“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.
THE CONSULTATION.—THE DETERMINATION TO LEAVE THE HALL.
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.