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[table of contents]
The Empty Grave, or, Chapter Eyght
It seems that the winner of last chapter's poll was "Other! I am too shy to be the first to comment." Please feel free to overcome your shyness.

—-

Henry and George spend some time lost in their thoughts, and Marchdale and Chillingworth decently don't interrupt.

There are about twenty coffins, most in sad repair, and several have lost their nameplates. How then to locate the coffin of Marmaduke Bannerworth? Wait, who? Back in Chapter 3, he was Runnagate Bannerworth, but he switches to this slightly more believable name from now on.

They find a nameplate for Marmaduke, who died in 1640 (and thus this story would seem to be taking place in the 1730s, over a century before it was written.) He was also a yeoman. Have they hit a dead end?

No, for Mr. Marchdale has been in crypts before, and usually the name is also inscribed on the leaden coffin itself as well as the nameplate. And as it proves, Marmaduke's coffin's wooden exterior may have rotted to flinders, but the metal is still intact and readable.

The crowbar is applied and the coffin lid opens easily. Too easily? There appears to be something within.

This turns out to be the rags of the coffin's lining. There is no trace of a human corpse, and Mr. Chillingworth, man of science, reports that the corpse could not have so completely decomposed as to leave no sign of its passing.

George is nearly frenzied in his unhappiness at more seeming proof of the vampire hypothesis. "Oh, if I were but dead, and so spared the torture of supposing such things possible." A troper, he's not.

While Mr. Chillingworth can't dispute that Marmaduke Bannerworth is not in his coffin and probably never has been, he still does not actually believe in vampires. "...If one were to come and lay hold of my throat, as long as I could at all gasp for breath I would tell him he was a d—d (sic) impostor." (Back in Victorian times, they took the word "damn" seriously.)

"This is carrying incredulity to the verge of obstinacy."

Further, Chillingworth doesn't believe in miracles either; they too surely have some scientific explanation, and the rise of reason is why there are so few reported miracles in the present day.

Marchdale is uncomfortable with talk of debunking the supernatural while standing in a gravesite. Chilling worth does not believe in moderating his opinions based on location.

Henry decides it's time to go. They replace the coffin lid and head up the stairs. Henry wonders if the curse of Heaven has fallen on his family. Chillingworth replies that this cannot be true. First, Heaven doesn't curse people, and even if it did, would not unjustly curse the innocent.

The men replace the trapdoor and screws, but do not bother with the window pane they entered by as depression has seized them.

As they head back to the manor, Mr. Chillingworth explains that he deals with adversity by getting angry and stubborn, not whining or resigned. If in fact there are vampires who prey upon the living, then damn them! Defy them to the last! He also believes that God gave him a brain and free will, and therefore God can't object to his using either.

As if this were not enough, Mr. Chillingworth is not a believer in the literal interpretation of scripture. If The Bible contains information contrary to fact, then that information is allegorical or poetic in nature.

Henry retorts that scripture, being sacred truth, must be taken literally even if it contradicts the evidence of one's eyes. (Bet you weren't expecting a theological debate in a penny dreadrul!)

I'm just going to quote the next section verbatim.

No wonder this powerful argument silenced Mr. Chillingworth, who was one of those characters in society who held most dreadful opinions, and who would destroy religious beliefs, and all the different sects of the world, if they could, and endeavor to introduce instead some horrible system of human reason and profound philosophy.

But how soon the religious man silences his opponent; and let it not be supposed that, because his opponent says no more upon the subject, he does so because he is disgusted with the stupidity of the other; no, it is because he is completely beaten, and has nothing more to say.

The distance now between the church and the hall was nearly traverse, and Mr. Chillingworth, who was a very good man, not withstanding his disbelief in certain things of course paved the way for him to Hell, took a kind leave of Mr. Marchdale and the brothers, promising to call on the following morning and see Flora.

Y'know, I think Mr. Rymer is having us on here. But whether Mr. Chillingworth's deism is mistaken will be left for another chapter. The remaining three cover the rest of the way to the hall in deep melancholy.

—-

Not much actually happens this chapter, but we do get to see that Mr. Chillingworth's skepticism runs deeper than Genre Blindness. He may wind up being The Smart Guy yet.

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