“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.”
THE LETTER TO CHARLES.—THE QUARREL.—THE ADMIRAL’S NARRATIVE.—THE MIDNIGHT MEETING.
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.”
“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.”
“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?”