SIR FRANCIS VARNEY AND HIS MYSTERIOUS VISITOR.—THE STRANGE CONFERENCE.
Sir Francis Varney is in what he calls his own apartment. It is night, and a dim and uncertain light from a candle which has been long neglected, only serves to render obscurity more perplexing. The room is a costly one. One replete with all the appliances of refinement and luxury which the spirit and the genius of the age could possibly supply him with, but there is upon his brow the marks of corroding care, and little does that most mysterious being seem to care for all the rich furnishing of that apartment in which he sits.
His cadaverous-looking face is even paler and more death-like-looking than usual; and, if it can be conceived possible that such an one can feel largely interested in human affairs, to look at him, we could well suppose that some interest of no common magnitude was at stake.
Occasionally, too, he muttered some unconnected words, no doubt mentally filling up the gaps, which rendered the sentences incomplete, and being unconscious, perhaps, that he was giving audible utterance to any of his dark and secret meditations.
At length he rose, and with an anxious expression of countenance, he went to the window, and looked out into the darkness of the night. All was still, and not an object was visible. It was that pitchy darkness without, which, for some hours, when the moon is late in lending her reflected beams, comes over the earth’s surface.
“It is near the hour,” he muttered. “It is now very near the hour; surely he will come, and yet I know not why I should fear him, although I seem to tremble at the thought of his approach. He will surely come. Once a year—only once does he visit me, and then ’tis but to take the price which he has compelled me to pay for that existence, which but for him had been long since terminated. Sometimes I devoutly wish it were.”
With a shudder he returned to the seat he had so recently left, and there for some time he appeared to meditate in silence.
Suddenly now, a clock, which was in the hall of that mansion he had purchased, sounded the hour loudly.
“The time has come,” said Sir Francis. “The time has come. He will surely soon be here. Hark! hark!”
Slowly and distinctly he counted the strokes of the clock, and, when they had ceased, he exclaimed, with sudden surprise—
“Eleven! But eleven! How have I been deceived. I thought the hour of midnight was at hand.”
He hastily consulted the watch he wore, and then he indeed found, that whatever he had been looking forward to with dread for some time past, as certain to ensue, at or about twelve o clock, had yet another hour in which to prey upon his imagination.