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.”
THE ADMIRAL’S OPINION.—THE REQUEST OF CHARLES.
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.”
“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?”
“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.”