What with his intoxication and the violent exercise he had taken, Jack was again thoroughly prostrate; while the admiral could not have looked more astonished had the evil one himself appeared in propria persona and given him notice to quit the premises.
He was, however, the first to speak, and the words he spoke were addressed to Jack, to whom he said,—
“Jack, you lubber, what do you think of all that?”
Jack, however, was too far gone even to say “Ay, ay, sir;” and Mr. Chillingworth, slowly getting himself up to his feet, approached the admiral.
“It’s hard to say so much, Admiral Bell,” he said, “but it strikes me that whatever object this Sir Francis Varney, or Varney, the vampyre, has in coming into Bannerworth Hall, it is, at all events, of sufficient importance to induce him to go any length, and not to let even a life to stand in the way of its accomplishment.”
“Well, it seems so,” said the admiral; “for I’ll be hanged if I can make head or tail of the fellow.”
“If we value our personal safety, we shall hesitate to continue a perilous adventure which I think can end only in defeat, if not in death.”
“But we don’t value our personal safety,” said the admiral. “We’ve got into the adventure, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t carry it out. It may be growing a little serious; but what of that? For the sake of that young girl, Flora Bannerworth, as well as for the sake of my nephew, Charles Holland, I will see the end of this affair, let it be what it may; but mind you, Mr. Chillingworth, if one man chooses to go upon a desperate service, that’s no reason why he should ask another to do so.”
“I understand you,” said Mr. Chillingworth; “but, having commenced the adventure with you, I am not the man to desert you in it. We have committed a great mistake.”
“A mistake! how?”
“Why, we ought to have watched outside the house, instead of within it. There can be no doubt that if we had lain in wait in the garden, we should have been in a better position to have accomplished our object.”
“Well, I don’t know, doctor, but it seems to me that if Jack Pringle hadn’t made such a fool of himself, we should have managed very well: and I don’t know now how he came to behave in the manner he did.”
“Nor I,” said Mr. Chillingworth. “But, at all events, so far as the result goes, it is quite clear that any further watching, in this house, for the appearance of Sir Francis Varney, will now be in vain. He has nothing to do now but to keep quiet until we are tired out—a fact, concerning which he can easily obtain information—and then he immediately, without trouble, walks into the premises, to his own satisfaction.”
“But what the deuce can he want upon the premises?”
“That question, admiral, induces me to think that we have made another mistake. We ought not to have attempted to surprise Sir Francis Varney in coming into Bannerworth Hall, but to catch him as he came out.”