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Varney the Vampire Or the Feast of Blood online

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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; so 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.

Had he chosen the former alternative he would need, indeed, to have been
endowed with more than mortal powers of defence and offence to escape
capture, but his lucky star was in the ascendancy, and he put his foot
in first.

He turned his side to the apartment and, as he did so, the blight
moonlight fell upon his face, enabling Mr. Chillingworth to see, without
the shadow of a doubt, that it was, indeed, Varney, the vampyre, who was
thus stealthily making his entrance into Bannerworth Hall, according to
the calculation which had been made by the admiral upon that subject.
The doctor scarcely knew whether to be pleased or not at this discovery;
it was almost a terrifying one, sceptical as he was upon the subject of
vampyres, and he waited breathless for the issue of the singular and
perilous adventure.

No doubt Admiral Bell deeply congratulated himself upon the success
which was about to crown his stratagem for the capture of the intruder,
be he who he might, and he writhed with impatience for the foot to come
sufficiently near him to enable him to grasp it.

His patience was not severely tried, for in another moment it rested
upon his chest.

"Boarders a hoy!" shouted the admiral, and at once he laid hold of the
trespasser. "Yard-arm to yard-arm, I think I've got you now. Here's a
prize, doctor! he shall go away without his leg if he goes away now. Eh!
what! the light - d - - e, he has - Doctor, the light! the light! Why
what's this? - Hilloa, there!"

Dr. Chillingworth sprang into the passage, and procured the light - in
another moment he was at the side of the admiral, and the lantern slide
being thrown back, he saw at once the dilemma into which his friend had
fallen.

There he lay upon his back, grasping, with the vehemence of an embrace
that had in it much of the ludicrous, a long boot, from which the
intruder had cleverly slipped his leg, leaving it as a poor trophy in
the hands of his enemies.

"Why you've only pulled his boot off," said the doctor; "and now he's
gone for good, for he knows what we're about, and has slipped through
your fingers."

Admiral Bell sat up and looked at the boot with a rueful countenance.

"Done again!" he said.

"Yes, you are done," said the doctor; "why didn't you lay hold of the
leg while you were about it, instead of the boot? Admiral, are these
your tactics?"

"Don't be a fool," said the admiral; "put out the light and give me the
pistols, or blaze away yourself into the garden; a chance shot may do
something. It's no use running after him; a stern chase is a long chase;
but fire away."

As if some parties below had heard him give the word, two loud reports
from the garden immediately ensued, and a crash of glass testified to
the fact that some deadly missile had entered the room.

"Murder!" said the doctor, and he fell flat upon his back. "I don't like
this at all; it's all in your line, admiral, but not in mine."

"All's right, my lad," said the admiral; "now for it."

He saw lying in the moonlight the pistols which he and the doctor had
brought into the room, and in another moment he, to use his own words,
returned the broadside of the enemy.

"D - n it!" he said, "this puts me in mind of old times. Blaze away, you
thieves, while I load; broadside to broadside. It's your turn now; I
scorn to take an advantage. What the devil's that?"

Something very large and very heavy came bang against the window,
sending it all into the room, and nearly smothering the admiral with the
fragments. Another shot was then fired, and in came something else,
which hit the wall on the opposite side of the room, rebounding from
thence on to the doctor, who gave a yell of despair.

After that all was still; the enemy seemed to be satisfied that they had
silenced the garrison. And it took the admiral a great deal of kicking
and plunging to rescue himself from some superincumbent mass that was
upon him, which seemed to him to be a considerable sized tree.

"Call this fair fighting," he shouted - "getting a man's legs and arms
tangled up like a piece of Indian matting in the branches of a tree?
Doctor, I say! hilloa! where are you?"

"I don't know," said the doctor; "but there's somebody getting into the
balcony - now we shall be murdered in cold blood!"

"Where's the pistols?"

"Fired off, of course; you did it yourself."

Bang came something else into the room, which, from the sound it made,
closely resembled a brick, and after that somebody jumped clean into the
centre of the floor, and then, after rolling and writhing about in a
most singular manner, slowly got up, and with various preliminary
hiccups, said, -

"Come on, you lubbers, many of you as like. I'm the tar for all
weathers."

"Why, d - - e," said the admiral, "it's Jack Pringle."

"Yes, it is," said Jack, who was not sufficiently sober to recognise the
admiral's voice. "I sees as how you've heard of me. Come on, all of
you."

"Why, Jack, you scoundrel," roared the admiral, "how came you here?
Don't you know me? I'm your admiral, you horse-marine."

"Eh?" said Jack. "Ay - ay, sir, how came you here?"

"How came you, you villain?"

"Boarded the enemy."

"The enemy who you boarded was us; and hang me if I don't think you
haven't been pouring broadsides into us, while the enemy were scudding
before the wind in another direction."

"Lor!" said Jack.

"Explain, you scoundrel, directly - explain."

"Well, that's only reasonable," said Jack; and giving a heavier lurch
than usual, he sat down with a great bounce upon the floor. "You see
it's just this here, - when I was a coming of course I heard, just as I
was a going, that ere as made me come all in consequence of somebody a
going, or for to come, you see, admiral."

"Doctor," cried the admiral, in a great rage, "just help me out of this
entanglement of branches, and I'll rid the world from an encumbrance by
smashing that fellow."

"Smash yourself!" said Jack. "You know you're drunk."

"My dear admiral," said Mr. Chillingworth, laying hold of one of his
legs, and pulling it very hard, which brought his face into a lot of
brambles, "we're making a mess of this business."

"Murder!" shouted the admiral; "you are indeed. Is that what you call
pulling me out of it? You've stuck me fast."

"I'll manage it," said Jack. "I've seed him in many a scrape, and I've
seed him out. You pull me, doctor, and I'll pull him. Yo hoy!"

Jack laid hold of the admiral by the scuff of the neck, and the doctor
laid hold of Jack round the waist, the consequence of which was that he
was dragged out from the branches of the tree, which seemed to have been
thrown into the room, and down fell both Jack and the doctor.

At this instant there was a strange hissing sound heard below the
window; then there was a sudden, loud report, as if a hand-grenade had
gone off. A spectral sort of light gleamed into the room, and a tall,
gaunt-looking figure rose slowly up in the balcony.

"Beware of the dead!" said a voice. "Let the living contend with the
living, the dead with the dead. Beware!"

The figure disappeared, as did also the strange, spectral-looking light.
A death-like silence ensued, and the cold moonbeams streamed in upon the
floor of the apartment, as if nothing had occurred to disturb the
wrapped repose and serenity of the scene.




CHAPTER LIX.

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


[Illustration]

So much of the night had been consumed in these operations, that by the
time they were over, and the three personages who lay upon the floor of
what might be called the haunted chamber of Bannerworth Hall, even had
they now been disposed to seek repose, would have had a short time to do
so before the daylight would have streamed in upon them, and roused them
to the bustle of waking existence.

It may be well believed what a vast amount of surprise came over the



Online LibraryThomas Preskett PrestVarney the Vampire Or the Feast of Blood → online text (page 41 of 75)