VARNEY, THE VAMPYRE,
THE FEAST OF BLOOD
James Malcolm Rymer
NIGHT WATCH - THE PROPOSAL - THE MOONLIGHT
THE FEARFUL ADVENTURE
A kind of stupefaction came over Henry Bannerworth, and he sat for about a quarter of an hour scarcely conscious of where he was, and almost incapable of anything in the shape of rational thought. It was his brother, George, who roused him by saying, as he laid his hand upon his shoulder, --
"Henry, are you asleep?"
Henry had not been aware of his presence, and he started up as if he had been shot.
"Oh, George, is it you?" he said.
"Yes, Henry, are you unwell?"
"No, no; I was in a deep reverie."
"Alas, I need not ask upon what subject," said George, sadly. "I sought you to bring you this letter."
"A letter to me?"
"Yes, you see it is addressed to you, and the seal looks as if it came from some one of consequence."
"Yes, Henry. Read it, and see from whence it comes."
There was just sufficient light by going to the window to enable Henry to read the letter, which he did aloud.
It ran thus: --
"Sir Francis Varney presents his compliments to Mr. Beaumont, and is much concerned to hear that some domestic affliction has fallen upon him. Sir Francis hopes that the genuine and loving sympathy of a neighbour will not be regarded as an intrusion, and begs to proffer any assistance or counsel that may be within the compass of his means.
"Sir Francis Varney!" said Henry, "who is he?"
"Do you not remember, Henry," said George, "we were told a few days ago, that a gentleman of that name had become the purchaser of the estate of Ratford Abbey."
"Oh, yes, yes. Have you seen him?"
"I have not."
"I do not wish to make any new acquaintance, George. We are very poor-- much poorer indeed that the general appearance of this place, which, I fear, we shall soon have to part with, would warrant any one believing. I must, of course, return a civil answer to this gentleman, but it must be such a one as shall repress familiarity."
"That will be difficult to do while we remain here, when we come to consider the very close proximity of the two properties, Henry."
"Oh, no, not at all. He will easily perceive that we do not want to make acquaintance with him, and then, as a gentleman, which doubtless he is, he will give up the attempt."
"Let it be so, Henry. Heaven knows I have no desire to form any new acquaintance with any one, and more particularly under our present circumstances of depression. And now, Henry, you must permit me, as I have had some repose, to share with you your night watch in Flora's room."
"I would advise you not, George; your health, as you know, is far from good."
"Nay, allow me. If not, then the anxiety I shall suffer will do me more harm than the watchfulness I shall keep up in her chamber."
This was an argument which Henry felt himself the force of too strongly not to admit it in the case of George, and he therefore made no further opposition to his wish to make one in the night watch.
"There will be an advantage," said George, "you see, in three of us being engaged in this matter, because, should anything occur, two can act together, and yet Flora may not be left alone."
"True, true, that is a great advantage."
Now a soft gentle silvery light began to spread itself over the heavens. The moon was rising, and as the beneficial effects of the storm of the preceding evening were still felt in the clearness of the air, the rays appeared to be more lustrous and full of beauty than they commonly were.
Each moment the night grew lighter, and by the time the brothers were ready to take their places in the chamber of Flora, the moon had risen considerably.
Although neither Henry nor George had any objection to the company of Mr. Marchdale, yet they gave him the option, and rather in fact urged him not to destroy his night's repose by sitting up with them; but he said --
"Allow me to do so; I am older, and have calmer judgment than you can have. Should anything again appear, I am quite resolved that it shall not escape me."
"What would you do?"
"With the name of God upon my lips," said Mr. Marchdale, solemnly, "I would grapple with it."
"You laid hands upon it last night."
"I did, and have forgotten to show you what I tore from it. Look here, -- what should you say this was?"
He produced a piece of cloth, on which was an old-fashioned piece of lace, and two buttons. Upon a close inspection, this appeared to be a portion of the lappel of a coat of ancient times, and suddenly, Henry, with a look of intense anxiety, said, --
"This reminds me of the fashion of garments very many years ago, Mr. Marchdale."
"It came away in my grasp as if rotten and incapable of standing any rough usage."
"What a strange unearthly smell it has!"
"Now that you mention it yourself," added Mr. Marchdale, "I must confess it smells to me as if it had really come from the very grave."
"It does -- it does. Say nothing of this relic of last night's work to any one."
"Be assured I shall not. I am far from wishing to keep up in any one's mind proofs of that which I would fain, very fain refute."
Mr. Marchdale replaced the portion of the coat which the figure had worn in his pocket, and then the whole three proceeded to the chamber of Flora.
* * * * *
It was within a very few minutes of midnight, the moon had climbed high in the heavens, and a night of such brightness and beauty had seldom shown itself for a long period of time.
Flora slept, and in her chamber sat the two brothers and Mr. Marchdale, silently, for she had shown symptoms of restlessness, and they much feared to break the light slumber into which she had fallen.
Occasionally they had conversed in whispers, which could not have the effect of rousing her, for the room, although smaller than the one she had before occupied, was still sufficiently spacious to enable them to get some distance from the bed.
Until the hour of midnight now actually struck, they were silent, and when the last echo of the sounds had died away, a feeling of uneasiness came over them, which prompted some conversation to get rid of it.
"How bright the moon is now," said Henry in a low tone.
"I never saw it brighter," replied Marchdale. "I feel as if I were assured that we shall not to-night be interrupted."
"It was later than this," said Henry
"Do not then yet congratulate us upon no visit."
"How still the house is!" remarked George; "it seems to me as if I had never found it so intensely quiet before."
"It is very still."
"Hush! she moves."
Flora moaned in her sleep, and made a slight movement. The curtains were all drawn closely round the bed to shield her eyes from the bright moonlight which streamed into the room so brilliantly. They might have closed the shutters of the window, but this they did not like to do, as it would render their watch there of no avail at all, inasmuch as they would not be able to see if any attempt was made by any one to obtain admittance.
A quarter of an hour longer might have thus passed when Mr. Marchdale said in a whisper --
"A thought has just stuck me that the piece of coat I have, which I dragged from the figure last night, wonderfully resembles in colour and appearance the style of dress of the portrait in the room which Flora lately slept in."
"I thought of that," said Henry, "when first I saw it; but, to tell the honest truth, I dreaded to suggest any new proof connected with last night's visitation."
"Then I ought not to have drawn your attention to it," said Mr. Marchdale, "and regret I have done so."
"Nay, do not blame yourself on such an account," said Henry. "You are quite right, and it is I who am too foolishly sensitive. Now, however, since you have mentioned it, I must own I have a great desire to test the accuracy of the observation by a comparison with the portrait."
"That may easily be done."
"I will remain here," said George, "in case Flora awakens, while you two go if you like. It is but across the corridor."
Henry immediately rose, saying --
"Come, Mr. Marchdale, come. Let us satisfy ourselves at all events upon this point at once. As George says it is only across the corridor, and we can return directly."
"I am willing," said Mr. Marchdale, with a tone of sadness.
There was no light needed, for the moon stood suspended in a cloudless sky, so that from the house being a detached one, and containing numerous windows, it was as light as day.
Although the distance from one chamber to the other was only across the corridor, it was a greater space than these words might occupy, for the corridor was wide, neither was it directly across, but considerably slanting. However, it was certainly sufficiently close at hand for any sound of alarm from one chamber to reach the other without any difficulty.
A few moments sufficed to place Henry and Mr. Marchdale in that antique room, where, from the effect of the moonlight which was streaming over it, the portrait on the panel looked exceedingly life like.
And this effect was probably the greater because the rest of the room was not illuminated by the moon's rays, which came through a window in the corridor, and then at the open door of that chamber upon the portrait.
Mr. Marchdale held the piece of cloth he had close to the dress of the portrait, and one glance was sufficient to show the wonderful likeness between the two.
"Good God!" said Henry, "it is the same!"
Mr. Marchdale dropped the piece of cloth and trembled.
"This fact shakes even your scepticism," said Henry.
"I know not what to make of it."
"I can tell you something which bears upon it. I do not know if you are sufficiently aware of my family history to know that this one of my ancestors, I wish I could say worthy ancestors, committed suicide, and was buried in his clothes."
"You -- you are sure of that?"
"I am more and more bewildered as each moment some strange corroborative fact of that dreadful supposition we so much shrink from seems to come to light and to force itself upon our attention."
There was a silence of a few moments duration, and Henry had turned towards Mr. Marchdale to say something, when the cautious tread of a footstep was heard in the garden, immediately beneath that balcony.
A sickening sensation came over Henry, and he was compelled to lean against the wall for support, as in scarcely articulate accents he said --
"The vampyre-- the vampyre! God of heaven, it has come once again!"
"Now, Heaven inspire us with more than mortal courage," cried Mr. Marchdale, and he dashed open the window at once, and sprang into the balcony.
Henry in a moment recovered himself sufficiently to follow him, and when he reached his side in the balcony, Marchdale said, as he pointed below, --
"There is some one concealed there."
"Among the laurels. I will fire a random shot, and we may do some execution."
"Hold!" said a voice from below; "don't do any such thing, I beg of you."
"Why, that is Mr. Chillingworth's voice," cried Henry.
"Yes, and it's Mr. Chillingworth's person, too," said the doctor, as he emerged from among some laurel bushes.
"How is this?" said Marchdale.
"Simply that I made up my mind to keep watch and ward to-night outside here, in the hope of catching the vampyre. I got into here by climbing the gate."
"But why did you not let me know?" said Henry.
"Because I did not know myself, my young friend, till an hour and a half ago."
"Have you seen anything?"
"Nothing. But I fancied I heard something in the park outside the wall."
"What say you, Henry," said Mr. Marchdale, "to descending and taking a hasty examination of the garden and grounds?"
"I am willing; but first allow me to speak to George, who otherwise might be surprised at our long absence."
Henry walked rapidly to the bed-chamber of Flora, and he said to George,
"Have you any objection to being left alone here for about half an hour, George, while we make an examination of the garden?"
"Let me have some weapon and I care not. Remain here while I fetch a sword from my own room."
Henry did so, and when George returned with a sword, which he always kept in his bed-room, he said, --
"Now go, Henry. I prefer a weapon of this description to pistols much. Do not be gone longer than necessary."
"I will not, George, be assured."
George was then left alone, and Henry returned to the balcony, where Mr. Marchdale was waiting for him. It was a quicker mode of descending to the garden to do so by clambering over the balcony than any other, and the height was not considerable enough to make it very objectionable, so Henry and Mr. Marchdale chose that way of joining Mr. Chillingworth.
"You are, no doubt, much surprised at finding me here," said the doctor; "but the fact is, I half made up my mind to come while I was here; but I had not thoroughly done so, therefore I said nothing to you about it."
"We are much indebted to you," said Henry, "for making the attempt."
"I am prompted to it by a feeling of the strongest curiosity."
"Are you armed, sir?" said Marchdale.
"In this stick," said the doctor, "is a sword, the exquisite temper of which I know I can depend upon, and I fully intended to run through any one whom I saw that looked in the least of the vampyre order."
"You would have done quite right," replied Mr. Marchdale. "I have a brace of pistols here, loaded with ball; will you take one, Henry, if you please, and then we shall be all armed."
Thus, then, prepared for any exigency, they made the whole round of the house; but found all the fastenings secure, and everything as quiet as possible.
"Suppose, now, we take a survey of the park outside the garden wall," said Mr. Marchdale.
This was agreed to; but before they had proceeded far, Mr. Marchdale said, --
"There is a ladder lying on the wall; would it not be a good plan to place it against the very spot the supposed vampyre jumped over last night, and so, from a more elevated position, take a view of the open meadows. We could easily drop down on the outer side, if we saw anything suspicious."
"Not a bad plan," said the doctor. "Shall we do it?"
"Certainly," said Henry; and they accordingly carried the ladder, which had been used for pruning the trees, towards the spot at the end of the long walk, at which the vampyre had made good, after so many fruitless efforts, his escape from the premises.
Then made haste down the long vista of trees until they reached the exact spot, and then they placed the ladder as near as possible, exactly where Henry, in his bewilderment on the evening before, had seen the apparition from the grave spring to.Then made haste down the long vista of trees until they reached the exact spot, and then they placed the ladder as near as possible, exactly where Henry, in his bewilderment on the evening before, had seen the apparition from the grave spring to.
"We can ascend singly," said Marchdale; "but there is ample space for us all there to sit on the top of the wall and make our observations."
This was seen to be the case, and in about a couple of minutes they had taken up their position on the wall, and, although the height was but trifling, they found that they had a much more extensive view than they could have obtained by any other means.
"To contemplate the beauty of such a night as this," said Mr. Chillingworth, "is amply sufficient compensation for coming the distance I have."
"And who knows," remarked Marchdale, "we may yet see something which may throw a light upon our present perplexities? God knows that I would give all I can call mine in the world to relieve you and your sister, Henry Bannerworth, from the fearful effect which last night's proceedings cannot fail to have upon you."
"Of that I am well assured, Mr. Marchdale," said Henry. "If the happiness of myself and family depended upon you, we should be happy indeed."
"You are silent, Mr. Chillingworth," remarked Marchdale, after a slight pause.
"Hush!" said Mr. Chillingworth -- "hush -- hush!"
"Good God, what do you hear?" cried Henry.
The doctor laid his hand upon Henry's arm as he said, --
"There is a young lime tree yonder to the right."
"Yes -- yes."
"Carry your eye from it in a horizontal line, as near as you can, towards the wood."
Henry did so, and then he uttered a sudden exclamation of surprise, and pointed to a rising spot of ground, which was yet, in consequence of the number of tall trees in its vicinity, partially enveloped in shadow.
"What is that?" he said.
"I see something," said Marchdale. "By Heaven! it is a human form lying stretched there."
"It is -- as if in death."
"What can it be?" said Chillingworth.
"I dread to say," replied Marchdale; "but to my eyes, even at this distance, it seems like the form of him we chased last night."
"Yes -- yes. Look, the moonbeams touch him. Now the shadows of the trees gradually recede. God of Heaven! the figure moves."
Henry's eyes were rivetted to that fearful object, and now a scene presented itself which filled them all with wonder and astonishment, mingled with sensations of the greatest awe and alarm.
As the moonbeams, in consequence of the luminary rising higher and higher in the heavens, came to touch this figure that lay extended on the rising ground, a perceptible movement took place in it. The limbs appeared to tremble, and although it did not rise up, the whole body gave signs of vitality.
"The vampyre -- the vampyre!" said Mr. Marchdale. "I cannot doubt it now. We must have hit him last night with the pistol bullets, and the moonbeams are now restoring him to a new life."
Henry shuddered, and even Mr. Chillingworth turned pale. But he was the first to recover himself sufficiently to propose some course of action, and he said, --
"Let us descend and go up to this figure. It is a duty we owe to ourselves as much as to society."
"Hold a moment," said Mr. Marchdale, as he produced a pistol. "I am an unerring shot, as you well know, Henry. Before we move from this position we now occupy, allow me to try what virtue may be in a bullet to lay that figure low again."
"He is rising!" exclaimed Henry.
Mr. Marchdale levelled the pistol -- he took sure and deliberate aim, and then, just as the figure seemed to be struggling to its feet, he fired, and, with a sudden bound, it fell again.
"You have hit it," said Henry.
"You have indeed," exclaimed the doctor. "I think we can go now."
"Hush!" said Marchdale -- "Hush! Does it not seem to you that, hit it as often as you will, the moonbeams will recover it?"
"Yes -- yes," said Henry, "they will -- they will."
"I can endure this no longer," said Mr. Chillingworth, as he sprung from the wall. "Follow me or not, as you please, I will seek the spot where this being lies."
"Oh, be not rash," cried Marchdale. "See, it rises again, and its form looks gigantic."
"I trust in Heaven and a righteous cause," said the doctor, as he drew the sword he had spoken of from the stick, and threw away the scabbard. "Come with me if you like, or I go alone."
Henry at once jumped down from the wall, and then Marchdale followed him, saying, --
"Come on; I will not shrink."
They ran towards the piece of rising ground; but before they got to it, the form rose and made rapidly towards a little wood which was in the immediate neighbourhood of the hillock.
"It is conscious of being pursued," cried the doctor. "See how it glances back, and then increases its speed."
"Fire upon it, Henry," said Marchdale.
He did so; but either his shot did not take effect, or it was quite unheeded, if it did, by the vampyre, which gained the wood before they could have a hope of getting sufficiently near it to effect, or endeavour to effect, a capture.
"I cannot follow it there," said Marchdale. "In open country I would have pursued it closely; but I cannot follow it into the intricacies of a wood."
"Pursuit is useless there," said Henry. "It is enveloped in the deepest gloom."
"I am not so unreasonable," remarked Mr. Chillingworth, "as to wish you to follow into such a place as that. I am confounded utterly by this affair."
"And I," said Marchdale. "What on earth is to be done?"
"Nothing -- nothing!" exclaimed Henry, vehemently; "and yet I have, beneath the canopy of Heaven, declared that I will, so help me God! spare neither time nor trouble in the unravelling of this most fearful piece of business. Did either of you remark the clothing which this spectral appearance wore?"
"They were antique clothes," said Mr. Chillingworth, "such as might have been fashionable a hundred years ago, but not now."
"Such was my own impression," added Marchdale.
"And such my own," said Henry, excitedly. "Is it at all within the compass of the wildest belief that what we have seen is a vampyre, and no other than my ancestor who, a hundred years ago, committed suicide?"
There was so much intense excitement, and evidence of mental suffering, that Mr. Chillingworth took him by the arm, saying, --
"Come home -- come home; no more of this at present; you will make yourself seriously unwell."
"No-- no-- no."
"Come home-- come home; I pray you; you are by far too much excited about this matter to pursue it with the calmness which should be brought to bear upon it."
"Take advice, Henry," said Marchdale, "take advice, and come home at once."
"I will yield to you; I feel that I cannot control my own feelings-- I will yield to you, who, as you say, are cooler on this subject than I can be. Oh, Flora, Flora, I have no comfort for you now."
Poor Henry Bannerworth appeared to be in a complete state of mental prostration, on account of the distressing circumstances that had occurred so rapidly and so suddenly in his family, which had had quite enough to contend with without having superadded to every other evil the horror of believing that some preternatural agency was at work to destroy every hope of future happiness in this world, under any circumstances.
He suffered himself to be led home by Mr. Chillingworth and Marchdale; he no longer attempted to dispute the dreadful fact concerning the supposed vampyre; he could not contend now against all the corroborating circumstances that seemed to collect together for the purpose of proving that which, even when proved, was contrary to all his notions of Heaven, and at variance with all that was recorded and established as part and parcel of the system of nature.
"I cannot deny," he said, when they had reached home, "that such things are possible; but the probability will not bear a moment's investigation."
"There are more things," said Marchdale, "in Heaven, and on earth, than are dreamed in our philosophy."
"There are indeed, it appears," said Mr. Chillingworth.
"Are you a convert?" said Henry, turning to him.
"A convert to what?"
"To a belief in -- in -- these vampyres?"
"I? No, indeed; if you were to shut me up in a room full of vampyres, I would tell them all to their teeth that I defied them."
"But after what we have seen to-night?"
"What have we seen?"
"You are yourself a witness."
"True; I saw a man lying down, and then I saw a man get up; he seemed then to be shot, but whether he was or not he only knows; and then I saw him walk off in a desperate hurry. Beyond that, I saw nothing."
"Yes; but, taking such circumstances into combination with others, have you not a terrible fear of the truth of the dreadful appearance?"
"No -- no; on my soul, no. I will die in my disbelief of such an outrage upon Heaven as one of these creatures would most assuredly be."
"Oh! that I could think like you; but the circumstance strikes too nearly to my heart."
"Be of better cheer, Henry -- be of better cheer," said Marchdale; "there is one circumstance which we ought to consider, it is that, from all we have seen, there seems to be some things which would favour an opinion, Henry, that your ancestor, whose portrait hangs in the chamber which was occupied by Flora, is a vampyre."
"The dress is the same," said Henry.
"I noted it was."
"Do you not, then, think it possible that something might be done to set that part of the question at rest?"
"What -- what?"
"Where is your ancestor buried?"
"Ah! I understand you now."
"And I," said Mr. Chillingworth; "you would propose a visit to his mansion?"
"I would," added Marchdale; "anything that may in any way tend to assist in making this affair clearer, and divesting it of its mysterious circumstances, will be most desirable."
Henry appeared to rouse for some moments, and then he said, --
"He, in common with many other members of the family, no doubt occupies a place in the vault under the old church in the village."
"Would it be possible," asked Marchdale, "to get into that vault without exciting general attention?"
"It would," said Henry; "the entrance to the vault is in the flooring of the pew which belongs to the family in the old church."
"Then it could be done?" asked Mr. Chillingworth.
"Will you undertake such an adventure?" said Mr. Chillingworth. "It may ease your mind."
"He was buried in the vault, and in his clothes," said Henry, musingly; "I will think of it. About such a proposition I would not decide hastily. Give me leave to think of it until to-morrow."
They now made their way to the chamber of Flora, and they heard from George that nothing of an alarming character had occurred to disturb him on his lonely watch. The morning was now again dawning, and Henry earnestly entreated Mr. Marchdale to go to bed, which he did, leaving the two brothers to continue as sentinels by Flora's bed-side, until the morning light should banish all uneasy thoughts.
Henry related to George what had taken place outside the house, and the two brothers held a long and interesting conversation for some hours upon that subject, as well as upon others of great importance to their welfare. It was not until the sun's early rays came glaring in at the casement that they both rose, and thought of awakening Flora, who had now slept soundly for so many hours.
at the Bannerworth Family
The Probable Consequences
of the Mysterious Apparition's Appearance
VARNEY, THE VAMPYRE,
THE FEAST OF BLOOD
James Malcolm Rymer