“Sir Francis Varney,” said Mr. Chillingworth, “we’re your guests; we come here at your invitation to partake of a meal. You have wantonly attacked both of us. I need not say that by so doing you cast a far greater slur upon your own taste and judgment than you can upon us.”
“Admirably spoken,” said Sir Francis Varney, giving his bands a clap together that made the admiral jump again. “Now, old Bell, I’ll fight you, if you think yourself aggrieved, while the doctor sees fair play.”
“Old who?” shouted the admiral.
“Bell, Bell—is not your name Bell?—a family cognomen, I presume, on account of the infernal clack, clack, without any sense in it, that is the characteristic of your race.”
“You’ll fight me?” said the admiral, jumping up.
“Yes; if you challenge me.”
“By Jove I do; of course”
“Then I accept it; and the challenged party, you know well, or ought to know, can make his own terms in the encounter.”
“Make what terms you please; I care not what they are. Only say you will fight, and that’s sufficient.”
“It is well,” said Sir Francis Varney, in a solemn tone.
“Nay, nay,” interrupted Mr. Chillingworth; “this is boyish folly.”
“Hold your row,” said the admiral, “and let’s hear what he’s got to say.”
“In this mansion,” said Sir Francis Varney—“for a mansion it is, although under the unpretending name of a lodge—in this mansion there is a large apartment which was originally fitted up by a scientific proprietor of the place, for the purpose of microscopic and other experiments, which required a darkness total and complete, such a darkness as seems as if it could be felt—palpable, thick, and obscure as the darkness of the tomb, and I know what that is.”
“The devil you do!” said this admiral “It’s damp, too, ain’t it?”
“No; the grave.”
“Oh! uncommonly, after autumnal rains. But to resume—this room is large, lofty, and perfectly empty.”
“I propose that we procure two scythes.”
“Scythes, with their long handles, and their convenient holding places.”
“Well, I’ll be hanged! What next do you propose?”
“You may be hanged. The next is, that with these scythes we be both of us placed in the darkened room, and the door closed, and doubly locked upon us for one hour, and that then and there we do our best each to cut the other in two. If you succeed in dismembering me, you will have won the day; but I hope, from my superior agility”—here Sir Francis jumped upon his chair, and sat upon the back of it—“to get the better or you. How do you like the plan I have proposed? Does it meet your wishes?”
“Curse your impudence!” said the admiral, placing his elbows upon the table and resting his chin in astonishment upon his two hands.
“Nay,” interrupted Sir Francis, “you challenged me; and, besides, you’ll have an equal chance, you know that. If you succeed in striking me first, down I go; whereas it I succeed in striking you first, down you go.”