Previously on: Varney writes the world’s least grateful goodbye note and disappears, foiling the admiral’s plot to ship him off to America; Chillingworth and Jack encounter a stranger at the Hall attempting to make off with the Ominous Portrait and fight him off, but Chillingworth is attacked again while attempting to carry the portrait to the Cottage of Undisclosed Location and the portrait, it is gone.
We now cut to a completely different story taking place somewhere else. Rymer/Prest have done the Random Digression before, ad nauseam, but at this point the narrative abandons the Bannerworths and their situation completely, with one single line of transition between Story A and Story B. (Tom Servo: “I think this is movie D. D for dumb.”)
About twenty miles to the southward of Bannerworth Hall was a good-sized market-town, called Anderbury. It was an extensive and flourishing place, and from the beauty of its situation, and its contiguity to the southern coast of England, it was much admired; and, in consequence, numerous mansions and villas of great pretension had sprang up in its immediate neighbourhood.
that’s nice, why should we care
Betides, there were some estates of great value, and one of these, called Anderbury-on-the-Mount, in consequence of the mansion itself, which was of an immense extent, being built upon an eminence, was to be let, or sold.
BUT IT’S SPOOKY:
There were some peculiar circumstances why Anderbury-on-the-Mount was to let. It had been for a great number of years in possession of a family of the name of Milltown, who had resided there in great comfort and respectability, until an epidemic disorder broke out, first among the servants, and then spreading to the junior branches of the family, and from them to their seniors, produced such devastation, that in the course of three weeks there was but one young man left of the whole family, and he, by native vigour of constitution, had baffled the disorder, and found himself alone in his ancestral halls, the last of his race.
Last Scion Dude apparently developed severe situational depression and decided, unsurprisingly, to ditch the ancestral pile and go live somewhere that wasn’t rife with the ghosts of his departed family, therefore the house is to let, we get it.
And now we also get why this story is associated with the one we’ve just spent thirty zillion words slogging through. It is a shining example of How Not to Manage Information In A Book; approximately one week after the events we have just witnessed, a super rich aristocratic stranger arrives at the Anderbury inn. One guess only as to who the mysterious newcomer might be:
"Who is he?" asked the landlord.
"It's the Baron Stolmuyer Saltsburgh."
"Bless my heart, I never heard of him before; where did he come from—somewhere abroad I suppose?"
"I can't tell you anything of him further than that he is immensely rich, and is looking for a house. He has heard that there is one to let in this immediate neighbourhood, and that's what has brought him from London, I suppose."
also he wants to drink ur blood
He had not been long in the place when he sent for the landlord, who, hastily scrambling on his best coat, and getting his wife to arrange the tie of his neckcloth, proceeded to obey the orders of his illustrious guest, whatever they might chance to be.
He found the Baron Stolmuyer reclining upon a sofa, and having thrown aside his velvet cloak, trimmed with rich fur, he showed that underneath it he wore a costume of great richness and beauty, although, certainly, the form it covered was not calculated to set it off to any great advantage, for the baron was merely skin and bone, and looked like a man who had just emerged from a long illness, for his face was ghastly pale, and the landlord could not help observing that there was a strange peculiarity about his eyes, the reason of which he could not make out.
THAT’S BECAUSE HE’S A VAMPYRE
"You are the landlord of this inn, I presume," said the baron, "and, consequently, no doubt well acquainted with the neighbourhood?"
"I have the honour to be all that, sir. I have been here about sixteen years, and in that time I certainly ought to know something of the neighbourhood."
"'Tis well; some one told me there was a little cottage sort of place to let here, and as I am simple and retired in my habits I thought that it might possibly suit me."
Oh shut up, dude, “cottage.” It is evident that Varney has extracted Marma-B’s cash from the Ominous Portrait and bought himself a new, more obnoxious than ever, identity:
"Oh! sir, that is quite a mistake; who told you so? It's the largest place about here; there are a matter of twenty-seven rooms in it, and it stands altogether upon three hundred acres of ground."
"And have you the assurance," said the baron, "to call that anything but a cottage, when the castle of the Stolmuyers, at Saltzburgh, has one suite of reception rooms thirty in number, opening into each other, and the total number of apartments in the whole building is two hundred and sixty, it is surrounded by eight miles of territory."
"The devil!" said the landlord. "I beg your pardon, sir, but when I am astonished, I generally say the devil. They want eight hundred pounds a year for Anderbury-on-the-Mount."
"A mere trifle. I will sleep here to-night, and in the morning I will go and look at the place. It is near the sea?"
Just in case his financial status has not been painted in sufficiently broad strokes, Varney proceeds to order everything on the menu for dinner and then not eat it, which impresses the landlord more in terms of ostentatious displays of wealth and less in the OH FUCK YOU, I WASTED ALL THAT TIME AND FOOD? sense. The landlord, who is an inveterate gossipmonger after the manner of his kind, spreads the news that the guy staying at his inn is so rich omg. Everything appears to be proceeding satisfactorily, except DUN DUN DUNNN we now have the introduction of Shifty-Eyed Stranger Who’s Blackmailing Varney:
About an hour and a half after the baron had retired to rest, and while the landlord was still creeping about enjoining silence on the part of the establishment, so that the slumbers of a wealthy and, no doubt, illustrious personage should not be disturbed, there arrived a horseman at the Anderbury Arms.
He was rather a singular-looking man, with a shifting, uneasy-looking glance, as if he were afraid of being suddenly pounced upon and surprised by some one; and although his apparel was plain, yet it was good in quality, and his whole appearance was such as to induce respectful attention.
The only singular circumstance was, that such a traveller, so well mounted, should be alone; but that might have been his own fancy, so that the absence of an attendant went for nothing. Doubtless, if the whole inn had not been in such a commotion about the illustrious and wealthy baron, this stranger would have received more consideration and attention than he did.
Upon alighting, he walked at once into what is called the coffee-room of the hotel, and after ordering some refreshments, of which he partook but sparingly, he said, in a mild but solemn sort of tone, to the waiter who attended upon him,—
"Tell the Baron Stolmuyer, of Saltzburgh, that there is one here who wants to see him."
Rymer/Prest, never the ones to pay a blind bit of attention to continuity, apparently want to tell the same basic story all over again and therefore retcon the previous blackmailer’s death:
Then the baron shrunk back, and the stranger, folding his arms, said,—
"You know me. Let our interview be as brief as possible. There needs no explanations between us, for we both know all that could be said. By some accident you have become rich, while I continue quite otherwise. It matters not how this has occurred, the fact is everything. I don't know the amount of your possessions; but, from your style of living, they must be great, and therefore it is that I make no hesitation in asking of you, as a price for not exposing who and what you are, a moderate sum."
"I thought that you were dead."
"I know you did; but you behold me here, and, consequently, that delusion vanishes."
THIS IS THE LAZIEST FUCKING STORYTELLING OMG.
"What sum do you require, and what assurance can I have that, when you get it, the demand will not be repeated on the first opportunity?"
"I can give you no such assurance, perhaps, that would satisfy you entirely; but, for more reasons than I choose to enter into, I am extremely anxious to leave England at once and forever. Give me the power to do so that I require, and you will never hear of me again."
AND NOW THEY SCREW IT UP FURTHER:
The baron hesitated for some few seconds, during which he looked scrutinizingly at his companion, and then he said, in a tone of voice that seemed as if he were making the remark to himself rather than to the other,—
"You look no older than you did when last we parted, and that was years ago."
okay so is this guy the ex-murdered hangman or what (also never ever ever use the phrase looked scrutinizingly at)
"Why should I look older? You know as well as I that I need not.
Okay, so he’s the Hungarian vampire we last saw floating merrily downstream?
But, to be brief, I do not wish to interfere with any plans or projects you may have on hand. I do not wish to be a hindrance to you. Let me have five thousand pounds, and I am off at once and forever, I tell you."
Varney is like “lol no way, u can have one thousand” and the blackmailer refuses to budge, thus basically signing his own death warrant. At some point during this conversation they have gone walking along the seashore, and Varney tells him that he can think of another way to get rid of him other than handing over five thousand pounds and the dude is even more obtuse than Henry Bannerworth:
"I do not understand you; you had better beware how you tamper with me, for I am not one who will be calmly disposed to put up with much. The sense, tact, and worldly knowledge which you say you have before, from time to time, given me credit for, belongs to me still, and I am not likely easily to commit myself."
So Varney shoots him, or attempts to, but his pistol misfires and he has to judo-throw the blackmailing vampyre and stab him through the throat in what is actually a pretty damn intense little violent scene. The description here is some of Rymer/Prest’s better work, and Varney has a couple of great lines:
"Have mercy upon me. I meant not to take your life; and, therefore, why should you take mine?"
"You would have taken it, and, therefore, you shall die. Know, too, as this is your last moment, that, vampyre as you are, and as I, of all men, best know you to be, I will take especial care that you shall be placed in some position after death where the revivifying moonbeams may not touch you, so that this shall truly be your end, and you shall rot away, leaving no trace behind of your existence, sufficient to contain the vital principle."
"No—no! you cannot—will not. You will have mercy."
"Ask the famished tiger for mercy, when you intrude upon his den."
As he spoke the baron ground his teeth together with rage, and, in an instant, buried the poniard in the throat of his victim. The blade went through to the yellow sand beneath, and the murderer still knelt upon the man's chest, while he who had thus received so fatal a blow tossed his arms about with agony, and tried in vain to shriek.
The nature of the wound, however, prevented him from uttering anything but a low gurgling sound, for he was nearly choked with his own blood, and soon his eyes became fixed and of a glassy appearance; he stretched out his two arms, and dug his fingers deep into the sand.
The baron drew forth the poniard, and a gush of blood immediately followed it, and then one deep groan testified to the fact, that the spirit, if there be a spirit, had left its mortal habitation, and winged its flight to other realms, if there be other realms for it to wing its flight to.
And as usual they don’t stick the landing: that last line absolutely destroys the resonance and effect of the scene and returns it to farce. Varney has to dispose of the body, and this he does in a classical Varney fashion, badly. There is a sort of complicated underground ice-house passage leading from the mansion to the beach, into which he lugs the body and pitches it down one of the ice-wells:
It was an annoyance, however, for him to find that the distance was not so deep as he had anticipated, and when he took the light from the niche where he had placed it, and looked earnestly down, he could see the livid, ghastly-looking face of the dead man, for the body had accidentally fallen upon its back, which was a circumstance he had not counted upon, and one which increased the chances greatly of its being seen, should any one be exploring, from curiosity, that not very inviting place.
This was annoyance, but how could it be prevented, unless, indeed, he chose to descend, and make an alteration in the disposition of the corpse? But this was evidently what he did not choose to do; so, after muttering to himself a few words expressive of his intention to leave it where it was, he replaced the candle, after extinguishing it, in the box from whence he had taken it, and carefully walked out of the dismal place.
I can get screwing up the initial disposition of the body, but the fact that he kinda just sort of goes shrug emoji and wanders off is just so dumb. It’s his hallmark: he seems to want to get caught, whether consciously or unconsciously, and proceeds to do incredibly stupid things that practically guarantee angry mobs. It’s a version of dog science*, and it’s evidence of a couple of authors who refuse to let their characters develop or learn from their actions and mistakes.
Next time: we’re suddenly back in Story A with the Bannerworths, because nobody could accuse Rymer/Prest of understanding the necessity of transitions.
*From Allie Brosh’s brilliant Hyperbole and a Half.