By the time this short dialogue had been uttered, the rest of the party had come up, and Varney was, so far as regarded numbers, a prisoner.
“Well, gentlemen,” he said, with that strange contortion of countenance which, now they all understood, arose from the fact of his having been hanged, and restored to life again. “Well, gentlemen, now that you have beleaguered me in such a way, may I ask you what it is about?”
“If you will step aside with me, Sir Francis Varney, for a moment,” said Dr. Chillingworth, “I will make to you a communication which will enable you to know what it is all about.”
“Oh, with pleasure,” said the vampyre. “I am not ill at present; but still, sir, I have no objection to hear what you have to say.”
He stepped a few paces on one side with the doctor, while the others waited, not without some amount of impatience for the result of the communication. All that they could hear was, that Varney said, suddenly—
“You are quite mistaken.”
And then the doctor appeared to be insisting upon something, which the vampyre listened to patiently; and, at the end, burst out with,—
“Why, doctor, you must be dreaming.”
At this, Dr. Chillingworth at once left him, and advancing to his friends, he said,—
“Sir Francis Varney denies in toto all that I have related to you concerning him; therefore, I can say no more than that I earnestly recommend you, before you let him go, to see that he takes nothing of value with him.”
“Why, what can you mean?” said Varney.
“Search him,” said the doctor; “I will tell you why, very shortly.”
“Indeed—indeed!” said Sir Francis Varney. “Now, gentlemen, I will give you a chance of behaving justly and quietly, so saving yourself the danger of acting otherwise. I have made repeated offers to take this house, either as a tenant or as a purchaser, all of which offers have been declined, upon, I dare say, a common enough principle, namely, one which induces people to enhance the value of anything they have for disposal, if it be unique, by making it difficult to come at. Seeing that you had deserted the place, I could make no doubt but that it was to be had, so I came here to make a thorough examination of its interior, to see if it would suit me. I find that it will not; therefore, I have only to apologise for the intrusion, and to wish you a remarkably good evening.”
“That won’t do,” said the doctor.
“What won’t do, sir?”
“This excuse will not do, Sir Francis Varney. You are, although you deny it, the man who was hanged in London some years ago for a highway robbery.”
Varney laughed, and held up his hands, exclaiming,—
“Alas! alas! our good friend, the doctor, has studied too hard; his wits, probably, at the best of times, none of the clearest, have become hopelessly entangled.”
“Do you deny,” said Henry, “then, that you are that man?”