
     your immediate and active co-operation with others may rescue him
     from a condition which will prove, if allowed to continue, very
     much to his detriment, and ultimate unhappiness.

     "You are, then, hereby informed, that he, Charles Holland, has,
     much earlier than he ought to have done, returned to England, and
     that the object of his return is to contract a marriage into a
     family in every way objectionable, and with a girl who is highly
     objectionable.

     "You, admiral, are his nearest and almost his only relative in
     the world; you are the guardian of his property, and, therefore,
     it becomes a duty on your part to interfere to save him from the
     ruinous consequences of a marriage, which is sure to bring ruin
     and distress upon himself and all who take an interest in his
     welfare.

     "The family he wishes to marry into is named Bannerworth, and the
     young lady's name is Flora Bannerworth. When, however, I inform
     you that a vampyre is in that family, and that if he marries into
     it, he marries a vampyre, and will have vampyres for children, I
     trust I have said enough to warn you upon the subject, and to
     induce you to lose no time in repairing to the spot.

     "If you stop at the Nelson's Arms at Uxotter, you will hear of
     me. I can be sent for, when I will tell you more.

     "Yours, very obediently and humbly,

     "JOSIAH CRINKLES."

     "P.S. I enclose you Dr. Johnson's definition of a vampyre, which
     is as follows:

     "VAMPYRE (a German blood-sucker)--by which you perceive how many
     vampyres, from time immemorial, must have been well entertained
     at the expense of John Bull, at the court of St. James, where no
     thing hardly is to be met with but German blood-suckers."

[Illustration]

       *       *       *       *       *

The lawyer ceased to read, and the amazed look with which he glanced at
the face of Admiral Bell would, under any other circumstances, have much
amused him. His mind, however, was by far too much engrossed with a
consideration of the danger of Charles Holland, his nephew, to be amused
at anything; so, when he found that the little lawyer said nothing, he
bellowed out,--

"Well, sir?"

"We--we--well," said the attorney.

"I've sent for you, and here you are, and here I am, and here's Jack
Pringle. What have you got to say?"

"Just this much," said Mr. Crinkles, recovering himself a little, "just
this much, sir, that I never saw that letter before in all my life."

"You--never--saw--it?"

"Never."

"Didn't you write it?"

"On my solemn word of honour, sir, I did not."

Jack Pringle whistled, and the admiral looked puzzled. Like the admiral
in the song, too, he "grew paler," and then Mr. Crinkles added,--

"Who has forged my name to a letter such as this, I cannot imagine. As
for writing to you, sir, I never heard of your existence, except
publicly, as one of those gallant officers who have spent a long life in
nobly fighting their country's battles, and who are entitled to the
admiration and the applause of every Englishman."

Jack and the admiral looked at each other in amazement, and then the
latter exclaimed,--

"What! This from a lawyer?"

"A lawyer, sir," said Crinkles, "may know how to appreciate the deeds of
gallant men, although he may not be able to imitate them. That letter,
sir, is a forgery, and I now leave you, only much gratified at the
incident which has procured me the honour of an interview with a
gentleman, whose name will live in the history of his country. Good day,
sir! Good day!"

"No! I'm d----d if you go like that," said Jack, as he sprang to the
door, and put his back against it. "You shall take a glass with me in
honour of the wooden walls of Old England, d----e, if you was twenty
lawyers."

"That's right, Jack," said the admiral. "Come, Mr. Crinkles, I'll think,
for your sake, there may be two decent lawyers in the world, and you one
of them. We must have a bottle of the best wine the ship--I mean the
house--can afford together."

"If it is your command, admiral, I obey with pleasure," said the
attorney; "and although I assure you, on my honour, I did not write that
letter, yet some of the matters mentioned in it are so generally
notorious here, that I can afford you information concerning them."

"Can you?"

"I regret to say I can, for I respect the parties."

"Sit down, then--sit down. Jack, run to the steward's room and get the
wine. We will go into it now starboard and larboard. Who the deuce could
have written that letter?"

"I have not the least idea, sir."

"Well--well, never mind; it has brought me here, that's something, so I
won't grumble much at it. I didn't know my nephew was in England, and I
dare say he didn't know I was; but here we both are, and I won't rest
till I've seen him, and ascertained how the what's-its-name--"

"The vampyre."

"Ah! the vampyre."

"Shiver my timbers!" said Jack Pringle, who now brought in some wine
much against the remonstrances of the waiters of the establishment, who
considered that he was treading upon their vested interests by so
doing.--"Shiver my timbers, if I knows what a _wamphigher_ is, unless
he's some distant relation to Davy Jones!"

"Hold your ignorant tongue," said the admiral; "nobody wants you to make
a remark, you great lubber!"

"Very good," said Jack, and he sat down the wine on the table, and then
retired to the other end of the room, remarking to himself that he was
not called a great lubber on a certain occasion, when bullets were
scuttling their nobs, and they were yard arm and yard arm with God knows
who.

"Now, mister lawyer," said Admiral Bell, who had about him a large share
of the habits of a rough sailor. "Now, mister lawyer, here is a glass
first to our better acquaintance, for d----e, if I don't like you!"

"You are very good, sir."

"Not at all. There was a time, when I'd just as soon have thought of
asking a young shark to supper with me in my own cabin as a lawyer, but
I begin to see that there may be such a thing as a decent, good sort of
a fellow seen in the law; so here's good luck to you, and you shall
never want a friend or a bottle while Admiral Bell has a shot in the
locker."

"Gammon," said Jack.

"D--n you, what do you mean by that?" roared the admiral, in a furious
tone.

"I wasn't speaking to you," shouted Jack, about two octaves higher.
"It's two boys in the street as is pretending they're a going to fight,
and I know d----d well they won't."

"Hold your noise."

"I'm going. I wasn't told to hold my noise, when our nobs were being
scuttled off Beyrout."

"Never mind him, mister lawyer," added the admiral. "He don't know what
he's talking about. Never mind him. You go on and tell me all you know
about the--the--"

"The vampyre!"

"Ah! I always forget the names of strange fish. I suppose, after all,
it's something of the mermaid order?"

"That I cannot say, sir; but certainly the story, in all its painful
particulars, has made a great sensation all over the country."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, sir. You shall hear how it occurred. It appears that one night
Miss Flora Bannersworth, a young lady of great beauty, and respected and
admired by all who knew her was visited by a strange being who came in
at the window."

"My eye," said Jack, "it waren't me, I wish it had a been."

"So petrified by fear was she, that she had only time to creep half out
of the bed, and to utter one cry of alarm, when the strange visitor
seized her in his grasp."

"D--n my pig tail," said Jack, "what a squall there must have been, to
be sure."

"Do you see this bottle?" roared the admiral.

"To be sure, I does; I think as it's time I seed another."

"You scoundrel, I'll make you feel it against that d----d stupid head of
yours, if you interrupt this gentleman again."

"Don't be violent."

"Well, as I was saying," continued the attorney, "she did, by great good
fortune, manage to scream, which had the effect of alarming the whole
house. The door of her chamber, which was fast, was broken open."

"Yes, yes--"

"Ah," cried Jack.

"You may imagine the horror and the consternation of those who entered
the room to find her in the grasp of a fiend-like figure, whose teeth
were fastened on her neck, and who was actually draining her veins of
blood."

"The devil!"

"Before any one could lay hands sufficiently upon the figure to detain
it, it had fled precipitately from its dreadful repast. Shots were fired
after it in vain."

"And they let it go?"

"They followed it, I understand, as well as they were able, and saw it
scale the garden wall of the premises; there it escaped, leaving, as you
may well imagine, on all their minds, a sensation of horror difficult to
describe."

"Well, I never did hear anything the equal of that. Jack, what do you
think of it?"

"I haven't begun to think, yet," said Jack.

"But what about my nephew, Charles?" added the admiral.

"Of him I know nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Not a word, admiral. I was not aware you had a nephew, or that any
gentleman bearing that, or any other relationship to you, had any sort
of connexion with these mysterious and most unaccountable circumstances.
I tell you all I have gathered from common report about this vampyre
business. Further I know not, I assure you."

"Well, a man can't tell what he don't know. It puzzles me to think who
could possibly have written me this letter."

"That I am completely at a loss to imagine," said Crinkles. "I assure
you, my gallant sir, that I am much hurt at the circumstance of any one
using my name in such a way. But, nevertheless, as you are here, permit
me to say, that it will be my pride, my pleasure, and the boast of the
remainder of my existence, to be of some service to so gallant a
defender of my country, and one whose name, along with the memory of his
deeds, is engraved upon the heart of every Briton."

"Quite ekal to a book, he talks," said Jack. "I never could read one
myself, on account o' not knowing how, but I've heard 'em read, and
that's just the sort o' incomprehensible gammon."

"We don't want any of your ignorant remarks," said the admiral, "so you
be quiet."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Now, Mister Lawyer, you are an honest fellow, and an honest fellow is
generally a sensible fellow."

"Sir, I thank you."

"If so be as what this letter says is true, my nephew Charles has got a
liking for this girl, who has had her neck bitten by a vampyre, you
see."

"I perceive, sir."

"Now what would you do?"

"One of the most difficult, as well, perhaps, as one of the most
ungracious of tasks," said the attorney, "is to interfere with family
affairs. The cold and steady eye of reason generally sees things in such
very different lights to what they appear to those whose feelings and
whose affections are much compromised in their results."

"Very true. Go on."

"Taking, my dear sir, what in my humble judgment appears to be a
reasonable view of this subject, I should say it would be a dreadful
thing for your nephew to marry into a family any member of which was
liable to the visitations of a vampyre."

"It wouldn't be pleasant."

"The young lady might have children."

"Oh, lots," cried Jack.

"Hold your noise, Jack."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"And she might herself actually, when after death she became a vampyre,
come and feed on her own children."

"Become a vampyre! What, is she going to be a vampyre too?"

"My dear sir, don't you know that it is a remarkable fact, as regards
the physiology of vampyres, that whoever is bitten by one of those
dreadful beings, becomes a vampyre?"

"The devil!"

"It is a fact, sir."

"Whew!" whistled Jack; "she might bite us all, and we should be a whole
ship's crew o' _wamphighers_. There would be a confounded go!"

"It's not pleasant," said the admiral, as he rose from his chair, and
paced to and fro in the room, "it's not pleasant. Hang me up at my own
yard-arm if it is."

"Who said it was?" cried Jack.

"Who asked you, you brute?"

"Well, sir," added Mr. Crinkles, "I have given you all the information I
can; and I can only repeat what I before had the honour of saying more
at large, namely, that I am your humble servant to command, and that I
shall be happy to attend upon you at any time."

"Thank ye--thank ye, Mr.--a--a--"

"Crinkles."

"Ah, Crinkles. You shall hear from me again, sir, shortly. Now that I am
down here, I will see to the very bottom of this affair, were it deeper
than fathom ever sounded. Charles Holland was my poor sister's son; he's
the only relative I have in the wide world, and his happiness is dearer
to my heart than my own."

Crinkles turned aside, and, by the twinkle of his eyes, one might
premise that the honest little lawyer was much affected.

"God bless you, sir," he said; "farewell."

"Good day to you."

"Good-bye, lawyer," cried Jack. "Mind how you go. D--n me, if you don't
seem a decent sort of fellow, and, after all, you may give the devil a
clear berth, and get into heaven's straits with a flowing sheet,
provided as you don't, towards the end of the voyage, make any lubberly
blunders."

The old admiral threw himself into a chair with a deep sigh.

"Jack," said he.

"Aye, aye, sir."

"What's to be done now?"

Jack opened the window to discharge the superfluous moisture from an
enormous quid he had indulged himself with while the lawyer was telling
about the vampyre, and then again turning his face towards his master,
he said,--

"Do! What shall we do? Why, go at once and find out Charles, our _nevy_,
and ask him all about it, and see the young lady, too, and lay hold o'
the _wamphigher_ if we can, as well, and go at the whole affair
broadside to broadside, till we make a prize of all the particulars,
after which we can turn it over in our minds agin, and see what's to be
done."

"Jack, you are right. Come along."

"I knows I am. Do you know now which way to steer?"

"Of course not. I never was in this latitude before, and the channel
looks intricate. We will hail a pilot, Jack, and then we shall be all
right, and if we strike it will be his fault."

"Which is a mighty great consolation," said Jack. "Come along."




CHAPTER XVI.

THE MEETING OF THE LOVERS IN THE GARDEN.--AN AFFECTING SCENE.--THE
SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.


[Illustration]

Our readers will recollect that Flora Bannerworth had made an
appointment with Charles Holland in the garden of the hall. This meeting
was looked forward to by the young man with a variety of conflicting
feelings, and he passed the intermediate time in a most painful state of
doubt as to what would be its result.

The thought that he should be much urged by Flora to give up all
thoughts of making her his, was a most bitter one to him, who loved her
with so much truth and constancy, and that she would say all she could
to induce such a resolution in his mind he felt certain. But to him the
idea of now abandoning her presented itself in the worst of aspects.

"Shall I," he said, "sink so low in my own estimation, as well as in
hers, and in that of all honourable-minded persons, as to desert her now
in the hour of affliction? Dare I be so base as actually or virtually to
say to her, 'Flora, when your beauty was undimmed by sorrow--when all
around you seemed life and joy, I loved you selfishly for the increased
happiness which you might bestow upon me; but now the hand of misfortune
presses heavily upon you--you are not what you were, and I desert you?
Never--never--never!"

Charles Holland, it will be seen by some of our more philosophic
neighbours, felt more acutely than he reasoned; but let his errors of
argumentation be what they may, can we do other than admire the nobility
of soul which dictated such a self denying generous course as that he
was pursuing?

As for Flora, Heaven only knows if at that precise time her intellect
had completely stood the test of the trying events which had nearly
overwhelmed it.

The two grand feelings that seemed to possess her mind were fear of the
renewed visit of the vampyre, and an earnest desire to release Charles
Holland from his repeated vows of constancy towards her.

Feeling, generosity, and judgment, all revolted holding a young man to
such a destiny as hers. To link him to her fate, would be to make him to
a real extent a sharer in it, and the more she heard fall from his lips
in the way of generous feelings of continued attachment to her, the more
severely did she feel that he would suffer most acutely if united to
her.

And she was right. The very generosity of feeling which would have now
prompted Charles Holland to lead Flora Bannerworth to the altar, even
with the marks of the vampyre's teeth upon her throat, gave an assurance
of a depth of feeling which would have made him an ample haven in all
her miseries, in all her distresses and afflictions.

What was familiarly in the family at the Hall called the garden, was a
semicircular piece of ground shaded in several directions by trees, and
which was exclusively devoted to the growth of flowers. The piece of
ground was nearly hidden from the view of the house, and in its centre
was a summer-house, which at the usual season of the year was covered
with all kinds of creeping plants of exquisite perfumes, and rare
beauty. All around, too, bloomed the fairest and sweetest of flowers,
which a rich soil and a sheltered situation could produce.

Alas! though, of late many weeds had straggled up among their more
estimable floral culture, for the decayed fortunes of the family had
prevented them from keeping the necessary servants, to place the Hall
and its grounds in a state of neatness, such as it had once been the
pride of the inhabitants of the place to see them. It was then in this
flower-garden that Charles and Flora used to meet.

As may be supposed, he was on the spot before the appointed hour,
anxiously expecting the appearance of her who was so really and truly
dear to him. What to him were the sweet flowers that there grew in such
happy luxuriance and heedless beauty? Alas, the flower that to his mind
was fairer than them all, was blighted, and in the wan cheek of her whom
he loved, he sighed to see the lily usurping the place of the radiant
rose.

"Dear, dear Flora," he ejaculated, "you must indeed be taken from this
place, which is so full of the most painful remembrance; now, I cannot
think that Mr. Marchdale somehow is a friend to me, but that conviction,
or rather impression, does not paralyze my judgment sufficiently to
induce me not to acknowledge that his advice is good. He might have
couched it in pleasanter words--words that would not, like daggers, each
have brought a deadly pang home to my heart, but still I do think that
in his conclusion he was right."

A light sound, as of some fairy footstep among the flowers, came upon
his ears, and turning instantly to the direction from whence the sound
proceeded, he saw what his heart had previously assured him of, namely,
that it was his Flora who was coming.

[Illustration]

Yes, it was she; but, ah, how pale, how wan--how languid and full of the
evidences of much mental suffering was she. Where now was the elasticity
of that youthful step? Where now was that lustrous beaming beauty of
mirthfulness, which was wont to dawn in those eyes?

Alas, all was changed. The exquisite beauty of form was there, but the
light of joy which had lent its most transcendent charms to that
heavenly face, was gone. Charles was by her side in a moment. He had her
hand clasped in his, while his disengaged one was wound tenderly around
her taper waist.

"Flora, dear, dear Flora," he said, "you are better. Tell me that you
feel the gentle air revives you?"

She could not speak. Her heart was too full of woe.

"Oh; Flora, my own, my beautiful," he added, in those tones which come
so direct from the heart, and which are so different from any assumption
of tenderness. "Speak to me, dear, dear Flora--speak to me if it be but
a word."

"Charles," was all she could say, and then she burst into a flood of
tears, and leant so heavily upon his arm, that it was evident but for
that support she must have fallen.

Charles Holland welcomed those, although, they grieved him so much that
he could have accompanied them with his own, but then he knew that she
would be soon now more composed, and that they would relieve the heart
whose sorrows called them into existence.

He forbore to speak to her until he found this sudden gush of feeling
was subsiding into sobs, and then in low, soft accents, he again
endeavoured to breathe comfort to her afflicted and terrified spirit.

"My Flora," he said, "remember that there are warm hearts that love you.
Remember that neither time nor circumstance can change such endearing
affection as mine. Ah, Flora, what evil is there in the whole world that
love may not conquer, and in the height of its noble feelings laugh to
scorn."

"Oh, hush, hush, Charles, hush."

"Wherefore, Flora, would you still the voice of pure affection? I love
you surely, as few have ever loved. Ah, why would you forbid me to give
such utterance as I may to those feelings which fill up my whole heart?"

"No--no--no."

"Flora, Flora, wherefore do you say no?"

"Do not, Charles, now speak to me of affection or love. Do not tell me
you love me now."

"Not tell you I love you! Ah, Flora, if my tongue, with its poor
eloquence to give utterance to such a sentiment, were to do its office,
each feature of my face would tell the tale. Each action would show to
all the world how much I loved you."

"I must not now hear this. Great God of Heaven give me strength to carry
out the purpose of my soul."

"What purpose is it, Flora, that you have to pray thus fervently for
strength to execute? Oh, if it savour aught of treason against love's
majesty, forget it. Love is a gift from Heaven. The greatest and the
most glorious gift it ever bestowed upon its creatures. Heaven will not
aid you in repudiating that which is the one grand redeeming feature
that rescues human nature from a world of reproach."

Flora wrung her hands despairingly as she said,--

"Charles, I know I cannot reason with you. I know I have not power of
language, aptitude of illustration, nor depth of thought to hold a
mental contention with you."

"Flora, for what do I contend?"

"You, you speak of love."

"And I have, ere this, spoken to you of love unchecked."

"Yes, yes. Before this."

"And now, wherefore not now? Do not tell me you are changed."

"I am changed, Charles. Fearfully changed. The curse of God has fallen
upon me, I know not why. I know not that in word or in thought I have
done evil, except perchance unwittingly, and yet--the vampyre."

"Let not that affright you."

"Affright me! It has killed me."

"Nay, Flora,--you think too much of what I still hope to be susceptible
of far more rational explanation."

"By your own words, then, Charles, I must convict you. I cannot, I dare
not be yours, while such a dreadful circumstance is hanging over me,
Charles; if a more rational explanation than the hideous one which my
own fancy gives to the form that visits me can be found, find it, and
rescue me from despair and from madness."

They had now reached the summer-house, and as Flora uttered these words
she threw herself on to a seat, and covering her beautiful face with her
hands, she sobbed convulsively.

"You have spoken," said Charles, dejectedly. "I have heard that which
you wished to say to me."

"No, no. Not all, Charles."

"I will be patient, then, although what more you may have to add should
tear my very heart-strings."

"I--I have to add, Charles," she said, in a tremulous voice, "that
justice, religion, mercy--every human attribute which bears the name of
virtue, calls loudly upon me no longer to hold you to vows made under
different auspices."

"Go on, Flora."

"I then implore you, Charles, finding me what I am, to leave me to the
fate which it has pleased Heaven to cast upon me. I do not ask you,
Charles, not to love me."

"'Tis well. Go on, Flora."

"Because I should like to think that, although I might never see you
more, you loved me still. But you must think seldom of me, and you must
endeavour to be happy with some other--"

"You cannot, Flora, pursue the picture you yourself would draw. These
words come not from your heart."

"Yes--yes--yes."

"Did you ever love me?"

"Charles, Charles, why will you add another pang to those you know must
already rend my heart?"

"No, Flora, I would tear my own heart from my bosom ere I would add one
pang to yours. Well I know that gentle maiden modesty would seal your
lips to the soft confession that you loved me. I could not hope the joy
of hearing you utter these words. The tender devoted lover is content to
see the truthful passion in the speaking eyes of beauty. Content is he
to translate it from a thousand acts, which, to eyes that look not so
acutely as a lover's, bear no signification; but when you tell me to
seek happiness with another, well may the anxious question burst from my
throbbing heart of, 'Did you ever love me, Flora?'"

Her senses hung entranced upon his words. Oh, what a witchery is in the
tongue of love. Some even of the former colour of her cheek returned as
forgetting all for the moment but that she was listening to the voice of
him, the thoughts of whom had made up the day dream of her happiness,
she gazed upon his face.

His voice ceased. To her it seemed as if some music had suddenly left
off in its most exquisite passage. She clung to his arm--she looked
imploringly up to him. Her head sunk upon his breast as she cried,

"Charles, Charles, I did love you. I do love you now."

"Then let sorrow and misfortune shake their grisly locks in vain," he
cried. "Heart to heart--hand to hand with me, defy them."

He lifted up his arms towards Heaven as he spoke, and at the moment came
such a rattling peal of thunder, that the very earth seemed to shake
upon its axis.

A half scream of terror burst from the lips of Flora, as she cried,--

"What was that?"

"Only thunder," said Charles, calmly.

"'Twas an awful sound."

"A natural one."

"But at such a moment, when you were defying Fate to injure us. Oh!
Charles, is it ominous?"

"Flora, can you really give way to such idle fancies?"

"The sun is obscured."

"Ay, but it will shine all the brighter for its temporary eclipse. The
thunder-storm will clear the air of many noxious vapours; the forked
lightning has its uses as well as its powers of mischief. Hark! there
again!"

Another peal, of almost equal intensity to the other, shook the
firmament. Flora trembled.

"Charles," she said, "this is the voice of Heaven. We must part--we must
part for ever. I cannot be yours."

"Flora, this is madness. Think again, dear Flora. Misfortunes for a time
will hover over the best and most fortunate of us; but, like the clouds
that now obscure the sweet sunshine, will pass away, and leave no trace
behind them. The sunshine of joy will shine on you again."

There was a small break in the clouds, like a window looking into
Heaven. From it streamed one beam of sunlight, so bright, so dazzling,
and so beautiful, that it was a sight of wonder to look upon. It fell
upon the face of Flora; it warmed her cheek; it lent lustre to her pale
lips and tearful eyes; it illumined that little summer-house as if it
had been the shrine of some saint.

"Behold!" cried Charles, "where is your omen now?"

"God of Heaven!'" cried Flora; and she stretched out her arms.

"The clouds that hover over your spirit now," said Charles, "shall pass
away. Accept this beam of sunlight as a promise from God."

"I will--I will. It is going."

"It has done its office."

The clouds closed over the small orifice, and all was gloom again as
before.

"Flora," said Charles, "you will not ask me now to leave you?"

She allowed him to clasp her to his heart. It was beating for her, and
for her only.

"You will let me, Flora, love you still?"

Her voice, as she answered him, was like the murmur of some distant
melody the ears can scarcely translate to the heart.

"Charles we will live, love, and die together."

And now there was a wrapt stillness in that summer-house for many
minutes--a trance of joy. They did not speak, but now and then she would
look into his face with an old familiar smile, and the joy of his heart
was near to bursting in tears from his eyes.

A shriek burst from Flora's lips--a shriek so wild and shrill that it
awakened echoes far and near. Charles staggered back a step, as if shot,
and then in such agonised accents as he was long indeed in banishing the
remembrance of, she cried,--

"The vampyre! the vampyre!"




CHAPTER XVII.

THE EXPLANATION.--THE ARRIVAL OF THE ADMIRAL AT THE HOUSE.--A SCENE OF
CONFUSION, AND SOME OF ITS RESULTS.


[Illustration]

So sudden and so utterly unexpected a cry of alarm from Flora, at such a
time might well have the effect of astounding the nerves of any one, and
no wonder that Charles was for a few seconds absolutely petrified and
almost unable to think.

Mechanically, then, he turned his eyes towards the door of the
summer-house, and there he saw a tall, thin man, rather elegantly
dressed, whose countenance certainly, in its wonderful resemblance to
the portrait on the panel, might well appal any one.

The stranger stood in the irresolute attitude on the threshold of the
summer-house of one who did not wish to intrude, but who found it as
awkward, if not more so now, to retreat than to advance.

Before Charles Holland could summon any words to his aid, or think of
freeing himself from the clinging grasp of Flora, which was wound around
him, the stranger made a very low and courtly bow, after which he said,
in winning accents,--

"I very much fear that I am an intruder here. Allow me to offer my
warmest apologies, and to assure you, sir, and you, madam, that I had no
idea any one was in the arbour. You perceive the rain is falling
smartly, and I made towards here, seeing it was likely to shelter me
from the shower."

These words were spoken in such a plausible and courtly tone of voice,
that they might well have become any drawing-room in the kingdom.

Flora kept her eyes fixed upon him during the utterance of these words;
and as she convulsively clutched the arm of Charles, she kept on
whispering,--

"The vampyre! the vampyre!"

"I much fear," added the stranger, in the same bland tones, "that I have
been the cause of some alarm to the young lady!"

"Release me," whispered Charles to Flora. "Release me; I will follow him
at once."

"No, no--do not leave me--do not leave me. The vampyre--the dreadful
vampyre!"

"But, Flora--"

"Hush--hush--hush! It speaks again."

"Perhaps I ought to account for my appearance in the garden at all,"
added the insinuating stranger. "The fact is, I came on a visit--"

Flora shuddered.

"To Mr. Henry Bannerworth," continued the stranger; "and finding the
garden-gate open, I came in without troubling the servants, which I much
regret, as I can perceive I have alarmed and annoyed the lady. Madam,
pray accept of my apologies."

"In the name of God, who are you?" said Charles.

"My name is Varney."

"Oh, yes. You are the Sir Francis Varney, residing close by, who bears
so fearful a resemblance to--"

"Pray go on, sir. I am all attention."

"To a portrait here."

"Indeed! Now I reflect a moment, Mr. Henry Bannerworth did incidentally
mention something of the sort. It's a most singular coincidence."

The sound of approaching footsteps was now plainly heard, and in a few
moments Henry and George, along with Mr. Marchdale, reached the spot.
Their appearance showed that they had made haste, and Henry at once
exclaimed,--

"We heard, or fancied we heard, a cry of alarm."

"You did hear it," said Charles Holland. "Do you know this gentleman?"

"It is Sir Francis Varney."

"Indeed!"

Varney bowed to the new comers, and was altogether as much at his ease
as everybody else seemed quite the contrary. Even Charles Holland found
the difficulty of going up to such a well-bred, gentlemanly man, and
saying, "Sir, we believe you to be a vampyre"--to be almost, if not
insurmountable.

"I cannot do it," he thought, "but I will watch him."

"Take me away," whispered Flora. "'Tis he--'tis he. Oh, take me away,
Charles."

"Hush, Flora, hush. You are in some error; the accidental resemblance
should not make us be rude to this gentleman."

"The vampyre!--it is the vampyre!"

"Are you sure, Flora?"

"Do I know your features--my own--my brother's? Do not ask me to
doubt--I cannot. I am quite sure. Take me from his hideous presence,
Charles."

"The young lady, I fear, is very much indisposed," remarked Sir Francis
Varney, in a sympathetic tone of voice. "If she will accept of my arm, I
shall esteem it a great honour."

"No--no--no!--God! no," cried Flora.

"Madam, I will not press you."

He bowed, and Charles led Flora from the summer-house towards the hall.

"Flora," he said, "I am bewildered--I know not what to think. That man
most certainly has been fashioned after the portrait which is on the
panel in the room you formerly occupied; or it has been painted from
him."

"He is my midnight visitor!" exclaimed Flora. "He is the vampyre;--this
Sir Francis Varney is the vampyre."

"Good God! What can be done?"

"I know not. I am nearly distracted."

"Be calm, Flora. If this man be really what you name him, we now know
from what quarter the mischief comes, which is, at all events, a point
gained. Be assured we shall place a watch upon him."

"Oh, it is terrible to meet him here."

"And he is so wonderfully anxious, too, to possess the Hall."

"He is--he is."

"It looks strange, the whole affair. But, Flora, be assured of one
thing, and that is, of your own safety."

"Can I be assured of that?"

"Most certainly. Go to your mother now. Here we are, you see, fairly
within doors. Go to your mother, dear Flora, and keep yourself quiet. I
will return to this mysterious man now with a cooler judgment than I
left him."

"You will watch him, Charles?"

"I will, indeed."

"And you will not let him approach the house here alone?"

"I will not."

"Oh, that the Almighty should allow such beings to haunt the earth!"

"Hush, Flora, hush! we cannot judge of his allwise purpose."

'"Tis hard that the innocent should be inflicted with its presence."

Charles bowed his head in mournful assent.

[Illustration]

"Is it not very, very dreadful?"

"Hush--hush! Calm yourself, dearest, calm yourself. Recollect that all
we have to go upon in this matter is a resemblance, which, after all,
may be accidental. But leave it all to me, and be assured that now I
have some clue to this affair, I will not lose sight of it, or of Sir
Francis Varney."

So saying, Charles surrendered Flora to the care of her mother, and then
was hastening back to the summer-house, when he met the whole party
coming towards the Hall, for the rain was each moment increasing in
intensity.

"We are returning," remarked Sir Francis Varney, with a half bow and a
smile, to Charles.

"Allow me," said Henry, "to introduce you, Mr. Holland, to our
neighbour, Sir Francis Varney."

Charles felt himself compelled to behave with courtesy, although his
mind was so full of conflicting feelings as regarded Varney; but there
was no avoiding, without such brutal rudeness as was inconsistent with
all his pursuits and habits, replying in something like the same strain
to the extreme courtly politeness of the supposed vampyre.

"I will watch him closely," thought Charles. "I can do no more than
watch him closely."

Sir Francis Varney seemed to be a man of the most general and discursive
information. He talked fluently and pleasantly upon all sorts of topics,
and notwithstanding he could not but have heard what Flora had said of
him, he asked no questions whatever upon that subject.

This silence as regarded a matter which would at once have induced some
sort of inquiry from any other man, Charles felt told much against him,
and he trembled to believe for a moment that, after all, it really might
be true.

"Is he a vampyre?" he asked himself. "Are there vampyres, and is this
man of fashion--this courtly, talented, educated gentleman one?" It was
a perfectly hideous question.

"You are charmingly situated here," remarked Varney, as, after ascending
the few steps that led to the hall door, he turned and looked at the
view from that slight altitude.

"The place has been much esteemed," said Henry, "for its picturesque
beauties of scenery."

"And well it may be. I trust, Mr. Holland, the young lady is much
better?"

"She is, sir," said Charles.

"I was not honoured by an introduction."

"It was my fault," said Henry, who spoke to his extraordinary guest with
an air of forced hilarity. "It was my fault for not introducing you to
my sister."

"And that was your sister?"

"It was, sir."

"Report has not belied her--she is beautiful. But she looks rather pale,
I thought. Has she bad health?"

"The best of health."

"Indeed! Perhaps the little disagreeable circumstance, which is made so
much food for gossip in the neighbourhood, has affected her spirits?"

"It has."

"You allude to the supposed visit here of a vampyre?" said Charles, as
he fixed his eyes upon Varney's face.

"Yes, I allude to the supposed appearance of a supposed vampyre in this
family," said Sir Francis Varney, as he returned the earnest gaze of
Charles, with such unshrinking assurance, that the young man was
compelled, after about a minute, nearly to withdraw his own eyes.

"He will not be cowed," thought Charles. "Use has made him familiar to
such cross-questioning."

It appeared now suddenly to occur to Henry that he had said something at
Varney's own house which should have prevented him from coming to the
Hall, and he now remarked,--

"We scarcely expected the pleasure of your company here, Sir Francis
Varney."

"Oh, my dear sir, I am aware of that; but you roused my curiosity. You
mentioned to me that there was a portrait here amazingly like me."

"Did I?"

"Indeed you did, or how could I know it? I wanted to see if the
resemblance was so perfect."

"Did you hear, sir," added Henry, "that my sister was alarmed at your
likeness to that portrait?"

"No, really."

"I pray you walk in, and we will talk more at large upon that matter."

"With great pleasure. One leads a monotonous life in the country, when
compared with the brilliancy of a court existence. Just now I have no
particular engagement. As we are near neighbours I see no reason why we
should not be good friends, and often interchange such civilities as
make up the amenities of existence, and which, in the country, more
particularly, are valuable."

Henry could not be hypocrite enough to assent to this; but still, under
the present aspect of affairs, it was impossible to return any but a
civil reply; so he said,--

"Oh, yes, of course--certainly. My time is very much occupied, and my
sister and mother see no company."

"Oh, now, how wrong."

"Wrong, sir?"

"Yes, surely. If anything more than another tends to harmonize
individuals, it is the society of that fairer half of the creation which
we love for their very foibles. I am much attached to the softer sex--to
young persons full of health. I like to see the rosy checks, where the
warm blood mantles in the superficial veins, and all is loveliness and
life."

Charles shrank back, and the word "Demon" unconsciously escaped his
lips.

Sir Francis took no manner of notice of the expression, but went on
talking, as if he had been on the very happiest terms with every one
present.

"Will you follow me, at once, to the chamber where the portrait hangs,"
said Henry, "or will you partake of some refreshment first?"

"No refreshment for me," said Varney. "My dear friend, if you will
permit me to call you such, this is a time of the day at which I never
do take any refreshment."

"Nor at any other," thought Henry.

They all went to the chamber where Charles had passed one very
disagreeable night, and when they arrived, Henry pointed to the portrait
on the panel, saying--

"There, Sir Francis Varney, is your likeness."

He looked, and, having walked up to it, in an under tone, rather as if
he were conversing with himself than making a remark for any one else to
hear, he said--

"It is wonderfully like."

"It is, indeed," said Charles.

"If I stand beside it, thus," said Varney, placing himself in a
favourable attitude for comparing the two faces, "I dare say you will be
more struck with the likeness than before."

So accurate was it now, that the same light fell upon his face as that
under which the painter had executed the portrait, that all started back
a step or two.

"Some artists," remarked Varney, "have the sense to ask where a portrait
is to be hung before they paint it, and then they adapt their lights and
shadows to those which would fall upon the original, were it similarly
situated."

"I cannot stand this," said Charles to Henry; "I must question him
farther."

"As you please, but do not insult him."

"I will not."

"He is beneath my roof now, and, after all, it is but a hideous
suspicion we have of him."

"Rely upon me."

Charles stepped forward, and once again confronting Varney, with an
earnest gaze, he said--

"Do you know, sir, that Miss Bannerworth declares the vampyre she
fancies to have visited this chamber to be, in features, the exact
counterpart of this portrait?"

"Does she indeed?"

"She does, indeed."

"And perhaps, then, that accounts for her thinking that I am the
vampyre, because I bear a strong resemblance to the portrait."

"I should not be surprised," said Charles.

"How very odd."

"Very."

"And yet entertaining. I am rather amused than otherwise. The idea of
being a vampyre. Ha! ha! If ever I go to a masquerade again, I shall
certainly assume the character of a vampyre."

"You would do it well."

"I dare say, now, I should make quite a sensation."

"I am certain you would. Do you not think, gentlemen, that Sir Francis
Varney would enact the character to the very life? By Heavens, he would
do it so well that one might, without much difficulty, really imagine
him a vampyre."

"Bravo--bravo," said Varney, as he gently folded his hands together,
with that genteel applause that may even be indulged in in a box at the
opera itself. "Bravo. I like to see young persons enthusiastic; it looks
as if they had some of the real fire of genius in their composition.
Bravo--bravo."

This was, Charles thought, the very height and acme of impudence, and
yet what could he do? What could he say? He was foiled by the downright
coolness of Varney.

As for Henry, George, and Mr. Marchdale, they had listened to what was
passing between Sir Francis and Charles in silence. They feared to
diminish the effect of anything Charles might say, by adding a word of
their own; and, likewise, they did not wish to lose one observation that
might come from the lips of Varney.

But now Charles appeared to have said all he had to say, he turned to
the window and looked out. He seemed like a man who had made up his
mind, for a time, to give up some contest in which he had been engaged.

And, perhaps, not so much did he give it up from any feeling or
consciousness of being beaten, as from a conviction that it could be the
more effectually, at some other and far more eligible opportunity,
renewed.

Varney now addressed Henry, saying,--

"I presume the subject of our conference, when you did me the honour of
a call, is no secret to any one here?"

"None whatever," said Henry.

"Then, perhaps, I am too early in asking you if you have made up your
mind?"

"I have scarcely, certainly, had time to think."

"My dear sir, do not let me hurry you; I much regret, indeed, the
intrusion."

"You seem anxious to possess the Hall," remarked Mr. Marchdale, to
Varney.

"I am."

"Is it new to you?"

"Not quite. I have some boyish recollections connected with this
neighbourhood, among which Bannerworth Hall stands sufficiently
prominent."

"May I ask how long ago that was?" said Charles Howard, rather abruptly.

"I do not recollect, my enthusiastic young friend," said Varney. "How
old are you?"

"Just about twenty-one."

"You are, then, for your age, quite a model of discretion."

It would have been difficult for the most accurate observer of human
nature to have decided whether this was said truthfully or ironically,
so Charles made no reply to it whatever.

"I trust," said Henry, "we shall induce you, as this is your first
visit, Sir Francis Varney, to the Hall, to partake of some thing."

"Well, well, a cup of wine--"

"Is at your service."

Henry now led the way to a small parlour, which, although by no means
one of the showiest rooms of the house, was, from the care and exquisite
carving with which it abounded, much more to the taste of any who
possessed an accurate judgment in such works of art.

Then wine was ordered, and Charles took an opportunity of whispering to
Henry,--

"Notice well if he drinks."

"I will."

"Do you see that beneath his coat there is a raised place, as if his arm
was bound up?"

"I do."

"There, then, was where the bullet from the pistol fired by Flora, when
we were at the church, hit him."

"Hush! for God's sake, hush! you are getting into a dreadful state of
excitement, Charles; hush! hush!"

"And can you blame--"

"No, no; but what can we do?"

"You are right. Nothing can we do at present. We have a clue now, and be
it our mutual inclination, as well as duty, to follow it. Oh, you shall
see how calm I will be!"

"For Heaven's sake, be so. I have noted that his eyes flash upon yours
with no friendly feeling."

"His friendship were a curse."

"Hush! he drinks!"

"Watch him."

"I will."

"Gentlemen all," said Sir Francis Varney, in such soft, dulcet tones,
that it was quite a fascination to hear him speak; "gentlemen all, being
as I am, much delighted with your company, do not accuse me of
presumption, if I drink now, poor drinker as I am, to our future merry
meetings."

He raised the wine to his lips, and seemed to drink, after which he
replaced the glass upon the table.

Charles glanced at it, it was still full.

"You have not drank, Sir Francis Varney," he said.

"Pardon me, enthusiastic young sir," said Varney, "perhaps you will have
the liberality to allow me to take my wine how I please and when I
please."

"Your glass is full."

"Well, sir?"

"Will you drink it?"

"Not at any man's bidding, most certainly. If the fair Flora Bannerworth
would grace the board with her sweet presence, methinks I could then
drink on, on, on."

"Hark you, sir," cried Charles, "I can bear no more of this. We have had
in this house most horrible and damning evidence that there are such
things as vampyres."

"Have you really? I suppose you eat raw pork at supper, and so had the
nightmare?"

"A jest is welcome in its place, but pray hear me out, sir, if it suit
your lofty courtesy to do so."

"Oh, certainly."

"Then I say we believe, as far as human judgment has a right to go, that
a vampyre has been here."

"Go on, it's interesting. I always was a lover of the wild and the
wonderful."

"We have, too," continued Charles, "some reason to believe that you are
the man."

Varney tapped his forehead as he glanced at Henry, and said,--

"Oh, dear, I did not know. You should have told me he was a little wrong
about the brain; I might have quarreled with the lad. Dear me, how
lamentable for his poor mother."

"This will not do, Sir Francis Varney _alias_ Bannerworth."

"Oh--oh! Be calm--be calm."

"I defy you to your teeth, sir! No, God, no! Your teeth!"

"Poor lad! Poor lad!"

"You are a cowardly demon, and here I swear to devote myself to your
destruction."

Sir Francis Varney drew himself up to his full height, and that was
immense, as he said to Henry,--

"I pray you, Mr. Bannerworth, since I am thus grievously insulted
beneath your roof, to tell me if your friend here be mad or sane?"

"He's not mad."

"Then--"

"Hold, sir! The quarrel shall be mine. In the name of my persecuted
sister--in the name of Heaven. Sir Francis Varney, I defy you."

Sir Francis, in spite of his impenetrable calmness, appeared somewhat
moved, as he said,--

"I have already endured insult sufficient--I will endure no more. If
there are weapons at hand--"

"My young friend," interrupted Mr. Marchdale, stepping between the
excited men, "is carried away by his feelings, and knows not what he
says. You will look upon it in that light, Sir Francis."

"We need no interference," exclaimed Varney, his hitherto bland voice
changing to one of fury. "The hot blooded fool wishes to fight, and he
shall--to the death--to the death."

[Illustration]

"And I say he shall not," exclaimed Mr. Marchdale, taking Henry by the
arm. "George," he added, turning to the young man, "assist me in
persuading your brother to leave the room. Conceive the agony of your
sister and mother if anything should happen to him."

Varney smiled with a devilish sneer, as he listened to these words, and
then he said,--

"As you will--as you will. There will be plenty of time, and perhaps
better opportunity, gentlemen. I bid you good day."

And with provoking coolness, he then moved towards the door, and quitted
the room.

"Remain here," said Marchdale; "I will follow him, and see that he quits
the premises."

He did so, and the young men, from the window, beheld Sir Francis
walking slowly across the garden, and then saw Mr. Marchdale follow on
his track.

While they were thus occupied, a tremendous ringing came at the gate,
but their attention was so rivetted to what was passing in the garden,
that they paid not the least attention to it.




CHAPTER XVIII.

THE ADMIRAL'S ADVICE.--THE CHALLENGE TO THE VAMPYRE.--THE NEW SERVANT AT
THE HALL.


[Illustration]

The violent ringing of the bell continued uninterruptedly until at
length George volunteered to answer it. The fact was, that now there was
no servant at all in the place for, after the one who had recently
demanded of Henry her dismissal had left, the other was terrified to
remain alone, and had precipitately gone from the house, without even
going through the ceremony of announcing her intention to. To be sure,
she sent a boy for her money afterwards, which may be considered a great
act of condescension.

Suspecting, then, this state of things, George himself hastened to the
gate, and, being not over well pleased at the continuous and unnecessary
ringing which was kept up at it, he opened it quickly, and cried, with
more impatience, by a vast amount, than was usual with him.

"Who is so impatient that he cannot wait a seasonable time for the door
to be opened?"

"And who the d----l are you?" cried one who was immediately outside.

"Who do you want?" cried George.

"Shiver my timbers!" cried Admiral Bell, for it was no other than that
personage. "What's that to you?"

"Ay, ay," added Jack, "answer that if you can, you shore-going-looking
swab."

"Two madmen, I suppose," ejaculated George, and he would have closed the
gate upon them; but Jack introduced between it and the post the end of a
thick stick, saying,--

"Avast there! None of that; we have had trouble enough to get in. If you
are the family lawyer, or the chaplain, perhaps you'll tell us where
Mister Charley is."

"Once more I demand of you who you want?" said George, who was now
perhaps a little amused at the conduct of the impatient visitors.

"We want the admiral's _nevey_" said Jack.

"But how do I know who is the admiral's _nevey_ as you call him."

"Why, Charles Holland, to be sure. Have you got him aboard or not?"

"Mr. Charles Holland is certainly here; and, if you had said at once,
and explicitly, that you wished to see him, I could have given you a
direct answer."

"He is here?" cried the admiral.

"Most certainly."

"Come along, then; yet, stop a bit. I say, young fellow, just before we
go any further, tell us if he has maimed the vampyre?"

"The what?

"The _wamphigher_," said Jack, by way of being, as he considered, a
little more explanatory than the admiral.

"I do not know what you mean," said George; "if you wish to see Mr.
Charles Holland walk in and see him. He is in this house; but, for
myself, as you are strangers to me, I decline answering any questions,
let their import be what they may."

"Hilloa! who are they?" suddenly cried Jack, as he pointed to two
figures some distance off in the meadows, who appeared to be angrily
conversing.

George glanced in the direction towards which Jack pointed, and there he
saw Sir Francis Varney and Mr. Marchdale standing within a few paces of
each other, and apparently engaged in some angry discussion.

His first impulse was to go immediately towards them; but, before he
could execute even that suggestion of his mind, he saw Varney strike
Marchdale, and the latter fell to the ground.

"Allow me to pass," cried George, as he endeavoured to get by the rather
unwieldy form of the admiral. But, before he could accomplish this, for
the gate was narrow, he saw Varney, with great swiftness, make off, and
Marchdale, rising to his feet, came towards the Hall.

When Marchdale got near enough to the garden-gate to see George, he
motioned to him to remain where he was, and then, quickening his pace,
he soon came up to the spot.

"Marchdale," cried George, "you have had an encounter with Sir Francis
Varney."

"I have," said Marchdale, in an excited manner. "I threatened to follow
him, but he struck me to the earth as easily as I could a child. His
strength is superhuman."

"I saw you fall."

"I believe, but that he was observed, he would have murdered me."

"Indeed!"

"What, do you mean to say that lankey, horse-marine looking fellow is as
bad as that!" said the admiral.

Marchdale now turned his attention to the two new comers, upon whom he
looked with some surprise, and then, turning to George, he said,--

"Is this gentleman a visitor?"

"To Mr. Holland, I believe he is," said George; "but I have not the
pleasure of knowing his name."

"Oh, you may know my name as soon as you like," cried the admiral. "The
enemies of old England know it, and I don't care if all the world knows
it. I'm old Admiral Bell, something of a hulk now, but still able to
head a quarter-deck if there was any need to do so."

"Ay, ay," cried Jack, and taking from his pocket a boatswain's whistle,
he blew a blast so long, and loud, and shrill, that George was fain to
cover his ears with his hands to shut out the brain-piercing, and, to
him unusual sound.

"And are you, then, a relative," said Marchdale, "of Mr. Holland's, sir,
may I ask?"

"I'm his uncle, and be d----d to him, if you must know, and some one has
told me that the young scamp thinks of marrying a mermaid, or a ghost,
or a vampyre, or some such thing, so, for the sake of the memory of his
poor mother, I've come to say no to the bargain, and d--n me, who
cares."

"Come in, sir," said George, "I will conduct you to Mr. Holland. I
presume this is your servant?"

"Why, not exactly. That's Jack Pringle, he was my boatswain, you see,
and now he's a kind o' something betwixt and between. Not exactly a
servant."

"Ay, ay, sir," said Jack. "Have it all your own way, though we is paid
off."

"Hold your tongue, you audacious scoundrel, will you."

"Oh, I forgot, you don't like anything said about paying off, cos it
puts you In mind of--"

"Now, d--n you, I'll have you strung up to the yard-arm, you dog, if you
don't belay there."

"I'm done. All's right."

By this time the party, including the admiral, Jack, George Bannerworth,
and Marchdale, had got more than half-way across the garden, and were
observed by Charles Holland and Henry, who had come to the steps of the
hall to see what was going on. The moment Charles saw the admiral a
change of colour came over his face, and he exclaimed,--

"By all that's surprising, there is my uncle!"

"Your uncle!" said Henry.

"Yes, as good a hearted a man as ever drew breath, and yet, withal, as
full of prejudices, and as ignorant of life, as a child."

Without waiting for any reply from Henry, Charles Holland rushed
forward, and seizing his uncle by the hand, he cried, in tones of
genuine affection,--

"Uncle, dear uncle, how came you to find me out?"

"Charley, my boy," cried the old man, "bless you; I mean, confound your
d----d impudence; you rascal, I'm glad to see you; no, I ain't, you
young mutineer. What do you mean by it, you ugly, ill-looking, d----d
fine fellow--my dear boy. Oh, you infernal scoundrel."

All this was accompanied by a shaking of the hand, which was enough to
dislocate anybody's shoulder, and which Charles was compelled to bear as
well as he could.

It quite prevented him from speaking, however, for a few moments, for it
nearly shook the breath out of him. When, then, he could get in a word,
he said,--

"Uncle, I dare say you are surprised."

"Surprised! D--n me, I am surprised."

"Well, I shall be able to explain all to your satisfaction, I am sure.
Allow me now to introduce you to my friends."

Turning then to Henry, Charles said,--

"This is Mr. Henry Bannerworth, uncle; and this Mr. George Bannerworth,
both good friends of mine; and this is Mr. Marchdale, a friend of
theirs, uncle."

"Oh, indeed!"

"And here you see Admiral Bell, my most worthy, but rather eccentric
uncle."

"Confound your impudence."

"What brought him here I cannot tell; but he is a brave officer, and a
gentleman."

"None of your nonsense," said the admiral.

"And here you sees Jack Pringle," said that individual, introducing
himself, since no one appeared inclined to do that office for him, "a
tar for all weathers. One as hates the French, and is never so happy as
when he's alongside o' some o' those lubberly craft blazing away."

"That's uncommonly true," remarked the admiral.

"Will you walk in, sir?" said Henry, courteously. "Any friend of Charles
Holland's is most welcome here. You will have much to excuse us for,
because we are deficient in servants at present, in consequence of come
occurrences in our family, which your nephew has our full permission to
explain to you in full"

"Oh, very good, I tell you what it is, all of you, what I've seen of
you, d----e, I like, so here goes. Come along, Jack."

The admiral walked into the house, and as he went, Charles Holland said
to him,--

"How came you to know I was here, uncle?"

"Some fellow wrote me a despatch."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, saying at you was a going to marry some odd sort of fish as it
wasn't at all the thing to introduce into the family."

"Was--was a vampyre mentioned?"

"That's the very thing."

"Hush, uncle--hush."

"What for?"

"Do not, I implore, hint at such a thing before these kind friends of
mine. I will take an opportunity within the next hour of explaining all
to you, and you shall form your own kind and generous judgement upon
circumstances in which my honour and my happiness are so nearly
concerned."

"Gammon," said the admiral.

"What, uncle?"

"Oh, I know you want to palaver me into saying it's all right. I suppose
if my judgment and generosity don't like it, I shall be an old fool, and
a cursed goose?"

"Now, uncle."

"Now, _nevey_."

"Well, well--no more at present. We will talk over this at leisure. You
promise me to say nothing about it until you have heard my explanation,
uncle?"

"Very good. Make it as soon as you can, and as short as you can, that's
all I ask of you."

"I will, I will."

Charles was to the full as anxious as his uncle could be to enter upon
the subject, some remote information of which, he felt convinced, had
brought the old man down to the Hall. Who it could have been that so far
intermeddled with his affairs as to write to him, he could not possibly
conceive.

A very few words will suffice to explain the precise position in which
Charles Holland was. A considerable sum of money had been left to him,
but it was saddled with the condition that he should not come into
possession of it until he was one year beyond the age which is usually
denominated that of discretion, namely, twenty-one. His uncle, the
admiral, was the trustee of his fortune, and he, with rare discretion,
had got the active and zealous assistance of a professional gentleman of
great honour and eminence to conduct the business for him.

This gentleman had advised that for the two years between the ages of
twenty and twenty-two, Charles Holland should travel, inasmuch as in
English society he would find himself in an awkward position, being for
one whole year of age, and yet waiting for his property.

Under such circumstances, reasoned the lawyer, a young man, unless he is
possessed of very rare discretion indeed, is almost sure to get
fearfully involved with money-lenders. Being of age, his notes, and
bills, and bonds would all be good, and he would be in a ten times worse
situation than a wealthy minor.

All this was duly explained to Charles, who, rather eagerly than
otherwise, caught at the idea of a two years wander on the continent,
where he could visit so many places, which to a well read young man like
himself, and one of a lively imagination, were full of the most
delightful associations.

But the acquaintance with Flora Bannerworth effected a great revolution
in his feelings. The dearest, sweetest spot on earth became that which
she inhabited. When the Bannerworths left him abroad, he knew not what
to do with himself. Everything, and every pursuit in which he had before
taken a delight, became most distasteful to him. He was, in fact, in a
short time, completely "used up," and then he determined upon returning
to England, and finding out the dear object of his attachment at once.
This resolution was no sooner taken, than his health and spirits
returned to him, and with what rapidity he could, he now made his way to
his native shores.

The two years were so nearly expired, that he made up his mind he would
not communicate either with his uncle, the admiral, or the professional
gentleman upon whose judgment he set so high and so just a value. And at
the Hall he considered he was in perfect security from any interruption,
and so he would have been, but for that letter which was written to
Admiral Bell, and signed Josiah Crinkles, but which Josiah Crinkles so
emphatically denied all knowledge of. Who wrote it, remains at present
one of those mysteries which time, in the progress of our narrative,
will clear up.

The opportune, or rather the painful juncture at which Charles Holland
had arrived at Bannerworth Hall, we are well cognisant of. Where he
expected to find smiles he found tears, and the family with whom he had
fondly hoped he should pass a time of uninterrupted happiness, he found
plunged in the gloom incidental to an occurrence of the most painful
character.

Our readers will perceive, too, that coming as he did with an utter
disbelief in the vampyre, Charles had been compelled, in some measure,
to yield to the overwhelming weight of evidence which had been brought
to bear upon the subject, and although he could not exactly be said to
believe in the existence and the appearance of the vampyre at
Bannerworth Hall, he was upon the subject in a most painful state of
doubt and indecision.

Charles now took an opportunity to speak to Henry privately, and inform
him exactly how he stood with his uncle, adding--

"Now, my dear friend, if you forbid me, I will not tell my uncle of this
sad affair, but I must own I would rather do so fully and freely, and
trust to his own judgment upon it."

"I implore you to do so," said Henry. "Conceal nothing. Let him know the
precise situation and circumstances of the family by all means. There is
nothing so mischievous as secrecy: I have the greatest dislike to it. I
beg you tell him all."

"I will; and with it, Henry, I will tell him that my heart is
irrevocably Flora's."

"Your generous clinging to one whom your heart saw and loved, under very
different auspices," said Henry, "believe me, Charles, sinks deep into
my heart. She has related to me something of a meeting she had with
you."

"Oh, Henry, she may tell you what I said; but there are no words which
can express the depth of my tenderness. 'Tis only time which can prove
how much I love her."

"Go to your uncle," said Henry, in a voice of emotion. "God bless you,
Charles. It is true you would have been fully justified in leaving my
sister; but the nobler and the more generous path you have chosen has
endeared you to us all."

"Where is Flora now?" said Charles.

"She is in her own room. I have persuaded her, by some occupation, to
withdraw her mind from a too close and consequently painful
contemplation of the distressing circumstances in which she feels
herself placed."

"You are right. What occupation best pleases her?"

"The pages of romance once had a charm for her gentle spirit."

"Then come with me, and, from among the few articles I brought with me
here, I can find some papers which may help her to pass some merry
hours."

Charles took Henry to his room, and, unstrapping a small valise, he took
from it some manuscript papers, one of which he handed to Henry,
saying--

"Give that to her: it contains an account of a wild adventure, and shows
that human nature may suffer much more--and that wrongfully too--than
came ever under our present mysterious affliction."

"I will," said Henry; "and, coming from you, I am sure it will have a
more than ordinary value in her eyes."

"I will now," said Charles, "seek my uncle. I will tell him how I love
her; and at the end of my narration, if he should not object, I would
fain introduce her to him, that he might himself see that, let what
beauty may have met his gaze, her peer he never yet met with, and may in
vain hope to do so."

"You are partial, Charles."

"Not so. 'Tis true I look upon her with a lover's eyes, but I look still
with those of truthful observation."

"Well, I will speak to her about seeing your uncle, and let you know. No
doubt, he will not be at all averse to an interview with any one who
stands high in your esteem."

The young men now separated--Henry, to seek his beautiful sister; and
Charles, to communicate to his uncle the strange particulars connected
with Varney, the Vampyre.




CHAPTER XIX.

FLORA IN HER CHAMBER.--HER FEARS.--THE MANUSCRIPT.--AN ADVENTURE.


[Illustration]

Henry found Flora in her chamber. She was in deep thought when he tapped
at the door of the room, and such was the state of nervous excitement in
which she was that even the demand for admission made by him to the room
was sufficient to produce from her a sudden cry of alarm.

"Who--who is there?" she then said, in accents full of terror.

"'Tis I, dear Flora," said Henry.

She opened the door in an instant, and, with a feeling of grateful
relief, exclaimed--

"Oh, Henry, is it only you?"

"Who did you suppose it was, Flora?"

She shuddered.

"I--I--do not know; but I am so foolish now, and so weak-spirited, that
the slightest noise is enough to alarm me."

"You must, dear Flora, fight up, as I had hoped you were doing, against
this nervousness."

"I will endeavour. Did not some strangers come a short time since,
brother?"

"Strangers to us, Flora, but not to Charles Holland. A relative of
his--an uncle whom he much respects, has found him out here, and has now
come to see him."

"And to advise him," said Flora, as she sunk into a chair, and wept
bitterly; "to advise him, of course, to desert, as he would a
pestilence, a vampyre bride."

"Hush, hush! for the sake of Heaven, never make use of such a phrase,
Flora. You know not what a pang it brings to my heart to hear you."

"Oh, forgive me, brother."

"Say no more of it, Flora. Heed it not. It may be possible--in fact, it
may well be supposed as more than probable--that the relative of Charles
Holland may shrink from sanctioning the alliance, but do you rest
securely in the possession of the heart which I feel convinced is wholly
yours, and which, I am sure, would break ere it surrendered you."

A smile of joy came across Flora's pale but beautiful face, as she
cried,--

"And you, dear brother--you think so much of Charles's faith?"

"As Heaven is my judge, I do."

"Then I will bear up with what strength God may give me against all
things that seek to depress me; I will not be conquered."

"You are right, Flora; I rejoice to find in you such a disposition. Here
is some manuscript which Charles thinks will amuse you, and he bade me
ask you if you would be introduced to his uncle."

"Yes, yes--willingly."

"I will tell him so; I know he wishes it, and I will tell him so. Be
patient, dear Flora, and all may yet be well."

"But, brother, on your sacred word, tell me do you not think this Sir
Francis Varney is the vampyre?"

"I know not what to think, and do not press me for a judgment now. He
shall be watched."

Henry left his sister, and she sat for some moments in silence with the
papers before her that Charles had sent her.

"Yes," she then said, gently, "he loves me--Charles loves me; I ought to
be very, very happy. He loves me. In those words are concentrated a
whole world of joy--Charles loves me--he will not forsake me. Oh, was
there ever such dear love--such fond devotion?--never, never. Dear
Charles. He loves me--he loves me!"

The very repetition of these words had a charm for Flora--a charm which
was sufficient to banish much sorrow; even the much-dreaded vampyre was
forgotten while the light of love was beaming upon her, and she told
herself,--

"He is mine!--he is mine! He loves me truly."

After a time, she turned to the manuscript which her brother had brought
her, and, with a far greater concentration of mind than she had thought
it possible she could bring to it, considering the many painful subjects
of contemplation that she might have occupied herself with, she read the
pages with very great pleasure and interest.

The tale was one which chained her attention both by its incidents and
the manner of its recital. It commenced as follows, and was entitled,
"Hugo de Verole; or, the Double Plot."

In a very mountainous part of Hungary lived a nobleman whose paternal
estates covered many a mile of rock and mountain land, as well as some
fertile valleys, in which reposed a hardy and contented peasantry. The
old Count de Hugo de Verole had quitted life early, and had left his
only son, the then Count Hugo de Verole, a boy of scarcely ten years,
under the guardianship of his mother, an arbitrary and unscrupulous
woman.

The count, her husband, had been one of those quiet, even-tempered men,
who have no desire to step beyond the sphere in which they are placed;
he had no cares, save those included in the management of his estate,
the prosperity of his serfs, and the happiness of those, around him.

His death caused much lamentation throughout his domains, it was so
sudden and unexpected, being in the enjoyment of his health and strength
until a few hours previous, and then his energies became prostrated by
pain and disease. There was a splendid funeral ceremony, which,
according to the usages of his house, took place by torch-light.

So great and rapid were the ravages of disease, that the count's body
quickly became a mass of corruption. All were amazed at the phenomena,
and were heartily glad when the body was disposed of in the place
prepared for its reception in the vaults of his own castle. The guests
who came to witness the funeral, and attend the count's obsequies, and
to condole with the widow on the loss she had sustained, were
entertained sumptuously for many days.

The widow sustained her part well. She was inconsolable for the loss of
her husband, and mourned his death bitterly. Her grief appeared
profound, but she, with difficulty, subdued it to within decent bounds,
that she might not offend any of her numerous guests.

However, they left her with the assurances of their profound regard, and
then when they were gone, when the last guest had departed, and were no
longer visible to the eye of the countess, as she gazed from the
battlements, then her behaviour changed totally.

She descended from the battlements, and then with an imperious gesture
she gave her orders that all the gates of the castle should be closed,
and a watch set. All signs of mourning she ordered to be laid on one
side save her own, which she wore, and then she retired to her own
apartment, where she remained unseen.

Here the countess remained in profound meditation for nearly two days,
during which time the attendants believed she was praying for the
welfare of the soul of their deceased master, and they feared she would
starve herself to death if she remained any longer.

Just as they had assembled together for the purpose of either recalling
her from her vigils or breaking open the door, they were amazed to see
the countess open the room-door, and stand in the midst of them.

"What do you here?" she demanded, in a stern voice.

The servants were amazed and terrified at her contracted brow, and
forgot to answer the question she put to them.

"What do you do here?"

"We came, my lady, to see--see--if--if you were well."

"And why?"

"Because we hadn't seen your ladyship these two days, and we thought
that your grief was so excessive that we feared some harm might befall
you."

The countess's brows contracted for a few seconds, and she was about to
make a hasty reply, but she conquered the desire to do so, and merely
said,--

"I am not well, I am faint; but, had I been dying, I should not have
thanked you for interfering to prevent me; however, you acted for the
best, but do so no more. Now prepare me some food."

The servants, thus dismissed, repaired to their stations, but with such
a degree of alacrity, that they sufficiently showed how much they feared
their mistress.

The young count, who was only in his sixth year, knew little about the
loss he had sustained; but after a day or two's grief, there was an end
of his sorrow for the time.

That night there came to the castle-gate a man dressed in a black cloak,
attended by a servant. They were both mounted on good horses, and they
demanded to be admitted to the presence of the Countess de Hugo de
Verole.

The message was carried to the countess, who started, but said,--

"Admit the stranger."

Accordingly the stranger was admitted, and shown into the apartment
where the countess was sitting.

At a signal the servants retired, leaving the countess and the stranger
alone. It was some moments ere they spoke, and then the countess said in
a low tone,--

"You are come?"

"I am come."

"You cannot now, you see, perform your threat. My husband, the count,
caught a putrid disease, and he is no more."

"I cannot indeed do what I intended, inform your husband of your amours;
but I can do something as good, and which will give you as much
annoyance."

"Indeed."

"Aye, more, it will cause you to be hated. I can spread reports."

"You can."

"And these may ruin you."

"They may."

"What do you intend to do? Do you intend that I shall be an enemy or a
friend? I can be either, according to my will."

"What, do you desire to be either?" inquired the countess, with a
careless tone.

"If you refuse my terms, you can make me an implacable enemy, and if you
grant them, you can make me a useful friend and auxiliary," said the
stranger.

"What would you do if you were my enemy?" inquired the countess.

"It is hardly my place," said the stranger, "to furnish you with a
knowledge of my intentions, but I will say this much, that the bankrupt
Count of Morven is your lover."

"Well?"

"And in the second place, that you were the cause of the death of your
husband,"

"How dare you, sir--"

"I dare say so much, and I dare say, also, that the Count of Morven
bought the drug of me, and that he gave it to you, and that you gave it
to the count your husband."

"And what could you do if you were my friend?" inquired the countess, in
the same tone, and without emotion.

"I should abstain from doing all this; should be able to put any one
else out of your way for you, when you get rid of this Count of Morven,
as you assuredly will; for I know him too well not to be sure of that."

"Get rid of him!"

"Exactly, in the same manner you got rid of the old count."

"Then I accept your terms."

"It is agreed, then?"

"Yes, quite."

"Well, then, you must order me some rooms in a tower, where I can pursue
my studies in quiet."

"You will be seen--and noticed--all will be discovered."

"No, indeed, I will take care of that, I can so far disguise myself that
he will not recognise me, and you can give out I am a philosopher or
necromancer, or what you will; no one will come to me--they will be
terrified."

"Very well."

"And the gold?"

"Shall be forthcoming as soon as I can get it. The count has placed all
his gold in safe keeping, and all I can seize are the rents as they
become due."

"Very well; but let me have them. In the meantime you must provide for
me, as I have come here with the full intention of staying here, or in
some neighbouring town."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; and my servant must be discharged, as I want none here."

The countess called to an attendant and gave the necessary orders, and
afterwards remained some time with the stranger, who had thus so
unceremoniously thrust himself upon her, and insisted upon staying under
such strange and awful circumstances.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Count of Morven came a few weeks after, and remained some days with
the countess. They were ceremonious and polite until they had a moment
to retire from before people, when the countess changed her cold disdain
to a cordial and familiar address.

"And now, my dear Morven," she exclaimed, as soon as they were
unobserved--"and now, my dear Morven, that we are not seen, tell me,
what have you been doing with yourself?"

"Why, I have been in some trouble. I never had gold that would stay by
me. You know my hand was always open."

"The old complaint again."

"No; but having come to the end of my store, I began to grow serious."

"Ah, Morven!' said the countess, reproachfully.

"Well, never mind; when my purse is low my spirits sink, as the mercury
does with the cold. You used to say my spirits were mercurial--I think
they were."

"Well, what did you do?"

"Oh, nothing."

"Was that what you were about to tell me?" inquired the countess.

"Oh, dear, no. You recollect the Italian quack of whom I bought the drug
you gave to the count, and which put an end to his days--he wanted more
money. Well, as I had no more to spare, I could spare no more to him,
and he turned vicious, and threatened. I threatened, too, and he knew I
was fully able and willing to perform any promise I might make to him on
that score. I endeavoured to catch him, as he had already began to set
people off on the suspicious and marvellous concerning me, and if I
could have come across him, I would have laid him very low indeed."

"And you could not find him?"

"No, I could not."

[Illustration]

"Well, then, I will tell you where he is at this present moment."

"You?"

"Yes, I."

"I can scarcely credit my senses at what you say," said Count Morven.
"My worthy doctor, you are little better than a candidate for divine
honours. But where is he?"

"Will you promise to be guided by me?" said the countess.

"If you make it a condition upon which you grant the information, I
must."

"Well, then, I take that as a promise."

"You may. Where--oh, where is he?"

"Remember your promise. Your doctor is at this moment in this castle."

"This castle?"

"Yes, this castle."

"Surely there must be some mistake; it is too much fortune at once."

"He came here for the same purpose he went to you."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, to get more money by extortion, and a promise to poison anybody I
liked."

"D--n! it is the offer he made to me, and he named you."

"He named you to me, and said I should be soon tired of you."

"You have caged him?"

"Oh, dear, no; he has a suite of apartments in the eastern tower, where
he passes for a philosopher, or a wizard, as people like best."

"How?"

"I have given him leave there."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; and what is more amazing is, that he is to aid me in poisoning you
when I have become tired of you."

"This is a riddle I cannot unravel; tell me the solution."

"Well, dear, listen,--he came to me and told me of something I already
knew, and demanded money and a residence for his convenience, and I have
granted him the asylum."

"You have?"

"I have."

"I see; I will give him an inch or two of my Andrea Ferrara."

"No--no."

"Do you countenance him?"

"For a time. Listen--we want men in the mines; my late husband sent very
few to them of late years, and therefore they are getting short of men
there."

"Aye, aye."

"The thing will be for you to feign ignorance of the man, and then you
will be able to get him seized, and placed in the mines, for such men as
he are dangerous, and carry poisoned weapons."

"Would he not be better out of the world at once; there would be no
escape, and no future contingencies?"

"No--no. I will have no more lives taken; and he will be made useful;
and, moreover, he will have time to reflect upon the mistake he had made
in threatening me."

"He was paid for the job, and he had no future claim. But what about the
child?"

"Oh, he may remain for some time longer here with us."

"It will be dangerous to do so," said the count; "he is now ten years
old, and there is no knowing what may be done for him by his relatives."

"They dare not enter the gates of this castle Morven."

"Well, well; but you know he might have travelled the same road as his
father, and all would be settled."

"No more lives, as I told you; but we can easily secure him some other
way, and we shall be equally as free from him and them."

"That is enough--there are dungeons, I know, in this castle, and he can
be kept there safe enough."

"He can; but that is not what I propose. We can put him into the mines
and confine him as a lunatic."

"Excellent!"

"You see, we must make those mines more productive somehow or other;
they would be so, but the count would not hear of it; he said it was so
inhuman, they were so destructive of life."

"Paha! what were the mines intended for if not for use?"

"Exactly--I often said so, but he always put a negative to it."

"We'll make use of an affirmative, my dear countess, and see what will
be the result in a change of policy. By the way, when will our marriage
be celebrated?"

"Not for some months."

"How, so long? I am impatient."

"You must restrain your impatience--but we must have the boy settled
first, and the count will have been dead a longer time then, and we
shall not give so much scandal to the weak-minded fools that were his
friends, for it will be dangerous to have so many events happen about
the same period."

"You shall act as you think proper--but the first thing to be done will
be, to get this cunning doctor quietly out of the way."

"Yes."

"I must contrive to have him seized, and carried to the mines."

"Beneath the tower in which he lives is a trap-door and a vault, from
which, by means of another trap and vault, is a long subterranean
passage that leads to a door that opens into one end of the mines; near
this end live several men whom you must give some reward to, and they
will, by concert, seize him, and set him to work."

"And if he will not work?"

"Why, they will scourge him in such a manner, that he would be afraid
even of a threat of a repetition of the same treatment."

"That will do. But I think the worthy doctor will split himself with
rage and malice, he will be like a caged tiger."

"But he will be denuded of his teeth and claws," replied the countess,
smiling "therefore he will have leisure to repent of having threatened
his employers."

       *       *       *       *       *

Some weeks passed over, and the Count of Morven contrived to become
acquainted with the doctor. They appeared to be utter strangers to each
other, though each knew the other; the doctor having disguised himself,
he believed the disguise impenetrable and therefore sat at ease.

"Worthy doctor," said the count to him, one day; "you have, no doubt, in
your studies, become acquainted with many of the secrets of science."

"I have, my lord count; I may say there are few that are not known to
Father Aldrovani. I have spent many years in research."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; the midnight lamp has burned till the glorious sun has reached the
horizon, and brings back the day, and yet have I been found beside my
books."

"'Tis well; men like you should well know the value of the purest and
most valuable metals the earth produces?"

"I know of but one--that is gold!"

"'Tis what I mean."

"But 'tis hard to procure from the bowels of the earth--from the heart
of these mountains by which we are surrounded."

"Yes, that is true. But know you not the owners of this castle and
territory possess these mines and work them?"

"I believe they do; but I thought they had discontinued working them
some years."

"Oh, no! that was given out to deceive the government, who claimed so
much out of its products."

"Oh! ah! aye, I see now."

"And ever since they have been working it privately, and storing bars of
gold up in the vaults of this--"

"Here, in this castle?"

"Yes; beneath this very tower--it being the least frequented--the
strongest, and perfectly inaccessible from all sides, save the
castle--it was placed there for the safest deposit."

"I see; and there is much gold deposited in the vaults?"

"I believe there is an immense quantity in the vaults."

"And what is your motive for telling me of this hoard of the precious
metal?"

"Why, doctor, I thought that you or I could use a few bars; and that, if
we acted in concert, we might be able to take away, at various times,
and secrete, in some place or other, enough to make us rich men for all
our lives."

"I should like to see this gold before I said anything about it,"
replied the doctor, thoughtfully.

"As you please; do you find a lamp that will not go out by the sudden
draughts of air, or have the means of relighting it, and I will
accompany you."

"When?"

"This very night, good doctor, when you shall see such a golden harvest
you never yet hoped for, or even believed in."

"To-night be it, then," replied the doctor. "I will have a lamp that
will answer our purpose, and some other matters."

"Do, good doctor," and the count left the philosopher's cell.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The plan takes," said the count to the countess, "give me the keys, and
the worthy man will be in safety before daylight."

"Is he not suspicious?"

"Not at all."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, about an hour before midnight,--the Count Morven stole
towards the philosopher's room. He tapped at the door.

"Enter," said the philosopher.

The count entered, and saw the philosopher seated, and by him a lamp of
peculiar construction, and incased in gauze wire, and a cloak.

"Are you ready?" inquired the count.

"Quite," he replied.

"Is that your lamp?"

"It is."

"Follow me, then, and hold the lamp tolerably high, as the way is
strange, and the steps steep."

"Lead on."

"You have made up your mind, I dare say, as to what share of the
undertaking you will accept of with me."

"And what if I will not?" said the philosopher, coolly.

"It falls to the ground, and I return the keys to their place."

"I dare say I shall not refuse, if you have not deceived me as to the
quantity and purity of the metal they have stored up."

"I am no judge of these metals, doctor. I am no assayest; but I believe
you will find what I have to show you will far exceed your expectations
on that head."

"'Tis well: proceed."

They had now got to the first vault, in which stood the first door, and,
with some difficulty, they opened the vault door.

"It has not been opened for some time," said the philosopher.

"I dare say not, they seldom used to go here, from what I can learn,
though it is kept a great secret."

"And we can keep it so, likewise."

"True."

They now entered the vault, and came to the second door, which opened
into a kind of flight of steps, cut out of the solid rock, and then
along a passage cut out of the mountain, of some kind of stone, but not
so hard as the rock itself.

"You see," said the count, "what care has been taken to isolate the
place, and detach it from the castle, so that it should not be dependent
upon the possessor of the castle. This is the last door but one, and now
prepare yourself for a surprise, doctor, this will be an extraordinary
one."

So saying, the count opened the door, and stepped on one side, when the
doctor approached the place, and was immediately thrust forward by the
count and he rolled down some steps into the mine, and was immediately
seized by some of the miners, who had been stationed there for that
purpose, and carried to a distant part of the mine, there to work for
the remainder of his life.

The count, seeing all secure, refastened the doors, and returned to the
castle. A few weeks after this the body of a youth, mangled and
disfigured, was brought to the castle, which the countess said was her
son's body.

The count had immediately secured the real heir, and thrust him into the
mines, there to pass a life of labour and hopeless misery.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a high feast held. The castle gates were thrown open, and
everybody who came were entertained without question.

This was on the occasion of the count's and countess's marriage. It
seemed many months after the death of her son, whom she affected to
mourn for a long time.

However, the marriage took place, and in all magnificence and splendour.
The countess again appeared arrayed in splendour and beauty: she was
proud and haughty, and the count was imperious.

In the mean time, the young Count de Hugo de Verole was confined in the
mines, and the doctor with him.

By a strange coincidence, the doctor and the young count became
companions, and the former, meditating projects of revenge, educated the
young count as well as he was able for several years in the mines, and
cherished in the young man a spirit of revenge. They finally escaped
together, and proceeded to Leyden, where the doctor had friends, and
where he placed his pupil at the university, and thus made him a most
efficient means of revenge, because the education of the count gave him
a means of appreciating the splendour and rank he had been deprived of.
He, therefore, determined to remain at Leyden until he was of age, and
then apply to his father's friends, and then to his sovereign, to
dispossess and punish them both for their double crime.

The count and countess lived on in a state of regal splendour. The
immense revenue of his territory, and the treasure the late count had
amassed, as well as the revenue that the mines brought in, would have
supported a much larger expenditure than even their tastes disposed them
to enjoy.

They had heard nothing of the escape of the doctor and the young count.
Indeed, those who knew of it held their peace and said nothing about it,
for they feared the consequences of their negligence. The first
intimation they received was at the hands of a state messenger,
summoning them to deliver up the castle revenues and treasure of the
late count.

This was astounding to them, and they refused to do so, but were soon
after seized upon by a regiment of cuirassiers sent to take them, and
they were accused of the crime of murder at the instance of the doctor.

They were arraigned and found guilty, and, as they were of the patrician
order, their execution was delayed, and they were committed to exile.
This was done out of favour to the young count, who did not wish to have
his family name tainted by a public execution, or their being confined
like convicts.

The count and countess quitted Hungary, and settled in Italy, where they
lived upon the remains of the Count of Morven's property, shorn of all
their splendour but enough to keep them from being compelled to do any
menial office.

The young count took possession of his patrimony and his treasure at
last, such as was left by his mother and her paramour.

The doctor continued to hide his crime from the young count, and the
perpetrators denying all knowledge of it, he escaped; but he returned to
his native place, Leyden, with a reward for his services from the young
count.

Flora rose from her perusal of the manuscript, which here ended, and
even as she did so, she heard a footstep approaching her chamber door.




CHAPTER XX.

THE DREADFUL MISTAKE.--THE TERRIFIC INTERVIEW IN THE CHAMBER.--THE
ATTACK OF THE VAMPYRE.


[Illustration]

The footstep which Flora, upon the close of the tale she had been
reading, heard approaching her apartment, came rapidly along the
corridor.

"It is Henry, returned to conduct me to an interview with Charles's
uncle," she said. "I wonder, now, what manner of man he is. He should in
some respects resemble Charles; and if he do so, I shall bestow upon him
some affection for that alone."

Tap--tap came upon the chamber door. Flora was not at all alarmed now,
as she had been when Henry brought her the manuscript. From some strange
action of the nervous system, she felt quite confident, and resolved to
brave everything. But then she felt quite sure that it was Henry, and
before the knocking had taken her by surprise.

"Come in," she said, in a cheerful voice. "Come in."

The door opened with wonderful swiftness--a figure stepped into the
room, and then closed it as rapidly, and stood against it. Flora tried
to scream, but her tongue refused its office; a confused whirl of
sensations passed through her brain--she trembled, and an icy coldness
came over her. It was Sir Francis Varney, the vampyre!

He had drawn up his tall, gaunt frame to its full height, and crossed
his arms upon his breast; there was a hideous smile upon his sallow
countenance, and his voice was deep and sepulchral, as he said,--

"Flora Bannerworth, hear that which I have to say, and hear it calmly.
You need have nothing to fear. Make an alarm--scream, or shout for help,
and, by the hell beneath us, you are lost!"

There was a death-like, cold, passionless manner about the utterance of
these words, as if they were spoken mechanically, and came from no human
lips.

Flora heard them, and yet scarcely comprehended them; she stepped slowly
back till she reached a chair, and there she held for support. The only
part of the address of Varney that thoroughly reached her ears, was that
if she gave any alarm some dreadful consequences were to ensue. But it
was not on account of these words that she really gave no alarm; it was
because she was utterly unable to do so.

"Answer me," said Varney. "Promise that you will hear that which I have
to say. In so promising you commit yourself to no evil, and you shall
hear that which shall give you much peace."

It was in vain she tried to speak; her lips moved, but she uttered no
sound.

"You are terrified," said Varney, "and yet I know not why. I do not come
to do you harm, although harm have you done me. Girl, I come to rescue
you from a thraldom of the soul under which you now labour."

There was a pause of some moments' duration, and then, faintly, Flora
managed to say,--

"Help! help! Oh, help me, Heaven!"

Varney made a gesture of impatience, as he said,--

"Heaven works no special matters now. Flora Bannerworth, if you have as
much intellect as your nobility and beauty would warrant the world in
supposing, you will listen to me."

"I--I hear," said Flora, as she still, dragging the chair with her,
increased the distance between them.

"'Tis well. You are now more composed."

She fixed her eyes upon the face of Varney with a shudder. There could
be no mistake. It was the same which, with the strange, glassy looking
eyes, had glared upon her on that awful night of the storm when she was
visited by the vampyre. And Varney returned that gaze unflinchingly
There was a hideous and strange contortion of his face now as he said,--

"You are beautiful. The most cunning statuary might well model some rare
work of art from those rounded limbs, that were surely made to bewitch
the gazer. Your skin rivals the driven snow--what a face of loveliness,
and what a form of enchantment."

She did not speak, but a thought came across her mind, which at once
crimsoned her cheek--she knew she had fainted on the first visit of the
vampyre, and now he, with a hideous reverence, praised beauties which he
might have cast his demoniac eyes over at such a time.

"You understand me," he said. "Well, let that pass. I am something
allied to humanity yet."

"Speak your errand," gasped Flora, "or come what may, I scream for help
to those who will not be slow to render it."

"I know it."

"You know I will scream?"

"No; you will hear me. I know they would not be slow to tender help to
you, but you will not call for it; I will present to you no necessity."

"Say on--say on."

"You perceive I do not attempt to approach you; my errand is one of
peace."

"Peace from you! Horrible being, if you be really what even now my
appalled imagination shrinks from naming you, would not even to you
absolute annihilation be a blessing?"

"Peace, peace. I came not here to talk on such a subject. I must be
brief, Flora Bannerworth, for time presses. I do not hate you. Wherefore
should I? You are young, and you are beautiful, and you bear a name
which should command, and does command, some portion of my best regard."

"There is a portrait," said Flora, "in this house."

"No more--no more. I know what you would say."

"It is yours."

"The house, and all within, I covet," he said, uneasily. "Let that
suffice. I have quarrelled with your brother--I have quarrelled with one
who just now fancies he loves you."

"Charles Holland loves me truly."

"It does not suit me now to dispute that point with you. I have the
means of knowing more of the secrets of the human heart than common men.
I tell you, Flora Bannerworth, that he who talks to you of love, loves
you not but with the fleeting fancy of a boy; and there is one who hides
deep in his heart a world of passion, one who has never spoken to you of
love, and yet who loves you with a love as far surpassing the evanescent
fancy of this boy Holland, as does the mighty ocean the most placid lake
that ever basked in idleness beneath a summer's sun."

There was a wonderful fascination in the manner now of Varney. His voice
sounded like music itself. His words flowed from his tongue, each gently
and properly accented, with all the charm of eloquence.

Despite her trembling horror of that man--despite her fearful opinion,
which might be said to amount to a conviction of what he really was,
Flora felt an irresistible wish to hear him speak on. Ay, despite too,
the ungrateful theme to her heart which he had now chosen as the subject
of his discourse, she felt her fear of him gradually dissipating, and
now when he made a pause, she said,--

"You are much mistaken. On the constancy and truth of Charles Holland, I
would stake my life."

"No doubt, no doubt."

"Have you spoken now that which you had to say?"

"No, no. I tell you I covet this place, I would purchase it, but having
with your bad-tempered brothers quarrelled, they will hold no further
converse with me."

"And well they may refuse."

"Be, that as it may, sweet lady, I come to you to be my mediator. In the
shadow of the future I can see many events which are to come."

"Indeed."

"It is so. Borrowing some wisdom from the past, and some from resources
I would not detail to you, I know that if I have inflicted much misery
upon you, I can spare you much more. Your brother or your lover will
challenge me."

"Oh, no, no."

"I say such will happen, and I can kill either. My skill as well as my
strength is superhuman."

"Mercy! mercy!" gasped Flora. "I will spare either or both on a
condition."

"What fearful condition?"

"It is not a fearful one. Your terrors go far before the fact. All I
wish, maiden, of you is to induce these imperious brothers of yours to
sell or let the Hall to me."

"Is that all?"

"It is. I ask no more, and, in return, I promise you not only that I
will not fight with them, but that you shall never see me again. Rest
securely, maiden, you will be undisturbed by me."

"Oh, God! that were indeed an assurance worth the striving for," said
Flora.

"It is one you may have. But--"

"Oh, I knew--my heart told me there was yet some fearful condition to
come."

"You are wrong again. I only ask of you that you keep this meeting a
secret."

"No, no, no--I cannot."

"Nay, what so easy?"

"I will not; I have no secrets from those I love."

"Indeed, you will find soon the expediency of a few at least; but if you
will not, I cannot urge it longer. Do as your wayward woman's nature
prompts you."

There was a slight, but a very slight, tone of aggravation in these
words, and the manner in which they were uttered.

As he spoke, he moved from the door towards the window, which opened
into a kitchen garden. Flora shrunk as far from him as possible, and for
a few moments they regarded each other in silence.

"Young blood," said Varney, "mantles in your veins."

She shuddered with terror.

"Be mindful of the condition I have proposed to you. I covet Bannerworth
Hall."

"I--I hear."

"And I must have it. I will have it, although my path to it be through a
sea of blood. You understand me, maiden? Repeat what has passed between
us or not, as you please. I say, beware of me, if you keep not the
condition I have proposed."

"Heaven knows that this place is becoming daily more hateful to us all,"
said Flora.

"Indeed!"

"You well might know so much. It is no sacrifice to urge it now. I will
urge my brother."

"Thanks--a thousand thanks. You may not live to regret even having made
a friend of Varney--"

"The vampyre!" said Flora.

He advanced towards her a step, and she involuntarily uttered a scream
of terror.

In an instant his hand clasped her waist with the power of an iron vice;
she felt hit hot breath flushing on her cheek. Her senses reeled, and
she found herself sinking. She gathered all her breath and all her
energies into one piercing shriek, and then she fell to the floor. There
was a sudden crash of broken glass, and then all was still.




CHAPTER XXI.

THE CONFERENCE BETWEEN THE UNCLE AND NEPHEW, AND THE ALARM.


[Illustration]

Meanwhile Charles Holland had taken his uncle by the arm, and led him
into a private room.

"Dear uncle," he said, "be seated, and I will explain everything without
reserve."

"Seated!--nonsense! I'll walk about," said the admiral. "D--n me! I've
no patience to be seated, and very seldom had or have. Go on now, you
young scamp."

"Well--well; you abuse me, but I am quite sure, had you been in my
situation, you would have acted precisely as I have done."

"No, I shouldn't."

"Well, but, uncle--"

"Don't think to come over me by calling me uncle. Hark you,
Charles--from this moment I won't be your uncle any more."

"Very well, sir."

"It ain't very well. And how dare you, you buccaneer, call me sir, eh? I
say, how dare you?"

"I will call you anything you like."

"But I won't be called anything I like. You might as well call me at
once Morgan, the Pirate, for he was called anything he liked. Hilloa,
sir! how dare you laugh, eh? I'll teach you to laugh at me. I wish I had
you on board ship--that's all, you young rascal. I'd soon teach you to
laugh at your superior officer, I would."

"Oh, uncle, I did not laugh at you."

"What did you laugh at, then?"

"At the joke."

"Joke. D--n me, there was no joke at all!"

"Oh, very good."

"And it ain't very good."

Charles knew very well that, this sort of humour, in which was the old
admiral, would soon pass away, and then that he would listen to him
comfortably enough; so he would not allow the least exhibition of
petulance or mere impatience to escape himself, but contented himself by
waiting until the ebullition of feeling fairly worked itself out.

"Well, well," at length said the old man, "you have dragged me here,
into a very small and a very dull room, under pretence of having
something to tell me, and I have heard nothing yet."

"Then I will now tell you," said Charles. "I fell in love--"

"Bah!"

"With Flora Bannerworth, abroad; she is not only the most beautiful of
created beings--"

"Bah!"

"But her mind is of the highest order of intelligence, honour, candour,
and all amiable feelings--"

"Bah!"

"Really, uncle, if you say 'Bah!' to everything, I cannot go on."

"And what the deuce difference, sir, does it make to you, whether I say
'Bah!' or not?"

"Well, I love her. She came to England, and, as I could not exist, but
was getting ill, and should, no doubt, have died if I had not done so, I
came to England."

"But d----e, I want to know about the mermaid."

"The vampyre, you mean, sir?"

"Well, well, the vampyre."

"Then, uncle, all I can tell you is, that it is supposed a vampyre came
one night and inflicted a wound upon Flora's neck with his teeth, and
that he is still endeavouring to renew his horrible existence from the
young, pure blood that flows through her veins."

"The devil he is!"

"Yes. I am bewildered, I must confess, by the mass of circumstances that
have combined to give the affair a horrible truthfulness. Poor Flora is
much injured in health and spirits; and when I came home, she, at once,
implored me to give her up, and think of her no more, for she could not
think of allowing me to unite my fate with hers, under such
circumstances."

"She did?"

"Such were her words, uncle. She implored me--she used that word,
'implore'--to fly from her, to leave her to her fate, to endeavour to
find happiness with some one else."

"Well?"

"But I saw her heart was breaking."

"What o' that?"

"Much of that, uncle. I told her that when I deserted her in the hour of
misfortune that I hoped Heaven would desert me. I told her that if her
happiness was wrecked, to cling yet to me, and that with what power and
what strength God had given me, I would stand between her and all ill."

"And what then?"

"She--she fell upon my breast and wept and blessed me. Could I desert
her--could I say to her, 'My dear girl, when you were full of health and
beauty, I loved you, but now that sadness is at your heart I leave you?'
Could I tell her that, uncle, and yet call myself a man?"

"No!" roared the old admiral, in a voice that made the room echo again;
"and I tell you what, if you had done so, d--n you, you puppy, I'd have
braced you, and--and married the girl myself. I would, d----e, but I
would."

"Dear uncle!"

"Don't dear me, sir. Talk of deserting a girl when the signal of
distress, in the shape of a tear, is in her eye!"

"But I--"

"You are a wretch--a confounded lubberly boy--a swab--a d----d bad
grampus."

"You mistake, uncle."

"No, I don't. God bless you, Charles, you shall have her--if a whole
ship's crew of vampyres said no, you shall have her. Let me see
her--just let me see her."

The admiral gave his lips a vigorous wipe with his sleeve, and Charles
said hastily,--

"My dear uncle, you will recollect that Miss Bannerworth is quite a
young lady."

"I suppose she is."

"Well, then, for God's sake, don't attempt to kiss her."

"Not kiss her! d----e, they like it. Not kiss her, because she's a young
lady! D----e, do you think I'd kiss a corporal of marines?"

"No, uncle; but you know young ladies are very delicate."

"And ain't I delicate--shiver my timbers, ain't I delicate? Where is
she? that's what I want to know."

"Then you approve of what I have done?"

"You are a young scamp, but you have got some of the old admiral's
family blood in you, so don't take any credit for acting like an honest
man--you couldn't help it."

"But if I had not so acted," said Charles, with a smile, "what would
have become of the family blood, then?"

"What's that to you? I would have disowned you, because that very thing
would have convinced me you were an impostor, and did not belong to the
family at all."

"Well, that would have been one way of getting over the difficulty."

"No difficulty at all. The man who deserts the good ship that carries
him through the waves, or the girl that trusts her heart to him, ought
to be chopped up into meat for wild monkeys."

"Well, I think so to."

"Of course you do."

"Why, of course?"

"Because it's so d----d reasonable that, being a nephew of mine, you
can't possibly help it."

"Bravo, uncle! I had no idea you were so argumentative."

"Hadn't you, spooney; you'd be an ornament to the gun-room, you would;
but where's the 'young lady' who is so infernal delicate--where is she,
I say?"

"I will fetch her, uncle."

"Ah, do; I'll be bound, now, she's one of the right build--a good
figure-head, and don't make too much stern-way."

[Illustration]

"Well, well, whatever you do, now don't pay her any compliments, for
your efforts in that line are of such a very doubtful order, that I
shall dread to hear you."

"You be off, and mind your own business; I haven't been at sea forty
years without picking up some out-and-out delicate compliments to say to
a young lady."

"But do you really imagine, now, that the deck of a man-of-war is a nice
place to pick up courtly compliments in?"

"Of course I do. There you hear the best of language, d----e! You don't
know what you are talking about, you fellows that have stuck on shore
all your lives; it's we seamen who learn life."

"Well, well--hark!"

"What's that?"

"A cry--did you not hear a cry?"

"A signal of distress, by G--d!"

In their efforts to leave the room, the uncle and nephew for about a
minute actually blocked up the door-way, but the superior bulk of the
admiral prevailed, and after nearly squeezing poor Charles flat, he got
out first.

But this did not avail him, for he knew not where to go. Now, the second
scream which Flora had uttered when the vampyre had clasped her waist
came upon their ears, and, as they were outside the room, it acted well
as a guide in which direction to come.

Charles fancied correctly enough at once that it proceeded from the room
which was called "Flora's own room," and thitherward accordingly he
dashed at tremendous speed.

Henry, however, happened to be nearer at hand, and, moreover, he did not
hesitate a moment, because he knew that Flora was in her own room; so he
reached it first, and Charles saw him rush in a few moments before he
could reach the room.

The difference of time, however, was very slight, and Henry had only
just raised Flora from the floor as Charles appeared.

"God of Heaven!" cried the latter, "what has happened?"

"I know not," said Henry; "as God is my judge, I know not. Flora, Flora,
speak to us! Flora! Flora!"

"She has fainted!" cried Charles. "Some water may restore her. Oh,
Henry, Henry, is not this horrible?"

"Courage! courage!" said Henry although his voice betrayed what a
terrible state of anxiety he was himself in; "you will find water in
that decanter, Charles. Here is my mother, too! Another visit! God help
us!"

Mrs. Bannerworth sat down on the edge of the sofa which was in the room,
and could only wring her hands and weep.

"Avast!" cried the admiral, making his appearance. "Where's the enemy,
lads?"

"Uncle," said Charles, "uncle, uncle, the vampyre has been here
again--the dreadful vampyre!"

"D--n me, and he's gone, too, and carried half the window with him. Look
there!"

It was literally true; the window, which was a long latticed one, was
smashed through.

"Help! oh, help!" said Flora, as the water that was dashed in her face
began to recover her.

"You are safe!" cried Henry, "you are safe!"

"Flora," said Charles; "you know my voice, dear Flora? Look up, and you
will see there are none here but those who love you."

Flora opened her eyes timidly as the said,--

"Has it gone?"

"Yes, yes, dear," said Charles. "Look around you; here are none but true
friends."

"And tried friends, my dear," said Admiral Bell, "excepting me; and
whenever you like to try me, afloat or ashore, d--n me, shew me Old Nick
himself, and I won't shrink--yard arm and yard arm--grapnel to
grapnel--pitch pots and grenades!"

"This is my uncle, Flora," said Charles.

"I thank you, sir," said Flora, faintly.

"All right!" whispered the admiral to Charles; "what a figure-head, to
be sure! Poll at Swansea would have made just about four of her, but she
wasn't so delicate, d--n me!"

"I should think not."

"You are right for once in a way, Charley."

"What was it that alarmed you?" said Charles, tenderly, as he now took
one of Flora's hands in his.

"Varney--Varney, the vampyre."

"Varney!" exclaimed Henry; "Varney here!"

"Yes, he came in at that door: and when I screamed, I suppose--for I
hardly was conscious--he darted out through the window."

"This," said Henry, "is beyond all human patience. By Heaven! I cannot
and will not endure it."

"It shall be my quarrel," said Charles; "I shall go at once and defy
him. He shall meet me."

"Oh, no, no, no," said Flora, as she clung convulsively to Charles. "No,
no; there is a better way."

"What way?"

"The place has become full of terrors. Let us leave it. Let him, as he
wishes, have it."

"Let _him_ have it?"

"Yes, yes. God knows, if it purchase an immunity from these visits, we
may well be overjoyed. Remember that we have ample reason to believe him
more than human. Why should you allow yourselves to risk a personal
encounter with such a man, who might be glad to kill you that he might
have an opportunity of replenishing his own hideous existence from your
best heart's blood?"

The young men looked aghast.

"Besides," added Flora, "you cannot tell what dreadful powers of
mischief he may have, against which human courage might be of no avail."

"There is truth and reason," said Mr. Marchdale, stepping forward, "in
what Flora says."

"Only let me come across him, that's all," said Admiral Bell, "and I'll
soon find out what he is. I suppose he's some long slab of a lubber
after all, ain't he, with no strength."

"His strength is immense," said Marchdale. "I tried to seize him, and I
fell beneath his arm as if I had been struck by the hammer of a
Cyclops."

"A what?" cried the admiral.

"A Cyclops."

"D--n me, I served aboard the Cyclops eleven years, and never saw a very
big hammer aboard of her."

"What on earth is to be done?" said Henry."

"Oh," chimed in the admiral, "there's always a bother about what's to be
done on earth. Now, at sea, I could soon tell you what was to be done."

"We must hold a solemn consultation over this matter," said Henry. "You
are safe now, Flora."

"Oh, be ruled by me. Give up the Hall."

"You tremble."

"I do tremble, brother, for what may yet ensue. I implore you to give up
the Hall. It is but a terror to us now--give it up. Have no more to do
with it. Let us make terms with Sir Francis Varney. Remember, we dare
not kill him."

"He ought to be smothered," said the admiral.

"It is true," remarked Henry, "we dare not, even holding all the
terrible suspicions we do, take his life."

"By foul means certainly not," said Charles, "were he ten times a
vampyre. I cannot, however, believe that he is so invulnerable as he is
represented."

"No one represents him here," said Marchdale. "I speak, sir, because I
saw you glance at me. I only know that, having made two unsuccessful
attempts to seize him, he eluded me, once by leaving in my grasp a piece
of his coat, and the next time he struck me down, and I feel yet the
effects of the terrific blow."

"You hear?" said Flora.

"Yes, I hear," said Charles.

"For some reason," added Marchdale, in a tone of emotion, "what I say
seems to fall always badly upon Mr. Holland's ear. I know not why; but
if it will give him any satisfaction, I will leave Bannerworth Hall
to-night."

"No, no, no," said Henry; "for the love of Heaven, do not let us
quarrel."

"Hear, hear," cried the admiral. "We can never fight the enemy well if
the ship's crew are on bad terms. Come now, you Charles, this appears to
be an honest, gentlemanly fellow--give him your hand."

"If Mr. Charles Holland," said Marchdale, "knows aught to my prejudice
in any way, however slight, I here beg of him to declare it at once, and
openly."

"I cannot assert that I do," said Charles.

"Then what the deuce do you make yourself so disagreeable for, eh?"
cried the admiral.

"One cannot help one's impression and feelings," said Charles; "but I am
willing to take Mr. Marchdale's hand."

"And I yours, young sir," said Marchdale, "in all sincerity of spirit,
and with good will towards you."

They shook hands; but it required no conjuror to perceive that it was
not done willingly or cordially. It was a handshaking of that character
which seemed to imply on each side, "I don't like you, but I don't know
positively any harm of you."

"There now," said the admiral, "that's better."

"Now, let us hold counsel about this Varney," said Henry. "Come to the
parlour all of you, and we will endeavour to come to some decided
arrangement."

"Do not weep, mother," said Flora. "All may yet be well. We will leave
this place."

"We will consider that question, Flora," said Henry; "and believe me
your wishes will go a long way with all of us, as you may well suppose
they always would."

They left Mrs. Bannerworth with Flora, and proceeded to the small oaken
parlour, in which were the elaborate and beautiful carvings which have
been before mentioned.

Henry's countenance, perhaps, wore the most determined expression of
all. He appeared now as if he had thoroughly made up his mind to do
something which should have a decided tendency to put a stop to the
terrible scenes which were now day by day taking place beneath that
roof.

Charles Holland looked serious and thoughtful, as if he were revolving
some course of action in his mind concerning which he was not quite
clear.

Mr. Marchdale was more sad and depressed, to all appearance, than any of
them.

At for the admiral, he was evidently in a state of amazement, and knew
not what to think. He was anxious to do something, and yet what that was
to be he had not the most remote idea, any more than as if he was not at
all cognisant of any of those circumstances, every one of which was so
completely out of the line of his former life and experience.

George had gone to call on Mr. Chillingworth, so he was not present at
the first part of this serious council of war.




CHAPTER XXII.

THE CONSULTATION.--THE DETERMINATION TO LEAVE THE HALL.


[Illustration]

This was certainly the most seriously reasonable meeting which had been
held at Bannerworth Hall on the subject of the much dreaded vampyre. The
absolute necessity for doing something of a decisive character was
abundantly apparent, and when Henry promised Flora that her earnest wish
to leave the house should not be forgotten as an element in the
discussion which was about to ensue, it was with a rapidly growing
feeling on his own part, to the effect that that house, associated even
as it was with many endearing recollections, was no home for him.

Hence he was the more inclined to propose a departure from the Hall if
it could possibly be arranged satisfactorily in a pecuniary point of
view. The pecuniary point of view, however, in which Henry was compelled
to look at the subject, was an important and a troublesome one.

We have already hinted at the very peculiar state of the finances of the
family; and, in fact, although the income derivable from various sources
ought to have been amply sufficient to provide Henry, and those who were
dependent upon him, with a respectable livelihood, yet it was nearly all
swallowed up by the payment of regular instalments upon family debts
incurred by his father. And the creditors took great credit to
themselves that they allowed of such an arrangement, instead of sweeping
off all before them, and leaving the family to starve.

The question, therefore, or, at all events, one of the questions, now
was, how far would a departure from the Hall of him, Henry, and the
other branches of the family, act upon that arrangement?

During a very few minutes' consideration, Henry, with the frank and
candid disposition which was so strong a characteristic of his
character, made up his mind to explain all this fully to Charles Holland
and his uncle.

When once he formed such a determination he was not likely to be slow in
carrying it into effect, and no sooner, then, were the whole of them
seated in the small oaken parlour than he made an explicit statement of
his circumstances.

"But," said Mr. Marchdale, when he had done, "I cannot see what right
your creditors have to complain of where you live, so long as you
perform your contract to them."

"True; but they always expected me, I knew, to remain at the Hall, and
if they chose, why, of course, at any time, they could sell off the
whole property for what it would fetch, and pay themselves as far as the
proceeds would go. At all events, I am quite certain there could be
nothing at all left for me."

"I cannot imagine," added Mr. Marchdale, "that any men could be so
unreasonable."

"It is scarcely to be borne," remarked Charles Holland, with more
impatience than he usually displayed, "that a whole family are to be put
to the necessity of leaving their home for no other reason than the
being pestered by such a neighbour as Sir Francis Varney. It makes one
impatient and angry to reflect upon such a state of things."

"And yet they are lamentably true," said Henry. "What can we do?"

"Surely there must be some sort of remedy."

"There is but one that I can imagine, and that is one we all alike
revolt from. We might kill him."

"That is out of the question."

"Of course my impression is that he bears the same name really as
myself, and that he is my ancestor, from whom was painted the portrait
on the panel."

"Have circumstances really so far pressed upon you," said Charles
Holland, "as at length to convince you that this man is really the
horrible creature we surmise he may be?"

"Dare we longer doubt it?" cried Henry, in a tone of excitement. "He is
the vampyre."

"I'll be hanged if I believe it," said Admiral Bell! "Stuff and
nonsense! Vampyre, indeed! Bother the vampyre."

"Sir," said Henry, "you have not had brought before you, painfully, as
we have, all the circumstances upon which we, in a manner, feel
compelled to found this horrible belief. At first incredulity was a
natural thing. We had no idea that ever we could be brought to believe
in such a thing."

"That is the case," added Marchdale. "But, step by step, we have been
driven from utter disbelief in this phenomenon to a trembling conviction
that it must be true."

"Unless we admit that, simultaneously, the senses of a number of persons
have been deceived."

"That is scarcely possible."

"Then do you mean really to say there are such fish?" said the admiral.

"We think so."

"Well, I'm d----d! I have heard all sorts of yarns about what fellows
have seen in one ocean and another; but this does beat them all to
nothing."

"It is monstrous," exclaimed Charles.

There was a pause of some few moments' duration, and then Mr. Marchdale
said, in a low voice,--

"Perhaps I ought not to propose any course of action until you, Henry,
have yourself done so; but even at the risk of being presumptuous, I
will say that I am firmly of opinion you ought to leave the Hall."

"I am inclined to think so, too," said Henry.

"But the creditors?" interposed Charles.

"I think they might be consulted on the matter beforehand," added
Marchdale, "when no doubt they would acquiesce in an arrangement which
could do them no harm."

"Certainly, no harm," said Henry, "for I cannot take the estate with me,
as they well know."

"Precisely. If you do not like to sell it, you can let it."

"To whom?"

"Why, under the existing circumstances, it is not likely you would get
any tenant for it than the one who has offered himself."

"Sir Francis Varney?"

"Yes. It seems to be a great object with him to live here, and it
appears to me, that notwithstanding all that has occurred, it is most
decidedly the best policy to let him."

Nobody could really deny the reasonableness of this advice, although it
seemed strange, and was repugnant to the feelings of them all, as they
heard it. There was a pause of some seconds' duration, and then Henry
said,--

"It does, indeed, seem singular, to surrender one's house to such a
being."

"Especially," said Charles, "after what has occurred."

"True."

"Well," said Mr. Marchdale, "if any better plan of proceeding, taking
the whole case into consideration, can be devised, I shall be most
happy."

"Will you consent to put off all proceedings for three days?" said
Charles Holland, suddenly.

"Have you any plan, my dear sir?" said Mr. Marchdale.

"I have, but it is one which I would rather say nothing about for the
present."

"I have no objection," said Henry, "I do not know that three days can
make any difference in the state of affairs. Let it be so, if you wish,
Charles."

"Then I am satisfied," said Charles. "I cannot but feel that, situated
as I am regarding Flora, this is almost more my affair than even yours,
Henry."

"I cannot see that," said Henry. "Why should you take upon yourself more
of the responsibility of these affairs than I, Charles? You induce in my
mind a suspicion that you have some desperate project in your
imagination, which by such a proposition you would seek to reconcile me
to."

Charles was silent, and Henry then added,--

"Now, Charles, I am quite convinced that what I have hinted at is the
fact. You have conceived some scheme which you fancy would be much
opposed by us?"

"I will not deny that I have," said Charles. "It is one, however, which
you must allow me for the present to keep locked in my own breast."

"Why will you not trust us?"

"For two reasons."

"Indeed!"

"The one is, that I have not yet thoroughly determined upon the course I
project; and the other is, that it is one in which I am not justified in
involving any one else."

"Charles, Charles," said Henry, despondingly; "only consider for a
moment into what new misery you may plunge poor Flora, who is, Heaven
knows, already sufficiently afflicted, by attempting an enterprise which
even we, who are your friends, may unwittingly cross you in the
performance of."

"This is one in which I fear no such result. It cannot so happen. Do not
urge me."

"Can't you say at once what you think of doing?" said the old admiral.
"What do you mean by turning your sails in all sorts of directions so
oddly? You sneak, why don't you be what do you call it--explicit?"

"I cannot, uncle."

"What, are you tongue-tied?"

"All here know well," said Charles, "that if I do not unfold my mind
fully, it is not that I fear to trust any one present, but from some
other most special reason."

"Charles, I forbear to urge you further," said Henry, "and only implore
you to be careful."

At this moment the room door opened, and George Bannerworth, accompanied
by Mr. Chillingworth, came in.

"Do not let me intrude," said the surgeon; "I fear, as I see you seated,
gentlemen, that my presence must be a rudeness and a disturbance to some
family consultation among yourselves?"

"Not at all, Mr. Chillingworth," said Henry. "Pray be seated; we are
very glad indeed to see you. Admiral Bell, this is a friend on whom we
can rely--Mr. Chillingworth."

"And one of the right sort, I can see," said the admiral, as he shook
Mr. Chillingworth by the hand.

"Sir, you do me much honour," said the doctor.

"None at all, none at all; I suppose you know all about this infernal
odd vampyre business?"

"I believe I do, sir."

"And what do you think of it?"

"I think time will develop the circumstances sufficiently to convince us
all that such things cannot be."

"D--n me, you are the most sensible fellow, then, that I have yet met
with since I have been in this neighbourhood; for everybody else is so
convinced about the vampyre, that they are ready to swear by him."

"It would take much more to convince me. I was coming over here when I
met Mr. George Bannerworth coming to my house."

"Yes," said George, "and Mr. Chillingworth has something to tell us of a
nature confirmatory of our own suspicions."

"It is strange," said Henry; "but any piece of news, come it from what
quarter it may, seems to be confirmatory, in some degree or another, of
that dreadful belief in vampyres."

"Why," said the doctor, "when Mr. George says that my news is of such a
character, I think he goes a little too far. What I have to tell you, I
do not conceive has anything whatever to do with the fact, or one fact
of there being vampyres."

"Let us hear it," said Henry.

"It is simply this, that I was sent for by Sir Francis Varney myself."

"You sent for?"

"Yes; he sent for me by a special messenger to come to him, and when I
went, which, under the circumstances, you may well guess, I did with all
the celerity possible, I found it was to consult me about a flesh wound
in his arm, which was showing some angry symptoms."

"Indeed."

"Yes, it was so. When I was introduced to him I found him lying on a
couch, and looking pale and unwell. In the most respectful manner, he
asked me to be seated, and when I had taken a chair, he added,--

"'Mr. Chillingworth, I have sent for you in consequence of a slight
accident which has happened to my arm. I was incautiously loading some
fire-arms, and discharged a pistol so close to me that the bullet
inflicted a wound on my arm.'

"'If you will allow me," said I, 'to see the wound, I will give you my
opinion.'

"He then showed me a jagged wound, which had evidently been caused by
the passage of a bullet, which, had it gone a little deeper, must have
inflicted serious injury. As it was, the wound was but trifling.

"He had evidently been attempting to dress it himself, but finding some
considerable inflammation, he very likely got a little alarmed."

"You dressed the wound?"

"I did."

"And what do you think of Sir Francis Varney, now that you have had so
capital an opportunity," said Henry, "of a close examination of him?"

"Why, there is certainly something odd about him which I cannot well
define, but, take him altogether, he can be a very gentlemanly man
indeed."

"So he can."

"His manners are easy and polished; he has evidently mixed in good
society, and I never, in all my life, heard such a sweet, soft, winning
voice."

"That is strictly him. You noticed, I presume, his great likeness to the
portrait on the panel?"

"I did. At some moments, and viewing his face in some particular lights,
it showed much more strongly than at others. My impression was that he
could, when he liked, look much more like the portrait on the panel than
when he allowed his face to assume its ordinary appearance."

"Probably such an impression would be produced upon your mind," said
Charles, "by some accidental expression of the countenance which even he
was not aware of, and which often occurs in families."

"It may be so."

"Of course you did not hint, sir, at what has passed here with regard to
him?" said Henry.

"I did not. Being, you see, called in professionally, I had no right to
take advantage of that circumstance to make any remarks to him about his
private affairs."

"Certainly not."

"It was all one to me whether he was a vampyre or not, professionally,
and however deeply I might feel, personally, interested in the matter, I
said nothing to him about it, because, you see, if I had, he would have
had a fair opportunity of saying at once, 'Pray, sir, what is that to
you?' and I should have been at a loss what to reply."

"Can we doubt," said Henry, "but that this very wound has been inflicted
upon Sir Francis Varney, by the pistol-bullet which was discharged at
him by Flora?"

"Everything leads to such an assumption certainly," said Charles
Holland.

"And yet you cannot even deduce from that the absolute fact of Sir
Francis Varney being a vampyre?"

"I do not think, Mr. Chillingworth," said Marchdale, "anything would
convince you but a visit from him, and an actual attempt to fasten upon
some of your own veins."

"That would not convince me," said Chillingworth.

"Then you will not be convinced?"

"I certainly will not. I mean to hold out to the last. I said at the
first, and I say so still, that I never will give way to this most
outrageous superstition."

"I wish I could think with you," said Marchdale, with a shudder; "but
there may be something in the very atmosphere of this house which has
been rendered hideous by the awful visits that have been made to it,
which forbids me to disbelieve in those things which others more happily
situated can hold at arm's length, and utterly repudiate."

"There may be," said Henry; "but as to that, I think, after the very
strongly expressed wish of Flora, I will decide upon leaving the house."

"Will you sell it or let it?"

"The latter I should much prefer," was the reply.

"But who will take it now, except Sir Francis Varney? Why not at once
let him have it? I am well aware that this does sound odd advice, but
remember, we are all the creatures of circumstances, and that, in some
cases where we least like it, we must swim with the stream."

"That you will not decide upon, however, at present," said Charles
Holland, as he rose.

"Certainly not; a few days can make no difference."

"None for the worse, certainly, and possibly much for the better."

"Be it so; we will wait."

"Uncle," said Charles, "will you spare me half an hour of your company?"

"An hour, my boy, if you want it," said the admiral, rising from his
chair.

"Then this consultation is over," said Henry, "and we quite understand
that to leave the Hall is a matter determined on, and that in a few days
a decision shall be come to as to whether Varney the Vampyre shall be
its tenant or not."




CHAPTER XXIII.

THE ADMIRAL'S ADVICE TO CHARLES HOLLAND.--THE CHALLENGE TO THE VAMPYRE.


[Illustration]

When Charles Holland got his uncle into a room by themselves, he said,--

"Uncle, you are a seaman, and accustomed to decide upon matters of
honour. I look upon myself as having been most grievously insulted by
this Sir Francis Varney. All accounts agree in representing him as a
gentleman. He goes openly by a title, which, if it were not his, could
easily be contradicted; therefore, on the score of position in life,
there is no fault to find with him. What would you do if you were
insulted by a gentleman?"

The old admiral's eyes sparkled, and he looked comically in the face of
Charles, as he said,--

"I know now where you are steering."

"What would you do, uncle?"

"Fight him!"

"I knew you would say so, and that's just what I want to do as regards
Sir Francis Varney."

"Well, my boy, I don't know that you can do better. He must be a
thundering rascal, whether he is a vampyre or not; so if you feel that
he has insulted you, fight him by all means, Charles."

"I am much pleased, uncle, to find that you take my view of the
subject," said Charles. "I knew that if I mentioned such a thing to the
Bannerworths, they would endeavour all in their power to pursuade me
against it."

"Yes, no doubt; because they are all impressed with a strange fear of
this fellow's vampyre powers. Besides, if a man is going to fight, the
fewer people he mentions it to most decidedly the better, Charles."

"I believe that is the fact, uncle. Should I overcome Varney, there will
most likely be at once an end to the numerous and uncomfortable
perplexities of the Bannerworths as regards him; and if he overcome me,
why, then, at all events, I shall have made an effort to rescue Flora
from the dread of this man."

"And then he shall fight me," added the admiral, "so he shall have two
chances, at all events, Charles."

"Nay, uncle, that would, you know, scarcely be fair. Besides, if I
should fall, I solemnly bequeath Flora Bannerworth to your good offices.
I much fear that the pecuniary affairs of poor Henry,--from no fault of
his, Heaven knows,--are in a very bad state, and that Flora may yet live
to want some kind and able friend."

"Never fear, Charles. The young creature shall never want while the old
admiral has got a shot in the locker."

"Thank you, uncle, thank you. I have ample cause to know, and to be able
to rely upon your kind and generous nature. And now about the
challenge?"

"You write it, boy, and I'll take it."

"Will you second me, uncle?"

"To be sure I will. I wouldn't trust anybody else to do so on any
account. You leave all the arrangements with me, and I'll second you as
you ought to be seconded."

"Then I will write it at once, for I have received injuries at the hands
of that man, or devil, be he what he may, that I cannot put up with. His
visit to the chamber of her whom I love would alone constitute ample
ground of action."

"I should say it rather would, my boy."

"And after this corroborative story of the wound, I cannot for a moment
doubt that Sir Francis Varney is the vampyre, or the personifier of the
vampyre."

"That's clear enough, Charles. Come, just you write your challenge, my
boy, at once, and let me have it."

"I will, uncle."

Charles was a little astonished, although pleased, at his uncle's ready
acquiescence in his fighting a vampyre, but that circumstance he
ascribed to the old man's habits of life, which made him so familiar
with strife and personal contentions of all sorts, that he did not
ascribe to it that amount of importance which more peaceable people did.
Had he, while he was writing the note to Sir Francis Varney, seen the
old admiral's face, and the exceedingly cunning look it wore, he might
have suspected that the acquiescence in the duel was but a seeming
acquiescence. This, however, escaped him, and in a few moments he read
to his uncle the following note:--

     "To SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.

     "Sir,--The expressions made use of towards me by you, as well as
     general circumstances, which I need not further allude to here,
     induce me to demand of you that satisfaction due from one
     gentleman to another. My uncle, Admiral Bell, is the bearer of
     this note, and will arrange preliminaries with any friend you may
     choose to appoint to act in your behalf. I am, sir, yours, &c.

     "CHARLES HOLLAND."

"Will that do?" said Charles.

"Capital!" said the admiral.

"I am glad you like it."

"Oh, I could not help liking it. The least said and the most to the
purpose, always pleases me best; and this explains nothing, and demands
all you want--which is a fight; so it's all right, you see, and nothing
can be possibly better."

Charles did glance in his uncle's face, for he suspected, from the
manner in which these words were uttered, that the old man was amusing
himself a little at his expense. The admiral, however, looked so
supernaturally serious that Charles was foiled.

"I repeat, it's a capital letter," he said.

"Yes, you said so."

"Well, what are you staring at?"

"Oh, nothing."

"Do you doubt my word?"

"Not at all, uncle; only I thought there was a degree of irony in the
manner in which you spoke."

"None at all, my boy. I never was more serious in all my life."

"Very good. Then you will remember that I leave my honour in this affair
completely in your hands."

"Depend upon me, my boy."

"I will, and do."

"I'll be off and see the fellow at once."

The admiral bustled out of the room, and in a few moments Charles heard
him calling loudly,--

"Jack--Jack Pringle, you lubber, where are you?--Jack Pringle, I say."

"Ay, ay, sir," said Jack, emerging from the kitchen, where he had been
making himself generally useful in assisting Mrs. Bannerworth, there
being no servant in the house, to cook some dinner for the family.

"Come on, you rascal, we are going for a walk."

"The rations will be served out soon," growled Jack.

"We shall be back in time, you cormorant, never fear. You are always
thinking of eating and drinking, you are, Jack; and I'll be hanged if I
think you ever think of anything else. Come on, will you; I'm going on
rather a particular cruise just now, so mind what you are about."

"Aye, aye, sir," said the tar, and these two originals, who so perfectly
understood each other, walked away, conversing as they went, and their
different voices coming upon the ear of Charles, until distance
obliterated all impression of the sound.

Charles paced to and fro in the room where he had held this brief and
conclusive conversation with his uncle. He was thoughtful, as any one
might well be who knew not but that the next four-and-twenty hours would
be the limit of his sojourn in this world.

"Oh, Flora--Flora!" he at length said, "how happy we might to have been
together--how happy we might have been! but all is past now, and there
seems nothing left us but to endure. There it but one chance, and that
is in my killing this fearful man who is invested with so dreadful an
existence. And if I do kill him in fair and in open fight, I will take
care that his mortal frame has no power again to revisit the glimpses of
the moon."

It was strange to imagine that such was the force of many concurrent
circumstances, that a young man like Charles Holland, of first-rate
abilities and education, should find it necessary to give in so far to a
belief which was repugnant to all his best feelings and habits of
thought, as to be reasoning with himself upon the best means of
preventing the resuscitation of the corpse of a vampyre. But so it was.
His imagination had yielded to a succession of events which very few
persons indeed could have held out against.

"I have heard and read," he said, as he continued his agitated and
uneasy walk, "of how these dreadful beings are to be in their graves. I
have heard of stakes being driven through the body so as to pin it to
the earth until the gradual progress of decay has rendered its
revivification a thing of utter and total impossibility. Then, again,"
he added, after a slight pause, "I have heard of their being burned, and
the ashes gathered to the winds of Heaven to prevent them from ever
again uniting or assuming human form."

[Illustration]

These were disagreeable and strange fancies, and he shuddered while he
indulged in them. He felt a kind of trembling horror come over him even
at the thought of engaging in conflict with a being, who perhaps, had
lived more than a hundred years.

"That portrait," he thought, "on the panel, is the portrait of a man in
the prime of life. If it be the portrait of Sir Francis Varney, by the
date which the family ascribe to it he must be nearly one hundred and
fifty years of age now."

This was a supposition which carried the imagination to a vast amount of
strange conjectures.

"What changes he must have witnessed about him in that time," thought
Charles. "How he must have seen kingdoms totter and fall, and how many
changes of habits, of manners, and of customs must he have become a
spectator of. Renewing too, ever and anon, his fearful existence by such
fearful means."

This was a wide field of conjecture for a fertile imagination, and now
that he was on the eve of engaging with such a being in mortal combat,
on behalf of her he loved, the thoughts it gave rise to came more
strongly and thickly upon him than ever they had done before.

"But I will fight him," he suddenly said, "for Flora's sake, were he a
hundred times more hideous a being than so many evidences tend to prove
him. I will fight with him, and it may be my fate to rid the world of
such a monster in human form."

Charles worked himself up to a kind of enthusiasm by which he almost
succeeded in convincing himself that, in attempting the destruction of
Sir Francis Varney, he was the champion of human nature.

It would be aside from the object of these pages, which is to record
facts as they occurred, to enter into the metaphysical course of
reasoning which came across Charles's mind; suffice it to say that he
felt nothing shaken as regarded his resolve to meet Varney the Vampyre,
and that he made up his mind the conflict should be one of life or
death.

"It must be so," he said. "It must be so. Either he or I must fall in
the fight which shall surely be."

He now sought Flora, for how soon might he now be torn from her for ever
by the irresistible hand of death. He felt that, during the few brief
hours which now would only elapse previous to his meeting with Sir
Francis Varney, he could not enjoy too much of the society of her who
reigned supreme in his heart, and held in her own keeping his best
affections.

But while Charles is thus employed, let us follow his uncle and Jack
Pringle to the residence of Varney, which, as the reader is aware, was
so near at hand that it required not many minutes' sharp walking to
reach it.

The admiral knew well he could trust Jack with any secret, for long
habits of discipline and deference to the orders of superiors takes off
the propensity to blabbing which, among civilians who are not accustomed
to discipline, is so very prevalent. The old man therefore explained to
Jack what he meant to do, and it received Jack's full approval; but as
in the enforced detail of other matters it must come out, we will not
here prematurely enter into the admiral's plans.

When they reached the residence of Sir Francis Varney, they were
received courteously enough, and the admiral desired Jack to wait for
him in the handsome hall of the house, while he was shewn up stairs to
the private room of the vampyre.

"Confound the fellow!" muttered the old admiral, "he is well lodged at
all events. I should say he was not one of those sort of vampyres who
have nowhere to go to but their own coffins when the evening comes."

The room into which the admiral was shewn had green blinds to it, and
they were all drawn down. It is true that the sun was shining brightly
outside, although transiently, but still a strange green tinge was
thrown over everything in the room, and more particularly did it appear
to fall upon the face of Varney, converting his usually sallow
countenance into a still more hideous and strange colour. He was sitting
upon a couch, and, when the admiral came in, he rose, and said, in a
deep-toned voice, extremely different to that he usually spoke in,--

"My humble home is much honoured, sir, by your presence in it."

"Good morning," said the admiral. "I have come to speak to you, sir,
rather seriously."

"However abrupt this announcement may sound to me," said Varney, "I am
quite sure I shall always hear, with the most profound respect, whatever
Admiral Bell may have to say."

"There is no respect required," said the admiral, "but only a little
attention."

Sir Francis bowed in a stately manner, saying,--

"I shall be quite unhappy if you will not be seated, Admiral Bell."

"Oh, never mind that, Sir Francis Varney, if you be Sir Francis Varney;
for you may be the devil himself, for all I know. My nephew, Charles
Holland, considers that, one way and another, he has a very tolerable
quarrel with you."

"I much grieve to hear it."

"Do you?"

"Believe me, I do. I am most scrupulous in what I say; and an assertion
that I am grieved, you may thoroughly and entirely depend upon."

"Well, well, never mind that; Charles Holland is a young man just
entering into life. He loves a girl who is, I think, every way worthy of
him."

"Oh, what a felicitous prospect!"

"Just hear me out, if you please."

"With pleasure, sir--with pleasure."

"Well, then, when a young, hot-headed fellow thinks he has a good ground
of quarrel with anybody, you will not be surprised at his wanting to
fight it out."

"Not at all."

"Well, then, to come to the point, my nephew, Charles Holland, has a
fancy for fighting with you."

"Ah!"

"You take it d----d easy."

"My dear sir, why should I be uneasy? He is not my nephew, you know. I
shall have no particular cause, beyond those feelings of common
compassion which I hope inhabit my breast as well as every one else's."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, he is a young man just, as you say, entering into life, and I
cannot help thinking it would be a pity to cut him off like a flower in
the bud, so very soon."

"Oh, you make quite sure, then, of settling him, do you?"

"My dear sir, only consider; he might be very troublesome, indeed; you
know young men are hot-headed and troublesome. Even if I were only to
maim him, he might be a continual and never-ceasing annoyance to me. I
think I should be absolutely, in a manner of speaking, compelled to cut
him off."

"The devil you do!"

"As you say, sir."

"D--n your assurance, Mr. Vampyre, or whatever odd fish you may be."

"Admiral Bell, I never called upon you and received a courteous
reception, and then insulted you."

"Then why do you talk of cutting off a better man than yourself? D--n
it, what would you say to him cutting you off?"

"Oh, as for me, my good sir, that's quite another thing. Cutting me off
is very doubtful."

Sir Francis Varney gave a strange smile as he spoke, and shook his head,
as if some most extraordinary and extravagant proposition had been
mooted, which it was scarcely worth the while of anybody possessed of
common sense to set about expecting.

Admiral Bell felt strongly inclined to get into a rage, but he repressed
the idea as much as he could, although, but for the curious faint green
light that came through the blinds, his heightened colour would have
sufficiently proclaimed what state of mind he was in.

"Mr. Varney," he said, "all this is quite beside the question; but, at
all events, if it have any weight at all, it ought to have a
considerable influence in deciding you to accept of what terms I
propose."

"What are they, sir?"

"Why, that you permit me to espouse my nephew Charles's quarrel, and
meet you instead of him."

"You meet me?"

"Yes; I've met a better man more than once before. It can make no
difference to you."

"I don't know that, Admiral Bell. One generally likes, in a duel, to
face him with whom one has had the misunderstanding, be it on what
grounds it may."

"There's some reason, I know, in what you say; but, surely, if I am
willing, you need not object."

"And is your nephew willing thus to shift the danger and the job of
resenting his own quarrels on to your shoulders?"

"No; he knows nothing about it. He has written you a challenge, of which
I am the bearer, but I voluntarily, and of my own accord, wish to meet
you instead."

"This is a strange mode of proceeding."

"If you will not accede to it, and fight him first, and any harm comes
to him, you shall fight me afterwards."

"Indeed."

"Yes, indeed you shall, however surprised you may look."

"As this appears to be quite a family affair, then," said Sir Francis
Varney, "it certainly does appear immaterial which of you I fight with
first."

"Quite so; now you take a sensible view of the question. Will you meet
me?"

"I have no particular objection. Have you settled all your affairs, and
made your will?"

"What's that to you?"

"Oh, I only asked, because there is generally so much food for
litigation if a man dies intestate, and is worth any money."

"You make devilish sure," said the admiral, "of being the victor. Have
you made your will?"

"Oh, my will," smiled Sir Francis; "that, my good sir, is quite an
indifferent affair."

"Well, make it or not, as you like. I am old, I know, but I can pull a
trigger as well as any one."

"Do what?"

"Pull a trigger."

"Why, you don't suppose I resort to any such barbarous modes of
fighting?"

"Barbarous! Why, how do you fight then?"

"As a gentleman, with my sword."

"Swords! Oh, nonsense! nobody fights with swords now-a-days. That's all
exploded."

"I cling to the customs and the fashions of my youth," said Varney. "I
have been, years ago, accustomed always to wear a sword, and to be
without one now vexes me."

"Pray, how many years ago?"

"I am older than I look, but that is not the question. I am willing to
meet you with swords if you like. You are no doubt aware that, as the
challenged party, I am entitled to the choice of weapons."

"I am."

"Then you cannot object to my availing myself of the one in the use of
which I am perfectly unequalled."

"Indeed."

"Yes, I am, I think, the first swordsman in Europe; I have had immense
practice."

"Well, sir, you have certainly made a most unexpected choice of weapons.
I can use a sword still, but am by no means a master of fencing.
However, it shall not be said that I went back from my word, and let the
chances be as desperate as they may, I will meet you."

"Very good."

"With swords?"

"Ay, with swords; but I must have everything properly arranged, so that
no blame can rest on me, you know. As you will be killed, you are safe
from all consequences, but I shall be in a very different position; so,
if you please, I must have this meeting got up in such a manner as shall
enable me to prove, to whoever may question me on the subject, that you
had fair play."

"Oh, never fear that."

"But I do fear it. The world, my good sir, is censorious, and you cannot
stop people from saying extremely ill-natured things."

"What do you require, then?"

"I require you to send me a friend with a formal challenge."

"Well?"

"Then I shall refer him to a friend of mine, and they two must settle
everything between them."

"Is that all?"

"Not quite. I will have a surgeon on the ground, in case, when I pink
you, there should be a chance of saving your life. It always looks
humane."

"When you pink me?"

"Precisely."

"Upon my word, you take these affairs easy. I suppose you have had a few
of them?"

"Oh, a good number. People like yourself worry me into them, I don't
like the trouble, I assure you; it is no amusement to me. I would
rather, by a great deal, make some concession than fight, because I will
fight with swords, and the result is then so certain that there is no
danger in the matter to me."

"Hark you, Sir Francis Varney. You are either a very clever actor, or a
man, as you say, of such skill with your sword, that you can make sure
of the result of a duel. You know, therefore, that it is not fair play
on your part to fight a duel with that weapon."

"Oh, I beg your pardon there. I never challenge anybody, and when
foolish people will call me out, contrary to my inclination, I think I
am bound to take what care of myself I can."

"D--n me, there's some reason in that, too," said the admiral; "but why
do you insult people?"

"People insult me first."

"Oh, nonsense!"

"How should you like to be called a vampyre, and stared at as if you
were some hideous natural phenomenon?"

"Well, but--"

"I say, Admiral Bell, how should you like it? I am a harmless country
gentleman, and because, in the heated imaginations of some member of a
crack-brained family, some housebreaker has been converted into a
vampyre, I am to be pitched upon as the man, and insulted and persecuted
accordingly."

"But you forget the proofs."

"What proofs?"

"The portrait, for one."

"What! Because there is an accidental likeness between me and an old
picture, am I to be set down as a vampyre? Why, when I was in Austria
last, I saw an old portrait of a celebrated court fool, and you so
strongly resemble it, that I was quite struck when I first saw you with
the likeness; but I was not so unpolite as to tell you that I considered
you were the court fool turned vampyre."

"D--n your assurance!"

"And d--n yours, if you come to that."

The admiral was fairly beaten. Sir Francis Varney was by far too
long-headed and witty for him. After now in vain endeavouring to find
something to say, the old man buttoned up his coat in a great passion,
and looking fiercely at Varney, he said,--"I don't pretend to a gift of
the gab. D--n me, it ain't one of my peculiarities; but though you may
talk me down, you sha'n't keep me down."

"Very good, sir."

"It is not very good. You shall hear from me."

"I am willing."

"I don't care whether you are willing or not. You shall find that when
once I begin to tackle an enemy, I don't so easily leave him. One or
both of us, sir, is sure to sink."

"Agreed."

"So say I. You shall find that I'm a tar for all weathers, and if you
were a hundred and fifty vampires all rolled into one, I'd tackle you
somehow."

The admiral walked to the door in high dudgeon; when he was near to it,
Varney said, in some of his most winning and gentle accents,--

"Will you not take some refreshment, sir before you go from my humble
house?"

"No!" roared the admiral.

"Something cooling?"

"No!"

"Very good, sir. A hospitable host can do no more than offer to
entertain his guests."

Admiral Bell turned at the door, and said, with some degree of intense
bitterness,

"You look rather poorly. I suppose, to-night, you will go and suck
somebody's blood, you shark--you confounded vampyre! You ought to be
made to swallow a red-hot brick, and then let dance about till it
digests."

Varney smiled as he rang the bell, and said to a servant,--

"Show my very excellent friend Admiral Bell out. He will not take any
refreshments."

The servant bowed, and preceded the admiral down the staircase; but, to
his great surprise, instead of a compliment in the shape of a shilling
or half-a-crown for his pains, he received a tremendous kick behind,
with a request to go and take it to his master, with his compliments.

The fume that the old admiral was in beggars all description. He walked
to Bannerworth Hall at such a rapid pace, that Jack Pringle had the
greatest difficulty in the world to keep up with him, so as to be at all
within speaking distance.

"Hilloa, Jack," cried the old man, when they were close to the Hall.
"Did you see me kick that fellow?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Well, that's some consolation, at any rate, if somebody saw it. It
ought to have been his master, that's all I can say to it, and I wish it
had."

"How have you settled it, sir?"

"Settled what?"

"The fight, sir."

"D--n me, Jack, I haven't settled it at all."

"That's bad, sir."

"I know it is; but it shall be settled for all that, I can tell him, let
him vapour as much as he may about pinking me, and one thing and
another."

"Pinking you, sir?"

"Yes. He wants to fight with cutlasses, or toasting-forks, d--n me, I
don't know exactly which, and then he must have a surgeon on the ground,
for fear when he pinks me I shouldn't slip my cable in a regular way,
and he should be blamed."

Jack gave a long whistle, as he replied,--

"Going to do it, sir?"

"I don't know now what I'm going to do. Mind, Jack, mum is the word."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"I'll turn the matter over in my mind, and then decide upon what had
best be done. If he pinks me, I'll take d----d good care he don't pink
Charles."

"No, sir, don't let him do that. A _wamphigher_, sir, ain't no good
opponent to anybody. I never seed one afore, but it strikes me as the
best way to settle him, would be to shut him up in some little bit of a
cabin, and then smoke him with brimstone, sir."

"Well, well, I'll consider, Jack, I'll consider. Something must be done,
and that quickly too. Zounds, here's Charles--what the deuce shall I say
to him, by way of an excuse, I wonder, for not arranging his affair with
Varney? Hang me, if I ain't taken aback now, and don't know where to
place a hand."




CHAPTER XXIV.

THE LETTER TO CHARLES.--THE QUARREL.--THE ADMIRAL'S NARRATIVE.--THE
MIDNIGHT MEETING.


[Illustration]

It was Charles Holland who now advanced hurriedly to meet the admiral.
The young man's manner was anxious. He was evidently most intent upon
knowing what answer could be sent by Sir Francis Varney to his
challenge.

"Uncle," he said, "tell me at once, will he meet me? You can talk of
particulars afterwards, but now tell me at once if he will meet me?"

"Why, as to that," said the admiral, with a great deal of fidgetty
hesitation, "you see, I can't exactly say."

"Not say!"

"No. He's a very odd fish. Don't you think he's a very odd fish, Jack
Pringle'?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"There, you hear, Charles, that Jack is of my opinion that your opponent
is an odd fish."

"But, uncle, why trifle with my impatience thus? Have you seen Sir
Francis Varney?"

"Seen him. Oh, yes."

"And what did he say?"

"Why, to tell the truth, my lad, I advise you not to fight with him at
all."

"Uncle, is this like you? This advice from you, to compromise my honour,
after sending a man a challenge?"

"D--n it all, Jack, I don't know how to get out of it," said the
admiral. "I tell you what it is, Charles, he wants to fight with swords;
and what on earth is the use of your engaging with a fellow who has been
practising at his weapon for more than a hundred years?"

"Well, uncle, if any one had told me that you would be terrified by this
Sir Francis Varney into advising me not to fight, I should have had no
hesitation whatever in saying such a thing was impossible."

"I terrified?"

"Why, you advise me not to meet this man, even after I have challenged
him."

"Jack," said the admiral, "I can't carry it on, you see. I never could
go on with anything that was not as plain as an anchor, and quite
straightforward. I must just tell all that has occurred."

"Ay, ay, sir. The best way."

"You think so, Jack?"

"I know it is, sir, always axing pardon for having a opinion at all,
excepting when it happens to be the same as yourn, sir."

"Hold your tongue, you libellous villain! Now, listen to me, Charles. I
got up a scheme of my own."

Charles gave a groan, for he had a very tolerable appreciation of his
uncle's amount of skill in getting up a scheme of any kind or
description.

"Now here am I," continued the admiral, "an old hulk, and not fit for
use anymore. What's the use of me, I should like to know? Well, that's
settled. But you are young and hearty, and have a long life before you.
Why should you throw away your life upon a lubberly vampyre?"

"I begin to perceive now, uncle," said Charles, reproachfully, "why you,
with such apparent readiness, agreed to this duel taking place."

"Well, I intended to fight the fellow myself, that's the long and short
of it, boy."

"How could you treat me so?"

"No nonsense, Charles. I tell you it was all in the family. I intended
to fight him myself. What was the odds whether I slipped my cable with
his assistance, or in the regular course a little after this? That's the
way to argufy the subject; so, as I tell you, I made up my mind to fight
him myself."

Charles looked despairingly, but said,--

"What was the result?"

"Oh, the result! D--n me, I suppose that's to come. The vagabond won't
fight like a Christian. He says he's quite willing to fight anybody that
calls him out, provided it's all regular."

"Well--well."

"And he, being the party challenged--for he says he never himself
challenges anybody, as he is quite tired of it--must have his choice of
weapons."

"He is entitled to that; but it is generally understood now-a-days that
pistols are the weapons in use among gentlemen for such purposes."

"Ah, but he won't understand any such thing, I tell you. He will fight
with swords."

"I suppose he is, then, an adept at the use of the sword?"

"He says he is."

"No doubt--no doubt. I cannot blame a man for choosing, when he has the
liberty of choice, that weapon in the use of which he most particularly,
from practice, excels."

"Yes; but if he be one half the swordsman he has had time enough,
according to all accounts, to be, what sort of chance have you with
him?"

"Do I hear you reasoning thus?"

"Yes, to be sure you do. I have turned wonderfully prudent, you see: so
I mean to fight him myself, and mind, now, you have nothing whatever to
do with it."

"An effort of prudence that, certainly."

"Well, didn't I say so?"

"Come--come, uncle, this won't do. I have challenged Sir Francis Varney,
and I must meet him with any weapon he may, as the challenged party,
choose to select. Besides, you are not, I dare say, aware that I am a
very good fencer, and probably stand as fair a chance as Varney in a
contest with swords."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, uncle. I could not be so long on the continent as I have been
without picking up a good knowledge of the sword, which is so popular
all over Germany."

"Humph! but only consider, this d----d fellow is no less than a hundred
and fifty years old."

"I care not."

"Yes, but I do."

"Uncle, uncle, I tell you I will fight with him; and if you do not
arrange matters for me so that I can have the meeting with this man,
which I have myself sought, and cannot, even if I wished, now recede
from with honour, I must seek some other less scrupulous friend to do
so."

"Give me an hour or two to think of it, Charles," said the admiral.
"Don't speak to any one else, but give me a little time. You shall have
no cause of complaint. Your honour cannot suffer in my hands."

"I will wait your leisure, uncle; but remember that such affairs as
these, when once broached, had always better be concluded with all
convenient dispatch."

"I know that, boy--I know that."

The admiral walked away, and Charles, who really felt much fretted at
the delay which had taken place, returned to the house.

He had not been there long, when a lad, who had been temporarily hired
during the morning by Henry to answer the gate, brought him a note,
saying,--

"A servant, sir, left this for you just now."

"For me?" said Charles, as he glanced at the direction. "This is
strange, for I have no acquaintance about here. Does any one wait?"

"No, sir."

The note was properly directed to him, therefore Charles Holland at once
opened it. A glance at the bottom of the page told him that it came from
his enemy, Sir Francis Varney, and then he read it with much eagerness.
It ran thus:--

     "SIR,--Your uncle, as he stated himself to be, Admiral Bell, was
     the bearer to me, as I understood him this day, of a challenge
     from you. Owing to some unaccountable hallucination of intellect,
     he seemed to imagine that I intended to set myself up as a sort
     of animated target, for any one to shoot at who might have a
     fancy so to do.

     "According to this eccentric view of the case, the admiral had
     the kindness to offer to fight me first, when, should he not have
     the good fortune to put me out of the world, you were to try your
     skill, doubtless.

     "I need scarcely say that I object to these family arrangements.
     You have challenged me, and, fancying the offence sufficient, you
     defy me to mortal combat. If, therefore, I fight with any one at
     all, it must be with you.

     "You will clearly understand me, sir, that I do not accuse you of
     being at all party to this freak of intellect of your uncle's.
     He, no doubt, alone conceived it, with a laudable desire on his
     part of serving you. If, however, to meet me, do so to-night, in
     the middle of the park surrounding your own friends estate.

     "There is a pollard oak growing close to a small pool; you, no
     doubt, have noticed the spot often. Meet me there, if you please,
     and any satisfaction you like I will give you, at twelve o'clock
     this night.

     "Come alone, or you will not see me. It shall be at your own
     option entirely, to convert the meeting into a hostile one or
     not. You need send me no answer to this. If you are at the place
     I mention at the time I have named, well and good. If you an not,
     I can only, if I please, imagine that you shrink from a meeting
     with

     "FRANCIS VARNEY."

Charles Holland read this letter twice over carefully, and then folding
it up, and placing it in his pocket, he said,--

"Yes, I will meet him; he may be assured that I will meet him. He shall
find that I do not shrink from Francis Varney In the name of honour,
love, virtue, and Heaven, I will meet this man, and it shall go hard
with me but I will this night wring from him the secret of what he
really is. For the sake of her who is so dear to me--for her sake, I
will meet this man, or monster, be he what he may."

It would have been far more prudent had Charles informed Henry
Bannerworth or George of his determination to meet the vampyre that
evening, but he did not do so. Somehow he fancied it would be some
reproach against his courage if he did not go, and go alone, too, for he
could not help suspecting that, from the conduct of his uncle, Sir
Francis Varney might have got up an opinion inimical to his courage.

With all the eager excitement of youth, there was nothing that arrayed
itself to his mind in such melancholy and uncomfortable colours as an
imputation upon his courage.

"I will show this vampyre, if he be such," he said, "that I am not
afraid to meet him, and alone, too, at his own hour--at midnight, even
when, if his preternatural powers be of more avail to him than at any
other time, be can attempt, if he dare, to use them."

Charles resolved upon going armed, and with the greatest care he loaded
his pistols, and placed them aside ready for action, when the time
should come to set out to meet the vampyre at the spot in the park which
had been particularly alluded to in his letter.

This spot was perfectly well known to Charles; indeed, no one could be a
single day at Bannerworth Hall without noticing it, so prominent an
object was that pollard oak, standing, as it did, alone, with the
beautiful green sward all around it. Near to it was the pool which hid
been mentioned, which was, in reality, a fish-pond, and some little
distance off commenced the thick plantation, among the intricacies of
which Sir Francis Varney, or the vampyre, had been supposed to
disappear, after the revivification of his body at the full of the moon.

This spot was in view of several of the windows of the house, so that if
the night should happen to be a very light one, and any of the
inhabitants of the Hall should happen to have the curiosity to look from
those particular windows, no doubt the meeting between Charles Holland
and the vampyre would be seen.

This, however, was a contingency which was nothing to Charles, whatever
it might be to Sir Francis Varney, and he scarcely at all considered it
as worth consideration. He felt more happy and comfortable now that
everything seemed to be definitively arranged by which he could come to
some sort of explanation with that mysterious being who had so
effectually, as yet, succeeded in destroying his peace of mind and his
prospects of happiness.

"I will this night force him to declare himself," thought Charles. "He
shall tell me who and what he really is, and by some means I will
endeavour to put an end to those frightful persecutions which Flora has
suffered."

This was a thought which considerably raised Charles's spirits, and when
he sought Flora again, which he now did, she was surprised to see him so
much more easy and composed in his mind, which was sufficiently shown by
his manner, than he had been but so short a time before.

"Charles," she said, "what has happened to give such an impetus to your
spirits?"

"Nothing, dear Flora, nothing; but I have been endeavouring to throw
from my mind all gloomy thoughts, and to convince myself that in the
future you and I, dearest, may yet be very happy."

"Oh, Charles, if I could but think so."

"Endeavour, Flora, to think so. Remember how much our happiness is
always in our own power, Flora, and that, let fate do her worst, so long
as we are true to each other, we have a recompense for every ill."

"Oh, indeed, Charles, that is a dear recompense."

"And it is well that no force of circumstances short of death itself can
divide us."

"True, Charles, true, and I am more than ever now bound to look upon you
with a loving heart; for have you not clung to me generously under
circumstances which, if any at all could have justified you in rending
asunder every tie which bound us together, surely would have done so
most fully."

"It is misfortune and distress that tries love," said Charles. "It is
thus that the touchstone is applied to see if it be current gold indeed,
or some base metal, which by a superficial glitter imitates it."

"And your love is indeed true gold."

"I am unworthy of one glance from those dear eyes if it were not."

"Oh, if we could but go from here I think then we might be happy. A
strong impression is upon my mind, and has been so for some time, that
these persecutions to which I have been subjected are peculiar to this
house."

"Think you so?"

"I do, indeed!"

"It may be so, Flora. You are aware that your brother has made up his
mind that he will leave the Hall."

"Yes, yes."

"And that only in deference to an expressed wish of mine he put off the
carrying such a resolve into effect for a few days."

"He said so much."

"Do not, however, imagine, dearest Flora, that those few days will be
idly spent."

"Nay, Charles, I could not imagine so."

"Believe me, I have some hopes that in that short space of time I shall
be able to accomplish yet something which shall have a material effect
upon the present posture of affairs."

"Do not run into danger, Charles."

"I will not. Believe me, Flora, I have too much appreciation of the
value of an existence which is blessed by your love, to encounter any
needless risks."

"You say needless. Why do you not confide in me, and tell me if the
object you have in view to accomplish in the few days delay is a
dangerous one at all."

"Will you forgive me, Flora, if for once I keep a secret from you?"

"Then, Charles, along with the forgiveness I must conjure up a host of
apprehensions."

"Nay, why so?"

"You would tell me if there were no circumstances that you feared would
fill me with alarm."

"Now, Flora, your fears and not your judgment condemn me. Surely you
cannot think me so utterly heedless as to court danger for danger's
sake."

"No, not so--"

"You pause."

"And yet you have a sense of what you call honour, which, I fear, would
lead you into much risk."

"I have a sense of honour; but not that foolish one which hangs far more
upon the opinions of others than my own. If I thought a course of honour
lay before me, and all the world, in a mistaken judgment, were to
condemn it as wrong, I would follow it."

"You are right, Charles; you are right. Let me pray of you to be
careful, and, at all events, to interpose no more delay to our leaving
this house than you shall feel convinced is absolutely necessary for
some object of real and permanent importance."

Charles promised Flora Bannerworth that for her sake, as well as his
own, he would be most specially careful of his safety; and then in such
endearing conversation as may be well supposed to be dictated by such
hearts as theirs another happy hour was passed away.

[Illustration]

They pictured to themselves the scene where first they met, and with a
world of interest hanging on every word they uttered, they told each
other of the first delightful dawnings of that affection which had
sprung up between them, and which they fondly believed neither time nor
circumstance would have the power to change or subvert.

In the meantime the old admiral was surprised that Charles was so
patient, and had not been to him to demand the result of his
deliberation.

But he knew not on what rapid pinions time flies, when in the presence
of those whom we love. What was an actual hour, was but a fleeting
minute to Charles Holland, as he sat with Flora's hand clasped in his,
and looking at her sweet face.

At length a clock striking reminded him of his engagement with his
uncle, and he reluctantly rose.

"Dear Flora," he said, "I am going to sit up to watch to-night, so be
under no sort of apprehension."

"I will feel doubly safe," she said.

"I have now something to talk to my uncle about, and must leave you."

Flora smiled, and held out her hand to him. He pressed it to his heart.
He knew not what impulse came over him then, but for the first time he
kissed the cheek of the beautiful girl.

With a heightened colour she gently repulsed him. He took a long
lingering look at her as he passed out of the room, and when the door
was closed between them, the sensation he experienced was as if some
sudden cloud had swept across the face of the sun, dimming to a vast
extent its precious lustre.

A strange heaviness came across his spirits, which before had been so
unaccountably raised. He felt as if the shadow of some coming evil was
resting on his soul--as if some momentous calamity was preparing for
him, which would almost be enough to drive him to madness, and
irredeemable despair.

"What can this be," he exclaimed, "that thus oppresses me? What feeling
is this that seems to tell me, I shall never again see Flora
Bannerworth?"

Unconsciously he uttered these words, which betrayed the nature of his
worst forebodings.

"Oh, this is weakness," he then added. "I must fight out against this;
it is mere nervousness. I must not endure it, I will not suffer myself
thus to become the sport of imagination. Courage, courage, Charles
Holland. There are real evils enough, without your adding to them by
those of a disordered fancy. Courage, courage, courage."




CHAPTER XXV.

THE ADMIRAL'S OPINION.--THE REQUEST OF CHARLES.


[Illustration]

Charles then sought the admiral, whom he found with his hands behind
him, pacing to and fro in one of the long walks of the garden, evidently
in a very unsettled state of mind. When Charles appeared, he quickened
his pace, and looked in such a state of unusual perplexity that it was
quite ridiculous to observe him.

"I suppose, uncle, you have made up your mind thoroughly by this time?"

"Well, I don't know that."

"Why, you have had long enough surely to think over it. I have not
troubled you soon."

"Well, I cannot exactly say you have, but, somehow or another, I don't
think very fast, and I have an unfortunate propensity after a time of
coming exactly round to where I began."

"Then, to tell the truth, uncle, you can come to no sort of conclusion."

"Only one."

"And what may that be?"

"Why, that you are right in one thing, Charles, which is, that having
sent a challenge to this fellow of a vampyre, you must fight him."

"I suspect that that is a conclusion you had from the first, uncle?"

"Why so?"

"Because it is an obvious and a natural one. All your doubts, and
trouble, and perplexities, have been to try and find some excuse for not
entertaining that opinion, and now that you really find it in vain to
make it, I trust that you will accede as you first promised to do, and
not seek by any means to thwart me."

"I will not thwart you, my boy, although in my opinion you ought not to
fight with a vampyre."

"Never mind that. We cannot urge that as a valid excuse, so long as he
chooses to deny being one. And after all, if he be really wrongfully
suspected, you must admit that he is a very injured man."

"Injured!--nonsense. If he is not a vampyre, he's some other
out-of-the-way sort of fish, you may depend. He's the oddest-looking
fellow ever I came across in all my born days, ashore or afloat."

"Is he?"

"Yes, he is: and yet, when I come to look at the thing again in my mind,
some droll sights that I have seen come across my memory. The sea is the
place for wonders and for mysteries. Why, we see more in a day and a
night there, than you landsmen could contrive to make a whole
twelvemonth's wonder of."

"But you never saw a vampyre, uncle?"

"Well, I don't know that. I didn't know anything about vampyres till I
came here; but that was my ignorance, you know. There might have been
lots of vampyres where I've been, for all I know."

"Oh, certainly; but as regards this duel, will you wait now until
to-morrow morning, before you take any further steps in the matter?"

"Till to-morrow morning?"

"Yes, uncle."

"Why, only a little while ago, you were all eagerness to have something
done off-hand."

"Just so; but now I have a particular reason for waiting until to-morrow
morning."

"Have you? Well, as you please, boy--as you please. Have everything your
own way."

"You are very kind, uncle; and now I have another favour to ask of you."

"What is it?"

"Why, you know that Henry Bannerworth receives but a very small sum out
of the whole proceeds of the estate here, which ought, but for his
father's extravagance, to be wholly at his disposal."

"So I have heard."

"I am certain he is at present distressed for money, and I have not
much. Will you lend me fifty pounds, uncle, until my own affairs are
sufficiently arranged to enable you to pay yourself again?"

"Will I! of course I will."

"I wish to offer that sum as an accommodation to Henry. From me, I dare
say he will receive it freely, because he must be convinced how freely
it is offered; and, besides, they look upon me now almost as a member of
the family in consequence of my engagement with Flora."

"Certainly, and quite correct too: there's a fifty-pound note, my boy;
take it, and do what you like with it, and when you want any more, come
to me for it."

"I knew I could trespass thus far on your kindness, uncle."

"Trespass! It's no trespass at all."

"Well, we will not fall out about the terms in which I cannot help
expressing my gratitude to you for many favours. To-morrow, you will
arrange the duel for me."

"As you please. I don't altogether like going to that fellow's house
again."

"Well, then, we can manage, I dare say, by note."

"Very good. Do so. He puts me in mind altogether of a circumstance that
happened a good while ago, when I was at sea, and not so old a man as I
am now."

"Puts you in mind of a circumstance, uncle?"

"Yes; he's something like a fellow that figured in an affair that I know
a good deal about; only I do think as my chap was more mysterious by a
d----d sight than this one."

"Indeed!"

"Oh, dear, yes. When anything happens in an odd way at sea, it is as odd
again as anything that occurs on land, my boy, you may depend."

"Oh, you only fancy that, uncle, because you have spent so long a time
at sea."

"No, I don't imagine it, you rascal. What can you have on shore equal to
what we have at sea? Why, the sights that come before us would make you
landsmen's hairs stand up on end, and never come down again."

"In the ocean, do you mean, that you see those sights, uncle?"

"To be sure. I was once in the southern ocean, in a small frigate,
looking out for a seventy-four we were to join company with, when a man
at the mast-head sung out that he saw her on the larboard bow. Well, we
thought it was all right enough, and made away that quarter, when what
do you think it turned out to be?"

"I really cannot say."

"The head of a fish."

"A fish!"

"Yes! a d----d deal bigger than the hull of a vessel. He was swimming
along with his head just what I dare say he considered a shaving or so
out of the water."

"But where were the sails, uncle?"

"The sails?"

"Yes; your man at the mast-head must have been a poor seaman not to have
missed the sails."

"All, that's one of your shore-going ideas, now. You know nothing
whatever about it. I'll tell you where the sails were, master Charley."

"Well, I should like to know."

"The spray, then, that he dashed up with a pair of fins that were close
to his head, was in such a quantity, and so white, that they looked just
like sails."

"Oh!"

"Ah! you may say 'oh!' but we all saw him--the whole ship's crew; and we
sailed alongside of him for some time, till he got tired of us, and
suddenly dived down, making such a vortex in the water, that the ship
shook again, and seemed for about a minute as if she was inclined to
follow him to the bottom of the sea."

"And what do you suppose it was, uncle?"

"How should I know?"

"Did you ever see it again?"

"Never; though others have caught a glimpse of him now and then in the
same ocean, but never came so near him as we did, that ever I heard of,
at all events. They may have done so."

"It is singular!"

"Singular or not, it's a fool to what I can tell you. Why, I've seen
things that, if I were to set about describing them to you, you would
say I was making up a romance."

"Oh, no; it's quite impossible, uncle, any one could ever suspect you of
such a thing."

"You'd believe me, would you?"

"Of course I would."

"Then here goes. I'll just tell you now of a circumstance that I haven't
liked to mention to anybody yet."

"Indeed! why so?"

"Because I didn't want to be continually fighting people for not
believing it; but here you have it:--"

We were outward bound; a good ship, a good captain, and good messmates,
you know, go far towards making a prosperous voyage a pleasant and happy
one, and on this occasion we had every reasonable prospect of all.

Our hands were all tried men--they had been sailors from infancy; none
of your French craft, that serve an apprenticeship and then become land
lubbers again. Oh, no, they were stanch and true, and loved the ocean as
the sluggard loves his bed, or the lover his mistress.

Ay, and for the matter of that, the love was a more enduring and a more
healthy love, for it increased with years, and made men love one
another, and they would stand by each other while they had a limb to
lift--while they were able to chew a quid or wink an eye, leave alone
wag a pigtail.

We were outward bound for Ceylon, with cargo, and were to bring spices
and other matters home from the Indian market. The ship was new and
good--a pretty craft; she sat like a duck upon the water, and a stiff
breeze carried her along the surface of the waves without your rocking,
and pitching, and tossing, like an old wash-tub at a mill-tail, as I
have had the misfortune to sail in more than once afore.

No, no, we were well laden, and well pleased, and weighed anchor with
light hearts and a hearty cheer.

Away we went down the river, and soon rounded the North Foreland, and
stood out in the Channel. The breeze was a steady and stiff one, and
carried us through the water as though it had been made for us.

"Jack," said I to a messmate of mine, as he stood looking at the skies,
then at the sails, and finally at the water, with a graver air than I
thought was at all consistent with the occasion or circumstances.

"Well," he replied.

"What ails you? You seem as melancholy as if we were about to cast lots
who should be eaten first. Are you well enough?"

"I am hearty enough, thank Heaven," he said, "but I don't like this
breeze."

"Don't like the breeze!" said I; "why, mate, it is as good and kind a
breeze as ever filled a sail. What would you have, a gale?"

"No, no; I fear that."

"With such a ship, and such a set of hearty able seamen, I think we
could manage to weather out the stiffest gale that ever whistled through
a yard."

"That may be; I hope it is, and I really believe and think so."

"Then what makes you so infernally mopish and melancholy?"

"I don't know, but can't help it. It seems to me as though there was
something hanging over us, and I can't tell what."

"Yes, there are the colours, Jack, at the masthead; they are flying over
us with a hearty breeze."

"Ah! ah!" said Jack, looking up at the colours, and then went away
without saying anything more, for he had some piece of duty to perform.

I thought my messmate had something on his mind that caused him to feel
sad and uncomfortable, and I took no more notice of it; indeed, in the
course of a day or two he was as merry as any of the rest, and had no
more melancholy that I could perceive, but was as comfortable as
anybody.

We had a gale off the coast of Biscay, and rode it out without the loss
of a spar or a yard; indeed, without the slightest accident or rent of
any kind.

"Now, Jack, what do you think of our vessel?" said I.

"She's like a duck upon water, rises and falls with the waves, and
doesn't tumble up and down like a hoop over stones."

"No, no; she goes smoothly and sweetly; she is a gallant craft, and this
is her first voyage, and I predict a prosperous one."

"I hope so," he said.

Well, we went on prosperously enough for about three weeks; the ocean
was as calm and as smooth as a meadow, the breeze light but good, and we
stemmed along majestically over the deep blue waters, and passed coast
after coast, though all around was nothing but the apparently pathless
main in sight.

"A better sailer I never stepped into," said the captain one day; "it
would be a pleasure to live and die in such a vessel."

Well, as I said, we had been three weeks or thereabouts, when one
morning, after the sun was up and the decks washed, we saw a strange man
sitting on one of the water-casks that were on deck, for, being full, we
were compelled to stow some of them on deck.

You may guess those on deck did a little more than stare at this strange
and unexpected apparition. By jingo, I never saw men open their eyes
wider in all my life, nor was I any exception to the rule. I stared, as
well I might; but we said nothing for some minutes, and the stranger
looked calmly on us, and then cocked his eye with a nautical air up at
the sky, as if he expected to receive a twopenny-post letter from St.
Michael, or a _billet doux_ from the Virgin Mary.

"Where has he come from?" said one of the men in a low tone to his
companion, who was standing by him at that moment.

"How can I tell?" replied his companion. "He may have dropped from the
clouds; he seems to be examining the road; perhaps he is going back."

The stranger sat all this time with the most extreme and provoking
coolness and unconcern; he deigned us but a passing notice, but it was
very slight.

He was a tall, spare man--what is termed long and lathy--but he was
evidently a powerful man. He had a broad chest, and long, sinewy arms, a
hooked nose, and a black, eagle eye. His hair was curly, but frosted by
age; it seemed as though it had been tinged with white at the
extremities, but he was hale and active otherwise, to judge from
appearances.

Notwithstanding all this, there was a singular repulsiveness about him
that I could not imagine the cause, or describe; at the same time there
was an air of determination in his wild and singular-looking eyes, and
over their whole there was decidedly an air and an appearance so
sinister as to be positively disagreeable.

"Well," said I, after we had stood some minutes, "where did you come
from, shipmate?"

He looked at me and then up at the sky, in a knowing manner.

"Come, come, that won't do; you have none of Peter Wilkins's wings, and
couldn't come on the aerial dodge; it won't do; how did you get here?"

He gave me an awful wink, and made a sort of involuntary movement, which
jumped him up a few inches, and he bumped down again on the water-cask.

"That's as much as to say," thought I, "that he's sat himself on it."

"I'll go and inform the captain," said I, "of this affair; he'll hardly
believe me when I tell him, I am sure."

So saying, I left the deck and went to the cabin, where the captain was
at breakfast, and related to him what I had seen respecting the
stranger. The captain looked at me with an air of disbelief, and said,--

"What?--do you mean to say there's a man on board we haven't seen
before?"

"Yes, I do, captain. I never saw him afore, and he's sitting beating his
heels on the water-cask on deck."

"The devil!"

"He is, I assure you, sir; and he won't answer any questions."

"I'll see to that. I'll see if I can't make the lubber say something,
providing his tongue's not cut out. But how came he on board? Confound
it, he can't be the devil, and dropped from the moon."

"Don't know, captain," said I. "He is evil-looking enough, to my mind,
to be the father of evil, but it's ill bespeaking attentions from that
quarter at any time."

"Go on, lad; I'll come up after you."

I left the cabin, and I heard the captain coming after me. When I got on
deck, I saw he had not moved from the place where I left him. There was
a general commotion among the crew when they beard of the occurrence,
and all crowded round him, save the man at the wheel, who had to remain
at his post.

The captain now came forward, and the men fell a little back as he
approached. For a moment the captain stood silent, attentively examining
the stranger, who was excessively cool, and stood the scrutiny with the
same unconcern that he would had the captain been looking at his watch.

"Well, my man," said the captain, "how did you come here?"

"I'm part of the cargo," he said, with an indescribable leer.

"Part of the cargo be d----d!" said the captain, in sudden rage, for he
thought the stranger was coming his jokes too strong. "I know you are
not in the bills of lading."

"I'm contraband," replied the stranger; "and my uncle's the great chain
of Tartary."

The captain stared, as well he might, and did not speak for some
minutes; all the while the stranger kept kicking his heels against the
water-casks and squinting up at the skies; it made us feel very queer.

"Well, I must confess you are not in the regular way of trading."

"Oh, no," said the stranger; "I am contraband--entirely contraband."

"And how did you come on board?"

At this question the stranger again looked curiously up at the skies,
and continued to do so for more than a minute; he then turned his gaze
upon the captain.

"No, no," said the captain; "eloquent dumb show won't do with me; you
didn't come, like Mother Shipton, upon a birch broom. How did you come
on board my vessel?"

"I walked on board," said the stranger.

"You walked on board; and where did you conceal yourself?"

"Below."

"Very good; and why didn't you stay below altogether?"

"Because I wanted fresh air. I'm in a delicate state of health, you see;
it doesn't do to stay in a confined place too long."

"Confound the binnacle!" said the captain; it was his usual oath when
anything bothered him, and he could not make it out. "Confound the
binnacle!--what a delicate-looking animal you are. I wish you had stayed
where you were; your delicacy would have been all the same to me.
Delicate, indeed!"

"Yes, very," said the stranger, coolly.

There was something so comic in the assertion of his delicateness of
health, that we should all have laughed; but we were somewhat scared,
and had not the inclination.

"How have you lived since you came on board?" inquired the captain.

"Very indifferently."

"But how? What have you eaten? and what have you drank?"

"Nothing, I assure you. All I did while was below was--"

"What?"

"Why, I sucked my thumbs like a polar bear in its winter quarters."

And as he spoke the stranger put his two thumbs into his mouth, and
extraordinary thumbs they were, too, for each would have filled an
ordinary man's mouth.

"These," said the stranger, pulling them out, and gazing at them
wistfully, and with a deep sigh he continued,--

"These were thumbs at one time; but they are nothing now to what they
were."

"Confound the binnacle!" muttered the captain to himself, and then he
added, aloud,--

"It's cheap living, however; but where are you going to, and why did you
come aboard?"

"I wanted a cheap cruise, and I am going there and back."

"Why, that's where we are going," said the captain.

"Then we are brothers," exclaimed the stranger, hopping off the
water-cask like a kangaroo, and bounding towards the captain, holding
out his hand as though he would have shaken hands with him.

"No, no," said the captain; "I can't do it."

"Can't do it!" exclaimed the stranger, angrily. "What do you mean?"

"That I can't have anything to do with contraband articles; I am a fair
trader, and do all above board. I haven't a chaplain on board, or he
should offer up prayers for your preservation, and the recovery of your
health, which seems so delicate."

"That be--"

The stranger didn't finish the sentence; he merely screwed his mouth up
into an incomprehensible shape, and puffed out a lot of breath, with
some force, and which sounded very much like a whistle: but, oh, what
thick breath he had, it was as much like smoke as anything I ever saw,
and so my shipmate said.

"I say, captain," said the stranger, as he saw him pacing the deck.

"Well."

"Just send me up some beef and biscuit, and some coffee royal--be sure
it's royal, do you hear, because I'm partial to brandy, it's the only
good thing there is on earth."

I shall not easily forget the captain's look as he turned towards the
stranger, and gave his huge shoulders a shrug, as much as to say,--

"Well, I can't help it now; he's here, and I can't throw him overboard."

The coffee, beef, and biscuit were sent him, and the stranger seemed to
eat them with great _gout_, and drank the coffee with much relish, and
returned the things, saying,

"Your captain is an excellent cook; give him my compliments."

I thought the captain would think that was but a left-handed compliment,
and look more angry than pleased, but no notice was taken of it.

It was strange, but this man had impressed upon all in the vessel some
singular notion of his being more than he should be--more than a mere
mortal, and not one endeavoured to interfere with him; the captain was a
stout and dare-devil a fellow as you would well met with, yet he seemed
tacitly to acknowledge more than he would say, for he never after took
any further notice of the stranger nor he of him.

They had barely any conversation, simply a civil word when they first
met, and so forth; but there was little or no conversation of any kind
between them.

The stranger slept upon deck, and lived upon deck entirely; he never
once went below after we saw him, and his own account of being below so
long.

This was very well, but the night-watch did not enjoy his society, and
would have willingly dispensed with it at that hour so particularly
lonely and dejected upon the broad ocean, and perhaps a thousand miles
away from the nearest point of land.

At this dread and lonely hour, when no sound reaches the ear and
disturbs the wrapt stillness of the night, save the whistling of the
wind through the cordage, or an occasional dash of water against the
vessel's side, the thoughts of the sailor are fixed on far distant
objects--his own native land and the friends and loved ones he has left
behind him.

He then thinks of the wilderness before, behind, and around him; of the
immense body of water, almost in places bottomless; gazing upon such a
scene, and with thoughts as strange and indefinite as the very
boundless expanse before him, it is no wonder if he should become
superstitious; the time and place would, indeed unbidden, conjure up
thoughts and feelings of a fearful character and intensity.

The stranger at such times would occupy his favourite seat on the water
cask, and looking up at the sky and then on the ocean, and between
whiles he would whistle a strange, wild, unknown melody.

The flesh of the sailors used to creep up in knots and bumps when they
heard it; the wind used to whistle as an accompaniment and pronounce
fearful sounds to their ears.

The wind had been highly favourable from the first, and since the
stranger had been discovered it had blown fresh, and we went along at a
rapid rate, stemming the water, and dashing the spray off from the bows,
and cutting the water like a shark.

This was very singular to us, we couldn't understand it, neither could
the captain, and we looked very suspiciously at the stranger, and wished
him at the bottom, for the freshness of the wind now became a gale, and
yet the ship came through the water steadily, and away we went before
the wind, as if the devil drove us; and mind I don't mean to say he
didn't.

The gale increased to a hurricane, and though we had not a stitch of
canvass out, yet we drove before the gale as if we had been shot out of
the mouth of a gun.

The stranger still sat on the water casks, and all night long he kept up
his infernal whistle. Now, sailors don't like to hear any one whistle
when there's such a gale blowing over their heads--it's like asking for
more; but he would persist, and the louder and stronger the wind blew,
the louder he whistled.

At length there came a storm of rain, lightning, and wind. We were
tossed mountains high, and the foam rose over the vessel, and often
entirely over our heads, and the men were lashed to their posts to
prevent being washed away.

But the stranger still lay on the water casks, kicking his heels and
whistling his infernal tune, always the same. He wasn't washed away nor
moved by the action of the water; indeed, we heartily hoped and expected
to see both him and the water cask floated overboard at every minute;
but, as the captain said,--

"Confound the binnacle! the old water tub seems as if it were screwed on
to the deck, and won't move off and he on the top of it."

There was a strong inclination to throw him overboard, and the men
conversed in low whispers, and came round the captain, saying,--

"We have come, captain, to ask you what you think of this strange man
who has come so mysteriously on board?"

"I can't tell what to think, lads; he's past thinking about--he's
something above my comprehension altogether, I promise you."

"Well, then, we are thinking much of the same thing, captain."

"What do you mean?"

"That he ain't exactly one of our sort."

"No, he's no sailor, certainly; and yet, for a land lubber, he's about
as rum a customer as ever I met with."

"So he is, sir."

"He stands salt water well; and I must say that I couldn't lay a top of
those water casks in that style very well."

"Nor nobody amongst us, sir."

"Well, then, he's in nobody's way, it he?--nobody wants to take his
berth, I suppose?"

The men looked at each other somewhat blank; they didn't understand the
meaning at all--far from it; and the idea of any one's wanting to take
the stranger's place on the water casks was so outrageously ludicrous,
that at any other time they would have considered it a devilish good
joke and have never ceased laughing at it.

He paused some minutes, and then one of them said,--

"It isn't that we envy him his berth, captain, 'cause nobody else could
live there for a moment. Any one amongst us that had been there would
have been washed overboard a thousand times over."

"So they would," said the captain.

"Well, sir, he's more than us."

"Very likely; but how can I help that?"

"We think he's the main cause of all this racket in the heavens--the
storm and hurricane; and that, in short, if he remains much longer we
shall all sink."

"I am sorry for it. I don't think we are in any danger, and had the
strange being any power to prevent it, he would assuredly do so, lest he
got drowned."

"But we think if he were thrown overboard all would be well."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, captain, you may depend upon it he's the cause of all the
mischief. Throw him overboard and that's all we want."

"I shall not throw him overboard, even if I could do such a thing; and I
am by no means sure of anything of the kind."

"We do not ask it, sir."

"What do you desire?"

"Leave to throw him overboard--it is to save our own lives."

"I can't let you do any such thing; he's in nobody's way."

"But he's always a whistling. Only hark now, and in such a hurricane as
this, it is dreadful to think of it. What else can we do, sir?--he's not
human."

At this moment, the stranger's whistling came clear upon their ears;
there was the same wild, unearthly notes as before, but the cadences
were stronger, and there was a supernatural clearness in all the tones.

"There now," said another, "he's kicking the water cask with his heels."

"Confound the binnacle!" said the captain; "it sounds like short peals
of thunder. Go and talk to him, lads."

"And if that won't do, sir, may we--"

"Don't ask me any questions. I don't think a score of the best men that
were ever born could move him."

"I don't mind trying," said one.

Upon this the whole of the men moved to the spot where the water casks
were standing and the stranger lay.

There was he, whistling like fury, and, at the same time, beating his
heels to the tune against the empty casks. We came up to him, and he
took no notice of us at all, but kept on in the same way.

"Hilloa!" shouted one.

"Hilloa!" shouted another.

No notice, however, was taken of us, and one of our number, a big,
herculean fellow, an Irishman, seized him by the leg, either to make him
get up, or, as we thought, to give him a lift over our heads into the
sea.

However, he had scarcely got his fingers round the calf of the leg, when
the stranger pinched his leg so tight against the water cask, that he
could not move, and was as effectually pinned as if he had been nailed
there. The stranger, after he had finished a bar of the music, rose
gradually to a sitting posture, and without the aid of his hands, and
looking the unlucky fellow in the face, he said,--

"Well, what do you want?"

"My hand," said the fellow.

"Take it then," he said.

He did take it, and we saw that there was blood on it.

The stranger stretched out his left hand, and taking him by the breech,
he lifted him, without any effort, upon the water-cask beside him.

We all stared at this, and couldn't help it; and we were quite convinced
we could not throw him overboard, but he would probably have no
difficulty in throwing us overboard.

"Well, what do you want?" he again exclaimed to us all.

We looked at one another, and had scarce courage to speak; at length I
said,--

"We wish you to leave off whistling."

"Leave off whistling!" he said. "And why should I do anything of the
kind?"

"Because it brings the wind."

"Ha! ha! why, that's the very reason I am whistling, to bring the wind."

"But we don't want so much."

"Pho! pho! you don't know what's good for you--it's a beautiful breeze,
and not a bit too stiff."

"It's a hurricane."

"Nonsense."

"But it is."

"Now you see how I'll prove you are wrong in a minute. You see my hair,
don't you?" he said, after he took off his cap. "Very well, look now."

He got up on the water-cask, and stood bolt upright; and running his
fingers through his hair, made it all stand straight on end.

"Confound the binnacle!" said the captain, "if ever I saw the like."

"There," said the stranger, triumphantly, "don't tell me there's any
wind to signify; don't you see, it doesn't even move one of my grey
hairs; and if it blew as hard as you say, I am certain it would move a
hair."

"Confound the binnacle!" muttered the captain as he walked away. "D--n
the cabouse, if he ain't older than I am--he's too many for me and
everybody else."

"Are you satisfied?"

What could we say?--we turned away and left the place, and stood at our
quarters--there was no help for it--we were impelled to grin and abide
by it.

[Illustration]

As soon as we had left the place he put his cap on again and sat down on
the water-casks, and then took leave of his prisoner, whom he set free,
and there lay at full length on his back, with his legs hanging down.
Once more he began to whistle most furiously, and beat time with his
feet.

For full three weeks did he continue at this game night and day, without
any interruption, save such as he required to consume enough coffee
royal, junk, and biscuit, as would have served three hearty men.

Well, about that time, one night the whistling ceased and he began to
sing--oh! it was singing--such a voice! Gog and Magog in Guildhall,
London, when they spoke were nothing to him--it was awful; but the wind
calmed down to a fresh and stiff breeze. He continued at this game for
three whole days and nights, and on the fourth it ceased, and when we
went to take his coffee royal to him he was gone.

We hunted about everywhere, but he was entirely gone, and in three weeks
after we safely cast anchor, having performed our voyage in a good month
under the usual time; and had it been an old vessel she would have
leaked and stinted like a tub from the straining; however, we were glad
enough to get in, and were curiously inquisitive as to what was put in
our vessel to come back with, for as the captain said,--

"Confound the binnacle! I'll have no more contraband articles if I can
help it."




CHAPTER XXVI.

THE MEETING BY MOONLIGHT IN THE PARK.--THE TURRET WINDOW IN THE
HALL.--THE LETTERS.


[Illustration]

The old admiral showed such a strong disposition to take offence at
Charles if he should presume, for a moment, to doubt the truth of the
narrative that was thus communicated to him, that the latter would not
anger him by so doing, but confined his observations upon it to saying
that he considered it was very wonderful, and very extraordinary, and so
on, which very well satisfied the old man.

The day was now, however, getting far advanced, and Charles Holland
began to think of his engagement with the vampyre. He read and read the
letter over and over again, but he could not come to a correct
conclusion as to whether it intended to imply that he, Sir Francis
Varney, would wish to fight him at the hour and place mentioned, or
merely give him a meeting as a preliminary step.

He was rather, on the whole, inclined to think that some explanation
would be offered by Varney, but at all events he persevered in his
determination of going well armed, lest anything in the shape of
treachery should be intended.

As nothing of any importance occurred now in the interval of time till
nearly midnight, we will at once step to that time, and our readers will
suppose it to be a quarter to twelve o'clock at night, and young Charles
Holland on the point of leaving the house, to keep his appointment by
the pollard oak, with the mysterious Sir Francis Varney.

He placed his loaded pistols conveniently in his pocket, so that at a
moment's notice he could lay hands on them, and then wrapping himself up
in a travelling cloak he had brought with him to Bannerworth Hall, he
prepared to leave his chamber.

The moon still shone, although now somewhat on the wane, and although
there were certainly many clouds in the sky they were but of a light
fleecy character, and very little interrupted the rays of light that
came from the nearly full disc of the moon.

From his window he could not perceive the spot in the park where he was
to meet Varney, because the room in which he was occupied not a
sufficiently high place in the house to enable him to look over a belt
of trees that stopped the view. From almost any of the upper windows the
pollard oak could be seen.

It so happened now that the admiral had been placed in a room
immediately above the one occupied by his nephew, and, as his mind was
full of how he should manage with regard to arranging the preliminaries
of the duel between Charles and Varney on the morrow, he found it
difficult to sleep; and after remaining in bed about twenty minutes, and
finding that each moment he was only getting more and more restless, he
adopted a course which he always did under such circumstances.

He rose and dressed himself again, intending to sit up for an hour and
then turn into bed and try a second time to get to sleep. But he had no
means of getting a light, so he drew the heavy curtain from before the
window, and let in as much of the moonlight as he could.

This window commanded a most beautiful and extensive view, for from it
the eye could carry completely over the tops of the tallest trees, so
that there was no interruption whatever to the prospect, which was as
extensive as it was delightful.

Even the admiral, who never would confess to seeing much beauty in
scenery where water formed not a large portion of it, could not resist
opening his window and looking out, with a considerable degree of
admiration, upon wood and dale, as they were illuminated by the moon's
rays, softened, and rendered, if anything, more beautiful by the light
vapours, through which they had to struggle to make their way.

Charles Holland, in order to avoid the likelihood of meeting with any
one who would question him as to where he was going, determined upon
leaving his room by the balcony, which, as we are aware, presented ample
facilities for his so doing.

He cast a glance at the portrait in the panel before he left the
apartment, and then saying,--

"For you, dear Flora, for you I essay this meeting with the fearful
original of that portrait," he immediately opened his window, and
stepped out on to the balcony.

Young and active as was Charles Holland, to descend from that balcony
presented to him no difficulty whatever, and he was, in a very few
moments, safe in the garden of Bannerworth Hall.

He never thought, for a moment, to look up, or he would, in an instant,
have seen the white head of his old uncle, as it was projected over the
sill of the window of his chamber.

The drop of Charles from the balcony of his window, just made sufficient
noise to attract the admiral's attention, and, then, before he could
think of making any alarm, he saw Charles walking hastily across a grass
plot, which was sufficiently in the light of the moon to enable the
admiral at once to recognise him, and leave no sort of doubt as to his
positive identity.

Of course, upon discovering that it was Charles, the necessity for
making an alarm no longer existed, and, indeed, not knowing what it was
that had induced him to leave his chamber, a moment's reflection
suggested to him the propriety of not even calling to Charles, lest he
should defeat some discovery which he might be about to make.

"He has heard something, or seen something," thought the admiral, "and
is gone to find out what it is. I only wish I was with him; but up here
I can do nothing at all, that's quite clear."

Charles, he saw, walked very rapidly, and like a man who has some fixed
destination which he wishes to reach as quickly as possible.

When he dived among the trees which skirted one side of the flower
gardens, the admiral was more puzzled than ever, and he said--

"Now where on earth is he off to? He is fully dressed, and has his cloak
about him."

After a few moments' reflection he decided that, having seen something
suspicious, Charles must have got up, and dressed himself, to fathom it.

The moment this idea became fairly impressed upon his mind, he left his
bedroom, and descended to where one of the brothers he knew was sitting
up, keeping watch during the night. It was Henry who was so on guard;
and when the admiral came into the room, he uttered an expression of
surprise to find him up, for it was now some time past twelve o'clock.

"I have come to tell you that Charles has left the house," said the
admiral.

"Left the house?"

"Yes; I saw him just now go across the garden."

"And you are sure it was he?"

"Quite sure. I saw him by the moonlight cross the green plot."

"Then you may depend he has seen or heard something, and gone alone to
find out what it is rather than give any alarm."

"That is just what I think."

"It must be so. I will follow him, if you can show me exactly which way
he went."

"That I can easily. And in case I should have made any mistake, which it
is not at all likely, we can go to his room first and see if it is
empty."

"A good thought, certainly; that will at once put an end to all doubt
upon the question."

They both immediately proceeded to Charles's room, and then the
admiral's accuracy of identification of his nephew was immediately
proved by finding that Charles was not there, and that the window was
wide open.

"You see I am right," said the admiral.

"You are," cried Henry; "but what have we here?"

"Where?"

"Here on the dressing-table. Here are no less than three letters, all
laid as it on purpose to catch the eye of the first one who might enter
the room."

"Indeed!"

"You perceive them?"

Henry held them to the light, and after a moment's inspection of them,
he said, in a voice of much surprise,--

"Good God! what is the meaning of this?"

"The meaning of what?"

"The letters are addressed to parties in the house here. Do you not
see?"

"To whom?"

"One to Admiral Bell--"

"The deuce!"

"Another to me, and the third to my sister Flora. There is some new
mystery here."

The admiral looked at the superscription of one of the letters which was
handed to him in silent amazement. Then he cried,--

"Set down the light, and let us read them."

Henry did so, and then they simultaneously opened the epistles which
were severally addressed to them. There was a silence, as of the very
grave, for some moments, and then the old admiral staggered to a seat,
as he exclaimed,--

"Am I dreaming--am I dreaming?"

"Is this possible?" said Henry, in a voice of deep emotion, as he
allowed the note addressed to him to drop on to the floor.

"D--n it, what does yours say?" cried the old admiral, in a louder tone.

"Read it--what says yours?"

"Read it--I'm amazed."

The letters were exchanged, and read by each with the same breathless
attention they had bestowed upon their own; after which, they both
looked at each other in silence, pictures of amazement, and the most
absolute state of bewilderment.

Not to keep our readers in suspense, we at once transcribe each of these
letters.

The one to the admiral contained these words,--

     "MY DEAR UNCLE,

     "Of course you will perceive the prudence of keeping this letter
     to yourself, but the fact is, I have now made up my mind to leave
     Bannerworth Hall.

     "Flora Bannerworth is not now the person she was when first I
     knew her and loved her. Such being the case, and she having
     altered, not I, she cannot accuse me of fickleness.

     "I still love the Flora Bannerworth I first knew, but I cannot
     make my wife one who is subject to the visitations of a vampyre.

     "I have remained here long enough now to satisfy myself that this
     vampyre business is no delusion. I am quite convinced that it is
     a positive fact, and that, after death, Flora will herself become
     one of the horrible existences known by that name.

     "I will communicate to you from the first large city on the
     continent whither I am going, at which I make any stay, and in
     the meantime, make what excuses you like at Bannerworth Hall,
     which I advise you to leave as quickly as you can, and believe me
     to be, my dear uncle, yours truly,

     "CHARLES HOLLAND."

Henry's letter was this:--

     "MY DEAR SIR,

     "If you calmly and dispassionately consider the painful and
     distressing circumstances in which your family are placed, I am
     sure that, far from blaming me for the step which this note will
     announce to you I have taken, you will be the first to give me
     credit for acting with an amount of prudence and foresight which
     was highly necessary under the circumstances.

     "If the supposed visits of a vampyre to your sister Flora had
     turned out, as first I hoped they would, a delusion and been
     in any satisfactory manner explained away I should certainly have
     felt pride and pleasure in fulfilling my engagement to that young
     lady.

     "You must, however, yourself feel that the amount of evidence in
     favour of a belief that an actual vampyre has visited Flora,
     enforces a conviction of its truth.

     "I cannot, therefore, make her my wife under such very singular
     circumstances.

     "Perhaps you may blame me for not taking at once advantage of the
     permission given me to forego my engagement when first I came to
     your house; but the fact is, I did not then in the least believe
     in the existence of the vampyre, but since a positive conviction
     of that most painful fact has now forced itself upon me, I beg to
     decline the honour of an alliance which I had at one time looked
     forward to with the most considerable satisfaction.

     "I shall be on the continent as fast as conveyances can take me,
     therefore, should you entertain any romantic notions of calling
     me to an account for a course of proceeding I think perfectly and
     fully justifiable, you will not find me.

     "Accept the assurances of my respect for yourself and pity for
     your sister, and believe me to be, my dear sir, your sincere
     friend,

     "CHARLES HOLLAND."

These two letters might well make the admiral stare at Henry
Bannerworth, and Henry stare at him.

An occurrence so utterly and entirely unexpected by both of them, was
enough to make them doubt the evidence of their own senses. But there
were the letters, as a damning evidence of the outrageous fact, and
Charles Holland was gone.

It was the admiral who first recovered from the stunning effect of the
epistles, and he, with a gesture of perfect fury, exclaimed,--

"The scoundrel--the cold-blooded villain! I renounce him for ever! he is
no nephew of mine; he is some d----d imposter! Nobody with a dash of my
family blood in his veins would have acted so to save himself from a
thousand deaths."

"Who shall we trust now," said Henry, "when those whom we take to our
inmost hearts deceive us thus? This is the greatest shock I have yet
received. If there be a pang greater than another, surely it is to be
found in the faithlessness and heartlessness of one we loved and
trusted."

"He is a scoundrel!" roared the admiral. "D--n him, he'll die on a
dunghill, and that's too good a place for him. I cast him off--I'll find
him out, and old as I am, I'll fight him--I'll wring his neck, the
rascal; and, as for poor dear Miss Flora, God bless her! I'll--I'll
marry her myself, and make her an admiral.--I'll marry her myself. Oh,
that I should be uncle to such a rascal!"

"Calm yourself," said Henry, "no one can blame you."

"Yes, you can; I had no right to be his uncle, and I was an old fool to
love him."

The old man sat down, and his voice became broken with emotion as he
said,--

"Sir, I tell you I would have died willingly rather than this should
have happened. This will kill me now,--I shall die now of shame and
grief."

Tears gushed from the admiral's eyes and the sight of the noble old
man's emotion did much to calm the anger of Henry which, although he
said but little, was boiling at his heart like a volcano.

"Admiral Bell," he said, "you have nothing to do with this business; we
can not blame you for the heartlessness of another. I have but one
favour to ask of you."

"What--what can I do?"

"Say no more about him at all."

"I can't help saying something about him. You ought to turn me out of
the house."

"Heaven forbid! What for?"

"Because I'm his uncle--his d----d old fool of an uncle, that always
thought so much of him."

"Nay, my good sir, that was a fault on the right side, and cannot
discredit you. I thought him the most perfect of human beings."

"Oh, if I could but have guessed this."

"It was impossible. Such duplicity never was equalled in this world--it
was impossible to foresee it."

"Hold--hold! did he give you fifty pounds?"

"What?"

"Did he give you fifty pounds?"

"Give me fifty pounds! Most decidedly not; what made you think of such a
thing?"

"Because to-day he borrowed fifty pounds of me, he said, to lend to
you."

"I never heard of the transaction until this moment."

"The villain!"

"No, doubt, sir, he wanted that amount to expedite his progress abroad."

"Well, now, damme, if an angel had come to me and said 'Hilloa! Admiral
Bell, your nephew, Charles Holland, is a thundering rogue,' I should
have said 'You're a liar!'"

"This is fighting against facts, my dear sir. He is gone--mention him no
more; forget him, as I shall endeavour myself to do, and persuade my
poor sister to do."

"Poor girl! what can we say to her?"

"Nothing, but give her all the letters, and let her be at once satisfied
of the worthlessness of him she loved."

"The best way. Her woman's pride will then come to her help."

"I hope it will. She is of an honourable race, and I am sure she will
not condescend to shed a tear for such a man as Charles Holland has
proved himself to be."

"D--n him, I'll find him out, and make him fight you. He shall give you
satisfaction."

"No, no."

"No? But he shall."

"I cannot fight with him."

"You cannot?"

"Certainly not. He is too far beneath me now. I cannot fight on
honourable terms with one whom I despise as too dishonourable to contend
with. I have nothing now but silence and contempt."

"I have though, for I'll break his neck when I see him, or he shall
break mine. The villain! I'm ashamed to stay here, my young friend."

"How mistaken a view you take of this matter, my dear sir. As Admiral
Bell, a gentleman, a brave officer, and a man of the purest and most
unblemished honour, you confer a distinction upon us by your presence
here."

The admiral wrung Henry by the hand, as he said,--

"To-morrow--wait till to-morrow; we will talk over this matter to
morrow--I cannot to-night, I have not patience; but to-morrow, my dear
boy, we will have it all out. God bless you. Good night."




CHAPTER XXVII.

THE NOBLE CONFIDENCE OF FLORA BANNERWORTH IN HER LOVER.--HER OPINION OF
THE THREE LETTERS.--THE ADMIRAL'S ADMIRATION.


[Illustration]

To describe the feelings of Henry Bannerworth on the occasion of this
apparent defalcation from the path of rectitude and honour by his
friend, as he had fondly imagined Charles Holland to be, would be next
to impossible.

If, as we have taken occasion to say, it be a positive fact, that a
noble and a generous mind feels more acutely any heartlessness of this
description from one on whom it has placed implicit confidence, than the
most deliberate and wicked of injuries from absolute strangers, we can
easily conceive that Henry Bannerworth was precisely the person to feel
most acutely the conduct which all circumstances appeared to fix upon
Charles Holland, upon whose faith, truth, and honour, he would have
staked his very existence but a few short hours before.

With such a bewildered sensation that he scarcely knew where he walked
or whither to betake himself, did he repair to his own chamber, and
there he strove, with what energy he was able to bring to the task, to
find out some excuses, if he could, for Charles's conduct. But he could
find none. View it in what light he would, it presented but a picture of
the most heartless selfishness it had ever been his lot to encounter.

The tone of the letters, too, which Charles had written, materially
aggravated the moral delinquency of which he had been guilty; belief,
far better, had he not attempted an excuse at all than have attempted
such excuses as were there put down in those epistles.

A more cold blooded, dishonourable proceeding could not possibly be
conceived.

It would appear, that while he entertained a doubt with regard to the
reality of the visitation of the vampyre to Flora Bannerworth, he had
been willing to take to himself abundance of credit for the most
honourable feelings, and to induce a belief in the minds of all that an
exalted feeling of honour, as well as a true affection that would know
no change, kept him at the feet of her whom he loved.

Like some braggart, who, when there is no danger, is a very hero, but
who, the moment he feels convinced he will be actually and truly called
upon for an exhibition of his much-vaunted prowess, had Charles Holland
deserted the beautiful girl who, if anything, had now certainly, in her
misfortunes, a far higher claim upon his kindly feeling than before.

Henry could not sleep, although, at the request of George, who offered
to keep watch for him the remainder of the night he attempted to do so.

He in vain said to himself, "I will banish from my mind this most
unworthy subject. I have told Admiral Bell that contempt is the only
feeling I can now have for his nephew, and yet I now find myself
dwelling upon him, and upon his conduct, with a perseverance which is a
foe to my repose."

At length came the welcome and beautiful light of day, and Henry rose
fevered and unrefreshed.

His first impulse now was to hold a consultation with his brother
George, as to what was to be done, and George advised that Mr.
Marchdale, who as yet knew nothing of the matter, should be immediately
informed of it, and consulted, as being probably better qualified than
either of them to come to a just, a cool, and a reasonable opinion upon
the painful circumstance, which it could not be expected that either of
them would be able to view calmly.

"Let it be so, then," said Henry; "Mr. Marchdale shall decide for us."

They at once sought this friend of the family, who was in his own
bed-room, and when Henry knocked at the door, Marchdale opened it
hurriedly, eagerly inquiring what was the matter.

"There is no alarm," said Henry. "We have only come to tell you of a
circumstance which has occurred during the night, and which will
somewhat surprise you."

"Nothing calamitous, I hope?"

"Vexatious; and yet, I think it is a matter upon which we ought almost
to congratulate ourselves. Read those two letters, and give us your
candid opinion upon them."

Henry placed in Mr. Marchdale's hands the letter addressed to himself,
as well as that to the admiral.

Marchdale read them both with marked attention, but he did not exhibit
in his countenance so much surprise as regret.

When he had finished, Henry said to him,--

"Well, Marchdale, what think you of this new and extraordinary episode
in our affairs?"

"My dear young friends," said Marchdale, in a voice of great emotion, "I
know not what to say to you. I have no doubt but that you are both of
you much astonished at the receipt of these letters, and equally so at
the sudden absence of Charles Holland."

"And are not you?"

"Not so much as you, doubtless, are. The fact is, I never did entertain
a favourable opinion of the young man, and he knew it. I have been
accustomed to the study of human nature under a variety of aspects; I
have made it a matter of deep, and I may add, sorrowful, contemplation,
to study and remark those minor shades of character which commonly
escape observation wholly. And, I repeat, I always had a bad opinion of
Charles Holland, which he guessed, and hence he conceived a hatred to
me, which more than once, as you cannot but remember, showed itself in
little acts of opposition and hostility."

"You much surprise me."

"I expected to do so. But you cannot help remembering that at one time I
was on the point of leaving here solely on his account."

"You were so."

"Indeed I should have done so, but that I reasoned with myself upon the
subject, and subdued the impulse of the anger which some years ago, when
I had not seen so much of the world, would have guided me."

"But why did you not impart to us your suspicions? We should at least,
then, have been prepared for such a contingency as has occurred."

"Place yourself in my position, and then yourself what you would have
done. Suspicion is one of those hideous things which all men should be
most specially careful not only how they entertain at all, but how they
give expression to. Besides, whatever may be the amount of one's own
internal conviction with regard to the character of any one, there is
just a possibility that one may be wrong."

"True, true."

"That possibility ought to keep any one silent who has nothing but
suspicion to go upon, however cautious it may make him, as regards his
dealings with the individual. I only suspected from little minute shades
of character, that would peep out in spite of him, that Charles Holland
was not the honourable man he would fain have had everybody believe him
to be."

"And had you from the first such a feeling?"

"I had."

"It is very strange."

"Yes; and what is more strange still, is that he from the first seemed
to know it; and despite a caution which I could see he always kept
uppermost in his thoughts, he could not help speaking tartly to me at
times."

"I have noticed that," said George.

"You may depend it is a fact," added Marchdale, "that nothing so much
excites the deadly and desperate hatred of a man who is acting a
hypocritical part, as the suspicion, well grounded or not, that another
sees and understands the secret impulses of his dishonourable heart."

"I cannot blame you, or any one else, Mr. Marchdale," said Henry, "that
you did not give utterance to your secret thoughts, but I do wish that
you had done so."

"Nay, dear Henry," replied Mr. Marchdale, "believe me, I have made this
matter a subject of deep thought, and have abundance of reasons why I
ought not to have spoken to you upon the subject."

"Indeed!"

"Indeed I have, and not among the least important is the one, that if I
had acquainted you with my suspicions, you would have found yourself in
the painful position of acting a hypocritical part yourself towards this
Charles Holland, for you must either have kept the secret that he was
suspected, or you must have shewn it to him by your behaviour."

"Well, well. I dare say, Marchdale, you acted for the best. What shall
we do now?"

"Can you doubt?"

"I was thinking of letting Flora at once know the absolute and complete
worthlessness of her lover, so that she could have no difficulty in at
once tearing herself from him by the assistance of the natural pride
which would surely come to her aid, upon finding herself so much
deceived."

"The test may be possible."

"You think so?"

"I do, indeed."

"Here is a letter, which of course remains unopened, addressed to Flora
by Charles Holland. The admiral rather thought it would hurt her
feelings to deliver her such an epistle, but I must confess I am of a
contrary opinion upon that point, and think now the more evidence she
has of the utter worthlessness of him who professed to love her with so
much disinterested affection, the better it will be for her."

"You could not, possibly, Henry, have taken a more sensible view of the
subject."

"I am glad you agree with me."

"No reasonable man could do otherwise, and from what I have seen of
Admiral Bell, I am sure, upon reflection, he will be of the same
opinion."

"Then it shall be so. The first shock to poor Flora may be severe, but
we shall then have the consolation of knowing that it is the only one,
and that in knowing the very worst, she has no more on that score to
apprehend. Alas, alas! the hand of misfortune now appears to have
pressed heavily upon us indeed. What in the name of all that is unlucky
and disastrous, will happen next, I wonder?"

"What can happen?" said Marchdale; "I think you have now got rid of the
greatest evil of all--a false friend."

"We have, indeed."

"Go, then, to Flora; assure her that in the affection of others who know
no falsehood, she will find a solace from every ill. Assure her that
there are hearts that will place themselves between her and every
misfortune."

Mr. Marchdale was much affected as he spoke. Probably he felt deeper
than he chose to express the misfortunes of that family for whom he
entertained so much friendship. He turned aside his head to hide the
traces of emotion which, despite even his great powers of self-command,
would shew themselves upon his handsome and intelligent countenance.
Then it appeared as if his noble indignation had got, for a few brief
moments, the better of all prudence, and he exclaimed,--

"The villain! the worse than villain! who would, with a thousand
artifices, make himself beloved by a young, unsuspecting, and beautiful
girl, but then to leave her to the bitterness of regret, that she had
ever given such a man a place in her esteem. The heartless ruffian!"

"Be calm, Mr. Marchdale, I pray you be calm," said George; "I never saw
you so much moved."

"Excuse me," he said, "excuse me; I am much moved, and I am human. I
cannot always, let me strive my utmost, place a curb upon my feelings."

"They are feelings which do you honour."

"Nay, nay, I am foolish to have suffered myself to be led away into such
a hasty expression of them. I am accustomed to feel acutely and to feel
deeply, but it is seldom I am so much overcome as this."

"Will you accompany us to the breakfast room at once, Mr. Marchdale,
where we will make this communication to Flora; you will then be able to
judge by her manner of receiving it, what it will be best to say to
her."

"Come, then, and pray be calm. The least that is said upon this painful
and harassing subject, after this morning, will be the best."

"You are right--you are right."

Mr. Marchdale hastily put on his coat. He was dressed, with the
exception of that one article of apparel, when the brothers came to his
chamber, and then he came to the breakfast-parlour where the painful
communication was to be made to Flora of her lover's faithlessness.

Flora was already seated in that apartment. Indeed, she had been
accustomed to meet Charles Holland there before others of the family
made their appearance, but, alas! this morning the kind and tender lover
was not there.

The expression that sat upon the countenances of her brothers, and of
Mr. Marchdale, was quite sufficient to convince her that something more
serious than usual had occurred, and she at the moment turned very pale.
Marchdale observed this change of change of countenance in her, and he
advanced towards her, saying,--

"Calm yourself, Flora, we have something to communicate to you, but it
is a something which should excite indignation, and no other feeling, in
your breast."

"Brother, what is the meaning of this?" said Flora, turning aside from
Marchdale, and withdrawing the hand which he would have taken.

"I would rather have Admiral Bell here before I say anything," said
Henry, "regarding a matter in which he cannot but feel much interested
personally."

"Here he is," said the admiral, who at that moment had opened the door
of the breakfast room. "Here he is, so now fire away, and don't spare
the enemy."

"And Charles?" said Flora, "where is Charles?"

"D--n Charles!" cried the admiral, who had not been much accustomed to
control his feelings.

"Hush! hush!" said Henry; "my dear sir, bush! do not indulge now in any
invectives. Flora, here are three letters; you will see that the one
which is unopened is addressed to yourself. However, we wish you to read
the whole three of them, and then to form your own free and unbiased
opinion."

Flora looked as pale as a marble statue, when she took the letters into
her hands. She let the two that were open fall on the table before her,
while she eagerly broke the seal of that which was addressed to herself.

[Illustration]

Henry, with an instinctive delicacy, beckoned every one present to the
window, so that Flora had not the pain of feeling that any eyes were
fixed upon her but those of her mother, who had just come into the room,
while she was perusing those documents which told such a tale of
heartless dissimulation.

"My dear child," said Mrs. Bannerworth, "you are ill."

"Hush! mother--hush!" said Flora, "let me know all."

She read the whole of the letters through, and then, as the last one
dropped from her grasp, she exclaimed,--

"Oh, God! oh, God! what is all that has occurred compared to this?
Charles--Charles--Charles!"

"Flora!" exclaimed Henry, suddenly turning from the window. "Flora, is
this worthy of you?"

"Heaven now support me!"

"Is this worthy of the name you bear Flora? I should have thought, and I
did hope, that woman's pride would have supported you."

"Let me implore you," added Marchdale, "to summon indignation to your
aid, Miss Bannerworth."

"Charles--Charles--Charles!" she again exclaimed, as she wrung her hands
despairingly.

"Flora, if anything could add a sting to my already irritated feelings,"
said Henry, "this conduct of yours would."

"Henry--brother, what mean you? Are you mad?"

"Are you, Flora?"

"God, I wish now that I was."

"You have read those letters, and yet you call upon the name of him who
wrote them with frantic tenderness."

"Yes, yes," she cried; "frantic tenderness is the word. It is with
frantic tenderness I call upon his name, and ever will.--Charles!
Charles!--dear Charles!"

"This surpasses all belief," said Marchdale.

"It is the frenzy of grief," added George; "but I did not expect it of
her. Flora--Flora, think again."

"Think--think--the rush of thought distracts. Whence came these
letters?--where did you find these most disgraceful forgeries?"

"Forgeries!" exclaimed Henry; and he staggered back, as if some one bad
struck him a blow.

"Yes, forgeries!" screamed Flora. "What has become of Charles Holland?
Has he been murdered by some secret enemy, and then these most vile
fabrications made up in his name? Oh, Charles, Charles, are you lost to
me for ever?"

"Good God!" said Henry; "I did not think of that"

"Madness!--madness!" cried Marchdale.

"Hold!" shouted the admiral. "Let me speak to her."

He pushed every one aside, and advanced to Flora. He seized both her
hands in his own, and in a tone of voice that was struggling with
feeling, he cried,--

"Look at me, my dear; I'm an old man old enough to be your grandfather,
so you needn't mind looking me steadily in the face. Look at me, I want
to ask you a question."

Flora raised her beautiful eyes, and looked the old weather-beaten
admiral full in the face.

Oh! what a striking contrast did those two persons present to each
other. That young and beautiful girl, with her small, delicate,
childlike hands clasped, and completely hidden in the huge ones of the
old sailor, the white, smooth skin contrasting wonderfully with his
wrinkled, hardened features.

"My dear," he cried, "you have read those--those d----d letters, my
dear?"

"I have, sir."

"And what do you think of them?"

"They were not written by Charles Holland, your nephew."

A choking sensation seemed to come over the old man, and he tried to
speak, but in vain. He shook the hands of the young girl violently,
until he saw that he was hurting her, and then, before she could be
aware of what he was about, he gave her a kiss on the cheek, as he
cried,--

"God bless you--God bless you! You are the sweetest, dearest little
creature that ever was, or that ever will be, and I'm a d----d old fool,
that's what I am. These letters were not written by my nephew, Charles.
He is incapable of writing them, and, d--n me, I shall take shame to
myself as long as I live for ever thinking so."

"Dear sir," said Flora, who somehow or another did not seem at all
offended at the kiss which the old man had given her; "dear sir, how
could you believe, for one moment, that they came from him? There has
been some desperate villany on foot. Where is he?--oh, find him, if he
be yet alive. If they who have thus striven to steal from him that
honour, which is the jewel of his heart, have murdered him, seek them
out, sir, in the sacred name of justice, I implore you."

"I will--I will. I don't renounce him; he is my nephew still--Charles
Holland--my own dear sister's son; and you are the best girl, God bless
you, that ever breathed. He loved you--he loves you still; and if he's
above ground, poor fellow, he shall yet tell you himself he never saw
those infamous letters."

"You--you will seek for him?" sobbed Flora, and the tears gushed from
her eyes. "Upon you, sir, who, as I do, feel assured of his innocence, I
alone rely. If all the world say he is guilty, we will not think so."

"I'm d----d if we do."

Henry had sat down by the table, and, with his hands clasped together,
seemed in an agony of thought.

He was now roused by a thump on the back by the admiral, who cried,--

"What do you think, now, old fellow? D--n it, things look a little
different now."

"As God is my judge," said Henry, holding up his hands, "I know not what
to think, but my heart and feelings all go with you and with Flora, in
your opinion of the innocence of Charles Holland."

"I knew you would say that, because you could not possibly help it, my
dear boy. Now we are all right again, and all we have got to do is to
find out which way the enemy has gone, and then give chase to him."

"Mr. Marchdale, what do you think of this new suggestion," said George
to that gentleman.

"Pray, excuse me," was his reply; "I would much rather not be called
upon to give an opinion."

"Why, what do you mean by that?" said the admiral.

"Precisely what I say, sir."

"D--n me, we had a fellow once in the combined fleets, who never had an
opinion till after something had happened, and then he always said that
was just what he thought."

"I was never in the combined, or any other fleet, sir," said Marchdale,
coldly.

"Who the devil said you were?" roared the admiral.

Marchdale merely hawed.

"However," added the admiral, "I don't care, and never did, for
anybody's opinion, when I know I am right. I'd back this dear girl here
for opinions, and good feelings, and courage to express them, against
all the world, I would, any day. If I was not the old hulk I am, I would
take a cruise in any latitude under the sun, if it was only for the
chance of meeting with just such another."

"Oh, lose no time!" said Flora. "If Charles is not to be found in the
house, lose no time in searching for him, I pray you; seek him, wherever
there is the remotest probability he may chance to be. Do not let him
think he is deserted."

"Not a bit of it," cried the admiral. "You make your mind easy, my dear.
If he's above ground, we shall find him out, you may depend upon it.
Come along master Henry, you and I will consider what had best be done
in this uncommonly ugly matter."

Henry and George followed the admiral from the breakfast-room, leaving
Marchdale there, who looked serious and full of melancholy thought.

It was quite clear that he considered Flora had spoken from the generous
warmth of her affection as regarded Charles Holland, and not from the
convictions which reason would have enforced her to feel.

When he was now alone with her and Mrs. Bannerworth, he spoke in a
feeling and affectionate tone regarding the painful and inexplicable
events which had transpired.




CHAPTER XXVIII.

MR. MARCHDALE'S EXCULPATION OF HIMSELF.--THE SEARCH THROUGH THE
GARDENS.--THE SPOT OF THE DEADLY STRUGGLE.--THE MYSTERIOUS PAPER.


[Illustration]

It was, perhaps, very natural that, with her feelings towards Charles
Holland, Flora should shrink from every one who seemed to be of a
directly contrary impression, and when Mr. Marchdale now spoke, she
showed but little inclination to hear what he had to say in explanation.

The genuine and unaffected manner, however, in which he spoke, could not
but have its effect upon her, and she found herself compelled to listen,
as well as, to a great extent, approve of the sentiments that fell from
his lips.

"Flora," he said, "I beg that you will here, in the presence of your
mother, give me a patient hearing. You fancy that, because I cannot join
so glibly as the admiral in believing that these letters are forgeries,
I must be your enemy."

"Those letters," said Flora, "were not written by Charles Holland."

"That is your opinion."

"It is more than an opinion. He could not write them."

"Well, then, of course, if I felt inclined, which Heaven alone knows I
do not, I could not hope successfully to argue against such a
conviction. But I do not wish to do so. All I want to impress upon you
is, that I am not to be blamed for doubting his innocence; and, at the
same time, I wish to assure you that no one in this house would feel
more exquisite satisfaction than I in seeing it established."

"I thank you for so much," said Flora; "but as, to my mind, his
innocence has never been doubted, it needs to me no establishing."

"Very good. You believe these letters forgeries?"

"I do."

"And that the disappearance of Charles Holland is enforced, and not of
his own free will?"

"I do."

"Then you may rely upon my unremitting exertions night and day to find
him and any suggestion you can make, which is likely to aid in the
search, shall, I pledge myself, be fully carried out."

"I thank you, Mr. Marchdale."

"My dear," said the mother, "rely on Mr. Marchdale."

"I will rely on any one who believe Charles Holland innocent of writing
those odious letters, mother--I rely upon the admiral. He will aid me
heart and hand."

"And so will Mr. Marchdale."

"I am glad to hear it."

"And yet doubt it, Flora," said Marchdale, dejectedly. "I am very sorry
that such should be the case; I will not, however, trouble you any
further, nor, give me leave to assure you, will I relax in my honest
endeavours to clear up this mystery."

So saying, Mr. Marchdale bowed, and left the room, apparently more vexed
than he cared to express at the misconstruction which had been put upon
his conduct and motives. He at once sought Henry and the admiral, to
whom he expressed his most earnest desire to aid in attempting to
unravel the mysterious circumstances which had occurred.

"This strongly-expressed opinion of Flora," he remarked, "is of course
amply sufficient to induce us to pause before we say one word more that
shall in any way sound like a condemnation of Mr. Holland. Heaven forbid
that I should."

"No," said the admiral; "don't."

"I do not intend."

"I would not advise anybody."

"Sir, if you use that as a threat--"

"A threat?"

"Yes; I must say, it sounded marvellously like one."

"Oh, dear, no--quite a mistake. I consider that every man has a fair
right to the enjoyment of his opinion. All I have to remark is, that I
shall, after what has occurred, feel myself called upon to fight anybody
who says those letters were written by my nephew."

"Indeed, sir!"

"Ah, indeed."

"You will permit me to say such is a strange mode of allowing every one
the free enjoyment of his opinion."

"Not at all."

"Whatever pains and penalties may be the result, Admiral Bell, of
differing with so infallible authority as yourself, I shall do so
whenever my judgment induces me."

"You will?"

"Indeed I will."

"Very good. You know the consequences."

"As to fighting you, I should refuse to do so."

"Refuse?"

"Yes; most certainly."

"Upon what ground?"

"Upon the ground that you were a madman."

"Come," now interposed Henry, "let me hope that, for my sake as well as
for Flora's, this dispute will proceed no further."

"I have not courted it," said Marchdale. "I have much temper, but I am
not a stick or a stone."

"D----e, if I don't think," said the admiral, "you are a bit of both."

"Mr. Henry Bannerworth," said Marchdale, "I am your guest, and but for
the duty I feel in assisting in the search for Mr. Charles Holland, I
should at once leave your house."

"You need not trouble yourself on my account," said the admiral; "if I
find no clue to him in the neighbourhood for two or three days, I shall
be off myself."

"I am going," said Henry, rising, "to search the garden and adjoining
meadows; if you two gentlemen choose to come with me, I shall of course
be happy of your company; if, however, you prefer remaining here to
wrangle, you can do so."

This had the effect, at all events, of putting a stop to the dispute for
the present, and both the admiral and Mr. Marchdale accompanied Henry on
his search. That search was commenced immediately under the balcony of
Charles Holland's window, from which the admiral had seen him emerge.

There was nothing particular found there, or in the garden. Admiral Bell
pointed out accurately the route he had seen Charles take across the
grass plot just before he himself left his chamber to seek Henry.

Accordingly, this route was now taken, and it led to a low part of the
garden wall, which any one of ordinary vigour could easily have
surmounted.

"My impression is," said the admiral, "that he got over here."

"The ivy appears to be disturbed," remarked Henry.

"Suppose we mark the spot, and then go round to it on the outer side?"
suggested George.

This was agreed to; for, although the young man might have chosen rather
to clamber over the wall than go round, it was doubtful if the old
admiral could accomplish such a feat.

The distance round, however, was not great, and as they had cast over
the wall a handful of flowers from the garden to mark the precise spot,
it was easily discoverable.

The moment they reached it, they were panic-stricken by the appearances
which it presented. The grass was for some yards round about completely
trodden up, and converted into mud. There were deep indentations of
feet-marks in all directions, and such abundance of evidence that some
most desperate struggle had recently taken place there, that the most
sceptical person in the world could not have entertained any doubt upon
the subject.

Henry was the first to break the silence with which they each regarded
the broken ground.

"This is conclusive to my mind," he said, with a deep sigh. "Here has
poor Charles been attacked."

"God keep him!" exclaimed Marchdale, "and pardon me my doubts--I am now
convinced."

The old admiral gazed about him like one distracted. Suddenly he cried--

"They have murdered him. Some fiends in the shape of men have murdered
him, and Heaven only knows for what."

"It seems but too probable," said Henry. "Let us endeavour to trace the
footsteps. Oh! Flora, Flora, what terrible news this will be to you."

"A horrible supposition comes across my mind," said George. "What if he
met the vampyre?"

"It may have been so," said Marchdale, with a shudder. "It is a point
which we should endeavour to ascertain, and I think we may do so."

"How!"

"By some inquiry as to whether Sir Francis Varney was from home at
midnight last night."

"True; that might be done."

"The question, suddenly put to one of his servants, would, most
probably, be answered as a thing of course."

"It would."

"Then that shall be decided upon. And now, my friends, since you have
some of you thought me luke-warm in this business, I pledge myself that,
should it be ascertained that Varney was from home at midnight last
evening, I will defy him personally, and meet him hand to hand."

"Nay, nay," said Henry, "leave that course to younger hands."

"Why so?"

"It more befits me to be his challenger."

"No, Henry. You are differently situated to what I am."

"How so?"

"Remember, that I am in the world a lone man; without ties or
connexions. If I lose my life, I compromise no one by my death; but you
have a mother and a bereaved sister to look to who will deserve your
care."

"Hilloa," cried the admiral, "what's this?"

"What?" cried each, eagerly, and they pressed forward to where the
admiral was stooping to the ground to pick up something which was nearly
completely trodden into the grass.

He with some difficulty raised it. It was a small slip of paper, on
which was some writing, but it was so much covered with mud as not to be
legible.

"If this be washed," said Henry, "I think we shall be able to read it
clearly."

"We can soon try that experiment," said George. "And as the footsteps,
by some mysterious means, show themselves nowhere else but in this one
particular spot, any further pursuit of inquiry about here appears
useless."

"Then we will return to the house," said Henry, "and wash the mud from
this paper."

"There is one important point," remarked Marchdale, "which it appears to
me we have all overlooked."

"Indeed!"

"Yes."

"What may that be?"

"It is this. Is any one here sufficiently acquainted with the
handwriting of Mr. Charles Holland to come to an opinion upon the
letters?"

"I have some letters from him," said Henry, "which we received while on
the continent, and I dare say Flora has likewise."

"Then they should be compared with the alleged forgeries."

"I know his handwriting well," said the admiral. "The letters bear so
strong a resemblance to it that they would deceive anybody."

"Then you may depend," remarked Henry, "some most deep-laid and
desperate plot is going on."

"I begin," added Marchdale, "to dread that such must be the case. What
say you to claiming the assistance of the authorities, as well as
offering a large reward for any information regarding Mr. Charles
Holland?"

"No plan shall be left untried, you may depend."

They had now reached the house, and Henry having procured some clean
water, carefully washed the paper which had been found among the trodden
grass. When freed from the mixture of clay and mud which had obscured
it, they made out the following words,--

"--it be so well. At the next full moon seek a convenient spot, and it
can be done. The signature is, to my apprehension, perfect. The money
which I hold, in my opinion, is much more in amount than you imagine,
must be ours; and as for--"

Here the paper was torn across, and no further words were visible upon
it.

Mystery seemed now to be accumulating upon mystery; each one, as it
showed itself darkly, seeming to bear some remote relation to what
preceded it; and yet only confusing it the more.

That this apparent scrap of a letter had dropped from some one's pocket
during the fearful struggle, of which there were such ample evidences,
was extremely probable; but what it related to, by whom it was written,
or by whom dropped, were unfathomable mysteries.

In fact, no one could give an opinion upon these matters at all; and
after a further series of conjectures, it could only be decided, that
unimportant as the scrap of paper appeared now to be, it should be
preserved, in case it should, as there was a dim possibility that it
might become a connecting link in some chain of evidence at another
time.

"And here we are," said Henry, "completely at fault, and knowing not
what to do."

"Well, it is a hard case," said the admiral, "that, with all the will in
the world to be up and doing something, we are lying here like a fleet
of ships in a calm, as idle as possible."

"You perceive we have no evidence to connect Sir Francis Varney with
this affair, either nearly or remotely," said Marchdale.

"Certainly not," replied Henry.

"But yet, I hope you will not lose sight of the suggestion I proposed,
to the effect of ascertaining if he were from home last night."

"But how is that to be carried out?"

"Boldly."

"How boldly?"

"By going at once, I should advise, to his house, and asking the first
one of his domestics you may happen to see."

"I will go over," cried George; "on such occasions as these one cannot
act upon ceremony."

He seized his hat, and without waiting for a word from any one approving
or condemning his going, off he went.

"If," said Henry, "we find that Varney has nothing to do with the
matter, we are completely at fault."

"Completely," echoed Marchdale.

"In that case, admiral, I think we ought to defer to your feelings upon
the subject, and do whatever you suggest should be done."

"I shall offer a hundred pounds reward to any one who can and will bring
any news of Charles."

"A hundred pounds is too much," said Marchdale.

"Not at all; and while I am about it, since the amount is made a subject
of discussion, I shall make it two hundred, and that may benefit some
rascal who is not so well paid for keeping the secret as I will pay him
for disclosing it."

"Perhaps you are right," said Marchdale.

"I know I am, as I always am."

Marchdale could not forbear a smile at the opinionated old man, who
thought no one's opinion upon any subject at all equal to his own; but
he made no remark, and only waited, as did Henry, with evident anxiety
for the return of George.

The distance was not great, and George certainly performed his errand
quickly, for he was back in less time than they had thought he could
return in. The moment he came into the room, he said, without waiting
for any inquiry to be made of him,--

"We are at fault again. I am assured that Sir Francis Varney never
stirred from home after eight o'clock last evening."

"D--n it, then," said the admiral, "let us give the devil his due. He
could not have had any hand in this business."

"Certainly not."

"From whom, George, did you get your information?" asked Henry, in a
desponding tone.

"From, first of all, one of his servants, whom I met away from the
house, and then from one whom I saw at the house."

"There can be no mistake, then?"

"Certainly none. The servants answered me at once, and so frankly that I
cannot doubt it."

The door of the room was slowly opened, and Flora came in. She looked
almost the shadow of what she had been but a few weeks before. She was
beautiful, but she almost realised the poet's description of one who had
suffered much, and was sinking into an early grave, the victim of a
broken heart:--

      "She was more beautiful than death,
      And yet as sad to look upon."

Her face was of a marble paleness, and as she clasped her hands, and
glanced from face to face, to see if she could gather hope and
consolation from the expression of any one, she might have been taken
for some exquisite statue of despair.

"Have you found him?" she said. Have you found Charles?"

"Flora, Flora," said Henry, as he approached her.

"Nay, answer me; have you found him? You went to seek him. Dead or
alive, have you found him?"

"We have not, Flora."

"Then I must seek him myself. None will search for him as I will search;
I must myself seek him. 'Tis true affection that can alone be successful
in such a search."

"Believe me, dear Flora, that all has been done which the shortness of
the time that has elapsed would permit. Further measures will now
immediately be taken. Rest assured, dear sister, that all will be done
that the utmost zeal can suggest."

"They have killed him! they have killed him!" she said, mournfully. "Oh,
God, they have killed him! I am not now mad, but the time will come when
I must surely be maddened. The vampyre has killed Charles Holland--the
dreadful vampyre!"

"Nay, now, Flora, this is frenzy."

"Because he loved me has he been destroyed. I know it, I know it. The
vampyre has doomed me to destruction. I am lost, and all who loved me
will be involved in one common ruin on my account. Leave me all of you
to perish. If, for iniquities done in our family, some one must suffer
to appease the divine vengeance, let that one be me, and only me."

"Hush, sister, hush!" cried Henry. "I expected not this from you. The
expressions you use are not your expressions. I know you better. There
is abundance of divine mercy, but no divine vengeance. Be calm, I pray
you."

"Calm! calm!"

"Yes. Make an exertion of that intellect we all know you to possess. It
is too common a thing with human nature, when misfortune overtakes it,
to imagine that such a state of things is specially arranged. We quarrel
with Providence because it does not interfere with some special miracle
in our favour; forgetting that, being denizens of this earth, and
members of a great social system; We must be subject occasionally to the
accidents which will disturb its efficient working."

"Oh, brother, brother!" she exclaimed, as she dropped into a seat, "you
have never loved."

"Indeed!"

"No; you have never felt what it was to hold your being upon the breath
of another. You can reason calmly, because you cannot know the extent of
feeling you are vainly endeavouring to combat."

"Flora, you do me less than justice. All I wish to impress upon your
mind is, that you are not in any way picked out by Providence to be
specially unhappy--that there is no perversion of nature on your
account."

"Call you that hideous vampyre form that haunts me no perversion of
ordinary nature?"

"What is is natural," said Marchdale.

"Cold reasoning to one who suffers as I suffer. I cannot argue with you;
I can only know that I am most unhappy--most miserable."

"But that will pass away, sister, and the sun of your happiness may
smile again."

"Oh, if I could but hope!"

"And wherefore should you deprive yourself of that poorest privilege of
the most unhappy?"

"Because my heart tells me to despair."

"Tell it you won't, then," cried Admiral Bell. "If you had been at sea
as long as I have, Miss Bannerworth, you would never despair of anything
at all."

"Providence guarded you," said Marchdale.

"Yes, that's true enough, I dare say, I was in a storm once off Cape
Ushant, and it was only through Providence, and cutting away the
mainmast myself, that we succeeded in getting into port."

"You have one hope," said Marchdale to Flora, as he looked in her wan
face.

"One hope?"

"Yes. Recollect you have one hope."

"What is that?"

"You think that, by removing from this place, you may find that peace
which is here denied you."

"No, no, no."

"Indeed. I thought that such was your firm conviction."

"It was; but circumstances have altered."

"How?"

"Charles Holland has disappeared here, and here must I remain to seek
for him."

"True he may have disappeared here," remarked Marchdale; "and yet that
may be no argument for supposing him still here."

"Where, then, is he?"

"God knows how rejoiced I should be if I were able to answer your
question. I must seek him, dead or alive! I must see him yet before I
bid adieu to this world, which has now lost all its charms for me."

"Do not despair," said Henry; "I will go to the town now at once, to
make known our suspicions that he has met with some foul play. I will
set every means in operation that I possibly can to discover him. Mr.
Chillingworth will aid me, too; and I hope that not many days will
elapse, Flora, before some intelligence of a most satisfactory nature
shall be brought to you on Charles Holland's account."

"Go, go, brother; go at once."

"I go now at once."

"Shall I accompany you?" said Marchdale.

"No. Remain here to keep watch over Flora's safety while I am gone; I
can alone do all that can be done."

"And don't forget to offer the two hundred pounds reward," said the
admiral, "to any one who can bring us news of Charles, on which we can
rely."

"I will not."

"Surely--surely something must result from that," said Flora, as she
looked in the admiral's face, as if to gather encouragement in her
dawning hopes from its expression.

"Of course it will, my dear," he said. "Don't you be downhearted; you
and I are of one mind in this affair, and of one mind we will keep. We
won't give up our opinions for anybody."

"Our opinions," she said, "of the honour and honesty of Charles Holland.
That is what we will adhere to."

"Of course we will."

"Ah, sir, it joys me, even in the midst of this, my affliction, to find
one at least who is determined to do him full justice. We cannot find
such contradictions in nature as that a mind, full of noble impulses,
should stoop to such a sudden act of selfishness as those letters would
attribute to Charles Holland. It cannot--cannot be."

"You are right, my dear. And now, Master Henry, you be off, will you, if
you please."

"I am off now. Farewell, Flora, for a brief space."

"Farewell, brother; and Heaven speed you on your errand."

"Amen to that," cried the admiral; "and now, my dear, if you have got
half an hour to spare, just tuck your arm under mine, and take a walk
with me in the garden, for I want to say something to you."

"Most willingly," said Flora.

"I would not advise you to stray far from the house, Miss Bannerworth,"
said Marchdale.

"Nobody asked you for advice," said the admiral. "D----e, do you want to
make out that I ain't capable of taking care of her?"

"No, no; but--"

"Oh, nonsense! Come along, my dear; and if all the vampyres and odd fish
that were ever created were to come across our path, we would settle
them somehow or another. Come along, and don't listen to anybody's
croaking."




CHAPTER XXIX.

A PEEP THROUGH AN IRON GRATING.--THE LONELY PRISONER IN HIS
DUNGEON.--THE MYSTERY.


[Illustration]

Without forestalling the interest of our story, or recording a fact in
its wrong place, we now call our readers' attention to a circumstance
which may, at all events, afford some food for conjecture.

Some distance from the Hall, which, from time immemorial, had been the
home and the property of the Bannerworth family, was an ancient ruin
known by the name of the Monks' Hall.

It was conjectured that this ruin was the remains of some one of those
half monastic, half military buildings which, during the middle ages,
were so common in almost every commanding situation in every county of
England.

At a period of history when the church arrogated to itself an amount of
political power which the intelligence of the spirit of the age now
denies to it, and when its members were quite ready to assert at any
time the truth of their doctrines by the strong arm of power, such
buildings as the one, the old grey ruins of which were situated near to
Bannerworth Hall, were erected.

Ostensibly for religious purposes, but really as a stronghold for
defence, as well as for aggression, this Monks' Hall, as it was called,
partook quite as much of the character of a fortress, as of an
ecclesiastical building.

The ruins covered a considerable extent, of ground, but the only part
which seemed successfully to have resisted the encroaches of time, at
least to a considerable extent, was a long, hall in which the jolly
monks no doubt feasted and caroused.

Adjoining to this hall, were the walls of other parts of the building,
and at several places there were small, low, mysterious-looking doors
that led, heaven knows where, into some intricacies and labyrinths
beneath the building, which no one had, within the memory of man, been
content to run the risk of losing himself in.

[Illustration]

It was related that among these subterranean passages and arches there
were pitfalls and pools of water; and whether such a statement was true
or not, it certainly acted as a considerable damper upon the vigour of
curiosity.

This ruin was so well known in the neighbourhood, and had become from
earliest childhood so familiar to the inhabitants of Bannerworth Hall,
that one would as soon expect an old inhabitant of Ludgate-hill to make
some remark about St. Paul's, as any of them to allude to the ruins of
Monks' Hall.

They never now thought of going near to it, for in infancy they had
spoiled among its ruins, and it had become one of those familiar objects
which, almost, from that very familiarity, cease to hold a place in the
memories of those who know it so well.

It is, however, to this ruin we would now conduct our readers, premising
that what we have to say concerning it now, is not precisely in the form
of a connected portion of our narrative.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is evening--the evening of that first day of heart loneliness to poor
Flora Bannerworth. The lingering rays of the setting sun are gilding the
old ruins with a wondrous beauty. The edges of the decayed stones seem
now to be tipped with gold, and as the rich golden refulgence of light
gleams upon the painted glass which still adorned a large window of the
hall, a flood of many-coloured beautiful light was cast within, making
the old flag-stones, with which the interior was paved, look more like
some rich tapestry, laid down to do honour to a monarch.

So picturesque and so beautiful an aspect did the ancient ruin wear,
that to one with a soul to appreciate the romantic and the beautiful, it
would have amply repaid the fatigue of a long journey now to see it.

And as the sun sank to rest, the gorgeous colours that it cast upon the
mouldering wall, deepened from an appearance of burnished gold to a
crimson hue, and from that again the colour changed to a shifting
purple, mingling with the shadows of the evening, and so gradually
fading away into absolute darkness.

The place is as silent as the tomb--a silence far more solemn than could
have existed, had there been no remains of a human habitation; because
even these time-worn walls were suggestive of what once had been; and
the wrapt stillness which now pervaded them brought with them a
melancholy feeling for the past.

There was not even the low hum of insect life to break the stillness of
these ancient ruins.

And now the last rays of the sun are gradually fading away. In a short
time all will be darkness. A low gentle wind is getting up, and
beginning slightly to stir the tall blades of grass that have shot up
between some of the old stones. The silence is broken, awfully broken,
by a sudden cry of despair; such a cry as might come from some
imprisoned spirit, doomed to waste an age of horror in a tomb.

And yet it was scarcely to be called a scream, and not all a groan. It
might have come from some one on the moment of some dreadful sacrifice,
when the judgment had not sufficient time to call courage to its aid,
but involuntarily had induced that sound which might not be repeated.

A few startled birds flew from odd holes and corners about the ruins, to
seek some other place of rest. The owl hooted from a corner of what had
once been a belfry, and a dreamy-looking bat flew out from a cranny and
struck itself headlong against a projection.

Then all was still again. Silence resumed its reign, and if there had
been a mortal ear to drink in that sudden sound, the mind might well
have doubted if fancy had not more to do with the matter than reality.

From out a portion of the ruins that was enveloped in the deepest gloom,
there now glides a figure. It is of gigantic height, and it moves along
with a slow and measured tread. An ample mantle envelopes the form,
which might well have been taken for the spirit of one of the monks who,
centuries since, had made that place their home.

It walked the whole length of the ample hall we have alluded to, and
then, at the window from which had streamed the long flood of many
coloured light, it paused.

For more than ten minutes this mysterious looking figure there stood.

At length there passed something on the outside of the window, that
looked like the shadow of a human form.

Then the tall, mysterious, apparition-looking man turned, and sought a
side entrance to the hall.

Then he paused, and, in about a minute, he was joined by another who
must have been he who had so recently passed the stained glass window on
the outer side.

There was a friendly salutation between these two beings, and they
walked to the centre of the hall, where they remained for some time in
animated conversation.

From the gestures they used, it was evident that the subject of their
discourse was one of deep and absorbing interest to both. It was one,
too, upon which, after a time, they seemed a little to differ, and more
than once they each assumed attitudes of mutual defiance.

This continued until the sun had so completely sunk, that twilight was
beginning sensibly to wane, and then gradually the two men appeared to
have come to a better understanding, and whatever might be the subject
of their discourse, there was some positive result evidently arrived at
now.

They spoke in lower tones. They used less animated gestures than before;
and, after a time, they both walked slowly down the hull towards the
dark spot from whence the first tall figure had so mysteriously emerged.

       *       *       *       *       *

There it a dungeon--damp and full of the most unwholesome
exhalations--deep under ground it seems, and, in its excavations, it
would appear as if some small land springs had been liberated, for the
earthen floor was one continued extent of moisture.

From the roof, too, came perpetually the dripping of water, which fell
with sullen, startling splashes in the pool below.

At one end, and near to the roof,--so near that to reach it, without the
most efficient means from the inside, was a matter of positive
impossibility--is a small iron grating, and not much larger than might
be entirely obscured by any human face that might be close to it from
the outside of the dungeon.

That dreadful abode is tenanted. In one corner, on a heap of straw,
which appears freshly to have been cast into the place, lies a hopeless
prisoner.

It is no great stretch of fancy to suppose, that it is from his lips
came the sound of terror and of woe that had disturbed the repose of
that lonely spot.

The prisoner is lying on his back; a rude bandage round his head, on
which were numerous spots of blood, would seem to indicate that he had
suffered personal injury in some recent struggle. His eyes were open.
They were fixed desparingly, perhaps unconsciously, upon that small
grating which looked into the upper world.

That grating slants upwards, and looks to the west, so that any one
confined in that dreary dungeon might be tantalized, on a sweet summer's
day, by seeing the sweet blue sky, and occasionally the white clouds
flitting by in that freedom which he cannot hope for.

The carol of a bird, too, might reach him there. Alas! sad remembrance
of life, and joy, and liberty.

But now all is deepening gloom. The prisoner sees nothing--hears
nothing; and the sky is not quite dark. That small grating looks like a
strange light-patch in the dungeon wall.

Hark! some footstep sounds upon his ear. The creaking of a door
follows--a gleam of light shines into the dungeon, and the tall
mysterious-looking figure in the cloak stands before the occupant of
that wretched place.

Then comes in the other man, and he carries in his hand writing
materials. He stoops to the stone couch on which the prisoner lies, and
offers him a pen, as he raises him partially from the miserable damp
pallet.

But there is no speculation in the eyes of that oppressed man. In vain
the pen is repeatedly placed in his grasp, and a document of some
length, written on parchment, spread out before him to sign. In vain is
he held up now by both the men, who have thus mysteriously sought him in
his dungeon; he has not power to do as they would wish him. The pen
falls from his nerveless grasp, and, with a deep sigh, when they cease
to hold him up, he falls heavily back upon the stone couch.

Then the two men looked at each other for about a minute silently; after
which he who was the shorter of the two raised one hand, and, in a voice
of such concentrated hatred and passion as was horrible to hear, he
said,--

"D--n!"

The reply of the other was a laugh; and then he took the light from the
floor, and motioned the one who seemed so little able to control his
feelings of bitterness and disappointment to leave the place with him.

With a haste and vehemence, then, which showed how much angered he was,
the shorter man of the two now rolled up the parchment, and placed it in
a breast-pocket of his coat.

He cast a withering look of intense hatred on the form of the
nearly-unconscious prisoner, and then prepared to follow the other.

But when they reached the door of the dungeon, the taller man of the two
paused, and appeared for a moment or two to be in deep thought; after
which he handed the lamp he carried to his companion, and approached the
pallet of the prisoner.

He took from his pocket a small bottle, and, raising the head of the
feeble and wounded man, he poured some portion of the contents into his
mouth, and watched him swallow it.

The other looked on in silence, and then they both slowly left the
dreary dungeon.

* * *

The wind rose, and the night had deepened into the utmost darkness. The
blackness of a night, unillumined by the moon, which would not now rise
for some hours, was upon the ancient ruins. All was calm and still, and
no one would have supposed that aught human was within those ancient,
dreary looking walls.

Time will show who it was who lay in that unwholesome dungeon, as well
as who were they who visited him so mysteriously, and retired again with
feelings of such evident disappointment with the document it seemed of
such importance, at least to one of them, to get that unconscious man to
sign.




CHAPTER XXX.

THE VISIT OF FLORA TO THE VAMPYRE.--THE OFFER.--THE SOLEMN ASSEVERATION.


[Illustration]

Admiral Bell had, of course, nothing particular to communicate to Flora
in the walk he induced her to take with him in the gardens of
Bannerworth Hall, but he could talk to her upon a subject which was sure
to be a welcome one, namely, of Charles Holland.

And not only could he talk to her of Charles, but he was willing to talk
of him in the style of enthusiastic commendation which assimilated best
with her own feelings. No one but the honest old admiral, who was as
violent in his likes and his dislikes as any one could possibly be,
could just then have conversed with Flora Bannerworth to her
satisfaction of Charles Holland.

He expressed no doubts whatever concerning Charles's faith, and to his
mind, now that he had got that opinion firmly fixed in his mind,
everybody that held a contrary one he at once denounced as a fool or a
rogue.

"Never you mind, Miss Flora," he said; "you will find, I dare say, that
all will come right eventually. D--n me! the only thing that provokes me
in the whole business is, that I should have been such an old fool as
for a moment to doubt Charles."

"You should have known him better, sir."

"I should, my dear, but I was taken by surprise, you see, and that was
wrong, too, for a man who has held a responsible command."

"But the circumstances, dear sir, were of a nature to take every one by
surprise."

"They were, they were. But now, candidly speaking, and I know I can
speak candidly to you; do you really think this Varney is the vampyre?"

"I do."

"You do? Well, then, somebody must tackle him, that's quite clear; we
can't put up with his fancies always."

"What can be done?"

"Ah, that I don't know, but something must be done, you know. He wants
this place; Heaven only knows why or wherefore he has taken such a fancy
to it; but he has done so, that is quite clear. If it had a good sea
view, I should not be so much surprised; but there's nothing of the
sort, so it's no way at all better than any other shore-going stupid
sort of house, that you can see nothing but land from."

"Oh, if my brother would but make some compromise with him to restore
Charles to us and take the house, we might yet be happy."

"D--n it! then you still think that he has a hand in spiriting away
Charles?"

"Who else could do so?"

"I'll be hanged if I know. I do feel tolerably sure, and I have good
deal of reliance upon your opinion, my dear; I say, I do feel tolerably
sure: but, if I was d----d sure, now, I'd soon have it out of him."

"For my sake, Admiral Bell, I wish now to extract one promise from you."

"Say your say, my dear, and I'll promise you."

"You will not then expose yourself to the danger of any personal
conflict with that most dreadful man, whose powers of mischief we do not
know, and therefore cannot well meet or appreciate."

"Whew! is that what you mean?"

"Yes; you will, I am sure, promise me so much."

"Why, my dear, you see the case is this. In affairs of fighting, the
less ladies interfere the better."

"Nay, why so?"

"Because--because, you see, a lady has no reputation for courage to keep
up. Indeed, it's rather the other way, for we dislike a bold woman as
much as we hold in contempt a cowardly man."

"But if you grant to us females that in consequence of our affections,
we are not courageous, you must likewise grant how much we are doomed to
suffer from the dangers of those whom we esteem."

"You would be the last person in the world to esteem a coward."

"Certainly. But there is more true courage often in not fighting than in
entering into a contest."

"You are right enough there, my dear."

"Under ordinary circumstances, I should not oppose your carrying out the
dictates of your honour, but now, let me entreat you not to meet this
dreadful man, if man he can be called, when you know not how unfair the
contest may be."

"Unfair?"

"Yes. May he not have some means of preventing you from injuring him,
and of overcoming you, which no mortal possesses?"

"He may."

"Then the supposition of such a case ought to be sufficient ground for
at once inducing you to abandon all idea of meeting with him."

"My dear, I'll consider of this matter."

"Do so."

"There is another thing, however, which now you will permit me to ask of
you as a favour."

"It is granted ere it is spoken."

"Very good. Now you must not be offended with what I am going to say,
because, however it may touch that very proper pride which you, and such
as you, are always sure to possess, you are fortunately at all times
able to call sufficient judgment to your aid to enable you to see what
is really offensive and what is not."

"You alarm me by such a preface."

"Do I? then here goes at once. Your brother Henry, poor fellow, has
enough to do, has he not, to make all ends meet."

A flush of excitement came over Flora's cheek as the old admiral thus
bluntly broached a subject of which she already knew the bitterness to
such a spirit as her brother's.

"You are silent," continued the old man; "by that I guess I am not wrong
in my I supposition; indeed it is hardly a supposition at all, for
Master Charles told me as much, and no doubt he had it from a correct
quarter."

"I cannot deny it, sir."

"Then don't. It ain't worth denying, my dear. Poverty is no crime, but,
like being born a Frenchman, it's a d----d misfortune."

Flora could scarcely refuse a smile, as the nationality of the old
admiral peeped out even in the midst of his most liberal and best
feelings.

"Well," he continued, "I don't intend that he shall have so much trouble
as he has had. The enemies of his king and his country shall free him
from his embarrassments."

"The enemies?"

"Yes; who else?"

"You speak in riddles, sir."

"Do I? Then I'll soon make the riddles plain. When I went to sea I was
worth nothing--as poor as a ship's cat after the crew had been paid off
for a month. Well, I began fighting away as hard and fast as I could,
and the more I fought, and the more hard knocks I gave and took, the
more money I got."

"Indeed."

"Yes; prize after prize we hauled into port, and at last the French
vessels wouldn't come out of their harbours."

"What did you do then?"

"What did we do then? Why what was the most natural thing in the whole
world for us to do, we did."

"I cannot guess."

"Well, I am surprised at that. Try again."

"Oh, yes; I can guess now. How could I have been so dull? You went and
took them out."

"To be sure we did--to be sure we did, my dear; that's how we managed
them. And, do you see, at the end of the war I found myself with lots of
prize money, all wrung from old England's enemies, and I intend that
some of it shall find it's way to your brother's pocket; and you see
that will bear out just what I said, that the enemies of his king and
his country shall free him from his difficulties--don't you see?"

"I see your noble generosity, admiral."

"Noble fiddlestick! Now I have mentioned this matter to you, my dear,
and I don't so much mind talking to you about such matters as I should
to your brother, I want you to do me the favour of managing it all for
me."

"How, sir?"

"Why, just this way. You must find out how much money will free your
brother just now from a parcel of botherations that beset him, and then
I will give it to you, and you can hand it to him, you see, so I need
not say anything about it; and if he speaks to me on the subject at all,
I can put him down at once by saying, 'avast there, it's no business of
mine.'"

"And can you, dear admiral, imagine that I could conceal the generous
source from where so much assistance came?"

"Of course; it will come from you. I take a fancy to make you a present
of a sum of money; you do with it what you please--it's yours, and I
have no right and no inclination to ask you what use you put it to."

Tears gushed from the eyes of Flora as she tried to utter some word, but
could not. The admiral swore rather fearfully, and pretended to wonder
much what on earth she could be crying for. At length, after the first
gush of feeling was over, she said,--

"I cannot accept of so much generosity, sir--I dare not"

"Dare not!"

"No; I should think meanly of myself were I to take advantage of the
boundless munificence of your nature."

"Take advantage! I should like to see anybody take advantage of me,
that's all."

"I ought not to take the money of you. I will speak to my brother, and
well I know how much he will appreciate the noble, generous offer, my
dear sir."

"Well, settle it your own way, only remember I have a right to do what I
like with my own money."

"Undoubtedly."

"Very good. Then as that is undoubted, whatever I lend to him, mind I
give to you, so it's as broad as it's long, as the Dutchman said, when
he looked at the new ship that was built for him, and you may as well
take it yourself you see, and make no more fuss about it."

"I will consider," said Flora, with much emotion--"between this time and
the same hour to-morrow I will consider, sir, and if you can find any
words more expressive of heartfelt gratitude than others, pray imagine
that I have used them with reference to my own feelings towards you for
such an unexampled offer of friendship."

"Oh, bother--stuff."

The admiral now at once changed the subject, and began to talk of
Charles--a most grateful theme to Flora, as may well be supposed. He
related to her many little particulars connected with him which all
tended to place his character in a most amiable light, and as her ears
drank in the words of commendation of him she loved, what sweeter music
could there be to her than the voice of that old weather-beaten
rough-spoken man.

"The idea," he added, to a warm eulogium he had uttered concerning
Charles--"the idea that he could write those letters my dear, is quite
absurd."

"It is, indeed. Oh, that we could know what had become of him!"

"We shall know. I don't think but what he's alive. Something seems to
assure me that we shall some of these days look upon his face again."

"I am rejoiced to hear you say so."

"We will stir heaven and earth to find him. If he were killed, do you
see, there would have been some traces of him now at hand; besides, he
would have been left lying where the rascals attacked him."

Flora shuddered.

"But don't you fret yourself. You may depend that the sweet little
cherub that sits up aloft has looked after him."

"I will hope so."

"And now, my dear, Master Henry will soon be home, I am thinking, and as
he has quite enough disagreeables on his own mind to be able to spare a
few of them, you will take the earliest opportunity, I am sure, of
acquainting him with the little matter we have been talking about, and
let me know what he says."

"I will--I will."

"That's right. Now, go in doors, for there's a cold air blowing here,
and you are a delicate plant rather just now--go in and make yourself
comfortable and easy. The worst storm must blow over at last."




CHAPTER XXXI.

SIR FRANCIS VARNEY AND HIS MYSTERIOUS VISITOR.--THE STRANGE CONFERENCE.


Sir Francis Varney is in what he calls his own apartment. It is night,
and a dim and uncertain light from a candle which has been long
neglected, only serves to render obscurity more perplexing. The room is
a costly one. One replete with all the appliances of refinement and
luxury which the spirit and the genius of the age could possibly supply
him with, but there is upon his brow the marks of corroding care, and
little does that most mysterious being seem to care for all the rich
furnishing of that apartment in which he sits.

His cadaverous-looking face is even paler and more death-like-looking
than usual; and, if it can be conceived possible that such an one can
feel largely interested in human affairs, to look at him, we could well
suppose that some interest of no common magnitude was at stake.

Occasionally, too, he muttered some unconnected words, no doubt mentally
filling up the gaps, which rendered the sentences incomplete, and being
unconscious, perhaps, that he was giving audible utterance to any of his
dark and secret meditations.

At length he rose, and with an anxious expression of countenance, he
went to the window, and looked out into the darkness of the night. All
was still, and not an object was visible. It was that pitchy darkness
without, which, for some hours, when the moon is late in lending her
reflected beams, comes over the earth's surface.

"It is near the hour," he muttered. "It is now very near the hour;
surely he will come, and yet I know not why I should fear him, although
I seem to tremble at the thought of his approach. He will surely come.
Once a year--only once does he visit me, and then 'tis but to take the
price which he has compelled me to pay for that existence, which but for
him had been long since terminated. Sometimes I devoutly wish it were."

With a shudder he returned to the seat he had so recently left, and
there for some time he appeared to meditate in silence.

Suddenly now, a clock, which was in the hall of that mansion he had
purchased, sounded the hour loudly.

"The time has come," said Sir Francis. "The time has come. He will
surely soon be here. Hark! hark!"

Slowly and distinctly he counted the strokes of the clock, and, when
they had ceased, he exclaimed, with sudden surprise--

"Eleven! But eleven! How have I been deceived. I thought the hour of
midnight was at hand."

He hastily consulted the watch he wore, and then he indeed found, that
whatever he had been looking forward to with dread for some time past,
as certain to ensue, at or about twelve o clock, had yet another hour in
which to prey upon his imagination.

"How could I have made so grievous an error?" he exclaimed. "Another
hour of suspense and wonder as to whether that man be among the living
or the dead. I have thought of raising my hand against his life, but
some strange mysterious feeling has always staid me; and I have let him
come and go freely, while an opportunity might well have served me to
put such a design into execution. He is old, too--very old, and yet he
keeps death at a distance. He looked pale, but far from unwell or
failing, when last I saw him. Alas! a whole hour yet to wait. I would
that this interview were over."

That extremely well known and popular disease called the fidgets, now
began, indeed, to torment Sir Francis Varney. He could not sit--he could
not walk, and, somehow or another, he never once seemed to imagine that
from the wine cup he should experience any relief, although, upon a side
table, there stood refreshments of that character. And thus some more
time passed away, and he strove to cheat it of its weariness by thinking
of a variety of subjects; but as the fates would have it, there seemed
not one agreeable reminiscence in the mind of that most inexplicable
man, and the more he plunged into the recesses of memory the more
uneasy, not to say almost terrified, he looked and became. A shuddering
nervousness came across him, and, for a few moments, be sat as if he
were upon the point of fainting. By a vigorous effort, however, he shook
this off, and then placing before him the watch, which now indicated
about the quarter past eleven, he strove with a calmer aspect to wait
the coming of him whose presence, when he did come, would really be a
great terror, since the very thought beforehand produced so much
hesitation and apparent dismay.

In order too, if possible, then to further withdraw himself from a too
painful consideration of those terrors, which in due time the reader
will be acquainted with the cause of, he took up a book, and plunging at
random into its contents, he amused his mind for a time with the
following brief narrative:--

The wind howled round the gable ends of Bridport House in sudden and
furious gusts, while the inmates sat by the fire-side, gazing in silence
upon the blazing embers of the huge fire that shed a red and bright
light all over the immense apartment in which they all sat.

It was an ancient looking place, very large, end capable of containing a
number of guests. Several were present.

An aged couple were seated in tall high straight-backed chairs. They
were the owners of that lordly mansion, and near them sat two young
maidens of surpassing beauty; they were dissimilar, and yet there was a
slight likeness, but of totally different complexions.

The one had tresses of raven black; eyebrows, eyelashes, and eyes were
all of the same hue; she was a beautiful and proud-looking girl, her
complexion clear, with the hue of health upon her cheeks, while a smile
played around her lips. The glance of the eye was sufficient to thrill
through the whole soul.

The other maiden was altogether different; her complexion altogether
fairer--her hair of sunny chestnut, and her beautiful hazel eyes were
shaded by long brown eyelashes, while a playful smile also lit up her
countenance. She was the younger of the two.

The attention of the two young maidens had been directed to the words of
the aged owner of the house, for he had been speaking a few moments
before.

There were several other persons present, and at some little distance
were many of the domestics who were not denied the privilege of warmth
and rest in the presence of their master.

These were not the times, when, if servants sat down, they were deemed
idle; but the daily task done, then the evening hour was spent by the
fire-side.

"The wind howls and moans," said an aged domestic, "in an awful manner.
I never heard the like."

"It seems as though same imprisoned spirit was waiting for the repose
that had been denied on earth," said the old lady as she shifted her
seat and gazed steadily on the fire.

"Ay," said her aged companion, "it is a windy night, and there will be a
storm before long, or I'm mistaken."

"It was just such a night as that my son Henry left his home," said Mrs.
Bradley, "just such another--only it had the addition of sleet and
rain."

The old man sighed at the mention of his son's name, a tear stood in the
eyes of the maidens, while one looked silently at the other, and seemed
to exchange glances.

"I would that I might again see him before my body seeks its final home
in the cold remorseless grave."

"Mother," said the fairest of the two maidens, "do not talk thus, let us
hope that we yet may have many years of happiness together."

"Many, Emma?"

"Yes, mamma, many."

"Do you know that I am very old, Emma, very old indeed, considering what
I have suffered, such a life of sorrow and ill health is at least equal
to thirty years added to my life."

"You may have deceived yourself, aunt," said the other maiden; "at all
events, you cannot count upon life as certain, for the strongest often
go first, while those who seem much more likely to fall, by care, as
often live in peace and happiness."

"But I lead no life of peace and happiness, while Henry Bradley is not
here; besides, my life might be passed without me seeing him again."

"It is now two years since he was here last," said the old man,

"This night two years was the night on which he left."

"This night two years?"

"Yes."

"It was this night two years," said one of the servant men, "because old
Dame Poutlet had twins on that night."

"A memorable circumstance."

"And one died at a twelvemonth old," said the man; "and she had a dream
which foretold the event."

"Ay, ay."

"Yes, and moreover she's had the same dream again last Wednesday was a
week," said the man.

"And lost the other twin?"

"Yes sir, this morning."

"Omens multiply," said the aged man; "I would that it would seem to
indicate the return of Henry to his home."

"I wonder where he can have gone to, or what he could have done all this
time; probably he may not be in the land of the living."

"Poor Henry," said Emma.

"Alas, poor boy! We may never see him again--it was a mistaken act of
his, and yet he knew not otherwise how to act or escape his father's
displeasure."

"Say no more--say no more upon that subject; I dare not listen to it.
God knows I know quite enough," said Mr. Bradley; "I knew not he would
have taken my words so to heart as he did."

"Why," said the old woman, "he thought you meant what you said."

There was a long pause, during which all gazed at the blazing fire,
seemingly wrapt in their own meditation.

Henry Bradley, the son of the apparently aged couple, had left that day
two years, and wherefore had he left the home of his childhood?
wherefore had he, the heir to large estates, done this?

He had dared to love without his father's leave, and had refused the
offer his father made him of marrying a young lady whom he had chosen
for him, but whom he could not love.

It was as much a matter of surprise to the father that the son should
refuse, as it was to the son that his father should contemplate such a
match.

"Henry," said the father, "you have been thought of by me, I have made
proposals for marrying you to the daughter of our neighbour, Sir Arthur
Onslow."

"Indeed, father!"

"Yes; I wish you to go there with me to see the young lady."

"In the character of a suitor?"

"Yes," replied the father, "certainly; it's high time you were settled."

"Indeed, I would rather not go, father; I have no intention of marrying
just yet. I do not desire to do so."

This was an opposition that Mr. Bradley had not expected from his son,
and which his imperious temper could ill brook, and with a darkened brow
he said,--

"It is not much, Henry, that I trespass upon your obedience; but when I
do so, I expect that you will obey me."

"But, father, this matter affects me for my whole life."

"That is why I have deliberated so long and carefully over it."

"But it is not unreasonable that I should have a voice in the affair,
father, since it may render me miserable."

"You shall have a voice."

"Then I say no to the whole regulation," said Henry, decisively.

"If you do so you forfeit my protection, much more favour; but you had
better consider over what you have said. Forget it, and come with me."

"I cannot."

"You will not?"

"No, father; I cannot do as you wish me; my mind is fully made up upon
that matter."

[Illustration]

"And so is mine. You either do as I would have you, or you leave the
house, and seek your own living, and you are a beggar."

"I should prefer being such," said Henry, "than to marry any young lady,
and be unable to love her."

"That is not required."

"No! I am astonished! Not necessary to love the woman you marry!"

"Not at all; if you act justly towards her she ought to be grateful; and
it is all that is requisite in the marriage state. Gratitude will beget
love, and love in one begets love in the other."

"I will not argue with you, father, upon the matter. You are a better
judge than I; you have had more experience."

"I have."

"And it would be useless to speak upon the subject; but of this I can
speak--my own resolve--that I will not marry the lady in question."

The son had all the stern resolve of the father, but he had also very
good reasons for what he did. He loved, and was beloved in return; and
hence he would not break his faith with her whom he loved.

To have explained this to his father would have been to gain nothing
except an accession of anger, and he would have made a new demand upon
his (the son's) obedience, by ordering him to discard from his bosom the
image that was there indelibly engraven.

"You will not marry her whom I have chosen for your bride?"

"I cannot."

"Do not talk to me of can and can't, when I speak of will and wont. It
Is useless to disguise the fact. You have your free will in the matter.
I shall take no answer but yes or no."

"Then, no, father."

"Good, sir; and now we are strangers."

With that Mr. Bradley turned abruptly from his son, and left him to
himself.

It was the first time they had any words or difference together, and it
was sudden and soon terminated.

Henry Bradley was indignant at what had happened; he did not think his
father would have acted as he had done in this instance; but he was too
much interested in the fate of another to hesitate for a moment. Then
came the consideration as to what he should do, now that he had arrived
at such a climax.

His first thoughts turned to his mother and sister. He could not leave
the house without bidding them good-bye. He determined to see his
mother, for his father had left the Hall upon a visit.

Mrs. Bradley and Emma were alone when he entered their apartment, and to
them he related all that had passed between himself and father.

They besought him to stay, to remain there, or at least in the
neighbourhood; but he was resolved to quit the place altogether for a
time, as he could do nothing there, and he might chance to do something
elsewhere.

Upon this, they got together all the money and such jewels as they could
spare, which in all amounted to a considerable sum; then taking an
affectionate leave of his mother and sister, Henry left the Hall--not
before he had taken a long and affectionate farewell of one other who
lived within those walls.

This was no other than the raven-eyed maiden who sat by the fire side,
and listened attentively to the conversation that was going on. She was
his love--she, a poor cousin. For her sake he had braved all his
father's anger, and attempted to seek his fortune abroad.

This done, he quietly left the Hall, without giving any one any
intimation of where he was going.

Old Mr. Bradley, when he had said so much to his son, was highly
incensed at what he deemed his obstinacy; and he thought the threat
hanging over him would have had a good effect; but he was amazed when he
discovered that Henry had indeed left the Hall, and he knew not whither.

For some time he comforted himself with the assurance that he would, he
must return, but, alas! he came not, and this was the second anniversary
of that melancholy day, which no one more repented of and grieved for,
than did poor Mr. Bradley.

"Surely, surely he will return, or let us know where he is," he said;
"he cannot be in need, else he would have written to us for aid."

"No, no," said Mrs. Bradley; "it is, I fear, because he has not written,
that he is in want; he would never write if he was in poverty, lest he
should cause us unhappiness at his fate. Were he doing well, we should
hear of it, for he would be proud of the result of his own unaided
exertions."

"Well, well," said Mr. Bradley, "I can say no more; if I was hasty, so
was he; but it is passed. I would forgive all the past, if I could but
see him once again--once again!"

"How the wind howls," added the aged man; "and it's getting worse and
worse."

"Yes, and the snow is coming down now in style," said one of the
servants, who brought in some fresh logs which were piled up on the
fire, and he shook the white flakes off his clothes.

"It will be a heavy fall before morning," said one of the men.

"Yes, it has been gathering for some days; it will be much warmer than
it has been when it is all down."

"So it will--so it will."

At that moment there was a knocking at the gate, and the dogs burst into
a dreadful uproar from their kennels.

"Go, Robert," said Mr. Bradley, "and see who it is that knocks such a
night as this; it is not fit or safe that a dog should be out in it."

The man went out, and shortly returned, saying,--

"So please you, sir, there is a traveller that has missed his way, and
desires to know if he can obtain shelter here, or if any one can be
found to guide him to the nearest inn."

"Bid him come in; we shall lose no warmth because there is one more
before the fire."

The stranger entered, and said,--"I have missed my way, and the snow
comes down so thick and fast, and is whirled in such eddies, that I
fear, by myself, I should fall into some drift, and perish before
morning."

"Do not speak of it, sir," said Mr. Bradley; "such a night as this is a
sufficient apology for the request you make, and an inducement to me to
grant it most willingly."

"Thanks," replied the stranger; "the welcome is most seasonable."

"Be seated, sir; take your seat by the ingle; it is warm."

The stranger seated himself, and seemed lost in reflection, as he gazed
intently on the blazing logs. He was a robust man, with great whiskers
and beard, and, to judge from his outward habiliments, he was a stout
man.

"Have you travelled far?"

"I have, sir."

"You appear to belong to the army, if I mistake not?"

"I do, sir."

There was a pause; the stranger seemed not inclined to speak of himself
much; but Mr. Bradley continued,--

"Have you come from foreign service, sir? I presume you have."

"Yes; I have not been in this country more than six days."

"Indeed; shall we have peace think you?"

"I do so, and I hope it may be so, for the sake of many who desire to
return to their native land, and to those they love best."

Mr. Bradley heaved a deep sigh, which was echoed softly by all present,
and the stranger looked from one to another, with a hasty glance, and
then turned his gaze upon the fire.

"May I ask, sir, if you have any person whom you regard in the army--any
relative?"

"Alas! I have--perhaps, I ought to say I had a son. I know not, however,
where he is gone."

"Oh! a runaway; I see."

"Oh, no; he left because there were some family differences, and now, I
would, that he were once more here."

"Oh!" said the stranger, softly, "differences and mistakes will happen
now and then, when least desired."

At this moment, an old hound who had lain beside Ellen Mowbray, she who
wore the coal-black tresses, lifted his head at the difference in sound
that was noticed in the stranger's voice. He got up and slowly walked up
to him, and began to smell around him, and, in another moment, he rushed
at him with a cry of joy, and began to lick and caress him in the most
extravagant manner. This was followed by a cry of joy in all present.

"It is Henry!" exclaimed Ellen Mowbray, rising and rushing into his
arms.

It was Henry, and he threw off the several coats he had on, as well as
the large beard he wore to disguise himself.

The meeting was a happy one; there was not a more joyful house than that
within many miles around. Henry was restored to the arms of those who
loved him, and, in a month, a wedding was celebrated between him and his
cousin Ellen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Francis Varney glanced at his watch. It indicated but five minutes
to twelve o'clock, and he sprang to his feet. Even as he did so, a loud
knocking at the principal entrance to his house awakened every echo
within its walls.





CHAPTER XXXII.

THE THOUSAND POUNDS.--THE STRANGER'S PRECAUTIONS.


[Illustration]

Varney moved not now, nor did he speak, but, like a statue, he stood,
with his unearthly looking eyes rivetted upon the door of the apartment.

In a few moments one of his servants came, and said--

"Sir, a person is here, who says he wants to see you. He desired me to
say, that he had ridden far, and that moments were precious when the
tide of life was ebbing fast."

"Yes! yes!" gasped Varney; "admit him, I know him! Bring him here? It
is--an--old friend--of mine."

He sank into a chair, and still he kept his eyes fixed upon that door
through which his visitor must come. Surely some secret of dreadful
moment must be connected with him whom Sir Francisexpected--dreaded--and
yet dared not refuse to see. And now a footstep approaches--a slow and a
solemn footstep--it pauses a moment at the door of the apartment, and
then the servant flings it open, and a tall man enters. He is enveloped
in the folds of a horseman's cloak, and there is the clank of spurs upon
his heels as he walks into the room.

Varney rose again, but he said not a word and for a few moments they
stood opposite each other in silence. The domestic has left the room,
and the door is closed, so that there was nothing to prevent them from
conversing; and, yet, silent they continued for some minutes. It seemed
as if each was most anxious that the other should commence the
conversation, first.

And yet there was nothing so very remarkable in the appearance of that
stranger which should entirely justify Sir Francis Varney, in feeling so
much alarm at his presence. He certainly was a man past the prime of
life; and he looked like one who had battled much with misfortune, and
as if time had not passed so lightly over his brow, but that it had left
deep traces of its progress. The only thing positively bad about his
countenance, was to be found in his eyes. There there was a most
ungracious and sinister expression, a kind of lurking and suspicions
look, as if he were always resolving in his mind some deep laid scheme,
which might be sufficient to circumvent the whole of mankind.

Finding, probably, that Varney would not speak first, he let his cloak
fall more loosely about him, and in a low, deep tone, he said,

"I presume I was expected?"

"You were," said Varney. "It is the day, and it is the hour."

"You are right. I like to see you so mindful. You don't improve in looks
since--"

"Hush--hush! no more of that; can we not meet without a dreadful
allusion to the past! There needs nothing to remind me of it; and your
presence here now shows that you are not forgetful. Speak not of that
fearful episode. Let no words combine to place it in a tangible shape to
human understanding. I cannot, dare not, hear you speak of that."

"It is well," said the stranger; "as you please. Let our interview be
brief. You know my errand?"

"I do. So fearful a drag upon limited means, is not likely to be readily
forgotten."

"Oh, you are too ingenious--too full of well laid schemes, and to apt
and ready in their execution, to feel, as any fearful drag, the
conditions of our bargain. Why do you look at me so earnestly?"

"Because," said Varney--and he trembled as he spoke--"because each
lineament of your countenance brings me back to the recollection of the
only scene in life that made me shudder, and which I cannot think of,
even with the indifference of contempt. I see it all before my mind's
eye, coming in frightful panoramic array, those incidents, which even to
dream of, are sufficient to drive the soul to madness; the dread of this
annual visit, hangs upon me like a dark cloud upon my very heart; it
sits like some foul incubus, destroying its vitality and dragging me,
from day to day, nearer to that tomb, from whence not as before, I can
emerge."

"You have been among the dead?" said the stranger.

"I have."

"And yet are mortal."

"Yes," repeated Varney, "yes, and yet am mortal."

"It was I that plucked you back to that world, which, to judge from your
appearance, has had since that eventful period but few charms for you.
By my faith you look like--"

"Like what I am," interrupted Varney.

"This is a subject that once a year gets frightfully renewed between us.
For weeks before your visit I am haunted by frightful recollections, and
it takes me many weeks after you are gone, before I can restore myself
to serenity. Look at me; am I not an altered man?"

"In faith you are," said the stranger "I have no wish to press upon you
painful recollections. And yet 'tis strange to me that upon such a man
as you, the event to which you allude should produce so terrible an
impression."

"I have passed through the agony of death," said Varney, "and have again
endured the torture--for it is such--of the re-union of the body and the
soul; not having endured so much, not the faintest echo of such feelings
can enter into your imagination."

"There may be truth in that, and yet, like a fluttering moth round a
flame, it seems to me, that when I do see you, you take a terrific kind
of satisfaction in talking of the past."

"That is strictly true," said Varney; "the images with which my mind is
filled are frightful. Pent up do they remain for twelve long months. I
can speak to you, and you only, without disguise, and thus does it seem
to me that I get rid of the uneasy load of horrible imaginings. When you
are gone, and have been gone a sufficient lapse of time, my slumbers are
not haunted with frightful images--I regain a comparative peace, until
the time slowly comes around again, when we are doomed to meet."

"I understand you. You seem well lodged here?"

"I have ever kept my word, and sent to you, telling you where I am."

"You have, truly. I have no shadow of complaint to make against you. No
one, could have more faithfully performed his bond than you have. I give
you ample credit for all that, and long may you live still to perform
your conditions."

"I dare not deceive you, although to keep such faith I may be compelled
to deceive a hundred others."

"Of that I cannot judge. Fortune seems to smile upon you; you have not
as yet disappointed me."

"And will not now," said Varney. "The gigantic and frightful penalty of
disappointing you, stares me in the face. I dare not do so."

He took from his pocket, as he spoke, a clasped book, from which he
produced several bank notes, which he placed before the stranger.

"A thousand pounds," he said; "that is the agreement."

"It is to the very letter. I do not return to you a thousand thanks--we
understand each other better than to waste time with idle compliment.
Indeed I will go quite as far as to say, truthfully, that did not my
necessities require this amount from you, you should have the boon, for
which you pay that price at a much cheaper rate."

"Enough! enough!" said Varney. "It is strange, that your face should
have been the last I saw, when the world closed upon me, and the first
that met my eyes when I was again snatched back to life! Do you pursue
still your dreadful trade?"

"Yes," said the stranger, "for another year, and then, with such a
moderate competence as fortune has assigned me, I retire, to make way
for younger and abler spirits."

"And then," said Varney, "shall you still require of me such an amount
as this?"

"No; this is my last visit but one. I shall be just and liberal towards
you. You are not old; and I have no wish to become the clog of your
existence. As I have before told you, it is my necessity, and not my
inclination, that sets the value upon the service I rendered you."

"I understand you, and ought to thank you. And in reply to so much
courtesy, be assured, that when I shudder at your presence, it is not
that I regard you with horror, as an individual, but it is because the
sight of you awakens mournfully the remembrance of the past."

"It is clear to me," said the stranger; "and now I think we part with
each other in a better spirit than we ever did before; and when we meet
again, the remembrance that it is the last time, will clear away the
gloom that I now find hanging over you."

"It may! it may! With what an earnest gaze you still regard me!"

"I do. It does appear to me most strange, that time should not have
obliterated the effects which I thought would have ceased with their
cause. You are no more the man that in my recollection you once were,
than I am like a sporting child."

"And I never shall be," said Varney; "never--never again! This self-same
look which the hand of death had placed upon me, I shall ever wear. I
shudder at myself, and as I oft perceive the eye of idle curiosity fixed
steadfastly upon me, I wonder in my inmost heart, if even the wildest
guesser hits upon the cause why I am not like unto other men?"

"No. Of that you may depend there is no suspicion; but I will leave you
now; we part such friends, as men situated as we are can be. Once again
shall we meet, and then farewell for ever."

"Do you leave England, then?"

"I do. You know my situation in life. It is not one which offers me
inducements to remain. In some other land, I shall win the respect and
attention I may not hope for here. There my wealth will win many golden
opinions; and casting, as best I may, the veil of forgetfulness over my
former life, my declining years may yet be happy. This money, that I
have had of you from time to time, has been more pleasantly earned than
all beside. Wrung, as it has been, from your fears, still have I taken
it with less reproach. And now, farewell!"

Varney rang for a servant to show the stranger from the house, and
without another word they parted.

Then, when he was alone, that mysterious owner of that costly home drew
a long breath of apparently exquisite relief.

"That is over!--that is over!" he said. "He shall have the other
thousand pounds, perchance, sooner than he thinks. With all expedition I
will send it to him. And then on that subject I shall be at peace. I
shall have paid a large sum; but that which I purchased was to me
priceless. It was my life!--it was my life itself! That possession which
the world's wealth cannot restore! And shall I grudge these thousands,
which have found their way into this man's hands? No! 'Tis true, that
existence, for me, has lost some of its most resplendent charms. 'Tis
true, that I have no earthly affections, and that shunning companionship
with all, I am alike shunned by all; and yet, while the life-blood still
will circulate within my shrunken veins, I cling to vitality."

He passed into an inner room, and taking from a hook, on which it hung,
a long, dark-coloured cloak, he enveloped his tall, unearthly figure
within its folds.

Then, with his hat in his hand, he passed out of his house, and appeared
to be taking his way towards Bannerworth House.

Surely it must be guilt of no common die that could oppress a man so
destitute of human sympathies as Sir Francis Varney. The dreadful
suspicions that hovered round him with respect to what he was, appeared
to gather confirmation from every act of his existence.

Whether or not this man, to whom he felt bound to pay annually so large
a sum, was in the secret, and knew him to be something more than
earthly, we cannot at present declare; but it would seem from the tenor
of their conversation as if such were the fact.

Perchance he had saved him from the corruption of the tomb, by placing
out, on some sylvan spot, where the cold moonbeams fell, the apparently
lifeless form, and now claimed so large a reward for such a service, and
the necessary secrecy contingent upon it.

We say this may be so, and yet again some more natural and rational
explanation may unexpectedly present itself; and there may be yet a dark
page in Sir Francis Varney's life's volume, which will place him in a
light of superadded terrors to our readers.

Time, and the now rapidly accumulating incidents of our tale, will soon
tear aside the veil of mystery that now envelopes some of our _dramatis
personae_.

And let us hope that in the development of those incidents we shall be
enabled to rescue the beautiful Flora Bannerworth from the despairing
gloom that is around her. Let us hope and even anticipate that we shall
see her smile again; that the roseate hue of health will again revisit
her cheeks, the light buoyancy of her step return, and that as before
she may be the joy of all around her, dispensing and receiving
happiness.

And, he too, that gallant fearless lover, he whom no chance of time or
tide could sever from the object of his fond affections, he who listened
to nothing but the dictates of his heart's best feelings, let us indulge
a hope that he will have a bright reward, and that the sunshine of a
permanent felicity will only seem the brighter for the shadows that for
a time have obscured its glory.




CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE STRANGE INTERVIEW.--THE CHASE THROUGH THE HALL.


[Illustration]

It was with the most melancholy aspect that anything human could well
bear, that Sir Francis Varney took his lonely walk, although perhaps in
saying so much, probably we are instituting a comparison which
circumstances scarcely empower us to do; for who shall say that that
singular man, around whom a very atmosphere of mystery seemed to be
perpetually increasing, was human?

Averse as we are to believe in the supernatural, or even to invest
humanity with any preternatural powers, the more than singular facts and
circumstances surrounding the existence and the acts of that man bring
to the mind a kind of shuddering conviction, that if he be indeed really
mortal he still must possess some powers beyond ordinary mortality, and
be walking the earth for some unhallowed purposes, such as ordinary men
with the ordinary attributes of human nature can scarcely guess at.

Silently and alone he took his way through that beautiful tract of
country, comprehending such picturesque charms of hill and dale which
lay between his home and Bannerworth Hall. He was evidently intent upon
reaching the latter place by the shortest possible route, and in the
darkness of that night, for the moon had not yet risen, he showed no
slight acquaintance with the intricacies of that locality, that he was
at all enabled to pursue so undeviatingly a tract as that which he took.

He muttered frequently to himself low, indistinct words as he went, and
chiefly did they seem to have reference to that strange interview he had
so recently had with one who, from some combination of circumstances
scarcely to be guessed at, evidently exercised a powerful control over
him, and was enabled to make a demand upon his pecuniary resources of
rather startling magnitude.

And yet, from a stray word or two, which were pronounced more
distinctly, he did not seem to be thinking in anger over that interview;
but it would appear that it rather had recalled to his remembrance
circumstances of a painful and a degrading nature, which time had not
been able entirely to obliterate from his recollection.

"Yes, yes," he said, as he paused upon the margin of the wood, to the
confines of which he, or what seemed to be he, had once been chased by
Marchdale and the Bannerworths--"yes, the very sight of that man recalls
all the frightful pageantry of a horrible tragedy, which I can
never--never forget. Never can it escape my memory, as a horrible, a
terrific fact; but it is the sight of this man alone that can recall all
its fearful minutiae to my mind, and paint to my imagination, in the
most vivid colours, every, the least particular connected with that time
of agony. These periodical visits much affect me. For months I dread
them, and for months I am but slowly recovering from the shocks they
give me. 'But once more,' he says--'but once more,' and then we shall
not meet again. Well, well; perchance before that time arrives, I may be
able to possess myself of those resources which will enable me to
forestall his visit, and so at least free myself from the pang of
expecting him."

He paused at the margin of the wood, and glanced in the direction of
Bannerworth Hall. By the dim light which yet showed from out the light
sky, he could discern the ancient gable ends, and turret-like windows;
he could see the well laid out gardens, and the grove of stately firs
that shaded it from the northern blasts, and, as he gazed, a strong
emotion seemed to come over him, such as no one could have supposed
would for one moment have possessed the frame of one so apparently
unconnected with all human sympathies.

"I know this spot well," he said, "and my appearance here on that
eventful occasion, when the dread of my approach induced a crime only
second to murder itself, was on such a night as this, when all was so
still and calm around, and when he who, at the merest shadow of my
presence, rather chose to rush on death than be assured it was myself.
Curses on the circumstances that so foiled me! I should have been most
wealthy. I should have possessed the means of commanding the adulation
of those who now hold me but cheaply; but still the time may come. I
have a hope yet, and that greatness which I have ever panted for, that
magician-like power over my kind, which the possession of ample means
alone can give, may yet be mine."

Wrapping his cloak more closely around him, he strode forward with that
long, noiseless step which was peculiar to him. Mechanically he appeared
to avoid those obstacles of hedge and ditch which impeded his pathway.
Surely be had come that road often, or he would not so easily have
pursued his way. And now he stood by the edge of a plantation which in
some measure protected from trespassers the more private gardens of the
Hall, and there he paused, as if a feeling of irresolution had come over
him, or it might be, as indeed it seemed from his subsequent conduct,
that he had come without any fixed intention, or if with a fixed
intention, without any regular plan of carrying it into effect.

Did he again dream of intruding into any of the chambers of that
mansion, with the ghastly aspect of that terrible creation with which,
in the minds of its inhabitants, he seemed to be but too closely
identified? He was pale, attenuated, and trembled. Could it be that so
soon it had become necessary to renew the life-blood in his veins in the
awful manner which it is supposed the vampyre brood are compelled to
protract their miserable existence?

It might be so, and that he was even now reflecting upon how once more
he could kindle the fire of madness in the brain of that beautiful girl,
who he had already made so irretrievably wretched.

He leant against an aged tree, and his strange, lustrous-looking eyes
seemed to collect every wandering scintillation of light that was
around, and to shine with preternatural intensity.

"I must, I will," he said, "be master of Bannerworth Hall. It must come
to that. I have set an existence upon its possession, and I will have
it; and then, if with my own hands I displace it brick by brick and
stone by stone, I will discover that hidden secret which no one but
myself now dreams of. It shall be done by force or fraud, by love or by
despair, I care not which; the end shall sanctify all means. Ay, even if
I wade through blood to my desire, I say it shall be done."

There was a holy and a still calmness about the night much at variance
with the storm of angry passion that appeared to be momentarily
gathering power in the breast of that fearful man. Not the least sound
came from Bannerworth Hall, and it was only occasionally that from afar
off on the night air there came the bark of some watchdog, or the low of
distant cattle. All else was mute save when the deep sepulchral tones of
that man, if man he was, gave an impulse to the soft air around him.

With a strolling movement as if he were careless if he proceeded in that
direction or not, he still went onward toward the house, and now he
stood by that little summer-house once so sweet and so dear a retreat,
in which the heart-stricken Flora had held her interview with him whom
she loved with a devotion unknown to meaner minds.

This spot scarcely commanded any view of the house, for so enclosed was
it among evergreens and blooming flowers, that it seemed like a very
wilderness of nature, upon which, with liberal hand, she had showered
down in wild luxuriance her wildest floral beauties.

In and around that spot the night air was loaded with sweets. The
mingled perfume of many flowers made that place seem a very paradise.
But oh, how sadly at variance with that beauty and contentedness of
nature was he who stood amidst such beauty! All incapable as he was of
appreciating its tenderness, or of gathering the faintest moral from its
glory.

"Why am I here?" he said. "Here, without fixed design or stability of
purpose, like some miser who has hidden his own hoards so deeply within
the bowels of the earth he cannot hope that he shall ever again be able
to bring them to the light of day. I hover around this spot which I
feel--which I know--contains my treasure, though I cannot lay my hands
upon it, or exult in its glistening beauty."

Even as he spoke he cowered down like some guilty thing, for he heard a
faint footstep upon the garden path. So light, so fragile was the step,
that, in the light of day, the very hum of summer insects would have
drowned the noise; but he heard it, that man of crime--of unholy and
awful impulses. He heard it, and he shrunk down among the shrubs and
flowers till he was hidden completely from observation amid a world of
fragrant essences.

Was it some one stealthily in that place even as he was, unwelcome or
unknown? or was it one who had observed him intrude upon the privacy of
those now unhappy precincts, and who was coming to deal upon him that
death which, vampyre though he might be, he was yet susceptible of from
mortal hands?

The footstep advanced, and lower down he shrunk until his coward-heart
beat against the very earth itself. He knew that he was unarmed, a
circumstance rare with him, and only to be accounted for by the
disturbance of his mind consequent upon the visit of that strange man to
his house, whose presence had awakened so many conflicting emotions.

Nearer and nearer still came that light footstep, and his deep-seated
fears would not let him perceive that it was not the step of caution or
of treachery, but owed its lightness to the natural grace and freedom of
movement of its owner.

The moon must have arisen, although obscured by clouds, through which it
cast but a dim radiance, for the night had certainly grown lighter; so
that although there were no strong shadows cast, a more diffused
brightness was about all things, and their outlines looked not so
dancing, and confused the one with the other.

He strained his eyes in the direction whence the sounds proceeded, and
then his fears for his personal safety vanished, for he saw it was a
female form that was slowly advancing towards him.

His first impulse was to rise, for with the transient glimpse he got of
it, he knew that it must be Flora Bannerworth; but a second thought,
probably one of intense curiosity to know what could possibly have
brought her to such a spot at such a time, restrained him, and he was
quiet. But if the surprise of Sir Francis Varney was great to see Flora
Bannerworth at such a time in such a place, we have no doubt, that with
the knowledge which our readers have of her, their astonishment would
more than fully equal his; and when we come to consider, that since that
eventful period when the sanctity of her chamber had been so violated by
that fearful midnight visitant, it must appear somewhat strange that she
could gather courage sufficient to wander forth alone at such an hour.

Had she no dread of meeting that unearthly being? Did the possibility
that she might fall into his ruthless grasp, not come across her mind
with a shuddering consciousness of its probability? Had she no
reflection that each step she took, was taking her further and further
from those who would aid her in all extremities? It would seem not, for
she walked onward, unheeding, and apparently unthinking of the presence,
possible or probable, of that bane of her existence.

But let us look at her again. How strange and spectral-like she moves
along; there seems no speculation in her countenance, but with a strange
and gliding step, she walks like some dim shadow of the past in that
ancient garden. She is very pale, and on her brow there is the stamp of
suffering; her dress is a morning robe, she holds it lightly round her,
and thus she moves forward towards that summer-house which probably to
her was sanctified by having witnessed those vows of pure affection,
which came from the lips of Charles Holland, about whose fate there now
hung so great a mystery.

Has madness really seized upon the brain of that beautiful girl? Has the
strong intellect really sunk beneath the oppressions to which it has
been subjected? Does she now walk forth with a disordered intellect, the
queen of some fantastic realm, viewing the material world with eyes that
are not of earth; shunning perhaps that which she should have sought,
and, perchance, in her frenzy, seeking that which in a happier frame of
mind she would have shunned.

[Illustration]

Such might have been the impression of any one who had looked upon her
for a moment, and who knew the disastrous scenes through which she had
so recently passed; but we can spare our readers the pangs of such a
supposition. We have bespoken their love for Flora Bannerworth, and we
are certain that she has it; therefore would we spare them, even for a
few brief moments, from imagining that cruel destiny had done its worst,
and that the fine and beautiful spirit we have so much commended had
lost its power of rational reflection. No; thank Heaven, such is not the
case. Flora Bannerworth is not mad, but under the strong influence of
some eccentric dream, which has pictured to her mind images which have
no home but in the airy realms of imagination. She has wandered forth
from her chamber to that sacred spot where she had met him she loved,
and heard the noblest declaration of truth and constancy that ever
flowed from human lips.

Yes, she is sleeping; but, with a precision such as the somnambulist so
strangely exerts, she trod the well-known paths slowly, but surely,
toward that summer's bower, where her dreams had not told her lay
crouching that most hideous spectre of her imagination, Sir Francis
Varney. He who stood between her and her heart's best joy; he who had
destroyed all hope of happiness, and who had converted her dearest
affections into only so many causes of greater disquietude than the
blessings they should have been to her.

Oh! could she have imagined but for one moment that he was there, with
what an eagerness of terror would she have flown back again to the
shelter of those walls, where at least was to be found some protection
from the fearful vampyre's embrace, and where she would be within hail
of friendly hearts, who would stand boldly between her and every thought
of harm.

But she knew it not, and onwards she went until the very hem of her
garment touched the face of Sir Francis Varney.

And he was terrified--he dared not move--he dared not speak! The idea
that she had died, and that this was her spirit, come to wreak some
terrible vengeance upon him, for a time possessed him, and so paralysed
with fear was he, that he could neither move nor speak.

It had been well if, during that trance of indecision in which his
coward heart placed him, Flora had left the place, and again sought her
home; but unhappily such an impulse came not over her; she sat upon that
rustic seat, where she had reposed when Charles had clasped her to his
heart, and through her very dream the remembrance of that pure affection
came across her, and in the tenderest and most melodious accents, she
said,--

"Charles! Charles! and do you love me still? No--no; you have not
forsaken me. Save me, save me from the vampyre!"

She shuddered, and Sir Francis Varney heard her weeping.

"Fool that I am," he muttered, "to be so terrified. She sleeps. This is
one of the phases which a disordered imagination oft puts on. She
sleeps, and perchance this may be an opportunity of further increasing
the dread of my visitation, which shall make Bannerworth Hall far too
terrible a dwelling-place for her; and well I know, if she goes, they
will all go. It will become a deserted house, and that is what I want. A
house, too, with such an evil reputation, that none but myself, who have
created that reputation, will venture within its walls:--a house, which
superstition will point out as the abode of evil spirits;--a house, as
it were, by general opinion, ceded to the vampyre. Yes, it shall be my
own; fit dwelling-place for a while for me. I have sworn it shall be
mine, and I will keep my oath, little such as I have to do with vows."

He rose, and moved slowly to the narrow entrance of the summer-house; a
movement he could make, without at all disturbing Flora, for the rustic
seat, on which she sat, was at its further extremity. And there he
stood, the upper part of his gaunt and hideous form clearly defined upon
the now much lighter sky, so that if Flora Bannerworth had not been in
that trance of sleep in which she really was, one glance upward would
let her see the hideous companion she had, in that once much-loved
spot--a spot hitherto sacred to the best and noblest feelings, but now
doomed for ever to be associated with that terrific spectre of despair.

But she was in no state to see so terrible a sight. Her hands were over
her face, and she was weeping still.

"Surely, he loves me," she whispered; "he has said he loved me, and he
does not speak in vain. He loves me still, and I shall again look upon
his face, a Heaven to me! Charles! Charles! you will come again? Surely,
they sin against the divinity of love, who would tell me that you love
me not!"

"Ha!" muttered Varney, "this passion is her first, and takes a strong
hold on her young heart--she loves him--but what are human affections to
me? I have no right to count myself in the great muster-roll of
humanity. I look not like an inhabitant of the earth, and yet am on it.
I love no one, expect no love from any one, but I will make humanity a
slave to me; and the lip-service of them who hate me in their hearts,
shall be as pleasant jingling music to my ear, as if it were quite
sincere! I will speak to this girl; she is not mad--perchance she may
be."

There was a diabolical look of concentrated hatred upon Varney's face,
as he now advanced two paces towards the beautiful Flora.




CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE THREAT.--ITS CONSEQUENCES.--THE RESCUE, AND SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S
DANGER.


[Illustration]

Sir Francis Varney now paused again, and he seemed for a few moments to
gloat over the helpless condition of her whom he had so determined to
make his victim; there was no look of pity in his face, no one touch of
human kindness could be found in the whole expression of those
diabolical features; and if he delayed making the attempt to strike
terror into the heart of that unhappy, but beautiful being, it could not
be from any relenting feeling, but simply, that he wished for a few
moments to indulge his imagination with the idea of perfecting his
villany more effectually.

Alas! and they who would have flown to her rescue,--they, who for her
would have chanced all accidents, ay, even life itself, were sleeping,
and knew not of the loved one's danger. She was alone, and far enough
from the house, to be driven to that tottering verge where sanity ends,
and the dream of madness, with all its terrors, commences.

But still she slept--if that half-waking sleep could indeed be
considered as any thing akin to ordinary slumber--still she slept, and
called mournfully upon her lover's name; and in tender, beseeching
accents, that should have melted even the stubbornest hearts, did she
express her soul's conviction that he loved her still.

The very repetition of the name of Charles Holland seemed to be galling
to Sir Francis Varney. He made a gesture of impatience, as she again
uttered it, and then, stepping forward, he stood within a pace of where
she sat, and in a fearfully distinct voice he said,--

"Flora Bannerworth, awake! awake! and look upon me, although the sight
blast and drive you to despair. Awake! awake!"

It was not the sound of the voice which aroused her from that strange
slumber. It is said that those who sleep in that eccentric manner, are
insensible to sounds, but that the lightest touch will arouse them in an
instant; and so it was in this case, for Sir Francis Varney, as he
spoke, laid upon the hand of Flora two of his cold, corpse-like looking
fingers. A shriek burst from her lips, and although the confusion of her
memory and conceptions was immense, yet she was awake, and the
somnambulistic trance had left her.

"Help, help!" she cried. "Gracious Heavens! Where am I?"

Varney spoke not, but he spread out his long, thin arms in such a manner
that he seemed almost to encircle her, while he touched her not, so that
escape became a matter of impossibility, and to attempt to do so, must
have been to have thrown herself into his hideous embrace.

She could obtain but a single view of the face and figure of him who
opposed her progress, but, slight as that view was, it more than
sufficed. The very extremity of fear came across her, and she sat like
one paralysed; the only evidence of existence she gave consisting in the
words,--

"The vampyre--the vampyre!"

"Yes," said Varney, "the vampyre. You know me, Flora
Bannerworth--Varney, the vampyre; your midnight guest at that feast of
blood. I am the vampyre. Look upon me well; shrink not from my gaze. You
will do well not to shun me, but to speak to me in such a shape that I
may learn to love you."

Flora shook as in a convulsion, and she looked as white as any marble
statue.

"This is horrible!" she said. "Why does not Heaven grant me the death I
pray for?"

"Hold!" said Varney. "Dress not up in the false colours of the
imagination that which in itself is sufficiently terrific to need none
of the allurements of romance. Flora Bannerworth, you are
persecuted--persecuted by me, the vampyre. It is my fate to persecute
you; for there are laws to the invisible as well as the visible creation
that force even such a being as I am to play my part in the great drama
of existence. I am a vampyre; the sustenance that supports this frame
must be drawn from the life-blood of others."

"Oh, horror--horror!"

"But most I do affect the young and beautiful. It is from the veins of
such as thou art, Flora Bannerworth, that I would seek the sustenance
I'm compelled to obtain for my own exhausted energies. But never yet, in
all my long career--a career extending over centuries of time--never yet
have I felt the soft sensation of human pity till I looked on thee,
exquisite piece of excellence. Even at the moment when the reviving
fluid from the gushing fountain of your veins was warming at my heart, I
pitied and I loved you. Oh, Flora! even I can now feel the pang of being
what I am!"

There was a something in the tone, a touch of sadness in the manner, and
a deep sincerity in these words, that in some measure disabused Flora of
her fears. She sobbed hysterically, and a gush of tears came to her
relief, as, in almost inarticulate accents, she said,--

"May the great God forgive even you!"

"I have need of such a prayer," exclaimed Varney--"Heaven knows I have
need of such a prayer. May it ascend on the wings of the night air to
the throne of Heaven. May it be softly whispered by ministering angels
to the ear of Divinity. God knows I have need of such a prayer!"

"To hear you speak in such a strain," said Flora, "calms the excited
fancy, and strips even your horrible presence of some of its maddening
influence."

"Hush," said the vampire, "you must hear more--you must know more ere
you speak of the matters that have of late exercised an influence of
terror over you."

"But how came I here?" said Flora, "tell me that. By what more than
earthly power have you brought me to this spot? If I am to listen to
you, why should it not be at some more likely time and place?"

"I have powers," said Varney, assuming from Flora's words, that she
would believe such arrogance--"I have powers which suffice to bend many
purposes to my will--powers incidental to my position, and therefore is
it I have brought you here to listen to that which should make you
happier than you are."

"I will attend," said Flora. "I do not shudder now; there's an icy
coldness through my veins, but it is the night air--speak, I will attend
you."

"I will. Flora Bannerworth, I am one who has witnessed time's mutations
on man and on his works, and I have pitied neither; I have seen the fall
of empires, and sighed not that high reaching ambition was toppled to
the dust. I have seen the grave close over the young and the
beautiful--those whom I have doomed by my insatiable thirst for human
blood to death, long ere the usual span of life was past, but I never
loved till now."

"Can such a being as you," said Flora "be susceptible of such an earthly
passion?"

"And wherefore not?"

"Love is either too much of heaven, or too much of earth to find a home
with thee."

"No, Flora, no! it may be that the feeling is born of pity. I will save
you--I will save you from a continuance of the horrors that are
assailing you."

"Oh! then may Heaven have mercy in your hour of need!"

"Amen!"

"May you even yet know peace and joy above."

"It is a faint and straggling hope--but if achieved, it will be through
the interposition of such a spirit as thine, Flora, which has already
exercised so benign an influence upon my tortured soul, as to produce
the wish within my heart, to do a least one unselfish action."

"That wish," said Flora, "shall be father to the deed. Heaven has
boundless mercy yet."

"For thy sweet sake, I will believe so much, Flora Bannerworth; it is a
condition with my hateful race, that if we can find one human heart to
love us, we are free. If, in the face of Heaven, you will consent to be
mine, you will snatch me from a continuance of my frightful doom, and
for your pure sake, and on your merits, shall I yet know heavenly
happiness. Will you be mine?"

A cloud swept from off the face of the moon, and a slant ray fell upon
the hideous features of the vampire. He looked as if just rescued from
some charnel-house, and endowed for a space with vitality to destroy all
beauty and harmony in nature, and drive some benighted soul to madness.

"No, no, no!" shrieked Flora, "never!"

"Enough," said Varney, "I am answered. It was a bad proposal. I am a
vampyre still."

"Spare me! spare me!"

"Blood!"

Flora sank upon her knees, and uplifted her hands to heaven. "Mercy,
mercy!" she said.

"Blood!" said Varney, and she saw his hideous, fang-like teeth. "Blood!
Flora Bannerworth, the vampyre's motto. I have asked you to love me, and
you will not--the penalty be yours."

"No, no!" said Flora. "Can it be possible that even you, who have
already spoken with judgment and precision, can be so unjust? you must
feel that, in all respects, I have been a victim, most gratuitously--a
sufferer, while there existed no just cause that I should suffer; one
who has been tortured, not from personal fault, selfishness, lapse of
integrity, or honourable feelings, but because you have found it
necessary, for the prolongation of your terrific existence, to attack me
as you have done. By what plea of honour, honesty, or justice, can I be
blamed for not embracing an alternative which is beyond all human
control?--I cannot love you."

"Then be content to suffer. Flora Bannerworth, will you not, even for a
time, to save yourself and to save me, become mine?"

"Horrible proposition!"

"Then am I doomed yet, perhaps, for many a cycle of years, to spread
misery and desolation around me; and yet I love you with a feeling which
has in it more of gratefulness and unselfishness than ever yet found a
home within my breast. I would fain have you, although you cannot save
me; there may yet be a chance, which shall enable you to escape from the
persecution of my presence."

"Oh! glorious chance!" said Flora. "Which way can it come? tell me how I
may embrace it, and such grateful feelings as a heart-stricken mourner
can offer to him who has rescued her from her deep affliction, shall yet
be yours."

"Hear me, then, Flora Bannerworth, while I state to you some particulars
of mysterious existence, of such beings as myself, which never yet have
been breathed to mortal ears."

Flora looked intently at him, and listened, while, with a serious
earnestness of manner, he detailed to her something of the physiology of
the singular class of beings which the concurrence of all circumstances
tended to make him appear.

"Flora," he said, "it is not that I am so enamoured of an existence to
be prolonged only by such frightful means, which induces me to become a
terror to you or to others. Believe me, that if my victims, those whom
my insatiable thirst for blood make wretched, suffer much, I, the
vampyre, am not without my moments of unutterable agony. But it is a
mysterious law of our nature, that as the period approaches when the
exhausted energies of life require a new support from the warm, gushing
fountain of another's veins, the strong desire to live grows upon us,
until, in a paroxysm of wild insanity, which will recognise no
obstacles, human or divine, we seek a victim."

"A fearful state!" said Flora.

"It is so; and, when the dreadful repast is over, then again the pulse
beats healthfully, and the wasted energies of a strange kind of vitality
are restored to us, we become calm again, but with that calmness comes
all the horror, all the agony of reflection, and we suffer far more than
tongue can tell."

"You have my pity," said Flora; "even you have my pity."

"I might well demand it, if such a feeling held a place within your
breast. I might well demand your pity, Flora Bannerworth, for never
crawled an abject wretch upon the earth's rotundity, so pitiable as I."

"Go on, go on."

"I will, and with such brief conclusions as I may. Having once attacked
any human being, we feel a strange, but terribly impulsive desire again
to seek that person for more blood. But I love you, Flora; the small
amount of sensibility that still lingers about my preternatural
existence, acknowledges in you a pure and better spirit. I would fain
save you."

"Oh! tell me how I may escape the terrible infliction."

"That can only be done by flight. Leave this place, I implore you! leave
it as quickly as the movement may be made. Linger not--cast not one
regretful look behind you on your ancient home. I shall remain in this
locality for years. Let me lose sight of you, I will not pursue you;
but, by force of circumstances, I am myself compelled to linger here.
Flight is the only means by which you may avoid a doom as terrific as
that which I endure."

"But tell me," said Flora, after a moment's pause, during which she
appeared to be endeavouring to gather courage to ask some fearful
question; "tell me if it be true that those who have once endured the
terrific attack of a vampyre, become themselves, after death, one of
that dread race?"

"It is by such means," said Varney, "that the frightful brood increases;
but time and circumstances must aid the development of the new and
horrible existence. You, however, are safe."

"Safe! Oh! say that word again."

"Yes, safe; not once or twice will the vampyre's attack have sufficient
influence on your mortal frame, as to induce a susceptibility on your
part to become coexistent with such as he. The attacks must be often
repeated, and the termination of mortal existence must be a consequence
essential, and direct from those attacks, before such a result may be
anticipated."

"Yes, yes; I understand."

"If you were to continue my victim from year to year, the energies of
life would slowly waste away, and, till like some faint taper's gleam,
consuming more sustenance than it received, the veriest accident would
extinguish your existence, and then, Flora Bannerworth, you might become
a vampyre."

"Oh! horrible! most horrible!"

"If by chance, or by design, the least glimpse of the cold moonbeams
rested on your apparently lifeless remains, you would rise again and be
one of us--a terror to yourself and a desolation to all around."

"Oh! I will fly from here," said Flora. "The hope of escape from so
terrific and dreadful a doom shall urge me onward; if flight can save
me--flight from Bannerworth Hall, I will pause not until continents and
oceans divide us."

"It is well. I'm able now thus calmly to reason with you. A few short
months more and I shall feel the languor of death creeping over me, and
then will come that mad excitement of the brain, which, were you hidden
behind triple doors of steel, would tempt me again to seek your
chamber--again to seize you in my full embrace--again to draw from your
veins the means of prolonged life--again to convulse your very soul with
terror."

"I need no incentives," said Flora, with a shudder, "in the shape of
descriptions of the past, to urge me on."

"You will fly from Bannerworth Hall?"

"Yes, yes!" said Flora, "it shall be so; its very chambers now are
hideous with the recollection of scenes enacted in them. I will urge my
brothers, my mother, all to leave, and in some distant clime we will
find security and shelter. There even we will learn to think of you with
more of sorrow than of anger--more pity than reproach--more curiosity
than loathing."

"Be it so," said the vampyre; and he clasped his hands, as if with a
thankfulness that he had done so much towards restoring peace at least
to one, who, in consequence of his acts, had felt such exquisite
despair. "Be it so; and even I will hope that the feelings which have
induced so desolated and so isolated a being as myself to endeavour to
bring peace to one human heart, will plead for me, trumpet-tongued, to
Heaven!"

"It will--it will," said Flora.

"Do you think so?"

"I do; and I will pray that the thought may turn to certainty in such a
cause."

The vampyre appeared to be much affected; and then he added,--

"Flora, you know that this spot has been the scene of a catastrophe
fearful to look back upon, in the annals of your family?"

"It has," said Flora. "I know to what you allude; 'tis a matter of
common knowledge to all--a sad theme to me, and one I would not court."

"Nor would I oppress you with it. Your father, here, on this very spot,
committed that desperate act which brought him uncalled for to the
judgment seat of God. I have a strange, wild curiosity upon such
subjects. Will you, in return for the good that I have tried to do you,
gratify it?"

"I know not what you mean," said Flora.

"To be more explicit, then, do you remember the day on which your father
breathed his last?"

"Too well--too well."

"Did you see him or converse with him shortly before that desperate act
was committed?"

"No; he shut himself up for some time in a solitary chamber."

"Ha! what chamber?"

"The one in which I slept myself on the night--"

"Yes, yes; the one with the portrait--that speaking portrait--the eyes
of which seem to challenge an intruder as he enters the apartment."

"The same."

"For hours shut up there!" added Varney, musingly; "and from thence he
wandered to the garden, where, in this summer-house, he breathed his
last?"

"It was so."

"Then, Flora, ere I bid you adieu--"

These words were scarcely uttered, when there was a quick, hasty
footstep, and Henry Bannerworth appeared behind Varney, in the very
entrance of the summer-house.

"Now," he cried, "for revenge! Now, foul being, blot upon the earth's
surface, horrible imitation of humanity, if mortal arm can do aught
against you, you shall die!"

A shriek came from the lips of Flora, and flinging herself past Varney,
who stepped aside, she clung to her brother, who made an unavailing pass
with his sword at the vampyre. It was a critical moment; and had the
presence of mind of Varney deserted him in the least, unarmed as he was,
he must have fallen beneath the weapon of Henry. To spring, however, up
the seat which Flora had vacated, and to dash out some of the flimsy and
rotten wood-work at the back of the summer-house by the propulsive power
of his whole frame, was the work of a moment; and before Henry could
free himself from the clinging embrace of Flora, Varney, the vampyre was
gone, and there was no greater chance of his capture than on a former
occasion, when he was pursued in vain from the Hall to the wood, in the
intricacies of which he was so entirely lost.




CHAPTER XXXV.

THE EXPLANATION.--MARCHDALE'S ADVICE.--THE PROJECTED REMOVAL, AND THE
ADMIRAL'S ANGER.


[Illustration]

This extremely sudden movement on the part of Varney was certainly as
unexpected as it was decisive. Henry had imagined, that by taking
possession of the only entrance to the summer-house, he must come into
personal conflict with the being who had worked so much evil for him and
his; and that he should so suddenly have created for himself another
mode of exit, certainly never occurred to him.

"For Heaven's sake, Flora," he said, "unhand me; this is a time for
action."

"But, Henry, Henry, hear me."

"Presently, presently, dear Flora; I will yet make another effort to
arrest the headlong flight of Varney."

He shook her off, perhaps with not more roughness than was necessary to
induce her to forego her grasp of him, but in a manner that fully showed
he intended to be free; and then he sprang through the same aperture
whence Varney had disappeared, just as George and Mr. Marchdale arrived
at the door of the summer-house.

It was nearly morning, so that the fields were brightening up with the
faint radiance of the coming day; and when Henry reached a point which
he knew commanded an extensive view, he paused, and ran his eye eagerly
along the landscape, with a hope of discovering some trace of the
fugitive.

Such, however, was not the case; he saw nothing, heard nothing of Sir
Francis Varney; and then he turned, and called loudly to George to join
him, and was immediately replied to by his brother's presence,
accompanied by Marchdale.

Before, however, they could exchange a word, a rattling discharge of
fire-arms took place from one of the windows, and they heard the
admiral, in a loud voice, shouting,--

"Broadside to broadside! Give it them again, Jack! Hit them between wind
and water!"

Then there was another rattling discharge, and Henry exclaimed,--

"What is the meaning of that firing?"

"It comes from the admiral's room," said Marchdale. "On my life, I think
the old man must be mad. He has some six or eight pistols ranged in a
row along the window-sill, and all loaded, so that by the aid of a match
they can be pretty well discharged as a volley, which he considers the
only proper means of firing upon the vampyre."

"It is so," replied George; "and, no doubt, hearing an alarm, he has
commenced operations by firing into the enemy."

"Well, well," said Henry; "he must have his way. I have pursued Varney
thus far, and that he has again retreated to the wood, I cannot doubt.
Between this and the full light of day, let us at least make an effort
to discover his place of retreat. We know the locality as well as he can
possibly, and I propose now that we commence an active search."

"Come on, then," said Marchdale. "We are all armed; and I, for one,
shall feel no hesitation in taking the life, if it be possible to do so,
of that strange being."

"Of that possibility you doubt?" said George, as they hurried on across
the meadows.

"Indeed I do, and with reason too. I'm certain that when I fired at him
before I hit him; and besides, Flora must have shot him upon the
occasion when we were absent, and she used your pistols Henry, to defend
herself and her mother."

"It would seem so," said Henry; "and disregarding all present
circumstances, if I do meet him, I will put to the proof whether he be
mortal or not."

The distance was not great, and they soon reached the margin of the
wood; they then separated agreeing to meet within it, at a well-spring,
familiar to them all: previous to which each was to make his best
endeavour to discover if any one was hidden among the bush-wood or in
the hollows of the ancient trees they should encounter on their line of
march.

The fact was, that Henry finding that he was likely to pass an
exceedingly disturbed, restless night, through agitation of spirits,
had, after tossing to and fro on his couch for many hours, wisely at
length risen, and determined to walk abroad in the gardens belonging to
the mansion, in preference to continuing in such a state of fever and
anxiety, as he was in, in his own chamber.

Since the vampyre's dreadful visit, it had been the custom of both the
brothers, occasionally, to tap at the chamber door of Flora, who, at her
own request, now that she had changed her room, and dispensed with any
one sitting up with her, wished occasionally to be communicated with by
some member of the family.

Henry, then, after rapidly dressing, as he passed the door of her
bedroom, was about to tap at it, when to his surprise he found it open,
and upon hastily entering it he observed that the bed was empty, and a
hasty glance round the apartment convinced him that Flora was not there.

Alarm took possession of him, and hastily arming himself, he roused
Marchdale and George, but without waiting for them to be ready to
accompany him, he sought the garden, to search it thoroughly in case she
should be anywhere there concealed.

Thus it was he had come upon the conference so strangely and so
unexpectedly held between Varney and Flora in the summer-house. With
what occurred upon that discovery the readers are acquainted.

Flora had promised George that she would return immediately to the
house, but when, in compliance with the call of Henry, George and
Marchdale had left her alone, she felt so agitated and faint that she
began to cling to the trellis work of the little building for a few
moments before she could gather strength to reach the mansion.

Two or three minutes might thus have elapsed, and Flora was in such a
state of mental bewilderment with all that had occurred, that she could
scarce believe it real, when suddenly a slight sound attracted her
attention, and through the gap which had been made in the wall of the
summer-house, with an appearance of perfect composure, again appeared
Sir Francis Varney.

"Flora," he said, quietly resuming the discourse which had been broken
off, "I am quite convinced now that you will be much the happier for the
interview."

"Gracious Heaven!" said Flora, "whence have you come from?"

"I have never left," said Varney.

"But I saw you fly from this spot."

"You did; but it was only to another immediately outside the summer
house. I had no idea of breaking off our conference so abruptly."

"Have you anything to add to what you have already stated?"

"Absolutely nothing, unless you have a question to propose to me--I
should have thought you had, Flora. Is there no other circumstance
weighing heavily upon your mind, as well as the dreadful visitation I
have subjected you to?"

"Yes," said Flora. "What has become of Charles Holland?"

"Listen. Do not discard all hope; when you are far from here you will
meet with him again."

"But he has left me."

"And yet he will be able, when you again encounter him, so far to
extenuate his seeming perfidy, that you shall hold him as untouched in
honour as when first he whispered to you that he loved you."

"Oh, joy! joy!" said Flora; "by that assurance you have robbed
misfortune of its sting, and richly compensated me for all that I have
suffered."

"Adieu!" said the vampyre. "I shall now proceed to my own home by a
different route to that taken by those who would kill me."

"But after this," said Flora, "there shall be no danger; you shall be
held harmless, and our departure from Bannerworth Hall shall be so
quick, that you will soon be released from all apprehension of vengeance
from my brother, and I shall taste again of that happiness which I
thought had fled from me for ever."

"Farewell," said the vampire; and folding his cloak closely around him,
he strode from the summer-house, soon disappearing from her sight behind
the shrubs and ample vegetation with which that garden abounded.

Flora sunk upon her knees, and uttered a brief, but heartfelt
thanksgiving to Heaven for this happy change in her destiny. The hue of
health faintly again visited her cheeks, and as she now, with a feeling
of more energy and strength than she had been capable of exerting for
many days, walked towards the house, she felt all that delightful
sensation which the mind experiences when it is shaking off the trammels
of some serious evil which it delights now to find that the imagination
has attired in far worse colours than the facts deserved.

It is scarcely necessary, after this, to say that the search in the wood
for Sir Francis Varney was an unproductive one, and that the morning
dawned upon the labours of the brother and of Mr. Marchdale, without
their having discovered the least indication of the presence of Varney.
Again puzzled and confounded, they stood on the margin of the wood, and
looked sadly towards the brightening windows of Bannerworth Hall, which
were now reflecting with a golden radiance the slant rays of the morning
sun.

"Foiled again," remarked Henry, with a gesture of impatience; "foiled
again, and as completely as before. I declare that I will fight this
man, let our friend the admiral say what he will against such a measure
I will meet him in mortal combat; he shall consummate his triumph over
our whole family by my death, or I will rid the world and ourselves of
so frightful a character."

"Let us hope," said Marchdale, "that some other course may be adopted,
which shall put an end to these proceedings."

"That," exclaimed Henry, "is to hope against all probability; what other
course can be pursued? Be this Varney man or devil, he has evidently
marked us for his prey."

[Illustration]

"Indeed, it would seem so," remarked George; "but yet he shall find that
we will not fall so easily; he shall discover that if poor Flora's
gentle spirit has been crushed by these frightful circumstances, we are
of a sterner mould."

"He shall," said Henry; "I for one will dedicate my life to this matter.
I will know no more rest than is necessary to recruit my frame, until I
have succeeded in overcoming this monster; I will seek no pleasure here,
and will banish from my mind, all else that may interfere with that one
fixed pursuit. He or I must fall."

"Well spoken," said Marchdale; "and yet I hope that circumstances may
occur to prevent such a necessity of action, and that probably you will
yet see that it will be wise and prudent to adopt a milder and a safer
course."

"No, Marchdale, you cannot feel as we feel. You look on more as a
spectator, sympathising with the afflictions of either, than feeling the
full sting of those afflictions yourself."

"Do I not feel acutely for you? I'm a lonely man in the world, and I
have taught myself now to centre my affections in your family; my
recollections of early years assist me in so doing. Believe me, both of
you, that I am no idle spectator of your griefs, but that I share them
fully. If I advise you to be peaceful, and to endeavour by the gentlest
means possible to accomplish your aims, it is not that I would counsel
you cowardice; but having seen so much more of the world than either of
you have had time or opportunity of seeing, I do not look so
enthusiastically upon matters, but, with a cooler, calmer judgment, I do
not say a better, I proffer to you my counsel."

"We thank you," said Henry; "but this is a matter in which action seems
specially called for. It is not to be borne that a whole family is to be
oppressed by such a fiend in human shape as that Varney."

"Let me," said Marchdale, "counsel you to submit to Flora's decision in
this business; let her wishes constitute the rules of action. She is the
greatest sufferer, and the one most deeply interested in the termination
of this fearful business. Moreover she has judgment and decision of
character--she will advise you rightly, be assured."

"That she would advise us honourably," said Henry, "and that we should
feel every disposition in the world to defer to her wishes our
proposition, is not to be doubted; but little shall be done without her
counsel and sanction. Let us now proceed homeward, for I am most anxious
to ascertain how it came about that she and Sir Francis Varney were
together in that summer-house at so strange an hour."

They all three walked together towards the house, conversing in a
similar strain as they went.




CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE CONSULTATION.--THE DUEL AND ITS RESULTS.


[Illustration]

Independent of this interview which Flora had had with the much dreaded
Sir Francis Varney, the circumstances in which she and all who were dear
to her, happened at that moment to be placed, certainly required an
amount of consideration, which could not be too soon bestowed.

By a combination of disagreeables, everything that could possibly occur
to disturb the peace of the family seemed to have taken place at once;
like Macbeth's, their troubles had truly come in battalions, and now
that the serenity of their domestic position was destroyed, minor evils
and annoyances which that very serenity had enabled them to hold at
arm's-length became gigantic, and added much to their distress.

The small income, which, when all was happiness, health and peace, was
made to constitute a comfortable household, was now totally inadequate
to do so--the power to economise and to make the most of a little, had
flown along with that contentedness of spirit which the harmony of
circumstances alone could produce.

It was not to be supposed that poor Mrs. Bannerworth could now, as she
had formerly done, when her mind was free from anxiety, attend to those
domestic matters which make up the comforts of a family--distracted at
the situation of her daughter, and bewildered by the rapid succession of
troublesome events which so short a period of time had given birth to,
she fell into an inert state of mind as different as anything could
possibly be, from her former active existence.

It has likewise been seen how the very domestics fled from Bannerworth
Hall in dismay, rather than remain beneath the same roof with a family
believed to be subject to the visitations of so awful a being as a
vampyre.

Among the class who occupy positions of servitude, certainly there might
have been found some, who, with feelings and understandings above such
considerations, would have clung sympathetically to that family in
distress, which they had known under a happier aspect; but it had not
been the good fortune of the Bannerworths to have such as these about
them; hence selfishness had its way, and they were deserted. It was not
likely, then, that strangers would willingly accept service in a family
so situated, without some powerful impulse in the shape of a higher
pecuniary consideration, as was completely out of the power of the
Bannerworths to offer.

Thus was it, then, that most cruelly, at the very time that they had
most need of assistance and of sympathy, this unfortunate family almost
became isolated from their kind; and, apart from every other
consideration, it would have been almost impossible for them to continue
inhabitants of the Hall, with anything like comfort, or advantage.

And then, although the disappearance of Charles Holland no longer
awakened those feelings of indignation at his supposed perfidy which
were first produced by that event; still, view it in which way they
might, it was a severe blow of fate, and after it, they one and all
found themselves still less able to contend against the sea of troubles
that surrounded them.

The reader, too, will not have failed to remark that there was about the
whole of the family that pride of independence which induced them to
shrink from living upon extraneous aid; and hence, although they felt
and felt truly, that when Admiral Bell, in his frank manner, offered
them pecuniary assistance, that it was no idle compliment, yet with a
sensitiveness such as they might well be expected to feel, they held
back, and asked each other what prospect there was of emerging from such
a state of things, and if it were justifiable to commence a life of
dependence, the end of which was not evident or tangible.

Notwithstanding, too, the noble confidence of Flora in her lover, and
notwithstanding that confidence had been echoed by her brothers, there
would at times obtrude into the minds of the latter, a feeling of the
possibility, that after all they might be mistaken; and Charles Holland
might, from some sudden impulse, fancying his future happiness was all
at stake, have withdrawn himself from the Hall, and really written the
letters attributed to him.

We say this only obtruded itself occasionally, for all their real
feelings and aspirations were the other way, although Mr. Marchdale,
they could perceive, had his doubts, and they could not but confess that
he was more likely to view the matter calmly and dispassionately than
they.

In fact, the very hesitation with which he spoke upon the subject,
convinced them of his doubt; for they attributed that hesitation to a
fear of giving them pain, or of wounding the prejudices of Admiral Bell,
with whom he had already had words so nearly approaching to a quarrel.

Henry's visit to Mr. Chillingworth was not likely to be productive of
any results beyond those of a conjectural character. All that that
gentleman could do was to express a willingness to be directed by them
in any way, rather than suggest any course of conduct himself upon
circumstances which he could not be expected to judge of as they who
were on the spot, and had witnessed their actual occurrence.

And now we will suppose that the reader is enabled with us to look into
one of the principal rooms of Bannerworth Hall. It is evening, and some
candles are shedding a sickly light on the ample proportions of the once
handsome apartment. At solemn consultation the whole of the family are
assembled. As well as the admiral, Mr. Chillingworth, and Marchdale,
Jack Pringle, too, walked in, by the sufferance of his master, as if he
considered he had a perfect right to do so.

The occasion of the meeting had been a communication which Flora had
made concerning her most singular and deeply interesting interview with
the vampyre. The details of this interview had produced a deep effect
upon the whole of the family. Flora was there, and she looked better,
calmer, and more collected than she had done for some days past.

No doubt the interview she had had with Varney in the summer-house in
the garden had dispelled a host of imaginary terrors with which she had
surrounded him, although it had confirmed her fully that he and he only
was the dreadful being who had caused her so much misery.

That interview had tended to show her that about him there was yet
something human, and that there was not a danger of her being hunted
down from place to place by so horrible an existence.

Such a feeling as this was, of course, a source of deep consolation; and
with a firmer voice, and more of her old spirit of cheerfulness about
her than she had lately exhibited, she again detailed the particulars of
the interview to all who had assembled, concluding by saying,--

"And this has given me hope of happier days. If it be a delusion, it is
a happy one; and now that but a frightful veil of mystery still hangs
over the fate of Charles Holland, I how gladly would I bid adieu to this
place, and all that has made it terrible. I could almost pity Sir
Francis Varney, rather than condemn him."

"That may be true," said Henry, "to a certain extent, sister; but we
never can forget the amount of misery he has brought upon us. It is no
slight thing to be forced from our old and much-loved home, even if such
proceeding does succeed in freeing us from his persecutions."

"But, my young friend," said Marchdale, "you must recollect, that
through life it is continually the lot of humanity to be endeavouring to
fly from great evils to those which do not present themselves to the
mind in so bad an aspect. It is something, surely, to alleviate
affliction, if we cannot entirely remove it."

"That is true," said Mr. Chillingworth, "to a considerable extent, but
then it takes too much for granted to please me."

"How so, sir?"

"Why, certainly, to remove from Bannerworth Hall is a much less evil
than to remain at Bannerworth Hall, and be haunted by a vampyre; but
then that proposition takes for granted that vampyre business, which I
will never grant. I repeat, again and again, it is contrary to all
experience, to philosophy, and to all the laws of ordinary nature."

"Facts are stubborn things," said Marchdale.

"Apparently," remarked Mr. Chillingworth.

"Well, sir; and here we have the fact of a vampyre."

"The presumed fact. One swallow don't make a summer, Mr. Marchdale."

"This is waste of time," said Henry--"of course, the amount of evidence
that will suffice to bring conviction to one man's mind will fail in
doing so to another. The question is, what are we to do?"

All eyes were turned upon Flora, as if this question was more
particularly addressed to her, and it behoved her, above all others, to
answer it. She did so; and in a firm, clear voice, she said,--

"I will discover the fate of Charles Holland, and then leave the Hall."

"The fate of Charles Holland!" said Marchdale. "Why, really, unless that
young gentleman chooses to be communicative himself upon so interesting
a subject, we may be a long while discovering his fate. I know that it
is not a romantic view to take of the question, to suppose simply that
he wrote the three letters found upon his dressing-table, and then
decamped; but to my mind, it savours most wonderfully of matter-of-fact.
I now speak more freely than I have otherwise done, for I am now upon
the eve of my departure. I have no wish to remain here, and breed
dissension in any family, or to run a tilt against anybody's
prejudices." Here he looked at Admiral Bell. "I leave this house
to-night."

"You're a d----d lubberly thief," said the admiral; "the sooner you
leave it the better. Why, you bad-looking son of a gun, what do you
mean? I thought we'd had enough of that."

"I fully expected this abuse," said Marchdale.

"Did you expect that?" said the admiral, as he snatched up an inkstand,
and threw at Marchdale, hitting him a hard knock on the chin, and
bespattering its contents on his breast. "Now I'll give you
satisfaction, you lubber. D--me, if you ain't a second Jones, and enough
to sink the ship. Shiver my timbers if I sha'n't say something strong
presently."

"I really," said Henry, "must protest, Admiral Bell, against this
conduct."

"Protest and be d----d."

"Mr. Marchdale may be right, sir, or he may be wrong, it's a matter of
opinion."

"Oh, never mind," said Marchdale; "I look upon this old nautical ruffian
as something between a fool and a madman. If he were a younger man I
should chastise him upon the spot; but as it is I live in hopes yet of
getting him into some comfortable lunatic asylum."

"Me into an asylum!" shouted the admiral. "Jack, did you hear that?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Farewell all of you," said Marchdale; "my best wishes be with this
family. I cannot remain under this roof to be so insulted."

"A good riddance," cried the admiral. "I'd rather sail round the world
with a shipload of vampyres than with such a humbugging son of a gun as
you are. D----e, you're worse than a lawyer."

"Nay, nay," cried they, "Mr. Marchdale, stay."

"Stay, stay," cried George, and Mrs. Bannerworth, likewise, said stay;
but at the moment Flora stepped forward, and in a clear voice she
said,--

"No, let him go, he doubts Charles Holland; let all go who doubt Charles
Holland. Mr. Marchdale, Heaven forgive you this injustice you are doing.
We may never meet again. Farewell, sir!"

These words were spoken in so decided a tone, that no one contradicted
them. Marchdale cast a strange kind of look round upon the family
circle, and in another instant he was gone.

"Huzza!" shouted Jack Pringle; "that's one good job."

Henry looked rather resentful, which the admiral could not but observe,
and so, less with the devil-may-care manner in which he usually spoke,
the old man addressed him.

"Hark ye, Mr. Henry Bannerworth, you ain't best pleased with me, and in
that case I don't know that I shall stay to trouble you any longer, as
for your friend who has left you, sooner or later you'll find him out--I
tell you there's no good in that fellow. Do you think I've been cruizing
about for a matter of sixty years, and don't know an honest man when I
see him. But never mind, I'm going on a voyage of discovery for my
nephew, and you can do as you like."

"Heaven only knows, Admiral Bell," said Henry, "who is right and who is
wrong. I do much regret that you have quarrelled with Mr. Marchdale; but
what is done can't be undone."

"Do not leave us," said Flora; "let me beg of you, Admiral Bell, not to
leave us; for my sake remain here, for to you I can speak freely and
with confidence, of Charles, when probably I can do so to no one else.
You knew him well and have a confidence in him, which no one else can
aspire to. I pray you, therefore, to stay with us."

"Only on one condition," said the admiral.

"Name it--name it!

"You think of letting the Hall?"

"Yes, yes."

"Let me have it, then, and let me pay a few years in advance. If you
don't, I'm d----d if I stay another night in the place. You must give me
immediate possession, too, and stay here as my guests until you suit
yourselves elsewhere. Those are my terms and conditions. Say yes, and
all's right; say no, and I'm off like a round shot from a carronade.
D----me, that's the thing, Jack, isn't it?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

There was a silence of some few moments after this extraordinary offer
had been made, and then they spoke, saying,--

"Admiral Bell, your generous offer, and the feelings which dictated it,
are by far too transparent for us to affect not to understand them. Your
actions, Admiral--"

"Oh, bother my actions! what are they to you? Come, now, I consider
myself master of the house, d--n you! I invite you all to dinner, or
supper, or to whatever meal comes next. Mrs. Bannerworth, will you
oblige me, as I'm an old fool in family affairs, by buying what's wanted
for me and my guests? There's the money, ma'am. Come along, Jack, we'll
take a look over our new house. What do you think of it?"

"Wants some sheathing, sir, here and there."

"Very like; but, however, it will do well enough for us; we're in port,
you know. Come along."

"Ay, ay, sir."

And off went the admiral and Jack, after leaving a twenty pound note in
Mrs. Bannerworth's lap.




CHAPTER XXXVII.

SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S SEPARATE OPPONENTS.--THE INTERPOSITION OF FLORA.


[Illustration]

The old admiral so completely overcame the family of the Bannerworths by
his generosity and evident single-mindedness of his behaviour, that
although not one, except Flora, approved of his conduct towards Mr.
Marchdale, yet they could not help liking him; and had they been placed
in a position to choose which of the two they would have had remain with
them, the admiral or Marchdale, there can be no question they would have
made choice of the former.

Still, however, it was not pleasant to find a man like Marchdale
virtually driven from the house, because he presumed to differ in
opinion upon a very doubtful matter with another of its inmates. But as
it was the nature of the Bannerworth family always to incline to the
most generous view of subjects, the frank, hearty confidence of the old
admiral in Charles Holland pleased them better than the calm and serious
doubting of Marchdale.

His ruse of hiring the house of them, and paying the rent in advance,
for the purpose of placing ample funds in their hands for any
contingency, was not the less amiable because it was so easily seen
through; and they could not make up their minds to hurt the feelings of
the old man by the rejection of his generous offer.

When he had left, this subject was canvassed among them, and it was
agreed that he should have his own way in the matter for the present,
although they hoped to hear something from Marchdale, which should make
his departure appear less abrupt and uncomfortable to the whole of the
family.

During the course of this conversation, it was made known to Flora with
more distinctness than under any other circumstances it would have been,
that George Holland had been on the eve of fighting a duel with Sir
Francis Varney, previous to his mysterious disappearance.

When she became fully aware of this fact, to her mind it seemed
materially to add to the suspicions previously to then entertained, that
foul means had been used in order to put Charles out of the way.

"Who knows," she said, "that this Varney may not shrink with the
greatest terror from a conflict with any human being, and feeling one
was inevitable with Charles Holland, unless interrupted by some vigorous
act of his own, he or some myrmidons of his may have taken Charles's
life!"

"I do not think, Flora," said Henry, "that he would have ventured upon
so desperate an act; I cannot well believe such a thing possible. But
fear not; he will find, it he have really committed any such atrocity,
that it will not save him."

These words of Henry, though it made no impression at the time upon
Flora, beyond what they carried upon their surface, they really,
however, as concerned Henry himself, implied a settled resolution, which
he immediately set about reducing to practice.

When the conference broke up, night, as it still was, he, without saying
anything to any one, took his hat and cloak, and left the Hall,
proceeding by the nearest practicable route to the residence of Sir
Francis Varney, where he arrived without any interruption of any
character.

Varney was at first denied to him, but before he could leave the house,
a servant came down the great staircase, to say it was a mistake; and
that Sir Francis was at home, and would be happy to see him.

He was ushered into the same apartment where Sir Frances Varney had
before received his visitors; and there sat the now declared vampyre,
looking pale and ghastly by the dim light which burned in the apartment,
and, indeed, more like some spectre of the tomb, than one of the great
family of man.

"Be seated, sir," said Varney; "although my eyes have seldom the
pleasure of beholding you within these walls, be assured you are a
honoured guest."

"Sir Francis Varney," said Henry, "I came not here to bandy compliments
with you; I have none to pay to you, nor do I wish to hear any of them
from your lips."

"An excellent sentiment, young man," said Varney, "and well delivered.
May I presume, then, without infringing too far upon your extreme
courtesy, to inquire, to what circumstances I am indebted for your
visit?"

"To one, Sir Francis, that I believe you are better acquainted with than
you will have the candour to admit."

"Indeed, sir," said Varney, coldly; "you measure my candour, probably,
by a standard of your own; in which case I fear, I may be no gainer; and
yet that may be of itself a circumstance that should afford little food
for surprise, but proceed, sir--since we have so few compliments to
stand between us and our purpose, we shall in all due time arrive at
it."

"Yes, in due time, Sir Francis Varney, and that due time has arrived.
Know you anything of my friend, Mr. Charles Holland?" said Henry, in
marked accents; and he gazed on Sir Francis Varney with earnestness,
that seemed to say not even a look should escape his observation.

Varney, however, returned the gaze as steadily, but coldly, as he
replied in his measured accents,--

"I have heard of the young gentleman."

"And seen him?"

"And seen him too, as you, Mr. Bannerworth, must be well aware. Surely
you have not come all this way, merely to make such an inquiry; but,
sir, you are welcome to the answer."

Henry had something of a struggle to keep down the rising anger, at
these cool taunts of Varney; but he succeeded--and then he said,--

"I suspect Charles Holland, Sir Francis Varney, has met with unfair
treatment, and that he has been unfairly dealt with, for an unworthy
purpose."

"Undoubtedly," said Varney, "if the gentleman you allude to, has been
unfairly dealt with, it was for a foul purpose; for no good or generous
object, my young sir, could be so obtained--you acknowledge so much, I
doubt not?"

"I do, Sir Francis Varney; and hence the purpose of my visit here--for
this reason I apply to you--"

"A singular object, supported by a singular reason. I cannot see the
connection, young sir; pray proceed to enlighten me upon this matter,
and when you have done that, may I presume upon your consideration, to
inquire in what way I can be of any service to you?"

"Sir Francis," said Henry, his anger raising his tones--"this will not
serve you--I have come to exact an account of how you have disposed of
my friend; and I will have it."

"Gently, my good sir; you are aware I know nothing of your friend; his
motions are his own; and as to what I have done with him; my only answer
is, that he would permit me to do nothing with him, had I been so
inclined to have taken the liberty."

"You are suspected, Sir Francis Varney, of having made an attempt upon
the life or liberty of Charles Holland; you, in fact, are suspected of
being his murderer--and, so help me Heaven! if I have not justice, I
will have vengeance!"

"Young sir, your words are of grave import, and ought to be coolly
considered before they are uttered. With regard to justice and
vengeance, Mr. Bannerworth, you may have both; but I tell you, of
Charles Holland, or what has become of him, I know nothing. But
wherefore do you come to so unlikely a quarter to learn something of an
individual of whom I know nothing?"

"Because Charles Holland was to have fought a duel with you: but before
that had time to take place, he has suddenly become missing. I suspect
that you are the author of his disappearance, because you fear an
encounter with a mortal man."

"Mr. Bannerworth, permit me to say, in my own defence, that I do not
fear any man, however foolish he may be; and wisdom is not an attribute
I find, from experience in all men, of your friend. However, you must be
dreaming, sir--a kind of vivid insanity has taken possession of your
mind, which distorts--"

"Sir Francis Varney!" exclaimed Henry, now perfectly uncontrollable.

"Sir," said Varney, as he filled up the pause, "proceed; I am all
attention. You do me honour."

"If," resumed Henry, "such was your object in putting Mr. Holland aside,
by becoming personally or by proxy an assassin, you are mistaken in
supposing you have accomplished your object."

"Go on, sir," said Sir Francis Varney, in a bland and sweet tone; "I am
all attention; pray proceed."

"You have failed; for I now here, on this spot, defy you to mortal
combat. Coward, assassin as you are, I challenge you to fight."

"You don't mean on the carpet here?" said Varney, deliberately.

"No, sir; but beneath the canopy of heaven, in the light of the day. And
then, Sir Francis, we shall see who will shrink from the conflict."

"It is remarkably good, Mr. Bannerworth, and, begging your pardon, for I
do not wish to give any offence, my honoured sir, it would rehearse
before an audience; in short, sir, it is highly dramatic."

"You shrink from the combat, do you? Now, indeed, I know you."

"Young man--young man," said Sir Francis, calmly, and shaking his head
very deliberately, and the shadows passed across his pale face, "you
know me not, if you think Sir Francis Varney shrinks from any man, much
less one like yourself."

"You are a coward, and worse, if you refuse my challenge."

"I do not refuse it; I accept it," said Varney, calmly, and in a
dignified manner; and then, with a sneer, he added,--"You are well
acquainted with the mode in which gentlemen generally manage these
matters, Mr. Bannerworth, and perhaps I am somewhat confined in my
knowledge in the ways of the world, because you are your own principal
and second. In all my experience, I never met with a similar case."

"The circumstances under which it is given are as unexampled, and will
excuse the mode of the challenge," said Henry, with much warmth.

"Singular coincidence--the challenge and mode of it is most singular!
They are well matched in that respect. Singular, did I say? The more I
think of it, Mr. Bannerworth, the more I am inclined to think this
positively odd."

"Early to-morrow, Sir Francis, you shall hear from me."

"In that case, you will not arrange preliminaries now? Well, well; it is
very unusual for the principals themselves to do so; and yet, excuse my
freedom, I presumed, as you had so far deserted the beaten track, that I
had no idea how far you might be disposed to lead the same route."

"I have said all I intended to say, Sir Francis Varney; we shall see
each other again."

"I may not detain you, I presume, to taste aught in the way of
refreshment?"

Henry made no reply, but turned towards the door, without even making an
attempt to return the grave and formal bow that Sir Francis Varney made
as be saw him about to quit the apartment; for Henry saw that his pale
features were lighted up with a sarcastic smile, most disagreeable to
look upon as well as irritating to Henry Bannerworth.

He now quitted Sir Francis Varney's abode, being let out by a servant
who had been rung for for that purpose by his master.

Henry walked homeward, satisfied that he had now done all that he could
under the circumstances.

"I will send Chillingworth to him in the morning, and then I shall see
what all this will end in. He must meet me, and then Charles Holland, if
not discovered, shall be, at least, revenged."

There was another person in Bannerworth Hall who had formed a similar
resolution. That person was a very different sort of person to Henry
Bannerworth, though quite as estimable in his way.

This was no other than the old admiral. It was singular that two such
very different persons should deem the same steps necessary, and both
keep the secret from each other; but so it was, and, after some internal
swearing, he determined upon challenging Varney in person.

"I'd send Jack Pringle, but the swab would settle the matter as shortly
as if a youngster was making an entry in a log, and heard the
boatswain's whistle summoning the hands to a mess, and feared he would
lose his grog.

"D--n my quarters! but Sir Francis Varney, as he styles himself, sha'n't
make any way against old Admiral Bell. He's as tough as a hawser, and
just the sort of blade for a vampyre to come athwart. I'll pitch him
end-long, and make a plank of him afore long. Cus my windpipe! what a
long, lanky swab he is, with teeth fit to unpick a splice; but let me
alone, I'll see if I can't make a hull of his carcass, vampyre or no
vampyre.

"My nevy, Charles Holland, can't be allowed to cut away without nobody's
leave or licence. No, no; I'll not stand that anyhow. 'Never desert a
messmate in the time of need,' is the first maxim of a seaman, and I
ain't the one as 'll do so."

Thus self-communing, the old admiral marched along until he came to Sir
Francis Varney's house, at the gate of which he gave the bell what he
called a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether, that set it
ringing with a fury, the like of which had never certainly been heard by
the household.

A minute or two scarcely elapsed before the domestics hurried to answer
so urgent a summons; and when the gate was opened, the servant who
answered it inquired his business.

"What's that to you, snob? Is your master, Sir Francis Varney, in?
because, if he be, let him know old Admiral Bell wants to speak to him.
D'ye hear?"

"Yes, sir," replied the servant, who had paused a few moments to examine
the individual who gave this odd kind of address.

In another minute word was brought to him that Sir Francis Varney would
be very happy to see Admiral Bell.

"Ay, ay," he muttered; "just as the devil likes to meet with holy water,
or as I like any water save salt water."

He was speedily introduced to Sir Francis Varney, who was seated in the
same posture as he had been left by Henry Bannerworth not many minutes
before.

"Admiral Bell," said Sir Francis, rising, and bowing to that individual
in the most polite, calm, and dignified manner imaginable, "permit me to
express the honour I feel at this unexpected visit."

"None of your gammon."

"Will you be seated. Allow me to offer you such refreshments as this
poor house affords."

"D--n all this! You know, Sir Francis, I don't want none o' this
palaver. It's for all the world like a Frenchman, when you are going to
give him a broadside; he makes grimaces, throws dust in your eyes, and
tries to stab you in the back. Oh, no! none of that for me."

"I should say not, Admiral Bell. I should not like it myself, and I dare
say you are a man of too much experience not to perceive when you are or
are not imposed upon."

"Well, what is that to you? D--n me, I didn't come here to talk to you
about myself."

"Then may I presume upon your courtesy so far as to beg that you will
enlighten me upon the object of your visit!"

"Yes; in pretty quick time. Just tell me where you have stowed away my
nephew, Charles Holland?"

"Really, I--"

"Hold your slack, will you, and hear me out; if he's living, let him
out, and I'll say no more about it; that's liberal, you know; it ain't
terms everybody would offer you."

"I must, in truth, admit they are not; and, moreover, they quite
surprise even me, and I have learned not to be surprised at almost
anything."

"Well, will you give him up alive? but, hark ye, you mustn't have made
very queer fish of him, do ye see?"

"I hear you," said Sir Francis, with a bland smile, passing one hand
gently over the other, and showing his front teeth in a peculiar manner;
"but I really cannot comprehend all this; but I may say, generally, that
Mr. Holland is no acquaintance of mine, and I have no sort of knowledge
where he may be."

"That won't do for me," said the admiral, positively, shaking his head.

"I am particularly sorry, Admiral Bell, that it will not, seeing that I
have nothing else to say."

"I see how it is; you've put him out of the way, and I'm d----d if you
shan't bring him to life, whole and sound, or I'll know the reason why."

"With that I have already furnished you, Admiral Bell," quietly rejoined
Varney; "anything more on that head is out of my power, though my
willingness to oblige a person of such consideration as yourself, is
very great; but, permit me to add, this is a very strange and odd
communication from one gentleman to another. You have lost a relative,
who has, very probably, taken some offence, or some notion into his
head, of which nobody but himself knows anything, and you come to one
yet more unlikely to know anything of him, than even yourself.

"Gammon again, now, Sir Francis Varney, or Blarney."

"Varney, if you please, Admiral Bell; I was christened Varney."

"Christened, eh?"

"Yes, christened--were you not christened? If not, I dare say you
understand the ceremony well enough."

[Illustration]

"I should think I did; but, as for christening, a--"

"Go on, sir."

"A vampyre! why I should as soon think of reading the burial service of
a pig."

"Very possible; but what has all this to do with your visit to me?"

"This much, you lubber. Now, d--n my carcass from head to stern, if I
don't call you out."

"Well, Admiral Bell," slid Varney, mildly, "in that case, I suppose I
must come out; but why do you insist that I have any knowledge of your
nephew, Mr. Charles Holland?"

"You were to have fought a duel with him, and now he's gone."

"I am here," said Varney.

"Ay," said the admiral, "that's as plain as a purser's shirt upon a
handspike; but that's the very reason why my nevey ain't here, and
that's all about it."

"And that's marvellous little, so far as the sense is concerned," said
Varney, without the movement of a muscle.

"It is said that people of your class don't like fighting mortal men;
now you have disposed of him, lest he should dispose of you."

"That is explicit, but it is to no purpose, since the gentleman in
question hasn't placed himself at my disposal."

"Then, d----e, I will; fish, flesh, or fowl, I don't care; all's one to
Admiral Bell. Come fair or fowl, I'm a tar for all men; a seaman ever
ready to face a foe, so here goes, you lubberly moon manufactured calf."

"I hear, admiral, but it is scarcely civil, to say the least of it;
however, as you are somewhat eccentric, and do not, I dare say, mean all
your words imply, I am quite willing to make every allowance."

"I don't want any allowance; d--n you and your allowance, too; nothing
but allowance of grog, and a pretty good allowance, too, will do for me,
and tell you, Sir Francis Varney," said the admiral, with much wrath,
"that you are a d----d lubberly hound, and I'll fight you; yes, I'm
ready to hammer away, or with anything from a pop-gun to a ship's gun;
you don't come over me with your gammon, I tell you. You've murdered
Charles Holland because you couldn't face him--that's the truth of it."

"With the other part of your speech, Admiral Bell, allow me to say, you
have mixed up a serious accusation--one I cannot permit to pass
lightly."

"Will you or not fight?"

"Oh, yes; I shall be happy to serve you any way that I can. I hope this
will be an answer to your accusation, also."

"That's settled, then."

"Why, I am not captious, Admiral Bell, but it is not generally usual for
the principals to settle the preliminaries themselves; doubtless you, in
your career of fame and glory, know something of the manner in which
gentlemen demean themselves on these occasions."

"Oh, d--n you! Yes, I'll send some one to do all this. Yes, yes, Jack
Pringle will be the man, though Jack ain't a holiday, shore-going,
smooth-spoken swab, but as good a seaman as ever trod deck or handled a
boarding-pike."

"Any friend of yours," said Varney, blandly, "will be received and
treated as such upon an errand of such consequence; and now our
conference has, I presume, concluded."

"Yes, yes, I've done--d----e, no--yes--no. I will keel-haul you but I'll
know something of my neavy, Charles Holland."

"Good day, Admiral Bell." As Varney spoke, he placed his hand upon the
bell which he had near him, to summon an attendant to conduct the
admiral out. The latter, who had said a vast deal more than he ever
intended, left the room in a great rage, protesting to himself that he
would amply avenge his nephew, Charles Holland.

He proceeded homeward, considerably vexed and annoyed that he had been
treated with so much calmness, and all knowledge of his nephew denied.

When he got back, he quarrelled heartily with Jack Pringle--made it
up--drank grog--quarrelled--made it up, and finished with grog
again--until he went to bed swearing he should like to fire a broadside
at the whole of the French army, and annihilate it at once.

With this wish, he fell asleep.

Early next morning, Henry Bannerworth sought Mr. Chillingworth, and
having found him, he said in a serious tone,--

"Mr. Chillingworth, I have rather a serious favour to ask you, and one
which you may hesitate in granting."

"It must be very serious indeed," said Mr. Chillingworth, "that I should
hesitate to grant it to you; but pray inform me what it is that you deem
so serious?"

"Sir Francis Varney and I must have a meeting," said Henry.

"Have you really determined upon such a course?" said Mr. Chillingworth;
"you know the character of your adversary?"

"That is all settled,--I have given a challenge, and he has accepted it;
so all other considerations verge themselves into one--and that is the
when, where, and how."

"I see," said Mr. Chillingworth. "Well, since it cannot be helped on
your part, I will do what is requisite for you--do you wish anything to
be done or insisted on in particular in this affair."

"Nothing with regard to Sir Francis Varney that I may not leave to your
discretion. I feel convinced that he is the assassin of Charles Holland,
whom he feared to fight in duel."

"Then there remains but little else to do, but to arrange preliminaries,
I believe. Are you prepared on every other point?"

"I am--you will see that I am the challenger, and that he must now
fight. What accident may turn up to save him, I fear not, but sure I am,
that he will endeavour to take every advantage that may arise, and so
escape the encounter."

"And what do you imagine he will do now he has accepted your challenge?"
said Mr. Chillingworth; "one would imagine he could not very well
escape."

"No--but he accepted the challenge which Charles Holland sent him--a
duel was inevitable, and it seems to me to be a necessary consequence
that he disappeared from amongst us, for Mr. Holland would never have
shrunk from the encounter."

"There can be no sort of suspicion about that," remarked Chillingworth;
"but allow me to advise you that you take care of yourself, and keep a
watchful eye upon every one--do not be seen out alone."

"I fear not."

"Nay, the gentleman who has disappeared was, I am sure, fearless enough;
but yet that has not saved him. I would not advise you to be fearful,
only watchful; you have now an event awaiting upon you, which it is well
you should go through with, unless circumstances should so turn out,
that it is needless; therefore I say, when you have the suspicions you
do entertain of this man's conduct, beware, be cautious, and vigilant."

"I will do so--in the mean time, I trust myself confidently in your
hands--you know all that is necessary."

"This affair is quite a secret from all of the family?"

"Most certainly so, and will remain so--I shall be at the Hall."

"And there I will see you--but be careful not to be drawn into any
adventure of any kind--it is best to be on the safe side under all
circumstances."

"I will be especially careful, be assured, but farewell; see Sir Francis
Varney as early as you can, and let the meeting be as early as you can,
and thus diminish the chance of accident."

"That I will attend to. Farewell for the present."

Mr. Chillingworth immediately set about the conducting of the affair
thus confided to him; and that no time might be lost, he determined to
set out at once for Sir Francis Varney's residence.

"Things with regard to this family seem to have gone on wild of late,"
thought Mr. Chillingworth; "this may bring affairs to a conclusion,
though I had much rather they had come to some other. My life for it,
there is a juggle or a mystery somewhere; I will do this, and then we
shall see what will come of it; if this Sir Francis Varney meets
him--and at this moment I can see no reason why he should not do so--it
will tend much to deprive him of the mystery about him; but if, on the
other hand, he refuse--but then that's all improbable, because he has
agreed to do so. I fear, however, that such a man as Varney is a
dreadful enemy to encounter--he is cool and unruffled--and that gives
him all the advantage in such affairs; but Henry's nerves are not bad,
though shaken by these untowards events; but time will show--I would it
were all over."

With these thoughts and feelings strangely intermixed, Mr. Chillingworth
set forward for Sir Francis Varney's house.

       *       *       *       *       *

Admiral Bell slept soundly enough though, towards morning, he fell into
a strange dream, and thought he was yard arm and yard arm with a strange
fish--something of the mermaid species.

"Well," exclaimed the admiral, after a customary benediction of his eyes
and limbs, "what's to come next? may I be spliced to a shark if I
understand what this is all about. I had some grog last night, but then
grog, d'y'see, is--is--a seaman's native element, as the newspapers say,
though I never read 'em now, it's such a plague."

He lay quiet for a short time, considering in his own mind what was best
to he done, and what was the proper course to pursue, and why he should
dream.

"Hilloa, hilloa, hil--loa! Jack a-hoy! a-hoy!" shouted the admiral, as a
sudden recollection of his challenge came across his memory; "Jack
Pringle a-hoy? d--n you, where are you?--you're never at hand when you
are wanted. Oh, you lubber,--a-hoy!"

"A-hoy!" shouted a voice, as the door opened, and Jack thrust his head
in; "what cheer, messmate? what ship is this?"

"Oh, you lubberly--"

The door was shut in a minute, and Jack Pringle disappeared.

"Hilloa, Jack Pringle, you don't mean to say you'll desert your colours,
do you, you dumb dog?"

"Who says I'll desert the ship as she's sea-worthy!"

"Then why do you go away?"

"Because I won't be called lubberly. I'm as good a man as ever swabbed a
deck, and don't care who says to the contrary. I'll stick to the ship as
long as she's seaworthy," said Jack.

"Well, come here, and just listen to the log, and be d----d to you."

"What's the orders now, admiral?" said Jack, "though, as we are paid
off--"

"There, take that, will you?" said Admiral Bell, as he flung a pillow at
Jack, being the only thing in the shape of a missile within reach.

Jack ducked, and the pillow produced a clatter in the washhand-stand
among the crockery, as Jack said,--

"There's a mutiny in the ship, and hark how the cargo clatters; will you
have it back again?"

"Come, will you? I've been dreaming, Jack."

"Dreaming! what's that?"

"Thinking of something when you are asleep, you swab."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Jack; "never did such a thing in my life--ha, ha,
ha! what's the matter now?"

"I'll tell you what's the matter. Jack Pringle, you are becoming
mutinous, and I won't have it; if you don't hold your jaw and draw in
your slacks, I'll have another second."

"Another second! what's in the wind, now?" said Jack. "Is this the
dream?"

"If ever I dream when I'm alongside a strange craft, then it is a dream;
but old Admiral Bell ain't the man to sleep when there's any work to be
done."

"That's uncommon true," said Jack, turning a quid.

"Well, then, I'm going to fight."

"Fight!" exclaimed Jack. "Avast, there, I don't see where's the
enemy--none o' that gammon; Jack Pringle can fight, too, and will lay
alongside his admiral, but he don't see the enemy anywhere."

"You don't understand these things, so I'll tell you. I have had a bit
of talk with Sir Francis Varney, and I am going to fight him."

"What the _wamphigher_?" remarked Jack, parenthetically.

"Yes."

"Well, then," resumed Jack, "then we shall see another blaze, at least
afore we die; but he's an odd fish--one of Davy Jones's sort."

"I don't care about that; he may be anything he likes; but Admiral Bell
ain't a-going to have his nephew burned and eaten, and sucked like I
don't know what, by a vampyre, or by any other confounded land-shark."

"In course," said Jack, "we ain't a-going to put up with nothing of that
sort, and if so be as how he has put him out of the way, why it's our
duty to send him after him, and square the board."

"That's the thing, Jack; now you know you must go to Sir Francis Varney
and tell him you come from me."

"I don't care if I goes on my own account," said Jack.

"That won't do; I've challenged him and I must fight him."

"In course you will," returned Jack, "and, if he blows you away, why
I'll take your place, and have a blaze myself."

The admiral gave a look at Jack of great admiration, and then said,--

"You are a d----d good seaman, Jack, but he's a knight, and might say no
to that, but do you go to him, and tell him that you come from me to
settle the when and the where this duel is to be fought."

"Single fight?" said Jack.

"Yes; consent to any thing that is fair," said the admiral, "but let it
be as soon as you can. Now, do you understand what I have said?"

"Yes, to be sure; I ain't lived all these years without knowing your
lingo."

"Then go at once; and don't let the honour of Admiral Bell and old
England suffer, Jack. I'm his man, you know, at any price."

"Never fear," said Jack; "you shall fight him, at any rate. I'll go and
see he don't back out, the warmint."

"Then go along, Jack; and mind don't you go blazing away like a fire
ship, and letting everybody know what's going on, or it'll be stopped."

"I'll not spoil sport," said Jack, as he left the room, to go at once to
Sir Francis Varney, charged with the conducting of the important cartel
of the admiral. Jack made the best of his way with becoming gravity and
expedition until he reached the gate of the admiral's enemy.

Jack rang loudly at the gate; there seemed, if one might judge by his
countenance, a something on his mind, that Jack was almost another man.
The gate was opened by the servant, who inquired what he wanted there.

"The wamphigher."

"Who?"

"The wamphigher."

The servant frowned, and was about to say something uncivil to Jack, who
winked at him very hard, and then said,--

"Oh, may be you don't know him, or won't know him by that name: I wants
to see Sir Francis Varney."

"He's at home," said the servant; "who are you?"

"Show me up, then. I'm Jack Pringle, and I'm come from Admiral Bell; I'm
the Admiral's friend, you see, so none of your black looks."

The servant seemed amazed, as well as rather daunted, at Jack's address;
he showed him, however, into the hall, where Mr. Chillingworth had just
that moment arrived, and was waiting for an interview with Varney.




CHAPTER XXXVIII.

MARCHDALE'S OFFER.--THE CONSULTATION AT BANNERWORTH HALL.--THE MORNING
OF THE DUEL.


[Illustration]

Mr. Chillingworth was much annoyed to see Jack Pringle in the hall, and
Jack was somewhat surprised at seeing Mr. Chillingworth there at that
time in the rooming; they had but little time to indulge in their mutual
astonishment, for a servant came to announce that Sir Francis Varney
would see them both.

Without saying anything to the servant or each other, they ascended the
staircase, and were shown into the apartment where Sir Francis Varney
received them.

"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis, in his usual bland tone, "you are
welcome."

"Sir Francis," said Mr. Chillingworth, "I have come upon matters of some
importance; may I crave a separate audience?"

"And I too," said Jack Pringle; "I come as the friend of Admiral Bell, I
want a private audience; but, stay, I don't care a rope's end who knows
who I am, or what I come about; say you are ready to name time and
place, and I'm as dumb as a figure-head; that is saying something, at all
events; and now I'm done."

"Why, gentlemen," said Sir Francis, with a quiet smile, "as you have
both come upon the same errand, and as there may arise a controversy
upon the point of precedence, you had better be both present, as I must
arrange this matter myself upon due inquiry."

"I do not exactly understand this," said Mr. Chillingworth; "do you, Mr.
Pringle? perhaps you can enlighten me?"

"It," said Jack, "as how you came here upon the same errand as I, and I
as you, why we both come about fighting Sir Francis Varney."

"Yes," said Sir Francis; "what Mr. Pringle says, is, I believe correct
to a letter. I have a challenge from both your principals, and am ready
to give you both the satisfaction you desire, provided the first
encounter will permit me the honour of joining in the second. You, Mr.
Pringle, are aware of the chances of war?"

"I should say so," said Jack, with a wink and a nod of a familiar
character. "I've seen a few of them."

"Will you proceed to make the necessary agreement between you both,
gentlemen? My affection for the one equals fully the good will I bear
the other, and I cannot give a preference in so delicate a matter;
proceed gentlemen."

Mr. Chillingworth looked at Jack, and Jack Pringle looked at Mr.
Chillingworth, and then the former said,--

"Well, the admiral means fighting, and I am come to settle the
necessaries; pray let me know what are your terms, Mr.
What-d'ye-call'em."

"I am agreeable to anything that is at all reasonable--pistols, I
presume?"

"Sir Francis Varney," said Mr. Chillingworth, "I cannot consent to carry
on this office, unless you can appoint a friend who will settle these
matters with us--myself, at least."

"And I too," said Jack Pringle; "we don't want to bear down an enemy.
Admiral Bell ain't the man to do that, and if he were, I'm not the man
to back him in doing what isn't fair or right; but he won't do it."

"But, gentlemen, this must not be; Mr. Henry Bannerworth must not be
disappointed, and Admiral Bell must not be disappointed. Moreover, I
have accepted the two cartels, and I am ready and willing to fight;--one
at a time, I presume?"

"Sir Francis, after what you have said, I must take upon myself, on the
part of Mr. Henry Bannerworth, to decline meeting you, if you cannot
name a friend with whom I can arrange this affair."

"Ah!" said Jack Pringle, "that's right enough. I recollect very well
when Jack Mizeu fought Tom Foremast, they had their seconds. Admiral
Bell can't do anything in the dark. No, no, d----e! all must be above
board."

"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis Varney, "you see the dilemma I am in. Your
principals have both challenged me. I am ready to fight any one, or both
of them, as the case may be. Distinctly understand that; because it is a
notion of theirs that I will not do so, or that I shrink from them; but
I am a stranger in this neighbourhood, and have no one whom I could call
upon to relinquish so much, as they run the risk of doing by attending
me to the field."

"Then your acquaintances are no friends, d----e!" said Jack Pringle,
spitting through his teeth into the bars of a beautifully polished
grate. "I'd stick to anybody--the devil himself, leave alone a
vampyre--if so be as how I had been his friends and drunk grog from the
same can. They are a set of lubbers."

"I have not been here long enough to form any such friendships, Mr.
Chillingworth; but can confidently rely upon your honour and that of
your principal, and will freely and fairly meet him."

"But, Sir Francis, you forget the fact, in transacting, myself for
Mr. Bannerworth, and this person or Admiral Bell, we do match, and have
our own characters at stake; nay more, our lives and fortunes. These may
be small; but they are everything to us. Allow me to say, on my own
behalf, that I will not permit my principal to meet you unless you can
name a second, as is usual with gentlemen on such occasions."

"I regret, while I declare to you my entire willingness to meet you,
that I cannot comply through utter inability to do so, with your
request. Let this go forth to the world as I have stated it, and let it
be an answer to any aspersions that may be uttered as to my
unwillingness to fight."

There was a pause of some moments. Mr. Chillingworth was resolved that,
come of it what would, he would not permit Henry to fight, unless Sir
Francis Varney himself should appoint a friend, and then they could meet
upon equal terms.

Jack Pringle whistled, and spit, and chewed and turned his quid--hitched
up his trousers, and looked wistfully from one to the other, as he
said,--

"So then it's likely to be no fight at all, Sir Francis what's-o'-name?"

"It seems like it, Mr. Pringle," replied Varney, with a meaning smile;
"unless you can be more complaisant towards myself, and kind towards the
admiral."

"Why, not exactly that," said Jack; "it's a pity to stop a good play in
the beginning, just because some little thing is wrong in the tackling."

"Perhaps your skill and genius may enable us to find some medium course
that we may pursue with pleasure and profit. What say you, Mr. Pringle?"

"All I know about genius, as you call it is the Flying Dutchman, or some
such odd out of the way fish. But, as I said, I am not one to spoil
sport, nor more is the admiral. Oh, no, we is all true men and good."

"I believe it," said Varney, bowing politely.

"You needn't keep your figure-head on the move; I can see you just as
well. Howsoever, as I was saying, I don't like to spoil sport, and
sooner than both parties should be disappointed, my principal shall
become your second, Sir Francis."

"What, Admiral Bell?" exclaimed Varney, lifting his eyebrows with
surprise.

"What, Charles Holland's uncle!" exclaimed Mr. Chillingworth, in accents
of amazement.

"And why not?" said Jack, with great gravity. "I will pledge my
word--Jack Pringle's word--that Admiral Bell shall be second to Sir
Francis Varney, during his scrimmage with Mr. Henry Bannerworth. That
will let the matter go on; there can be no back-out then, eh?" continued
Jack Pringle, with a knowing nod at Chillingworth as he spoke.

"That will, I hope, remove your scruples, Mr. Chillingworth," said
Varney, with a courteous smile.

"But will Admiral Bell do this?"

"His second says so, and has, I daresay, influence enough with him to
induce that person to act in conformity with his promise."

"In course he will. Do you think he would be the man to hang back? Oh,
no; he would be the last to leave Jack Pringle in the lurch--no. Depend
upon it, Sir Francis, he'll be as sure to do what I say, as I have said
it."

"After that assurance, I cannot doubt it," said Sir Francis Varney;
"this act of kindness will, indeed, lay me under a deep and lasting
obligation to Admiral Bell, which I fear I shall never be able to pay."

"You need not trouble yourself about that," said Jack Pringle; "the
admiral will credit all, and you can pay off old scores when his turn
comes in the field."

"I will not forget," said Varney; "he deserves every consideration; but
now, Mr. Chillingworth, I presume that we may come to some understanding
respecting this meeting, which you were so kind as to do me the honour
of seeking."

"I cannot object to its taking place. I shall be most happy to meet your
second in the field, and will arrange with him."

"I imagine that, under the circumstances, that it will be barely
necessary to go to that length of ceremony. Future interviews can be
arranged later; name the time and place, and after that we can settle
all the rest on the ground."

"Yes," said Jack; "it will be time enough, surely, to see the admiral
when we are upon the ground. I'll warrant the old buffer is a true brick
as ever was: there's no flinching about him."

"I am satisfied," said Varney.

"And I also," said Chillingworth; "but, understand, Sir Francis, any
default for seconds makes the meeting a blank."

"I will not doubt Mr. Pringle's honour so much as to believe it
possible."

"I'm d----d," said Jack, "if you ain't a trump-card, and no mistake;
it's a great pity as you is a wamphigher."

"The time, Mr. Chillingworth?"

"To-morrow, at seven o'clock," replied that gentleman.

"The place, sir?"

"The best place that I can think of is a level meadow half-way between
here and Bannerworth Hall; but that is your privilege, Sir Francis
Varney."

"I waive it, and am much obliged to you for the choice of the spot; it
seems of the best character imaginable. I will be punctual."

"I think we have nothing further to arrange now," said Mr.
Chillingworth. "You will meet with Admiral Bell."

"Certainly. I believe there is nothing more to be done; this affair is
very satisfactorily arranged, and much better than I anticipated."

"Good morning, Sir Francis," said Mr. Chillingworth. "Good morning."

"Adieu," said Sir Francis, with a courteous salutation. "Good day, Mr.
Pringle, and commend me to the admiral, whose services will be of
infinite value to me."

"Don't mention it," said Jack; "the admiral's the man as'd lend any body
a helping hand in case of distress like the present; and I'll pledge my
word--Jack Pringle's too, as that he'll do what's right, and give up his
turn to Mr. Henry Bannerworth; cause you see he can have his turn
arterwards, you know--it's only waiting awhile."

"That's all," said Sir Francis.

Jack Pringle made a sea bow and took his leave, as he followed Mr.
Chillingworth, and they both left the house together, to return to
Bannerworth Hall.

"Well," said Mr. Chillingworth, "I am glad that Sir Francis Varney has
got over the difficulty of having no seconds; for it would not be proper
or safe to meet a man without a friend for him."

"It ain't the right thing," said Jack hitching up his trousers; "but I
was afeard as how he would back out, and that would be just the wrong
thing for the admiral; he'd go raving mad."

They had got but very few paces from Sir Francis Varney's house, when
they were joined by Marchdale.

"Ah," he said, as he came up, "I see you have been to Sir Francis
Varney's, if I may judge from the direction whence you're coming, and
your proximity."

"Yes, we have," said Mr. Chillingworth. "I thought you had left these
parts?"

"I had intended to do so," replied Marchdale; "but second thoughts are
sometimes best, you know."

"Certainly."

"I have so much friendship for the family at the hall, that
notwithstanding I am compelled to be absent from the mansion itself, yet
I cannot quit the neighbourhood while there are circumstances of such a
character hanging about them. I will remain, and see if there be not
something arising, in which I may be useful to them in some matter."

"It is very disinterested of you; you will remain here for some time, I
suppose?"

"Yes, undoubtedly; unless, as I do not anticipate, I should see any
occasion to quit my present quarters."

"I tell you what it is," said Jack Pringle; "if you had been here
half-an-hour earlier you could have seconded the wamphigher."

"Seconded!"

"Yes, we're here to challenge."

"A double challenge?"

"Yes; but in confiding this matter to you, Mr. Marchdale, you will make
no use of it to the exploding of this affair. By so doing you will
seriously damage the honour of Mr. Henry Bannerworth."

"I will not, you may rely upon it; but Mr. Chillingworth, do I not see
you in the character of a second?"

"You do, sir."

"To Mr. Henry?"

"The same, sir."

"Have you reflected upon the probable consequences of such an act,
should any serious mischief occur?"

"What I have undertaken, Mr. Marchdale, I will go through with; the
consequences I have duly considered, and yet you see me in the character
of Mr. Henry Bannerworth's friend."

"I am happy to see you as such, and I do not think Henry could find a
better. But this is beside the question. What induced me to make the
remark was this,--had I been at the hall, you will admit that Henry
Bannerworth would have chosen myself, without any disparagement to you,
Mr. Chillingworth."

"Well sir, what then?"

"Why I am a single man, I can live, reside and go any where; one country
will suit me as well as another. I shall suffer no loss, but as for you,
you will be ruined in every particular; for if you go in the character
of a second, you will not be excused; for all the penalties incurred
your profession of a surgeon will not excuse you."

"I see all that, sir."

"What I propose is, that you should accompany the parties to the field,
but in your own proper character of surgeon, and permit me to take that
of second to Mr. Bannerworth."

"This cannot be done, unless by Mr. Henry Bannerworth's consent," said
Mr. Chillingworth.

"Then I will accompany you to Bannerworth Hall, and see Mr. Henry, whom
I will request to permit me to do what I have mentioned to you."

Mr. Chillingworth could not but admit the reasonableness of this
proposal, and it was agreed they should return to Bannerworth Hall in
company.

Here they arrived in a very short time after, and entered together.

"And now," said Mr. Chillingworth, "I will go and bring our two
principals, who will be as much astonished to find themselves engaged in
the same quarrel, as I was to find myself sent on a similar errand to
Sir Francis with our friend Mr. John Pringle."

"Oh, not John--Jack Pringle, you mean," said that individual.

Chillingworth now went in search of Henry, and sent him to the apartment
where Mr. Marchdale was with Jack Pringle, and then he found the admiral
waiting the return of Jack with impatience.

"Admiral!" he said, "I perceive you are unwell this morning."

"Unwell be d----d," said the admiral, starting up with surprise. "Who
ever heard that old admiral Bell looked ill just afore he was going into
action? I say it's a scandalous lie."

"Admiral, admiral, I didn't say you were ill; only you looked ill--a--a
little nervous, or so. Rather pale, eh? Is it not so?"

"Confound you, do you think I want to be physicked? I tell you, I have
not a little but a great inclination to give you a good keelhauling. I
don't want a doctor just yet."

"But it may not be so long, you know, admiral; but there is Jack Pringle
a-waiting you below. Will you go to him? There is a particular reason;
he has something to communicate from Sir Francis Varney, I believe."

The admiral gave a look of some amazement at Mr. Chillingworth, and then
he said, muttering to himself,--

"If Jack Pringle should have betrayed me--but, no; he could not do that,
he is too true. I'm sure of Jack; and how did that son of a gallipot
hint about the odd fish I sent Jack to?"

Filled with a dubious kind of belief which he had about something he had
heard of Jack Pringle, he entered the room, where he met Marchdale, Jack
Pringle, and Henry Bannerworth. Immediately afterwards, Mr.
Chillingworth entered the apartment.

"I have," said he, "been to Sir Francis Varney, and there had an
interview with him, and with Mr. Pringle; when I found we were both
intent upon the same object, namely, an encounter with the knight by our
principals."

"Eh?" said the admiral.

"What!" exclaimed Henry; "had he challenged you, admiral?"

"Challenged me!" exclaimed Admiral Bell, with a round oath.
"I--however--since it comes to this, I must admit I challenged him."

"That's what I did," said Henry Bannerworth, after a moment's thought;
"and I perceive we have both fallen into the same line of conduct."

"That is the fact," said Mr. Chillingworth. "Both Mr. Pringle and I went
there to settle the preliminaries, and we found an insurmountable bar to
any meeting taking place at all."

"He wouldn't fight, then?" exclaimed Henry. "I see it all now."

"Not fight!" said Admiral Bell, with a sort of melancholy
disappointment. "D--n the cowardly rascal! Tell me, Jack Pringle, what
did the long horse-marine-looking slab say to it? He told me he would
fight. Why he ought to be made to stand sentry over the wind."

"You challenged him in person, too, I suppose?" said Henry.

"Yes, confound him! I went there last night."

"And I too."

"It seems to me," said Marchdale, "that this affair has been not
indiscretely conducted; but somewhat unusually and strangely, to say the
least of it."

"You see," said Chillingworth, "Sir Francis was willing to fight both
Henry and the admiral, as he told us."

"Yes," said Jack; "he told us he would fight us both, if so be as his
light was not doused in the first brush."

"That was all that was wanted," said the admiral.

"We could expect no more."

"But then he desired to meet you without any second; but, of course, I
would not accede to this proposal. The responsibility was too great and
too unequally borne by the parties engaged in the rencontre."

"Decidedly," said Henry; "but it is unfortunate--very unfortunate."

"Very," said the admiral--"very. What a rascally thing it is there ain't
another rogue in the country to keep him in countenance."

[Illustration]

"I thought it was a pity to spoil sport," said Jack Pringle. "It was a
pity a good intention should be spoiled, and I promised the wamphigher
that if as how he would fight, you should second him, and you'd meet him
to do so."

"Eh! who? I!" exclaimed the admiral in some perplexity.

"Yes; that is the truth," said Mr. Chillingworth. "Mr Pringle said you
would do so, and he then and there pledged his word that you should meet
him on the ground and second him."

"Yes," said Jack "You must do it. I knew you would not spoil sport, and
that there had better be a fight than no fight. I believe you'd sooner
see a scrimmage than none, and so it's all arranged."

"Very well," said the admiral, "I only wish Mr. Henry Bannerworth had
been his second; I think I was entitled to the first meeting."

"No," said Jack, "you warn't, for Mr. Chillingworth was there first;
first come first served, you know."

"Well, well, I mustn't grumble at another man's luck; mine'll come in
turn; but it had better be so than a disappointment altogether; I'll be
second to this Sir Francis Varney; he shall have fair play, as I'm an
admiral; but, d----e he shall fight--yes, yes, he shall fight."

"And to this conclusion I would come," said Henry, "I wish him to fight;
now I will take care that he shall not have any opportunity of putting
me on one side quietly."

"There is one thing," observed Marchdale, "that I wished to propose.
After what has passed, I should not have returned, had I not some
presentiment that something was going forward in which I could be useful
to my friend."

"Oh!" said the admiral, with a huge twist of his countenance.

"What I was about to say was this,--Mr. Chillingworth has much to lose
as he is situated, and I nothing as I am placed. I am chained down to no
spot of earth. I am above following a profession--my means, I mean,
place me above the necessity. Now, Henry, allow me to be your second in
this affair; allow Mr. Chillingworth to attend in his professional
capacity; he may be of service--of great service to one of the
principals; whereas, if he go in any other capacity, he will inevitably
have his own safety to consult."

"That is most unquestionably true," said Henry, "and, to my mind, the
best plan that can be proposed. What say you, Admiral Bell, will you act
with Mr. Marchdale in this affair?"

"Oh, I!--Yes--certainly--I don't care. Mr. Marchdale is Mr. Marchdale, I
believe, and that's all I care about. If we quarrel to-day, and have
anything to do to-morrow, in course, to-morrow I can put off my quarrel
for next day; it will keep,--that's all I have to say at present."

"Then this is a final arrangement?" said Mr. Chillingworth.

"It is."

"But, Mr. Bannerworth, in resigning my character of second to Mr.
Marchdale, I only do so because it appears and seems to be the opinion
of all present that I can be much better employed in another capacity."

"Certainly, Mr. Chillingworth; and I cannot but feel that I am under the
same obligations to you for the readiness and zeal with which you have
acted."

"I have done what I have done," said Chillingworth, "because I believed
it was my duty to do so."

"Mr. Chillingworth has undoubtedly acted most friendly and efficiently
in this affair," said Marchdale; "and he does not relinquish the part
for the purpose of escaping a friendly deed, but to perform one in which
he may act in a capacity that no one else can."

"That is true," said the admiral.

"And now," said Chillingworth, "you are to meet to-morrow morning in the
meadow at the bottom of the valley, half way between here and Sir
Francis Varney's house, at seven o'clock in the morning."

More conversation passed among them, and it was agreed that they should
meet early the next morning, and that, of course, the affair should be
kept a secret.

Marchdale for that night should remain in the house, and the admiral
should appear as if little or nothing was the matter; and he and Jack
Pringle retired, to talk over in private all the arrangements.

Henry Bannerworth and Marchdale also retired, and Mr. Chillingworth,
after a time, retired, promising to be with them in time for the meeting
next morning.

Much of that day was spent by Henry Bannerworth in his own apartment, in
writing documents and letters of one kind and another; but at night he
had not finished, for he had been compelled to be about, and in Flora's
presence, to prevent anything from being suspected.

Marchdale was much with him, and in secret examined the arms,
ammunition, and bullets, and saw all was right for the next morning; and
when he had done, he said,--

"Now, Henry, you must permit me to insist that you take some hours'
repose, else you will scarcely be as you ought to be."

"Very good," said Henry. "I have just finished, and can take your
advice."

After many thoughts and reflections, Henry Bannerworth fell into a deep
sleep, and slept several hours in calmness and quietude, and at an early
hour he awoke, and saw Marchdale sitting by him.

"Is it time, Marchdale? I have not overslept myself, have I?"

"No; time enough--time enough," said Marchdale. "I should have let you
sleep longer, but I should have awakened you in good time."

It was now the grey light of morning, and Henry arose and began to
prepare for the encounter. Marchdale stole to Admiral Bell's chamber,
but he and Jack Pringle were ready.

Few words were spoken, and those few were in a whisper, and the whole
party left the Hall in as noiseless a manner as possible. It was a mild
morning, and yet it was cold at that time of the morning, just as day is
beginning to dawn in the east. There was, however, ample time to reach
the rendezvous.

It was a curious party that which was now proceeding towards the spot
appointed for the duel, the result of which might have so important an
effect on the interests of those who were to be engaged in it.

It would be difficult for us to analyse the different and conflicting
emotions that filled the breasts of the various individuals composing
that party--the hopes and fears--the doubts and surmises that were given
utterance to; though we are compelled to acknowledge that though to
Henry, the character of the man he was going to meet in mortal fight was
of a most ambiguous and undefined nature, and though no one could
imagine the means he might be endowed with for protection against the
arms of man--Henry, as we said, strode firmly forward with unflinching
resolution. His heart was set on recovering the happiness of his sister,
and he would not falter.

So far, then, we may consider that at length proceedings of a hostile
character were so far clearly and fairly arranged between Henry
Bannerworth and that most mysterious being who certainly, from some
cause or another, had betrayed no inclination to meet an opponent in
that manner which is sanctioned, bad as it is, by the usages of society.

But whether his motive was one of cowardice or mercy, remained yet to be
seen. It might be that he feared himself receiving some mortal injury,
which would at once put a stop to that preternatural career of existence
which he affected to shudder at, and yet evidently took considerable
pains to prolong.

Upon the other hand, it is just possible that some consciousness of
invulnerability on his own part, or of great power to injure his
antagonist, might be the cause why he had held back so long from
fighting the duel, and placed so many obstacles in the way of the usual
necessary arrangements incidental to such occasions.

Now, however, there would seem to be no possible means of escape. Sir
Francis Varney must fight or fly, for he was surrounded by too many
opponents.

To be sure he might have appealed to the civil authorities to protect
him, and to sanction him in his refusal to commit what undoubtedly is a
legal offence; but then there cannot be a question that the whole of the
circumstances would come out, and meet the public eye--the result of
which would be, his acquisition of a reputation as unenviable as it
would be universal.

It had so happened, that the peculiar position of the Bannerworth family
kept their acquaintance within extremely narrow limits, and greatly
indisposed them to set themselves up as marks for peculiar observation.

Once holding, as they had, a proud position in the county, and being
looked upon quite as magnates of the land, they did not now court the
prying eye of curiosity to look upon their poverty; but rather with a
gloomy melancholy they lived apart, and repelled the advances of society
by a cold reserve, which few could break through.

Had this family suffered in any noble cause, or had the misfortunes
which had come over them, and robbed their ancestral house of its
lustre, been an unavoidable dispensation of providence, they would have
borne the hard position with a different aspect; but it must be
remembered, that to the faults, the vices, and the criminality of some
of their race, was to be attributed their present depressed state.

It has been seen during the progress of our tale, that its action has
been tolerably confined to Bannerworth Hall, its adjacent meadows, and
the seat of Sir Francis Varney; the only person at any distance, knowing
anything of the circumstances, or feeling any interest in them, being
Mr. Chillingworth, the surgeon, who, from personal feeling, as well as
from professional habit, was not likely to make a family's affairs a
subject of gossip.

A change, however, was at hand--a change of a most startling and
alarming character to Varney--one which he might expect, yet not be well
prepared for.

This period of serenity was to pass away, and he was to become most
alarmingly popular. We will not, however, anticipate, but proceed at
once to detail as briefly as may be the hostile meeting.

It would appear that Varney, now that he had once consented to the
definitive arrangements of a duel, shrunk not in any way from carrying
them out, nor in the slightest attempted to retard arrangements which
might be fatal to himself.

The early morning was one of those cloudy ones so frequently occurring
in our fickle climate, when the cleverest weather prophet would find it
difficult to predict what the next hour might produce.

There was a kind of dim gloominess over all objects; and as there were
no bright lights, there were no deep shadows--the consequence of which
was a sureness of effect over the landscape, that robbed it of many of
its usual beauties.

Such was the state of things when Marchdale accompanied Henry and
Admiral Bell from Bannerworth Hall across the garden in the direction of
the hilly wood, close to which was the spot intended for the scene of
encounter.

Jack Pringle came on at a lazy pace behind with his hands in his
pockets, and looking as unconcerned as if he had just come out for a
morning's stroll, and scarcely knew whether he saw what was going on or
not.

The curious contort on into which he twisted his countenance, and the
different odd-looking lumps that appeared in it from time to time, may
be accounted for by a quid of unusual size, which he seemed to be
masticating with a relish quite horrifying to one unused to so barbarous
a luxury.

The admiral had strictly enjoined him not to interfere on pain of being
considered a lubber and no seaman for the remainder of his
existence--threatened penalties which, of course, had their own weight
with Jack, and accordingly he came just, to see the row in as quiet a
way as possible, perhaps not without a hope, that something might turn
up in the shape of a _causus belli_, that might justify him in adopting
a threatening attitude towards somebody.

"Now, Master Henry," said the admiral, "none of your palaver to me as we
go along, recollect I don't belong to your party, you know. I've stood
friend to two or three fellows in my time; but if anybody had said to
me, 'Admiral Bell, the next time you go out on a quiet little shooting
party, it will be as second to a vampyre,' I'd have said 'you're a liar'
Howsomever, d--me, here you goes, and what I mean to say is this, Mr
Henry, that I'd second even a Frenchman rather than he shouldn't fight
when he's asked"

"That's liberal of you," said Henry, "at all event"

"I believe you it is," said the admiral, "so mind if you don't hit him,
I'm not a-going to tell you how--all you've got to do, is to fire low;
but that's no business of mine. Shiver my timbers, I oughtn't to tell
you, but d--n you, hit him if you can."

"Admiral," said Henry, "I can hardly think you are even preserving a
neutrality in the matter, putting aside my own partisanship as regards
your own man."

"Oh, hang him. I'm not going to let him creep out of the thing on such a
shabby pretence. I can tell you. I think I ought to have gone to his
house this morning; only, as I said I never would cross his threshold
again, I won't."

"I wonder if he'll come," said Mr Marchdale to Henry. "After all, you
know he may take to flight, and shun an encounter which, it is evident,
he has entered into but tardily."

"I hope not," said Henry, "and yet I must own that your supposition has
several times crossed my mind. If, however, he do not meet me, he never
can appear at all in the country, and we should, at least, be rid of
him, and all his troublesome importunities concerning the Hall. I would
not allow that man, on any account, to cross the threshold of my house,
as its tenant or its owner."

"Why, it ain't usual," said the admiral, "to let ones house to two
people at once, unless you seem quite to forget that I've taken yours. I
may as well remind you of it"

"Hurra" said Jack Pringle, at this moment.

"What's the matter with you? Who told you to hurra?"

"Enemy in the offing," said Jack, "three or four pints to the sou-west."

"So he is, by Jove! dodging about among the trees. Come, now, this
vampyre's a decenter fellow than I thought him. He means, after all, to
let us have a pop at him"

They had now reached so close to the spot, that Sir Francis Varney, who,
to all appearance, had been waiting, emerged from among the trees,
rolled up in his dismal-looking cloak, and, if possible, looking longer
and thinner than ever he had looked before.

His face wore a singular cadaverous looking aspect. His very lips were
white and there was a curious, pinkish-looking circle round each of his
eyes, that imparted to his whole countenance a most uninviting
appearance. He turned his eyes from one to the other of those who were
advancing towards him, until he saw the admiral, upon which he gave such
a grim and horrible smile, that the old man exclaimed,--

"I say, Jack, you lubber, there's a face for a figure head."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Did you ever see such a d----d grin as that in your life, in any
latitude?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"You did you swab."

"I should think so."

"It's a lie, and you know it."

"Very good," said Jack, "don't you recollect when that ere iron bullet
walked over your head, leaving a nice little nick, all the way off
Bergen-ap-Zoom, that was the time--blessed if you didn't give just such
a grin as that."

"I didn't, you rascal."

"And I say you did."

"Mutiny, by God!"

"Go to blazes!"

How far this contention might nave gone, having now reached its
culminating point, had the admiral and Jack been alone, it is hard to
say; but as it was, Henry and Marchdale interfered, and so the quarrel
was patched up for the moment, in order to give place to more important
affairs.

Varney seemed to think, that after the smiling welcome he had given to
his second, he had done quite enough; for there he stood, tall, and
gaunt, and motionless, if we may except an occasional singular movement
of the mouth, and a clap together of his teeth, at times, which was
enough to make anybody jump to hear.

"For Heaven's sake," said Marchdale, "do not let us trifle at such a
moment as this. Mr. Pringle, you really had no business here."

"Mr. who?" said Jack.

"Pringle, I believe, is your name?" returned Marchdale.

"It were; but blowed if ever I was called mister before."

The admiral walked up to Sir Francis Varney, and gave him a nod that
looked much more like one of defiance than of salutation, to which the
vampyre replied by a low, courtly bow.

"Oh, bother!" muttered the old admiral. "If I was to double up my
backbone like that, I should never get it down straight again. Well,
all's right; you've come; that's all you could do, I suppose."

"I am here," said Varney, "and therefore it becomes a work of
supererogation to remark that I've come."

"Oh! does it? I never bolted a dictionary, and, therefore, I don't know
exactly what you mean."

"Step aside with me a moment, Admiral Bell, and I will tell you what you
are to do with me after I am shot, if such should be my fate."

"Do with you! D----d if I'll do anything with you."

"I don't expect you will regret me; you will eat."

"Eat!"

"Yes, and drink as usual, no doubt, notwithstanding being witness to the
decease of a fellow-creature."

"Belay there; don't call yourself a fellow-creature of mine; I ain't a
vampyre."

"But there's no knowing what you may be; and now listen to my
instructions; for as you're my second, you cannot very well refuse to me
a few friendly offices. Rain is falling. Step beneath this ancient tree,
and I will talk to you."




CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE STORM AND THE FIGHT.-THE ADMIRAL'S REPUDIATION OF HIS PRINCIPAL.


[Illustration]

"Well," said the admiral, when they were fairly under the tree, upon the
leaves of which the pattering rain might be heard falling: "well--what
is it?"

"If your young friend, Mr. Bannerworth, should chance to send a
pistol-bullet through any portion of my anatomy, prejudicial to the
prolongation of my existence, you will be so good as not to interfere
with anything I may have about me, or to make any disturbance whatever."

"You may depend I sha'n't."

"Just take the matter perfectly easy--as a thing of course."

"Oh! I mean d----d easy."

"Ha! what a delightful thing is friendship! There is a little knoll or
mound of earth midway between here and the Hall. Do you happen to know
it? There is one solitary tree glowing near its summit--an oriental
looking tree, of the fir tribe, which, fan-like, spreads its deep green
leaves; across the azure sky."

"Oh! bother it; it's a d----d old tree, growing upon a little bit of a
hill, I suppose you mean?"

"Precisely; only much more poetically expressed. The moon rises at a
quarter past four to-night, or rather to-morrow, morning."

"Does it?"

"Yes; and if I should happen to be killed, you will have me removed
gently to this mound of earth, and there laid beneath this tree, with my
face upwards; and take care that it is done before the moon rises. You
can watch that no one interferes."

"A likely job. What the deuce do you take me for? I tell you what it is,
Mr. Vampyre, or Varney, or whatever's your name, if you should chance to
be hit, where-ever you chance to fall, there you'll lie."

"How very unkind."

"Uncommon, ain't it?"

"Well, well, since that is your determination, I must take care of
myself in another way. I can do so, and I will."

"Take care of yourself how you like, for all I care; I've come here to
second you, and to see that, on the honour of a seaman, if you are put
out of the world, it's done in a proper manner, that's all I have to do
with you--now you know."

Sir Francis Varney looked after him with a strange kind of smile, as he
walked away to make the necessary preparation with Marchdale for the
immediate commencement of the contest.

These were simple and brief. It was agreed that twelve paces should be
measured out, six each way, from a fixed point; one six to be paced by
the admiral, and the other by Marchdale; then they were to draw lots, to
see at which end of this imaginary line Varney was to be placed; after
this the signal for firing was to be one, two, three--fire!

A few minutes sufficed to complete these arrangements; the ground was
measured in the manner we have stated, and the combatants placed in
their respective positions, Sir Francis Varney occupying the same spot
where he had at first stood, namely, that nearest to the little wood,
and to his own residence.

It is impossible that under such circumstances the bravest and the
calmest of mankind could fail to feel some slight degree of tremour or
uneasiness; and, although we can fairly claim for Henry Bannerworth that
he was as truly courageous as any right feeling Christian man could wish
to be, yet when it was possible that he stood within, as it were, a
hair's breadth of eternity, a strange world of sensation and emotions
found a home in his heart, and he could not look altogether undaunted on
that future which might, for all he knew to the contrary, be so close at
hand, as far as he was concerned.

It was not that he feared death, but that he looked with a decent
gravity upon so grave a change as that from this world to the next, and
hence was it that his face was pale, and that he looked all the emotion
which he really felt.

This was the aspect and the bearing of a brave but not a reckless man;
while Sir Francis Varney, on the other hand, seemed, now that he had
fairly engaged in the duel, to look upon it and its attendant
circumstances with a kind of smirking satisfaction, as if he were far
more amused than personally interested.

This was certainly the more extraordinary after the manner in which he
had tried to evade the fight, and, at all events, was quite a sufficient
proof that cowardice had not been his actuating motive in so doing.

The admiral, who stood on a level with him, could not see the sort of
expression he wore, or, probably, he would have been far from well
pleased; but the others did, and they found something inexpressibly
disagreeable in the smirking kind of satisfaction with which the vampyre
seemed to regard now the proceedings.

"Confound him," whispered Marchdale to Henry, "one would think he was
quite delighted, instead, as we had imagined him, not well pleased, at
these proceedings; look how he grins."

"It is no matter," said Henry; "let him wear what aspect he may, if is
the same to me; and, as Heaven is my judge, I here declare, if I did not
think myself justified in so doing, I would not raise my hand against
this man."

"There can be no shadow of a doubt regarding your justification. Have at
him, and Heaven protect you."

"Amen!"

The admiral was to give the word to fire, and now he and Marshal having
stepped sufficiently on one side to be out of all possible danger from
any stray shot, he commenced repeating the signal,--

"Are you ready, gentlemen?--once."

They looked sternly at each other, and each grasped his pistol.

"Twice!"

Sir Francis Varney smiled and looked around him, as if the affair were
one of the most common-place description.

"Thrice!"

Varney seemed to be studying the sky rather than attending to the duel.

"Fire!" said the admiral, and one report only struck upon the ear. It
was that from Henry's pistol.

All eyes were turned upon Sir Francis Varney, who had evidently reserved
his fire, for what purpose could not be devised, except a murderous one,
the taking of a more steady aim at Henry.

Sir Francis, however, seemed in no hurry, but smiled significantly, and
gradually raised the point of his weapon.

"Did you hear the word, Sir Francis? I gave it loud enough, I am sure. I
never spoke plainer in my life; did I ever, Jack?"

"Yes, often," said Jack Pringle; "what's the use of your asking such
yarns as them? you know you have done so often enough when you wanted
grog."

"You d----d rascal, I'll--I'll have your back scored, I will."

"So you will, when you are afloat again, which you never will be--you're
paid off, that's certain."

"You lubberly lout, you ain't a seaman; a seaman would never mutiny
against his admiral; howsomever, do you hear, Sir Francis, I'll give the
matter up, if you don't pay some attention to me."

Henry looked steadily at Varney, expecting every moment to feel his
bullet. Mr. Marchdale hastily exclaimed that this was not according to
usage.

Sir Francis Varney took no notice, but went on elevating his weapon;
when it was perpendicular to the earth he fired in the air.

"I had not anticipated this," said Marchdale, as he walked to Henry. "I
thought he was taking a more deadly aim."

"And I," said Henry.

"Ay, you have escaped, Henry; let me congratulate you."

"Not so fast; we may fire again."

"I can afford to do that," he said, with a smile.

"You should have fired, sir, according to custom," said the admiral;
"this is not the proper thing."

"What, fire at your friend?"

"Oh, that's all very well! You are my friend for a time, vampyre as you
are, and I intend you shall fire."

"If Mr. Henry Bannerworth demands another fire, I have no objection to
it, and will fire at him; but as it is I shall not do so, indeed, it
would be quite useless for him to do so--to point mortal weapons at me
is mere child's play, they will not hurt me."

"The devil they won't," said the admiral.

"Why, look you here," said Sir Francis Varney, stepping forward and
placing his hand to his neckerchief; "look you here; if Mr. Henry
Bannerworth should demand another fire, he may do so with the same
bullet."

"The same bullet!" said Marchdale, stepping forward--"the same bullet!
How is this?"

"My eyes," said Jack; "who'd a thought it; there's a go! Wouldn't he do
for a dummy--to lead a forlorn hope, or to put among the boarders?"

"Here," said Sir Francis, handing a bullet to Henry Bannerworth--"here
is the bullet you shot at me."

Henry looked at it--it was blackened by powder; and then Marchdale
seized it and tried it in the pistol, but found the bullet fitted
Henry's weapon.

"By heavens, it is so!" he exclaimed, stepping back and looking at
Varney from top to toe in horror and amazement.

"D----e," said the admiral, "if I understand this. Why Jack Pringle, you
dog, here's a strange fish."

"On, no! there's plenty on 'um in some countries."

"Will you insist upon another fire, or may I consider you satisfied?"

"I shall object," said Marchdale. "Henry, this affair must go no
further; it would be madness--worse than madness, to fight upon such
terms."

"So say I," said the admiral. "I will not have anything to do with you,
Sir Francis. I'll not be your second any longer. I didn't bargain for
such a game as this. You might as well fight with the man in brass
armour, at the Lord Mayor's show, or the champion at a coronation."

"Oh!" said Jack Pringle; "a man may as well fire at the back of a
halligator as a wamphigher."

"This must be considered as having been concluded," said Mr. Marchdale.

"No!" said Henry.

"And wherefore not?"

"Because I have not received his fire."

"Heaven forbid you should."

"I may not with honour quit the ground without another fire."

"Under ordinary circumstances there might be some shadow of an excuse
for your demand; but as it is there is none. You have neither honour nor
credit to gain by such an encounter, and, certainly, you can gain no
object."

"How are we to decide this affair? Am I considered absolved from the
accusation under which I lay, of cowardice?" inquired Sir Francis
Varney, with a cold smile.

"Why, as for that," said the admiral, "I should as soon expect credit
for fighting behind a wall, as with a man that I couldn't hit any more
than the moon."

"Henry; let me implore you to quit this scene; it can do no good."

At this moment, a noise, as of human voices, was heard at a distance;
this caused a momentary pause, and, the whole party stood still and
listened.

The murmurs and shouts that now arose in the distance were indistinct
and confused.

"What can all this mean?" said Marchdale; "there is something very
strange about it. I cannot imagine a cause for so unusual an
occurrence."

"Nor I," said Sir Francis Varney, looking suspiciously at Henry
Bannerworth.

"Upon my honour I know neither what is the cause nor the nature of the
sounds themselves."

"Then we can easily see what is the matter from yonder hillock," said
the admiral; "and there's Jack Pringle, he's up there already. What's he
telegraphing about in that manner, I wonder?"

The fact was, Jack Pringle, hearing the riot, had thought that if he got
to the neighbouring eminence he might possibly ascertain what it was
that was the cause of what he termed the "row," and had succeeded in
some degree.

There were a number of people of all kinds coming out from the village,
apparently armed, and shouting. Jack Pringle hitched up his trousers and
swore, then took off his hat and began to shout to the admiral, as he
said,--

"D----e, they are too late to spoil the sport. Hilloa! hurrah!"

"What's all that about, Jack?" inquired the admiral, as he came puffing
along. "What's the squall about?"

"Only a few horse-marines and bumboat-women, that have been startled
like a company of penguins."

"Oh! my eyes! wouldn't a whole broadside set 'em flying, Jack?"

"Ay; just as them Frenchmen that you murdered on board the Big
Thunderer, as you called it."

"I murder them, you rascal?"

"Yes; there was about five hundred of them killed."

"They were only shot."

"They were killed, only your conscience tells you it's uncomfortable."

"You rascal--you villain! You ought to be keel-hauled and well payed."

"Ay; you're payed, and paid off as an old hulk."

"D----e--you--you--oh! I wish I had you on board ship, I'd make your
lubberly carcass like a union jack, full of red and blue stripes."

"Oh! it's all very well; but if you don't take to your heels, you'll
have all the old women in the village a whacking on you, that's all I
have to say about it. You'd better port your helm and about ship, or
you'll be keel-hauled."

"D--n your--"

"What's the matter?" inquired Marchdale, as he arrived.

"What's the cause of all the noise we have heard?" said Sir Francis;
"has some village festival spontaneously burst forth among the rustics
of this place?"

"I cannot tell the cause of it," said Henry Bannerworth; "but they seem
to me to be coming towards this place."

"Indeed!"

"I think so too," said Marchdale.

"With what object?" inquired Sir Francis Varney.

"No peaceable one," observed Henry; "for, as far I can observe, they
struck across the country, as though they would enclose something, or
intercept somebody."

"Indeed! but why come here?"

"If I knew that I could have at once told the cause."

"And they appear armed with a variety of odd weapons," observed Sir
Francis; "they mean an attack upon some one! Who is that man with them?
he seems to be deprecating their coming."

"That appears to be Mr. Chillingworth," said Henry; "I think that is
he."

"Yes," observed the admiral; "I think I know the build of that craft;
he's been in our society before. I always know a ship as soon as I see
it."

"Does you, though?" said Jack.

"Yea; what do you mean, eh? let me hear what you've got to say against
your captain and your admiral, you mutinous dog; you tell me, I say."

"So I will; you thought you were fighting a big ship in a fog, and fired
a dozen broadsides or so, and it was only the Flying Dutchman, or the
devil."

"You infernal dog--"

"Well, you know it was; it might a been our own shadow for all I can
tell. Indeed, I think it was."

"You think!"

"Yes."

"That's mutiny; I'll have no more to do with you, Jack Pringle; you're
no seaman, and have no respect for your officer. Now sheer off, or I'll
cut your yards."

"Why, as for my yards, I'll square 'em presently if I like, you old
swab; but as for leaving you, very well; you have said so, and you shall
be accommodated, d----e; however, it was not so when your nob was nearly
rove through with a boarding pike; it wasn't 'I'll have no more to do
with Jack Pringle' then, it was more t'other."

"Well, then, why be so mutinous?"

"Because you aggrawates me."

The cries of the mob became more distinct as they drew nearer to the
party, who began to evince some uneasiness as to their object.

"Surely," said Marchdale, "Mr. Chillingworth has not named anything
respecting the duel that has taken place."

"No, no."

"But he was to have been here this morning," said the admiral. "I
understood he was to be here in his own character of a surgeon, and yet
I have not seen him; have any of you?"

"No," said Henry.

"Then here he comes in the character of conservator of the public
peace," said Varney, coldly; "however, I believe that his errand will be
useless since the affair is, I presume, concluded."

"Down with the vampyre!"

"Eh!" said the admiral, "eh, what's that, eh? What did they say?"

"If you'll listen they'll tell you soon enough, I'll warrant."

"May be they will, and yet I'd like to know now."

Sir Francis Varney looked significantly at Marchdale, and then waited
with downcast eyes for the repetition of the words.

"Down with the vampyre!" resounded on all sides from the people who came
rapidly towards them, and converging towards a centre. "Burn, destroy,
and kill the vampyre! No vampyre; burn him out; down with him; kill
him!"

[Illustration]

Then came Mr. Chillingworth's voice, who, with much earnestness,
endeavoured to exhort them to moderation, and to refrain from violence.

Sir Francis Varney became very pale agitated; he immediately turned, and
taking the least notice, he made for the wood, which lay between him and
his own house, leaving the people in the greatest agitation.

Mr. Marchdale was not unmoved at this occurrence, but stood his ground
with Henry Bannerworth, the admiral, and Jack Pringle, until the mob
came very near to them, shouting, and uttering cries of vengeance, and
death of all imaginable kinds that it was possible to conceive, against
the unpopular vampyre.

Pending the arrival of these infuriated persons, we will, in a few
words, state how it was that so suddenly a set of circumstances arose
productive of an amount of personal danger to Varney, such as, up to
that time, had seemed not at all likely to occur.

We have before stated there was but one person out of the family of the
Bannerworths who was able to say anything of a positive character
concerning the singular and inexplicable proceedings at the Hall; and
that that person was Mr. Chillingworth, an individual not at all likely
to become garrulous upon the subject.

But, alas! the best of men have their weaknesses, and we much regret to
say that Mr. Chillingworth so far in this instance forgot that admirable
discretion which commonly belonged to him, as to be the cause of the
popular tumult which had now readied such a height.

In a moment of thoughtlessness and confidence, he told his wife. Yes,
this really clever man, from whom one would not have expected such a
piece of horrible indiscretion, actually told his wife all about the
vampyre. But such is human nature; combined with an amount of firmness
and reasoning power, that one would have thought to be invulnerable
safeguards, we find some weakness which astonishes all calculation.

Such was this of Mr. Chillingworth's. It is true, he cautioned the lady
to be secret, and pointed to her the danger of making Varney the vampyre
a theme for gossip; but he might as well have whispered to a hurricane
to be so good as not to go on blowing so, as request Mrs. Chillingworth
to keep a secret.

Of course she burst into the usual fervent declarations of "Who was she
to tell? Was she a person who went about telling things? When did she
see anybody? Not she, once in a blue moon;" and then, when Mr.
Chillingworth went out, like the King of Otaheite, she invited the
neighbours round about to come to take some tea.

Under solemn promises of secrecy, sixteen ladies that evening were made
acquainted with the full and interesting particulars of the attack of
the vampyre on Flora Bannerworth, and all the evidence inculpating Sir
Francis Varney as the blood-thirsty individual.

When the mind comes to consider that these sixteen ladies multiplied
their information by about four-and-twenty each, we become quite lost in
a sea of arithmetic, and feel compelled to sum up the whole by a candid
assumption that in four-and-twenty hours not an individual in the whole
town was ignorant of the circumstances.

On the morning before the projected duel, there was an unusual commotion
in the streets. People were conversing together in little knots, and
using rather violent gesticulations. Poor Mr. Chillingworth! he alone
was ignorant of the causes of the popular commotion, and so he went to
bed wondering that an unusual bustle pervaded the little market town,
but not at all guessing its origin.

Somehow or another, however, the populace, who had determined to make a
demonstration on the following morning against the vampyre, thought it
highly necessary first to pay some sort of compliment to Mr.
Chillingworth, and, accordingly, at an early hour, a great mob assembled
outside his house, and gave three terrific applauding shouts, which
roused him most unpleasantly from his sleep; and induced the greatest
astonishment at the cause of such a tumult.

Oh, that artful Mrs. Chillingworth! too well she knew what was the
matter; yet she pretended to be so oblivious upon the subject.

"Good God!" cried Mr. Chillingworth, as he started up in bed, "what's
all that?"

"All what?" said his wife.

"All what! Do you mean to say you heard nothing?"

"Well, I think I did hear a little sort of something."

"A little sort of something? It shook the house."

"Well, well; never mind. Go to sleep again; it's no business of ours."

"Yes; but it may be, though. It's all very well to say 'go to sleep.'
That happens to be a thing I can't do. There's something amiss."

"Well, what's that to you?"

"Perhaps nothing; but, perhaps, everything."

Mr. Chillingworth sprang from his bed, and began dressing, a process
which he executed with considerable rapidity, and in which he was much
accelerated by two or three supplementary shouts from the people below.

Then, in a temporary lull, a loud voice shouted,--

"Down with the vampyre--down with the vampyre!"

The truth in an instant burst over the mind of Mr. Chillingworth; and,
turning to his wife, he exclaimed,--

"I understand it now. You've been gossipping about Sir Francis Varney,
and have caused all this tumult."

"I gossip! Well, I never! Lay it on me; it's sure to be my fault. I
might have known that beforehand. I always am."

"But you must have spoken of it."

"Who have I got to speak to about it?"

"Did you, or did you not?"

"Who should I tell?"

Mr. Chillingworth was dressed, and he hastened down and entered the
street with great desperation. He had a hope that he might be enabled to
disperse the crowd, and yet be in time to keep his appointment at the
duel.

His appearance was hailed with another shout, for it was considered, of
course, that he had come to join in the attack upon Sir Francis Varney.
He found assembled a much more considerable mob than he had imagined,
and to his alarm he found many armed with all sorts of weapons of
offence.

"Hurrah!" cried a great lumpy-looking fellow, who seemed half mad with
the prospect of a disturbance. "Hurrah! here's the doctor, he'll tell us
all about it as we go along. Come on."

"For Heaven's sake," said Mr. Chillingworth, "stop; What are you about
to do all of you?"

"Burn the vampyre--burn the vampyre!"

"Hold--hold! this is folly. Let me implore you all to return to your
homes, or you will get into serious trouble on this subject."

This was a piece of advice not at all likely to be adopted; and when the
mob found that Mr. Chillingworth was not disposed to encourage and
countenance it in its violence, it gave another loud shout of defiance,
and moved off through the long straggling streets of the town in a
direction towards Sir Francis Varney's house.

It is true that what were called the authorities of the town had become
alarmed, and were stirring, but they found themselves in such a
frightful minority, that it became out of the question for them to
interfere with any effect to stop the lawless proceedings of the
rioters, so that the infuriated populace had it all their own way, and
in a straggling, disorderly-looking kind of procession they moved off,
vowing vengeance as they went against Varney the vampyre.

Hopeless as Mr. Chillingworth thought it was to interfere with any
degree of effect in the proceedings of the mob, he still could not
reconcile it to himself to be absent from a scene which he now felt
certain had been produced by his own imprudence, so he went on with the
crowd, endeavouring, as he did so, by every argument that could be
suggested to him to induce them to abstain from the acts of violence
they contemplated. He had a hope, too, that when they reached Sir
Francis Varney's, finding him not within, as probably would be the case,
as by that time he would have started to meet Henry Bannerworth on the
ground, to fight the duel, he might induce the mob to return and forego
their meditated violence.

And thus was it that, urged on by a multitude of persons, the unhappy
surgeon was expiating, both in mind and person, the serious mistakes he
had committed in trusting a secret to his wife.

Let it not be supposed that we for one moment wish to lay down a general
principle as regards the confiding secrets to ladies, because from the
beginning of the world it has become notorious how well they keep them,
and with what admirable discretion, tact, and forethought this fairest
portion of humanity conduct themselves.

We know how few Mrs. Chillingworths there are in the world, and have but
to regret that our friend the doctor should, in his matrimonial
adventure, have met with such a specimen.




CHAPTER XL.

THE POPULAR RIOT.--SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S DANGER.--THE SUGGESTION AND ITS
RESULTS.


[Illustration]

Such, then, were the circumstances which at once altered the whole
aspect of the affairs, and, from private and domestic causes of very
deep annoyance, led to public results of a character which seemed likely
to involve the whole country-side in the greatest possible confusion.

But while we blame Mr. Chillingworth for being so indiscreet as to
communicate the secret of such a person as Varney the vampyre to his
wife, we trust in a short time to be enabled to show that he made as
much reparation as it was possible to make for the mischief he had
unintentionally committed. And now as he struggled onward--apparently
onward--first and foremost among the rioters, he was really doing all in
his power to quell that tumult which superstition and dread had raised.

Human nature truly delights in the marvellous, and in proportion as a
knowledge of the natural phenomena of nature is restricted, and
unbridled imagination allowed to give the rein to fathomless conjecture,
we shall find an eagerness likewise to believe the marvellous to be the
truth.

That dim and uncertain condition concerning vampyres, originating
probably as it had done in Germany, had spread itself slowly, but
insidiously, throughout the whole of the civilized world.

In no country and in no clime is there not something which bears a kind
of family relationship to the veritable vampyre of which Sir Francis
Varney appeared to be so choice a specimen.

The _ghoul_ of eastern nations is but the same being, altered to suit
habits and localities; and the _sema_ of the Scandinavians is but the
vampyre of a more primitive race, and a personification of that morbid
imagination which has once fancied the probability of the dead walking
again among the living, with all the frightful insignia of corruption
and the grave about them.

Although not popular in England, still there had been tales told of such
midnight visitants, so that Mrs. Chillingworth, when she had imparted
the information which she had obtained, had already some rough material
to work upon in the minds of her auditors, and therefore there was no
great difficulty in very soon establishing the fact.

Under such circumstances, ignorant people always do what they have heard
has been done by some one else before them and in an incredibly short
space of time the propriety of catching Sir Francis Varney, depriving
him of his vampyre-like existence, and driving a stake through his body,
became not at all a questionable proposition.

Alas, poor Mr. Chillingworth! as well might he have attempted King
Canute's task of stemming the waves of the ocean as that of attempting
to stop the crowd from proceeding to Sir Francis Varney's house.

His very presence was a sort of confirmation of the whole affair. In
vain he gesticulated, in vain he begged and prayed that they would go
back, and in vain he declared that full and ample justice should be done
upon the vampyre, provided popular clamour spared him, and he was left
to more deliberate judgment.

Those who were foremost in the throng paid no attention to these
remonstrances while those who were more distant heard them not, and, for
all they knew, he might be urging the crowd on to violence, instead of
deprecating it.

Thus, then, this disorderly rabble soon reached the house of Sir Francis
Varney and loudly demanded of his terrified servant where he was to be
found.

The knocking at the Hall door was prodigious, and, with a laudable
desire, doubtless, of saving time, the moment one was done amusing
himself with the ponderous knocker, another seized it; so that until the
door was flung open by some of the bewildered and terrified men, there
was no cessation whatever of the furious demands for admittance.

"Varney the vampyre--Varney the vampyre!" cried a hundred voices. "Death
to the vampyre! Where is he? Bring him out. Varney the vampyre!"

The servants were too terrified to speak for some moments, as they saw
such a tumultuous assemblage seeking their master, while so singular a
name was applied to him. At length, one more bold than the rest
contrived to stammer out,--

"My good people, Sir Francis Varney is not at home. He took an early
breakfast, and has been out nearly an hour."

The mob paused a moment in indecision, and then one of the foremost
cried,--

"Who'd suppose they'd own he was at home? He's hiding somewhere of
course; let's pull him out."

"Ah, pull him out--pull him out!" cried many voices. A rush was made
into the hall and in a very few minutes its chambers were ransacked, and
all its hidden places carefully searched, with the hope of discovering
the hidden form of Sir Francis Varney.

The servants felt that, with their inefficient strength, to oppose the
proceedings of an assemblage which seemed to be unchecked by all sort of
law or reason, would be madness; they therefore only looked on, with
wonder and dismay, satisfied certainly in their own minds that Sir
Francis would not be found, and indulging in much conjecture as to what
would be the result of such violent and unexpected proceedings.

Mr. Chillingworth hoped that time was being gained, and that some sort
of indication of what was going on would reach the unhappy object of
popular detestation sufficiently early to enable him to provide for his
own safety.

He knew he was breaking his own engagement to be present at the duel
between Henry Bannerworth and Sir Francis Varney, and, as that thought
recurred to him, he dreaded that his professional services might be
required on one side or the other; for he knew, or fancied he knew, that
mutual hatred dictated the contest; and he thought that if ever a duel
had taken place which was likely to be attended with some disastrous
result, that was surely the one.

But how could he leave, watched and surrounded as he was by an
infuriated multitude--how could he hope but that his footsteps would be
dogged, or that the slightest attempt of his to convey a warning to Sir
Francis Varney, would not be the means of bringing down upon his head
the very danger he sought to shield him from.

In this state of uncertainty, then, did our medical man remain, a prey
to the bitterest reflections, and full of the direst apprehensions,
without having the slightest power of himself to alter so disastrous a
train of circumstances.

Dissatisfied with their non-success, the crowd twice searched the house
of Sir Francis Varney, from the attics to the basement; and then, and
not till then, did they begin reluctantly to believe that the servants
must have spoken the truth.

"He's in the town somewhere," cried one. "Let's go back to the town."

It is strange how suddenly any mob will obey any impulse, and this
perfectly groundless supposition was sufficient to turn their steps back
again in the direction whence they came, and they had actually, in a
straggling sort of column, reached halfway towards the town, when they
encountered a boy, whose professional pursuit consisted in tending sheep
very early of a morning, and who at once informed them that he had seen
Sir Francis Varney in the wood, half way between Bannerworth Hall and
his own home.

This event at once turned the whole tide again, and with renewed
clamours, carrying Mr. Chillingworth along with them, they now rapidly
neared the real spot, where, probably, had they turned a little earlier,
they would have viewed the object of their suspicion and hatred.

But, as we have already recorded, the advancing throng was seen by the
parties on the ground, where the duel could scarcely have been said to
have been fought; and then had Sir Francis Varney dashed into the wood,
which was so opportunely at hand to afford him a shelter from his
enemies, and from the intricacies of which--well acquainted with them as
he doubtless was,--he had every chance of eluding their pursuit.

The whole affair was a great surprise to Henry and his friends, when
they saw such a string of people advancing, with such shouts and
imprecations; they could not, for the life of them, imagine what could
have excited such a turn out among the ordinarily industrious and quiet
inhabitants of a town, remarkable rather for the quietude and steadiness
of its population, than for any violent outbreaks of popular feeling.

"What can Mr. Chillingworth be about," said Henry, "to bring such a mob
here? has he taken leave of his senses?"

"Nay," said Marchdale; "look again; he seems to be trying to keep them
back, although ineffectually, for they will not be stayed."

"D----e," said the admiral, "here's a gang of pirates; we shall be
boarded and carried before we know where we are, Jack."

"Ay ay, sir," said Jack.

"And is that all you've got to say, you lubber, when you see your
admiral in danger? You'd better go and make terms with the enemy at
once."

"Really, this is serious," said Henry; "they shout for Varney. Can Mr.
Chillingworth have been so mad as to adopt this means of stopping the
duel?"

"Impossible," said Marchdale; "if that had been his intention, he could
have done so quietly, through the medium of the civil authorities."

"Hang me!" exclaimed the admiral, "if there are any civil authorities;
they talk of smashing somebody. What do they say, Jack? I don't hear
quite so well as I used."

"You always was a little deaf," said Jack.

"What?"

"A little deaf, I say."

"Why, you lubberly lying swab, how dare you say so?"

"Because you was."

"You slave-going scoundrel!"

"For Heaven's sake, do not quarrel at such a time as this!" said Henry;
"we shall be surrounded in a moment. Come, Mr. Marchdale, let you and I
visit these people, and ascertain what it is that has so much excited
their indignation."

"Agreed," said Marchdale; and they both stepped forward at a rapid pace,
to meet the advancing throng.

The crowd which had now approached to within a short distance of the
expectant little party, was of a most motley description, and its
appearance, under many circumstances, would cause considerable
risibility. Men and women were mixed indiscriminately together, and in
the shouting, the latter, if such a thing were possible, exceeded the
former, both in discordance and energy.

Every individual composing that mob carried some weapon calculated for
defence, such as flails, scythes, sickles, bludgeons, &c., and this mode
of arming caused them to wear a most formidable appearance; while the
passion that superstition had called up was strongly depicted in their
inflamed features. Their fury, too, had been excited by their
disappointment, and it was with concentrated rage that they now pressed
onward.

The calm and steady advance of Henry and Mr. Marchdale to meet the
advancing throng, seemed to have the effect of retarding their progress
a little, and they came to a parley at a hedge, which separated them
from the meadow in which the duel had been fought.

"You seem to be advancing towards us," said Henry. "Do you seek me or
any of my friends; and if so, upon what errand? Mr. Chillingworth, for
Heaven's sake, explain what is the cause of all this assault. You seem
to be at the head of it."

"Seem to be," said Mr. Chillingworth, "without being so. You are not
sought, nor any of your friends?"

"Who, then?"

"Sir Francis Varney," was the immediate reply.

"Indeed! and what has he done to excite popular indignation? of private
wrong I can accuse him; but I desire no crowd to take up my cause, or to
avenge my quarrels."

"Mr. Bannerworth, it has become known, through my indiscretion, that Sir
Frances Varney is suspected of being a vampyre."

"Is this so?"

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob. "Down with the vampyre! hurrah! where is he?
Down with him!"

"Drive a stake through him," said a woman; "it's the only way, and the
humanest. You've only to take a hedge stake and sharpen it a bit at one
end, and char it a little in the fire so as there mayt'n't be no
splinters to hurt, and then poke it through his stomach."

The mob gave a great shout at this humane piece of advice, and it was
some time before Henry could make himself heard at all, even to those
who were nearest to him.

When he did succeed in so doing, he cried, with a loud voice,--

"Hear me, all of you. It is quite needless for me to inquire how you
became possessed of the information that a dreadful suspicion hangs over
the person of Sir Francis Varney; but if, in consequence of hearing such
news, you fancy this public demonstration will be agreeable to me, or
likely to relieve those who are nearest or dearest to me from the state
of misery and apprehension into which they have fallen, you are much
mistaken."

"Hear him, hear him!" cried Mr. Marchdale; "he speaks both wisdom and
truth."

"If anything," pursued Henry, "could add to the annoyance of vexation
and misery we have suffered, it would assuredly be the being made
subjects of every-day gossip, and every-day clamour."

"You hear him?" said Mr. Marchdale.

"Yes, we does," said a man; "but we comes out to catch a vampyre, for
all that."

"Oh, to be sure," said the humane woman; "nobody's feelings is nothing
to us. Are we to be woke up in the night with vampyres sucking our
bloods while we've got a stake in the country?"

"Hurrah!" shouted everybody. "Down with the vampyre! where is he?"

"You are wrong. I assure you, you are all wrong," said Mr.
Chillingworth, imploringly; "there is no vampyre here, you see. Sir
Francis Varney has not only escaped, but he will take the law of all of
you."

This was an argument which appeared to stagger a few, but the bolder
spirits pushed them on, and a suggestion to search the wood having been
made by some one who was more cunning than his neighbours, that measure
was at once proceeded with, and executed in a systematic manner, which
made those who knew it to be the hiding-place of Sir Francis Varney
tremble for his safety.

It was with a strange mixture of feeling that Henry Bannerworth waited
the result of the search for the man who but a few minutes before had
been opposed to him in a contest of life or death.

The destruction of Sir Francis Varney would certainly have been an
effectual means of preventing him from continuing to be the incubus he
then was upon the Bannerworth family; and yet the generous nature of
Henry shrank with horror from seeing even such a creature as Varney
sacrificed at the shrine of popular resentment, and murdered by an
infuriated populace.

He felt as great an interest in the escape of the vampyre as if some
great advantage to himself bad been contingent upon such an event; and,
although he spoke not a word, while the echoes of the little wood were
all awakened by the clamorous manner in which the mob searched for their
victim, his feelings could be well read upon his countenance.

The admiral, too, without possessing probably the fine feelings of Henry
Bannerworth, took an unusually sympathetic interest in the fate of the
vampyre; and, after placing himself in various attitudes of intense
excitement, he exclaimed,--

"D--n it, Jack, I do hope, after all, the vampyre will get the better of
them. It's like a whole flotilla attacking one vessel--a lubberly
proceeding at the best, and I'll be hanged if I like it. I should like
to pour in a broadside into those fellows, just to let them see it
wasn't a proper English mode of fighting. Shouldn't you, Jack?"

"Ay, ay, sir, I should."

"Shiver me, if I see an opportunity, if I don't let some of those
rascals know what's what."

Scarcely had these words escaped the lips of the old admiral than there
arose a loud shout from the interior of the wood. It was a shout of
success, and seemed at the very least to herald the capture of the
unfortunate Varney.

"By Heaven!" exclaimed Henry, "they have him."

"God forbid!" said Mr. Marchdale; "this grows too serious."

"Bear a hand, Jack," said the admiral: "we'll have a fight for it yet;
they sha'n't murder even a vampyre in cold blood. Load the pistols and
send a flying shot or two among the rascals, the moment they appear."

"No, no," said Henry; "no more violence, at least there has been
enough--there has been enough."

Even as he spoke there came rushing from among the trees, at the corner
of the wood, the figure of a man. There needed but one glance to assure
them who it was. Sir Francis Varney had been seen, and was flying before
those implacable foes who had sought his life.

He had divested himself of his huge cloak, as well as of his low
slouched hat, and, with a speed which nothing but the most absolute
desperation could have enabled him to exert, he rushed onward, beating
down before him every obstacle, and bounding over the meadows at a rate
that, if he could have continued it for any length of time, would have
set pursuit at defiance.

"Bravo!" shouted the admiral, "a stern chase is a long chase, and I wish
them joy of it--d----e, Jack, did you ever see anybody get along like
that?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"You never did, you scoundrel."

"Yes, I did."

"When and where?"

"When you ran away off the sound."

The admiral turned nearly blue with anger, but Jack looked perfectly
imperturbable, as he added,--

"You know you ran away after the French frigates who wouldn't stay to
fight you."

"Ah! that indeed. There he goes, putting on every stitch of canvass,
I'll be bound."

"And there they come," said Jack, as he pointed to the corner of the
wood, and some of the more active of the vampyre's pursuers showed
themselves.

It would appear as if the vampyre had been started from some
hiding-place in the interior of the wood, and had then thought it
expedient altogether to leave that retreat, and make his way to some
more secure one across the open country, where there would be more
obstacles to his discovery than perseverance could overcome. Probably,
then, among the brushwood and trees, for a few moments he had been again
lost sight of, until those who were closest upon his track had emerged
from among the dense foliage, and saw him scouring across the country at
such headlong speed. These were but few, and in their extreme anxiety
themselves to capture Varney, whose precipate and terrified flight
brought a firm conviction to their minds of his being a vampyre, they
did not stop to get much of a reinforcement, but plunged on like
greyhounds in his track.

"Jack," said the admiral, "this won't do. Look at that great lubberly
fellow with the queer smock-frock."

"Never saw such a figure-head in my life," said Jack.

"Stop him."

"Ay, ay, sir."

The man was coming on at a prodigious rate, and Jack, with all the
deliberation in the world, advanced to meet him; and when they got
sufficiently close together, that in a few moments they must encounter
each other, Jack made himself into as small a bundle as possible, and
presented his shoulder to the advancing countryman in such a way, that
he flew off it at a tangent, as if he had run against a brick wall, and
after rolling head over heels for some distance, safely deposited
himself in a ditch, where he disappeared completely for a few moments
from all human observation.

"Don't say I hit you," said Jack. "Curse yer, what did yer run against
me for? Sarves you right. Lubbers as don't know how to steer, in course
runs agin things."

"Bravo," said the admiral; "there's another of them."

The pursuers of Varney the vampyre, however, now came too thick and fast
to be so easily disposed of, and as soon as his figure could be seen
coursing over the meadows, and springing over road and ditch with an
agility almost frightful to look upon, the whole rabble rout was in
pursuit of him.

By this time, the man who had fallen into the ditch had succeeded in
making his appearance in the visible world again, and as he crawled up
the bank, looking a thing of mire and mud, Jack walked up to him with
all the carelessness in the world, and said to him,--

"Any luck, old chap?"

"Oh, murder!" said the man, "what do you mean? who are you? where am I?
what's the matter? Old Muster Fowler, the fat crowner, will set upon me
now."

"Have you caught anything?" said Jack.

"Caught anything?"

"Yes; you've been in for eels, haven't you?"

"D--n!"

"Well, it is odd to me, as some people can't go a fishing without
getting out of temper. Have it your own way; I won't interfere with
you;" and away Jack walked.

The man cleared the mud out of his eyes, as well as he could, and looked
after him with a powerful suspicion that in Jack he saw the very cause
of his mortal mishap: but, somehow or other, his immersion in the not
over limpid stream had wonderfully cooled his courage, and casting one
despairing look upon his begrimed apparel, and another at the last of
the stragglers who were pursuing Sir Francis Varney across the fields,
he thought it prudent to get home as fast he could, and get rid of the
disagreeable results of an adventure which had turned out for him
anything but auspicious or pleasant.

Mr. Chillingworth, as though by a sort of impulse to be present in case
Sir Francis Varney should really be run down and with a hope of saving
him from personal violence, had followed the foremost of the rioters in
the wood, found it now quite impossible for him to carry on such a chase
as that which was being undertaken across the fields after Sir Francis
Varney.

His person was unfortunately but ill qualified for the continuance of
such a pursuit, and, although with the greatest reluctance, he at last
felt himself compelled to give it up.

In making his way through the intricacies of the wood, he had been
seriously incommoded by the thick undergrowth, and he had accidentally
encountered several miry pools, with which he had involuntarily made a
closer acquaintance than was at all conducive either to his personal
appearance or comfort. The doctor's temper, though, generally speaking,
one of the most even, was at last affected by his mishaps, and he could
not restrain from an execration upon his want of prudence in letting his
wife have a knowledge of a secret that was not his own, and the
producing an unlooked for circumstance, the termination of which might
be of a most disastrous nature.

Tired, therefore, and nearly exhausted by the exertions he had already
taken, he emerged now alone from the wood, and near the spot where stood
Henry Bannerworth and his friends in consultation.

The jaded look of the surgeon was quite sufficient indication of the
trouble and turmoil he had gone through, and some expressions of
sympathy for his condition were dropped by Henry, to whom he replied,--

"Nay, my young friend, I deserve it all. I have nothing but my own
indiscretion to thank for all the turmoil and tumult that has arisen
this morning."

"But to what possible cause can we attribute such an outrage?"

"Reproach me as much as you will, I deserve it. A man may prate of his
own secrets if he like, but he should be careful of those of other
people. I trusted yours to another, and am properly punished."

"Enough," said Henry; "we'll say no more of that, Mr. Chillingworth.
What is done cannot be undone, and we had better spend our time in
reflection of how to make the best of what is, than in useless
lamentation over its causes. What is to be done?"

"Nay, I know not. Have you fought the duel?"

"Yes; and, as you perceive, harmlessly."

"Thank Heaven for that."

"Nay, I had my fire, which Sir Francis Varney refused to return; so the
affair had just ended, when the sound of approaching tumult came upon
our ears."

[Illustration]

"What a strange mixture," exclaimed Marchdale, "of feelings and passions
this Varney appears to be. At one moment acting with the apparent
greatest malignity; and another, seeming to have awakened in his mind a
romantic generosity which knows no bounds. I cannot understand him."

"Nor I, indeed," said Henry; "but yet I somehow tremble for his fate,
and I seem to feel that something ought to be done to save him from the
fearful consequences of popular feeling. Let us hasten to the town, and
procure what assistance we may: but a few persons, well organised and
properly armed, will achieve wonders against a desultory and
ill-appointed multitude. There may be a chance of saving him, yet, from
the imminent danger which surrounds him."

"That's proper," cried the admiral. "I don't like to see anybody run
down. A fair fight's another thing. Yard arm and yard arm--stink pots
and pipkins--broadside to broadside--and throw in your bodies, if you
like, on the lee quarter; but don't do anything shabby. What do you
think of it, Jack?"

"Why, I means to say as how if Varney only keeps on sail as he's been
doing, that the devil himself wouldn't catch him in a gale."

"And yet," said Henry, "it is our duty to do the best we can. Let us at
once to the town, and summons all the assistance in our power. Come
on--come on!"

His friends needed no further urging, but, at a brisk pace, they all
proceeded by the nearest footpaths towards the town.

It puzzled his pursuers to think in what possible direction Sir Francis
Varney expected to find sustenance or succour, when they saw how
curiously he took his flight across the meadows. Instead of
endeavouring, by any circuitous path, to seek the shelter of his own
house, or to throw himself upon the care of the authorities of the town,
who must, to the extent of their power, have protected him, he struck
across the fields, apparently without aim or purpose, seemingly intent
upon nothing but to distance his pursuers in a long chase, which might
possibly tire them, or it might not, according to their or his powers of
endurance.

We say this seemed to be the case, but it was not so in reality. Sir
Francis Varney had a deeper purpose, and it was scarcely to be supposed
that a man of his subtle genius, and, apparently, far-seeing and
reflecting intellect, could have so far overlooked the many dangers of
his position as not to be fully prepared for some such contingency as
that which had just now occurred.

Holding, as he did, so strange a place in society--living among men, and
yet possessing so few attributes in common with humanity--he must all
along have felt the possibility of drawing upon himself popular
violence.

He could not wholly rely upon the secrecy of the Bannerworth family,
much as they might well be supposed to shrink from giving publicity to
circumstances of so fearfully strange and perilous a nature as those
which had occurred amongst them. The merest accident might, at any
moment, make him the town's talk. The overhearing of a few chance words
by some gossiping domestic--some ebullition of anger or annoyance by
some member of the family--or a communication from some friend who had
been treated with confidence--might, at any time, awaken around him some
such a storm as that which now raged at his heels.

Varney the vampire must have calculated this. He must have felt the
possibility of such a state of things; and, as a matter of course,
politicly provided himself with some place of refuge.

After about twenty minutes of hard chasing across the fields, there
could be no doubt of his intentions. He had such a place of refuge; and,
strange a one as it might appear, he sped towards it in as direct a line
as ever a well-sped arrow flew towards its mark.

That place of refuge, to the surprise of every one, appeared to be the
ancient ruin, of which we have before spoken, and which was so well
known to every inhabitant of the county.

Truly, it seemed like some act of mere desperation for Sir Francis
Varney to hope there to hide himself. There remained within, of what had
once been a stately pile, but a few grey crumbling walls, which the
hunted have would have passed unheeded, knowing that not for one instant
could he have baffled his pursuers by seeking so inefficient a refuge.

And those who followed hard and fast upon the track of Sir Francis
Varney felt so sure of their game, when they saw whither he was
speeding, that they relaxed in their haste considerably, calling loudly
to each other that the vampire was caught at last, for he could be
easily surrounded among the old ruins, and dragged from amongst its
moss-grown walls.

In another moment, with a wild dash and a cry of exultation, he sprang
out of sight, behind an angle, formed by what had been at one time one
of the principal supports of the ancient structure.

Then, as if there was still something so dangerous about him, that only
by a great number of hands could he be hoped to be secured, the
infuriated peasantry gathered in a dense circle around what they
considered his temporary place of refuge, and as the sun, which had now
climbed above the tree tops, and dispersed, in a great measure, many of
the heavy clouds of morning, shone down upon the excited group, they
might have been supposed there assembled to perform some superstitious
rite, which time had hallowed as an association of the crumbling ruin
around which they stood.

By the time the whole of the stragglers, who had persisted in the chase,
had come up, there might have been about fifty or sixty resolute men,
each intent upon securing the person of one whom they felt, while in
existence, would continue to be a terror to all the weaker and dearer
portions of their domestic circles.

There was a pause of several minutes. Those who had come the fleetest
were gathering breath, and those who had come up last were looking to
their more forward companions for some information as to what had
occurred before their arrival.

All was profoundly still within the ruin, and then suddenly, as if by
common consent, there arose from every throat a loud shout of
"Down with the vampyre! down with the vampyre!"

The echoes of that shout died away, and then all was still as before,
while a superstitious feeling crept over even the boldest. It would
almost seem as if they had expected some kind of response from Sir
Francis Varney to the shout of defiance with which they had just greeted
him; but the very calmness, repose, and absolute quiet of the ruin, and
all about it, alarmed them, and they looked the one at the other as if
the adventure after all were not one of the pleasantest description, and
might not fall out so happily as they had expected.

Yet what danger could there be? there were they, more than half a
hundred stout, strong men, to cope with one; they felt convinced that he
was completely in their power; they knew the ruins could not hide him,
and that five minutes time given to the task, would suffice to explore
every nook and corner of them.

And yet they hesitated, while an unknown terror shook their nerves, and
seemingly from the very fact that they had run down their game
successfully, they dreaded to secure the trophy of the chase.

One bold spirit was wanting; and, if it was not a bold one that spoke at
length, he might be complimented as being comparatively such. It was one
who had not been foremost in the chase, perchance from want of physical
power, who now stood forward, and exclaimed,--

"What are you waiting for, now? You can have him when you like. If you
want your wives and children to sleep quietly in their beds, you will
secure the vampyre. Come on--we all know he's here--why do you hesitate?
Do you expect me to go alone and drag him out by the ears?"

Any voice would have sufficed to break the spell which bound them. This
did so; and, with one accord, and yells of imprecation, they rushed
forward and plunged among the old walls of the ruin.

Less time than we have before remarked would have enabled any one to
explore the tottering fabric sufficient to bring a conviction to their
minds that, after all, there might have been some mistake about the
matter, and Sir Francis Varney was not quite caught yet.

It was astonishing how the fact of not finding him in a moment, again
roused all their angry feelings against him, and dispelled every feeling
of superstitious awe with which he had been surrounded; rage gave place
to the sort of shuddering horror with which they had before contemplated
his immediate destruction, when they had believed him to be virtually
within their very grasp.

Over and over again the ruins were searched--hastily and impatiently by
some, carefully and deliberately by others, until there could be no
doubt upon the mind of every one individual, that somehow or somewhere
within the shadow of those walls, Sir Francis Varney had disappeared
most mysteriously.

Then it would have been a strange sight for any indifferent spectator to
have seen how they shrunk, one by one, out of the shadow of those ruins;
each seeming to be afraid that the vampyre, in some mysterious manner,
would catch him if he happened to be the last within their sombre
influence; and, when they had all collected in the bright, open space,
some little distance beyond, they looked at each other and at the ruins,
with dubious expressions of countenance, each, no doubt, wishing that
each would suggest something of a consolatory or practicable character.

"What's to be done, now?" said one.

"Ah! that's it," said another, sententiously. "I'll be hanged if I
know."

"He's given us the slip," remarked a third.

"But he can't have given us the slip," said one man, who was
particularly famous for a dogmatical spirit of argumentation; "how is it
possible? he must be here, and I say he is here."

"Find him, then," cried several at once.

"Oh! that's nothing to do with the argument; he's here, whether we find
him or not."

One very cunning fellow laid his finger on his nose, and beckoned to a
comrade to retire some paces, where he delivered himself of the
following very oracular sentiment:--

"My good friend, you must know Sir Francis Varney is here or he isn't."

"Agreed, agreed."

"Well, if he isn't here it's no use troubling our heads any more about
him; but, otherwise, it's quite another thing, and, upon the whole, I
must say, that I rather think he is."

All looked at him, for it was evident he was big with some suggestion.
After a pause, he resumed,--

"Now, my good friends, I propose that we all appear to give it up, and
to go away; but that some one of us shall remain and hide among the
ruins for some time, to watch, in case the vampyre makes his appearance
from some hole or corner that we haven't found out."

"Oh, capital!" said everybody.

"Then you all agree to that?"

"Yes, yes."

"Very good; that's the only way to nick him. Now, we'll pretend to give
it up; let's all of us talk loud about going home."

They did all talk loud about going home; they swore that it was not
worth the trouble of catching him, that they gave it up as a bad job;
that he might go to the deuce in any way he liked, for all they cared;
and then they all walked off in a body, when, the man who had made the
suggestion, suddenly cried,--

"Hilloa! hilloa!--stop! stop! you know one of us is to wait?"

"Oh, ay; yes, yes, yes!" said everybody, and still they moved on.

"But really, you know, what's the use of this? who's to wait?"

That was, indeed, a knotty question, which induced a serious
consultation, ending in their all, with one accord, pitching upon the
author of the suggestion, as by far the best person to hide in the ruins
and catch the vampyre.

They then all set off at full speed; but the cunning fellow, who
certainly had not the slightest idea of so practically carrying out his
own suggestion, scampered off after them with a speed that soon brought
him in the midst of the throng again, and so, with fear in their looks,
and all the evidences of fatigue about them, they reached the town to
spread fresh and more exaggerated accounts of the mysterious conduct of
Varney the vampyre.




CHAPTER XLIV.

VARNEY'S DANGER, AND HIS RESCUE.--THE PRISONER AGAIN, AND THE
SUBTERRANEAN VAULT.


[Illustration]

We have before slightly mentioned to the reader, and not unadvisedly,
the existence of a certain prisoner, confined in a gloomy dungeon, into
whose sad and blackened recesses but few and faint glimmering rays of
light ever penetrated; for, by a diabolical ingenuity, the narrow
loophole which served for a window to that subterraneous abode was so
constructed, that, let the sun be at what point it might, during its
diurnal course, but a few reflected beams of light could ever find their
way into that abode of sorrow.

The prisoner--the same prisoner of whom we before spoke--is there.
Despair is in his looks, and his temples are still bound with those
cloths, which seemed now for many days to have been sopped in blood,
which has become encrusted in their folds.

He still lives, apparently incapable of movement. How he has lived so
long seems to be a mystery, for one would think him scarcely in a state,
even were nourishment placed to his lips, to enable him to swallow it.

It may be, however, that the mind has as much to do with that apparent
absolute prostration of all sort of physical energy as those bodily
wounds which he has received at the hands of the enemies who have
reduced him to his present painful and hopeless situation.

Occasionally a low groan burst from his lips; it seems to come from the
very bottom of his heart, and it sounds as if it would carry with it
every remnant of vitality that was yet remaining to him.

Then he moves restlessly, and repeats in hurried accents the names of
some who are dear to him, and far away--some who may, perchance, be
mourning him, but who know not, guess not, aught of his present
sufferings.

As he thus moves, the rustle of a chain among the straw on which he lies
gives an indication, that even in that dungeon it has not been
considered prudent to leave him master of his own actions, lest, by too
vigorous an effort, he might escape from the thraldom in which he is
held.

The sound reaches his own ears, and for a few moments, in the deep
impatience of his wounded spirit, he heaps malediction on the heads of
those who have reduced him to his present state.

But soon a better nature seems to come over him, and gentler words fall
from his lips. He preaches patience to himself--he talks not of revenge,
but of justice, and in accents of more hopefulness than he had before
spoken, he calls upon Heaven to succour him in his deep distress.

Then all is still, and the prisoner appears to have resigned himself
once more to the calmness of expectation or of despair; but hark! his
sense of hearing, rendered doubly acute by lying so long alone in nearly
darkness, and in positive silence, detects sounds which, to ordinary
mortal powers of perception, would have been by far too indistinct to
produce any tangible effect upon the senses.

It is the sound of feet--on, on they come; far overhead he hears them;
they beat the green earth--that sweet, verdant sod, which he may never
see again--with an impatient tread. Nearer and nearer still; and now
they pause; he listens with all the intensity of one who listens for
existence; some one comes; there is a lumbering noise--a hasty footstep;
he hears some one labouring for breath--panting like a hunted hare; his
dungeon door is opened, and there totters in a man, tall and gaunt; he
reels like one intoxicated; fatigue has done more than the work of
inebriation; he cannot save himself, and he sinks exhausted by the side
of that lonely prisoner.

The captive raises himself as far as his chains will allow him; he
clutches the throat of his enervated visitor.

"Villain, monster, vampyre!" he shrieks, "I have thee now;" and locked
in a deadly embrace, they roll upon the damp earth, struggling for life
together.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is mid-day at Bannerworth Hall, and Flora is looking from the
casement anxiously expecting the arrival of her brothers. She had seen,
from some of the topmost windows of the Hall, that the whole
neighbourhood had been in a state of commotion, but little did she guess
the cause of so much tumult, or that it in any way concerned her.

She had seen the peasantry forsaking their work in the fields and the
gardens, and apparently intent upon some object of absorbing interest;
but she feared to leave the house, for she had promised Henry that she
would not do so, lest the former pacific conduct of the vampyre should
have been but a new snare, for the purpose of drawing her so far from
her home as to lead her into some danger when she should be far from
assistance.

And yet more than once was she tempted to forget her promise, and to
seek the open country, for fear that those she loved should be
encountering some danger for her sake, which she would willingly either
share with them or spare them.

The solicitation, however, of her brother kept her comparatively quiet;
and, moreover, since her last interview with Varney, in which, at all
events, he had shown some feeling for the melancholy situation to which,
he had reduced her, she had been more able to reason calmly, and to meet
the suggestions of passion and of impulse with a sober judgment.

About midday, then, she saw the domestic party returning--that party,
which now consisted of her two brothers, the admiral, Jack Pringle, and
Mr. Chillingworth. As for Mr. Marchdale, he had given them a polite
adieu on the confines of the grounds of Bannerworth Hall, stating, that
although he had felt it to be his duty to come forward and second Henry
Bannerworth in the duel with the vampyre, yet that circumstance by no
means obliterated from his memory the insults he had received from
Admiral Bell, and, therefore, he declined going to Bannerworth Hall, and
bade them a very good morning.

To all this, Admiral Bell replied that he might go and be d----d, if he
liked, and that he considered him a swab and a humbug, and appealed to
Jack Pringle whether he, Jack, ever saw such a sanctified looking prig
in his life.

"Ay, ay," says Jack.

This answer, of course, produced the usual contention, which lasted them
until they got fairly in the house, where they swore at each other to an
extent that was enough to make any one's hair stand on end, until Henry
and Mr. Chillingworth interfered, and really begged that they would
postpone the discussion until some more fitting opportunity.

The whole of the circumstances were then related to Flora; who, while
she blamed her brother much for fighting the duel with the vampyre,
found in the conduct of that mysterious individual, as regarded the
encounter, yet another reason for believing him to be strictly sincere
in his desire to save her from the consequences of his future visits.

Her desire to leave Bannerworth Hall consequently became more and more
intense, and as the admiral really now considered himself the master of
the house, they offered no amount of opposition to the subject, but
merely said,--

"My dear Flora, Admiral Bell shall decide in all these matters, now. We
know that he is our sincere friend; and that whatever he says we ought
to do, will be dictated by the best possible feelings towards us."

"Then I appeal to you, sir," said Flora, turning to the admiral.

"Very good," replied the old man; "then I say--"

"Nay, admiral," interrupted Mr. Chillingworth; "you promised me, but a
short time since, that you would come to no decision whatever upon this
question, until you had heard some particulars which I have to relate to
you, which, in my humble opinion, will sway your judgment."

"And so I did," cried the admiral; "but I had forgotten all about it.
Flora, my dear, I'll be with you in an hour or two. My friend, the
doctor, here, has got some sow by the ear, and fancies it's the right
one; however, I'll hear what he has got to say, first, before we come to
a conclusion. So, come along, Mr. Chillingworth, and let's have it out
at once."

"Flora," said Henry, when the admiral had left the room, "I can see that
you wish to leave the Hall."

"I do, brother; but not to go far--I wish rather to hide from Varney
than to make myself inaccessible by distance."

"You still cling to this neighbourhood?"

"I do, I do; and you know with what hope I cling to it."

"Perfectly; you still think it possible that Charles Holland may be
united to you."

"I do, I do."

"You believe his faith."

"Oh, yes; as I believe in Heaven's mercy."

"And I, Flora; I would not doubt him now for worlds; something even now
seems to whisper to me that a brighter sun of happiness will yet dawn
upon us, and that, when the mists which at present enshroud ourselves
and our fortunes pass away, they will disclose a landscape full of
beauty, the future of which shall know no pangs."

"Yes, brother," exclaimed Flora, enthusiastically; "this, after all, may
be but some trial, grievous while it lasts, but yet tending eventually
only to make the future look more bright and beautiful. Heaven may yet
have in store for us all some great happiness, which shall spring
clearly and decidedly from out these misfortunes."

"Be it so, and may we ever thus banish despair by such hopeful
propositions. Lean on my arm, Flora; you are safe with me. Come,
dearest, and taste the sweetness of the morning air."

There was, indeed now, a hopefulness about the manner in which Henry
Bannerworth spoke, such as Flora had not for some weary months had the
pleasure of listening to, and she eagerly rose to accompany him into the
garden, which was glowing with all the beauty of sunshine, for the day
had turned out to be much finer than the early morning had at all
promised it would be.

"Flora," he said, when they had taken some turns to and fro in the
garden, "notwithstanding all that has happened, there is no convincing
Mr. Chillingworth that Sir Francis Varney is really what to us he
appears."

"Indeed!"

"It is so. In the face of all evidence, he neither will believe in
vampyres at all, nor that Varney is anything but some mortal man, like
ourselves, in his thoughts, talents, feelings, and modes of life; and
with no more power to do any one an injury than we have."

"Oh, would that I could think so!"

"And I; but, unhappily, we have by far too many, and too conclusive
evidences to the contrary."

"We have, indeed, brother."

"And though, while we respect that strength of mind in our friend which
will not allow him, even almost at the last extremity, to yield to what
appear to be stern facts, we may not ourselves be so obdurate, but may
feel that we know enough to be convinced."

"You have no doubt, brother?"

"Most reluctantly, I must confess, that I feel compelled to consider
Varney as something more than mortal."

"He must be so."

"And now, sister, before we leave the place which has been a home to us
from earliest life, let us for a few moments consider if there be any
possible excuse for the notion of Mr. Chillingworth, to the effect that
Sir Francis Varney wants possession of the house for some purpose still
more inimical to our peace and prosperity than any he has yet
attempted."

"Has he such an opinion?"

"He has."

"'Tis very strange."

"Yes, Flora; he seems to gather from all the circumstances, nothing but
an overwhelming desire on the part of Sir Francis Varney to become the
tenant of Bannerworth Hall."

"He certainly wishes to possess it."

"Yes; but can you, sister, in the exercise of any possible amount of
fancy, imagine any motive for such an anxiety beyond what he alleges?"

"Which is merely that he is fond of old houses."

"Precisely so. That is the reason, and the only one, that can be got
from him. Heaven only knows if it be the true one."

"It may be, brother."

"As you say, it may; but there's a doubt, nevertheless, Flora. I much
rejoice that you have had an interview with this mysterious being, for
you have certainty, since that time, been happier and more composed than
I ever hoped to see you again."

"I have indeed."

"It is sufficiently perceivable."

"Somehow, brother, since that interview, I have not had the same sort of
dread of Sir Francis Varney which before made the very sound of his name
a note of terror to me. His words, and all he said to me during that
interview which took place so strangely between us, indeed how I know
not, tended altogether rather to make him, to a certain extent, an
object of my sympathies rather than my abhorrence."

"That is very strange."

"I own that it is strange, Henry; but when we come for but a brief
moment to reflect upon the circumstances which have occurred, we shall,
I think, be able to find some cause even to pity Varney the vampyre."

"How?"

"Thus, brother. It is said--and well may I who have been subject to an
attack of such a nature, tremble to repeat the saying--that those who
have been once subject to the visitations of a vampyre, are themselves
in a way to become one of the dreadful and maddening fraternity."

"I have heard so much, sister," replied Henry.

"Yes; and therefore who knows but that Sir Francis Varney may, at one
time, have been as innocent as we are ourselves of the terrible and
fiendish propensity which now makes him a terror and a reproach to all
who know him, or are in any way obnoxious to his attacks."

"That is true."

"There may have been a time--who shall say there was not?--when he, like
me, would have shrunk, with a dread as great as any one could have
experienced, from the contamination of the touch even of a vampyre."

"I cannot, sister, deny the soundness of your reasoning," said Henry,
with a sigh; "but I still no not see anything, even from a full
conviction that Varney is unfortunate, which should induce us to
tolerate him."

"Nay, brother, I said not tolerate. What I mean is, that even with the
horror and dread we must naturally feel at such a being, we may afford
to mingle some amount of pity, which shall make us rather seek to shun
him, than to cross his path with a resolution of doing him an injury."

"I perceive well, sister, what you mean. Rather than remain here, and
make an attempt to defy Sir Francis Varney, you would fly from him, and
leave him undisputed master of the field."

"I would--I would."

"Heaven forbid that I or any one should thwart you. You know well,
Flora, how dear you are to me; you know well that your happiness has
ever been to us all a matter which has assumed the most important of
shapes, as regarded our general domestic policy. It is not, therefore,
likely now, dear sister, that we should thwart you in your wish to
remove from here."

"I know, Henry, all you would say," remarked Flora, as a tear started to
her eyes. "I know well all you think, and, in your love for me, I
likewise know well I rely for ever. You are attached to this place, as,
indeed, we all are, by a thousand happy and pleasant associations; but
listen to me further, Henry, I do not wish to wander far."

"Not far, Flora?"

"No. Do I not still cling to a hope that Charles may yet appear? and if
he do so, it will assuredly be in this neighbourhood, which he knows is
native and most dear to us all."

"True."

"Then do I wish to make some sort of parade, in the way of publicity, of
our leaving the Hall."

"Yes, yes."

"And yet not go far. In the neighbouring town, for example, surely we
might find some means of living entirely free from remark or observation
as to who or what we were."

"That, sister, I doubt. If you seek for that species of solitude which
you contemplate, it is only to be found in a desert."

"A desert?"

"Yes; or in a large city."

"Indeed!"

"Ay, Flora; you may well believe me, that it is so. In a small community
you can have no possible chance of evading an amount of scrutiny which
would very soon pierce through any disguise you could by any possibility
assume."

"Then there is no resource. We must go far."

"Nay, I will consider for you, Flora; and although, as a general
principle, what I have said I know to be true, yet some more special
circumstance may arise that may point a course that, while it enables
us, for Charles Holland's sake, to remain in this immediate
neighbourhood, yet will procure to us all the secrecy we may desire."

"Dear--dear brother," said Flora, as she flung herself upon Henry's
neck, "you speak cheeringly to me, and, what is more, you believe in
Charles's faithfulness and truth."

"As Heaven is my judge, I do."

"A thousand, thousand thanks for such an assurance. I know him too well
to doubt, for one moment, his faith. Oh, brother! could he--could
Charles Holland, the soul of honour, the abode of every noble impulse
that can adorn humanity--could he have written those letters? No, no!
perish the thought!"

"It has perished."

"Thank God!"

"I only, upon reflection, wonder how, misled for the moment by the
concurrence of a number of circumstances, I could ever have suspected
him."

"It is like your generous nature, brother to say so; but you know as
well as I, that there has been one here who has, far from feeling any
sort of anxiety to think as well as possible of poor Charles Holland,
has done all that in him lay to take the worst view of his mysterious
disappearance, and induce us to do the like."

"You allude to Mr. Marchdale?"

"I do."

"Well, Flora, at the same time that I must admit you have cause for
speaking of Mr. Marchdale as you do, yet when we come to consider all
things, there may be found for him excuses."

"May there?"

"Yes, Flora; he is a man, as he himself says, past the meridian of life,
and the world is a sad as well as a bad teacher, for it soon--too soon,
alas! deprives us of our trusting confidence in human nature."

"It may be so; but yet, he, knowing as he did so very little of Charles
Holland, judged him hastily and harshly."

"You rather ought to say, Flora, that he did not judge him generously."

"Well, be it so."

"And you must recollect, when you say so, that Marchdale did not love
Charles Holland."

"Nay, now," said Flora, while there flashed across her cheek, for a
moment, a heightened colour, "you are commencing to jest with me, and,
therefore, we will say no more. You know, dear Henry, all my hopes, my
wishes, and my feelings, and I shall therefore leave my future destiny
in your hands, to dispose of as you please. Look yonder!"

"Where?"

"There. Do you not see the admiral and Mr. Chillingworth walking among
the trees?"

"Yes, yes; I do now."

"How very serious and intent they are upon the subject of their
discourse. They seem quite lost to all surrounding objects. I could not
have imagined any subject that would so completely have absorbed the
attention of Admiral Bell."

"Mr. Chillingworth had something to relate to him or to propose, of a
nature which, perchance, has had the effect of enchaining all his
attention--he called him from the room."

"Yes; I saw that he did. But see, they come towards us, and now we
shall, probably, hear what is the subject-matter of their discourse and
consultation."

"We shall."

Admiral Bell had evidently seen Henry and his sister, for now, suddenly,
as if not from having for the first moment observed them, and, in
consequence, broken off their private discourse, but as if they arrived
at some point in it which enabled them to come to a conclusion to be
communicative, the admiral came towards the brother and sister,

"Well," said the bluff old admiral, when they were sufficiently near to
exchange words, "well, Miss Flora, you are looking a thousand times
better than you were."

"I thank you, admiral, I am much better."

"Oh, to be sure you are; and you will be much better still, and no sort
of mistake. Now, here's the doctor and I have both been agreeing upon
what is best for you."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, to be sure. Have we not, doctor?"

"We have, admiral."

"Good; and what, now, Miss Flora, do you suppose it is?"

"I really cannot say."

"Why, it's change of air, to be sure. You must get away from here as
quickly as you can, or there will be no peace for you."

"Yes," added Mr. Chillingworth, advancing; "I am quite convinced that
change of scene and change of place, and habits, and people, will tend
more to your complete recovery than any other circumstances. In the most
ordinary cases of indisposition we always find that the invalid recovers
much sooner away from the scene of his indisposition, than by remaining
in it, even though its general salubrity be much greater than the place
to which he may be removed."

"Good," said the admiral.

"Then we are to understand," said Henry, with a smile, "that we are no
longer to be your guests, Admiral Bell?"

"Belay there!" cried the admiral; "who told you to understand any such
thing, I should like to know?"

"Well, but we shall look upon this house as yours, now; and, that being
the case, if we remove from it, of course we cease to be your guests any
longer."

"That's all you know about it. Now, hark ye. You don't command the
fleet, so don't pretend to know what the admiral is going to do. I have
made money by knocking about some of the enemies of old England, and
that's the most gratifying manner in the world of making money, so far
as I am concerned."

[Illustration]

"It is an honourable mode."

"Of course it is. Well, I am going to--what the deuce do you call it?"

"What?"

"That's just what I want to know. Oh, I have it now. I am going to what
the lawyers call invest it."

"A prudent step, admiral, and one which it is to be hoped, before now,
has occurred to you."

"Perhaps it has and perhaps it hasn't; however, that's my business, and
no one's else's. I am going to invest my spare cash in taking houses;
so, as I don't care a straw where the houses may be situated, you can
look out for one somewhere that will suit you, and I'll take it; so,
after all, you will be my guests there just the same as you are here."

"Admiral," said Henry, "it would be imposing upon a generosity as rare
as it is noble, were we to allow you to do so much for us as you
contemplate."

"Very good."

"We cannot--we dare not."

"But I say you shall. So you have had your say, and I've had mine, after
which, if you please, Master Henry Bannerworth, I shall take upon myself
to consider the affair as altogether settled. You can commence
operations as soon as you like. I know that Miss Flora, here--bless her
sweet eyes--don't want to stay at Bannerworth Hall any longer than she
can help it."

"Indeed I was urging upon Henry to remove," said Flora; "but yet I
cannot help feeling with him, admiral, that we are imposing upon your
goodness."

"Go on imposing, then."

"But--"

"Psha! Can't a man be imposed upon if he likes? D--n it, that's a poor
privilege for an Englishman to be forced to make a row about. I tell you
I like it. I will be imposed upon, so there's an end of that; and now
let's come in and see what Mrs. Bannerworth has got ready for luncheon."

       *       *       *       *       *

It can hardly be supposed that such a popular ferment as had been
created in the country town, by the singular reports concerning Varney
the Vampyre, should readily, and without abundant satisfaction, subside.

An idea like that which had lent so powerful an impulse to the popular
mind, was one far easier to set going than to deprecate or extinguish.
The very circumstances which had occurred to foil the excited mob in
their pursuit of Sir Francis Varney, were of a nature to increase the
popular superstition concerning him, and to make him and his acts appear
in still more dreadful colours.

Mobs do not reason very closely and clearly; but the very fact of the
frantic flight of Sir Francis Varney from the projected attack of the
infuriated multitude, was seized hold of as proof positive of the
reality of his vampyre-like existence.

Then, again, had he not disappeared in the most mysterious manner? Had
he not sought refuge where no human being would think of seeking refuge,
namely, in that old, dilapidated ruin, where, when his pursuers were so
close upon his track, he had succeeded in eluding their grasp with a
facility which looked as if he had vanished into thin air, or as if the
very earth had opened to receive him bodily within its cold embraces?

It is not to be wondered at, that the few who fled so precipitately from
the ruin, lost nothing of the wonderful story they had to tell, in the
carrying it from that place to the town. When they reached their
neighbours, they not only told what had really occurred, but they added
to it all their own surmises, and the fanciful creation of all their own
fears, so that before mid-day, and about the time when Henry Bannerworth
was conversing so quietly in the gardens of the Hall with his beautiful
sister, there was an amount of popular ferment in the town, of which
they had no conception.

All business was suspended, and many persons, now that once the idea had
been started concerning the possibility that a vampyre might have been
visiting some of the houses in the place, told how, in the dead of the
night, they had heard strange noises. How children had shrieked from no
apparent cause--doors opened and shut without human agency; and windows
rattled that never had been known to rattle before.

Some, too, went so far as to declare that they had been awakened out of
their sleep by noises incidental to an effort made to enter their
chambers; and others had seen dusky forms of gigantic proportions
outside their windows, tampering with their fastenings, and only
disappearing when the light of day mocked all attempts at concealment.

These tales flew from mouth to mouth, and all listened to them with such
an eager interest, that none thought it worth while to challenge their
inconsistencies, or to express a doubt of their truth, because they had
not been mentioned before.

The only individual, and he was a remarkably clever man, who made the
slightest remark upon the subject of a practical character, hazarded a
suggestion that made confusion worse confounded.

He knew something of vampyres. He had travelled abroad, and had heard of
them in Germany, as well as in the east, and, to a crowd of wondering
and aghast listeners, he said,--

"You may depend upon it, my friends, this has been going on for some
time; there have been several mysterious and sudden deaths in the town
lately; people have wasted away and died nobody knew how or wherefore."

"Yes--yes," said everybody.

"There was Miles, the butcher; you know how fat he was, and then how fat
he wasn't."

A general assent was given to the proposition; and then, elevating one
arm in an oratorical manner, the clever fellow continued,--

"I have not a doubt that Miles, the butcher, and every one else who has
died suddenly lately, have been victims of the vampyre; and what's more,
they'll all be vampyres, and come and suck other people's blood, till at
last the whole town will be a town of vampyres."

"But what's to be done?" cried one, who trembled so excessively that he
could scarcely stand under his apprehension.

"There is but one plan--Sir Francis Varney must be found, and put out of
the world in such a manner that he can't come back to it again; and all
those who are dead that we have any suspicion of, should be taken up out
of their graves and looked at, to see if they're rotting or not; if they
are it's all right; but, if they look fresh and much, as usual, you may
depend they're vampyres, and no mistake."

This was a terrific suggestion thrown amongst a mob. To have caught Sir
Francis Varney and immolated him at the shrine of popular fury, they
would not have shrunk from; but a desecration of the graves of those
whom they had known in life was a matter which, however much it had to
recommend it, even the boldest stood aghast at, and felt some qualms of
irresolution.

There are many ideas, however, which, like the first plunge into a cold
bath, are rather uncomfortable for the moment; but which, in a little
time, we become so familiarized with, that they become stripped of their
disagreeable concomitants, and appear quite pleasing and natural.

So it was with this notion of exhuming the dead bodies of those
townspeople who had recently died from what was called a decay of
nature, and such other failures of vitality as bore not the tangible
name of any understood disease.

From mouth to mouth the awful suggestion spread like wildfire, until at
last it grew into such a shape that it almost seemed to become a duty,
at all events, to have up Miles the butcher, and see how he looked.

There is, too, about human nature a natural craving curiosity concerning
everything connected with the dead. There is not a man of education or
of intellectual endowment who would not travel many miles to look upon
the exhumation of the remains of some one famous in his time, whether
for his vices, his virtues, his knowledge, his talents, or his heroism;
and, if this feeling exist in the minds of the educated and refined in a
sublimated shape, which lends to it grace and dignity, we may look for
it among the vulgar and the ignorant, taking only a grosser and meaner
form, in accordance with their habits of thought. The rude materials, of
which the highest and noblest feelings of educated minds are formed,
will be found amongst the most grovelling and base; and so this vulgar
curiosity, which, combined with other feelings, prompted an ignorant and
illiterate mob to exhume Miles, the once fat butcher, in a different
form tempted the philosophic Hamlet to moralise upon the skull of
Yorick.

And it was wonderful to see how, when these people had made up their
minds to carry out the singularly interesting, but, at the same,
fearful, suggestion, they assumed to themselves a great virtue in so
doing--told each other what an absolute necessity there was, for the
public good, that it should be done; and then, with loud shouts and
cries concerning the vampyre, they proceeded in a body to the village
churchyard, where had been lain, with a hope of reposing in peace, the
bones of their ancestors.

A species of savage ferocity now appeared to have seized upon the crowd,
and the people, in making up their minds to do something which was
strikingly at variance with all their preconceived notions of right and
wrong, appeared to feel that it was necessary, in order that they might
be consistent, to cast off many of the decencies of life, and to become
riotous and reckless.

As they proceeded towards the graveyard, they amused themselves by
breaking the windows of the tax-gatherers, and doing what passing
mischief they could to the habitations of all who held any official
situation or authority.

This was something like a proclamation of war against those who might
think it their duty to interfere with the lawless proceedings of an
ignorant multitude. A public-house or two, likewise, _en route_, was
sacked of some of its inebriating contents, so that, what with the
madness of intoxication, and the general excitement consequent upon the
very nature of the business which took them to the churchyard, a more
wild and infuriated multitude than that which paused at two iron gates
which led into the sanctuary of that church could not be imagined.

Those who have never seen a mob placed in such a situation as to have
cast off all moral restraint whatever, at the same time that it feels
there is no physical power to cope with it, can form no notion of the
mass of terrible passions which lie slumbering under what, in ordinary
cases, have appeared harmless bosoms, but which now run riot, and
overcame every principle of restraint. It is a melancholy fact, but,
nevertheless, a fact, despite its melancholy, that, even in a civilised
country like this, with a generally well-educated population, nothing
but a well-organised physical force keeps down, from the commission of
the most outrageous offences, hundreds and thousands of persons.

We have said that the mob paused at the iron gates of the churchyard,
but it was more a pause of surprise than one of vacillation, because
they saw that those iron gates were closed, which had not been the case
within the memory of the oldest among them.

At the first building of the church, and the enclosure of its graveyard,
two pairs of these massive gates had been presented by some munificent
patron; but, after a time, they hung idly upon their hinges, ornamental
certainly, but useless, while a couple of turnstiles, to keep cattle
from straying within the sacred precincts, did duty instead, and
established, without trouble, the regular thoroughfare, which long habit
had dictated as necessary, through the place of sepulture.

But now those gates were closed, and for once were doing duty. Heaven
only knows how they had been moved upon their rusty and time-worn
hinges. The mob, however, was checked for the moment, and it was clear
that the ecclesiastical authorities were resolved to attempt something
to prevent the desecration of the tombs.

Those gates were sufficiently strong to resist the first vigorous shake
which was given to them by some of the foremost among the crowd, and
then one fellow started the idea that they might be opened from the
inside, and volunteered to clamber over the wall to do so.

Hoisted up upon the shoulders of several, he grasped the top of the
wall, and raised his head above its level, and then something of a
mysterious nature rose up from the inside, and dealt him such a whack
between the eyes, that down he went sprawling among his coadjutors.

Now, nobody had seen how this injury had been inflicted, and the policy
of those in the garrison should have been certainly to keep up the
mystery, and leave the invaders in ignorance of what sort of person it
was that had so foiled them. Man, however, is prone to indulge in vain
glorification, and the secret was exploded by the triumphant waving of
the long staff of the beadle, with the gilt knob at the end of it, just
over the parapet of the wall, in token of victory.

"It's Waggles! it's Waggles!" cried everybody "it's Waggles, the
beadle!"

"Yes," said a voice from within, "it's Waggles, the beadle; and he
thinks as he had yer there rather; try it again. The church isn't in
danger; oh, no. What do you think of this?"

The staff was flourished more vigorously than ever, and in the secure
position that Waggles occupied it seemed not only impossible to attack
him, but that he possessed wonderful powers of resistance, for the staff
was long and the knob was heavy.

It was a boy who hit upon the ingenious expedient of throwing up a great
stone, so that it just fell inside the wall, and hit Waggles a great
blow on the head.

The staff was flourished more vigorously than ever, and the mob, in the
ecstasy at the fun which was going on, almost forgot the errand which
had brought them.

Perhaps after all the affair might have passed off jestingly, had not
there been some really mischievous persons among the throng who were
determined that such should not be the case, and they incited the
multitude to commence an attack upon the gates, which in a few moments
must have produced their entire demolition.

Suddenly, however, the boldest drew back, and there was a pause, as the
well-known form of the clergyman appeared advancing from the church
door, attired in full canonicals.

"There's Mr. Leigh," said several; "how unlucky he should be here."

"What is this?" said the clergyman, approaching the gates. "Can I
believe my eyes when I see before me those who compose the worshippers
at this church armed, and attempting to enter for the purpose of
violence to this sacred place! Oh! let me beseech you, lose not a
moment, but return to your homes, and repent of that which you have
already done. It is not yet too late; listen, I pray you, to the voice
of one with whom you have so often joined in prayer to the throne of the
Almighty, who is now looking upon your actions."

This appeal was heard respectfully, but it was evidently very far from
suiting the feelings and the wishes of those to whom it was addressed;
the presence of the clergyman was evidently an unexpected circumstance,
and the more especially too as he appeared in that costume which they
had been accustomed to regard with a reverence almost amounting to
veneration. He saw the favourable effect he had produced, and anxious to
follow it up, he added,--

"Let this little ebullition of feeling pass away, my friends; and,
believe me, when I assure you upon my sacred word, that whatever ground
there may be for complaint or subject for inquiry, shall be fully and
fairly met; and that the greatest exertions shall be made to restore
peace and tranquillity to all of you."

"It's all about the vampyre!" cried one fellow--"Mr. Leigh, how should
you like a vampyre in the pulpit?"

"Hush, hush! can it be possible that you know so little of the works of
that great Being whom you all pretend to adore, as to believe that he
would create any class of beings of a nature such as those you ascribe
to that terrific word! Oh, let me pray of you to get rid of these
superstitions--alike disgraceful to yourselves and afflicting to me."

The clergyman had the satisfaction of seeing the crowd rapidly thinning
from before the gates, and he believed his exhortations were having all
the effect he wished. It was not until he heard a loud shout behind him,
and, upon hastily turning, saw that the churchyard had been scaled at
another place by some fifty or sixty persons, that his heart sunk within
him, and he began to feel that what he had dreaded would surely come to
pass.

Even then he might have done something in the way of pacific exertion,
but for the interference of Waggles, the beadle, who spoilt everything.




CHAPTER XLV.

THE OPEN GRAVES.--THE DEAD BODIES.--A SCENE OF TERROR.


[Illustration]

We have said Waggles spoilt everything, and so he did, for before Mr.
Leigh could utter a word more, or advance two steps towards the rioters,
Waggles charged them staff in hand, and there soon ensued a riot of a
most formidable description.

A kind of desperation seemed to have seized the beadle, and certainly,
by his sudden and unexpected attack, he achieved wonders. When, however,
a dozen hands got hold of the staff, and it was wrenched from him, and
he was knocked down, and half-a-dozen people rolled over him, Waggles
was not near the man he had been, and he would have been very well
content to have lain quiet where he was; this, however, he was not
permitted to do, for two or three, who had felt what a weighty
instrument of warfare the parochial staff was, lifted him bodily from
the ground, and canted him over the wall, without much regard to whether
he fell on a hard or a soft place on the other side.

This feat accomplished, no further attention was paid to Mr. Leigh, who,
finding that his exhortations were quite unheeded, retired into the
church with an appearance of deep affliction about him, and locked
himself in the vestry.

The crowd now had entire possession--without even the sort of control
that an exhortation assumed over them--of the burying-ground, and soon
in a dense mass were these desperate and excited people collected round
the well-known spot where lay the mortal remains of Miles, the butcher.

"Silence!" cried a loud voice, and every one obeyed the mandate, looking
towards the speaker, who was a tall, gaunt-looking man, attired in a
suit of faded black, and who now pressed forward to the front of the
throng.

"Oh!" cried one, "it's Fletcher, the ranter. What does he do here?"

"Hear him! hear him!" cried others; "he won't stop us."

"Yes, hear him," cried the tall man, waving his arms about like the
sails of a windmill. "Yes, hear him. Sons of darkness, you're all
vampyres, and are continually sucking the life-blood from each other. No
wonder that the evil one has power over you all. You're as men who walk
in the darkness when the sunlight invites you, and you listen to the
words of humanity when those of a diviner origin are offered to your
acceptance. But there shall be miracles in the land, and even in this
place, set apart with a pretended piety that is in itself most damnable,
you shall find an evidence of the true light; and the proof that those
who will follow me the true path to glory shall be found here within
this grave. Dig up Miles, the butcher!"

"Hear, hear, hear, hurra!" said every body. "Mr. Fletcher's not such a
fool, after all. He means well."

"Yes, you sinners," said the ranter, "and if you find Miles, the
butcher, decaying--even as men are expected to decay whose mortal
tabernacles are placed within the bowels of the earth--you shall gather
from that a great omen, and a sign that if you follow me you seek the
Lord; but I you find him looking fresh and healthy, as if the warm blood
was still within his veins, you shall take that likewise as a
signification that what I say to you shall be as the Gospel, and that by
coming to the chapel of the Little Boozlehum, ye shall achieve a great
salvation."

"Very good," said a brawny fellow, advancing with a spade in his hand;
"you get out of the way, and I'll soon have him up. Here goes, like blue
blazes!"

The first shovelful of earth he took up, he cast over his head into the
air, so that it fell in a shower among the mob, which of course raised a
shout of indignation; and, as he continued so to dispose of the
superfluous earth, a general row seemed likely to ensue. Mr. Fletcher
opened his mouth to make a remark, and, as that feature of his face was
rather a capacious one, a descending lump of mould, of a clayey
consistency, fell into it, and got so wedged among his teeth, that in
the process of extracting it he nearly brought some of those essential
portions of his anatomy with it.

This was a state of things that could not last long, and he who had been
so liberal with his spadesful of mould was speedily disarmed, and yet he
was a popular favourite, and had done the thing so good-humouredly, that
nobody touched him. Six or eight others, who had brought spades and
pickaxes, now pushed forward to the work, and in an incredibly short
space of time the grave of Miles, the butcher, seemed to be very nearly
excavated.

Work of any kind or nature whatever, is speedily executed when done with
a wish to get through it; and never, perhaps, within the memory of man,
was a grave opened in that churchyard with such a wonderful celerity.
The excitement of the crowd grew intense--every available spot from
which a view of the grave could be got, was occupied; for the last few
minutes scarcely a remark had been uttered, and when, at last, the spade
of one of those who were digging struck upon something that sounded like
wood, you might have heard a pin drop, and each one there present drew
his breath more shortly than before.

"There he is," said the man, whose spade struck upon the coffin.

Those few words broke the spell, and there was a general murmur, while
every individual present seemed to shift his position in his anxiety to
obtain a better view of what was about to ensue.

The coffin now having been once found, there seemed to be an increased
impetus given to the work; the earth was thrown out with a rapidity that
seemed almost the quick result of the working of some machine; and those
closest to the grave's brink crouched down, and, intent as they were
upon the progress of events, heeded not the damp earth that fell upon
them, nor the frail brittle and humid remains of humanity that
occasionally rolled to their feet.

It was, indeed, a scene of intense excitement--a scene which only wanted
a few prominent features in its foreground of a more intellectual and
higher cast than composed the mob, to make it a fit theme for a painter
of the highest talent.

And now the last few shovelfuls of earth that hid the top of the coffin
were cast from the grave, and that narrow house which contained the
mortal remains of him who was so well known, while in life, to almost
every one then present, was brought to the gaze of eyes which never had
seemed likely to have looked upon him again.

The cry was now for ropes, with which to raise the cumbrous mass; but
these were not to be had, no one thought of providing himself with such
appliances, so that by main strength, only, could the coffin be raised
to the brink.

The difficulty of doing this was immense, for there was nothing tangible
to stand upon; and even when the mould from the sides was sufficiently
cleared away, that the handles of the coffin could be laid hold of, they
came away immediately in the grasp of those who did so.

But the more trouble that presented itself to the accomplishment of the
designs of the mob, the more intent that body seemed upon carrying out
to the full extent their original designs.

Finding it quite impossible by bodily strength to raise the coffin of
the butcher from the position in which it had got imbedded by excessive
rains, a boy was hastily despatched to the village for ropes, and never
did boy run with such speed before, for all his own curiosity was
excited in the issue of an adventure, that to his young imagination was
appallingly interesting.

As impatient as mobs usually are, they had not time, in this case, for
the exercise of that quality of mind before the boy came back with the
necessary means of exerting quite a different species of power against
the butcher's coffin.

Strong ropes were slid under the inert mass, and twenty hands at once
plied the task of raising that receptacle of the dead from what had been
presumed to be its last resting-place. The ropes strained and creaked,
and many thought that they would burst asunder sooner than raise the
heavy coffin of the defunct butcher.

It is singular what reasons people find for backing their opinion.

"You may depend he's a vampyre," said one, "or it wouldn't be so
difficult to get him out of the grave."

"Oh, there can be no mistake about that," said one; "when did a natural
Christian's coffin stick in the mud in that way?"

"Ah, to be sure," said another; "I knew no good would come of his goings
on; he never was a decent sort of man like his neighbours, and many
queer things have been said of him that I have no doubt are true enough,
if we did but know the rights of them."

"Ah, but," said a young lad, thrusting his head between the two who were
talking, "if he is a vampyre, how does he get out of his coffin of a
night with all that weight of mould a top of him?"

One of the men considered for a moment, and then finding no rational
answer occur to him, he gave the boy a box on the ear, saying,--

"I should like to know what business that is of yours? Boys, now-a-days,
ain't like the boys in my time; they think nothing now of putting their
spokes in grown-up people's wheels, just as if their opinions were of
any consequence."

Now, by a vigorous effort, those who were tugging at the ropes succeeded
in moving the coffin a little, and that first step was all the
difficulty, for it was loosened from the adhesive soil in which it lay,
and now came up with considerable facility.

There was a half shout of satisfaction at this result, while some of the
congregation turned pale, and trembled at the prospect of the sight
which was about to present itself; the coffin was dragged from the
grave's brink fairly among the long rank grass that flourished in the
churchyard, and then they all looked at it for a time, and the men who
had been most earnest in raising it wiped the perspiration from their
brows, and seemed to shrink from the task of opening that receptacle of
the dead now that it was fairly in their power so to do.

Each man looked anxiously in his neighbour's face, and several audibly
wondered why somebody else didn't open the coffin.

"There's no harm in it," said one; "if he's a vampyre, we ought to know
it; and, if he ain't, we can't do any hurt to a dead man."

"Oughtn't we to have the service for the dead?" said one.

"Yes," said the impertinent boy who had before received the knock on the
head, "I think we ought to have that read backwards."

This ingenious idea was recompensed by a great many kicks and cuffs,
which ought to have been sufficient to have warned him of the great
danger of being a little before his age in wit.

"Where's the use of shirking the job?" cried he who had been so active
in shoveling the mud upon the multitude; "why, you cowardly sneaking set
of humbugs, you're half afraid, now."

"Afraid--afraid!" cried everybody: "who's afraid."

"Ah, who's afraid?" said a little man, advancing, and assuming an heroic
attitude; "I always notice, if anybody's afraid, it's some big fellow,
with more bones than brains."

At this moment, the man to whom this reproach was more particularly
levelled, raised a horrible shout of terror, and cried out, in frantic
accents,--

"He's a-coming--he's a-coming!"

The little man fell at once into the grave, while the mob, with one
accord, turned tail, and fled in all directions, leaving him alone with
the coffin. Such a fighting, and kicking, and scrambling ensued to get
over the wall of the grave-yard, that this great fellow, who had caused
all the mischief, burst into such peals of laughter that the majority of
the people became aware that it was a joke, and came creeping back,
looking as sheepish as possible.

Some got up very faint sorts of laugh, and said "very good," and swore
they saw what big Dick meant from the first, and only ran to make the
others run.

"Very good," said Dick, "I'm glad you enjoyed it, that's all. My eye,
what a scampering there was among you. Where's my little friend, who was
so infernally cunning about bones and brains?"

With some difficulty the little man was extricated from the grave, and
then, oh, for the consistency of a mob! they all laughed at him; those
very people who, heedless of all the amenities of existence, had been
trampling upon each other, and roaring with terror, actually had the
impudence to laugh at him, and call him a cowardly little rascal, and
say it served him right.

But such is popularity!

"Well, if nobody won't open the coffin," said big Dick, "I will, so here
goes. I knowed the old fellow when he was alive, and many a time he's
d----d me and I've d----d him, so I ain't a-going to be afraid of him
now he's dead. We was very intimate, you see, 'cos we was the two
heaviest men in the parish; there's a reason for everything."

"Ah, Dick's the fellow to do it," cried a number of persons; "there's
nobody like Dick for opening a coffin; he's the man as don't care for
nothing."

"Ah, you snivelling curs," said Dick, "I hate you. If it warn't for my
own satisfaction, and all for to prove that my old friend, the butcher,
as weighed seventeen stone, and stood six feet two and-a-half on his own
sole, I'd see you all jolly well--"

"D----d first," said the boy; "open the lid, Dick, let's have a look."

"Ah, you're a rum un," said Dick, "arter my own heart. I sometimes
thinks as you must be a nevy, or some sort of relation of mine.
Howsomdever, here goes. Who'd a thought that I should ever had a look at
old fat and thunder again?--that's what I used to call him; and then he
used to request me to go down below, where I needn't turn round to light
my blessed pipe."

"Hell--we know," said the boy; "why don't you open the lid, Dick?"

"I'm a going," said Dick; "kim up."

He introduced the corner of a shovel between the lid and the coffin, and
giving it a sudden wrench, he loosened it all down one side.

A shudder pervaded the multitude, and, popularly speaking, you might
have heard a pin drop in that crowded churchyard at that eventful
moment.

Dick then proceeded to the other side, and executed the same manoeuvre.

"Now for it," he said; "we shall see him in a moment, and we'll think we
seed him still."

"What a lark!" said the boy.

"You hold yer jaw, will yer? Who axed you for a remark, blow yer? What
do you mean by squatting down there, like a cock-sparrow, with a pain in
his tail, hanging yer head, too, right over the coffin? Did you never
hear of what they call a fluvifium coming from the dead, yer ignorant
beast, as is enough to send nobody to blazes in a minute? Get out of the
way of the cold meat, will yer?"

"A what, do you say, Dick?"

"Request information from the extreme point of my elbow."

Dick threw down the spade, and laying hold of the coffin-lid with both
hands, he lifted it off, and flung it on one side.

There was a visible movement and an exclamation among the multitude.
Some were pushed down, in the eager desire of those behind to obtain a
sight of the ghastly remains of the butcher; those at a distance were
frantic, and the excitement was momentarily increasing.

They might all have spared themselves the trouble, for the coffin was
empty--here was no dead butcher, nor any evidence of one ever having
been there, not even the grave-clothes; the only thing at all in the
receptacle of the dead was a brick.

Dick's astonishment was so intense that his eyes and mouth kept opening
together to such an extent, that it seemed doubtful when they would
reach their extreme point of elongation. He then took up the brick and
looked at it curiously, and turned it over and over, examined the ends
and the sides with a critical eye, and at length he said,--

"Well, I'm blowed, here's a transmogrification; he's consolidified
himself into a blessed brick--my eye, here's a curiosity."

"But you don't mean to say that's the butcher, Dick?" said the boy.

Dick reached over, and gave him a tap on the head with the brick.

"There!" he said, "that's what I calls occular demonstration. Do you
believe it now, you blessed infidel? What's more natural? He was an
out-and-out brick while he was alive; and he's turned to a brick now
he's dead."

"Give it to me, Dick," said the boy; "I should like to have that brick,
just for the fun of the thing."

"I'll see you turned into a pantile first. I sha'n't part with this
here, it looks so blessed sensible; it's a gaining on me every minute as
a most remarkable likeness, d----d if it ain't."

By this time the bewilderment of the mob had subsided; now that there
was no dead butcher to look upon, they fancied themselves most
grievously injured; and, somehow or other, Dick, notwithstanding all his
exertions in their service, was looked upon in the light of a showman,
who had promised some startling exhibition and then had disappointed his
auditors.

The first intimation he had of popular vengeance was a stone thrown at
him, but Dick's eye happened to be upon the fellow who threw it, and
collaring him in a moment, he dealt him a cuff on the side of the head,
which confused his faculties for a week.

"Hark ye," he then cried, with a loud voice, "don't interfere with me;
you know it won't go down. There's something wrong here; and, as one of
yourselves, I'm as much interested in finding out what it is as any of
you can possibly be. There seems to be some truth in this vampyre
business; our old friend, the butcher, you see, is not in his grave;
where is he then?"

The mob looked at each other, and none attempted to answer the question.

"Why, of course, he's a vampyre," said Dick, "and you may all of you
expect to see him, in turn, come into your bed-room windows with a
burst, and lay hold of you like a million and a half of leeches rolled
into one."

There was a general expression of horror, and then Dick continued,--

"You'd better all of you go home; I shall have no hand in pulling up any
more of the coffins--this is a dose for me. Of course you can do what
you like."

[Illustration]

"Pull them all up!" cried a voice; "pull them all up! Let's see how many
vampyres there are in the churchyard."

"Well, it's no business of mine," said Dick; "but I wouldn't, if I was
you."

"You may depend," said one, "that Dick knows something about it, or he
wouldn't take it so easy."

"Ah! down with him," said the man who had received the box on the ears;
"he's perhaps a vampyre himself."

The mob made a demonstration towards him, but Dick stood his ground, and
they paused again.

"Now, you're a cowardly set," he said; "cause you're disappointed, you
want to come upon me. Now, I'll just show what a little thing will
frighten you all again, and I warn beforehand it will, so you sha'n't
say you didn't know it, and were taken by surprise."

The mob looked at him, wondering what he was going to do.

"Once! twice! thrice!" he said, and then he flung the brick up into the
air an immense height, and shouted "heads," in a loud tone.

A general dispersion of the crowd ensued, and the brick fell in the
centre of a very large circle indeed.

"There you are again," said Dick; "why, what a nice act you are!"

"What fun!" said the boy. "It's a famous coffin, this, Dick," and he
laid himself down in the butcher's last resting-place. "I never was in a
coffin before--it's snug enough."

"Ah, you're a rum 'un," said Dick; "you're such a inquiring genius, you
is; you'll get your head into some hole one day, and not be able to get
it out again, and then I shall see you a kicking. Hush! lay still--don't
say anything."

"Good again," said the boy; "what shall I do?"

"Give a sort of a howl and a squeak, when they've all come back again."

"Won't I!" said the boy; "pop on the lid."

"There you are," said Dick; "d----d if I don't adopt you, and bring you
up to the science of nothing."

"Now, listen to me, good people all," added Dick; "I have really got
something to say to you."

At this intimation the people slowly gathered again round the grave.

"Listen," said Dick, solemnly; "it strikes me there's some tremendous do
going on."

"Yes, there is," said several who were foremost.

"It won't be long before you'll all of you be most d--nably astonished;
but let me beg of all you not to accuse me of having anything to do with
it, provided I tell you all I know."

"No, Dick; we won't--we won't--we won't."

"Good; then, listen. I don't know anything, but I'll tell you what I
think, and that's as good; I don't think that this brick is the butcher;
but I think, that when you least expect it--hush! come a little closer."

"Yes, yes; we are closer."

"Well, then, I say, when you all least expect it, and when you ain't
dreaming of such a thing, you'll hear something of my fat friend as is
dead and gone, that will astonish you all."

Dick paused, and he gave the coffin a slight kick, as intimation to the
boy that he might as well be doing his part in the drama, upon which
that ingenious young gentleman set up such a howl, that even Dick
jumped, so unearthly did it sound within the confines of that receptacle
of the dead.

But if the effect upon him was great, what must it have been upon those
whom it took completely unawares? For a moment or two they seemed
completely paralysed, and then they frightened the boy, for the shout of
terror that rose from so many throats at once was positively alarming.

This jest of Dick's was final, for, before three minutes had elapsed,
the churchyard was clear of all human occupants save himself and the
boy, who had played his part so well in the coffin.

"Get out," said Dick, "it's all right--we've done 'em at last; and now
you may depend upon it they won't be in a hurry to come here again. You
keep your own counsel, or else somebody will serve you out for this. I
don't think you're altogether averse to a bit of fun, and if you keep
yourself quiet, you'll have the satisfaction of hearing what's said
about this affair in every pot-house in the village, and no mistake."




CHAPTER XLVI.

THE PREPARATIONS FOR LEAVING BANNERWORTH HALL, AND THE MYSTERIOUS
CONDUCT OF THE ADMIRAL AND MR. CHILLINGWORTH.


[Illustration]

It seemed now, that, by the concurrence of all parties, Bannerworth Hall
was to be abandoned; and, notwithstanding Henry was loth--as he had,
indeed, from the first shown himself--to leave the ancient abode of his
race, yet, as not only Flora, but the admiral and his friend Mr.
Chillingworth seemed to be of opinion that it would be a prudent course
to adopt, he felt that it would not become him to oppose the measure.

He, however, now made his consent to depend wholly upon the full and
free acquiescence of every member of the family.

"If," he said, "there be any among us who will say to me 'Continue to
keep open the house in which we have passed so many happy hours, and let
the ancient home of our race still afford a shelter to us,' I shall feel
myself bound to do so; but if both my mother and my brother agree to a
departure from it, and that its hearth shall be left cold and desolate,
be it so. I will not stand in the way of any unanimous wish or
arrangement."

"We may consider that, then, as settled," said the admiral, "for I have
spoken to your brother, and he is of our opinion. Therefore, my boy, we
may all be off as soon as we can conveniently get under weigh."

"But my mother?

"Oh, there, I don't know. You must speak to her yourself. I never, if I
can help it, interfere with the women folks."

"If she consent, then I am willing."

"Will you ask her?"

"I will not ask her to leave, because I know, then, what answer she
would at once give; but she shall hear the proposition, and I will leave
her to decide upon it, unbiased in her judgment by any stated opinion of
mine upon the matter."

"Good. That'll do; and the proper way to put it, too. There's no mistake
about that, I can tell you."

Henry, although he went through the ceremony of consulting his mother,
had no sort of doubt before he did so that she was sufficiently aware of
the feelings and wishes of Flora to be prepared to yield a ready assent
to the proposition of leaving the Hall.

Moreover, Mr. Marchdale had, from the first, been an advocate of such a
course of proceeding, and Henry well knew how strong an influence he had
over Mrs. Bannerworth's mind, in consequence of the respect in which she
held him as an old and valued friend.

He was, therefore, prepared for what his mother said, which was,--

"My dear Henry, you know that the wishes of my children, since they have
been grown up and capable of coming to a judgment for themselves, have
ever been laws to me. If you, among you all, agree to leave this place,
do so."

"But will you leave it freely, mother?"

"Most freely I go with you all; what is it that has made this house and
all its appurtenances pleasant in my eyes, but the presence in it of
those who are so dear to me? If you all leave it, you take with you the
only charms it ever possessed; so it becomes in itself as nothing. I am
quite ready to accompany you all anywhere, so that we do but keep
together."

"Then, mother, we may consider that as settled."

"As you please."

"'It's scarcely as I please. I must confess that I would fain have clung
with a kind of superstitious reverence to this ancient abiding-place of
my race, but it may not be so. Those, perchance, who are more
practically able to come to correct conclusions, in consequence of their
feelings not being sufficiently interested to lead them astray, have
decided otherwise; and, therefore, I am content to leave."

"Do not grieve at it, Henry. There has hung a cloud of misfortune over
us all since the garden of this house became the scene of an event which
we can none of us remember but with terror and shuddering."

"Two generations of our family must live and die before the remembrance
of that circumstance can be obliterated. But we will think of it no
more."

There can no doubt but that the dreadful circumstance to which both Mrs.
Bannerworth and Henry alluded, was the suicide of the father of the
family in the gardens which before has been hinted at in the course of
this narration, as being a circumstance which had created a great
sensation at the time, and cast a great gloom for many months over the
family.

The reader will, doubtless, too, recollect that, at his last moments,
this unhappy individual was said to have uttered some incoherent words
about some hidden money, and that the rapid hand of death alone seemed
to prevent him from being explicit upon that subject, and left it merely
a matter of conjecture.

As years had rolled on, this affair, even as a subject of speculation,
had ceased to occupy the minds of any of the Bannerworth family, and
several of their friends, among whom was Mr. Marchdale, were decidedly
of opinion that the apparently pointed and mysterious words uttered,
were but the disordered wanderings of an intellect already hovering on
the confines of eternity.

Indeed, far from any money, of any amount, being a disturbance to the
last moments of the dissolute man, whose vices and extravagances had
brought his family, to such ruin, it was pretty generally believed that
he had committed suicide simply from a conviction of the impossibility
of raising any more supplies of cash, to enable him to carry on the
career which he had pursued for so long.

But to resume.

Henry at once communicated to the admiral what his mother had said, and
then the whole question regarding the removal being settled in the
affirmative, nothing remained to be done but to set about it as quickly
as possible.

The Bannerworths lived sufficiently distant from the town to be out of
earshot of the disturbances which were then taking place; and so
completely isolated were they from all sort of society, that they had no
notion of the popular disturbance which Varney the vampyre had given
rise to.

It was not until the following morning that Mr. Chillingworth, who had
been home in the meantime, brought word of what had taken place, and
that great commotion was still in the town, and that the civil
authorities, finding themselves by far too weak to contend against the
popular will, had sent for assistance to a garrison town, some twenty
miles distant.

It was a great grief to the Bannerworth family to hear these tidings,
not that they were in any way, except as victims, accessory to creating
the disturbance about the vampyre, but it seemed to promise a kind of
notoriety which they might well shrink from, and which they were just
the people to view with dislike.

View the matter how we like, however, it is not to be considered as at
all probable that the Bannerworth family would remain long in ignorance
of what a great sensation they had created unwittingly in the
neighbourhood.

The very reasons which had induced their servants to leave their
establishment, and prefer throwing themselves completely out of place,
rather than remain in so ill-omened a house, were sure to be bruited
abroad far and wide.

And that, perhaps, when they came to consider of it, would suffice to
form another good and substantial reason for leaving the Hall, and
seeking a refuge in obscurity from the extremely troublesome sort of
popularity incidental to their peculiar situation.

Mr. Chillingworth felt uncommonly chary of telling them all that had
taken place; although he was well aware that the proceedings of the
riotous mob had not terminated with the little disappointment at the old
ruin, to which they had so effectually chased Varney the vampyre, but to
lose him so singularly when he got there.

No doubt he possessed the admiral with the uproar that was going on in
the town, for the latter did hint a little of it to Henry Bannerworth.

"Hilloa!" he said to Henry, as he saw him walking in the garden; "it
strikes me if you and your ship's crew continue in these latitudes,
you'll get as notorious as the Flying Dutchman in the southern ocean."

"How do you mean?" said Henry.

"Why, it's a sure going proverb to say, that a nod's as good as a wink;
but, the fact is, it's getting rather too well known to be pleasant,
that a vampyre has struck up rather a close acquaintance with your
family. I understand there's a precious row in the town."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; bother the particulars, for I don't know them; but, hark ye, by
to-morrow I'll have found a place for you to go to, so pack up the
sticks, get all your stores ready to clear out, and make yourself scarce
from this place."

"I understand you," said Henry; "We have become the subject of popular
rumour; I've only to beg of you, admiral, that you'll say nothing of
this to Flora; she has already suffered enough, Heaven knows; do not let
her have the additional infliction of thinking that her name is made
familiar in every pothouse in the town."

"Leave me alone for that," said the admiral. "Do you think I'm an ass?"

"Ay, ay," said Jack Pringle, who came in at that moment, and thought the
question was addressed to him.

"Who spoke to you, you bad-looking horse-marine?"

"Me a horse-marine! didn't you ask a plain question of a fellow, and get
a plain answer?"

"Why, you son of a bad looking gun, what do you mean by that? I tell you
what it is, Jack; I've let you come sneaking too often on the
quarter-deck, and now you come poking your fun at your officers, you
rascal!"

"I poking fun!" said Jack; "couldn't think of such a thing. I should
just as soon think of you making a joke as me."

"Now, I tell you what it is, I shall just strike you off the ship's
books, and you shall just go and cruise by yourself; I've done with
you."

"Go and tell that to the marines, if you like," said Jack. "I ain't done
with you yet, for a jolly long watch. Why, what do you suppose would
become of you, you great babby, without me? Ain't I always a conveying
you from place to place, and steering you through all sorts of
difficulties?"

"D---n your impudence!"

"Well, then, d---n yours."

"Shiver my timbers!"

"Ay, you may do what you like with your own timbers."

"And you won't leave me?"

"Sartingly not."

"Come here, then?"

Jack might have expected a gratuity, for he advanced with alacrity.

"There," said the admiral, as he laid his stick across his shoulders;
"that's your last month's wages; don't spend it all at once."

"Well, I'm d----d!" said Jack; "who'd have thought of that?--he's a
turning rumgumtious, and no mistake. Howsomdever, I must turn it over in
my mind, and be even with him, somehow--I owes him one for that. I say,
admiral."

"What now, you lubber?"

"Nothing; turn that over in your mind;" and away Jack walked, not quite
satisfied, but feeling, at least, that he had made a demonstration of
attack.

As for the admiral, he considered that the thump he had given Jack with
the stick, and it was no gentle one, was a decided balancing of accounts
up to that period, and as he remained likewise master of the field, he
was upon the whole very well satisfied.

These last few words which had been spoken to Henry by Admiral Bell,
more than any others, induced him to hasten his departure from
Bannerworth Hall; he had walked away when the altercation between Jack
Pringle and the admiral began, for he had seen sufficient of those wordy
conflicts between those originals to be quite satisfied that neither of
them meant what he said of a discouraging character towards the other,
and that far from there being any unfriendly feeling contingent upon
those little affairs, they were only a species of friendly sparring,
which both parties enjoyed extremely.

He went direct to Flora, and he said to her,--

"Since we are all agreed upon the necessity, or, at all events, upon the
expediency of a departure from the Hall, I think, sister, the sooner we
carry out that determination the better and the pleasanter for us all it
will be. Do you think you could remove so hastily as to-morrow?"

"To-morrow! That is soon indeed."

"I grant you that it is so; but Admiral Bell assures me that he will
have everything in readiness, and a place provided for us to go to by
then."

"Would it be possible to remove from a house like this so very quickly?"

"Yes, sister. If you look around you, you will see that a great portion
of the comforts you enjoy in this mansion belong to it as a part of its
very structure, and are not removable at pleasure; what we really have
to take away is very little. The urgent want of money during our
father's lifetime induced him, as you may recollect even, at various
times to part with much that was ornamental, as well as useful, which
was in the Hall. You will recollect that we seldom returned from those
little continental tours which to us were so delightful, without finding
some old familiar objects gone, which, upon inquiry, we found had been
turned into money, to meet some more than usually pressing demand."

"That is true, brother; I recollect well."

"So that, upon the whole, sister, there is little to remove."

"Well, well, be it so. I will prepare our mother for this sudden step.
Believe me, my heart goes with it; and as a force of vengeful
circumstances have induced us to remove from this home, which was once
so full of pleasant recollections, it is certainly better, as you say,
that the act should be at once consummated, than left hanging in terror
over our minds."

"Then I'll consider that as settled," said Henry.




CHAPTER XLVII.

THE REMOVAL FROM THE HALL.--THE NIGHT WATCH, AND THE ALARM.


[Illustration]

Mrs. Bannerworth's consent having been already given to the removal, she
said at once, when appealed to, that she was quite ready to go at any
time her children thought expedient.

Upon this, Henry sought the admiral, and told him as much, at the same
time adding,--

"My sister feared that we should have considerable trouble in the
removal, but I have convinced her that such will not be the case, as we
are by no means overburdened with cumbrous property."

"Cumbrous property," said the admiral, "why, what do you mean? I beg
leave to say, that when I took the house, I took the table and chairs
with it. D--n it, what good do you suppose an empty house is to me?"

"The tables and chairs!"

"Yes. I took the house just as it stands. Don't try and bamboozle me out
of it. I tell you, you've nothing to move but yourselves and immediate
personal effects."

"I was not aware, admiral, that that was your plan."

"Well, then, now you are, listen to me. I've circumvented the enemy too
often not to know how to get up a plot. Jack and I have managed it all.
To-morrow evening, after dark, and before the moon's got high enough to
throw any light, you and your brother, and Miss Flora and your mother,
will come out of the house, and Jack and I will lead you where you're to
go to. There's plenty of furniture where you're a-going, and so you will
get off free, without anybody knowing anything about it."

"Well, admiral, I've said it before, and it is the unanimous opinion of
us all, that everything should be left to you. You have proved yourself
too good a friend to us for us to hesitate at all in obeying your
commands. Arrange everything, I pray you, according to your wishes and
feelings, and you will find there shall be no cavilling on our parts."

"That's right; there's nothing like giving a command to some one person.
There's no good done without. Now I'll manage it all. Mind you, seven
o'clock to-morrow evening everything is to be ready, and you will all be
prepared to leave the Hall."

"It shall be so."

"Who's that giving such a thundering ring at the gate?"

"Nay, I know not. We have few visitors and no servants, so I must e'en
be my own gate porter."

Henry walked to the gate, and having opened it, a servant in a handsome
livery stepped a pace or two into the garden.

"Well," said Henry.

"Is Mr. Henry Bannerworth within, or Admiral Bell?"

"Both," cried the admiral. "I'm Admiral Bell, and this is Mr. Henry
Bannerworth. What do you want with us, you d----d gingerbread-looking
flunkey?"

"Sir, my master desires his compliments--his very best compliments--and
he wants to know how you are after your flurry."

"What?"

"After your--a--a--flurry and excitement."

"Who is your master?" said Henry.

"Sir Francis Varney."

"The devil!" said the admiral; "if that don't beat all the impudence I
ever came near. Our flurry! Ah! I like that fellow. Just go and tell
him--"

"No, no," said Henry, interposing, "send back no message. Say to your
master, fellow, that Mr. Henry Bannerworth feels that not only has he no
claim to Sir Francis Varney's courtesy, but that he would rather be
without it."

"Oh, ha!" said the footman, adjusting his collar; "very good. This seems
a d----d, old-fashioned, outlandish place of yours. Any ale?"

"Now, shiver my hulks!" said the admiral.

"Hush! hush!" said Henry; "who knows but there may be a design in this?
We have no ale."

"Oh, ah! dem!--dry as dust, by God! What does the old commodore say? Any
message, my ancient Greek?"

"No, thank you," said the admiral; "bless you, nothing. What did you
give for that waistcoat, d--n you? Ha! ha! you're a clever fellow."

"Ah! the old gentleman's ill. However, I'll take back his compliments,
and that he's much obliged at Sir Francis's condescension. At the same
time, I suppose may place in my eye what I may get out of either of you,
without hindering me seeing my way back. Ha! ha! Adieu--adieu."

"Bravo!" said the admiral; "that's it--go it--now for it. D--n it, it is
a _do!_"

The admiral's calmness during the latter part of the dialogue arose from
the fact that over the flunkey's shoulder, and at some little distance
off, he saw Jack Pringle taking off his jacket, and rolling up his
sleeves in that deliberate sort of way that seemed to imply a
determination of setting about some species of work that combined the
pleasant with the useful.

Jack executed many nods to and winks at the livery-servant, and jerked
his thumb likewise in the direction of a pump near at hand, in a manner
that spoke as plainly as possible, that John was to be pumped upon.

And now the conference was ended, and Sir Francis's messenger turned to
go; but Jack Pringle bothered him completely, for he danced round him in
such a singular manner, that, turn which way he would, there stood Jack
Pringle, in some grotesque attitude, intercepting him; and so he edged
him on, till he got him to the pump.

"Jack," said the admiral.

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Don't pump on that fellow now."

"Ay, ay, sir; give us a hand."

Jack laid hold of him by the two ears, and holding him under the pump,
kicked his shins until he completely gathered himself beneath the spout.
It was in vain that he shouted "Murder! help! fire! thieves!" Jack was
inexorable, and the admiral pumped.

Jack turned the fellow's head about in a very scientific manner, so as
to give him a fair dose of hydropathic treatment, and in a few minutes,
never was human being more thoroughly saturated with moisture than was
Sir Francis Varney's servant. He had left off hallooing for aid, for he
found that whenever he did so, Jack held his mouth under the spout,
which was decidedly unpleasant; so, with a patience that looked like
heroic fortitude, he was compelled to wait until the admiral was tired
of pumping.

"Very good," at length he said. "Now, Jack, for fear this fellow catcher
cold, be so good as to get a horsewhip, and see him off the premises
with it."

"Ay, ay, sir," said Jack. "And I say, old fellow, you can take back all
our blessed compliments now, and say you've been flurried a little
yourself; and if so be as you came here as dry as dust, d----e, you go
back as wet as a mop. Won't it do to kick him out, sir?"

"Very well--as you please, Jack."

"Then here goes;" and Jack proceeded to kick the shivering animal from
the garden with a vehemence that soon convinced him of the necessity of
getting out of it as quickly as possible.

How it was that Sir Francis Varney, after the fearful race he had had,
got home again across the fields, free from all danger, and back to his
own house, from whence he sent so cool and insolent a message, they
could not conceive.

But such must certainly be the fact; somehow or another, he had escaped
all danger, and, with a calm insolence peculiar to the man, he had no
doubt adopted the present mode of signifying as much to the
Bannerworths.

The insolence of his servant was, no doubt, a matter of pre-arrangement
with that individual, however he might have set about it con amore. As
for the termination of the adventure, that, of course, had not been at
all calculated upon; but, like most tools of other people's insolence or
ambition, the insolence of the underling had received both his own
punishment and his master's.

We know quite enough of Sir Francis Varney to feel assured that he would
rather consider it as a good jest than otherwise of his footman, so that
with the suffering he endured at the Bannerworths', and the want of
sympathy he was likely to find at home, that individual had certainly
nothing to congratulate himself upon but the melancholy reminiscence of
his own cleverness.

But were the mob satisfied with what had occurred in the churchyard?
They were not, and that night was to witness the perpetration of a
melancholy outrage, such as the history of the time presents no parallel
to.

The finding of a brick in the coffin of the butcher, instead of the body
of that individual, soon spread as a piece of startling intelligence all
over the place; and the obvious deduction that was drawn from the
circumstance, seemed to be that the deceased butcher was unquestionably
a vampyre, and out upon some expedition at the time when his coffin was
searched.

How he had originally got out of that receptacle for the dead was
certainly a mystery; but the story was none the worse for that. Indeed,
an ingenious individual found a solution for that part of the business,
for, as he said, nothing was more natural, when anybody died who was
capable of becoming a vampyre, than for other vampyres who knew it to
dig him up, and lay him out in the cold beams of the moonlight, until he
acquired the same sort of vitality they themselves possessed, and joined
their horrible fraternity.

In lieu of a better explanation--and, after all, it was no bad one--this
theory was generally received, and, with a shuddering horror, people
asked themselves, if the whole of the churchyard were excavated, how
many coffins would be found tenantless by the dead which had been
supposed, by simple-minded people, to inhabit them.

The presence, however, of a body of dragoons, towards evening,
effectually prevented any renewed attack upon the sacred precincts of
the churchyard, and it was a strange and startling thing to see that
country town under military surveillance, and sentinels posted at its
principal buildings.

This measure smothered the vengeance of the crowd, and insured, for a
time, the safety of Sir Francis Varney; for no considerable body of
persons could assemble for the purpose of attacking his house again,
without being followed; so such a step was not attempted.

It had so happened, however, that on that very day, the funeral of a
young man was to have taken place, who had put up for a time at that
same inn where Admiral Bell was first introduced to the reader. He had
become seriously ill, and, after a few days of indisposition, which had
puzzled the country practitioners, breathed his last.

He was to have been buried in the village churchyard on the very day of
the riot and confusion incidental to the exhumation of the coffin of the
butcher, and probably from that circumstance we may deduce the presence
of the clergyman in canonicals at the period of the riot.

When it was found that so disorderly a mob possessed the churchyard, the
idea of burying the stranger on that day was abandoned; but still all
would have gone on quietly as regarded him, had it not been for the
folly of one of the chamber-maids at the tavern.

This woman, with all the love of gossip incidental to her class, had,
from the first, entered so fully into all the particulars concerning
vampyres, that she fairly might be considered to be a little deranged on
that head. Her imagination had been so worked upon, that she was in an
unfit state to think of anything else, and if ever upon anybody a stern
and revolting superstition was calculated to produce direful effects, it
was upon this woman.

The town was tolerably quiet; the presence of the soldiery had
frightened some and amused others, and no doubt the night would have
passed off serenely, had she not suddenly rushed into the street, and,
with bewildered accents and frantic gestures shouted,--

"A vampyre--a vampyre--a vampyre!"

These words soon collected a crowd around her, and then, with screaming
accents, which would have been quite enough to convince any reflecting
person that she had actually gone distracted upon that point, she
cried,--

"Come into the house--come into the house! Look upon the dead body, that
should have been in its grave; it's fresher now than it was the day on
which it died, and there's a colour in its cheeks! A vampyre--a
vampyre--a vampyre! Heaven save us from a vampyre!"

The strange, infuriated, maniacal manner in which these words were
uttered, produced an astonishingly exciting effect among the mob.
Several women screamed, and some few fainted. The torch was laid again
to the altar of popular feeling, and the fierce flame of superstition
burnt brightly and fiercely.

Some twenty or thirty persons, with shouts and exclamations, rushed into
the inn, while the woman who had created the disturbance still continued
to rave, tearing her hair, and shrieking at intervals, until she fell
exhausted upon the pavement.

Soon, from a hundred throats, rose the dreadful cry of "A vampyre--a
vampyre!" The alarm was given throughout the whole town; the bugles of
the military sounded; there was a clash of arms--the shrieks of women;
altogether, the premonitory symptoms of such a riot as was not likely to
be quelled without bloodshed and considerable disaster.

It is truly astonishing the effect which one weak or vicious-minded
person can produce upon a multitude.

Here was a woman whose opinion would have been accounted valueless upon
the most common-place subject, and whose word would not have passed for
twopence, setting a whole town by the ears by force of nothing but her
sheer brutal ignorance.

It is a notorious physiological fact, that after four or five days, or
even a week, the bodies of many persons assume an appearance of
freshness, such as might have been looked for in vain immediately after
death.

It is one of the most insidious processes of that decay which appears to
regret with its

     "----------- offensive fingers, To mar the lines where beauty
     lingers."

But what did the chamber-maid know of physiology? Probably, she would
have asked if it was anything good to eat; and so, of course, having her
head full of vampyres, she must needs produce so lamentable a scene of
confusion, the results of which we almost sicken at detailing.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

THE STAKE AND THE DEAD BODY.


[Illustration]

The mob seemed from the first to have an impression that, as regarded
the military force, no very serious results would arise from that
quarter, for it was not to be supposed that, on an occasion which could
not possibly arouse any ill blood on the part of the soldiery, or on
which they could have the least personal feeling, they would like to get
a bad name, which would stick to them for years to come.

It was no political riot, on which men might be supposed, in consequence
of differing in opinion, to have their passions inflamed; so that,
although the call of the civil authorities for military aid had been
acceded to, yet it was hoped, and, indeed, almost understood by the
officers, that their operations would lie confined more to a
demonstration of power, than anything else.

Besides, some of the men had got talking to the townspeople, and had
heard all about the vampyre story, and not being of the most refined or
educated class themselves, they felt rather interested than otherwise in
the affair.

Under these circumstances, then, we are inclined to think, that the
disorderly mob of that inn had not so wholesome a fear as it was most
certainly intended they should have of the redcoats. Then, again, they
were not attacking the churchyard, which, in the first case, was the
main point in dispute, and about which the authorities had felt so very
sore, inasmuch as they felt that, if once the common people found out
that the sanctity of such places could be outraged with impunity, they
would lose their reverence for the church; that is to say, for the host
of persons who live well and get fat in this country by the trade of
religion.

[Illustration]

Consequently, this churchyard was the main point of defence, and it was
zealously looked to when it need not have been done so, while the
public-house where there really reigned mischief was half unguarded.

There are always in all communities, whether large or small, a number of
persons who really have, or fancy they have, something to gain by
disturbance. These people, of course, care not for what pretext the
public peace is violated; so long as there is a row, and something like
an excuse for running into other people's houses, they are satisfied.

To get into a public-house under such circumstances is an unexpected
treat; and thus, when the mob rushed into the inn with such symptoms of
fury and excitement, there went with the leaders of the disturbance a
number of persons who never thought of getting further than the bar,
where they attacked the spirit-taps with an alacrity which showed how
great was their love for ardent compounds.

Leaving these persons behind, however, we will follow those who, with a
real superstition, and a furious interest in the affair of the vampyre,
made their way towards the upper chamber, determining to satisfy
themselves if there were truth in the statement so alarmingly made by
the woman who had created such an emotion.

It is astonishing what people will do in crowds, in comparison with the
acts that they would be able to commit individually. There is usually a
calmness, a sanctity, a sublimity about death, which irresistibly
induces a respect for its presence, alike from the educated or from the
illiterate; and let the object of the fell-destroyer's presence be whom
it may, the very consciousness that death has claimed it for its own,
invests it with a halo of respect, that, in life, the individual could
never aspire to probably.

Let us precede these furious rioters for a few moments, and look upon
the chamber of the dead--that chamber, which for a whole week, had been
looked upon with a kind of shuddering terror--that chamber which had
been darkened by having its sources of light closed, as if it were a
kind of disrespect to the dead to allow the pleasant sunshine to fall
upon the faded form.

And every inhabitant of that house, upon ascending and descending its
intricate and ancient staircases, had walked with a quiet and subdued
step past that one particular door.

Even the tones of voice in which they spoke to each other, while they
knew that that sad remnant of mortality was in the house, was quiet and
subdued, as if the repose of death was but a mortal sleep, and could be
broken by rude sounds.

Ay, even some of these very persons, who now with loud and boisterous
clamour, had rushed into the place, had visited the house and talked in
whispers; but then they were alone, and men will do in throngs acts
which, individually, they would shrink from with compunction or
cowardice, call it which we will.

The chamber of death is upon the second story of the house. It is a back
room, the windows of which command a view of that half garden, half
farm-yard, which we find generally belonging to country inns.

But now the shutters were closed, with the exception of one small
opening, that, in daylight, would have admitted a straggling ray of
light to fall upon the corpse. Now, however, that the sombre shades of
evening had wrapped everything in gloom, the room appeared in total
darkness, so that the most of those adventurers who had ventured into
the place shrunk back until lights were procured from the lower part of
the house, with which to enter the room.

A dim oil lamp in a niche sufficiently lighted the staircase, and, by
the friendly aid of its glimmering beams, they had found their way up to
the landing tolerably well, and had not thought of the necessity of
having lights with which to enter the apartments, until they found them
in utter darkness.

These requisites, however, were speedily procured from the kitchen of
the inn. Indeed, anything that was wanted was laid hold of without the
least word of remark to the people of the place, as if might, from that
evening forthwith, was understood to constitute right, in that town.

Up to this point no one had taken a very prominent part in the attack
upon the inn if attack it could be called; but now the man whom chance,
or his own nimbleness, made the first of the throng, assumed to himself
a sort of control over his companions and, turning to them, he said,--

"Hark ye, my friends; we'll do everything quietly and properly; so I
think we'd better three or four of us go in at once, arm-in-arm."

"Psha!" cried one who had just arrived with a light; "it's your
cowardice that speaks. I'll go in first; let those follow me who like,
and those who are afraid may remain where they are."

He at once dashed into the room, and this immediately broke the spell of
fear which was beginning to creep over the others in consequence of the
timid suggestion of the man who, up to that moment, had been first and
foremost in the enterprise.

In an instant the chamber was half filled with persons, four or five of
whom carried lights; so that, as it was not of very large dimensions, it
was sufficiently illuminated for every object in it to be clearly
visible.

There was the bed, smooth and unruffled, as if waiting for some expected
guest; while close by its side a coffin, supported upon tressles, over
which a sheet was partially thrown, contained the sad remains of him who
little expected in life that, after death, he should be stigmatised as
an example of one of the ghastliest superstitions that ever found a home
in the human imagination.

It was evident that some one had been in the room; and that this was the
woman whose excited fancy had led her to look upon the face of the
corpse there could be no doubt, for the sheet was drawn aside just
sufficiently to discover the countenance.

The fact was that the stranger was unknown at the inn, or probably ere
this the coffin lid would have been screwed on; but it was hoped, up to
the last moment, as advertisements had been put into the county papers,
that some one would come forward to identify and claim him.

Such, however, had not been the case, and so his funeral had been
determined upon.

The presence of so many persons at once effectually prevented any
individual from exhibiting, even if he felt any superstitious fears
about approaching the coffin; and so, with one accord, they surrounded
it, and looked upon the face of the dead.

There was nothing repulsive in that countenance. The fact was that
decomposition had sufficiently advanced to induce a relaxation of the
muscles, and a softening of the fibres, so that an appearance of
calmness and repose had crept over the face which it did not wear
immediately after death.

It happened, too, that the face was full of flesh--for the death had
been sudden, and there had not been that wasting away of the muscles and
integuments which makes the skin cling, as it were, to the bone, when
the ravages of long disease have exhausted the physical frame.

There was, unquestionably, a plumpness, a freshness, and a sort of
vitality about the countenance that was remarkable.

For a few moments there was a death-like stillness in the apartment, and
then one voice broke the silence by exclaiming,--

"He's a vampyre, and has come here to die. Well he knows he'd be taken
up by Sir Francis Varney, and become one of the crew."

"Yes, yes," cried several voices at once; "a vampyre! a vampyre!"

"Hold a moment," cried one; "let us find somebody in the house who has
seen him some days ago, and then we can ascertain if there's any
difference in his looks."

This suggestion was agreed to, and a couple of stout men ran down
stairs, and returned in a few moments with a trembling waiter, whom they
had caught in the passage, and forced to accompany them.

This man seemed to think that he was to be made a dreadful example of in
some sort of way; and, as he was dragged into the room, he trembled, and
looked as pale as death.

"What have I done, gentlemen?" he said; "I ain't a vampyre. Don't be
driving a stake through me. I assure you, gentlemen, I'm only a waiter,
and have been for a matter of five-and-twenty years."

"You'll be done no harm to," said one of his captors; "you've only got
to answer a question that will be put to you."

"Oh, well, certainly, gentlemen; anything you please. Coming--coming, as
I always say; give your orders, the waiter's in the room."

"Look upon the fare of that corpse."

"Certainly, certainly--directly."

"Have you ever seen it before?"

"Seen it before! Lord bless you! yes, a dozen of times. I seed him afore
he died, and I seed him arter; and when the undertaker's men came, I
came up with them and I seed 'em put him in his coffin. You see I kept
an eye on 'em, gentlemen, 'cos knows well enough what they is. A cousin
of mine was in the trade, and he assures me as one of 'em always brings
a tooth-drawing concern in his pocket, and looks in the mouth of the
blessed corpse to see if there's a blessed tooth worth pulling out."

"Hold your tongue," said one; "we want none of your nonsense. Do you see
any difference now in the face of the corpse to what it was some days
since?"

"Well, I don't know; somehow, it don't look so rum."

"Does it look fresher?"

"Well, somehow or another, now you mention it, it's very odd, but it
does."

"Enough," cried the man who had questioned him, with considerable
excitement of manner. "Neighbours, are we to have our wives and our
children scared to death by vampyres?"

"No--no!" cried everybody.

"Is not this, then, one of that dreadful order of beings?"

"Yes--yes; what's to be done?"

"Drive a stake through the body, and so prevent the possibility of
anything in the shape of a restoration."

This was a terrific proposition; and even those who felt most strongly
upon the subject, and had their fears most awakened, shrank from
carrying it into effect. Others, again, applauded it, although they
determined, in their own minds, to keep far enough off from the
execution of the job, which they hoped would devolve upon others, so
that they might have all the security of feeling that such a process had
been gone through with the supposed vampyre, without being in any way
committed by the dreadful act.

Nothing was easier than to procure a stake from the garden in the rear
of the premises; but it was one thing to have the means at hand of
carrying into effect so dreadful a proposition, and another actually to
do it.

For the credit of human nature, we regret that even then, when
civilisation and popular education had by no means made such rapid
strides as in our times they have, such a proposition should be
entertained for a moment: but so it was; and just as an alarm was given
that a party of the soldiers had reached the inn and had taken
possession of the doorway with a determination to arrest the rioters, a
strong hedge-stake had been procured, and everything was in readiness
for the perpetration of the horrible deed.

Even then those in the room, for they were tolerably sober, would have
revolted, probably, from the execution of so fearful an act; but the
entrance of a party of the military into the lower portion of the
tavern, induced those who had been making free with the strong liquors
below, to make a rush up-stairs to their companions with the hope of
escaping detection of the petty larceny, if they got into trouble on
account of the riot.

These persons, infuriated by drink, were capable of anything, and to
them, accordingly, the more sober parties gladly surrendered the
disagreeable job of rendering the supposed vampyre perfectly innoxious,
by driving a hedge-stake through his body--a proceeding which, it was
currently believed, inflicted so much physical injury to the frame, as
to render his resuscitation out of the question.

The cries of alarm from below, joined now to the shouts of those mad
rioters, produced a scene of dreadful confusion.

We cannot, for we revolt at the office, describe particularly the
dreadful outrage which was committed upon the corpse; suffice it that
two or three, maddened by drink, and incited by the others, plunged the
hedge-stake through the body, and there left it, a sickening and
horrible spectacle to any one who might cast his eyes upon it.

With such violence had the frightful and inhuman deed been committed,
that the bottom of the coffin was perforated by the stake so that the
corpse was actually nailed to its last earthly tenement.

Some asserted, that at that moment an audible groan came from the dead
man, and that this arose from the extinguishment of that remnant of life
which remained in him, on account of his being a vampyre, and which
would have been brought into full existence, if the body had been placed
in the rays of the moon, when at its full, according to the popular
superstition upon that subject.

Others, again, were quite ready to swear that at the moment the stake
was used there was a visible convulsion of all the limbs, and that the
countenance, before so placid and so calm, became immediately distorted,
as if with agony.

But we have done with these horrible surmises; the dreadful deed has
been committed, and wild, ungovernable superstition has had, for a time,
its sway over the ignorant and debased.




CHAPTER XLIX.

THE MOB'S ARRIVAL AT SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S.--THE ATTEMPT TO GAIN
ADMISSION.


[Illustration]

The soldiery had been sent for from their principal station near the
churchyard, and had advanced with some degree of reluctance to quell
what they considered as nothing better nor worse than a drunken brawl at
a public-house, which they really considered they ought not to be called
to interfere with.

When, however, the party reached the spot, and heard what a confusion
there was, and saw in what numbers the rioters were assembling, it
became evident to them that the case was of a more serious complexion
than they had at first imagined, and consequently they felt that their
professional dignity was not so much compromised with their interference
with the lawless proceedings.

Some of the constabulary of the town were there, and to them the
soldiers promised they would hand what prisoners they took, at the same
time that they made a distinct condition that they were not to be
troubled with their custody, nor in any way further annoyed in the
business beyond taking care that they did not absolutely escape, after
being once secured.

This was all that the civil authorities of the town required, and, in
fact, they hoped that, after making prisoners of a few of the
ringleaders of the riotous proceedings, the rest would disperse, and
prevent the necessity of capturing them.

Be it known, however, that both military and civil authorities were
completely ignorant of the dreadful outrage against all common decency,
which had been committed within the public-house.

The door was well guarded, and the question now was how the rioters were
to be made to come down stairs, and be captured; and this was likely to
remain a question, so long as no means were adopted to make them
descend. So that, after a time, it was agreed that a couple of troopers
should march up stairs with a constable, to enable him to secure any one
who seemed a principal in the riot.

But this only had the effect of driving those who were in the
second-floor, and saw the approach of the two soldiers, whom they
thought were backed by the whole of their comrades, up a narrow
staircase, to a third-floor, rather consisting of lofts than of actual
rooms; but still, for the time, it was a refuge; and owing to the
extreme narrowness of the approach to it, which consisted of nearly a
perpendicular staircase, with any degree of tact or method, it might
have been admirably defended.

In the hurry and scramble, all the lights were left behind; and when the
two soldiers and constables entered the room where the corpse had lain,
they became, for the first time, aware of what a horrible purpose had
been carried out by the infuriated mob.

The sight was one of perfect horror, and hardened to scenes which might
strike other people as being somewhat of the terrific as these soldiers
might be supposed to be by their very profession, they actually sickened
at the sight which the mutilated corpse presented, and turned aside with
horror.

These feelings soon gave way to anger and animosity against the crowd
who could be guilty of such an atrocious outrage; and, for the first
time, a strong and interested vengeance against the mob pervaded the
breasts of those who were brought to act against it.

One of the soldiers ran down stairs to the door, and reported the scene
which was to be seen above. A determination was instantly come to, to
capture as many as possible of those who had been concerned in so
diabolical an outrage, and leaving a guard of five men at the door, the
remainder of the party ascended the staircase, determined upon storming
the last refuge of the rioters, and dragging them to justice.

The report, however, of these proceedings that were taking place at the
inn, spread quickly over the whole town; and soon as large a mob of the
disorderly and the idle as the place could at all afford was assembled
outside the inn.

This mob appeared, for a time, inertly to watch the proceedings. It
seemed rather a hazardous thing to interfere with the soldiers, whose
carbines look formidable and troublesome weapons.

With true mob courage, therefore, they left the minority of their
comrades, who were within the house, to their fate; and after a
whispered conference from one to the other, they suddenly turned in a
body, and began to make for the outskirts of the town.

They then separated, as if by common consent, and straggled out into the
open country by twos and threes, consolidating again into a mass when
they had got some distance off, and clear of any exertions that could be
made by the soldiery to stay them.

The cry then rose of "Down with Sir Francis Varney--slay him--burn his
house--death to all vampyres!" and, at a rapid pace, they proceeded in
the direction of his mansion.

We will leave this mob, however, for the present, and turn our attention
to those who are at the inn, and are certainly in a position of some
jeopardy. Their numbers were not great, and they were unarmed;
certainly, their best chance would have been to have surrendered at
discretion; but that was a measure which, if the sober ones had felt
inclined to, those who were infuriated and half maddened with drink
would not have acceded to on any account.

A furious resistance was, therefore, fairly to be expected; and what
means the soldiery were likely to use for the purpose of storming this
last retreat was a matter of rather anxious conjecture.

In the case of a regular enemy, there would not, perhaps, have been much
difficulty; but here the capture of certain persons, and not their
destruction, was the object; and how that was to be accomplished by fair
means, certainly was a question which nobody felt very competent to
solve.

Determination, however, will do wonders; and although the rioters
numbered over forty, notwithstanding all their desertions, and not above
seventeen or eighteen soldiers marched into the inn, we shall perceive
that they succeeded in accomplishing their object without any
manoeuvring at all.

The space in which the rioters were confined was low, narrow, and
inconvenient, as well as dark, for the lights on the staircase cast up
that height but very insufficient rays.

Weapons of defence they found but very few, and yet there were some
which, to do them but common credit, they used as effectually as
possible.

These attics, or lofts, were used as lumber-rooms, and had been so for
years, so that there was a collection of old boxes, broken pieces of
furniture, and other matters, which will, in defiance of everything and
everybody, collect in a house.

These were formidable means of defence, if not of offence, down a very
narrow staircase, had they been used with judgment.

Some of the rioters, who were only just drunk enough to be fool-hardy,
collected a few of these articles at the top of the staircase, and swore
they would smash anybody who should attempt to come up to them, a threat
easier uttered than executed.

And besides, after all, if their position had been ever so impregnable,
they must come down eventually, or be starved out.

But the soldiers were not at liberty to adopt so slow a process of
overcoming their enemy, and up the second-floor staircase they went,
with a determination of making short work of the business.

They paused a moment, by word of command, on the landing, and then,
after this slight pause, the word was given to advance.

Now when men will advance, in spite of anything and everything, it is no
easy matter to stop them, and he who was foremost among the military
would as soon thought of hesitating to ascend the narrow staircase
before him, when ordered so to do, as paying the national debt. On he
went, and down came a great chest, which, falling against his feet,
knocked him down as he attempted to scramble over it.

"Fire," said the officer; and it appeared that he had made some
arrangements as to how the order was to be obeyed, for the second man
fired his carbine, and then scrambled over his prostrate comrade; after
which he stooped, and the third fired his carbine likewise, and then
hurried forward in the same manner.

At the first sound of the fire arms the rioters were taken completely by
surprise; they had not had the least notion of affairs getting to such a
length. The smell of the powder, the loud report, and the sensation of
positive danger that accompanied these phenomena, alarmed them most
terrifically; so that, in point of fact, with the exception of the empty
chest that was thrown down in the way of the first soldier, no further
idea of defence seemed in any way to find a place in the hearts of the
besieged.

They scrambled one over the other in their eagerness to get as far as
possible from immediate danger, which, of course, they conceived existed
in the most imminent degree the nearest to the door.

Such was the state of terror into which they were thrown, that each one
at the moment believed himself shot, and the soldiers had overcome all
the real difficulties in getting possession of what might thus be called
the citadel of the inn, before those men who had been so valorous a
short time since recovered from the tremendous fright into which they
had been thrown.

We need hardly say that the carbines were loaded, but with blank
cartridges, for there was neither a disposition nor a necessity for
taking the lives of these misguided people.

If was the suddenness and the steadiness of the attack that had done all
the mischief to their cause; and now, ere they recovered from the
surprise of having their position so completely taken by storm, they
were handed down stairs, one by one, from soldier to soldier, and into
the custody of the civil authorities.

In order to secure the safe keeping of large a body of prisoners, the
constables, who were in a great minority, placed handcuffs upon some of
the most capable of resistance; so what with those who were thus
secured, and those who were terrified into submission, there was not a
man of all the lot who had taken refuge in the attics of the
public-house but was a prisoner.

At the sound of fire-arms, the women who were outside the inn had, of
course, raised a most prodigious clamour.

They believed directly that every bullet must have done some most
serious mischief to the townspeople, and it was only upon one of the
soldiers, a non-commissioned officer, who was below, assuring them of
the innoxious nature of the proceeding which restored anything like
equanimity.

"Silence!" he cried: "what are you howling about? Do you fancy that
we've nothing better to do than to shoot a parcel of fellows that are
not worth the bullets that would be lodged in their confounded
carcases?"

"But we heard the gun," said a woman.

"Of course you did; it's the powder that makes the noise, not the
bullet. You'll see them all brought out safe wind and limb."

This assurance satisfied the women to a certain extent, and such had
been their fear that they should have had to look upon the spectacle of
death, or of grievous wounds, that they were comparatively quite
satisfied when they saw husbands, fathers, and brothers, only in the
custody of the town officers.

And very sheepish some of the fellows looked, when they were handed down
and handcuffed, and the more especially when they had been routed only
by a few blank cartridges--that sixpenny worth of powder had defeated
them.

They were marched off to the town gaol, guarded by the military, who now
probably fancied that their night's work was over, and that the most
turbulent and troublesome spirits in the town had been secured.

Such, however, was not the case, for no sooner had comparative order
been restored, than common observation pointed to a dull red glare in
the southern sky.

In a few more minutes there came in stragglers from the open country,
shouting "Fire! fire!" with all their might.




CHAPTER L.

THE MOB'S ARRIVAL AT SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S.--THE ATTEMPT TO GAIN
ADMISSION.


[Illustration]

All eyes were directed towards that southern sky which each moment was
becoming more and more illuminated by the lurid appearance bespeaking a
conflagration, which if it was not extensive, at all events was raging
fiercely.

There came, too upon the wind, which set from that direction, strange
sounds, resembling shouts of triumph, combined occasionally with sharper
cries, indicative of alarm.

With so much system and so quietly had this attack been made upon the
house of Sir Francis Varney--for the consequences of it now exhibited
themselves most unequivocally--that no one who had not actually
accompanied the expedition was in the least aware that it had been at
all undertaken, or that anything of the kind was on the tapis.

Now, however, it could be no longer kept a secret, and as the infuriated
mob, who had sought this flagrant means of giving vent to their anger,
saw the flames from the blazing house rising high in the heavens, they
felt convinced that further secrecy was out of the question.

Accordingly, in such cries and shouts as--but for caution's sake--they
would have indulged in from the very first, they now gave utterance to
their feelings as regarded the man whose destruction was aimed at.

"Death to the vampyre!--death to the vampyre!" was the principal shout,
and it was uttered in tones which sounded like those of rage and
disappointment.

But it is necessary, now that we have disposed of the smaller number of
rioters who committed so serious an outrage at the inn, that we should,
with some degree of method, follow the proceedings of the larger number,
who went from the town towards Sir Francis Varney's.

These persons either had information of a very positive nature, or a
very strong suspicion that, notwithstanding the mysterious and most
unaccountable disappearance of the vampyre in the old ruin, he would now
be found, as usual, at his own residence.

Perhaps one of his own servants may have thus played the traitor to him;
but however it was, there certainly was an air of confidence about some
of the leaders of the tumultuous assemblage that induced a general
belief that this time, at least, the vampyre would not escape popular
vengeance for being what he was.

We have before noticed that these people went out of the town at
different points, and did not assemble into one mass until they were at
a sufficient distance off to be free from all fear of observation.

Then some of the less observant and cautious of them began to indulge in
shouts of rage and defiance; but those who placed themselves foremost
succeeded in procuring a halt, and one said,--

"Good friends all, if we make any noise, it can only have one effect,
and that is, to warn Sir Francis Varney, and enable him to escape. If,
therefore, we cannot go on quietly, I propose that we return to our
homes, for we shall accomplish nothing."

This advice was sufficiently and evidently reasonable to meet with no
dissension; a death-like stillness ensued, only broken by some two or
three voices saying, in subdued tones,--

"That's right--that's right. Nobody speak."

"Come on, then," said he who had given such judicious counsel; and the
dark mass of men moved towards Sir Francis Varney's house, as quietly as
it was possible for such an assemblage to proceed.

Indeed, saving the sound of the footsteps, nothing could be heard of
them at all; and that regular tramp, tramp, would have puzzled any one
listening to it from any distance to know in which direction it was
proceeding.

In this way they went on until Sir Francis Varney's house was reached,
and then a whispered word to halt was given, and all eyes were bent upon
the building.

From but one window out of the numerous ones with which the front of the
mansion was studded did there shine the least light, and from that there
came rather an uncommonly bright reflection, probably arising from a
reading lamp placed close to the window.

A general impression, they knew not why exactly, seemed to pervade
everybody, that in the room from whence streamed that bright light was
Sir Francis Varney.

"The vampyre's room!" said several. "The vampyre's room! That is it!"

"Yes," said he who had a kind of moral control over his comrades; "I
have no doubt but he is there."

"What's to be done?" asked several.

"Make no noise whatever, but stand aside, so as not to be seen from the
door when it is opened."

"Yes, yes."

"I will knock for admittance, and, the moment it is answered, I will
place this stick in such a manner within, that the door cannot be closed
again. Upon my saying 'Advance,' you will make a rush forward, and we
shall have possession immediately of the house."

All this was agreed to. The mob slunk close to the walls of the house,
and out of immediate observation from the hall door, or from any of the
windows, and then the leader advanced, and knocked loudly for admission.

The silence was now of the most complete character that could be
imagined. Those who came there so bent upon vengeance were thoroughly
convinced of the necessity of extreme caution, to save themselves even
yet from being completely foiled.

They had abundant faith, from experience, of the resources in the way of
escape of Sir Francis Varney, and not one among them was there who
considered that there was any chance of capturing him, except by
surprise, and when once they got hold of him, they determined he should
not easily slip through their fingers.

The knock for admission produced no effect; and, after waiting three or
four minutes, it was very provoking to find such a wonderful amount of
caution and cunning completely thrown away.

"Try again," whispered one.

"Well, have patience; I am going to try again."

The man had the ponderous old-fashioned knocker in his hand, and was
about to make another appeal to Sir Francis Varney's door, when a
strange voice said,--

"Perhaps you may as well say at once what you want, instead of knocking
there to no purpose."

He gave a start, for the voice seemed to come from the very door itself.

Yet it sounded decidedly human; and, upon a closer inspection, it was
seen that a little wicket-gate, not larger than a man's face, had been
opened from within.

This was terribly provoking. Here was an extent of caution on the part
of the garrison quite unexpected. What was to be done?

"Well?" said the man who appeared at the little opening.

"Oh," said he who had knocked; "I--"

"Well?"

"I--that is to say--ahem! Is Sir Francis Varney within?"

"Well?"

"I say, is Sir Francis Varney within?"

"Well; you have said it!"

"Ah, but you have not answered it."

"No."

"Well, is he at home?"

"I decline saying; so you had better, all of you, go back to the town
again, for we are well provided with all material to resist any attack
you may be fools enough to make."

As he spoke, the servant shut the little square door with a bang that
made his questioner jump again. Here was a dilemma!




CHAPTER LI.

THE ATTACK UPON THE VAMPYRE'S HOUSE.--THE STORY OF THE ATTACK.--THE
FORCING OF THE DOORS, AND THE STRUGGLE.


[Illustration]

A council of war was now called among the belligerents, who were
somewhat taken aback by the steady refusal of the servant to admit them,
and their apparent determination to resist all endeavours on the part of
the mob to get into and obtain possession of the house. It argued that
they were prepared to resist all attempts, and it would cost some few
lives to get into the vampyre's house. This passed through the minds of
many as they retired behind the angle of the wall where the council was
to be held.

Here they looked in each others' face, as if to gather from that the
general tone of the feelings of their companions; but here they saw
nothing that intimated the least idea of going back as they came.

"It's all very well, mates, to take care of ourselves, you know," began
one tall, brawny fellow; "but, if we bean't to be sucked to death by a
vampyre, why we must have the life out of him."

"Ay, so we must."

"Jack Hodge is right; we must kill him, and there's no sin in it, for he
has no right to it; he's robbed some poor fellow of his life to prolong
his own."

"Ay, ay, that's the way he does; bring him out, I say, then see what we
will do with him."

"Yes, catch him first," said one, "and then we can dispose of him
afterwards, I say, neighbours, don't you think it would be as well to
catch him first?"

"Haven't we come on purpose?"

"Yes, but do it."

"Ain't we trying it?"

"You will presently, when we come to get into the house."

"Well, what's to be done?" said one; "here we are in a fix, I think, and
I can't see our way out very clearly."

[Illustration]

"I wish we could get in."

"But how is a question I don't very well see," said a large specimen of
humanity.

"The best thing that can be done will be to go round and look over the
whole house, and then we may come upon some part where it is far easier
to get in at than by the front door."

"But it won't do for us all to go round that way," said one; "a small
party only should go, else they will have all their people stationed at
one point, and if we can divide them, we shall beat them because they
have not enough to defend more than one point at a time; now we are
numerous enough to make several attacks."

"Oh! that's the way to bother them all round; they'll give in, and then
the place is our own."

"No, no," said the big countryman, "I like to make a good rush and drive
all afore us; you know what ye have to do then, and you do it, ye know."

"If you can."

"Ay, to be sure, if we can, as you say; but can't we? that's what I want
to know."

"To be sure we can."

"Then we'll do it, mate--that's my mind; we'll do it. Come on, and let's
have another look at the street-door."

The big countryman left the main body, and resolutely walked up to the
main avenue, and approached the door, accompanied by about a dozen or
less of the mob. When they came to the door, they commenced knocking and
kicking most violently, and assailing it with all kinds of things they
could lay their hands upon.

They continued at this violent exercise for some time--perhaps for five
minutes, when the little square hole in the door was again opened, and a
voice was heard to say,--

"You had better cease that kind of annoyance."

"We want to get in."

"It will cost you more lives to do so than you can afford to spare. We
are well armed, and are prepared to resist any effort you can make."

"Oh! it's all very well; but, an you won't open, why we'll make you;
that's all about it."

This was said as the big countryman and his companions were leaving the
avenue towards the rest of the body.

"Then, take this, as an earnest of what is to follow," said the man, and
he discharged the contents of a blunderbuss through the small opening,
and its report sounded to the rest of the mob like the report of a
field-piece.

Fortunately for the party retiring the man couldn't take any aim, else
it is questionable how many of the party would have got off unwounded.
As it was, several of them found stray slugs were lodged in various
parts of their persons, and accelerated their retreat from the house of
the vampyre.

"What luck?" inquired one of the mob to the others, as they came back;
"I'm afraid you had all the honour."

"Ay, ay, we have, and all the lead too," replied a man, as he placed his
hand upon a sore part of his person, which bled in consequence of a
wound.

"Well, what's to be done?"

"Danged if I know," said one.

"Give it up," said another.

"No, no; have him out. I'll never give in while I can use a stick. They
are in earnest, and so are we. Don't let us be frightened because they
have a gun or two--they can't have many; and besides, if they have, we
are too many for them. Besides, we shall all die in our beds."

"Hurrah! down with the vampyre!"

"So say I, lads. I don't want to be sucked to death when I'm a-bed.
Better die like a man than such a dog's death as that, and you have no
revenge then."

"No, no; he has the better of us then. We'll have him out--we'll burn
him--that's the way we'll do it."

"Ay, so we will; only let us get in."

At that moment a chosen party returned who had been round the house to
make a reconnaissance.

"Well, well," inquired the mob, "what can be done now--where can we get
in?"

"In several places."

"All right; come along then; the place is our own."

"Stop a minute; they are armed at all points, and we must make an attack
on all points, else we may fail. A party must go round to the
front-door, and attempt to beat it in; there are plenty of poles and
things that could be used for such a purpose."

"There is, besides, a garden-door, that opens into the house--a kind of
parlour; a kitchen-door; a window in the flower-garden, and an entrance
into a store-room; this place appears strong, and is therefore
unguarded."

"The very point to make an attack."

"Not quite."

"Why not?"

"Because it can easily be defended, and rendered useless to us. We must
make an attack upon all places but that, and, while they are being at
those points, we can then enter at that place, and then you will find
them desert the other places when they see us inside."

"Hurrah! down with the vampyre!" said the mob, as they listened to this
advice, and appreciated the plan.

"Down with the vampyre!"

"Now, then, lads, divide, and make the attack; never mind their guns,
they have but very few, and if you rush in upon them, you will soon have
the guns yourselves."

"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted the mob.

The mob now moved away in different bodies, each strong enough to carry
the house. They seized upon a variety of poles and stones, and then made
for the various doors and windows that were pointed out by those who had
made the discovery. Each one of those who had formed the party of
observation, formed a leader to the others, and at once proceeded to the
post assigned him.

The attack was so sudden and so simultaneous that the servants were
unprepared; and though they ran to the doors, and fired away, still they
did but little good, for the doors were soon forced open by the enraged
rioters, who proceeded in a much more systematic operation, using long
heavy pieces of timber which were carried on the shoulders of several
men, and driven with the force of battering-rams--which, in fact, they
were--against the door.

Bang went the battering-ram, crash went the door, and the whole party
rushed headlong in, carried forward by their own momentum and fell
prostrate, engine and all, into the passage.

"Now, then, we have them," exclaimed the servants, who began to belabour
the whole party with blows, with every weapon they could secure.

Loudly did the fallen men shout for assistance, and but for their
fellows who came rushing in behind, they would have had but a sorry time
of it.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob; "the house is our own."

"Not yet," shouted the servants.

"We'll try," said the mob; and they rushed forward to drive the servants
back, but they met with a stout resistance, and as some of them had
choppers and swords, there were a few wounds given, and presently bang
went the blunderbuss.

Two or three of the mob reeled and fell.

This produced a momentary panic, and the servants then had the whole of
the victory to themselves, and were about to charge, and clear the
passage of their enemies, when a shout behind attracted their attention.

That shout was caused by an entrance being gained in another quarter,
whence the servants were flying, and all was disorder.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted the mob.

The servants retreated to the stairs, and here united, they made a
stand, and resolved to resist the whole force of the rioters, and they
succeeded in doing so, too, for some minutes. Blows were given and taken
of a desperate character.

Somehow, there were no deadly blows received by the servants; they were
being forced and beaten, but they lost no life; this may be accounted
for by the fact that the mob used no more deadly weapons than sticks.

The servants of Sir Francis Varney, on the contrary, were mostly armed
with deadly weapons, which, however, they did not use unnecessarily.
They stood upon the hall steps--the grand staircase, with long poles or
sticks, about the size of quarter-staves, and with these they belaboured
those below most unmercifully.

Certainly, the mob were by no means cowards, for the struggle to close
with their enemies was as great as ever, and as firm as could well be.
Indeed, they rushed on with a desperation truly characteristic of John
Bull, and defied the heaviest blows; for as fast as one was stricken
down another occupied his place, and they insensibly pressed their close
and compact front upon the servants, who were becoming fatigued and
harassed.

"Fire, again," exclaimed a voice from among the servants.

The mob made no retrogade movement, but still continued to press
onwards, and in another moment a loud report rang through the house, and
a smoke hung over the heads of the mob.

A long groan or two escaped some of the men who had been wounded, and a
still louder from those who had not been wounded, and a cry arose of,--

"Down with the vampyre--pull down--destroy and burn the whole
place--down with them all."

A rush succeeded, and a few more discharges took place, when a shout
above attracted the attention of both parties engaged in this fierce
struggle. They paused by mutual consent, to look and see what was the
cause of that shout.




CHAPTER LII.

THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE MOB AND SIR FRANCIS VARNEY.--THE MYSTERIOUS
DISAPPEARANCE.--THE WINE CELLARS.


[Illustration]

The shout that had so discomposed the parties who were thus engaged in a
terrific struggle came from a party above.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" they shouted a number of times, in a wild strain of
delight. "Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"

The fact was, a party of the mob had clambered up a verandah, and
entered some of the rooms upstairs, whence they emerged just above the
landing near the spot where the servants were resisting in a mass the
efforts of the mob.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob below.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob above.

There was a momentary pause, and the servants divided themselves into
two bodies, and one turned to face those above, and the other those who
were below.

A simultaneous shout was given by both parties of the mob, and a sudden
rush was made by both bodies, and the servants of Sir Francis Varney
were broken in an instant. They were instantly separated, and knocked
about a good bit, but they were left to shift for themselves, the mob
had a more important object in view.

"Down with the vampyre!" they shouted.

"Down with the vampyre!" shouted they, and they rushed helter skelter
through the rooms, until they came to one where the door was partially
open, and they could see some person very leisurely seated.

"Here he is," they cried.

"Who? who?"

"The vampire."

"Down with him! kill him! burn him!"

"Hurrah! down with the vampire!"

These sounds were shouted out by a score of voices, and they rushed
headlong into the room.

But here their violence and headlong precipitancy were suddenly
restrained by the imposing and quiet appearance of the individual who
was there seated.

The mob entered the room, and there was a sight, that if it did not
astonish them, at least, it caused them to pause before the individual
who was seated there.

The room was well filled with furniture, and there was a curtain drawn
across the room, and about the middle of it there was a table, behind
which sat Sir Francis Varney himself, looking all smiles and courtesy.

"Well, dang my smock-frock!" said one, "who'd ha' thought of this? He
don't seem to care much about it."

"Well, I'm d----d!" said another; "he seems pretty easy, at all events.
What is he going to do?"

"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis Varney, rising, with the blandest smiles,
"pray, gentlemen, permit me to inquire the cause of this condescension
on your part. The visit is kind."

The mob looked at Sir Francis, and then at each other, and then at Sir
Francis again; but nobody spoke. They were awed by this gentlemanly and
collected behaviour.

"If you honour me with this visit from pure affection and neighbourly
good-will, I thank you."

"Down with the vampyre!" said one, who was concealed behind the rest,
and not so much overawed, as he had not seen Sir Francis.

Sir Francis Varney rose to his full height; a light gleamed across his
features; they were strongly defined then. His long front teeth, too,
showed most strongly when he smiled, as he did now, and said, in a bland
voice,--

"Gentlemen, I am at your service. Permit me to say you are welcome to
all I can do for you. I fear the interview will be somewhat inconvenient
and unpleasant to you. As for myself, I am entirely at your service."

As Sir Francis spoke, he bowed, and folded his hands together, and
stepped forwards; but, instead of coming onwards to them, he walked
behind the curtain, and was immediately hid from their view.

"Down with the vampyre!" shouted one.

"Down with the vampyre!" rang through the apartment; and the mob now,
not awed by the coolness and courtesy of Sir Francis, rushed forward,
and, overturning the table, tore down the curtain to the floor; but, to
their amazement, there was no Sir Francis Varney present.

"Where is he?"

"Where is the vampyre?"

"Where has he gone?"

These were cries that escaped every one's lips; and yet no one could
give an answer to them.

There Sir Francis Varney was not. They were completely thunderstricken.
They could not find out where he had gone to. There was no possible
means of escape, that they could perceive. There was not an odd corner,
or even anything that could, by any possibility, give even a suspicion
that even a temporary concealment could take place.

They looked over every inch of flooring and of wainscoting; not the
remotest trace could be discovered.

"Where is he?"

"I don't know," said one--"I can't see where he could have gone. There
ain't a hole as big as a keyhole."

"My eye!" said one; "I shouldn't be at all surprised, if he were to blow
up the whole house."

"You don't say go!"

"I never heard as how vampyres could do so much as that. They ain't the
sort of people," said another.

"But if they can do one thing, they can do another."

"That's very true."

"And what's more, I never heard as how a vampyre could make himself into
nothing before; yet he has done so."

"He may be in this room now."

"He may."

"My eyes! what precious long teeth he had!"

"Yes; and had he fixed one on 'em in to your arm, he would have drawn
every drop of blood out of your body; you may depend upon that," said an
old man.

"He was very tall."

"Yes; too tall to be any good."

"I shouldn't like him to have laid hold of me, though, tall as he is;
and then he would have lifted me up high enough to break my neck, when
he let me fall."

The mob routed about the room, tore everything out of its place, and as
the object of their search seemed to be far enough beyond their reach,
their courage rose in proportion, and they shouted and screamed with a
proportionate increase of noise and bustle; and at length they ran about
mad with rage and vexation, doing all the mischief that was in their
power to inflict.

Then they became mischievous, and tore he furniture from its place, and
broke it in pieces, and then amused themselves with breaking it up,
throwing pieces at the pier-glasses, in which they made dreadful holes;
and when that was gone, they broke up the frames.

Every hole and corner of the house was searched, but there was no Sir
Francis Varney to be found.

"The cellars, the cellars!" shouted a voice.

"The cellars, the cellars!" re-echoed nearly every pair of lips in the
whole place; in another moment, there was crushing an crowding to get
down into the cellars.

"Hurray!" said one, as he knocked off the neck of the bottle that first
came to hand.

"Here's luck to vampyre-hunting! Success to our chase!"

"So say I, neighbour; but is that your manners to drink before your
betters?"

So saying, the speaker knocked the other's elbow, while he was in the
act of lifting the wine to his mouth; and thus he upset it over his face
and eyes.

"D--n it!" cried the man; "how it makes my eyes smart! Dang thee! if I
could see, I'd ring thy neck!"

"Success to vampyre-hunting!" said one.

"May we be lucky yet!" said another.

"I wouldn't be luckier than this," said another, as he, too, emptied a
bottle. "We couldn't desire better entertainment, where the reckoning is
all paid."

"Excellent!"

"Very good!"

"Capital wine this!"

"I say, Huggins!"

"Well," said Huggins.

"What are you drinking?"

"Wine."

"What wine?"

"Danged if I know," was the reply. "It's wine, I suppose; for I know it
ain't beer nor spirits; so it must be wine."

"Are you sure it ain't bottled men's blood?"

"Eh?"

"Bottled blood, man! Who knows what a vampyre drinks? It may be his
wine. He may feast upon that before he goes to bed of a night, drink
anybody's health, and make himself cheerful on bottled blood!"

"Oh, danged! I'm so sick; I wish I hadn't taken the stuff. It may be as
you say, neighbour, and then we be cannibals."

"Or vampyres."

"There's a pretty thing to think of."

By this time some were drunk, some were partially so, and the remainder
were crowding into the cellars to get their share of the wine.

The servants had now slunk away; they were no longer noticed by the
rioters, who, having nobody to oppose them, no longer thought of
anything, save the searching after the vampyre, and the destruction of
the property. Several hours had been spent in this manner, and yet they
could not find the object of their search.

There was not a room, or cupboard, or a cellar, that was capable of
containing a cat, that they did not search, besides a part of the
rioters keeping a very strict watch on the outside of the house and all
about the grounds, to prevent the possibility of the escape of the
vampyre.

There was a general cessation of active hostilities at that moment; a
reaction after the violent excitement and exertion they had made to get
in. Then the escape of their victim, and the mysterious manner in which
he got away, was also a cause of the reaction, and the rioters looked in
each others' countenances inquiringly.

Above all, the discovery of the wine-cellar tended to withdraw them from
violent measures; but this could not last long, there must be an end to
such a scene, for there never was a large body of men assembled for an
evil purpose, who ever were, for any length of time, peaceable.

To prevent the more alarming effects of drunkenness, some few of the
rioters, after having taken some small portion of the wine, became, from
the peculiar flavour it possessed, imbued with the idea that it was
really blood, and forthwith commenced an instant attack upon the wine
and liquors, and they were soon mingling in one stream throughout the
cellars.

This destruction was loudly declaimed against by a large portion of the
rioters, who were drinking; but before they could make any efforts to
save the liquor, the work of destruction had not only been begun, but
was ended, and the consequence was, the cellars were very soon evacuated
by the mob.




CHAPTER LIII.

THE DESTRUCTION OF SIR FRANCIS VARNEY'S HOUSE BY FIRE.--THE ARRIVAL OF
THE MILITARY, AND A SECOND MOB.


[Illustration]

Thus many moments had not elapsed ere the feelings of the rioters became
directed into a different channel from that in which it had so lately
flowed. When urged about the house and grounds for the vampyre, they
became impatient and angry at not finding him. Many believed that he was
yet about the house, while many were of opinion that he had flown away
by some mysterious means only possessed by vampyres and such like
people.

"Fire the house, and burn him out," said one.

"Fire the house!"

"Burn the den!" now arose in shouts from all present, and then the mob
were again animated by the love of mischief that seemed to be the
strongest feelings that animated them.

"Burn him out--burn him out!" were the only words that could be heard
from any of the mob. The words ran through the house like wildfire,
nobody thought of anything else, and all were seen running about in
confusion.

There was no want of good will on the part of the mob to the
undertaking; far from it, and they proceeded in the work _con amore_.
They worked together with right good will, and the result was soon seen
by the heaps of combustible materials that were collected in a short
time from all parts of the house.

All the old dry wood furniture that could be found was piled up in a
heap, and to these were added a number of faggots, and also some
shavings that were found in the cellar.

"All right!" exclaimed one man, in exultation.

"Yes," replied a second; "all right--all right! Set light to it, and he
will be smoked out if not burned."

"Let us be sure that all are out of the house," suggested one of the
bystanders.

"Ay, ay," shouted several; "give them all a chance. Search through the
house and give them a warning."

"Very well; give me the light, and then when I come back I will set
light to the fire at once, and then I shall know all is empty, and so
will you too."

This was at once agreed to by all, with acclamations, and the light
being handed to the man, he ascended the stairs, crying out in a loud
voice,--

"Come out--come out! the house is on fire!"

"Fire! fire! fire!" shouted the mob as a chorus, every now and then at
intervals.

In about ten minutes more, there came a cry of "all right; the house is
empty," from up the stairs, and the man descended in haste to the hall.

"Make haste, lads, and fire away, for I see the red coats are leaving
the town."

"Hurra! hurra!" shouted the infuriated mob. "Fire--fire--fire the house!
Burn out the vampyre! Burn down the house--burn him out, and see if he
can stand fire."

Amidst all this tumult there came a sudden blaze upon all around, for
the pile had been fired.

"Hurra!" shouted the mob--"hurra!" and they danced like maniacs round
the fire; looking, in fact, like so many wild Indians, dancing round
their roasting victims, or some demons at an infernal feast.

The torch had been put to twenty different places, and the flames united
into one, and suddenly shot up with a velocity, and roared with a sound
that caused many who were present to make a precipitate retreat from the
hall.

This soon became a necessary measure of self-preservation, and it
required no urging to induce them to quit a place that was burning
rapidly and even furiously.

"Get the poles and firewood--get faggots," shouted some of the mob, and,
lo, it was done almost by magic. They brought the faggots and wood piled
up for winter use, and laid them near all the doors, and especially the
main entrance. Nay, every gate or door belonging to the outhouses was
brought forward and placed upon the fire, which now began to reach the
upper stories.

"Hurra--fire! Hurra--fire!"

And a loud shout of triumph came from the mob as they viewed the
progress of the flames, as they came roaring and tearing through the
house doors and the windows.

Each new victory of the element was a signal to the mob for a cheer; and
a hearty cheer, too, came from them.

"Where is the vampyre now?" exclaimed one.

"Ha! where is he?" said another.

"If he be there," said the man, pointing to the flames, "I reckon he's
got a warm berth of it, and, at the same time, very little water to boil
in his kettle."

"Ha, ha! what a funny old man is Bob Mason; he's always poking fun; he'd
joke if his wife were dying."

"There is many a true word spoken in jest," suggested another; "and, to
my mind, Bob Mason wouldn't be very much grieved if his wife were to
die."

"Die?" said Bob; "she and I have lived and quarrelled daily a matter of
five-and-thirty years, and, if that ain't enough to make a man sick of
being married, and of his wife, hand me, that's all. I say I am tired."

This was said with much apparent sincerity, and several laughed at the
old man's heartiness.

"It's all very well," said the old man; "it's all very well to laugh
about matters you don't understand, but I know it isn't a joke--not a
bit on it. I tells you what it is, neighbour, I never made but one grand
mistake in all my life."

"And what was that?"

"To tie myself to a woman."

"Why, you'd get married to-morrow if your wife were to die to-day," said
one.

"If I did, I hope I may marry a vampyre. I should have something then to
think about. I should know what's o'clock. But, as for my old woman,
lord, lord, I wish Sir Francis Varney had had her for life. I'll warrant
when the next natural term of his existence came round again, he
wouldn't be in no hurry to renew it; if he did, I should say that
vampyres had the happy lot of managing women, which I haven't got."

"No, nor anybody else."

A loud shout now attracted their attention, and, upon looking in the
quarter whence it came, they descried a large body of people coming
towards them; from one end of the mob could be seen along string of red
coats.

"The red coats!" shouted one.

"The military!" shouted another.

It was plain the military who had been placed in the town to quell
disturbances, had been made acquainted with the proceedings at Sir
Francis Varney's house, and were now marching to relieve the place, and
to save the property.

They were, as we have stated, accompanied by a vast concourse of people,
who came out to see what they were going to see, and seeing the flames
at Sir Francis Varney's house, they determined to come all the way, and
be present.

The military, seeing the disturbance in the distance, and the flames
issuing from the windows, made the best of their way towards the scene
of tumult with what speed they could make.

"Here they come," said one.

"Yes, just in time to see what is done."

"Yes, they can go back and say we have burned the vampyre's house
down--hurra!"

"Hurra!" shouted the mob, in prolonged accents, and it reached the ears
of the military.

The officer urged the men onwards, and they responded to his words, by
exerting themselves to step out a little faster.

"Oh, they should have been here before this; it's no use, now, they are
too late."

"Yes, they are too late."

"I wonder if the vampyre can breathe through the smoke, and live in
fire," said one.

"I should think he must be able to do so, if he can stand shooting, as
we know he can--you can't kill a vampyre; but yet he must be consumed,
if the fire actually touches him, but not unless he can bear almost
anything."

"So he can."

"Hurra!" shouted the mob, as a tall flame shot through the top windows
of the house.

The fire had got the ascendant now, and no hopes could be entertained,
however extravagant, of saving the smallest article that had been left
in the mansion.

"Hurra!" shouted the mob with the military, who came up with them.

"Hurra!" shouted the others in reply.

"Quick march!" said the officer; and then, in a loud, commanding tone,
he shouted, "Clear the way, there! clear the way."

"Ay, there's room enough for you," said old Mason; "what are you making
so much noise about?"

There was a general laugh at the officer, who took no notice of the
words, but ordered his men up before the burning pile, which was now an
immense mass of flame.

The mob who had accompanied the military now mingled with the mob that
had set the house of Sir Francis Varney on fire ere the military had
come up with them.

"Halt!" cried out the officer; and the men, obedient to the word of
command, halted, and drew up in a double line before the house.

There were then some words of command issued, and some more given to
some of the subalterns, and a party of men, under the command of a
sergeant, was sent off from the main body, to make a circuit of the
house and grounds.

The officer gazed for some moments upon the burning pile without
speaking; and then, turning to the next in command, he said in low
tones, as he looked upon the mob,--

"We have come too late."

"Yes, much."

"The house is now nearly gutted."

"It is."

"And those who came crowding along with us are inextricably mingled with
the others who have been the cause of all this mischief: there's no
distinguishing them one from another."

"And if you did, you could not say who had done it, and who had not; you
could prove nothing."

"Exactly."

"I shall not attempt to take prisoners, unless any act is perpetrated
beyond what has been done."

"It is a singular affair."

"Very."

"This Sir Francis Varney is represented to be a courteous, gentlemanly
man," said the officer.

"No doubt about it, but he's beset by a parcel of people who do not mind
cutting a throat if they can get an opportunity of doing so."

"And I expect they will."

"Yes, when there is a popular excitement against any man, he had better
leave this part at once and altogether. It is dangerous to tamper with
popular prejudices; no man who has any value for his life ought to do
so. It is a sheer act of suicide."




CHAPTER LIV.

THE BURNING OF VARNEY'S HOUSE.--A NIGHT SCENE.--POPULAR SUPERSTITION.


[Illustration]

The officer ceased to speak, and then the party whom he had sent round
the house and grounds returned, and gained the main body orderly enough,
and the sergeant went forward to make his report to his superior
officer.

After the usual salutation, he waited for the inquiry to be put to him
as to what he had seen.

"Well, Scott, what have you done?"

"I went round the premises, sir, according to your instructions, but saw
no one either in the vicinity of the house, or in the grounds around
it."

"No strangers, eh?"

"No, sir, none."

"You saw nothing at all likely to lead to any knowledge as to who it was
that has caused this catastrophe?"

"No, sir."

"Have you learnt anything among the people who are the perpetrators of
this fire?"

"No, sir."

"Well, then, that will do, unless there is anything else that you can
think of."

"Nothing further, sir, unless it is that I heard some of them say that
Sir Francis Varney has perished in the flames."

"Good heavens!"

"So I heard, sir."

"That must be impossible, and yet why should it be so? Go back, Scott,
and bring me some person who can give me some information upon this
point."

The sergeant departed toward the people, who looked at him without any
distrust, for he came single-handed, though they thought he came with
the intention of learning what they knew of each other, and so stroll
about with the intention of getting up accusations against them. But
this was not the case, the officer didn't like the work well enough;
he'd rather have been elsewhere.

[Illustration]

At length the sergeant came to one man, whom he accosted, and said to
him,--

"Do you know anything of yonder fire?"

"Yes: I do know it is a fire."

"Yes, and so do I."

"My friend," said the sergeant, "when a soldier asks a question he does
not expect an uncivil answer."

"But a soldier may ask a question that may have an uncivil end to it."

"He may; but it is easy to say so."

"I do say so, then, now."

"Then I'll not trouble you any more."

The sergeant moved on a pace or two more, and then, turning to the mob,
he said,--

"Is there any one among you who can tell me anything concerning the fate
of Sir Francis Varney?"

"Burnt!"

"Did you see him burnt?"

"No; but I saw him."

"In the flames?"

"No; before the house was on fire."

"In the house?"

"Yes; and he has not been seen to leave it since, and we conclude he
must have been burned."

"Will you come and say as much to my commanding officer? It is all I
want."

"Shall I be detained?"

"No."

"Then I will go," said the man, and he hobbled out of the crowd towards
the sergeant. "I will go and see the officer, and tell him what I know,
and that is very little, and can prejudice no one."

"Hurrah!" said the crowd, when they heard this latter assertion; for, at
first, they began to be in some alarm lest there should be something
wrong about this, and some of them get identified as being active in the
fray.

The sergeant led the man back to the spot, where the officer stood a
little way in advance of his men.

"Well, Scott," he said, "what have we here?"

"A man who has volunteered a statement, sir."

"Oh! Well, my man, can you say anything concerning all this disturbance
that we have here?"

"No, sir."

"Then what did you come here for?"

"I understood the sergeant to want some one who could speak of Sir
Francis Varney."

"Well?"

"I saw him."

"Where?"

"In the house."

"Exactly; but have you not seen him out of it?"

"Not since; nor any one else, I believe."

"Where was he?"

"Upstairs, where he suddenly disappeared, and nobody can tell where he
may have gone to. But he has not been seen out of the house since, and
they say he could not have gone bodily out if they had not seen him."

"He must have been burnt," said the officer, musingly; "he could not
escape, one would imagine, without being seen by some one out of such a
mob."

"Oh, dear no, for I am told they placed a watch at every hole, window,
or door however high, and they saw nothing of him--not even fly out!"

"Fly out! I'm speaking of a man!"

"And I of a vampire!" said the man carelessly.

"A vampyre! Pooh, pooh!"

"Oh no! Sir Francis Varney is a vampyre! There can be no sort of doubt
about it. You have only to look at him, and you will soon be satisfied
of that. See his great sharp teeth in front, and ask yourself what they
are for, and you will soon find the answer. They are to make holes with
in the bodies of his victims, through which he can suck their blood!"

The officer looked at the man in astonishment for a few moments, as if
he doubted his own ears, and then he said,--

"Are you serious?"

"I am ready to swear to it."

"Well, I have heard a great deal about popular superstition, and thought
I had seen something of it; but this is decidedly the worst case that
ever I saw or heard of. You had better go home, my man, than, by your
presence, countenance such a gross absurdity."

"For all that," said the man, "Sir Francis Varney is a vampyre--a
blood-sucker--a human blood-sucker!"

"Get away with you," said the officer, "and do not repeat such folly
before any one."

The man almost jumped when he heard the tone in which this was spoken,
for the officer was both angry and contemptuous, when he heard the words
of the man.

"These people," he added, turning to the sergeant, "are ignorant in the
extreme. One would think we had got into the country of vampires,
instead of a civilised community."

The day was going down now; the last rays of the setting sun glimmered
upwards, and still shone upon the tree-tops. The darkness of night was
still fast closing around them. The mob stood a motley mass of human
beings, wedged together, dark and sombre, gazing upon the mischief that
had been done--the work of their hands. The military stood at ease
before the burning pile, and by their order and regularity, presented a
contrast to the mob, as strongly by their bright gleaming arms, as by
their dress and order.

The flames now enveloped the whole mansion. There was not a window or a
door from which the fiery element did not burst forth in clouds, and
forked flames came rushing forth with a velocity truly wonderful.

The red glare of the flames fell upon all objects around for some
distance--the more especially so, as the sun had sunk, and a bank of
clouds rose from beneath the horizon and excluded all his rays; there
was no twilight, and there was, as yet, no moon.

The country side was enveloped in darkness, and the burning house could
be seen for miles around, and formed a rallying-point to all men's eyes.

The engines that were within reach came tearing across the country, and
came to the fire; but they were of no avail. There was no supply of
water, save from the ornamental ponds. These they could only get at by
means that were tedious and unsatisfactory, considering the emergency of
the case.

The house was a lone one, and it was being entirely consumed before they
arrived, and therefore there was not the remotest chance of saving the
least article. Had they ever such a supply of water, nothing could have
been effected by it.

Thus the men stood idly by, passing their remarks upon the fire and the
mob.

Those who stood around, and within the influence of the red glare of the
flames, looked like so many demons in the infernal regions, watching the
progress of lighting the fire, which we are told by good Christians is
the doom of the unfortunate in spirit, and the woefully unlucky in
circumstances.

It was a strange sight that; and there were many persons who would,
without doubt, have rather been snug by their own fire-side than they
would have remained there but it happened that no one felt inclined to
express his inclination to his neighbour, and, consequently, no one said
anything on the subject.

None would venture to go alone across the fields, where the spirit of
the vampyre might, for all they knew to the contrary, be waiting to
pounce upon them, and worry them.

No, no; no man would have quitted that mob to go back alone to the
village; they would sooner have stood there all night through. That was
an alternative that none of the number would very willingly accept.

The hours passed away, and the house that had been that morning a noble
and well-furnished mansion, was now a smouldering heap of ruins. The
flames had become somewhat subdued, and there was now more smoke than
flames.

The fire had exhausted itself. There was now no more material that could
serve it for fuel, and the flames began to become gradually enough
subdued.

Suddenly there was a rush, and then a bright flame shot upward for an
instant, so bright and so strong, that it threw a flash of light over
the country for miles; but it was only momentary, and it subsided.

The roof, which had been built strong enough to resist almost anything,
after being burning for a considerable time, suddenly gave way, and came
in with a tremendous crash, and then all was for a moment darkness.

After this the fire might be said to be subdued, it having burned itself
out; and the flames that could now be seen were but the result of so
much charred wood, that would probably smoulder away for a day or two,
if left to itself to do so. A dense mass of smoke arose from the ruins,
and blackened the atmosphere around, and told the spectators the work
was done.




CHAPTER LV.

THE RETURN OF THE MOB AND MILITARY TO THE TOWN.--THE MADNESS OF THE
MOB.--THE GROCER'S REVENGE.


[Illustration]

On the termination of the conflagration, or, rather, the fall of the
roof, with the loss of grandeur in the spectacle, men's minds began to
be free from the excitement that chained them to the spot, watching the
progress of that element which has been truly described as a very good
servant, but a very bad master; and of the truth of this every one must
be well satisfied.

There was now remaining little more than the livid glare of the hot and
burning embers; and this did not extend far, for the walls were too
strongly built to fall in from their own weight; they were strong and
stout, and intercepted the little light the ashes would have given out.

The mob now began to feel fatigued and chilly. It had been standing and
walking about many hours, and the approach of exhaustion could not be
put off much longer, especially as there was no longer any great
excitement to carry it off.

The officer, seeing that nothing was to be done, collected his men
together, and they were soon seen in motion. He had been ordered to stop
any tumult that he might have seen, and to save any property. But there
was nothing to do now; all the property that could have been saved was
now destroyed, and the mob were beginning to disperse, and creep towards
their own houses.

The order was then given for the men to take close order, and keep
together, and the word to march was given, which the men obeyed with
alacrity, for they had no good-will in stopping there the whole of the
night.

The return to the village of both the mob and the military was not
without its vicissitudes; accidents of all kinds were rife amongst them;
the military, however, taking the open paths, soon diminished the
distance, and that, too, with little or no accidents, save such as might
have been expected from the state of the fields, after they had been so
much trodden down of late.

Not so the townspeople or the peasantry; for, by way of keeping up their
spirits, and amusing themselves on their way home, they commenced
larking, as they called it, which often meant the execution of practical
jokes, and these sometimes were of a serious nature.

The night was dark at that hour, especially so when there was a number
of persons traversing about, so that little or nothing could be seen.

The mistakes and blunders that were made were numerous. In one place
there were a number of people penetrating a path that led only to a
hedge and deep ditch; indeed it was a brook very deep and muddy.

Here they came to a stop and endeavoured to ascertain its width, but the
little reflected light they had was deceptive, and it did not appear so
broad as it was.

"Oh, I can jump it," exclaimed one.

"And so can I," said another. "I have done so before, and why should I
not do so now."

This was unanswerable, and as there were many present, at least a dozen
were eager to jump.

"If thee can do it, I know I can," said a brawny countryman; "so I'll do
it at once.

"The sooner the better," shouted some one behind, "or you'll have no
room for a run, here's a lot of 'em coming up; push over as quickly as
you can."

Thus urged, the jumpers at once made a rush to the edge of the ditch,
and many jumped, and many more, from the prevailing darkness, did not
see exactly where the ditch was, and taking one or two steps too many,
found themselves up above the waist in muddy water.

Nor were those who jumped much better off, for nearly all jumped short
or fell backwards into the stream, and were dragged out in a terrible
state.

"Oh, lord! oh, lord!" exclaimed one poor fellow, dripping wet and
shivering with cold, "I shall die! oh, the rheumatiz, there'll be a
pretty winter for me: I'm half dead."

"Hold your noise," said another, "and help me to get the mud out of my
eye; I can't see."

"Never mind," added a third, "considering how you jump, I don't think
you want to see."

"This comes a hunting vampyres."

"Oh, it's all a judgment; who knows but he may be in the air: it is
nothing to laugh at as I shouldn't be surprised if he were: only think
how precious pleasant."

"However pleasant it may be to you," remarked one, "it's profitable to a
good many."

"How so?"

"Why, see the numbers, of things that will be spoiled, coats torn, hats
crushed, heads broken, and shoes burst. Oh, it's an ill-wind that blows
nobody any good."

"So it is, but you may benefit anybody you like, so you don't do it at
my expence."

In one part of a field where there were some stiles and gates, a big
countryman caught a fat shopkeeper with the arms of the stile a terrible
poke in the stomach; while the breath was knocked out of the poor man's
stomach, and he was gasping with agony, the fellow set to laughing, and
said to his companions, who were of the same class--

"I say, Jim, look at the grocer, he hasn't got any wind to spare, I'd
run him for a wager, see how he gapes like a fish out of water."

The poor shopkeeper felt indeed like a fish out of water, and as he
afterwards declared he felt just as if he had had a red hot clock weight
thrust into the midst of his stomach and there left to cool.

However, the grocer would be revenged upon his tormentor, who had now
lost sight of him, but the fat man, after a time, recovering his wind,
and the pain in his stomach becoming less intense, he gathered himself
up.

"My name ain't Jones," he muttered, "if I don't be one to his one for
that; I'll do something that shall make him remember what it is to
insult a respectable tradesman. I'll never forgive such an insult. It is
dark, and that's why it is he has dared to do this."

Filled with dire thoughts and a spirit of revenge, he looked from side
to side to see with what he could effect his object, but could espy
nothing.

"It's shameful," he muttered; "what would I give for a little retort.
I'd plaster his ugly countenance."

As he spoke, he placed his hands on some pales to rest himself, when he
found that they stuck to them, the pales had that day been newly
pitched.

A bright idea now struck him.

"If I could only get a handful of this stuff," he thought, "I should be
able to serve him out for serving me out. I will, cost what it may; I'm
resolved upon that. I'll not have my wind knocked out, and my inside set
on fire for nothing. No, no; I'll be revenged on him."

With this view he felt over the pales, and found that he could scrape
off a little only, but not with his hands; indeed, it only plastered
them; he, therefore, marched about for something to scrape it off with.

"Ah; I have a knife, a large pocket knife, that will do, that is the
sort of thing I want."

He immediately commenced feeling for it, but had scarcely got his hand
into his pocket when he found there would be a great difficulty in
either pushing it in further or withdrawing it altogether, for the pitch
made it difficult to do either, and his pocket stuck to his hands like a
glove.

"D--n it," said the grocer, "who would have thought of that? here's a
pretty go, curse that fellow, he is the cause of all this; I'll be
revenged upon him, if it's a year hence."

The enraged grocer drew his hand out, but was unable to effect his
object in withdrawing the knife also; but he saw something shining, he
stooped to pick it up, exclaiming as he did so, in a gratified tone of
voice,

"Ah, here's something that will do better."

As he made a grasp at it, he found he had inserted his hand into
something soft.

"God bless me! what now?"

He pulled his hand hastily away, and found that it stuck slightly, and
then he saw what it was.

"Ay, ay, the very thing. Surely it must have been placed here on purpose
by the people."

The fact was, he had placed his hand into a pot of pitch that had been
left by the people who had been at work at pitching the pales, but had
been attracted by the fire at Sir Francis Varney's, and to see which
they had left their work, and the pitch was left on a smouldering peat
fire, so that when Mr. Jones, the grocer, accidentally put his hand into
it he found it just warm.

When he made this discovery he dabbed his hand again into the pitch-pot,
exclaiming,--

"In for a penny, in for a pound."

And he endeavoured to secure as large a handful of the slippery and
sticky stuff as he could, and this done he set off to come up with the
big countryman who had done him so much indignity and made his stomach
uncomfortable.

He soon came up with him, for the man had stopped rather behind, and was
larking, as it is called, with some men, to whom he was a companion.

He had slipped down a bank, and was partially sitting down on the soft
mud. In his bustle, the little grocer came down with a slide, close to
the big countryman.

"Ah--ah! my little grocer," said the countryman, holding out his hand to
catch him, and drawing him towards himself. "You will come and sit down
by the side of your old friend."

As he spoke, he endeavoured to pull Mr. Jones down, too; but that
individual only replied by fetching the countryman a swinging smack
across the face with the handful of pitch.

"There, take that; and now we are quits; we shall be old friends after
this, eh? Are you satisfied? You'll remember me, I'll warrant."

As the grocer spoke, he rubbed his hands over the face of the fallen
man, and then rushed from the spot with all the haste he could make.

The countryman sat a moment or two confounded, cursing, and swearing,
and spluttering, vowing vengeance, believing that it was mud only that
had been plastered over his face; but when he put his hands up, and
found out what it was, he roared and bellowed like a town-bull.

He cried out to his companions that his eyes were pitched: but they only
laughed at him, thinking he was having some foolish lark with them.

It was next day before he got home, for he wandered about all night: and
it took him a week to wash the pitch off by means of grease; and ever
afterwards he recollected the pitching of his face; nor did he ever
forget the grocer.

Thus it was the whole party returned a long while after dark across the
fields, with all the various accidents that were likely to befal such an
assemblage of people.

The vampyre hunting cost many of them dear, for clothes were injured on
all sides: hats lost, and shoes missing in a manner that put some of the
rioters to much inconvenience. Soon afterwards, the military retired to
their quarters; and the townspeople at length became tranquil and
nothing more was heard or done that night.




CHAPTER LVI.

THE DEPARTURE OF THE BANNERWORTHS FROM THE HALL.--THE NEW ABODE.--JACK
PRINGLE, PILOT.


[Illustration]

During that very evening, on which the house of Sir Francis Varney was
fired by the mob, another scene, and one of different character, was
enacted at Bannerworth Hall, where the owners of that ancient place were
departing from it.

It was towards the latter part of the day, that Flora Bannerworth, Mrs.
Bannerworth, and Henry Bannerworth, were preparing themselves to depart
from the house of their ancestors. The intended proprietor was, as we
have already been made acquainted with, the old admiral, who had taken
the place somewhat mysteriously, considering the way in which he usually
did business.

The admiral was walking up and down the lawn before the house, and
looking up at the windows every now and then; and turning to Jack
Pringle, he said,--

"Jack, you dog."

"Ay--ay, sir."

"Mind you convoy these women into the right port; do you hear? and no
mistaking the bearings; do you hear?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"These crafts want care; and you are pilot, commander, and all; so mind
and keep your weather eye open."

"Ay, ay, sir. I knows the craft well enough, and I knows the roads, too;
there'll be no end of foundering against the breakers to find where they
lie."

"No, no, Jack; you needn't do that; but mind your bearings. Jack, mind
your bearings."

"Never fear; I know 'em, well enough; my eyes ain't laid up in ordinary
yet."

"Eh? What do you mean by that, you dog, eh?"

"Nothing; only I can see without helps to read, or glasses either; so I
know one place from another."

There was now some one moving within; and the admiral, followed by Jack
Pringle, entered the Hall. Henry Bannerworth was there. They were all
ready to go when the coach came for them, which the admiral had ordered
for them.

"Jack, you lubber; where are you?"

"Ay, ay, sir, here am I."

"Go, and station yourself up in some place where you can keep a good
look-out for the coach, and come and report when you see it."

"Ay--ay, sir," said Jack, and away he went from the room, and stationed
himself up in one of the trees, that commanded a good view of the main
road for some distance.

"Admiral Bell," said Henry, "here we are, trusting implicitly to you;
and in doing so, I am sure I am doing right."

"You will see that," said the admiral. "All's fair and honest as yet;
and what is to come, will speak for itself."

"I hope you won't suffer from any of these nocturnal visits," said
Henry.

"I don't much care about them; but old Admiral Bell don't strike his
colours to an enemy, however ugly he may look. No, no; it must be a
better craft than his own that'll take him; and one who won't run away,
but that will grapple yard-arm and yard-arm, you know."

"Why, admiral, you must have seen many dangers in your time, and be used
to all kinds of disturbances and conflicts. You have had a life of
experience."

"Yes; and experience has come pretty thick sometimes, I can tell you,
when it comes in the shape of Frenchmen's broadsides."

"I dare say, then, it must be rather awkward."

"Death by the law," said the admiral, "to stop one of them with your
head, I assure you. I dare not make the attempt myself, though I have
often seen it done."

"I dare say; but here are Flora and my mother."

As he spoke, Flora and her mother entered the apartment.

"Well, admiral, we are all ready; and, though I may feel somewhat sorry
at leaving the old Hall, yet it arises from attachment to the place, and
not any disinclination to be beyond the reach of these dreadful alarms."

"And I, too, shall be by no means sorry," said Flora; "I am sure it is
some gratification to know we leave a friend here, rather than some
others, who would have had the place, if they could have got it, by any
means."

"Ah, that's true enough, Miss Flora," said the admiral; "but we'll run
the enemy down yet, depend upon it. But once away, you will be free from
these terrors; and now, as you have promised, do not let yourselves be
seen any where at all."

"You have our promises, admiral; and they shall be religiously kept, I
can assure you."

"Boat, ahoy--ahoy!" shouted Jack.

"What boat?" said the admiral, surprised; and then he muttered,
"Confound you for a lubber! Didn't I tell you to mind your bearings, you
dog-fish you?"

"Ay, ay, sir--and so I did."

"You did."

"Yes, here they are. Squint over the larboard bulk-heads, as they call
walls, and then atween the two trees on the starboard side of the
course, then straight ahead for a few hundred fathoms, when you come to
a funnel as is smoking like the crater of Mount Vesuvius, and then in a
line with that on the top of the hill, comes our boat."

"Well," said the admiral, "that'll do. Now go open the gates, and keep a
bright look out, and if you see anybody near your watch, why douse their
glim."

"Ay--ay, sir," said Jack, and he disappeared.

"Rather a lucid description," said Henry, as he thought of Jack's report
to the admiral.

"Oh, it's a seaman's report. I know what he means; it's quicker and
plainer than the land lingo, to my ears, and Jack can't talk any other,
you see."

By this time the coach came into the yard, and the whole party descended
into the court-yard, where they came to take leave of the old place.

"Farewell, admiral."

"Good bye," said the admiral. "I hope the place you are going to will be
such as please you--I hope it will."

"I am sure we shall endeavour to be pleased with it, and I am pretty
sure we shall."

"Good bye."

"Farewell, Admiral Bell," said Henry.

"You remember your promises?"

"I do. Good bye, Mr. Chillingworth."

"Good bye," said Mr. Chillingworth, who came up to bid them farewell; "a
pleasant journey, and may you all be the happier for it."

"You do not come with us?"

"No; I have some business of importance to attend to, else I should have
the greatest pleasure in doing so. But good bye; we shall not be long
apart, I dare say."

"I hope not," said Henry.

The door of the carriage was shut by the admiral, who looked round,
saying,--

"Jack--Jack Pringle, where are you, you dog?"

"Here am I," said Jack.

"Where have you been to?"

"Only been for pigtail," said Jack. "I forgot it, and couldn't set sail
without it."

"You dog you; didn't I tell you to mind your bearings?"

"So I will," said Jack, "fore and aft--fore and aft, admiral."

"You had better," said the admiral, who, however, relaxed into a broad
grin, which he concealed from Jack Pringle.

Jack mounted the coach-box, and away it went, just as it was getting
dark. The old admiral had locked up all the rooms in the presence of
Henry Bannerworth; and when the coach had gone out of sight, Mr.
Chillingworth came back to the Hall, where he joined the admiral.

"Well," he said, "they are gone, Admiral Bell, and we are alone; we have
a clear stage and no favour."

"The two things of all others I most desire. Now, they will be strangers
where they are going to, and that will be something gained. I will
endeavour to do some thing if I get yard-arm and yard-arm with these
pirates. I'll make 'em feel the weight of true metal; I'll board
'em--d----e, I'll do everything."

"Everything that can be done."

"Ay--ay."

       *       *       *       *       *

The coach in which the family of the Bannerworths were carried away
continued its course without any let or hindrance, and they met no one
on their road during the whole drive. The fact was, nearly everybody was
at the conflagration at Sir Francis Varney's house.

Flora knew not which way they were going, and, after a time, all trace
of the road was lost. Darkness set in, and they all sat in silence in
the coach.

At length, after some time had been spent thus, Flora Bannerworth turned
to Jack Pringle, and said,--

"Are we near, or have we much further to go?"

"Not very much, ma'am," said Jack. "All's right, however--ship in the
direct course, and no breakers ahead--no lookout necessary; however
there's a land-lubber aloft to keep a look out."

As this was not very intelligible, and Jack seemed to have his own
reasons for silence, they asked him no further questions; but in about
three-quarters of an hour, during which time the coach had been driving
through the trees, they came to a standstill by a sudden pull of the
check-string from Jack, who said,--

"Hilloa!--take in sails, and drop anchor."

"Is this the place?"

"Yes, here we are," said Jack; "we're in port now, at all events;" and
he began to sing,--

    "The trials and the dangers of the voyage is past,"

when the coach door opened, and they all got out and looked about them
where they were.

"Up the garden if you please, ma'am--as quick as you can; the night air
is very cold."

Flora and her mother and brother took the hint, which was meant by Jack
to mean that they were not to be seen outside. They at once entered a
pretty garden, and then they came to a very neat and picturesque
cottage. They had no time to look up at it, as the door was immediately
opened by an elderly female, who was intended to wait upon them.

Soon after, Jack Pringle and the coachman entered the passage with the
small amount of luggage which they had brought with them. This was
deposited in the passage, and then Jack went out again, and, after a few
minutes, there was the sound of wheels, which intimated that the coach
had driven off.

Jack, however, returned in a few minutes afterwards, having secured the
wicket-gate at the end of the garden, and then entered the house,
shutting the door carefully after him.

Flora and her mother looked over the apartments in which they were shown
with some surprise. It was, in everything, such as they could wish;
indeed, though it could not be termed handsomely or extravagantly
furnished, or that the things were new, yet, there was all that
convenience and comfort could require, and some little of the luxuries.

"Well," said Flora, "this is very thoughtful of the admiral. The place
will really be charming, and the garden, too, delightful."

"Mustn't be made use of just now," said Jack, "if you please, ma'am;
them's the orders at present."

"Very well," said Flora, smiling. "I suppose, Mr. Pringle, we must obey
them."

"Jack Pringle, if you please," said Jack. "My commands only temporary. I
ain't got a commission."




CHAPTER LVII.

THE LONELY WATCH, AND THE ADVENTURE IN THE DESERTED HOUSE.


[Illustration]

It is now quite night, and so peculiar and solemn a stillness reigns in
and about Bannerworth Hall and its surrounding grounds, that one might
have supposed it a place of the dead, deserted completely after sunset
by all who would still hold kindred with the living. There was not a
breath of air stirring, and this circumstance added greatly to the
impression of profound repose which the whole scene exhibited.

The wind during the day had been rather of a squally character, but
towards nightfall, as is often usual after a day of such a character, it
had completely lulled, and the serenity of the scene was unbroken even
by the faintest sigh from a wandering zephyr.

The moon rose late at that period, and as is always the case at that
interval between sunset and the rising of that luminary which makes the
night so beautiful, the darkness was of the most profound character.

It was one of those nights to produce melancholy reflections--a night on
which a man would be apt to review his past life, and to look into the
hidden recesses of his soul to see if conscience could make a coward of
him in the loneliness and stillness that breathed around.

It was one of those nights in which wanderers in the solitude of nature
feel that the eye of Heaven is upon them, and on which there seems to be
a more visible connection between the world and its great Creator than
upon ordinary occasions.

The solemn and melancholy appear places once instinct with life, when
deserted by those familiar forms and faces that have long inhabited
them. There is no desert, no uninhabited isle in the far ocean, no wild,
barren, pathless tract of unmitigated sterility, which could for one
moment compare in point of loneliness and desolation to a deserted city.

Strip London, mighty and majestic as it is, of the busy swarm of
humanity that throng its streets, its suburbs, its temples, its public
edifices, and its private dwellings, and how awful would be the walk of
one solitary man throughout its noiseless thoroughfares.

[Illustration]

If madness seized not upon him ere he had been long the sole survivor of
a race, it would need be cast in no common mould.

And to descend from great things to smaller--from the huge leviathan
city to one mansion far removed from the noise and bustle of
conventional life, we way imagine the sort of desolation that reigned
through Bannerworth Hall, when, for the first time, after nearly a
hundred and fifty years of occupation, it was deserted by the
representatives of that family, so many members of which had lived and
died beneath its roof. The house, and everything within, without, and
around it, seemed actually to sympathize with its own desolation and
desertion.

It seemed as if twenty years of continued occupation could not have
produced such an effect upon the ancient edifice as had those few hours
of neglect and desertion.

And yet it was not as if it had been stripped of those time-worn and
ancient relics of ornament and furnishing that so long had appertained
to it. No, nothing but the absence of those forms which had been
accustomed quietly to move from room to room, and to be met here upon a
staircase, there upon a corridor, and even in some of the ancient
panelled apartments, which give it an air of dreary repose and
listlessness.

The shutters, too, were all closed, and that circumstance contributed
largely to the production of that gloomy effect which otherwise could
not have ensued.

In fact, what could be done without attracting very special observation
was done to prove to any casual observer that the house was untenanted.

But such was not really the case. In that very room where the much
dreaded Varney the vampyre had made one of his dreaded appearances to
Flora Bannerworth and her mother, sat two men.

It was from that apartment that Flora had discharged the pistol, which
had been left to her by her brother, and the shot from which it was
believed by the whole family had most certainly taken effect upon the
person of the vampyre.

It was a room peculiarly accessible from the gardens, for it had long
French windows opening to the very ground, and but a stone step
intervened between the flooring of the apartment and a broad gravel walk
which wound round that entire portion of the house.

It was in this room, then, that two men sat in silence, and nearly in
darkness.

Before them, and on a table, were several articles of refreshment, as
well of defence and offence, according as their intentions might be.

There were a bottle and three glasses, and lying near the elbow of one
of the men was a large pair of pistols, such as might have adorned the
belt of some desperate character, who wished to instil an opinion of his
prowess into his foes by the magnitude of his weapons.

Close at hand, by the same party, lay some more modern fire arms, as
well as a long dirk, with a silver mounted handle.

The light they had consisted of a large lantern, so constructed with a
slide, that it could be completely obscured at a moment's notice; but
now as it was placed, the rays that were allowed to come from it were
directed as much from the window of the apartment, as possible, and fell
upon the faces of the two men, revealing them to be Admiral Bell and Dr.
Chillingworth.

It might have been the effect of the particular light in which he sat,
but the doctor looked extremely pale, and did not appear at all at his
ease.

The admiral, on the contrary, appeared in as placable a state of mind as
possible and had his arms folded across his breast, and his head shrunk
down between his shoulders as if he had made up his mind to something
that was to last a long time, and, therefore he was making the best of
it.

"I do hope," said Mr. Chillingworth, after a long pause, "that our
efforts will be crowned with success--you know, my dear sir, that I have
always been of your opinion, that there was a great deal more in this
matter than met the eye."

"To be sure," said the admiral, "and as to our efforts being crowned
with success, why, I'll give you a toast, doctor, 'may the morning's
reflection provide for the evening's amusement.'"

"Ha! ha!" said Chillingworth, faintly; "I'd rather not drink any more,
and you seem, admiral, to have transposed the toast in some way. I
believe it runs, 'may the evening's amusement bear the morning's
reflection.'"

"Transpose the devil!" said the admiral; "what do I care how it runs? I
gave you my toast, and as to that you mention, it's another one
altogether, and a sneaking, shore-going one too: but why don't you
drink?"

"Why, my dear sir, medically speaking, I am strongly of opinion that,
when the human stomach is made to contain a large quantity of alcohol,
it produces bad effects upon the system. Now, I've certainly taken one
glass of this infernally strong Hollands, and it is now lying in my
stomach like the red-hot heater of a tea-urn."

"Is it? put it out with another, then."

"Ay, I'm afraid that would not answer, but do you really think, admiral,
that we shall effect anything by waiting here, and keeping watch and
ward, not under the most comfortable circumstances, this first night of
the Hall being empty."

"Well, I don't know that we shall," said the admiral; "but when you
really want to steal a march upon the enemy, there is nothing like
beginning betimes. We are both of opinion that Varney's great object
throughout has been, by some means or another, to get possession of the
house."

"Yes; true, true."

"We know that he has been unceasing in his endeavours to get the
Bannerworth family out of it; that he has offered them their own price
to become its tenant, and that the whole gist of his quiet and placid
interview with Flora in the garden, was to supply her with a new set of
reasons for urging her mother and brother to leave Bannerworth Hall,
because the old ones were certainly not found sufficient."

"True, true, most true," said Mr. Chillingworth, emphatically. "You
know, sir, that from the first time you broached that view of the
subject to me, how entirely I coincided with you."

"Of course you did, for you are a honest fellow, and a right-thinking
fellow, though you are a doctor, and I don't know that I like doctors
much better than I like lawyers--they're only humbugs in a different
sort of way. But I wish to be liberal; there is such a thing as an
honest lawyer, and, d----e, you're an honest doctor!"

"Of course I'm much obliged, admiral, for your good opinion. I only wish
it had struck me to bring something of a solid nature in the shape of
food, to sustain the waste of the animal economy during the hours we
shall have to wait here."

"Don't trouble yourself about that," said the admiral. "Do you think I'm
a donkey, and would set out on a cruise without victualling my ship? I
should think not. Jack Pringle will be here soon, and he has my orders
to bring in something to eat."

"Well," said the doctor, "that's very provident of you, admiral, and I
feel personally obliged; but tell me, how do you intend to conduct the
watch?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why, I mean, if we sit here with the window fastened so as to prevent
our light from being seen, and the door closed, how are we by any
possibility to know if the house is attacked or not?"

"Hark'ee, my friend," said the admiral; "I've left a weak point for the
enemy."

"A what, admiral?"

"A weak point. I've taken good care to secure everything but one of the
windows on the ground floor, and that I've left open, or so nearly open,
that it will look like the most natural place in the world to get in at.
Now, just inside that window, I've placed a lot of the family crockery.
I'll warrant, if anybody so much as puts his foot in, you'll hear the
smash;--and, d----e, there it is!"

There was a loud crash at this moment, followed by a succession of
similar sounds, but of a lesser degree; and both the admiral and Mr.
Chillingworth sprung to their feet.

"Come on," cried the former; "here'll be a precious row--take the
lantern."

Mr. Chillingworth did so, but he did not seem possessed of a great deal
of presence of mind; for, before they got out of the room, he twice
accidentally put on the dark slide, and produced a total darkness.

"D--n!" said the admiral; "don't make it wink and wink in that way; hold
it up, and run after me as hard as you can."

"I'm coming, I'm coming," said Mr. Chillingworth.

It was one of the windows of a long room, containing five, fronting the
garden, which the admiral had left purposely unguarded; and it was not
far from the apartment in which they had been sitting, so that,
probably, not half a minute's time elapsed between the moment of the
first alarm, and their reaching the spot from whence it was presumed to
arise.

The admiral had armed himself with one of the huge pistols, and he
dashed forward, with all the vehemence of his character, towards the
window, where he knew he had placed the family crockery, and where he
fully expected to meet the reward of his exertion by discovering some
one lying amid its fragments.

In this, however, he was disappointed; for, although there was evidently
a great smash amongst the plates and dishes, the window remained closed,
and there was no indication whatever of the presence of any one.

"Well, that's odd," said the admiral; "I balanced them up amazingly
careful, and two of 'em edgeways--d---e, a fly would have knocked them
down."

"Mew," said, a great cat, emerging from under a chair.

"Curse you, there you are," said the admiral. "Put out the light, put
out the light; here we're illuminating the whole house for nothing."

With, a click went the darkening slide over the lantern, and all was
obscurity.

At that instant a shrill, clear whistle came from the garden.




CHAPTER LVIII.

THE ARRIVAL OF JACK PRINGLE.--MIDNIGHT AND THE VAMPYRE.--THE MYSTERIOUS
HAT.


[Illustration]

"Bless me! what is that?" said Mr. Chillingworth; "what a very singular
sound."

"Hold your noise," said the admiral; "did you never hear that before?"

"No; how should I?"

"Lor, bless the ignorance of some people, that's a boatswain's call."

"Oh, it is," said Mr. Chillingworth; "is he going to call again?"

"D----e, I tell ye it's a boatswain's call."

"Well, then, d----e, if it comes to that," said Mr. Chillingworth, "what
does he call here for?"

The admiral disdained an answer; but demanding the lantern, he opened
it, so that there was a sufficient glimmering of light to guide him, and
then walked from the room towards the front door of the Hall.

He asked no questions before he opened it, because, no doubt, the signal
was preconcerted; and Jack Pringle, for it was he indeed who had
arrived, at once walked in, and the admiral barred the door with the
same precision with which it was before secured.

"Well, Jack," he said, "did you see anybody?"

"Ay, ay, sir," said Jack.

"Why, ye don't mean that--where?"

"Where I bought the grub; a woman--"

"D----e, you're a fool, Jack."

"You're another."

"Hilloa, ye scoundrel, what d'ye mean by talking to me in that way? is
this your respect for your superiors?"

"Ship's been paid off long ago," said Jack, "and I ain't got no
superiors. I ain't a marine or a Frenchman."

"Why, you're drunk."

"I know it; put that in your eye."

"There's a scoundrel. Why, you know-nothing-lubber, didn't I tell you to
be careful, and that everything depended upon secrecy and caution? and
didn't I tell you, above all this, to avoid drink?"

"To be sure you did."

"And yet you come here like a rum cask."

"Yes; now you've had your say, what then?"

"You'd better leave him alone," said Mr. Chillingworth; "it's no use
arguing with a drunken man."

"Harkye, admiral," said Jack, steadying himself as well as he could.
"I've put up with you a precious long while, but I won't no longer;
you're so drunk, now, that you keeping bobbing up and down like the
mizen gaff in a storm--that's my opinion--tol de rol."

"Let him alone, let him alone," urged Mr. Chillingworth.

"The villain," said the admiral; "he's enough to ruin everything; now,
who would have thought that? but it's always been the way with him for a
matter of twenty years--he never had any judgment in his drink. When it
was all smooth sailing, and nothing to do, and the fellow might have got
an extra drop on board, which nobody would have cared for, he's as sober
as a judge; but, whenever there's anything to do, that wants a little
cleverness, confound him, he ships rum enough to float a seventy-four."

"Are you going to stand anything to drink," said Jack, "my old buffer?
Do you recollect where you got your knob scuttled off Beyrout--how you
fell on your latter end and tried to recollect your church cateckis, you
old brute?--I's ashamed of you. Do you recollect the brown girl you
bought for thirteen bob and a tanner, at the blessed Society Islands,
and sold her again for a dollar, to a nigger seven feet two, in his
natural pumps? you're a nice article, you is, to talk of marines and
swabs, and shore-going lubbers, blow yer. Do you recollect the little
Frenchman that told ye he'd pull your blessed nose, and I advised you to
soap it? do you recollect Sall at Spithead, as you got in at a port hole
of the state cabin, all but her behind?"

"Death and the devil!" said the admiral, breaking from the grasp of Mr.
Chillingworth.

"Ay," said Jack, "you'll come to 'em both one of these days, old cock,
and no mistake."

"I'll have his life, I'll have his life," roared the admiral.

"Nay, nay, sir," said Mr. Chillingworth, catching the admiral round the
waist. "My dear sir, recollect, now, if I may venture to advise you,
Admiral Bell, there's a lot of that fiery hollands you know, in the next
room; set firm down to that, and finish him off. I'll warrant him, he'll
be quiet enough."

"What's that you say?" cried Jack--"hollands!--who's got any?--next to
rum and Elizabeth Baker, if I has an affection, it's hollands."

"Jack!" said the admiral.

"Ay, ay, sir!" said Jack, instinctively.

"Come this way."

Jack staggered after him, and they all reached the room where the
admiral and Mr. Chillingworth had been sitting before the alarm.

"There!" said the admiral, putting the light upon the table, and
pointing to the bottle; "what do you think of that?"

"I never thinks under such circumstances," said Jack. "Here's to the
wooden walls of old England!"

He seized the bottle, and, putting its neck into his mouth, for a few
moments nothing was heard but a gurgling sound of the liquor passing
down his throat; his head went further and further back, until, at last,
over he went, chair and bottle and all, and lay in a helpless state of
intoxication on the floor.

"So far, so good," said the admiral. "He's out of the way, at all
events."

"I'll just loosen his neckcloth," said Mr. Chillingworth, "and then
we'll go and sit somewhere else; and I should recommend that, if
anywhere, we take up our station in that chamber, once Flora's, where
the mysterious panelled portrait hangs, that bears so strong a
resemblance to Varney, the vampyre."

"Hush!" said the admiral. "What's that?"

They listened for a moment intently; and then, distinctly, upon the
gravel path outside the window, they heard a footstep, as if some person
were walking along, not altogether heedlessly, but yet without any very
great amount of caution or attention to the noise he might make.

"Hist!" said the doctor. "Not a word. They come."

"What do you say they for?" said the admiral.

"Because something seems to whisper me that Mr. Marchdale knows more of
Varney, the vampyre, than ever he has chosen to reveal. Put out the
light."

"Yes, yes--that'll do. The moon has risen; see how it streams through
the chinks of the shutters."

"No, no--it's not in that direction, or our light would have betrayed
us. Do you not see the beams come from that half glass-door leading to
the greenhouse?"

"Yes; and there's the footstep again, or another."

Tramp, tramp came a footfall again upon the gravel path, and, as before,
died away upon their listening ears.

"What do you say now," said Mr. Chillingworth--"are there not two?"

"If they were a dozen," said the admiral, "although we have lost one of
our force, I would tackle them. Let's creep on through the rooms in the
direction the footsteps went."

"My life on it," said Mr. Chillingworth as they left the apartment, "if
this be Varney, he makes for that apartment where Flora slept, and which
he knows how to get admission to. I've studied the house well, admiral,
and to get to that window any one from here outside must take a
considerable round. Come on--we shall be beforehand."

"A good idea--a good idea. Be it so."

Just allowing themselves sufficient light to guide them on the way from
the lantern, they hurried on with as much precipitation as the
intricacies of the passage would allow, nor halted till they had reached
the chamber were hung the portrait which bore so striking and remarkable
a likeness to Varney, the vampyre.

They left the lamp outside the door, so that not even a straggling beam
from it could betray that there were persons on the watch; and then, as
quietly as foot could fall, they took up their station among the
hangings of the antique bedstead, which has been before alluded to in
this work as a remarkable piece of furniture appertaining to that
apartment.

"Do you think," said the admiral, "we've distanced them?"

"Certainly we have. It's unlucky that the blind of the window is down."

"Is it? By Heaven, there's a d----d strange-looking shadow creeping over
it."

Mr. Chillingworth looked almost with suspended breath. Even he could not
altogether get rid of a tremulous feeling, as he saw that the shadow of
a human form, apparently of very large dimensions, was on the outside,
with the arms spread out, as if feeling for some means of opening the
window.

It would have been easy now to have fired one of the pistols direct upon
the figure; but, somehow or another, both the admiral and Mr.
Chillingworth shrank from that course, and they felt much rather
inclined to capture whoever might make his appearance, only using their
pistols as a last resource, than gratuitously and at once to resort to
violence.

"Who should you say that was?" whispered the admiral.

"Varney, the vampyre."

"D----e, he's ill-looking and big enough for anything--there's a noise!"

There was a strange cracking sound at the window, as if a pane of glass
was being very stealthily and quietly broken; and then the blind was
agitated slightly, confusing much the shadow that was cast upon it, as
if the hand of some person was introduced for the purpose of effecting a
complete entrance into the apartment.

"He's coming in," whispered the admiral.

"Hush, for Heaven's sake!" said Mr. Chillingworth; "you will alarm him,
and we shall lose the fruit of all the labour we have already bestowed
upon the matter; but did you not say something, admiral, about lying
under the window and catching him by the leg?"

"Why, yes; I did."

"Go and do it, then; for, as sure as you are a living man, his leg will
be in in a minute."

"Here goes," said the admiral; "I never suggest anything which I'm
unwilling to do myself."

Whoever it was that now was making such strenuous exertions to get into
the apartment seemed to find some difficulty as regarded the fastenings
of the window, and as this difficulty increased, the patience of the
party, as well as his caution deserted him, and the casement was rattled
with violence.

With a far greater amount of caution than any one from a knowledge of
his character would have given him credit for, the admiral crept forward
and laid himself exactly under the window.

The depth of wood-work from the floor to the lowest part of the
window-frame did not exceed above two feet; to that any one could
conveniently step in from the balcony outride on to the floor of the
apartment, which was just what he who was attempting to effect an
entrance was desirous of doing.

It was quite clear that, be he who he might, mortal or vampyre, he had
some acquaintance with the fastening of the window; for now he succeeded
in moving it, and the sash was thrown open.

The blind was still an obstacle; but a vigorous pull from the intruder
brought that down on the prostrate admiral; and then Mr. Chillingworth
saw, by the moonlight, a tall, gaunt figure standing in the balcony, as
if just hesitating for a moment whether to get head first or feet first
into the apartment.

H