As Chapter 28 (MR. MARCHDALE'S EXCULPATION OF HIMSELF. -- THE SEARCH THROUGH THE GARDENS. -- THE SPOT OF THE DEADLY STRUGGLE. -- THE MYSTERIOUS PAPER.) begins, Our Heroes begin the search for Charles and I begin to wonder what happened to the beloved Admiral character I found so entertaining in past chapters.
He's still there, of course, but the general dullness of the rest of the cast seems to have worn off on him. That's the problem with JMR's characters in general. A few of them are interesting on their own (like Flora, when she's taking care of herself instead of being patronized by Our Heroes) or in pairs (like Henry and Flora or Charles and the Admiral). But I think JMR has trouble balancing scenes with more than three characters, or something, because so often when the characters are together in a group they just turn into a giant ball of bland. Even Varney isn't nearly as interesting in a crowd than he is with just one guest.
Oblivious to my boredom, Our Heroes search for Charles, but only find an unreadable note, covered in mud. They return home with some delightfully condescending advice for Flora:
"They have killed him! they have killed him!" she said mournfully. "Oh, God, they have killed him! I am not now mad, but the time will come when I must surely be maddened. The vampyre has killed Charles Holland -- the dreadful vampyre!"
"Nay, now, Flora, this is frenzy."
"Because he loved me has he been destroyed. I know it, I know it. The vampyre has doomed me to destruction..."
"Hush, sister, hush!" cried Henry. "I expected not this from you. The expressions you use are not your expressions...."
"Yes. Make an exertion of that intellect we all know you to possess..."
I'll say this about Flora, despite JMR's inconsistent handling of her character: she's the character who most consistently displays human emotions appropriate for the situation, and yet is consistently treated as if she's the only one not doing so.
Anyway, Henry leaves the Admiral to protect Flora, and finally someone tells off Marchdale:
"Amen to that," cried the admiral; "and now, my dear, if you have got half an hour to spare, just tuck your arm under mine, and take a walk with me in the garden, for I want to say something to you."
"Most willingly," said Flora.
"I would not advise you to stray far from the house, Miss Bannerworth," said Marchdale.
"Nobody asked you for advice," said the admiral. "D -- -e, do you want to make out that I ain't capable of taking care of her?"
"No, no; but -- "
"Oh, nonsense! Come along, my dear; and if all the vampyres and odd fish that were ever created were to come across our path, we would settle them somehow or another. Come along, and don't listen to anybody's croaking."
That's the highlight of the chapter, really, so it's good that the chapter ends there.