“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.
“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.