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Varney the Vampire 1(8)

By´╝ÜThomas Preskett Prest

"Say not so; you will be more composed in a few hours, and then you can tell us what has occurred."
"I will tell you now. I will tell you now."
She placed her hands over her face for a moment, as if to collect her scattered, thoughts, and then she added,--
"I was awakened by the storm, and I saw that terrible apparition at the window. I think I screamed, but I could not fly. Oh, God! I could not fly. It came--it seized me by the hair. I know no more. I know no more."
She passed her hand across her neck several times, and Mr. Marchdale said, in an anxious voice,--
"You seem, Flora, to have hurt your neck--there is a wound."
"A wound!" said the mother, and she brought a light close to the bed, where all saw on the side of Flora's neck a small punctured wound; or, rather two, for there was one a little distance from the other.
It was from these wounds the blood had come which was observable upon her night clothing.
"How came these wounds?" said Henry.
"I do not know," she replied. "I feel very faint and weak, as if I had almost bled to death."
"You cannot have done so, dear Flora, for there are not above half-a-dozen spots of blood to be seen at all."
Mr. Marchdale leaned against the carved head of the bed for support, and he uttered a deep groan. All eyes were turned upon him, and Henry said, in a voice of the most anxious inquiry,--
"You have something to say, Mr. Marchdale, which will throw some light upon this affair."
"No, no, no, nothing!" cried Mr. Marchdale, rousing himself at once from the appearance of depression that had come over him. "I have nothing to say, but that I think Flora had better get some sleep if she can."
"No sleep-no sleep for me," again screamed Flora. "Dare I be alone to sleep?"
"But you shall not be alone, dear Flora," said Henry. "I will sit by your bedside and watch you."
She took his hand in both hers, and while the tears chased each other down her cheeks, she said,--
"Promise me, Henry, by all your hopes of Heaven, you will not leave me."
"I promise!"
She gently laid herself down, with a deep sigh, and closed her eyes.
"She is weak, and will sleep long," said Mr. Marchdale.
"You sigh," said Henry. "Some fearful thoughts, I feel certain, oppress your heart."
"Hush-hush!" said Mr. Marchdale, as he pointed to Flora. "Hush! not here--not here."
"I understand," said Henry.
"Let her sleep."
There was a silence of some few minutes duration. Flora had dropped into a deep slumber. That silence was first broken by George, who said,--
"Mr. Marchdale, look at that portrait."
He pointed to the portrait in the frame to which we have alluded, and the moment Marchdale looked at it he sunk into a chair as he exclaimed,--
"Gracious Heaven, how like!"
"It is--it is," said Henry. "Those eyes--"
"And see the contour of the countenance, and the strange shape of the mouth."
"That picture shall be moved from here. The sight of it is at once sufficient to awaken all her former terrors in poor Flora's brain if she should chance to awaken and cast her eyes suddenly upon it."
"And is it so like him who came here?" said the mother.
"It is the very man himself," said Mr. Marchdale. "I have not been in this house long enough to ask any of you whose portrait that may be?"
"It is," said Henry, "the portrait of Sir Runnagate Bannerworth, an ancestor of ours, who first, by his vices, gave the great blow to the family prosperity."
"Indeed. How long ago?"
"About ninety years."
"Ninety years. 'Tis a long while--ninety years."
"You muse upon it."
"No, no. I do wish, and yet I dread--"
"To say something to you all. But not here--not here. We will hold a consultation on this matter to-morrow. Not now--not now."
"The daylight is coming quickly on," said Henry; "I shall keep my sacred promise of not moving from this room until Flora awakens; but there can be no occasion for the detention of any of you. One is sufficient here. Go all of you, and endeavour to procure what rest you can."
"I will fetch you my powder-flask and bullets," said Mr. Marchdale; "and you can, if you please, reload the pistols. In about two hours more it will be broad daylight."