"And now I have but to lie down and die": Varney the Vampyre Retcons His Own Goddamn Introduction

Previously on: the mysterious Hungarian vampire gets shot for a change, but respawns as usual and swims off down a stream, to the discomfiture of the locals; Varney, yet again pursued by an angry mob, parkours his way to the Cottage of Undisclosed Location and collapses at the feet of Flora Bannerworth in time to tell our heroes lots more of his origin story.

Charles has filled everyone in on the part of it which Varney already shared with him, and now Varney takes up the narrative thread to explain that, having murdered Some Guy, he and Marmaduke Bannerworth then had to hide the body and this was a gigantic hassle:

"It is ever the worst part of the murderer's task, that after he has struck the blow that has deprived his victim of existence, it becomes his frightful duty to secrete the corpse, which, with its dead eyes, ever seems to be glaring upon him such a world of reproach.

That it is which should make people pause ere they dipped their hands in the blood of others, and that it is which becomes the first retribution that the murderer has to endure for the deep crime that he has committed.”

Not, y’know, the murdering people is generally a bad idea and frowned upon in polite society thing, but the fact that you gotta hide the fucking body afterwards. They’re kind of bad at this:

"When we had completed this, and likewise gathered handsfull of dust from the road, and dry leaves, and such other matter, to sprinkle upon the grave, so as to give the earth an appearance of not having been disturbed, we looked at each other and breathed from our toil.

"Then, and not till then, was it that we remembered that among other things which the gambler had won of Marmaduke were the deeds belonging to the Dearbrook property."

D’OH. Marma-B is like goddamnit I can’t believe I have to dig this asshole up again and Varney tells him in no uncertain terms that he, Varney, is all kinds of not up for any such thing. Proving that he is very far from the smartest apple on the Bannerworth family tree, Marmaduke decides to leave the deeds on the dead guy and see if anybody notices:

"'Well, well,' he said, 'I will not, at the present time, disturb the remains; I will wait to see if anything should arise from the fact of the murder; if it should turn out that no suspicion of any kind is excited, but that all is still and quiet, I can then take measures to exhume the corpse, and recover those papers, which certainly are important.'

Brilliant. It’s getting on for morning, so they decide to bugger off. Varney tells Marma-B to take the whole of their recovered winnings back to Bannerworth Hall and hide them somewhere clever, and he will come by in the near future to collect his half. Of course, we know this doesn’t end up happening because Bannerworth shoots himself in a drunken access of guilt without telling Varney where he hid the loot. This is the reason Varney’s been scheming up ways to get hold of Bannerworth Hall all book, in case you were wondering, but in the meantime he has to decamp for London and take up a new career as a desperate criminal. This goes about as well as you could imagine, and the gang he’s running with end up getting caught and sentenced to death. Varney doesn’t take this well:

"In this state of affairs, and seeing nothing but death before me, I gave myself up to despair, and narrowly missed cheating the hangman of his victim.

"More dead than alive, I was, however, dragged out to be judicially murdered, and I shall never forget the crowd of frightful sensations that came across my mind upon that terrific occasion.”

He recalls that the mob who came out to watch his execution apparently yelled invective not at him but at the hangman, who seems to occupy a ceremonially reviled role similar to the member of the ancient Egyptian embalming team who made the first incision on the corpse and was thence chased away and pelted with stones. This dude is, of course, the other person who has been trying to get inside Bannerworth Hall and who is now, I think, ded from angry mob. Varney is, without further ado, dispatched to the great beyond OR IS HE:

"Then suddenly there was a loud shout—I felt the platform give way beneath my feet—I tried to utter a yell of agony, but could not—it seemed to me as if I was encompassed by fire, and then sensation left me, and I knew no more.

"The next feelings of existence that came over me consisted in a frightful tingling sensation throughout my veins, and I felt myself making vain efforts to scream. All the sensations of a person suffering from a severe attack of nightmare came across me, and I was in such an agony, that I inwardly prayed for death to release me from such a cruel state of suffering. Then suddenly the power to utter a sound came to me, and I made use of it well, for the piercing shriek I uttered, must have struck terror into the hearts of all who heard it, since it appalled even myself.

"Then I suppose I must have fainted, but when I recovered consciousness again, I found myself upon a couch, and a man presenting some stimulus to me in a cup. I could not distinguish objects distinctly, but I heard him say, 'Drink, and you will be better.'

Since Chillingworth pulled a Victor Frankenstein and ran the fuck away after successfully resurrecting the dead, rather than bothering to provide aftercare, it’s up to the hangman. Varney has a bit of difficulty understanding what the fuck just happened.

"It was some time before I could speak, and when I did, it was only in a few muttered words, to ask what had happened, and where I was.

"'Do you not remember,' he said, 'that you were hanged?'

"'I do—I do,' was my reply. 'Is this the region of damned souls?'

"'No; you are still in this world, however strange you may think it. Listen to me, and I will briefly tell you how it is that you have come back again, as it were, from the very grave, to live and walk about among the living."

So he does, and then drops this bombshell on Varney:

"'There can be no doubt but my duty requires of me to give you up again to the offended laws of your country. I will not, however, do that, if you will consent to an arrangement that I shall propose to you.'

"I asked him what the arrangement was, and he said that if I would solemnly bind myself to pay to him a certain sum per annum, he would keep my secret, and forsaking his calling as hangman, endeavour to do something that should bring with it pleasanter results. I did so solemnly promise him, and I have kept my word. By one means or another I have succeeded in procuring the required amount, and now he is no more."

Thus the scene a few hundred thousand chapters back where Varney is awaiting the dire and terrible visit of a mysterious personage who keeps extorting money out of him. However, since the angry mob has done for Mr. Ketch, Varney is freed from his obligation:

"I believe," cried Henry, "that he has fallen a victim to the blind fury of the populace."

"You are right, he has so, and accordingly I am relieved from the burden of those payments; but it matters little, for now I am so near the tomb myself, that, together with all my obligations, I shall soon be beyond the reach of mortal cavilling."

Woe, doom. You can just see him pressing a hand to his forehead and siiiiighing. The others are like “get over it” and want the rest of the story:

"You need not think so, Varney; you must remember that you are at present suffering from circumstances, the pressure of which will soon pass away, and then you will resume your wonted habits."

"What did you do next?" said the admiral.—"Let's know all while you are about it."

Varney relates that the hangman, whose name was apparently “Mortimore,” let him crash on his couch until he was all better from being dead. He spent that time coming up with clever and nefarious plans to get hold of cash, never having forgotten that somewhere in Bannerworth Hall there was a huge wad thereof, part of which technically belonged to him. It is at this point that he first discovered himself to be a supernatural creature incapable of staying dead, entirely by accident, falling off his horse into a stream:

"I could not swim, and so, for a second time, death, with all its terrors, appeared to be taking possession of me. The waters rolled over my head, gurgling and hissing in my ears, and then all was past. I know no more, until I found myself lying upon a bright green meadow, and the full beams of the moon shining upon me.

"I was giddy and sick, but I rose, and walked slowly away, each moment gathering fresh strength, and from that time to this, I never discovered how I came to be rescued from the water, and lying upon that green bank. It has ever been a mystery to me, and I expect it ever will.

"Then from that moment the idea that I had a sort of charmed life came across me, and I walked about with an impression that such was the case, until I came across a man who said that he was a Hungarian, and who was full of strange stories of vampyres. Among other things, he told me that a vampyre could not be drowned, for that the waters would cast him upon its banks, and, if the moonbeams fell upon him, he would be restored to life.

"This was precisely my story, and from that moment I believed myself to be one of those horrible, but charmed beings, doomed to such a protracted existence. The notion grew upon me day by day, and hour by hour, until it became quite a fixed and strong belief, and I was deceiving no one when I played the horrible part that has been attributed to me."

ARE YOU OR AREN’T YOU A GODDAMN VAMPYRE, DUDE — no, you know what, I’m not going to yell at Varney for something that is entirely Rymer/Prest’s stupid fault, it is lazy writing to leave the answer to this question completely up in the air, smdh.

"But you don't mean to say that you believe you are a vampyre now?" said the admiral.

"I say nothing, and know not what to think. I am a desperate man, and what there is at all human in me, strange to say, all of you whom I sought to injure, have awakened."

Henry’s all “who gives a shit, make with the rest of the story”:

"Heed not that," said Henry, "but continue your narrative. We have forgiven everything, and that ought to suffice to quiet your mind upon such a subject."

At this point Varney proceeds to fucking retcon his own first appearance in print. He explains that he had determined to get hold of Bannerworth Hall through whatever means necessary, and after sending them chummy notes asking to buy their home failed to work, he decided to terrify them out of the place instead:

"By prowling about, I made myself familiar with the grounds, and with all the plan of the residence, and then one night made my appearance in Flora's chamber by the window."

"But how do you account," said Charles Holland, "for your extraordinary likeness to the portrait?"

"It is partly natural, for I belong to a collateral branch of the family;

OH COME ON NOW

and it was previously arranged. I had seen the portrait in Marmaduke Bannerworth's time, and I knew some of its peculiarities and dress sufficiently well to imitate them. I calculated upon producing a much greater effect by such an imitation; and it appears that I was not wrong, for I did produce it to the full."

"You did, indeed," said Henry; "and if you did not bring conviction to our minds that you were what you represented yourself to be, you at least staggered our judgments upon the occasion, and left us in a position of great doubt and difficulty."

"I did; I did all that, I know I did; and, by pursuing that line of conduct, I, at last, I presume, entirely forced you from the house."

"That you did."

"Flora fainted when I entered her chamber; and the moment I looked upon her sweet countenance my heart smote me for what I was about; but I solemnly aver, that my lips never touched her, and that, beyond the fright, she suffered nothing from Varney, the vampyre."

OH COME THE LIVID FUCK ON NOW I CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE THIS SHIT

LET’S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING SHALL WE

With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen—with a strange howling cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized the long tresses of her hair, and twining them round his bony hands he held her to the bed. Then she screamed—Heaven granted her then power to scream. Shriek followed shriek in rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell in a heap by the side of the bed—she was dragged by her long silken hair completely on to it again. Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her soul. The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with a hideous satisfaction—horrible profanation. He drags her head to the bed's edge. He forces it back by the long hair still entwined in his grasp. With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth—a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking noise follows. The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!

AND A LITTLE FURTHER ON

Before it passed out they each and all caught a glance of the side-face, and they saw that the lower part of it and the lips were dabbled in blood. They saw, too, one of those fearful-looking, shining, metallic eyes which presented so terrible an appearance of unearthly ferocity.

This is not just lazy writing, this is insufferably irresponsible writing. Do not do this, people. Gaslighting your own readers is just not such a great look. Just about as insufferable is the complete lack of surprise or disagreement on the part of the other characters in hearing this asshole flatly contradict the evidence of their own eyes; they’re just like “oh, okay then.”

"I presume, Sir Francis Varney," said Charles Holland, "that you have now completed your narrative?"

"I have. After events are well known to you. And, now, I have but to lie down and die, with the hope of finding that rest and consolation in the tomb which has been denied me hitherto in this world. My life has been a stormy one, and full of the results of angry passions. I do hope now, that, for the short time I have to live, I shall know something like serenity, and die in peace."

this dude is Edgar Allan Poe character levels of dramatic bullshit I swear

He proceeds to develop Mysterious Wasting Disease, which is related to Movie Tuberculosis without the delicate episodes of hemoptysis, and lies around on couches being pathetic at everybody:

Time flew by. The mode of passing time at the cottage was calm and serene. Varney had seldom witnessed anything like it; but, at the same time, he felt more at ease than ever he had; he was charmed with the society of Flora—in fact, with the whole of the little knot of individuals who there collected together; from what he saw he was gratified in their society; and it seemed to alleviate his mental disquiet, and the sense he must feel of his own peculiar position. But Varney became ill. The state of mind and body he had been in for some time past might be the cause of it. He had been much harassed, and hunted from place to place. There was not a moment in which his life was not in danger, and he had, moreover, more than one case, received some bodily injuries, bruises, and contusions of a desperate character; and yet he would take no notice of them, but allow them to get well again, as best they could. His escapes and injuries had made a deep impression upon his mind, and had no doubt a corresponding effect upon his body, and Varney became very ill.

Which is where I will leave him for the moment. Next time: yet more people show up to play Chase the Vampyre because we haven’t had enough of that in this book so far.

"He wants a dollop of blood from somebody": Varney the Vampyre and the Angry Mob, Parkour Edition

Previously on: a mysterious Hungarian nobleman WHO IS OBVIOUSLY A VAMPYRE falls afoul of the local angry mob and, when resurrected by the moonlight, swims off down a stream; our heroes don’t actually do anything of interest; Varney is Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Chapter.

We pick up with Charles and Henry at the Cottage of Undisclosed Location, discussing whether they should try to locate gainful employment rather than continue to mooch off the admiral’s hard-earned cash. Henry has brought a box of Random Shit from Bannerworth Hall which he now proposes to go through and determine if they can sell any of it, in the process of which he discovers an old pocket-book belonging to Marma-B which contains Exciting Clues such as a card and some notes:

Charles took up the card, and read upon it the name of Count Barrare.

"That name," he said, "seems familiar to me. Ah! now I recollect, I have read of such a man. He flourished some twenty, or five-and-twenty years ago, and was considered a roue of the first water—a finished gamester; and, in a sort of brief memoir I read once of him, it said that he disappeared suddenly one day, and was never again heard of."

"Indeed! I'm not puzzled to think how his card came into my father's pocket-book. They met at some gaming-house; and, if some old pocket-book of the Count Barrare's were shaken, there might fall from it a card, with the name of Mr. Marmaduke Bannerworth upon it."

"Is there nothing further in the pocket-book—no memoranda?"

"I will look. Stay! here is something upon one of the leaves—let me see—'Mem., twenty-five thousand pounds! He who robs the robber, steals little; it was not meant to kill him: but it will be unsafe to use the money for a time—my brain seems on fire—the remotest hiding-place in the house is behind the picture."

So now we know the name of Some Guy who won Varney and Marma-B’s gambling winnings off of them and subsequently got himself skewered. Charles knows that end of the story but, due to the fact that he promised not to tell anyone but Flora, cannot very well say so. They ask Chillingworth what he thinks, and he refuses to tell them anything useful and walks off with the evidence. Charles resolves to go coax Varney into allowing him to share the story with the full group.

Cut to the town, where the urchin who had promised to guide the Hungarian to Varney’s hiding place is understandably ticked off by that worthy’s failure to appear with the agreed-upon half-crowns, and decides to cause some trouble by telling people where the vampyre is to be found ("It's a fact," said the boy. "I saw him go in, and he looks thinner and more horrid than ever. I am sure he wants a dollop of blood from somebody.")

This, of course, results in Angry Mob Number I’ve Lost Count heading Varneywards with pitchfork and torch in hand. He’s chilling out on the rooftop, like you do:

The old mansion in which Sir Francis Varney had taken refuge, stood empty and solitary; it seemed as though it were not associated with the others by which it was surrounded. It was gloomy, and in the moonlight it reminded one of things long gone by, existences that had once been, but now no longer of this present time—a mere memento of the past.

Sir Francis Varney reclined upon the house-top; he gazed upon the sky, and upon the earth; he saw the calm tranquillity that reigned around, and could not but admire what he saw; he sighed, he seemed to sigh, from a pleasure he felt in the fact of his security; he could repose there without fear, and breathe the balmy air that fanned his cheek.

Except here comes the angry mob again.

The knock which came so loud and so hard upon the door caused Sir Francis to start visibly, for it seemed his own knell. Then, as if the mob were satisfied with their knowledge of his presence, and of their victory, and of his inability to escape them, they sent up a loud shout that filled the whole neighbourhood with its sound.

It seemed to come from below and around the house; it rose from all sides, and that told Sir Francis Varney that the house was surrounded and all escape was cut off; there was no chance of his being able to rush through such a multitude of men as that which now encircled him.

With the calmest despair, Sir Francis Varney lay still and motionless on the house-top, and listened to the sounds that proceeded from below. Shout after shout arose on the still, calm air of the night; knock after knock came upon the stout old door, which awakened responsive echoes throughout the house that had for many years lain dormant, and which now seemed disturbed, and resounded in hollow murmurs to the voices from without.

They break in and there is some rollicking action with Varney laying about himself with a stout ash-staff before a chase scene across the rooftops, which — okay, the house was just described as being solitary, not right next to a bunch of other houses, so how the hell are they running across the rooftops come on now Rymer/Prest, keep up with your own goddamn book.

The hoots and shouts of the mob above had now attracted those below to the spot where Sir Francis Varney was trying to escape, but he had not gone far before the loud yells of those behind him told him that he was again pursued.

Half dead, and almost wholly spent, unarmed, and defenceless, he scarce knew what to do; whether to fly, or to turn round and die as a refuge from the greater evil of endeavouring to prolong a struggle which seemed hopeless. Instinct, however, urged him on, at all risks, and though he could not go very far, or fast, yet on he went, with the crowd after him.

"Down with the vampyre!—seize him—hold him—burn him! he must be down presently, he can't stand!"

The chase scene goes on for long enough that we are about as glad as Varney when it finally ends— he’s in moderately poor shape, having fallen off various roofs and taken a couple of half-bricks to the head while parkouring for his life — and wouldn’t you know it, he winds up in exactly the wrong house:

Then came a great shout upon his ears, as though they had found out he had left the wood. This caused him to redouble his speed, and, fearful lest he should be seen in the moonlight, he leaped over the first fence that he came to, with almost the last effort he could make, and then staggered in at an open door—through a passage—into a front parlour, and there fell, faint, and utterly spent and speechless, at the feet of Flora Bannerworth.

TIME FOR SOME HURT/COMFORT :D :D :D Varney’s like omg please spare my life they want to murder me a whole lot, you wouldn’t let that happen would you and she’s like well duh of course not and apparently Varney didn’t hear that the first time:

"Save me! Miss Flora Bannerworth, save me!" he again said, raising himself on his hands. "I am beset, hunted like a wild beast—they seek my life—they have pursued me from one spot to another, and I have unwittingly intruded upon you. You will save me: I am sure your kindness and goodness of heart will never permit me to be turned out among such a crew of blood-thirsty butchers as those who pursue me are."

"Rise, Sir Francis Varney," said Flora, after a moment's hesitation; "in such an extremity as that which you are in, it would be inhuman indeed to thrust you out among your enemies."

"Oh! it would," said Varney. "I had thought, until now, I could have faced such a mob, until I was in this extremity; and then, disarmed and thrown down, bruised, beaten, and incapable of stemming such a torrent, I fled from one place to another, till hunted from each, and then instinct alone urged me to greater exertion than before, and here I am—this is now my last and only hope."

"Rise, Sir Francis."

"You will not let me be torn out and slaughtered like an ox. I am sure you will not."

"Sir Francis, we are incapable of such conduct; you have sought refuge here, and shall find it as far as we are able to afford it to you."

The others arrive and they’re nice to him and he doesn’t know what to do with that. After tidying himself up a bit he proceeds to (as is fairly standard for this book) recap what just happened:

"Your escape was very narrow indeed," said Flora; "it makes me shudder to think of the dangers you have gone through; it is really terrible to think of it."

"You," said Sir Francis, "are young and susceptible, and generous in your disposition, You can feel for me, and do; but how little I could have expected it, it is impossible to say; but your sympathy sinks into my mind and causes such emotions as never can be erased from my soul.

“She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them.”

"But to proceed. You may guess how dreadful was my position, by the fact that the first man who attempted to get over tore the ivy away and fell, striking me in his fall; he was killed, and I thrown down and stunned. I then made for the wood, closely pursued and got into it; then I baffled them: they searched the wood, and I went through it. I then ran across the country to these houses here; I got over the fence, and in at the back door."

Now that we’re all caught up, Varney is put to bed in a spare room and is not woken even once by angry mobs, which must be something of a novelty. He spends the next day hanging out with the Bannerworths, and tells Charles and Flora that he will finish the spine-tingling autobiography he’d begun to relate in one week. Way to tease, dude. That night all is well until it isn’t, and we are treated to another of Rymer/Prest’s inadvertently hilarious conversations:

"Hurrah!—hurrah!—hurrah!" shouted the mob, which had silently collected around the cottage of the Bannerworths.

"Curses!" muttered Sir Francis, as he again sank in his chair, and struck his head with his hand. "I am hunted to death—they will not leave me until my body has graced a cross-road."

"Hurrah!—down with the vampyre—pull him out!"

Then came an instant knocking at the doors, and the people on the outside made so great a din, that it seemed as though they contemplated knocking the house down at once, without warning the inmates that they waited there.

There was a cessation for about a minute, when one of the family hastened to the door, and inquired what was wanted.

"Varney, the vampyre," was the reply.

"You must seek him elsewhere."

"We will search this place before we go further," replied a man.

"But he is not here."

"We have reason to believe otherwise. Open the door, and let us in—no one shall be hurt, or one single object in the house; but we must come in, and search for the vampyre."

"Come to-morrow, then."

"That will not do," said the voice; "open, or we force our way in without more notice."

So in they force, and Varney’s like “well, shit, I’m done for, the only place in the world they won’t look is FLORA’S ROOM”:

"Miss Bannerworth—" began Varney.

"Sir Francis!"

"Yes, it is indeed I, Miss Bannerworth; hear me, for one moment."

"What is the matter?"

"I am again in peril—in more imminent peril than before; my life is not worth a minute's purchase, unless you save me. You, and you alone, can now save me. Oh! Miss Bannerworth, if ever pity touched your heart, save me from those only whom I now fear. I could meet death in any shape but that in which they will inflict it upon me. Hear their execrations below!"

"Death to the vampyre! death to Varney! burn him! run a stake through his body!"

She’s like “uh what do you expect ME to do” and he says “can i hide in ur room no hanky-panky i promise pinky swear,” and it works, of course. When the mob is gone he proceeds to have the vapors and, prompted by Charles Holland, removes the embargo on retelling of his story — and for once Rymer/Prest don’t actually have the entire narrative written out in the text, simply saying that Charles Tells Everyone What He Knows:

Thus empowered by the mysterious being, Charles Holland related briefly what Varney had already told him, and then concluded by saying,—

"That is all that I have myself as yet been made aware of, and I now call upon Sir Francis Varney to finish his narration."

"I am weak," said Varney, "and scarcely equal to the task; but yet I will not shrink from the promise that I have made. You have been the preservers of my life, and more particularly to you, Flora Bannerworth, am I indebted for an existence, which otherwise must have been sacrificed upon the altar of superstition."

"But you will recollect, Master Varney," said the admiral, who had sat looking on for some time in silent wonder, "you must recollect, Master Varney, that the people are, after all, not so much to blame for their superstition, because, whether you are a vampyre or not, and I don't pretend to come to a positive opinion now, you took good care to persuade them you were."

OOOOOOOOOH

"I did," said Varney, with a shudder; "but why did I?"

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH

"Well, you know best."

"It was, then, because I did believe, and do believe, that there is something more than natural about my strangely protracted existence; but we will waive that point, and, before my failing strength, for it appears to me to be failing, completely prevents me from doing so, let me relate to you the continued particulars of the circumstances that made me what I am."

Which he proceeds to do at extremely great length, so I will leave that recap for next time :D


"There are things living in the stream, and I am one of them": Varney the Vampyre Goes Nowhere Fast

Previously on: Charles Holland follows Varney to his latest lair, gets him to wake up with effort, and proceeds to coax his life story out of him while continuing to emphasize confusion regarding the actual nature of Varney himself — and also calls Varney on his shit, for the first time all book, and I am gleeful.

Presumably because Rymer/Prest wanted to pad the narrative, Varney tells Charles only part of his backstory before telling him to run along and come back the following evening for the thrilling conclusion. What we know so far is that he and Flora’s dad were involved in a highway robbery that went south; he was tried and hanged for it; Chillingworth revived him with mysterious galvanic something-or-other; and he has a scorching case of vampire angst whether or not he is in fact a legit sanguivore.

We now cut back to the local inn, where yet another mysterious stranger has arrived and is asking after Varney. The newcomer is tall, dark, cadaverous, doesn’t eat food, etcetera:

"I live upon drink," said the stranger; "but you have none in the cellar that will suit me."

"Indeed, sir."

"No, no, I am certain."

"Why, we've got some claret now, sir," said the landlord.

"Which may look like blood, and yet not be it."

come on now does everyone in this whole book have to be such a goddamn edgelord

The stranger wishes to have it put about that a nobleman from Hungary is looking for Varney and wants to have a chat regarding same with Mr. Henry Bannerworth. There is some unnecessary byplay establishing that the innkeeper is still comic relief, Chillingworth’s wife is annoying, and local enterprising urchins are enterprising; the Hungarian settles with one such to act as a guide for him and lead him to the house Varney is currently renting.

Back at the Cottage of Undisclosed Location the admiral and Jack do a bit more fighting and making up; Charles arrives, fresh from his all-night storytelling session with Varney, and true to his word does not vouchsafe any of the secrets he now conceals in his bosom. Not a hell of a lot actually happens, so we cut back to the Hungarian who is arousing suspicion amongst the locals due to acting really fucking suspicious. It is determined that he is probably a vampyre:

"Have you an almanack in the house?" was the question of the mysterious guest.

"An almanack, sir? well, I really don't know. Let me see, an almanack."

"But, perhaps, you can tell me. I was to know the moon's age."

"The devil!" thought the landlord; "he's a vampyre, and no mistake. Why, sir, as to the moon's age, it was a full moon last night, very bright and beautiful, only you could not see it for the clouds."

"A full moon last night," said the mysterious guest, thoughtfully; "it may shine, then, brightly, to-night, and if so, all will be well. I thank you,—leave the room."

"Do you mean to say, sir, you don't want anything to eat now?"

"What I want I'll order."

"But you have ordered nothing."

"Then presume that I want nothing."

The discomfited landlord was obliged to leave the room, for there was no such a thing as making any answer to this, and so, still further confirmed in his opinion that the stranger was a vampyre that came to see Sir Francis Varney from a sympathetic feeling towards him, he again reached the bar-parlour.

"You may depend," he said, "as sure as eggs is eggs, that he is a vampyre. Hilloa! he's going off,—after him—after him; he thinks we suspect him. There he goes—down the High-street."

The locals follow him; he apparently notices this and instead of continuing toward the agreed-upon rendezvous with the urchin he heads off across the countryside, but not fast enough to get out of range; one of the more enterprising locals takes a shot at him while he crosses a stream, and apparently finds his mark. Rymer/Prest now employ a rare but not unheard-of scene break and now proceed to go absolutely florid in descriptive prose. You can clearly tell they’re enjoying the opportunity to reach truly magnificent heights of purplitude:

How silently and sweetly the moon's rays fall upon the water, upon the meadows, and upon the woods. The scenery appeared the work of enchantment, some fairy land, waiting the appearance of its inhabitants. No sound met the ear; the very wind was hushed; nothing was there to distract the sense of sight, save the power of reflection.

This, indeed, would aid the effect of such a scene. A cloudless sky, the stars all radiant with beauty, while the moon, rising higher and higher in the heavens, increasing in the strength and refulgence of her light, and dimming the very stars, which seemed to grow gradually invisible as the majesty of the queen of night became more and more manifest.

The dark woods and the open meadows contrasted more and more strongly; like light and shade, the earth and sky were not more distinct and apart; and the ripling stream, that rushed along with all the impetuosity of uneven ground.

The banks are clothed with verdure; the tall sedges, here and there, lined the sides; beds of bulrushes raised their heads high above all else, and threw out their round clumps of blossoms like tufts, and looked strange in the light of the moon.

Here and there, too, the willows bent gracefully over the stream, and their long leaves were wafted and borne up and down by the gentler force of the stream.

Below, the stream widened, and ran foaming over a hard, stony bottom, and near the middle is a heap of stones—of large stones, that form the bed of the river, from which the water has washed away all earthy particles, and left them by themselves.

These stones in winter could not be seen, they were all under water, and the stream washed over in a turbulent and tumultuous manner. But now, when the water was clear and low, they are many of them positively out of the water, the stream running around and through their interstices; the water-weeds here and there lying at the top of the stream, and blossoming beautifully.

The daisy-like blossoms danced and waved gently on the moving flood, at the same time they shone in the moonlight, like fairy faces rising from the depths of the river, to receive the principle of life from the moon's rays.

'Tis sweet to wander in the moonlight at such an hour, and it is sweet to look upon such a scene with an unruffled mind, and to give way to the feelings that are engendered by a walk by the river side.

And so on and so on and so on. But lo, all is not well: there is a form lying in the babbling brook, i.e. the dead Hungarian:

How it came there it would be difficult to say. It appeared as though, when the waters were high, the body had floated down, and, at the subsidence of the waters, it had been left upon the stones, and now it was exposed to view.

It was strange and mysterious, and those who might look upon such a sight would feel their blood chill, and their body creep, to contemplate the remains of humanity in such a place, and in such a condition as that must be in.

A human life had been taken! How? Who could tell? Perhaps accident alone was the cause of it; perhaps some one had taken a life by violent means, and thrown the body in the waters to conceal the fact and the crime.

OR YOU KNOW IT COULD BE THE DEAD GUY WHO WE JUST SAW GETTING SHOT LITERALLY ONE SCENE AGO

The moon continues to rise; its silvery rays creep ever nearer the dark and mysterious form; Rymer/Prest are unintentionally hilarious:

Now and then a fish leaps out of the stream, and just exhibits itself, as much as to say, "There are things living in the stream, and I am one of them."

After several million more words the moonlight does its thing; the dead guy respawns and proceeds to swim off down the river. It turns out that all this time the locals have been standing there watching:

During the continuance of this singular scene, not one word had passed between the landlord and his companions. When the blacksmith fired the fowling-piece, and saw the stranger fall, apparently lifeless, upon the stepping-stones that crossed the river, he became terrified at what he had done, and gazed upon the seeming lifeless form with a face on which the utmost horror was depicted.

They all seemed transfixed to the spot, and although each would have given worlds to move away, a kind of nightmare seemed to possess them, which stunned all their faculties, and brought over them a torpidity from which they found it impossible to arouse themselves.

But, when the apparently dead man moved again, and when, finally, the body, which appeared so destitute of life, rolled into the stream, and floated away with the tide, their fright might be considered to have reached its climax. The absence of the body, however, had seemingly, at all events, the effect of releasing them from the mental and physical thraldom in which they were, and they were enabled to move from the spot, which they did immediately, making their way towards the town with great speed.

I’d like to point out that inland streams don’t have goddamn tides, thanks. The locals don’t know what the fuck to make out of any of this, and have to come up with excuses for where they’ve been all this time, and the landlord is understandably slightly worried that his mysterious guest will return and be ticked off about getting shot. Rymer/Prest have truly outdone themselves in terms of Hilariously Bad Writing this time around, but they reach stunning and unprecedented heights with the closing sentences of the chapter.

And now we will return to the cottage where the Bannerworth family were at all events, making themselves quite as happy as they did at their ancient mansion, in order to see what is there passing, and how Dr. Chillingworth made an effort to get up some evidence of something that the Bannerworth family knew nothing of, therefore could not very well be expected to render him much assistance. That he did, however, make what he considered an important discovery, we shall perceive in the course of the ensuing chapter, in which it will be seen that the best hidden things will, by the merest accident, sometimes come to light, and that, too, when least expected by any one at all connected with the result.

okay then thank you for that crystalline, pellucid statement, guys, all is completely understood

(Next time: SECRET HIDING PLACES and MENTION OF TREASURE~)

To Me 'Tis Full of Horrible Shapes: Someone At So Long Last Calls Varney the Vampyre On His Bullshit

Previously on: Varney and the hangman argue inside the Hall; our heroes lay in wait outside until they determine there’s an angry mob also lying in wait to attack Varney; Henry shows a flicker of uncharacteristic inspiration and sends said mob off on a wild-goose chase; random dude gets murdered; Varney pretends to shoot Chillingworth and escapes them yet again.

(OF PERHAPS VITAL IMPORTANCE: I did not actually realize during the previous recap that the chapter title included THE MURDER OF THE HANGMAN: i.e., the mysterious random dude who gets killed by the angry mob is supposedly the guy who’s been fucking around inside Bannerworth Hall looking for the super sekrit treasure. Why he’d have gone over to the ruins, where the mob located him, is beyond me, but if that’s true then there is one fewer loose end to knot.)

At the end of the last chapter, our heroes repair to the Cottage of Undisclosed Location except for Jack, whom the authors forgot about, and Charles, who has mysteriously disappeared. We pick up with the latter, who has in fact followed Varney on his headlong flight and means to have A Talk with him:

Now, Charles Holland either had an inclination, for some reasons of his own, to follow the vampyre alone; or, on the spur of the moment, he had not time to give an alarm to the others; but certain it is that he did, unaided, rush after him. He saw him enter the summer-house, and pass out of it again at the back portion of it, as he had once before done, when surprised in his interview with Flora.

But the vampyre did not now, as he had done on the former occasion, hide immediately behind the summer-house. He seemed to be well aware that that expedient would not answer twice; so he at once sped onwards, clearing the garden fence, and taking to the meadows.

It formed evidently no part of the intentions of Charles Holland to come up with him. He was resolved upon dogging his footsteps, to know where he should go; so that he might have a knowledge of his hiding-place, if he had one.

"I must and will," said Charles to himself, "penetrate the mystery that hangs about this most strange and inexplicable being. I will have an interview with him, not in hostility, for I forgive him the evil he has done me, but with a kindly spirit; and I will ask him to confide in me."

Because one thing Varney has hitherto demonstrated is a strong desire to tell everybody his secrets, particularly importunate young men whom he has previously imprisoned. Charles follows him to a house for rent, watches Varney let himself in with an actual key through the door rather than climbing through a window as is his usual wont, and comes up with a clever plan re. how to gain entry:

But how to accomplish such a purpose was not the easiest question in the world to answer. If he rung the bell that presented itself above the garden gate, was it at all likely that Varney, who had come there for concealment, would pay any attention to the summons?

After some consideration, he did, however, think of a plan by which, at all events, he could ensure effecting an entrance into the premises, and then he would take his chance of finding the mysterious being whom he sought, and who probably might have no particular objection to meeting with him, Charles Holland, because their last interview in the ruins could not be said to be otherwise than of a peaceable and calm enough character.

Oh, dude. You are standing into danger.

He saw by the board, which was nailed in the front of the house, that all applications to see it were to be made to a Mr. Nash, residing close at hand; and, as Charles had the appearance of a respectable person, he thought he might possibly have the key entrusted to him, ostensibly to look at the house, preparatory possibly to taking it, and so he should, at all events, obtain admission.

Me, I thought it was either dusk or the middle of the night at this point, but Rymer/Prest set me straight:

The day had now fairly commenced, so that there was abundance of light, although, even for the country, it was an early hour, and probably Mr. Nash had been not a little surprised to have a call from one whose appearance bespoke no necessity for rising with the lark at such an hour.

The landlord is somewhat skeptical on account of the last guy who asked for a key walked off with it (hi, Varney) but Charles plays the I Am A Respectable Gentleman classist card and obtains the key without further ado. He lets himself into Varney’s latest lair and finds the vampyre not at his hideous repast, or hanging upside down like a bat, or any number of presumable pursuits: instead he’s sacked out on the damn floor under the window instead of, like, on a bed or even a sofa.

Charles thinks at first that he’s found a dead body, and depending on your version of the mythos (ASSUMING VARNEY IS IN FACT A VAMPYRE, SIGH) he is technically correct.

Upon a nearer examination, he found that the whole body, including the greater part of the head and face, was wrapped in a large cloak; and there, as he gazed, he soon found cause to correct his first opinion at to the form belonging to the dead, for he could distinctly hear the regular breathing, as of some one in a sound and dreamless sleep.

Closer he went, and closer still. Then, as he clasped his hands, he said, in a voice scarcely above a whisper,—

"It is—it is the vampyre."

Yes, there could be no doubt of the fact. It was Sir Francis Varney who lay there, enveloped in the huge horseman's cloak, in which, on two or three occasions during the progress of this narrative, he had figured. There he lay, at the mercy completely of any arm that might be raised against him, apparently so overcome by fatigue that no ordinary noise would have awakened him.

Frozen in terror at the undead fiend, once more. Varney, you kind of suck at this. You kind of suck at pretty much everything, which is rather a pity, but nobody else in this book is particularly competent either except perhaps Chillingworth.

Charles tries to wake him unsuccessfully, and Varney — still asleep — starts to make incriminating statements:

"Where is it?" he said; "where—where hidden?—Pull the house down!—Murder! No, no, no! no murder!—I will not, I dare not. Blood enough is upon my hands.—The money!—the money! Down, villains! down! down! down!"

Charles is like “wtf, dude,” and Varney shuts up for a little while and emits low moans before going into more detail:

"No harm," he said, "no harm,—Marchdale is a villain!—Not a hair of his head injured—no, no. Set him free—yes, I will set him free. Beware! beware, Marchdale! and you Mortimer. The scaffold! ay, the scaffold! but where is the bright gold? The memory of the deed of blood will not cling to it. Where is it hidden? The gold! the gold! the gold! It is not in the grave—it cannot be there—no, no, no!—not there, not there! Load the pistols. There, there! Down, villain, down!—down, down!"

Despairing, now, of obtaining anything like tangible information from these ravings, which, even if they did, by accident, so connect themselves together as to seem to mean something, Charles again cried aloud,—

"Varney, awake, awake!"

Nope. Demonstrating once again their utter inability to detect the moment when drama flips over into unintended comedy, Rymer/Prest refuse to wake up the vampyre until Charles pokes him with a boot:

The effect was as startling as it was instantaneous. The vampyre sprang to his feet, as he had been suddenly impelled up by some powerful machinery; and, casting his cloak away from his arms, so as to have them at liberty, he sprang upon Charles Holland, and hurled him to the ground, where he held him with a giant's grip, as he cried,—

"Rash fool! be you whom you may. Why have you troubled me to rid the world of your intrusive existence?"

The attack was so sudden and so terrific, that resistance to it, even if Charles had had the power, was out of the question. All he could say, was,—

"Varney, Varney! do you not know me? I am Charles Holland. Will you now, in your mad rage, take the life you might more easily have taken when I lay in the dungeon from which you released me?"

Varney is still pinning him to the floor, by the way.

The sound of his voice at once convinced Sir Francis Varney of his identity; and it was with a voice that had some tones of regret in it, that he replied,—

"And wherefore have you thought proper, when you were once free and unscathed, to cast yourself into such a position of danger as to follow me to my haunt?"

"I contemplated no danger," said Charles, "because I contemplated no evil. I do not know why you should kill me."

I’M A VAMPYRE, I AM THE NIGHT, KEEP UP WITH ME HERE

"You came here, and yet you say you do not know why I should kill you. Young man, have you a dozen lives that you can afford to tamper with them thus? I have, at much chance of imminence to myself, already once saved you, when another, with a sterner feeling, would have gladly taken your life; but now, as if you were determined to goad me to an act which I have shunned committing, you will not let me close my eyes in peace."

"Take your hand from off my throat, Varney, and I will then tell you what brought me here."

Sir Francis Varney did so.

Charles explains that he wants to know what Varney’s deal is, and Varney is like “that’s why you came here?” and he admits actually he wants to know not only what Varney’s deal is and why he’s made such a goddamn nuisance of himself to the Bannerworths but why he gave Charles’s girlfriend the PTSDs. The answer that comes to mind is “he thought he would.” Varney is somewhat taken aback, and Charles is all c’mon, man, you totally have feelings and stuff.

AND THEN MAGIC HAPPENS

"I accessible to human feeling! know you to whom you speak? Am I not he before whom all men shudder, whose name has been a terror and a desolation; and yet you can talk of my human feelings. Nay, if I had had any, be sure they would have been extinguished by the persecutions I have endured from those who, you know, with savage ferocity have sought my life."

"No, Varney; I give you credit for being a subtler reasoner than thus to argue; you know well that you were the aggressor to those parties who sought your life; you know well that with the greatest imaginable pains you held yourself up to them as a thing of great terror."

CHARLES. CALLS VARNEY. ON HIS BULLSHIT.

"I did—I did."

"You cannot, then, turn round upon ignorant persons, and blame them because your exertions to make yourself seem what you wish were but too successful."

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"You use the word seem," said Varney, with a bitterness of aspect, "as if you would imply a doubt that I am that which thousands, by their fears, would testify me to be."

"Thousands might," said Charles Holland; "but not among them am I, Varney; I will not be made the victim of superstition. Were you to enact before my very eyes some of those feats which, to the senses of others, would stamp you as the preternatural being you assume to be, I would doubt the evidence of my own senses ere I permitted such a bugbear to oppress my brain."

"Go," said Sir Francis Varney, "go: I have no more words for you; I have nothing to relate to you."

Okay, we’re back to the IS HE OR ISN’T HE thing. I kinda want to mount an expedition to locate Rymer/Prest’s last resting places, dig them up, and yell at them about responsible storytelling practices, because COME ON, MAN. Fucking pick one, it’s the entire premise of your stupid book, this is not rocket science.

Charles presses his advantage:

"In the name of all that is great, and good, and just, I call upon you for justice."

"What have I to do with such an invocation? Utter such a sentiment to men who, like yourself, are invested with the reality as well as the outward show of human nature."

"Nay, Sir Francis Varney, now you belie yourself. You have passed through a long, and, perchance, a stormy life. Can you look back upon your career, and find no reminiscences of the past that shall convince you that you are of the great family of man, and have had abundance of human feelings and of human affections?"

"Peace, peace!"

"Nay, Sir Francis Varney, I will take your word, and if you will lay your hand upon your heart, and tell me truly that you never felt what it was to love—to have all feeling, all taste, and all hope of future joy, concentrated in one individual, I will despair, and leave you. If you will tell me that never, in your whole life, you have felt for any fair and glorious creature, as I now feel for Flora Bannerworth, a being for whom you could have sacrificed not only existence, but all the hopes of a glorious future that bloom around it—if you will tell me, with the calm, dispassionate aspect of truth, that you have held yourself aloof from such human feelings, I will no longer press you to a disclosure which I shall bring no argument to urge."

Varney’s like THIS IS NOT OKAY I AM HAVING SERIOUS BOUNDARY ISSUES HERE KID:

"Do you wish to drive me mad, that you thus, from memory's hidden cells, conjure up images of the past?"

"Then there are such images to conjure up—there are such shadows only sleeping, but which require only, as you did even now, but a touch to awaken them to life and energy. Oh, Sir Francis Varney, do not tell me that you are not human."

for fuck’s sake

The vampyre

PICK ONE

made a furious gesture, as if he would have attacked Charles Holland; but then he sank nearly to the floor, as if soul-stricken by some recollection that unnerved his arm; he shook with unwonted emotion, and, from the frightful livid aspect of his countenance, Charles dreaded some serious accession of indisposition, which might, if nothing else did, prevent him from making the revelation he so much sought to hear from his lips.

"Varney," he cried, "Varney, be calm! you will be listened to by one who will draw no harsh—no hasty conclusions; by one, who, with that charity, I grieve to say, is rare, will place upon the words you utter the most favourable construction. Tell me all, I pray you, tell me all."

Now that he’s triggered the fuck out of Varney, Charles gets what he’s looking for:

"This is strange," said the vampyre. "I never thought that aught human could thus have moved me. Young man, you have touched the chords of memory; they vibrate throughout my heart, producing cadences and sounds of years long past. Bear with me awhile."

"And you will speak to me?"

"I will."

But only on the condition that Charles never breathe a word of it to anybody else, which is not good enough for our Mr. Holland. After several volleys of argument, he manages to extract the concession from Varney that he can tell Flora and Flora alone, whereupon Varney goes into come gather round children I’ll tell you a tale mode. Prepare for infodump!

“Some years ago, it matters not the number, on a stormy night, towards the autumn of the year, two men sat alone in poverty, and that species of distress which beset the haughty, profligate, daring man, who has been accustomed all his life to its most enticing enjoyments, but never to that industry which alone ought to produce them, and render them great and magnificent."

"Two men; and who were they?"

"I was one. Look upon me! I was of those men; and strong and evil passions were battling in my heart."

"And the other!"

"Was Marmaduke Bannerworth."

"Gracious Heaven! the father of her whom I adore; the suicide."

ok now waaaaay back in the beginning I recall that the wastrel ancestor so clearly depicted in the Ominous Portrait was first known as Sir Runnagate Bannerworth and then transmogrified mid-grave-desecration into Marmaduke Bannerworth, Yeoman, who died either in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries depending on what paragraph you’re reading. Either the name “Marmaduke” is passed down in the Bannerworth family fairly consistently, or Rymer/Prest have managed yet another breathtaking continuity error. We know that Flora’s dad killed himself in the summerhouse, but until now we haven’t understood quite why. Varney continues his tale of hanging out with Marma-B and plotting evil deeds:

“We were not nice in the various schemes which our prolific fancies engendered. If trickery, and the false dice at the gaming-table, sufficed not to fill our purses, we were bold enough for violence. If simple robbery would not succeed, we could take a life."

"Murder?"

"Ay, call it by its proper name, a murder. We sat till the midnight hour had passed, without arriving at a definite conclusion; we saw no plan of practicable operation, and so we wandered onwards to one of those deep dens of iniquity, a gaming-house, wherein we had won and lost thousands.”

Where they proceed to wager on the success of one of the other guys playing, and are actually winning for once when Some Guy totally obliterates them and wins the whole pot. Varney and his double-dactylic pal are like oh no you fucking didn’t, and proceed to follow the dude when he leaves with what they consider their cold hard cash.

They discuss briefly how best to go about getting said cash back from Some Guy. Varney zips past him in the country lane and Bannerworth comes up behind to cut off his retreat; Varney’s like STAND AND DELIVER, and Some Guy proceeds to stand and deliver one of Varney’s very first gunshot wounds.

"'Your money,' I said; 'your winnings at the gaming-table. We cannot, and we will not lose it.'

"So suddenly, that he had nearly taken my life, he drew a pistol from his pocket, and levelling it at my head, he fired upon me.

"Perhaps, had I moved, it might have been my death; but, as it was, the bullet furrowed my cheek, leaving a scar, the path of which is yet visible in a white cicatrix.”

Awww, it’s totally his first.

"I felt a stunning sensation, and thought myself a dead man. I cried aloud to Marmaduke Bannerworth, and he rushed forward. I knew not that he was armed, and that he had the power about him to do the deed which he then accomplished; but there was a groan, a slight struggle, and the successful gamester fell upon the green sward, bathed in his blood."

WELP THAT DID NOT GO WELL

"And this is the father of her whom I adore?"

"It is. Are you shocked to think of such a neat relationship between so much beauty and intelligence and a midnight murderer? Is your philosophy so poor, that the daughter's beauty suffers from the commission of a father's crime?"

"No, no, It is not so. Do not fancy that, for one moment, I can entertain such unworthy opinions. The thought that crossed me was that I should have to tell one of such a gentle nature that her father had done such a deed."

"On that head you can use your own discretion. The deed was done; there was sufficient light for us to look upon the features of the dying man. Ghastly and terrific they glared upon us; while the glazed eyes, as they were upturned to the bright sky, seemed appealing to Heaven for vengeance against us, for having done the deed.”

At which point Varney goes into full-on melodrama:

"Many a day and many an hour since at all times and all seasons, I have seen those eyes, with the glaze of death upon them, following me, and gloating over the misery they had the power to make. I think I see them now."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; look—look—see how they glare upon me—with what a fixed and frightful stare the bloodshot pupils keep their place—there, there! oh! save me from such a visitation again. It is too horrible. I dare not—I cannot endure it; and yet why do you gaze at me with such an aspect, dread visitant? You know that it was not my hand that did the deed—who laid you low. You know that not to me are you able to lay the heavy charge of your death!"

"Varney, you look upon vacancy," said Charles Holland.

"No, no; vacancy it may be to you, but to me 'tis full of horrible shapes."

Charles is like “okay there, dial it back down” and Varney pulls himself together:

"Compose yourself; you have taken me far into your confidence already; I pray you now to tell me all. I have in my brain no room for horrible conjectures such as those which might else torment me."

Varney was silent for a few minutes, and then he wiped from his brow the heavy drops of perspiration that had there gathered, and heaved a deep sigh.

"Speak to me," added Charles; "nothing will so much relieve you from the terrors of this remembrance as making a confidence which reflection will approve of, and which you will know that you have no reason to repent."

"Charles Holland," said Varney, "I have already gone too far to retract—much too far, I know, and can well understand all the danger of half confidence. You already know so much, that it is fit you should know more."

"Go on then, Varney, I will listen to you."

"I know not if, at this juncture, I can command myself to say more. I feel that what next has to be told will be most horrible for me to tell—most sad for you to hear told."

Charles is like “okay, spill, what else is there,” and Varney spurts melodrama again but Charles is having none of it (you go, Charles, you are rapidly climbing the Actually Sensible ladder, I didn’t think you had it in you):

"You are right—such is the fact; the death of that man could not have moved me as you now see me moved. There is a secret connected with his fate which I may well hesitate to utter—a secret even to whisper to the winds of heaven—I—although I did not do the deed, no, no—I—I did not strike the blow—not I—not I!"

"Varney, it is astonishing to me the pains you take to assure yourself of your innocence of this deed; no one accuses you, but still, were it not that I am impressed with a strong conviction that you're speaking to me nothing but the truth, the very fact of your extreme anxiety to acquit yourself, would engender suspicion."

"I can understand that feeling, Charles Holland; I can fully understand it. I do not blame you for it—it is a most natural one; but when you know all, you will feel with me how necessary it must have been to my peace to seize upon every trivial circumstance that can help me to a belief in my own innocence."

Charles wants to know why he has such a thing about this particular dude’s death. Was he perhaps important in some way, or a really nice person, or what? Varney changes the subject to be all about him again, because of course that’s the central point of this entire exchange: me me me me me.

"It is true, then, as the doctor states, that you were executed in London?"

"I was."

"And resuscitated by the galvanic process, put into operation by Dr. Chillingworth?"

"As he supposed; but there are truths connected with natural philosophy which he dreamed not of. I bear a charmed life, and it was but accident which produced a similar effect upon the latent springs of my existence in the house to which the executioner conducted me, to what would have been produced had I been sufficed, in the free and open air, to wait until the cool moonbeams fell upon me."

"Varney, Varney," said Charles Holland, "you will not succeed in convincing me of your supernatural powers. I hold such feelings and sensations at arm's length. I will not—I cannot assume you to be what you affect."

"I ask for no man's belief. I know that which I know, and, gathering experience from the coincidences of different phenomena, I am compelled to arrive at certain conclusions. Believe what you please, doubt what you please; but I say again that I am not as other men."

He’s special. And we still don’t know what the fuck he is. Charles, again, calls him on his shit, and he admits that yeah, he totally is wandering from the point because he dreads it, woe. Varney apparently cannot leave well enough alone and asks Charles what he, Charles, thinks regarding Varney’s guilt in the death of the gambler. Charles offers a reasonable response:

"It seems then to me that, not contemplating the man's murder, you cannot be accused of the act, although a set of fortuitous circumstances made you appear an accomplice to its commission."

"You think I may be acquitted?"

"You can acquit yourself, knowing that you did not contemplate the murder."

"I did not contemplate it. I know not what desperate deed I should have stopped short at then, in the height of my distress, but I neither contemplated taking that man's life, nor did I strike the blow which sent him from existence."

"There is even some excuse as regards the higher crime for Marmaduke Bannerworth."

"Think you so?"

"Yes; he thought that you were killed, and impulsively he might have struck the blow that made him a murderer."

Okay, fair enough. Won’t stand up in court but it makes sense. Varney’s like I SUBSCRIBE TO YOUR NEWSLETTER TYVM:

"Be it so. I am willing, extremely willing that anything should occur that should remove the odium of guilt from any man. Be it so, I say, with all my heart; but now, Charles Holland, I feel that we must meet again ere I can tell you all; but in the meantime let Flora Bannerworth rest in peace—she need dread nothing from me. Avarice and revenge, the two passions which found a home in my heart, are now stifled for ever."

"Revenge! did you say revenge?"

"I did; whence the marvel, am I not sufficiently human for that?"

"But you coupled it with the name of Flora Bannerworth."

"I did, and that is part of my mystery."

oh my god dude “part of my mystery” you are SO a sixteen-year-old asking the internet if painting your turtle black will make it spooky. Also I don’t know if you’re human or not, since nobody else seems to have a damn clue, including the authors.

Abruptly Varney’s like I am le tired, come back tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion of my life story, adieu and Charles takes himself off — only to encounter an urchin on the road who reports that the mob has been burning down Bannerworth Hall, OH NO except what the urchin actually means is the old ruins, which are apparently no longer ecclesiastical in origin, and also the mob has killed some guy in case he was a vampyre. Charles is like oh for fuck’s sake:

"When will these terrible outrages cease? Oh! Varney, Varney, you have much to answer for; even if in your conscience you succeed in acquitting yourself of the murder, some of the particulars concerning which you have informed me of."

And with that I leave you. Next time: said thrilling conclusion, a Mysterious Nobleman from Hungary, and more!

What in the Name of All That's Inexplicable: Varney the Vampyre Gets Away Yet Again

Previously on: Chillingworth tells a tale of LARPing Frankenstein; wonder and consternation from Henry and the admiral; Varney and the hangman are apparently doing construction work in Bannerworth Hall; HALF THE BLOODY PREMISE OF THE NOVEL IS RETCONNED, viz. is Varney a vampyre or not.

We pick up with our heroes in hiding outside the Hall listening to Varney and Ketch the Hangman arguing with one another:

"But what do you here?" said Varney, impatiently.

"What do you?" cried the other.

"Nay, to ask another question, is not to answer mine. I tell you that I have special and most important business in this house; you can have no motive but curiosity."

"Can I not, indeed? What, too, if I have serious and important business here?"

I HAVE IMPORTANT BUSINESS HERE I.E. I WANT THE SEKRIT TREASURE TOO

"Impossible."

"Well, I may as easily use such a term as regards what you call important business, but here I shall remain."

"Here you shall not remain."

"And will you make the somewhat hazardous attempt to force me to leave?"

Oooh. Ketch is sassy. Varney is tired of him:

"Yes, much as I dislike lifting my hand against you, I must do so; I tell you that I must be alone in this house. I have most special reasons—reasons which concern my continued existence.”

"Your continued existence you talk of.—Tell me, now, how is it that you have acquired so frightful a reputation in this neighbourhood? Go where I will, the theme of conversation is Varney, the vampyre! and it is implicitly believed that you are one of those dreadful characters that feed upon the life-blood of others, only now and then revisiting the tomb to which you ought long since to have gone in peace."

"Indeed!"

It’s difficult to tell if Varney’s Indeed! is “yeah, I fucking know” or “good heavens, I had no idea.”

"Yes; what, in the name of all that's inexplicable, has induced you to enact such a character?"

"Enact it! you say. Can you, then, from all you have heard of me, and from all you know of me, not conceive it possible that I am not enacting any such character? Why may it not be real? Look at me. Do I look like one of the inhabitants of the earth?"

"In sooth, you do not."

"And yet I am, as you see, upon it. Do not, with an affected philosophy, doubt all that may happen to be in any degree repugnant to your usual experiences."

Varney does snide very well. Also it’s kind of hilarious how often Rymer/Prest work Shakespeare references into the text. This whole bit is lampshading the question raised by Chillingworth’s tale in the previous chapter: is he actually a goddamn vampyre or is he pretending to be one for fun and profit, without giving us any kind of answer, and I am annoyed. Ketch gives few fucks, however:

"I am not one disposed to do so; nor am I prepared to deny that such dreadful beings may exist as vampyres. However, whether or not you belong to so frightful a class of creatures, I do not intend to leave here; but, I will make an agreement with you."

He points out that they’re being watched:

"There are people, even now, watching the place, and no doubt you have been seen coming into it."

"No, no, I was satisfied no one was here but you."

lol, varney

"Then you are wrong. A Doctor Chillingworth, of whom you know something, is here; and him, you have said, you would do no harm to, even to save your life."

"I do know him. You told me that it was to him that I was mainly indebted for my mere existence; and although I do not consider human life to be a great boon, I cannot bring myself to raise my hand against the man who, whatever might have been the motives for the deed, at all events, did snatch me from the grave."

And then freaked out and ran away, leaving Ketch with the reanimated Varney and a lot of questions.

"Upon my word," whispered the admiral, "there is something about that fellow that I like, after all."

"Hush!" said Henry, "listen to them. This would all have been unintelligible to us, if you had not related to us what you have."

"I have just told you in time," said Chillingworth, "it seems."

And here is some lazy writing again: you don’t need to explain why you just had your characters do a thing if it makes sense within the context of the story. If you do need to have a parenthetical “and that’s why I told you the thing” afterward, you haven’t made it make sufficient sense.

"Will you, then," said the hangman, "listen to proposals?"

"Yes," said Varney.

"Come along, then, and I will show you what I have been about; and I rather think you have already a shrewd guess as to my motive. This way—this way."

It is not clear why Ketch changes his mind and takes Varney into his confidence; perhaps he’s just acknowledging that he can’t get rid of the dude and they might as well go searching for treasure together since they both want the same thing. They go deeper into the Hall so that the eavesdroppers can no longer make out what they’re saying; Henry’s like “uh so like what do we do now” and Chillingworth tells him to chill and go fetch his hitherto-forgotten brother and Charles Holland to come join them in the waiting.

(I have just ctrl-F searched for “George” in the Gutenberg document and the last time it appears is waaaaaaaaay back in chapter 37 when the admiral had just decided to buy the Hall, before all the various arrangements for duels were made. We are now in chapter 78 and Rymer/Prest have totally forgotten that Henry had a brother until just now I am in awe of their authorial majesty. Not only have they forgotten he had a brother, they continue to forget what the brother’s name is. For the rest of the novel he is referred to only as the brother. Think about that for a while, won’t you?)

Henry and THE BROTHER return with Holland, sans Jack Pringle, whom they’d dissuaded from coming at the admiral’s behest but who of course shows up on his own shortly thereafter so that he and the admiral can have another tiresome comic-relief argument over whose alcoholism is more of a problem. Chillingworth remains chill, and Rymer/Prest cannot use punctuation:

They more than suspected Dr. Chillingworth, because he was so silent, and hazarded no conjecture at all of knowing something, or of having formed to himself some highly probable hypothesis upon the subject; but they could not get him to agree that such was the case.

There needs to be a comma between “at all” and “of knowing” in order to differentiate between the clauses. As written, it implies that he hazards no conjecture of knowing something, which makes no sense. They suspect him of knowing something because he is so silent and hazards no conjecture at all.

When they challenged him upon the subject, all he would say was,—

"My good friends, you perceive that, there is a great mystery somewhere, and I do hope that to-night it will be cleared up satisfactorily."

With this they were compelled to be satisfied; and now the soft and sombre shades of evening began to creep over the scene, enveloping all objects in the dimness and repose of early night.

Henry hears with his little ear a footstep on the other side of the wall, and goes to reconnoitre.

He had expected to see two or three persons, at the utmost; what was his surprise! to find a compact mass of men crouching down under the garden wall, as far as his eye could reach.

For a few moments, he was so surprised, that he continued to gaze on, heedless of the danger there might be from a discovery that he was playing the part of a spy upon them.

When, however, his first sensations of surprise were over, he cautiously removed to his former position, and, just as he did, so, he heard those who had before spoken, again, in low tones, breaking the stillness of the night.

"I am resolved upon it," said one; "I am quite determined. I will, please God, rid the country of that dreadful man."

"Don't call him a man," said the other.

"Well, well; it is a wrong name to apply to a vampyre."

"It is Varney, after all, then," said Henry. Bannerworth, to himself;—"it is his life that they seek. What can be done to save him?—for saved he shall be if I can compass such an object. I feel that there is yet a something in his character which is entitled to consideration, and he shall not be savagely murdered while I have an arm to raise in his defence. But if anything is now to be done, it must be done by stratagem, for the enemy are, by far, in too great force to be personally combatted with."

Henry could very easily have joined the Chattering Order of St. Beryl: jesus this dude is prolix. “Fuck, they’re here to kill Varney, I have to stop that from happening, but there’s too many of them to fight, we need a plan” would have sufficed. He goes back to tell the others, and they discuss what is to be done; uncharacteristically it is Henry himself who exhibits a rare streak of intelligence and comes up with the answer:

"There is but one chance," said Henry, "and that is to throw them off the scent, and induce them to think that he whom they seek is not here; I think that may possibly be done by boldness."

"But how!"

"I will go among them and make the effort."

He at once left the friends, for he felt that there might be no time to lose, and hastening to the same part of the wall, over which he had looked so short a time before, he clambered over it, and cried, in a loud voice,

"Stop the vampyre! stop the vampyre!"

"Where, where?" shouted a number of persons at once, turning their eyes eagerly towards the spot where Henry stood.

"There, across the fields," cried Henry. "I have lain in wait for him long; but he has eluded me, and is making his way again towards the old ruins, where I am sure he has some hiding-place that he thinks will elude all search. There, I see his dusky form speeding onwards."

"Come on," cried several; "to the ruins! to the ruins! We'll smoke him out if he will not come by fair means: we must have him, dead or alive."

So off they all go to the ruins, where they will encounter the remains of Marchdale, who probably smells a bit ripe by now. I’ve lost count of how long it’s been since he got squished. Rymer/Prest inject extra confusion by talking about the ruins as “Bannerworth Hall” — I seem to recall that the ruins are in fact the last of a previous Bannerworth Hall, but on the other hand I also seem to recall that they were some sort of monastic structure. After several paragraphs of unnecessary description, the mob locates Marchdale, and determines that he is probably a vampyre too, and his body must be burned lest he come back to life and bite everybody’s neck. This is eventually accomplished; but Rymer/Prest are not done with Yet Another Angry Mob Scene: they inject another random stranger whose presence is never explained at all.

There was much talk and joking going on among the men who stood around, in the midst of which, however, they were disturbed by a loud shout, and upon looking in the quarter whence it came, they saw stealing from among the ruins, the form of a man.

He was a strange, odd looking man, and at the time it was very doubtful among the mob as to whom it was—nobody could tell, and more than one looked at the burning pile, and then at the man who seemed to be so mysteriously present, as if they almost imagined that the body had got away.

"Who is it?" exclaimed one.

AND WHY IS HE THERE

"Danged if I knows," said another, looking very hard, and very white at the same time;—"I hope it ain't the chap what we've burned here jist now."

"No," said the female, "that you may be sure of, for he's had a stake through his body, and as you said, he can never get over that, for as the stake is consumed, so are his vitals, and that's a sure sign he's done for."

"Yes, yes, she's right—a vampyre may live upon blood, but cannot do without his inside."

This was so obvious to them all, that it was at once conceded, and a general impression pervaded the mob that it might be Sir Francis Varney: a shout ensued.

"Hurrah!—After him—there's a vampyre—there he goes!—after him—catch him—burn him!"

They chase the stranger, who it turns out is just an ordinary human (WHY WAS HE IN THE RUINS COME ON NOW) and proceed to murder him, like you do.

There was a pause, and those nearest, apparently fearful of the consequences, and hardly expecting the catastrophe, began to disperse, and the remainder did so very soon afterwards.

Okay then. Back to the Hall, where our heroes are still lying around waiting for something to happen. Eventually Varney climbs out of a window (does the door just not work, or what):

"There comes your patient, doctor," said the admiral.

"Don't call him my patient," said the doctor, "if you please."

"Why you know he is; and you are, in a manner of speaking, bound to look after him. Well, what is to be done?"

"He must not, on any account," said Dr. Chillingworth, "be allowed to leave the place. Believe me, I have the very strongest reasons for saying so."

They accost him. Varney’s like “…what?”

"Well, gentlemen," he said, with that strange contortion of countenance which, now they all understood, arose from the fact of his having been hanged, and restored to life again. "Well, gentlemen, now that you have beleaguered me in such a way, may I ask you what it is about?"

"If you will step aside with me, Sir Francis Varney, for a moment," said Dr. Chillingworth, "I will make to you a communication which will enable you to know what it is all about."

"Oh, with pleasure," said the vampyre. "I am not ill at present; but still, sir, I have no objection to hear what you have to say."

He stepped a few paces on one side with the doctor, while the others waited, not without some amount of impatience for the result of the communication. All that they could hear was, that Varney said, suddenly—

"You are quite mistaken."

And then the doctor appeared to be insisting upon something, which the vampyre listened to patiently; and, at the end, burst out with,—

"Why, doctor, you must be dreaming."

At this, Dr. Chillingworth at once left him, and advancing to his friends, he said,—

"Sir Francis Varney denies in toto all that I have related to you concerning him; therefore, I can say no more than that I earnestly recommend you, before you let him go, to see that he takes nothing of value with him."

"Why, what can you mean?" said Varney.

"Search him," said the doctor; "I will tell you why, very shortly."

Varney protests, and when they press him, he shoots Chillingworth point-blank with a pistol and legs it. Henry, his brother, and the admiral are so shocked that they don’t chase him.

"It was a cold blooded, cowardly murder," said his brother.

"It was; but you may depend the doctor was about to reveal something to us, which Varney so much dreaded, that he took his life as the only effectual way, at the moment, of stopping him."

"It must be so," said Henry.

"And now," said the admiral, "it's too late, and we shall not know it at all. That's the way. A fellow saves up what he has got to tell till it is too late to tell it, and down he goes to Davy Jones's locker with all his secrets aboard."

"Not always," said Dr. Chillingworth, suddenly sitting bolt upright—"not always."

I love Chillingworth so much, you guys.

Henry and his brother started back in amazement, and the admiral was so taken by surprise, that had not the resuscitated doctor suddenly stretched out his hand and laid hold of him by the ankle, he would have made a precipitate retreat.

"Hilloa! murder!" he cried. "Let me go! How do I know but you may be a vampyre by now, as you were shot by one."

Henry soonest recovered from the surprise of the moment, and with the most unfeigned satisfaction, he cried,—

"Thank God you are unhurt, Dr. Chillingworth! Why he must have missed you by a miracle."

"Not at all," said the doctor. "Help me up—thank you—all right. I'm only a little singed about the whiskers. He hit me safe enough."

"Then how have you escaped?"

"Why from the want of a bullet in the pistol, to be sure. I can understand it all well enough. He wanted to create sufficient confusion to cover a desperate attempt to escape, and he thought that would be best done by seeming so shoot me. The suddenness of the shock, and the full belief, at the moment, that he had sent a bullet into my brains, made me fall, and produced a temporary confusion of ideas, amounting to insensibility."

So that’s all right then. Chillingworth says all is basically lost at this point, but refuses to explain why:

"Alas! alas!" cried the doctor, "I much fear that, by his going, I have lost all that I expected to be able to do for you, Henry. It's of not the least use now telling you or troubling you about it. You may now sell or let Bannerworth Hall to whomever you please, for I am afraid it is really worthless."

"What on earth do you mean?" said Henry. "Why, doctor, will you keep up this mystery among us? If you have anything to say, why not say it at once?"

"Because, I tell you it's of no use now. The game is up, Sir Francis Varney has escaped; but still I don't know that I need exactly hesitate."

"There can be no reason for your hesitating about making a communication to us," said Henry. "It is unfriendly not to do so."

"My dear boy, you will excuse me for saying that you don't know what you are talking about."

"Can you give any reason?"

"Yes; respect for the living. I should have to relate something of the dead which would be hurtful to their feelings."

Henry was silent for a few moments, and then he said,—

"What dead? And who are the living?"

"Another time," whispered the doctor to him; "another time, Henry. Do not press me now. But you shall know all another time."

While all this has been going on, the hangman has escaped from the Hall, to add to their woes.

"And so, after all," said Henry, "we are completely foiled?"

"We may be," said Dr. Chillingworth; "but it is, perhaps, going too far to say that we actually are. One thing, however, is quite clear; and that is, no good can be done here."

"Then let us go home," said the admiral. "I did not think from the first that any good would be done here."

They depart for the Cottage of Undisclosed Location, minus Charles, who has disappeared, and Jack, who simply stopped being mentioned because Rymer/Prest in their infinite wisdom forgot he was there.

Next time: Charles and Varney have a very interesting chat.

All the Varney recaps

Chillingworth Loses Coveted "Only Sane Person" Status, or, Varney the Vampyre Steals Someone Else's Plot

Previously on: Holland returns to the bosom of the Bannerworths; rocks fall and Marchdale dies; the hangman disappears into the Hall and proceeds to make a great noise of woodworking, is prevented from leaving by the admiral, and Varney shows up unannounced.

We have been informed that there is something about Bannerworth Hall which makes it irresistible to not only Varney but Ketch the Hangman and the late Marchdale. WHAT CAN IT BE? What hides in the depths of this dilapidated manse? And where might it be hidden?

So far so good. After the admiral prevented Ketch from leaving, at gunpoint, he dove back into the Hall via the window because everybody in this goddamn book is allergic to doors, including Varney, who climbed over the gate to get in. Chillingworth and the admiral and Henry lurk in the bushes to find out what Varney’s going to do next. Chillingworth reminds them to stfu and watch.

"For Heaven's sake, be still, fortune, you see, favours us most strangely. Leave Varney alone. You have no other mode whatever of discovering what he really wants at Bannerworth Hall."

"I am glad you have spoken," said Henry, as he drew a long breath. "If you had not, I feel convinced that in another moment I should have rushed forward and confronted this man who has been the very bane of my life."

That’s because you are an idiot, Henry. We know this to be true.

"And so should I," said the admiral; "although I protest against any harm being done to him, on account of some sort of good feeling that he has displayed, after all, in releasing Charles from that dungeon in which Marchdale has perished."

"At the moment," said Henry, "I had forgotten that; but I will own that his conduct has been tinctured by a strange and wild kind of generosity at times, which would seem to bespeak, at the bottom of his heart, some good feelings, the impulses of which were only quenched by circumstances."

"That is my firm impression of him, I can assure you," said Dr. Chillingworth.

We’re going to find out why. Varney is making very little effort to move stealthily: he’s apparently in enough of a hurry that he’s not bothering to sneak. YET AGAIN he gets into the Hall via a window. The watchers are like “…welp, what now?” and agree that Varney can probably take the hangman if they encounter one another in their perambulations.

"I, for one," said the doctor, "would not like to stand by and see the vampyre murdered; but I am inclined to think he is a good match for any mortal opponent."

"You may depend he is," said Henry.

"But how long, doctor, do you purpose that we should wait here in such a state of suspense as to what is going on within the house?"

"I hope not long; but that something will occur to make us have food for action. Hark! what is that?"

There was a loud crash within the building, as of broken glass. It sounded as if some window had been completely dashed in; but although they looked carefully over the front of the building, they could see no evidences of such a thing having happened, and were compelled, consequently, to come to the opinion that Varney and the other man must have met in one of the back rooms, and that the crash of glass had arisen from some personal conflict in which they had engaged.

"I cannot stand this," said Henry.

"Nay, nay," said the doctor; "be still, and I will tell you something, than which there can be no more fitting time than this to reveal it."

CHILLINGWORTH NOOOOO you had such a good track record of being the only sane person in the immediate vicinity. This is not a good time for this discussion, except inasmuch as it will serve to pass the time while various activities are presumably going on inside. Sigh.

"It is a circumstance concerning which I can be brief; for, horrible as it is, I have no wish to dress it in any adventitious colours. Sir Francis Varney, although under another name, is an old acquaintance of mine."

"Acquaintance!" said Henry.

"Why, you don't mean to say you are a vampyre?" said the admiral; "or that he has ever visited you?"

"No; but I knew him. From the first moment that I looked upon him in this neighbourhood, I thought I knew him; but the circumstance which induced me to think so was of so terrific a character, that I made some efforts to chase it from my mind. It has, however, grown upon me day by day, and, lately, I have had proof sufficient to convince me of his identity with one whom I first saw under most singular circumstances of romance."

"Say on,—you are agitated."

"I am, indeed. This revelation has several times, within the last few days, trembled on my lips, but now you shall have it; because you ought to know all that it is possible for me to tell you of him who has caused you so serious an amount of disturbance."

"You awaken, doctor," said Henry, "all my interest."

"And mine, too," remarked the admiral. "What can it be all about? and where, doctor, did you first see this Varney the vampyre?"

"In his coffin."

BOOM, there it is. To modern readers the term romance here might raise some eyebrows, but here Rymer/Prest are using it in its earlier sense to mean something like dramatic story.

It’s something of a huge reveal to say that all this time, while Chillingworth was being scientific and objective and refusing to go along with superstition, he was actually arguing with himself over whether this dude really was the one he’d encountered way back when, and if so, what to do about it, and I kind of feel for him even though this whole bloody situation is stupid to the core, and it was stupid to the core the first time somebody wrote it a whole lot better than these guys.

Chillingworth continues (and he is still the most precise, brief, and clear narrator in the whole mess; imagine Henry telling this story, or don’t, because it’d take three chapters and repeat itself more times than I want to think about):

“The reason why he became the inhabitant of a coffin was simply this:—he had been hanged,—executed at the Old Bailey, in London, before ever I set eyes upon that strange countenance of his. You know that I was practising surgery at the London schools some years ago, and that, consequently, as I commenced the profession rather late in life, I was extremely anxious to do the most I could in a very short space of time."

You can see where this is going. Chillingworth, he need the bodies. Dead guys were hard to get hold of, or at least dead guys of acceptable quality whom it was permitted to dissect:

"At that period, the difficulty of getting a subject for anatomization was very great, and all sorts of schemes had to be put into requisition to accomplish so desirable, and, indeed, absolutely necessary a purpose.”

Paging Burke and Hare, Burke and Hare please report to the local potter’s field with a shovel and a big hook. So far so good: in order to learn how to fix living people, you need to take apart some dead ones to get an idea of where things are.

However, at this point it all goes off the rails and smdh Chillingworth you could quite easily have prevented a great deal of unnecessary drama and death and gunshot wounds and so on if you had stopped for one second to think about the consequences of your actions should you succeed.

"I became acquainted with the man who, I have told you, is in the Hall, at present, and who then filled the unenviable post of public executioner. It so happened, too, that I had read a learned treatise, by a Frenchman, who had made a vast number of experiments with galvanic and other apparatus, upon persons who had come to death in different ways, and, in one case, he asserted that he had actually recovered a man who had been hanged, and he had lived five weeks afterwards.

"Young as I then was, in comparison to what I am now, in my profession, this inflamed my imagination, and nothing seemed to me so desirable as getting hold of some one who had only recently been put to death, for the purpose of trying what I could do in the way of attempting a resuscitation of the subject. It was precisely for this reason that I sought out the public executioner, and made his acquaintance, whom every one else shunned, because I thought he might assist me by handing over to me the body of some condemned and executed man, upon whom I could try my skill.”

Yup, he pulls a Victor F. Granted, his version is a little more sensible and requires less sewing-together of dead people, as it uses only one (1) dead person who is probably only mostly dead. The hangman’s like “hey, you’re nice to me and everyone else treats me like scum, sure, I’ll keep the next client for you, mister,” and lo and behold some weeks later a splendid candidate arrives:

"A man was apprehended for a highway robbery of a most aggravated character. He was tried, and the evidence against him was so conclusive, that the defence which was attempted by his counsel, became a mere matter of form.

"He was convicted, and sentenced. The judge told him not to flatter himself with the least notion that mercy would be extended to him. The crime of which he had been found guilty was on the increase it was highly necessary to make some great public example, to show evil doers that they could not, with impunity, thus trample upon the liberty of the subject, and had suddenly, just as it were, in the very nick of time, committed the very crime, attended with all the aggravated circumstances which made it easy and desirable to hang him out of hand.

"He heard his sentence, they tell me unmoved. I did not see him, but he was represented to me as a man of a strong, and well-knit frame, with rather a strange, but what some would have considered a handsome expression of countenance, inasmuch as that there was an expression of much haughty resolution depicted on it.”

So Chillingworth is all stoked about this and arranges with the hangman to have this guy hanged nicely, so his neck doesn’t snap. Remember when Ketch and Chillingworth first encountered one another skulking around on the Bannerworth Hall lawn and had their conversation about old times, Ketch claimed that the first time he hanged anyone was also the last, which cannot possibly be true if he’s the established executioner and has sufficient experience to judge the drop correctly for the intended results and I hate you Rymer/Prest.

Chillingworth continues:

"In my impatience I ran down stairs to meet that which ninety-nine men out of a hundred would have gone some distance to avoid the sight of, namely, a corpse, livid and fresh from the gallows. I, however, heralded it as a great gift, and already, in imagination I saw myself imitating the learned Frenchman, who had published such an elaborate treatise on the mode of restoring life under all sorts of circumstances, to those who were already pronounced by unscientific persons to be dead.

"To be sure, a sort of feeling had come over me at times, knowing as I did that the French are a nation that do not scruple at all to sacrifice truth on the altar of vanity, that it might be after all a mere rhodomontade; but, however, I could only ascertain so much by actually trying, so the suspicion that such might, by a possibility, be the end of the adventure, did not deter me.”

so close, dude, so very close and yet so far

"I officiously assisted in having the coffin brought into the room where I had prepared everything that was necessary in the conduction of my grand experiment; and then, when no one was there with me but my friend the executioner, I, with his help, the one of us taking the head and the other the feet, took the body from the coffin and laid it upon a table.

"Hastily I placed my hand upon the region of the heart, and to my great delight I found it still warm. I drew off the cap that covered the face, and then, for the first time, my eyes rested upon the countenance of him who now calls himself—Heaven only knows why—Sir Francis Varney."

Hey now, Varney is a fine name, Chillingworth, if you want to talk about weird names you might consider looking in the mirror. Incidentally Hawthorne’s book came out after Varney, interestingly enough.

The admiral’s like “are you absolutely sure it’s the same guy, couldn’t it be someone who looks a lot like him, if this was a long time ago” and Chillingworth says no, because the hangman himself had confirmed it. That was the mysterious little exchange they had a hundred chapters ago, along the lines of “Is Sir Francis Varney…?” “He is.” which nobody could make out at the time.

“I was most anxious to effect an immediate resuscitation, if it were possible, of the hanged man. A little manipulation soon convinced me that the neck was not broken, which left me at once every thing to hope for. The hangman was more prudent than I was, and before I commenced my experiments, he said,—

"'Doctor, have you duly considered what you mean to do with this fellow, in case you should be successful in restoring him to life?'

"'Not I,' said I.

"'Well,' he said, 'you can do as you like; but I consider that it is really worth thinking of.'

oh snap it’s KETCH’s turn to be the only sane person in the book (possibly because if Chillingworth succeeds he’s probably going to have to hang the dude again and as we have seen he is not super chuffed at his work environment or duties). Doesn’t matter; Chillingworth is in full-on Victor Mode:

"I was headstrong on the matter, and could think of nothing but the success or the non-success, in a physiological point of view, of my plan for restoring the dead to life; so I set about my experiments without any delay, and with a completeness and a vigour that promised the most completely successful results, if success could at all be an ingredient in what sober judgment would doubtless have denominated a mad-headed and wild scheme.”

(A brief aside: One of the things I like subverting most in classic horror lit is how stupid all the monsters are, how self-destructively dim, and in this particular section of this plot it’s Frankenstein/Chillingworth who’s the monster, doing the unthinkable without considering the results. (Shelley’s monster is by far the most sympathetic, intellectual, and worthwhile person in the whole damn book.) I want to read a version of this sequence where the Victor character does stop to think about it, very deliberately: imagines scenarios where they succeed and then have to destroy their creation, where they succeed and must care for their creation, where they partially succeed and have to quickly kill the result before it can suffer too unspeakably. And then, also very deliberately, make the decision to go ahead.

DAMMIT I made MYSELF want to write it)

Anyway, Chillingworth’s like HAHA NO FUCK EVERYTHING I MUST DO SCIENCE!!! and so he does science, and it doesn’t work. Rymer/Prest are silent on the topic of what exactly Chillingworth does, only that it has something to do with electricity.

"For more than half an hour I tried in vain, by the assistance of the hangman, who acted under my directions. Not the least symptom of vitality presented itself; and he had a smile upon his countenance, as he said in a bantering tone,—

"'I am afraid, sir, it is much easier to kill than to restore their patients with doctors.'

"Before I could make him any reply, for I felt that his observation had a good amount of truth in it, joined to its sarcasm the hanged man uttered a loud scream, and opened his eyes.

I’d scream too if I was being ministered to in such a fashion.

"I must own I was myself rather startled; but I for some moments longer continued the same means which had produced such an effect, when suddenly he sprang up and laid hold of me, at the same time exclaiming,—

"'Death, death, where is the treasure?'

"I had fully succeeded—too fully; and while the executioner looked on with horror depicted in his countenance, I fled from the room and the house, taking my way home as fast as I possibly could.

"A dread came over me, that the restored man would follow me if he should find out, to whom it was he was indebted for the rather questionable boon of a new life. I packed up what articles I set the greatest store by, bade adieu to London, and never have I since set foot within that city."

When you say too fully, Chillingworth, I think what you mean is to conscious and conversational awareness and independent ambulation, so presumably what you intended to achieve would have been a living breathing human that didn’t do anything alarming like talk to you. This is one of the things that annoys me most about this plot: the Victor character never seems to sit down and hammer out the experimental goals they are attempting to achieve. What would constitute a successful result? Pulse and respiration alone, or vocalization, or full independent range of motion? What the hell do they want to achieve, and what is the rationale for those specific goals, and what measures will be taken to either end the experiment humanely or to sustain it? This is really basic scientific method, guys. You’re sloppy and completely without ethics, your protocol would be laughed out of IRB, and no one would ever fund you even if you asked really nicely and batted your eyelashes. Even the weird foundations.

Having dropped this series of bombshells, Chillingworth proceeds to completely retcon the first damn section of the book all at once:

"You may have noticed about his countenance," said Dr. Chillingworth, "a strange distorted look?"

"Yes, yes."

"Well, that has arisen from a spasmodic contraction of the muscles, in consequence of his having been hanged. He will never lose it, and it has not a little contributed to give him the horrible look he has, and to invest him with some of the seeming outward attributes of the vampyre."

We first encountered Varney biting somebody’s neck and sucking their blood. I think that’s pretty diagnostic of being the creature known to do that very thing. Plus there’s all the weird other vampyre traits like respawning in moonlight: I don’t see how the experiment could possibly have conferred that kind of magic ability. What Chillingworth says now implies that Varney is a human, albeit a weird human, and not an actual vampyre at all. This ambiguity will last for the rest of the entire frigging book and I AM SO ANNOYED.

"And that man who is now in the hall with him, doctor," said Henry, "is the very hangman who executed him?"

"The same. He tells me that after I left, he paid attention to the restored man, and completed what I had nearly done.

What, like taking care of the guy after you zapped him back to life with your whatever-it-is experimental setup? I bet it was pretty damn traumatic to go through the process of being hanged and then wake up with the world’s worst sore throat and some asshole doing fake science on you and then running away. I bet that hurt, Chillingworth.

“He kept him in his house for a time, and then made a bargain with him, for a large sum of money per annum, all of which he has regularly been paid, although he tells me he has no more idea where Varney gets it, than the man in the moon."

The only hold he’d have over Varney is the fact that Varney’s a condemned criminal who’s supposed to be dead, but since he was in fact hanged by the neck until technically dead I think that kind of screws up the legal ramifications of catching him and hanging him again. Presumably they’d have to have a new trial, and it would be jolly complicated, and thus worth succumbing to blackmail in order to avoid — it’s a stretch — but I can’t fault the hangman for wanting to line his own pockets when the opportunity presented itself.

"It is very strange; but, hark! do you not hear the sound of voices in angry altercation?"

"Yes, yes, they have met. Let us approach the windows now. We may chance to hear something of what they say to each other."

Aaaand scene. This is one of the most entertaining and also the most frustrating chapters yet: the inept and to my mind uncharacteristic Victor Syndrome overtaking Chillingworth, and the vague but enormous retcon of Varney’s actual nature, combine to make me want to smack long-dead authors over the head with a copy of On Writing and tell them to sit in the corner and think about what they’ve done.

On the other hand, the idea of a sensible Victor character is appealing.

Next time: Varney and Ketch have a partially-overheard conversation; there is much creeping around in the dark; more sounds of woodwork from within the Hall.

All the Varney recaps

Nefarious Woodworking and Unwelcome Hangmen: Varney the Vampire Gets Interesting Again

Previously on: the mysterious stranger who showed up while everyone was challenging Varney to a duel shows up again, and it is revealed that he is (oh horror) or at least was A HANGMAN; he and Chillingworth know one another of old, but it is not yet given to the reader to understand why (or, in fact, why they both recognized Varney), but the reader will probably work that part out on their own.

The next bit is very dull indeed and involves a lot of people telling each other what’s just happened, which technically they need to do because they don’t know the answer, but is boring as hell for the reader to experience. Charles tells everybody about his capture and imprisonment and how Marchdale is currently taking his place in the dungeon; everybody tells Charles about the forged letters, and there’s a lot of unnecessary and potentially triggering discussion of the admiral's and Jack’s alcoholism which appears to be intended as comic relief.

The admiral, Jack, and Henry, apprised of Marchdale’s villainy and his current location, set forth with the aim of letting Marchdale go, and instead find him dead from smush. On their return to the Cottage of Undisclosed Location they share this information with the group, to general horror and disgust.

Charles has one of the most completely bloody verbose lines that could be distilled into three words and instead contains all of the following:

 “I tell you what, Master Charley, it will take a good lot of roast beef to get up your good looks again."

"It will, indeed, uncle; and I require, now, rest, for I am thoroughly exhausted. The great privations I have undergone, and the amount of mental excitement which I have experienced, in consequence of the sudden and unexpected release from a fearful confinement, have greatly weakened all my energies. A few hours' sleep will make quite a different being of me."

OR YOU COULD JUST HAVE SAID ‘YES, I’M TIRED’

The being paid by the word thing is more obvious at certain times in the text. So does the scorching lack of attention paid to continuity, because Rymer/Prest show us Charles going to bed after having been told about Marchdale and then immediately flip back to the others on the way to the goddamn ruins to let Marchdale out and discovering that he is, in fact, dead from smush. If this were even slightly better framed or in the correct verb tense it would work just fine (okay, badly but functionally) as a flashback in which to explore the admiral’s state of mind during the previously described journey and discovery, but it sodding isn’t, it’s just the same scene again with added information that the admiral had intended to challenge Marchdale to a duel when they let him out, but as we have seen, dead from smush. Whyyyyy.

Meanwhile, back at the Hall, Chillingworth is having trouble getting Mr. Hangman (whom I will call Ketch, because I can) to take a goddamn hint:

"Sir," he said, to the hangman, "now that you have so obligingly related to me your melancholy history, I will not detain you."

"Oh, you are not detaining me."

"Yes, but I shall probably remain here for a considerable time."

"I have nothing to do; and one place is about the same as another to me."

"Well, then, if I must speak plainly, allow me to say, that as I came here upon a very important and special errand, I desire most particularly to be left alone. Do you understand me now?"

"Oh! ah!—I understand; you want me to go?"

"Just so."

"Well, then, Dr. Chillingworth, allow me to tell you, I have come here on a very special errand likewise."

"You have?"

GUESS WHAT IT IS, GUYS

(hint: it’s for once not the vampyre, the vampyre)

"I have. I have been putting one circumstance to another, and drawing a variety of conclusions from a variety of facts, so that I have come to what I consider an important resolve, namely, to have a good look at Bannerworth Hall, and if I continue to like it as well as I do now, I should like to make the Bannerworth family an offer for the purchase of it."

"The devil you would! Why all the world seems mad upon the project of buying this old building, which really is getting into such a state of dilapidation, that it cannot last many years longer."

"It is my fancy."

"No, no; there is something more in this than meets the eye. The same reason, be it what may, that has induced Varney the vampyre to become so desirous of possessing the Hall, actuates you."

Okay, the Transformers fan in me is tickled by both more than meets the eye and the verb actuate in the same paragraph. It is not clear where Ketch intends to get the cash for buying the Hall, unless it’s the reason he’s been sucking money out of Varney. He is quite evasive on the subject:

"Possibly."

"And what is that reason? You may as well be candid with me."

"Yes, I will, and am. I like the picturesque aspect of the place."

"No, you know that that is a disingenuous answer, that you know well. It is not the aspect of the old Hall that has charms for you. But I feel, only from your conduct, more than ever convinced, that some plot is going on, having the accomplishment of some great object as its climax, a something of which you have guessed."

Ten points to you, Chillingworth, yet again the only sane person in this entire mess. There is very clearly something in the Hall that both Varney and Ketch (and the deceased Marchdale) want very much, and I bet you know as well as I do at the moment where it is probably hidden.

Ketch is like “uh…of course not,” and proceeds to make no sense:

"How much you are mistaken!"

"No, I am certain I am right; and I shall immediately advise the Bannerworth family to return, and to take up their abode again here, in order to put an end to the hopes which you, or Varney, or any one else may have, of getting possession of the place."

"If you were a man," said the hangman, "who cared a little more for yourself, and a little less for others, I would make a confidant of you."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, I mean, candidly, that you are not selfish enough to be entitled to my confidence."

"That is a strange reason for withholding confidence from any man."

"It is a strange reason; but, in this case, a most abundantly true one. I cannot tell you what I would tell you, because I cannot make the agreement with you that I would fain make."

"You talk in riddles."

"To explain which, then, would be to tell my secret."

Chillingworth can’t get rid of Ketch, who can probably bench-press him without too much effort. It is vexing. So is what happens next:

"If you are determined upon remaining, I cannot help it; but, when some one, as there assuredly will, comes from the Bannerworths, here, to me, I shall be under the necessity of stating candidly that you are intruding."

"Very good. As the morning air is keen, and as we now are not likely to be as good company to each other as we were, I shall go inside the house."

This was a proposition which the doctor did not like, but he was compelled to submit to it; and he saw, with feelings of uneasiness, the hangman make his way into the Hall by one of the windows.

Then Dr. Chillingworth sat down to think. Much he wondered what could be the secret of the great desire which Varney, Marchdale, and even this man had, all of them to be possessors of the old Hall.

That there was some powerful incentive he felt convinced, and he longed for some conversation with the Bannerworths, or with Admiral Bell, in order that he might state what had now taken place. That some one would soon come to him, in order to bring fresh provisions for the day, he was certain, and all he could do, in the interim, was, to listen to what the hangman was about in the Hall.

Not a sound, for a considerable time, disturbed the intense stillness of the place; but, now, suddenly, Mr. Chillingworth thought he heard a hammering, as if some one was at work in one of the rooms of the Hall.

KETCH WHAT ARE YOU UP TO IN THERE, IT IS CLEARLY NEFARIOUS

At this point Henry and the admiral arrive, and the doctor catches them up to speed on what’s just happened, while the hammering and sawing continue from inside.

"Why it sounds," said the admiral, "like the ship's carpenter at work."

"It does, indeed, sound like a carpenter; it's only the new tenant making, I dare say, some repairs."

"D—n his impudence!"

"Why, it certainly does look like a very cool proceeding, I must admit."

"Who, and what is he?"

"Who he is now, I cannot tell you, but he was once the hangman of London, at a time when I was practising in the metropolis, and so I became acquainted with him. He knows Sir Francis Varney, and, if I mistake not, has found out the cause of that mysterious personage's great attachment to Bannerworth Hall, and has found the reasons so cogent, that he has got up an affection for it himself."

Henry’s like I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS THING, I DON’T UNDERSTAND ANY THINGS, and Chillingworth tells him it’s all okay: he has a plan. It’s a pretty good one, too:

"Then allow this gentleman who is carpentering away so pleasantly within the house, to do so to his heart's content, but don't let him leave it. Show yourselves now in the garden, he has sufficient prudence to know that three constitute rather fearful odds against one, and so he will be careful, and remain where he is. If he should come out, we need not let him go until we thoroughly ascertain what he has been about."

So they do, and Ketch sees them and retreats hurriedly from the window, and goes back to whatever the fuck he’s doing in there. I am reminded of the off-screen mysterious sound effects in Monty Python animations. And then Rymer/Prest give us a sentence that is George W. Bush levels of what the hell does that mean:

He thought probably that he could but he stopped in what he was about, and, until he was so, that he might as well go on.

You try parsing that, I have given up. Eventually Ketch emerges from the house, all but whistling a jaunty tune, and is like “good day, gentleman” and the admiral is all NOT SO FAST and pulls a gun on him. This causes Ketch to dive back into the house through the window, because apparently people in this book are allergic to front doors. And gates:

There was a very gentle ring at the bell which hung over the garden gate.

"That's an experiment, now, I'll be bound," said the doctor, "to ascertain if any one is here; let us hide ourselves, and take no notice."

The ring in a few moments was repeated, and the three confederates hid themselves effectually behind some thick laurel bushes and awaited with expectation what might next ensue.

Not long had they occupied their place of concealment, before they heard a heavy fall upon the gravelled pathway, immediately within the gate, as if some one had clambered to the top from the outside, and then jumped down.

Oh, Varney. You keep falling off things.

That this was the case the sound of footsteps soon convinced them, and to their surprise as well as satisfaction, they saw through the interstices of the laurel bush behind which they were concealed, no less a personage than Sir Francis Varney himself.

"It is Varney," said Henry.

Here Henry violates protocol by not appending “the vampyre” to his Statement of the Obvious. No points at all, Henry, straighten up and fly right.

"Yes, yes," whispered the doctor. "Let him be, do not move for any consideration, for the first time let him do just what he likes."

"D—n the fellow!" said the admiral; "there are some points about him that like, after all, and he's quite an angel compared to that rascal Marchdale."

"He is,—he saved Charles."

"He did, and not if I know it shall any harm come to him, unless he were terribly to provoke it by becoming himself the assailant."

"How sad he looks!"

"Hush! he comes nearer; it is not safe to talk. Look at him."

One more time for the people in the back: Chillingworth is the only rational human being in this entire goddamn book except sort of for Flora. The others are apparently about to do something stupid like call out to Varney:

"For Heaven's sake, be still, fortune, you see, favours us most strangely. Leave Varney alone. You have no other mode whatever of discovering what he really wants at Bannerworth Hall."

Tune in next time to find out why it’s Varney’s turn to have Sad Feelings and the real reason Chillingworth knows Varney of old (it’s gross and also marks one of the major turning points in the narrative regarding the nature of Varney himself).

All the Varney recaps, in order

"Down with everything and everybody!", or Conversations with a Hangman: Varney the Vampire Does Backstory

Previously on: Angry Mob # 3 or 4, I’ve lost count, after being cheated of drama during the funeral of Random Dead Guy from the Inn, seizes on the opportunity offered by Mrs. Chillingworth in seeking her missing husband to go marauding through the countryside yet again, this time intending to burn down Bannerworth Hall, because oh why not, and Chillingworth is lying in wait for Varney at the Hall.

We pick up with Chillingworth, who is still the only sane person in this entire mess, and even Rymer/Prest acknowledge this to be the case: they make a point of mentioning how sensible and clear-headed he is and how he is much better at this game than the admiral or Jack: instead of hiding inside the building waiting for Varney to break in, he is observing the building from the storied summerhouse, waiting for Varney to approach it. Instead, he sees someone else — and at first he thinks it’s Varney anyway, but as a trained observer has to acknowledge this to be inaccurate. The stranger is making his way toward the Hall and Chillingworth decides to stop him by chucking a stone in his direction, which is met with a pistol shot:

 Affairs were now getting much too serious; and, accordingly, Dr. Chillingworth thought that, rather than stay there to be made a target of, he would face the intruder.

"Hold—hold!" he cried. "Who are you, and what do you mean by that?"

"Oh! somebody is there," cried the man, as he advanced. "My friend, whoever you are, you were very foolish to throw a stone at me."

"And, my friend, whoever you are," responded the doctor, "you were very spiteful to fire a pistol bullet at me in consequence."—

"Not at all."

"But I say yes; for, probably, I can prove a right to be here, which you cannot."

"Ah!" said the stranger, "that voice—why—you are Dr. Chillingworth?"

"I am; but I don't know you," said the doctor, as he emerged now from the summer-house, and confronted the stranger who was within a few paces of the entrance to it. Then he started, as he added,—

"Yes, I do know you, though. How, in the name of Heaven, came you here, and what purpose have you in so coming?"

"What purpose have you? Since we met at Varney's, I have been making some inquiries about this neighbourhood, and learn strange things."

"That you may very easily do here; and, what is more extraordinary, the strange things are, for the most part, I can assure you, quite true."

Yes, it is the mysterious stranger they encountered at Ratford Abbey, the man called Mortimer, whom Chillingworth apparently knows, and who has been blackmailing Varney.

"You, however," said the man, "I have no doubt, are fully qualified to tell me of more than I have been able to learn from other people; and, first of all, let me ask you why you are here?"

"Before I answer you that question, or any other," said the doctor, "let me beg of you to tell me truly, is Sir Francis Varney—"

The doctor whispered in the ear of the stranger some name, as if he feared, even there, in the silence of that garden, where everything conspired to convince him that he could not be overheard, to pronounce it in an audible tone.

"He is," said the other.

"You have no manner of doubt of it?"

"Doubt?—certainly not. What doubt can I have? I know it for a positive certainty, and he knows, of course, that I do know it, and has purchased my silence pretty handsomely, although I must confess that nothing but my positive necessities would have induced me to make the large demands upon him that I have, and I hope soon to be able to release him altogether from them."

See, this is cool. I actually care about these people’s secrets, and I want to know what it is they know. We are God knows how many pages into this narrative and Rymer/Prest have succeeded in interesting me.

The doctor shook his head repeatedly, as he said,—

"I suspected it; I suspected it, do you know, from the first moment that I saw you there in his house. His face haunted me ever since—awfully haunted me; and yet, although I felt certain that I had once seen it under strange circumstances, I could not identify it with—but no matter, no matter. I am waiting here for him."

"Indeed!"

"Ay, that I am; and I flung a stone at you, not knowing you, with hope that you would be, by such means, perhaps, scared away, and so leave the coast clear for him."

"Then you have an appointment with him?"

"By no means; but he has made such repeated and determined attacks upon this house that the family who inhabited it were compelled to leave it, and I am here to watch him, and ascertain what can possibly be his object."

The stranger acknowledges that he has heard all about Varney’s making a nuisance of himself to the Bannerworth family. Chillingworth is like “so what ELSE do you know, c’mon, tell me”:

"It would be difficult for any one really to exaggerate the horrors that have taken place in this house, so that any information which you can give respecting the motives of Varney will tend, probably, to restore peace to those who have been so cruelly persecuted, and be an act of kindness which I think not altogether inconsistent with your nature."

"You think so, and yet know who I am."

"I do, indeed."

"And what I am. Why, if I were to go into the market-place of yon town, and proclaim myself, would not all shun me—ay, even the very lowest and vilest; and yet you talk of an act of kindness not being altogether inconsistent with my nature!"

"I do, because I know something more of you than many."

awwww Chillingworth you are good people

There was a silence of some moments' duration, and then the stranger spoke in a tone of voice which looked as it he were struggling with some emotion.

"Sir, you do know more of me than many. You know what I have been, and you know how I left an occupation which would have made me loathed. But you—even you—do not know what made me take to so terrible a trade."

"I do not."

"Would it suit you for me now to tell you?"

Because this is the best possible time to play Here’s My Backstory, standing around on the lawn of Bannerworth Hall waiting for Varney to show up and do whatever it is he has in mind.

"Will you first promise me that you will do all you can for this persecuted family of the Bannerworths, in whom I take so strange an interest?"

"I will. I promise you that freely. Of my own knowledge, of course, I can say but little concerning them, but, upon that warranting, I well believe they deserve abundant sympathy, and from me they shall have it."

So they go sit in the summerhouse and the stranger begins his tale. Years ago, he and Chillingworth had known one another in London, and subsequently Bad Things happened to the stranger which caused him to shun Chillingworth’s company, as a pariah and outcast. Chillingworth recalls:

"You yourself told me once that I met you, and would not leave you, but insisted upon your dining with me. Then you told me, when you found that I would take no other course whatever, that you were no other than the—the——"

"Out with it! I can bear to hear it now better than I could then! I told you that I was the common hangman of London!"

"You did, I must confess, to my most intense surprise."

"Yes, and yet you kept to me; and, but that I respected you too much to allow you to do so, you would, from old associations, have countenanced me; but I could not, and I would not, let you do so. I told you then that, although I held the terrible office, that I had not been yet called upon to perform its loathsome functions. Soon—soon—come the first effort—it was the last!"

The amount of stigma attached to the position of executioner is perhaps a little surprising: someone’s gotta do it, one supposes. Chillingworth, being sensible, didn’t have a problem with the situation, which sounds like him.

The stranger apparently had the vapors after his first day at work:

"Indeed! You left the dreadful trade?"

"I did—I did. But what I want to tell you, for I could not then, was why I went ever to it. The wounds my heart had received were then too fresh to allow me to speak of them, but I will tell you now. The story is a brief one, Mr. Chillingworth. I pray you be seated."

Because it’s this book, the story is anything but brief: I will summarize. Dude became addicted to gambling, lost all his money, wife died, he was destitute, everything sucked forever, he needed a job; the only one he was offered happened to be that of hangman.

“The employment was disgusting and horrible; but, at the same time, it was all I could get, and that was a sufficient inducement for me to accept of it. I was, therefore, the common executioner; and in that employment for some time earned a living.

DUDE YOU JUST SAID YOU ONLY HANGED SOMEBODY ONCE AND THEN QUIT

It was terrible; but necessity compelled me to accept the only thing I could obtain. You now know the reason why I became what I have told you."

Shrug emoji. The point is that he was, in fact, a hangman, and had, in fact, hanged somebody, which if you may recall centuries ago in the previous instance of their meeting he mentioned:

“Society at large is divided into two great classes."

"And what may they be?" said the admiral.

"Those who have been hanged, and those who have not.”

Dun dun dunnn. He goes on for a bit about how terrible a human he was and how he deserved the awfulness of the job and Chillingworth is like “okay, okay, fine, you suck”:

"I do not mean to say that your self-reproaches are unjust altogether, but—What noise is that? do you hear anything?"—

"Yes—yes."

"What do you take it to be?"

"It seemed like the footsteps of a number of persons, and it evidently approaches nearer and nearer. I know not what to think."

"Shall I tell you?" said a deep-toned voice, and some one, through the orifice in the back of the summer-house, which, it will be recollected, sustained some damage at the time that Varney escaped from it, laid a hand upon Mr. Chillingworth's shoulder. "God bless me!" exclaimed the doctor; "who's that?" and he sprang from his seat with the greatest perturbation in the world.

WHO DO YOU THINK IT IS, CHILLINGWORTH

"Varney, the vampyre!" added the voice, and then both the doctor and his companion recognised it, and saw the strange, haggard features, that now they knew so well, confronting them.

These three know each other of old, and if you’ve read enough horror lit you may be able to work out why.

There was a pause of surprise, for a moment or two, on the part of the doctor, and then he said, "Sir Francis Varney, what brings you here? I conjure you to tell me, in the name of common justice and common feeling, what brings you to this house so frequently? You have dispossessed the family, whose property it is, of it, and you have caused great confusion and dismay over a whole county. I implore you now, not in the language of menace or as an enemy, but as the advocate of the oppressed, and one who desires to see justice done to all, to tell me what it is you require."

"There is no time now for explanation," said Varney, "if explanations were my full and free intent. You wished to know what noise was that you heard?"

"I did; can you inform me?"

"I can. The wild and lawless mob which you and your friends first induced to interfere in affairs far beyond their or your control, are now flushed with the desire of riot and of plunder. The noise you hear is that of their advancing footsteps; they come to destroy Bannerworth Hall."

Welp. Chillingworth’s like “why the hell do they want to burn down the Hall” and Varney points out that an angry mob has very little brains, which is fair enough, and encourages them to run away (especially as now they can also hear the soldiers approaching from another direction). Chillingworth has no intention of abandoning the Hall to the vicissitudes of Varney, angry mob or no angry mob, and Varney’s all OK FINE SHEESH GET YOURSELF KILLED:

There could be no doubt now of the immediate appearance of the cavalry, and, before Sir Francis Varney could utter another word, a couple of the foremost of the soldiers cleared the garden fence at a part where it was low, and alighted not many feet from the summer-house in which this short colloquy was taking place. Sir Francis Varney uttered a bitter oath, and immediately disappeared in the gloom.

Chillingworth and the hangman make their presence known to the soldiers, and a magistrate they’ve brought recognizes the doctor as a fine upstanding member of society, and his friend too:

"And I," said the doctor's companion, "am likewise a respectable and useful member of society, and a great friend of Mr. Chillingworth."

I can’t not hear that line in the voice of Grisaille. The magistrate attempts to reason with the mob, which goes about as well as one could expect and features this excellent moment:

"Hurrah! hurrah!"' shouted the mob, "down with the Vampyre! down with the Hall!" and then one, more candid than his fellows, shouted,—"Down with everything and everybody!"

"Ah!" remarked the officer; "that fellow now knows what he came about."

I’m with you, dude. The soldiers fire over their heads and the entire goddamn mob goes OH SHIT and runs away, in one of the more noticeable anticlimactic moments of the book so far, leaving only one guy climbing over the fence toward the hall, who is quickly captured. For once it is not the vampyre, the vampyre: it’s Charles Holland, home at last. Chillingworth catches him up on what’s been happening, and at this point Jack Pringle also shows up, shitfaced as usual, having been dispatched thirty or forty chapters ago from the Cottage of Undisclosed Location to make sure the Hall was guarded against the likes of Varney. Chillingworth sends the pair of them back Undisclosed-Location-ward and vows to remain at the Hall, at which point the narrative shifts back to Marchdale, still in the dungeon and not having a nice time:

"Charles Holland!" he shouted; "oh! release me! Varney! Varney! why do you not come to save me? I have toiled for you most unrequitedly—I have not had my reward. Let it all consist in my release from this dreadful bondage. Help! help! oh, help!"

There was no one to hear him. The storm continued, and now, suddenly, a sudden and a sharper sound than any awakened by the thunder's roar came upon his startled ear, and, in increased agony, he shouted,—

"What is that? oh! what is that? God of heaven, do my fears translate that sound aright? Can it be, oh! can it be, that the ruins which have stood for so many a year are now crumbling down before the storm of to-night?"

Why yes, it can. Rocks fall, Marchdale dies:

Again came the crashing sound of falling stones, and he was certain that the old ruins, which had stood for so many hundred years the storm, and the utmost wrath of the elements, was at length yielding, and crumbling down.

What else could he expect but to be engulphed among the fragments—fragments still weighty and destructive, although in decay. How fearfully now did his horrified imagination take in at one glance, as it were, a panoramic view of all his past life, and how absolutely contemptible, at that moment, appeared all that he had been striving for.

But the walls shake again, and this time the vibration is more fearful than before. There is a tremendous uproar above him—the roof yields to some superincumbent pressure—there is one shriek, and Marchdale lies crushed beneath a mass of masonry that it would take men and machinery days to remove from off him.

All is over now. That bold, bad man—that accomplished hypocrite—that mendacious, would-be murderer was no more. He lies but a mangled, crushed, and festering corpse.

So that’s all right, then. On the road to the cottage, Jack misrepresents recent occurrences:

"Ay, ay, sir, just so; but would you believe it, Master Charlie, the admiral and the doctor got so blessed drunk that I could do nothing with 'em."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, they did indeed, and made all kinds of queer mistakes, so that the end of all that was, that the vampyre did come; but he got away again."

"He did come then; Sir Francis Varney came again after the house was presumed to be deserted?"

"He did, sir."

"That is very strange; what on earth could have been his object? This affair is most inexplicably mysterious. I hope the distance, Jack, is not far that you're taking me, for I'm incapable of enduring much fatigue."

Luckily they’re nearly there, and we are treated to the Lovers’ Reunion, which is as incoherent as one might expect (“Charles! Charles!” “Flora! Flora!” “Oh, Charles!” “My own!”), and is followed up by Rymer/Prest being severely creepy:

We won't go so far as to say it is the fact; but, from a series of singular sounds which reached even to the passage of the cottage, we have our own private opinion to the effect, that Charles began kissing Flora at the top of her forehead, and never stopped, somehow or another, till he got down to her chin—no, not her chin—her sweet lips—he could not get past them. Perhaps it was wrong; but we can't help it—we are faithful chroniclers. Reader, if you be of the sterner sex, what would you have done?—if of the gentler, what would you have permitted?

SIGH. Next time: the fate of Marchdale is revealed; Chillingworth’s pal the hangman sucks at taking hints and embarks on a program of vigorous carpentry work; Sir Francis Varney shows up yet again at Bannerworth Hall.


Unnecessary Digressions, Comic Undertakers, "Down with Bannerworth Hall!": Varney the Vampire features Another Angry Mob

Previously on: Varney and Marchdale meet in mid-skulk and Marchdale goes to the ruins to whack Holland, but is to his surprise overpowered by the latter, who leaves him chained up and trots off toward the Hall. Plus a completely unnecessary bit of Bell’s backstory.

We pick up with the Bannerworths, who as far as I know are still at Undisclosed Location Cottage, and Flora needs to be distracted from pining over Holland, so Henry reads his short story aloud to them. For the entire rest of the chapter. It’s lousy medieval pastiche about some mysterious knight with a green shield whose identity no one knows because, uh, secrets and mystery and bad guys after him. He’s the long-lost lover of some lady who’s due to get married to a local landowning scumbag in the morning, and there’s a tournament going on, and he loses (can’t tell if this is on purpose) and then shows up at the lady’s castle and she’s all OMG IT’S YOU and he’s like IT’S ME I WANT TO MARRY YOU BUT I HEAR WHERE YOU ARE PROMISED TO ANOTHER and she probably weeps and wrings her hands, I was glazing over at this point. Anyway, Mystery Knight is scheduled to joust against Scumbag Bridegroom and if Mystery Knight wins he gets to claim the lady as his bride because apparently that’s how it works in Henry Bannerworth’s fevered imagination. So they do, and he does, and they get married:

It was true, the Lady Bertha was won, and Sir Arthur Home claimed his bride, and then they attempted to defeat his claim; yet Bertha at once expressed herself in his favour, to strongly that they were, however reluctantly compelled, to consent at last.

At this moment, a loud shout as from a multitude of persons came upon their ears and Flora started from her seat in alarm. The cause of the alarm we shall proceed to detail.

OH MY GOD RYMER/PREST I HATE YOU SO MUCH

For one thing, don’t do the “I wanna write a different story so in order to fit it into the actual narrative this chapter has the world’s worst framing job, pacing what pacing?” digression. Just don’t. Not that you’re alone: Melville did it with whaling, Hugo did it with everything from Parisian wastewater management infrastructure to the battle of Waterloo. They did it much better than you, but it’s still skippable text and you don’t want your readers to have to do the skip-ahead-to-where-it-gets-relevant work. For another, don’t editorialize; you’re throwing your reader out of the narrative just when you want them to clamber back inside. You don’t need “the cause of the alarm we shall proceed to detail,” even if you are writing this in serial form and need a “Next time on Varney the Vampire” tag. You just leave the damn cliffhanger, that’s all you need.

The next scene begins desultorily in the town, where the funeral of the random dude who died at the inn and was subsequently staked in his coffin by Angry Mob # Whatever:

The populace were well advertised of the fact, that the body of the stranger was to be buried that morning in their churchyard; and that, to protect the body, should there be any necessity for so doing, a large body of constables would be employed.

There was no disposition to riot; at least, none was visible. It looked as if there was some event about to take place that was highly interesting to all parties, who were peaceably assembling to witness the interment of nobody knew who.

The early hour at which persons were assembling, at different points, clearly indicated that there was a spirit of curiosity about the town, so uncommon that none would have noticed it but for the fact of the crowd of people who hung about the streets, and there remained, listless and impatient.

Not a great atmosphere. At the inn a bunch of NPCs have a conversation about how gosh, what a lot of disturbance there’s been lately between riots and Bannerworths and vampyres (oh my). Cut to the undertakers, of which there are two models, the jocose and the lugubrious, discussing the fact that they’re undertakers. Glacial pacing continues as we see people go up the stairs to the room with the coffin, and then down the stairs with the coffin, and out of the inn into the street. The landlord watches them go, and A Stranger engages him in conversation:

"It was a strange occurrence, altogether, I believe, was it?" inquired the stranger.

"Indeed it was, sir. I hardly know the particulars, there have been so many tales afloat; though they all concur in one point, and that is, it has destroyed the peace of one family."

"Who has done so?"

"The vampyre."

"Indeed! I never heard of such an animal, save as a fable, before; it seems to me extraordinary."

"So it would do to any one, sir, as was not on the spot, to see it; I'm sure I wouldn't."

you are making it so hard to care about any of this, guys

The procession wends its way through the town, gathering a huge crowd, and the authorities are nervous. More NPCs engage in the standard repetitive discussion of vampyres and what it is they do (suck blood) and what moonlight does to them (revives them). Rymer/Prest are using section breaks here, for the first time in the narrative, presumably in an effort to achieve an actual intentional kind of pacing, but it ain’t doing much.

The actual burial of the random dead guy takes like two sentences, after god knows how many paragraphs allotted to the description of him being carried to the churchyard. He’s done and over with, and if this were not this book I would say that the author(s) are doing a clever little trick in refusing to give the reader the details and description they are by now expecting and anticipating, perhaps even with pleasure, because that’s how the mob feels. They are cheated of drama or anything they can stab with a pitchfork or yell at, and so they mill around in the equivalent of an explosive atmosphere that needs only a single spark to set it off. But it’s this book, and therefore I would lay money on it that this is accidental.

Along comes the spark in the form of Mrs. Chillingworth, who wants to know where her husband is:

The crowd made way for her, and gathered round her to see what was going to happen.

"Friends and neighbours," she said "can any of you relieve the tears of a distressed wife and mother, have any of you seen anything of my husband, Mr. Chillingworth?"

"What the doctor?" exclaimed one.—"Yes; Mr. Chillingworth, the surgeon. He has not been home two days and a night. I'm distracted!—what can have become of him I don't know, unless—"

Here Mrs Chillingworth paused, and some person said,—

"Unless what, Mrs Chillingworth? there are none but friends here, who wish the doctor well, and would do anything to serve him—unless what? speak out."

"Unless he's been destroyed by the vampyre. Heaven knows what we may all come to! Here am I and my children deprived of our protector by some means which we cannot imagine. He never, in all his life, did the same before."

And they’re off.

"He must have been spirited away by some of the vampyres. I'll tell you what, friend," said one to another, "that something must be done; nobody's safe in their bed."

"No; they are not, indeed. I think that all vampyres ought to be burned and a stake run through them, and then we should be safe."

"Ay; but you must destroy all those who are even suspected of being vampyres, or else one may do all the mischief."—"So he might."

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob. "Chillingworth for ever! We'll find the doctor somewhere, if we pull down the whole town."

There was an immense commotion among the populace, who began to start throwing stones, and do all sorts of things without any particular object, and some, as they said, to find the doctor, or to show how willing they were to do so if they knew how.

Nice work, lady. It gets better:

Mrs. Chillingworth, however, kept on talking to the mob, who continued shouting; and the authorities anticipated an immediate outbreak of popular opinion, which is generally accompanied by some forcible demonstration, and on this occasion some one suggested the propriety of burning down Bannerworth Hall; because they had burned down the vampyre's home, and they might as well burn down that of the injured party, which was carried by acclamation; and with loud shouts they started on their errand.

“Why are you setting fire to that house?” “Gotta set fire to something.”

I feel bad for the authorities, who have basically had it with these motherfucking mobs in this motherfucking town and now have to go and try to stop the idiot villagers torching another mansion:

The astonished, and almost worn-out authorities, hastily, now, after having disposed of their prisoners, collected together what troops they could, and by the time the misguided, or rather the not guided at all populace, had got halfway to Bannerworth Hall, they were being outflanked by some of the dragoons, who, by taking a more direct route, hoped to reach Bannerworth Hall first, and so perhaps, by letting the mob see that it was defended, induce them to give up the idea of its destruction on account of the danger attendant upon the proceeding by far exceeding any of the anticipated delight of the disturbance.

Next time: another mysterious stranger appears; Chillingworth recognizes him because they share a dark secret; it is, once again, STORY TIME.

Excitement, adventure, karmic retribution: Varney the Vampire Finally Has Some Stuff Happen

Previously on: Varney frees Holland from durance vile; Marchdale is an asshole; Rymer/Prest have more hole than plot, concerning continuity.

From the vampyre and Holland, we go back to Flora Bannerworth, who is having Sad Feelings about her vanished fiancé now that she is freed of the constant fear of attack by the — you get the point. Apparently she thinks he has the intelligence of a stunned iguana, because she says (not for the first time) that she hates to have left Bannerworth Hall because what if Charles comes back and finds us not there??? The admiral is like “…he could probably figure it out, actually”:

"Now, sir, that I am away from Bannerworth Hall, I do not, and cannot feel satisfied; for the thought that Charles may eventually come back, and seek us there, still haunts me. Fancy him, sir, doing so, and seeing the place completely deserted."

"Well, there's something in that," said the admiral; "but, however, he's hardly such a goose, if it were so to happen, to give up the chase—he'd find us out somehow."

"You think he would, sir? or, do you not think that despair would seize upon him, and that, fancying we had all left the spot for ever, he might likewise do so; so that we should lose him more effectually than we have done at present?"

"No; hardly," said the admiral; "he couldn't be such a goose as that.”

Thank you, sir. The conversation shifts to the occupation of Bannerworth Hall by the admiral, the doctor, or Jack, and since Jack now arrives, we seem to have a problem:

"Did you not tell me something, sir, of Mr. Chillingworth talking of taking possession of the Hall for a brief space of time?"

"Why, yes, I did; and I expect he is there now; in fact, I'm sure he's there, for he said he would be."

"No, he ain't," said Jack Pringle, at that moment entering the room; "you're wrong again, as you always are, somehow or other."

Which is a great line. Jack’s been to the Hall and Chillingworth is not there, so Jack has come away again rather than doing what he was supposed to do and keep watch. He and the admiral have one of their intensely naval fights complete with gory anecdotes of the other person’s foibles in some battle or other:

"Ay, ay," said Jack; "he quite forgets when the bullets were scuttling our nobs off Cape Ushant, when that big Frenchman had hold of him by the skirf of his neck, and began pummelling his head, and the lee scuppers were running with blood, and a bit of Joe Wiggins's brains had come slap in my eye, while some of Jack Marling's guts was hanging round my neck like a nosegay, all in consequence of grape-shot—then he didn't say as I was a swab, when I came up, and bored a hole in the Frenchman's back with a pike. Ay, it's all very well now, when there's peace, and no danger, to call Jack Pringle a lubberly rascal, and mutinous. I'm blessed if it ain't enough to make an old pair of shoes faint away."

"Why, you infernal scoundrel," said the admiral, "nothing of the sort ever happened, and you know it. Jack, you're no seaman."

And so on. Jack, however, pushes it too far and mentions a woman named Belinda, which apparently touches a nerve, causing the admiral to have sad feelings of his own. Jack betakes himself back to the Hall, and while Rymer/Prest are profoundly not very good at this, they do seem to manage to illustrate the deep affection these two have for one another underneath all the bluster and bullshit. The authorial voice is not only very strong, but very self-confident: you can clearly see them going “look what clever writers we are, that was a devilish witty turn of phrase if I do say so myself,” and it is not a good look, people, not a good look at all.

That’s the end of this chapter: now we have an entire bloody chapter’s worth of the admiral’s reminiscences about this chick he knew when he was young. She was very beautiful and far above his station and yet, and yet somehow he wooed and won her heart, except:

"Oh, a mere trifle; she was already married to somebody else, that's all; some d——d fellow, who had gone trading about the islands, a fellow she didn't care a straw about, that was old enough to be her father."

"And you left her?"

"No, I didn't. Guess again. I was a mad-headed youngster. I only felt—I didn't think. I persuaded her to come away with me. I took her aboard my ship, and set sail with her. A few weeks flew like hours; but one day we were hailed by a vessel, and when we neared her, she manned a boat and brought a letter on board, addressed to Belinda. It was from her father, written in his last moments. It began with a curse and ended with a blessing. There was a postscript in another hand, to say the old man died of grief. She read it by my side on the quarter-deck. It dropped from her grasp, and she plunged into the sea. Jack Pringle went after her; but I never saw her again."

So that’s the end of that digression, and clearly Rymer/Prest have ticked off “Character Development” on a clipboard next to “Admiral Bell.” Let’s go back to more interesting subjects, such as Varney and Marchdale skulking around in the dark. They are in fact skulking in opposite directions, and end up crossing paths and having a super awkward little conversation:

"Ah, Sir Francis Varney," he said, "you are out late."—

"Why, you know I should be out late," said Varney, "and you likewise know the errand upon which I was to be out."

"Oh, I recollect; you were to release your prisoner."—

"Yes, I was."

"And have you done so?"—

"Oh, no."

"Oh, indeed. I—I am glad you have taken better thoughts of it. Good night—good night; we shall meet to-morrow."—

And off they go. Notice that the punctuation has developed a new annoying quirk; they have remembered how to use the hard return, but they are still using em dashes to separate individual elements of dialogue as well. Eventually they will end up with ASCII emoji for punctuation and then there will be nothing for it but to crawl under the desk and gibber.

Both of them, having walked a little farther on, turn to look at the other and have Thoughts. Varney gets to go first.

"I know his object well. His craven spirit shrinks at the notion, a probable enough one, I will admit, that Charles Holland has recognised him, and that, if once free, he would denounce him to the Bannerworths, holding him up to scorn in his true colours, and bringing down upon his head, perhaps, something more than detestation and contempt. The villain! he is going now to take the life of the man whom he considers chained to the ground. Well, well, they must fight it out together. Charles Holland is sufficiently free to take his own part, although Marchdale little thinks that such is the case."

Marchdale walked on for some little distance, and then he turned and looked after Sir Francis Varney.

"Indeed!" he said; "so you have not released him to-night, but I know well will do so soon. I do not, for my part, admire this romantic generosity which sets a fox free at the moment that he's the most dangerous. It's all very well to be generous, but it is better to be just first, and that I consider means looking after one's self first. I have a poniard here which will soon put an end to the troubles of the prisoner in his dungeon—its edge is keen and sharp, and will readily find a way to his heart."

Having paused to twirl his mustache and go nya-ha-ha, Marchdale continues toward the ruins. A sudden and extremely violent thunderstorm is blowing up, and he’s like “dammit, I have to hurry up and kill the kid so I can get back to town before the rain starts.” He is surprised to find the rock that obscures the entrance to the dungeon out of place, and heads down into the dark — where Charles Holland, true to his promise to Varney, is still waiting, with a dark-adapted eye. He can see Marchdale, but Marchdale can’t see a damn thing, and:

The attack was so sudden and so utterly unexpected, that Marchdale was thrown backwards, and the dagger wrested from his grasp, during the first impulse which Charles Holland had thrown into his attack.

Moreover, his head struck with such violence against the earthern floor, that it produced a temporary confusion of his faculties, so that, had Charles Holland been so inclined, he might, with Marchdale's own weapon, have easily taken his life.

The young man did, on the impulse of the moment, raise it in his hand, but, on the impulse of another thought, he cast it from him, exclaiming—

"No, no! not that; I should be as bad as he, or nearly so. This villain has come to murder me, but yet I will not take his life for the deed. What shall I do with him? Ha! a lucky thought—chains!"

He dragged Marchdale to the identical spot of earth on which he had lain so long; and, as Sir Francis Varney had left the key of the padlock which bound the chains together in it, he, in a few moments, had succeeded in placing the villain Marchdale in the same durance from which he had himself shortly since escaped.

"Remain there," he said, "until some one comes to rescue you. I will not let you starve to death, but I will give you a long fast; and, when I come again, it shall be along with some of the Bannerworth family, to show them what a viper they have fostered in their hearts."

Man that’s satisfying. Well done, Charles, even if you still shouldn’t be in sufficiently good physical shape following weeks of imprisonment to have been capable of any such activity. Fascinatingly, now Rymer/Prest decide to consider this factor. He’s headed to the Hall, going on and on about Flora in his head and enjoying the fresh air:

As he neared the Hall, he quickened his pace to such an extent, that soon he was forced to pause altogether, as the exertion he had undertaken pretty plainly told him that the imprisonment, scanty diet, and want of exercise, which had been his portion for some time past, had most materially decreased his strength.

His limbs trembled, and a profuse perspiration bedewed his brow, although the night was rather cold than otherwise.

"I am very weak," he said; "and much I wonder now that I succeeded in overcoming that villain Marchdale; who, if I had not done so, would most assuredly have murdered me."

YA THINK? I know exactly why they are now paying attention to his physical condition; they needed him to be strong and capable and brave in order to deal with the release, attack, and escape, and now they need him to be a brave but fainting woobie so that Flora will go all hurt-comfort on him. This is lazy writing. You can’t just switch up a character’s condition because you want it to be different in one scene than the next without giving us a damn good reason for the change.

Cut to Marchdale in the dungeon:

Until Charles Holland actually had left the strange, horrible, and cell-like place, he could scarcely make up his mind that the young man entertained a serious intention of leaving him there.

Perhaps he did not think any one could be so cruel and so wicked as he himself; for the reader will no doubt recollect that his, Marchdale's, counsel to Varney, was to leave Charles Holland to his fate, chained down as he was in the dungeon, and that fate would have been the horrible one of being starved to death in the course of a few days.

When now, however, he felt confident that he was deserted—when he heard the sound of Charles Holland's retreating footsteps slowly dying away in the distance, until not the faintest echo of them reached his ears, he despaired indeed; and the horror he experienced during the succeeding ten minutes, might be considered an ample atonement for some of his crimes. His brain was in a complete whirl; nothing of a tangible nature, but that he was there, chained down, and left to starve to death, came across his intellect. Then a kind of madness, for a moment or two, took possession of him; he made a tremendous effort to burst asunder the bands that held him.

All together now: HA-ha. See, Marchdale, actions have consequences, and you richly deserve to be where you are right now. He dissolves into panicky screaming, but there is no one there to hear, as well he knows: he’s put effort into that.

Perhaps he thought there might be a remote chance that some one traversing the meadows would hear him; and yet, if he had duly considered the matter, which he was not in a fitting frame of mind to do, he would have recollected that, in choosing a dungeon among the underground vaults of these ruins, he had, by experiment, made certain that no cry, however loud, from where he lay, could reach the upper air. And thus had this villain, by the very precautions which he had himself taken to ensure the safe custody of another, been his own greatest enemy.

"Help! help! help!" he cried frantically "Varney! Charles Holland! have mercy upon me, and do not leave me here to starve! Help, oh, Heaven! Curses on all your heads—curses! Oh, mercy—mercy—mercy!"

Sorry, dude, mercy’s off. All out of mercy tonight.

That’s three chapters, because among the many things Rymer/Prest are not good at is consistent chapter length. Next time, yet another ENORMOUS UNRELATED STORY WITHIN A STORY, because hey, sometimes you get sick of writing the vampyre the vampyre the vampyre over and over and want to do something different for a change, while still technically getting paid for the original project.

Lengthy Conversations in a Dungeon: Varney the Vampyre Uncertain of Own Trope

Previously on: Rymer/Prest suck comme une Électrolux at punctuating dialogue; Varney takes another bullet; the brave local pelts off back to the town to share his story of the vampyre, the vampyre; Marchdale is an asshole (and Varney’s been hitting him up for cash).

Also, last time, we saw Rymer/Prest falling into one of the classic Bad Fanfic tropes, and here they seem to be going with another one, i.e. “My character has a life of their own and I don’t control their actions uwu”). Behold:

Sir Francis Varney is evidently a character of strangely mixed feelings. It is quite evident that he has some great object in view, which he wishes to accomplish almost at any risk; but it is equally evident, at the same time, that he wishes to do so with the least possible injury to others, or else he would never have behaved as he had done in his interview with the beautiful and persecuted Flora Bannerworth, or now suggested the idea of setting Charles Holland free from the dreary dungeon in which he had been so long confined.

We are always anxious and willing to give every one credit for the good that is in them; and, hence, we are pleased to find that Sir Francis Varney, despite his singular, and apparently preternatural capabilities, has something sufficiently human about his mind and feelings, to induce him to do as little injury as possible to others in the pursuit of his own objects.

MY DUDE(S), YOU INVENTED THE BASTARD, YOU AND ONLY YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF HOW MUCH OF A DICK HE IS TO OTHER CHARACTERS

AND YOU ARE WILDLY INCONSISTENT IN DOING SO

They’re pretty inconsistent in describing Marchdale, too. Last time he had lines that clearly stated he was not super into the idea of murdering Holland, but that it might become necessary to do so despite its moral repugnance: now they’re editorializing about a guy who is ~more bloodthirsty~ than the actual vampyre. (You will never know how much work went into getting those damn tildes to stay tildes and stop being strikethrough, by the way. Carry on.)

Of the two, vampyre as he is, we prefer him much to the despicable and hypocritical, Marchdale, who, under the pretence of being the friend of the Bannerworth family, would freely have inflicted upon them the most deadly injuries.

It was quite clear that he was most dreadfully disappointed that Sir Francis Varney, would not permit him to take the life of Charles Holland, and it was with a gloomy and dissatisfied air that he left the ruins to proceed towards the town, after what we may almost term the altercation he had had with Varney the vampyre upon that subject.

look, guys, do you even read what you wrote in the previous chapter? I get it, doing multichapter longfic with pauses in between episodes is difficult for maintaining continuity, but it’d have taken all of five minutes to go look up the last scenes you wrote and go “ah, right, now I remember.”

Varney goes back to the ruins at nightfall, as agreed, and he and Holland have the longest and most fucking loquacious version of a simple conversation that can be imagined. At several points in my wife’s upcoming novel* a character very deliberately phrases something in the most ceremonial and polite and flowery and lengthy way possible given the complex language she’s using, in order to have a certain effect, and this whole scene feels like an inadvertent variety of that deliberate choice. What they actually say is as follows:

VARNEY (arriving): Hey, are you dead yet?

HOLLAND: Fuck off.

VARNEY: No, seriously, I’m here to help.

HOLLAND: You sound exactly like Sir Francis Varney and since he’s one of the people who CHAINED ME UP IN THIS DUNGEON I’m skeptical of your motive. Just kill me already.

VARNEY: Okay, so I did do that. The chaining-up part. The other guy does want to kill you, however, so on the whole I’m the preferable version. If I set you free, do you promise a) not to tell anybody it was me and b) not to get revenge on me?

HOLLAND: No and yes. I am so telling the Bannerworths on you, but I’m not seeking revenge.

VARNEY: Grrrr. Okay. Fine. Promise me you won’t come after me.

HOLLAND: Dude, I already said so, yes, I promise, unlock the damn handcuffs

Varney does, and then because this is this book we are treated to an immediate recap of what was just discussed:

With ease, Charles Holland was then enabled to shake them off, and then, for the first time, for some weeks, he rose to his feet, and felt all the exquisite relief of being comparatively free from bondage.

At no point in the narrative of this chapter is the physiological result of weeks of practically motionless imprisonment in a cold wet cell with very little food and water and a poorly-treated or untreated head wound ever discussed. (I think they forgot about the head wound, after getting some mileage out of the gore soaking into the white bandages wrapped haphazardly around the prisoner’s head, etc., in previous chapters.) Holland is not going to be in tip-top shape after that: he was described as fairly pathetic to start with when he was thrown into the cell, wound and all, too weak and ill even to sign whatever legal document Varney and Marchdale were trying to make him sign, and weeks afterward, with no medical treatment whatsoever, Rymer/Prest act as if he is in exactly the same condition as he was before this whole mess, and I am annoyed for two reasons:

One: they’re lazy and they needed Charles to be a wreck in that previous scene for reasons, and now they need Charles to be okay for different reasons, and they simply never bothered to figure out a way that that could happen. It’s like they retconned their own work while they were doing it.

Two: THAT’S NOT HOW THAT WORKS, MEDICALLY

We return to the narrative. Charles is digging not being handcuffed.

"This is delightful, indeed," he said.

"It is," said Sir Francis Varney—"it is but a foretaste of the happiness you will enjoy when you are entirely free. You see that I have trusted you."

"You have trusted me as you might trust me, and you perceive that I have kept my word."

"You have; and since you decline to make me the promise which I would fain have from you, to the effect that you would not mention me as one of the authors of your calamity, I must trust to your honour not to attempt revenge for what you have suffered."

"That I will promise. There can be but little difficulty to any generous mind in giving up such a feeling. In consequence of your sparing me what you might still further have inflicted, I will let the past rest, and as if it had never happened really to me; and speak of it to others, but as a circumstance which I wish not to revert to, but prefer should be buried in oblivion."

Understandably. Varney then fucks it up by asking Holland to promise to stay imprisoned until Varney can say that it is his wish to see him free:

"Then it is this, that, comparatively free as you are, and in a condition, as you are, to assert your own freedom, you will not do so hastily, or for a considerable period; in fact, I wish and expect that you should wait yet awhile, until it shall suit me to say that it is my pleasure that you shall be free."

Holland basically stares at him, made out of WTF. And then Varney says he’s been awfully generous already, and would it kill Holland to just stick around for an hour and then walk out, which if he’d phrased it like that to begin with might have seemed a more reasonable request. And Charles, as has been made clear already, is a pretty decent dude:

Charles Holland hesitated for some moments, and then he said,—

"Do not fancy that I am not one who appreciates the singular trust you have reposed in me; and, however repugnant to me it may be to remain here, a voluntary prisoner, I am inclined to do so, if it be but to convince you that the trust you have reposed in me is not in vain, and that I can behave with equal generosity to you as you can to me."

"Be it so," said Sir Francis Varney; "I shall leave you with a full reliance that you will keep your word; and now, farewell. When you think of me, fancy me rather one unfortunate than criminal, and tell yourself that even Varney the vampyre had some traits in his character, which, although they might not raise your esteem, at all events did not loudly call for your reprobation."

Remember that in the previous chapter he was like YESSS I HAVE TERRIFIED A LOCAL, MY NAME WILL BE A SOUND OF FEAR. Do you want to be the evil that stalks the night, Varney, or do you want to be the first-ever, groundbreaking example of vampire angst ever to whine? Pick one and stick with it.

(Spoiler: He does not.)

Charles is like sure, whatever, and then IT’S THIS BOOK, because the next thing he says is this:

"I shall do so. Oh! Flora, Flora, I shall look upon you once again, after believing and thinking that I had bidden you a long and last adieu. My own beautiful Flora, it is joy indeed to think that I shall look upon that face again, which, to my perception, is full of all the majesty of loveliness."

Sir Francis Varney looked coldly on while Charles uttered this enthusiastic speech.

You and me both, vampyre, you and me both. Charles clearly has his hands clasped beneath his chin and is fluttering his eyelashes, and it’s all a bit much for Varney, who’s like “ok, I’m out” and stalks off in his giant cloak. Charles keeps his word and doesn’t immediately climb out of the ruins himself, but settles down to wait.

Next time: Flora does a bit of pining; everybody discusses the disappearance of Charles Holland and should or should they not go back to Bannerworth Hall, and what actually ended up happening with that anyway? We might — or we might not — find out.

*A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE, from Tor, coming March 2019

Sir Francis Varney Gets Shot Yet Again, or How Not to Punctuate Dialogue

Previously on: a bunch of rude mechanicals told each other stories in an inn, Mr. Tom Eccles set off for the ruins to win a bet; Varney and Marchdale lurked.

We return to Tom Eccles making his way across the benighted countryside and having second, third, and fourth thoughts about the wisdom of this particular endeavor. Despite his misgivings he reaches the ruins without incident and is about to hide the handkerchiefs he’s brought with him as proof that he made it there, when someone scares the daylights out of him by going psst! It’s Marchdale.

The moment he saw Marchdale he knew him, and, advancing frankly to him, he said,—

"I know you, sir, well."

"And what brings you here?"—"A wager for one thing, and a wish to see the vampyre for another."

"Indeed!"—"Yes; I must own I have such a wish, along with a still stronger one, to capture him, if possible; and, as there are now two of us, why may we not do it?"

"As for capturing him," said Marchdale, "I should prefer shooting him."—"You would?"

Whereas in previous chapters Rymer/Prest have apparently understood the function of the hard return without difficulty, the dialogue in this chapter is punctuated by em dashes, so that it’s deuced difficult to tell who’s saying what. I complained about the lack of dialogue tags already; this punctuation makes that issue even worse.

Tom is really not into this whole shooting-him thing, but boy is Marchdale ever. Like, a lot. Varney emerges from hiding and Marchdale is like THERE HE GOES, SHOOT HIM SHOOT HIM SHOOT HIM and Tom does, because peer pressure. I am going to fix Rymer/Prest’s goddamn dialogue punctuation for you.

"Fire after him—fire!" cried Marchdale, "or he will escape. My pistol has missed fire. He will be off."

On the impulse of the moment, and thus urged by the voice and the gesture of his companion, Tom Eccles took aim as well as he could, and fired after the retreating form of Sir Francis Varney. His conscience smote him as he heard the report and saw the flash of the large pistol amid the half sort of darkness that was still around.

The effect of the shot was then to him painfully apparent. He saw Varney stop instantly; then make a vain attempt to stagger forward a little, and finally fall heavily to the earth, with all the appearance of one killed upon the spot.

"You have hit him," said Marchdale—"you have hit him. Bravo!"

"I have—hit him."

"Yes, a capital shot, by Jove!"

"I am very sorry."

Marchdale is like “lol ur a pussy, he respawns in moonlight, let’s go look at him” and they do, and apparently Tom shot him in the head and there is a lot of blood and it’s super gross ewwwww:

Marchdale lifted up the head, and disclosed such a mass of clotted-looking blood, that Tom Eccles at once took to his heels, nor stopped until he was nearly as far off as the ruins. Marchdale followed him more slowly, and when he came up to him, he said,—

"The slugs have taken effect on his face."

"I know it—I know it. Don't tell me."

"He looks horrible."

"And I am a murderer."

Poor Eccles. Marchdale points out that he’s just going to come back to life now that the moon’s risen, and Eccles is determined to find out if he’s right, because if Varney does revive it will clear his conscience. Marchdale, lacking any such encumbrance and in cahoots with Varney, is just like “okay, watch this.”

Half-an-hour, certainly not more, might have elapsed; when suddenly Tom Eccles uttered an exclamation, partly of surprise and partly of terror,—

"He moves; he moves!" he cried. "Look at the vampyre's body."

Marchdale affected to look with an all-absorbing interest, and there was Sir Francis Varney, raising slowly one arm with the hand outstretched towards the moon, as if invoking that luminary to shed more of its beams upon him. Then the body moved slowly, like some one writhing in pain, and yet unable to move from the spot on which it lay. From the head to the foot, the whole frame seemed to be convulsed, and now and then as the ghastly object seemed to be gathering more strength, the limbs were thrown out with a rapid and a frightful looking violence.

It was truly to one, who might look upon it as a reality and no juggle, a frightful sight to see, and although Marchdale, of course, tolerably well preserved his equanimity, only now and then, for appearance sake, affecting to be wonderfully shocked, poor Tom Eccles was in such a state of horror and fright that he could not, if he would, have flown from the spot, so fascinated was he by the horrible spectacle.

and here the pacing goes glacial and we return to stating the obvious:

This was a state of things which continued for many minutes, and then the body showed evident symptoms of so much returning animation, that it was about to rise from his gory bed and mingle once again with the living.

"Behold!" said Marchdale—"behold!"

"Heaven have mercy upon us!"

"It is as I said; the beams of the moon have revived the vampyre. You perceive now that there can be no doubt."

"Yes, yes, I see him; I see him."

Tom has no desire to get a closer look, and as Varney approaches he does a runner.

Sir Francis Varney now, as if with a great struggle, rose to his feet, and looked up at the bright moon for some moments with such an air and manner that it would not have required any very great amount of imagination to conceive that he was returning to it some sort of thanksgiving for the good that it had done to him.

He then seemed for some moments in a state of considerable indecision as to which way he should proceed. He turned round several times. Then he advanced a step or two towards the house, but apparently his resolution changed again, and casting his eyes upon the ruins, he at once made towards them.

This was too much for the philosophy as well as for the courage of Tom Eccles. It was all very well to look on at some distance, and observe the wonderful and inexplicable proceedings of the vampyre; but when he showed symptoms of making a nearer acquaintance, it was not to be borne.

We are left with Varney and Marchdale. I’ve lost track of how many times Varney’s been shot by now, but it’s gotta be at least seven or eight. Neither of them mention it at all:

"Is he much terrified?" said Varney, as he came up to Marchdale.

"Yes, most completely."

"This then, will make a good story in the town."

"It will, indeed, and not a little enhance your reputation."

"Well, well; it don't much matter now; but if by terrifying people I can purchase for myself anything like immunity for the past, I shall be satisfied."

"I think you may now safely reckon that you have done so. This man who has fled with so much precipitation, had courage."

"Unquestionably."

"Or else he would have shrunk from coming here at all."

"True, but his courage and presence arose from his strong doubts as to the existence of such beings as vampyres."

"Yes, and now that he is convinced, his bravery has evaporated along with his doubts; and such a tale as he has now to tell, will be found sufficient to convert even the most sceptical in the town."

"I hope so."

"And yet it cannot much avail you."

"Not personally, but I must confess that I am not dead to all human opinions, and I feel some desire of revenge against those dastards who by hundreds have hunted me, burnt down my mansion, and sought my destruction."

"That I do not wonder at."

"I would fain leave among them a legacy of fear. Such fear as shall haunt them and their children for years to come. I would wish that the name of Varney, the vampire, should be a sound of terror for generations."

"It will be so."

or it could be a sound of getting shot all the goddamn time and falling off of walls and out of summerhouses

just sayin'

Incidentally, Varney, if you hadn’t made such a nuisance of yourself you might not be persecuted by the aforementioned dastards. This is a classic example of Monsters Behaving Badly And Suffering The Consequences, one of horror literature’s fundamental tropes, and one which I personally take great pleasure in subverting the hell out of.

The conversation turns to Holland, disposal of, and there is again discussion of murder. Varney, the narrative wishes us to understand, is agin this idea. Marchdale kinda digs it. Note that Varney was apparently conscious for some time before actually beginning to recover from being dead again:

"I have considered it while I was lying upon yon green sward waiting for the friendly moonbeams to fall upon my face, and it seems to me that there is no sort of resource but to——"

"Kill him?"

"No, no."

"What then?"

"To set him free."

"Nay, have you considered the immense hazard of doing so? Think again; I pray you think again. I am decidedly of opinion that he more than suspects who are his enemies; and, in that case, you know what consequences would ensue; besides, have we not enough already to encounter? Why should we add another young, bold, determined spirit to the band which is already arrayed against us?"

"You talk in vain, Marchdale; I know to what it all tends; you have a strong desire for the death of this young man."

"No; there you wrong me. I have no desire for his death, for its own sake; but, where great interests are at stake, there must be sacrifices made."

"So there must; therefore, I will make a sacrifice, and let this young prisoner free from his dungeon."

Marchdale snarks at him about it and they agree that as it’s getting light out Varney will return at sunset to let Holland out, but for now he must find somewhere to rest his proscribed head BECAUSE HE’S A DUMBASS. He also hits Marchdale up for money, which apparently he has been doing for some time, and Marchdale is like SIGH, FINE, and they head off to Varney’s temporary digs:

Sir Francis Varney and Marchdale walked for some time in silence across the meadows. It was evident that there was not between these associates the very best of feelings. Marchdale was always smarting under an assumption of authority over him, on the part of Sir Francis Varney, while the latter scarcely cared to conceal any portion of the contempt with which he regarded his hypocritical companion.

You don’t say. At which point Rymer/Prest make the same mistake so many inexperienced fic writers do and insert a totally unnecessary author’s note:

Some very strong band of union, indeed, must surely bind these two strange persons together! It must be something of a more than common nature which induces Marchdale not only to obey the behests of his mysterious companion, but to supply him so readily with money as we perceive he promises to do.

And, as regards Varney, the vampyre, he, too, must have some great object in view to induce him to run such a world of risk, and take so much trouble as he was doing with the Bannerworth family.

What his object is, and what is the object of Marchdale, will, now that we have progressed so far in our story, soon appear, and then much that is perfectly inexplicable, will become clear and distinct, and we shall find that some strong human motives are at the bottom of it all.

Which is the equivalent of (A/N: omg suspense!!! Will Inuyasha get the One Ring to Eternia in time to save Original Female Character from Red Skull and the Dementors?? R&R to find out!) Don’t do it. The story should stand on its own without you having to step out of it and recap for your audience what they should be thinking. There are so many other things you should not be doing in bad fanfic that require a whole other series of blog posts to describe, but this is evidence that people have been making the same lousy authorial choices for centuries (or, to put it another way, if you make fun of bad fic authors for doing dumb shit, you gotta make fun of grown-up male authors as well). Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Next time: Varney and Charles Holland Have a Meaningful Conversation.

Vampyre or Clock-Weight: It's Difficult to Tell, or Varney the Vampire and the Comic Relief

Previously on: Varney and Mysterious Figure B, aka Marchdale (I KNEW IT), hold colloquy in the ruins regarding what they are to do next, and come to very little by way of conclusion other than that neither of them really wants to kill Charles “Pathetic Prisoner” Holland, and that the admiral has thwarted their evil wiles (but that Varney WILL HAVE THE HALL, yea, though he wade through red blood to the thigh to reach its doors, etcetera).

Varney and Marchdale have retreated further into the ruins and await the importunate villager who has come to presumably defeat the vampyre, preparatory to teaching said villager a lesson, and we are now treated to an entire flashback chapter’s worth of The Rustics Being Amusing. Back at the inn, gossip of a sanguivorous nature continues to run high, and one particular inn-guest holds everyone in the parlor rapt with a tale of his previous night’s terror:

"Was it very dreadful?"

"Rather. You wouldn't have survived it at all."

I kinda like this dude. He had been unable to sleep, tossing and turning, until the clock struck twelve:

"No sooner had the last sound of it died away, than I heard something on the stairs."

"Yes, yes."

"It was as if some man had given his foot a hard blow against one of the stairs; and he would have needed to have had a heavy boot on to do it. I started up in bed and listened, as you may well suppose, not in the most tranquil state of mind, and then I heard an odd, gnawing sort of noise, and then another dab upon one of the stairs."

"How dreadful!"

"It was. What to do I knew not, or what to think, except that the vampyre had, by some means, got in at the attic window, and was coming down stairs to my room. That seemed the most likely. Then there was another groan, and then another heavy step; and, as they were evidently coming towards my door, I felt accordingly, and got out of bed, not knowing hardly whether I was on my head or my heels, to try and lock my door."

"Ah, to be sure."

"Yes; that was all very well, if I could have done it; but a man in such a state of mind as I was in is not a very sharp hand at doing anything. I shook from head to foot. The room was very dark, and I couldn't, for a moment or two, collect my senses sufficient really to know which way the door lay."

"What a situation!"

"It was. Dab, dab, dab, came these horrid footsteps, and there was I groping about the room in an agony. I heard them coming nearer and nearer to my door. Another moment, and they must have reached it, when my hand struck against the lock."

"What an escape!"

"No, it was not."

This is actually pretty effective. We’ve all experienced the horror of the Thing Coming Down the Hall, particularly if there’s no way to lock the door against whatever It might be (key was on the outside of this dude’s door).

"I felt regularly bewildered, I can tell you; it seemed to me as if the very devil himself was coming down stairs hopping all the way upon one leg."

"How terrific!"

"I felt my senses almost leaving me; but I did what I could to hold the door shut just as I heard the strange step come from the last stair on to the landing. Then there was a horrid sound, and some one began trying the lock of my door."

"What a moment!"

"Yes, I can tell you it was a moment. Such a moment as I don't wish to go through again. I held the door as close as I could, and did not speak. I tried to cry out help and murder, but I could not; my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and my strength was fast failing me."

"Horrid, horrid!"

"Take a drop of ale."

"Thank you. Well, I don't think this went on above two or three minutes, and all the while some one tried might and main to push open the door. My strength left me all at once; I had only time to stagger back a step or two, and then, as the door opened, I fainted away."

The reveal of this whole thing will make you groan. The guy wakes up in his own bed with the doctor and his housekeeper bending over him. He asks her what happened:

"'Why, sir,' says she, 'I was coming up to bed as softly as I could, because I knew you had gone to rest some time before. The clock was striking twelve, and as I went past it some of my clothes, I suppose, caught the large weight, but it was knocked off, and down the stairs it rolled, going with such a lump from one to the other, and I couldn't catch it because it rolled so fast, that I made sure you would be awakened; so I came down to tell you what it was, and it was some time before I could get your room door open, and when I did I found you out of bed and insensible.'"

There was a general look of disappointment when this explanation was given, and one said,—

"Then it was not the vampire?"

"Certainly not."

"And, after all, only a clock weight."

"That's about it."

"Why didn't you tell us that at first?"

"Because that would have spoilt the story."

RYMER/PREST I HATE YOU

on the other hand, this is comedy gold:

"Well, although our friend's vampyre has turned out, after all, to be nothing but a confounded clock-weight, there's no disputing the fact about Sir Francis Varney being a vampyre, and not a clock-weight."

sometimes it’s hard to tell

Anyway, the conversation turns to how things are scary at night but not in the daytime, for example those old ruins are super spooky at midnight, no one would ever dare to go there under cover of darkness, and Some Guy (of course) is like ME ME I WOULD I AIN’T SCARED OF NO VAMPYRE. They bet him he won’t do it, he takes their bets, and also collects handkerchiefs from them to hide in the ruins so they can find them the next day and confirm he’d been there. Off he goes, pausing to collect a horse-pistol.

Cut back to the inn-parlor, where Storytelling Dude is telling a different story, this one potentially full of foreshadowing, featuring a nephew who takes possession of his dead uncle’s house and estate over the will and wishes of the uncle’s illegitimate son. Having successfully kicked them out, he locks himself up in the empty house and immediately gets the creeps to the point where he drinks two bottles of wine to settle his nerves and proceeds to pass out:

How long he remained in this state he knew not, but he was suddenly awakened by a loud bang, as though something heavy and flat had fallen upon the floor—such, for instance, as a door, or anything of that sort. He jumped up, rubbed his eyes, and could even then hear the reverberations through the house.

"What is that?" he muttered; "what is that?"

He listened, and thought he could hear something moving down stairs, and for a moment he was seized with an ague fit; but recollecting, I suppose, that there were some valuables down stairs that were worth fighting for, he carefully extinguished the light that still burned, and softly crept down stairs.

When he got down stairs he thought he could hear some one scramble up the kitchen stairs, and then into the room where the bureau was. Listening for a moment to ascertain if there were more than one, and then feeling convinced there was not, he followed into the parlour, when he heard the cabinet open by a key.

This was a new miracle, and one he could not understand; and then he heard the papers begin to rattle and rustle; so, drawing out one of the pistols, he cocked it, and walked in.

The figure instantly began to jump about; it was dressed in white—in grave-clothes. He was terribly nervous, and shook, so he feared to fire the pistol; but at length he did, and the report was followed by a fall and a loud groan.

This was very dreadful—very dreadful; but all was quiet, and he lit the candle again, and approached the body to examine it, and ascertain if he knew who it was. A groan came from it. The bureau was open, and the figure clutched firmly a will in his hand.

The figure was dressed in grave-clothes, and he started up when he saw the form and features of his own uncle, the man who was dead, who somehow or other had escaped his confinement, and found his way up, here. He held his will firmly; and the nephew was so horrified and stunned, that he threw down the light, and rushed out of the room with a shout of terror, and never returned again.

Hi there, M.R. James plot. There may or may not be some significance to this entire little episode, because with Rymer/Prest you never can tell; it is at least somewhat entertaining, even if the pacing that had been sort of beginning to improve is once more hopelessly derailed. Next time we pick back up with Some Guy aka Tom Eccles on his midnight handkerchief-hiding quest, and if you have ever encountered The Goon Show you will be pathologically incapable of thinking of this dude as anything but that Eccles, sorry to say. (Now I want a Varney/Goon crossover. Imagine Varney saying silkily “you silly twisted boy.”)


I Knew That Guy Was An Asshole: Varney the Vampyre and the Completely Unsurprising Plot Twist

Previously on: Chillingworth and Bell, having failed to capture Varney breaking into the Hall, have gone to his temporary lodgings to have breakfast and be insulted; Varney disappears again; Mr. Mortimer the Mysterious shows up and recognizes Chillingworth, and they have a bit of foreshadowing; the particulars of Henry’s dad’s suicide are set forth & the mystery becomes less mysterious on account of it has to do with an awful lot of money.

We return to the gothic ruins, wherein a tall figure stands wrapped in a big cloak, checking his watch and bitching about people being late for meetings. It is extremely obvious who this person is, and yet Rymer/Prest pretend they are doing a Big Reveal at the end of this bit.

The watcher is at length rewarded by the approach of another set of footsteps, and seems to be less than thrilled:

But he who thus waited for some confederate among these dim and old grey ruins, advanced not a step to meet him. On the contrary, such seemed the amount of cold-blooded caution which he possessed, that the nearer the man—who was evidently advancing—got to the place, the further back did he who had preceded him shrink into the shadow of the dim and crumbling walls, which had, for some years now past, seemed to bend to the passing blast, and to be on the point of yielding to the destroying hand of time.

And yet, surely he needed not have been so cautious. Who was likely, at such an hour as that, to come to the ruins, but one who sought it by appointment?

And, moreover, the manner of the advancing man should have been quite sufficient to convince him who waited, that so much caution was unnecessary; but it was a part and parcel of his nature.

OH FFS NOTHING ABOUT VARNEY IS FUCKING CAUTIOUS, SEE THE ENTIRE REST OF THIS BOOK FOR EVIDENCE AGAINST THIS CLAIM

About three minutes more sufficed to bring the second man to the ruin, and he, at once, and fearlessly, plunged into its recesses.

"Who comes?" said the first man, in a deep, hollow voice.

"He whom you expect," was the reply.

"Good," he said, and at once he now emerged from his hiding-place, and they stood together in the nearly total darkness with which the place was enshrouded; for the night was a cloudy one, and there appeared not a star in the heavens, to shed its faint light upon the scene below.

For a few moments they were both silent, for he who had last arrived had evidently made great exertions to reach the spot, and was breathing laboriously, while he who was there first appeared, from some natural taciturnity of character, to decline opening the conversation.

“So who talks first? Do you talk first? Do I talk first?”

The newcomer says “ok I know I’m late but you need to know about this, the dumbass villagers are being dumbass again and someone’s on his way right now to meddle with you and/or me”:

"Explain yourself more fully."

"I will. At a tavern in the town, there has happened some strange scenes of violence, in consequence of the general excitement into which the common people have been thrown upon the dreadful subject of vampyres."

"Well."

I can just hear him going “Well.” In my head Varney sometimes sounds a lot like James Mason.

"The consequence is, that numerous arrests have taken place, and the places of confinement for offenders against the laws are now full of those whose heated and angry imaginations have induced them to take violent steps to discover the reality or the falsehood of rumours which so much affected them, their wives, and their families, that they feared to lie down to their night's repose."

The other laughed a short, hollow, restless sort of laugh, which had not one particle of real mirth in it.

"Go on—go on," he said. "What did they do?"

"Immense excesses have been committed; but what made me, first of all, stay beyond my time, was that I overheard a man declare his intentions this night, from twelve till the morning, and for some nights to come, to hold watch and ward for the vampyre."

"Indeed!"

"Yes. He did but stay, at the earnest solicitation of his comrades, to take yet another glass, ere he came upon his expedition."

"He must be met. The idiot! what business is it of his?"

Why can’t the people just leave him alooooone it’s so unfair omg. They move farther into the ruins, and Varney can’t stop himself admitting he’s slightly chuffed about being considered so dangerous:

"I am annoyed, although the feeling reaches no further than annoyance, for I have a natural love of mischief, to think that my reputation has spread so widely, and made so much noise."

"Your reputation as a vampyre, Sir Francis Varney, you mean?"

"Yes; but there is no occasion for you to utter my name aloud, even here where we are alone together."

"It came out unawares."

And I’m wearing a wire. Have you guessed who Mysterious Stranger B is by now? He asks Varney what the plan is, and Varney’s like “lol”:

"Nay, you are my privy councillor. Have you no deep-laid, artful project in hand? Can you not plan and arrange something which may yet have the effect of accomplishing what at first seemed so very simple, but which has, from one unfortunate circumstance and another, become full of difficulty and pregnant with all sorts of dangers?"

"I must confess I have no plan."

"I listen with astonishment."

"Nay, now, you are jesting."

"When did you ever hear of me jesting?"

I’M VARNEY THE VAMPYRE AND I HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR

They have the most boring and incomprehensible conversation that anyone’s had in several pages, and incidentally show very clearly the importance of dialogue tags. You don’t need them for every single statement, because then the “said” repeats often enough that it becomes visible, but you bloody well do need some of them so that your reader doesn’t have to go back and highlight every other line like an actor memorizing their part in order to determine who is saying what. Mysterious Figure B interrogates Varney about his plans:

"You are, I presume, from what you say, provided with a scheme of action which shall present better hopes of success, at less risk, I hope. Look what great danger we have already passed through."

"Yes, we have."

"I pray you avoid that in the next campaign."

"It is not the danger that annoys and troubles me, but it is that, notwithstanding it, the object is as far off as ever from being attained."

"And not only so, but, as is invariably the case under such circumstances, we have made it more difficult of execution because we have put those upon their guard thoroughly who are the most likely to oppose us."

"We have—we have."

"And placed the probability of success afar off indeed."

"And yet I have set my life upon the cast, and I will stand the hazard. I tell you I will accomplish this object, or I will perish in the attempt."

"You are too enthusiastic."

Not the word I’d have used, because there is no evidence of enthusiasm in the wording of that sentence: there is determination, sure, and intensity, but more than a little bitterness.

Varney looks down his nose at MFB and says drily:

"Not at all. Nothing has been ever done, the execution of which was difficult, without enthusiasm. I will do what I intend, or Bannerworth Hall shall become a heap of ruins, where fire shall do its worst work of devastation, and I will myself find a grave in the midst."

"Well, I quarrel with no man for chalking out the course he intends to pursue; but what do you mean to do with the prisoner below here?"

"Kill him."

"What?"

I love how MFB is like “good to have plans, dude”. Varney employs his trademark silky rudeness:

"When everything else is secured, and when the whole of that which I so much court, and which I will have, is in my possession, I will take his life, or you shall. Ay, you are just the man for such a deed. A smooth-faced, specious sort of roan are you, and you like not danger. There will be none in taking the life of a man who is chained to the floor of a dungeon."

"I know not why," said the other, "you take a pleasure on this particular night, of all others, in saying all you can which you think will be offensive to me."

Cause he’s Varney and that is precisely the manner in which he is wont to roll, catch up, guy.

"Now, how you wrong me. This is the reward of confidence."

"I don't want such confidence."

"Why, you surely don't want me to flatter you."

"No; but—"

"Psha! Hark you. That admiral is the great stumbling-block in my way. I should ere this have had undisturbed possession of Bannerworth Hall but for him. He must be got out of the way somehow."

And he sticks a masterful Changing The Subject Without Dealing With The Current Question. MFB parries with a nicely-executed truth bomb:

"In what way would you get rid of this troublesome admiral?"

"I scarcely know. A letter from his nephew might, if well put together, get him to London."

"I doubt it. I hate him mortally. He has offended me more than once most grievously."

"I know it. He saw through you."

OOOOOOOOHHHHHH

"I do not give him so much credit. He is a suspicious man, and a vain and a jealous one."

"And yet he saw through you. Now, listen to me. You are completely at fault, and have no plan of operations whatever in your mind. What I want you to do is, to disappear from the neighbourhood for a time, and so will I. As for our prisoner here below, I cannot see what else can be done with him than—than—"

"Than what? Do you hesitate?"

God I love it when someone flat-out tells Varney he’s full of shit. MFB displays considerable acumen and initiative here, but because it’s this book these phenomena are transient in nature. He’s like “ok so you and I both know the quickest and easiest way of dealing with the problem of this kid, but I have this weird squeamish nope reaction to the idea of murdering him,” and Varney goes inscrutable:

“Be frank, and own that which it is in vain to conceal from me. I know you too well; arch hypocrite as you are, and fully capable of easily deceiving many, you cannot deceive me."

"I really cannot understand you."

Yeah, me neither.

"Then I will take care that you shall."

"How?"

"Listen. I will not have the life of Charles Holland taken."

"Who wishes to take it?"

"You."

OH COME ON DUDE you were the one who even mentioned it in the first place, no one said anything about murdering anybody until MFB asked you what you wanted to do with the prisoner, can you just please try to stay consistent for the space of one whole scene? MFB is like “uh….”

"There, indeed, you wrong me. Unless you yourself thought that such an act was imperatively called for by the state of affairs, do you think that I would needlessly bring down upon my head the odium as well as the danger of such a deed? No, no. Let him live, if you are willing; he may live a thousand years for all I care."

"'Tis well. I am, mark me, not only willing, but I am determined that he shall live so far as we are concerned. I can respect the courage that, even when he considered that his life was at stake, enabled him to say no to a proposal which was cowardly and dishonourable, although it went far to the defeat of my own plans and has involved me in much trouble."

What is even your deal. I know I ask this all the time but seriously, this character is so completely inconsistent he gaslights himself into metaphorical fucking asphyxia.

It’s MFB’s turn to change the subject, and buckle up for another gorgeous example of Redundant Conversational Gambits Are Redundant:

"Hush! hush!"

"What is it?"

"I fancy I hear a footstep."

"Indeed; that were a novelty in such a place as this."

"And yet not more than I expected. Have you forgotten what I told you when I reached here to-night after the appointed hour?"

"Truly; I had for the moment. Do you think then that the footstep which now meets our ears, is that of the adventurer who boasted that he could keep watch for the vampyre?"

No, I think it’s Little Red Riding Hood, you twit.

"In faith do I. What is to be done with such a meddling fool?"

"He ought certainly to be taught not to be so fond of interfering with other people's affairs."

"Certainly."

"Perchance the lesson will not be wholly thrown away upon others. It may be worth while to take some trouble with this poor valiant fellow, and let him spread his news so as to stop any one else from being equally venturous and troublesome."

"A good thought."

"Shall it be done?"

"Yes; if you will arrange that which shall accomplish such a result."

"Be it so. The moon rises soon."

"It does."

I challenge you to read this aloud with a completely straight face, super-dramatically, and see how far you get before you collapse in mirth. Then we have this line, which I cannot possibly read as anything other than sarcastic as fuck:

"Ah, already I fancy I see a brightening of the air as if the mellow radiance of the queen of night were already quietly diffusing itself throughout the realms of space. Come further within the ruins."

And the big reveal:

Varney, the vampyre, who had been holding this conversation with no other than Marchdale, smiled as he, in a whispered voice, told the latter what to do in order to frighten away from the place the foolhardy man who thought that, by himself, he should be able to accomplish anything against the vampyre.

SEE I KNEW IT MARCHDALE WAS A BAD HAT ALL ALONG, A RANK BAD HAT

It was, indeed, a hare-brained expedition, for whether Sir Francis Varney was really so awful and preternatural a being as so many concurrent circumstances would seem to proclaim, or not, he was not a likely being to allow himself to be conquered by anyone individual, let his powers or his courage be what they might.

Except he can’t fucking climb over a wall and he keeps getting shot all the time and the only really fearsome thing he’s ever done is chomp Flora a million chapters ago. Literally. I can’t think of anything else that’s anything more than obnoxious.

What induced this man to become so ventursome we shall now proceed to relate, as well as what kind of reception he got in the old ruins, which, since the mysterious disappearance of Sir Francis Varney within their recesses, had possessed so increased a share of interest and attracted so much popular attention and speculation.

Which is Rymer/Prest’s “Next time on Varney the Vampyre,” and a good place to pause.

"I propose that we procure two scythes," or, Varney the Vampyre Acts More Inexplicably than Usual

Apologies for the delay: real life interveneth from time to time.

Previously on: the admiral and Chillingworth set up an incompetent ambush to catch Varney breaking into Bannerworth Hall; Varney runs away again; Varney for some unknowable reason invites them to breakfast via a note thrown over the garden gate.

We left our secondary heroes arguing over whether to take him up on the invitation. Chillingworth thinks it’s bullshit, but the admiral is determined, and consequently they betake themselves to the house Varney’s staying in due to his own having been torched by angry mobs. He receives them coolly enough:

Sir Francis Varney sat with his back towards this second door, and a table, with some chairs and other articles of furniture, were so arranged before him, that while they seemed but to be carelessly placed in the position they occupied, they really formed a pretty good barrier between him and his visitors.

The admiral, however, was too intent upon getting a sight of Varney, to notice any preparation of this sort, and he advanced quickly into the room.

And there, indeed, was the much dreaded, troublesome, persevering, and singular looking being who had caused such a world of annoyance to the family of the Bannerworths, as well as disturbing the peace of the whole district, which had the misfortune to have him as an inhabitant.

If anything, he looked thinner, taller, and paler than usual, and there seemed to be a slight nervousness of manner about him, as he slowly inclined his head towards the admiral, which was not quite intelligible.

Not even Varney seems to know what the hell he wants out of this interview.

"Well," said Admiral Bell, "you invited me to breakfast, and my learned friend; here we are."

"No two human beings," said Varney, "could be more welcome to my hospitality than yourself and Dr. Chillingworth. I pray you to be seated. What a pleasant thing it is, after the toils and struggles of this life, occasionally to sit down in the sweet companionship of such dear friends."

He made a hideous face as he spoke, and the admiral looked as if he were half inclined to quarrel at that early stage of the proceedings.

Seriously, dude, what is your deal. He summons the help, who arrives with a breakfast tray.

"Deborah," said Sir Varney, in a mild sort of tone, "keep on continually bringing things to eat until this old brutal sea ruffian has satiated his disgusting appetite."

The admiral opened his eyes an enormous width, and, looking at Sir Francis Varney, he placed his two fists upon the table, and drew a long breath.

"Did you address those observations to me," he said, at length, "you blood-sucking vagabond?"

"Eh?" said Sir Francis Varney, looking over the admiral's head, as if he saw something interesting on the wall beyond.

WHAT IS YOUR ACTUAL DEAL

Chillingworth is still the Only Sane Person(TM), and Varney moves on to insulting him instead:

"My dear admiral," said Mr. Chillingworth, "come away."

"I'll see you d——d first!" said the admiral. "Now, Mr. Vampyre, no shuffling; did you address those observations to me?"

"Deborah," said Sir Francis Varney, in silvery tones, "you can remove this tray and bring on the next."

"Not if I know it," said the admiral "I came to breakfast, and I'll have it; after breakfast I'll pull your nose—ay, if you were fifty vampyres, I'd do it."

"Dr. Chillingworth," said Varney, without paying the least attention to what the admiral said, "you don't eat, my dear sir; you must be fatigued with your night's exertions. A man of your age, you know, cannot be supposed to roll and tumble about like a fool in a pantomime with impunity. Only think what a calamity it would be if you were laid up. Your patients would all get well, you know."

Chillingworth is like really, dude?:

"Sir Francis Varney," said Mr. Chillingworth, "we're your guests; we come here at your invitation to partake of a meal. You have wantonly attacked both of us. I need not say that by so doing you cast a far greater slur upon your own taste and judgment than you can upon us."

"Admirably spoken," said Sir Francis Varney, giving his hands a clap together that made the admiral jump again. "Now, old Bell, I'll fight you, if you think yourself aggrieved, while the doctor sees fair play."

It is impossible to tell, because this is this book, whether Varney actually wants to fight him in order to kill him, or if he’s just being a dick because he can (and the admiral is super easy to infuriate):

"Old who?" shouted the admiral.

"Bell, Bell—is not your name Bell?—a family cognomen, I presume, on account of the infernal clack, clack, without any sense in it, that is the characteristic of your race."

"You'll fight me?" said the admiral, jumping up.

"Yes; if you challenge me."

"By Jove I do; of course."

Chillingworth again points out that this is stupid, but Bell will not be dissuaded. Because Varney is the challenged party, he gets to pick the weapon, and of course he picks something hilarious:

"In this mansion," said Sir Francis Varney—"for a mansion it is, although under the unpretending name of a lodge—in this mansion there is a large apartment which was originally fitted up by a scientific proprietor of the place, for the purpose of microscopic and other experiments, which required a darkness total and complete, such a darkness as seems as if it could be felt—palpable, thick, and obscure as the darkness of the tomb, and I know what that is."

"The devil you do!" said the admiral. "It's damp, too, ain't it?"

"The room?"

"No; the grave."

"Oh! uncommonly, after autumnal rains.”

I hate it when your grave gets flooded, it’s so inconvenient.

“But to resume—this room is large, lofty, and perfectly empty."

"Well?"

"I propose that we procure two scythes."

"Two what?"

"Scythes, with their long handles, and their convenient holding places."

"Well, I'll be hanged! What next do you propose?"

"You may be hanged. The next is, that with these scythes we be both of us placed in the darkened room, and the door closed, and doubly locked upon us for one hour, and that then and there we do our best each to cut the other in two. If you succeed in dismembering me, you will have won the day; but I hope, from my superior agility"—here Sir Francis jumped upon his chair, and sat upon the back of it—"to get the better of you. How do you like the plan I have proposed? Does it meet your wishes?"

Varney’s just been rendered effectively homeless by the actions of an angry mob, and escaped capture by these two the previous night simply due to the fact that they suck at catching vampyres, and instead of doing what a sensible creature would do such as laying low for a while and not being noticeable until some of the heat is off, he’s playing silly buggers. This is actually a fairly standard vampire trope: they seem to want to get caught from the way they behave, as if to draw as much attention to themselves as possible.

The admiral chinhands, and Varney absconds, and no one knows what the fuck, basically.

"Curse your impudence!" said the admiral, placing his elbows upon the table and resting his chin in astonishment upon his two hands.

"Nay," interrupted Sir Francis, "you challenged me; and, besides, you'll have an equal chance, you know that. If you succeed in striking me first, down I go; whereas it I succeed in striking you first, down you go."

As he spoke, Sir Francis Varney stretched out his foot, and closed a small bracket which held out the flap of the table on which the admiral was leaning, and, accordingly, down the admiral went, tea-tray and all.

Mr. Chillingworth ran to help him up, and, when they both recovered their feet, they found they were alone.

Chillingworth is like let’s get the hell out of here, what if he comes back with a scythe and turns the lights out, but before they can leave yet another person is announced, a Mr. Mortimer.

(The name Mortimer will crop up again, much later in these proceedings.)

The admiral is all who the fuck are you but Chillingworth clearly recognizes Mortimer, and is astonished to see him there:

There walked past the woman a stout, portly-looking man, well dressed, but with a very odd look upon his face, in consequence of an obliquity of vision, which prevented the possibility of knowing which way he was looking.

"I must see him," he said; "I must see him."

Mr. Chillingworth started back as if in amazement.

"Good God!" he cried, "you here!"

"Confusion!" said Mortimer; "are you Dr.—— Dr.——"

"Chillingworth."

"The same. Hush! there is no occasion to betray—that is, to state my secret."

"And mine, too," said Chillingworth. "But what brings you here?"

"I cannot and dare not tell you. Farewell!"

CHILLINGWORTH HAS SECRETS

But before Mortimer can make his escape YET ANOTHER person shows up, someone we know: Henry Bannerworth. Consternation and to-do, and then this amazing conversation which I will reproduce in full, because it’s too good not to:

"Bannerworth!" said Mortimer; "is that young man's name Bannerworth?"

"Yes," said Henry. "Do you know me, sir?"

"No, no; only I—I—must be off. Does anybody know anything of Sir Francis Varney?"

"We did know something of him," said the admiral, "a little while ago; but he's taken himself off. Don't you do so likewise. If you've got anything to say, stop and say it, like an Englishman."

"Stuff! stuff!" said Mortimer, impatiently. "What do you all want here?"

"Why, Sir Francis Varney," said Henry,—"and I care not if the whole world heard it—is the persecutor of my family."

"How? in what way?"

"He has the reputation of a vampyre; he has hunted me and mine from house and home."

"Indeed!"

"Yes," cried Dr. Chillingworth; "and, by some means or another, he seems determined to get possession of Bannerworth Hall."

"Well, gentlemen," said Mortimer, "I promise you that I will inquire into this. Mr. Chillingworth, I did not expect to meet you. Perhaps the least we say to each other is, after all, the better."

"Let me ask but one question," said Dr. Chillingworth, imploringly.

"Ask it."

"Did he live after—"

"Hush! he did."

"You always told me to the contrary."

"Yes; I had an object; the game is up. Farewell; and, gentlemen, as I am making my exit, let me do so with a sentiment:—Society at large is divided into two great classes."

"And what may they be?" said the admiral.

"Those who have been hanged, and those who have not. Adieu!"

The more perspicacious among us will have started putting things together. When this twist is revealed it is going to annoy and also amuse, as another example of Rymer/Prest cribbing off more well-known classic horror novels.

He turned and left the room; and Mr. Chillingworth sunk into a chair, and said, in a low voice,—

"It's uncommonly true; and I've found out an acquaintance among the former."

HINT HINT.

"-D—n it! you seem all mad," said the admiral. "I can't make out what you are about. How came you here, Mr. Henry Bannerworth?"

"By mere accident I heard," said Henry, "that you were keeping watch and ward in the Hall. Admiral, it was cruel, and not well done of you, to attempt such an enterprise without acquainting me with it. Did you suppose for a moment that I, who had the greatest interest in this affair, would have shrunk from danger, if danger there be; or lacked perseverance, if that quality were necessary in carrying out any plan by which the safety and honour of my family might be preserved?"

"Nay, now, my young friend," said Mr. Chillingworth.

"Nay, sir; but I take it ill that I should have been kept out of this affair; and it should have been sedulously, as it were, kept a secret from me."

Kid’s got a point. Chillingworth is like “we gotta get out of here”:

“Let me beg of you all to come away; and believe me that I do not speak lightly, or with a view to get you from here, when I say, that after I have heard something from you, Henry, which I shall ask you to relate to me, painful though it may be, I shall be able to suggest some explanation of many things which appear at present obscure, and to put you in a course of freeing you from the difficulties which surround you, which, Heaven knows, I little expected I should have it in my power to propose to any of you."

Henry says uh, okay, sure? as if he’s not sure what the doctor will ask.

"To what does it relate?" said Henry. "You may be assured, Mr. Chillingworth, that I am not likely to refuse my confidence to you, whom I have so much reason to respect as an attached friend of myself and my family."

and immediately thereafter, without it being explained in any way:

"Why, sir, the fact is," said Henry, "that what I am about to relate to you consists not so much of secrets as of matters which would be painful to my feelings to talk of more than may be absolutely required."

RYMER/PREST I HATE YOU SO MUCH

Anyway, they all troop off back to Bannerworth Hall and sit in the storied summerhouse, which as Henry relates happens to be where his dad committed suicide, aww, nostalgia. Henry tells them all about what an asshole his dad was and how he racked up gambling debt upon gambling debt and behaved irresponsibly in every way. At one point he vanished for two months:

"What occurred to him during that time we none of us ever knew, but late one night he came home, apparently much flurried in manner, and seeming as if something had happened to drive him half mad.

"He would not speak to any one, but he shut himself up the whole of the night in the chamber where hangs the portrait that bears so strong a resemblance to Sir Francis Varney, and there he remained till the morning, when he emerged, and said briefly that he intended to leave the country.

"He was in a most fearful state of nervousness, and my mother tells me that he shook like one in an ague, and started at every little sound that occurred in the house, and glared about him so wildly that it was horrible to see him, or to sit in the same apartment with him.

"She says that the whole morning passed on in this way till a letter came to him, the contents of which appeared to throw him into a perfect convulsion of terror, and he retired again to the room with the portrait, where he remained some hours, and then he emerged, looking like a ghost, so dreadfully pale and haggard was he.

"He walked into the garden here, and was seen to sit down in this summer-house, and fix his eyes upon the window of that apartment."

Henry paused for a few moments, and then he added,—

"You will excuse me from entering upon any details of what next ensued in the melancholy history. My father here committed suicide. He was found dying, and all I he words he spoke were, 'The money is hidden!' Death claimed his victim, and, with a convulsive spasm, he resigned his spirit, leaving what he had intended to say hidden in the oblivion of the grave."

"That was an odd affair," said the admiral.

It suuuure was. Henry says they think he killed himself because of mental instability and guilt and general moral turpitude, but the doctor has more information:

"I do not mean," remarked Mr. Chillingworth, "for one moment to attempt to dispute, Henry, the rationality of such an opinion as you have just given utterance to; but you forget that another circumstance occurred, which gave a colour to the words used by your father."

"Yes; I know to what you allude."

"Be so good as to state it to the admiral."

"I will. On the evening of that same day there came a man here, who, in seeming ignorance of what had occurred, although by that time it was well known to all the neighbourhood, asked to see my father.

"Upon being told that he was dead, he started back, either with well acted or with real surprise, and seemed to be immensely chagrined. He then demanded to know if he had left any disposition of his property; but he got no information, and departed muttering the most diabolical oaths and curses that can be imagined. He mounted his horse, for he had ridden to the Hall and his last words were, as I am told—

"'Where, in the name of all that's damnable, can he have put the money!'"

"And did you never find out who this man was?" asked the admiral.

"Never."

"It is an odd affair."

Okay, but was the affair odd? I’m not quite sure whether it was odd or not, what kind of affair we’re talking about, can someone clear that up for me?

The affair, which might have been an odd one, was largely overshadowed in the public mind because of a handy murder:

"Yes," said Henry; "it so happened that about that very time a murder was committed in the neighbourhood of London, which baffled all the exertions of the authorities to discover the perpetrators of. It was the murder of Lord Lorne."

"Oh! I remember," said the admiral; "the newspapers were full of it for a long time."

"They were; and so, as Mr. Chillingworth says, the more exciting interest which that affair created drew off public attention, in a great measure, from my father's suicide, and we did not suffer so much from public remark and from impertinent curiosity as might have been expected."

"And, in addition," said Mr. Chillingworth, and he changed colour a little as he spoke, "there was an execution shortly afterwards."

"Yes," said Henry, "there was."

"The execution of a man named Angerstein," added Mr. Chillingworth, "for a highway robbery, attended with the most brutal violence."

"True; all the affairs of that period of time are strongly impressed upon my mind," said Henry; "but you do not seem well, Mr. Chillingworth."

"Oh, yes; I am quite well—you are mistaken."

No you’re not, dude. You are having The Complicated Feelings. Jack Pringle shows up to completely destroy the pacing and flow of the scene, and having achieved this, goes away again; the doctor asks Henry and the admiral to let him stay at the Hall for a week.

"What for?"

"I hope to make some discoveries connected with it which shall well reward you for the trouble."

"It's no trouble," said Henry; "and for myself, I have amply sufficient faith, both in your judgment and in your friendship, doctor, to accede to any request which you may make to me."

"And I," said the admiral. "Be it so—be it so. For one week, you say?"

"Yes—for one week. I hope, by the end of that time, to have achieved something worth the telling you of; and I promise you that, if I am at all disappointed in my expectation, that I will frankly and freely communicate to you all I know and all I suspect."

Everyone agrees on this course of action, and Chillingworth insists that the Hall not be left empty at all for the near future, so he’s going to stay there while the others go get him some food and supplies and so on. Again, we’re fairly heavily foreshadowed here, but there’s still some mystery left (largely because the authors are so enormously terrible at their jobs).

Next time: BACK TO THE SPOOKY RUIN and figures standing around in cloaks waiting for one another to show up and have an Ominous Conversation.

"We Have Committed a Great Mistake," or, Varney the Vampyre and the Inept Ambush

One of the chapters in today’s recap is titled THE ARRIVAL OF JACK PRINGLE.—MIDNIGHT AND THE VAMPYRE.—THE MYSTERIOUS HAT. What about the hat is mysterious? you ask.

IT DOESN’T APPEAR ANYWHERE IN THE TEXT

come on, dudes, are you just randomly making shit up that has nothing to do with the chapters, arrrgh

Previously on: the angry mob burns down Varney’s house; Varney disappears into thin air; much discussion is had of leaving Bannerworth Hall.

We resume with even more discussion of leaving Bannerworth Hall oh my god these people take FOREVER to do anything. At extreme length, with much incomprehensible naval byplay, Jack gets them into a coach and drives them to an undisclosed location:

"Up the garden if you please, ma'am—as quick as you can; the night air is very cold."

Flora and her mother and brother took the hint, which was meant by Jack to mean that they were not to be seen outside. They at once entered a pretty garden, and then they came to a very neat and picturesque cottage. They had no time to look up at it, as the door was immediately opened by an elderly female, who was intended to wait upon them.

"Well," said Flora, "this is very thoughtful of the admiral. The place will really be charming, and the garden, too, delightful."

So that’s all right, then. Meanwhile, back at Bannerworth Hall:

It is now quite night, and so peculiar and solemn a stillness reigns in and about Bannerworth Hall and its surrounding grounds, that one might have supposed it a place of the dead, deserted completely after sunset by all who would still hold kindred with the living. There was not a breath of air stirring, and this circumstance added greatly to the impression of profound repose which the whole scene exhibited.

Admiral Bell and Chillingworth are sitting in the room traditionally reserved for vampyre target-shooting through the window, waiting in the dark and drinking. Chillingworth isn’t having a great time, but the admiral is totally enjoying this:

"I do hope," said Mr. Chillingworth, after a long pause, "that our efforts will be crowned with success—you know, my dear sir, that I have always been of your opinion, that there was a great deal more in this matter than met the eye."

"To be sure," said the admiral, "and as to our efforts being crowned with success, why, I'll give you a toast, doctor, 'may the morning's reflection provide for the evening's amusement.'"

"Ha! ha!" said Chillingworth, faintly; "I'd rather not drink any more, and you seem, admiral, to have transposed the toast in some way. I believe it runs, 'may the evening's amusement bear the morning's reflection.'"

"Transpose the devil!" said the admiral; "what do I care how it runs? I gave you my toast, and as to that you mention, it's another one altogether, and a sneaking, shore-going one too: but why don't you drink?"

"Why, my dear sir, medically speaking, I am strongly of opinion that, when the human stomach is made to contain a large quantity of alcohol, it produces bad effects upon the system. Now, I've certainly taken one glass of this infernally strong Hollands, and it is now lying in my stomach like the red-hot heater of a tea-urn."

"Is it? put it out with another, then."

Chillingworth questions the necessity of their sitting up all night here, the first night the Hall is empty, and yet again there is heated agreement over the fact that Varney clearly wants the Hall and is therefore likely to take advantage of its apparent emptiness, and so on and so forth. The admiral has rigged up a very basic alarm system to warn them if anybody tries to get in, to wit: locking all the windows but one, and putting a bunch of crockery just inside that one so that an intruder would necessarily cause a hell of a lot of smashy-smashy noise; this occurs; it turns out that the intruder is a cat, not a Varney.

Jack Pringle arrives, having stopped off on the way to get stinking drunk against the admiral’s orders, and they have a fight about it; Jack passes out:

"So far, so good," said the admiral. "He's out of the way, at all events."

"I'll just loosen his neckcloth," said Mr. Chillingworth, "and then we'll go and sit somewhere else; and I should recommend that, if anywhere, we take up our station in that chamber, once Flora's, where the mysterious panelled portrait hangs, that bears so strong a resemblance to Varney, the vampyre."

"Hush!" said the admiral. "What's that?"

They listened for a moment intently; and then, distinctly, upon the gravel path outside the window, they heard a footstep, as if some person were walking along, not altogether heedlessly, but yet without any very great amount of caution or attention to the noise he might make.

"Hist!" said the doctor. "Not a word. They come."

"What do you say they for?" said the admiral.

"Because something seems to whisper me that Mr. Marchdale knows more of Varney, the vampyre, than ever he has chosen to reveal. Put out the light."

I told you Chillingworth was the smartest of the bunch, not that that’s saying a great deal. (Apparently it is now de rigueur to add “, the vampyre” every time Varney’s name is spoken aloud.) They know where the intruders are heading:

"My life on it," said Mr. Chillingworth as they left the apartment, "if this be Varney, he makes for that apartment where Flora slept, and which he knows how to get admission to. I've studied the house well, admiral, and to get to that window any one from here outside must take a considerable round. Come on—we shall be beforehand."

"A good idea—a good idea. Be it so."

Just allowing themselves sufficient light to guide them on the way from the lantern, they hurried on with as much precipitation as the intricacies of the passage would allow, nor halted till they had reached the chamber were hung the portrait which bore so striking and remarkable a likeness to Varney, the vampyre.

Yup, every time. At this point Rymer/Prest get one of their few but present moments of actually unnerving description:

"Do you think," said the admiral, "we've distanced them?"

"Certainly we have. It's unlucky that the blind of the window is down."

"Is it? By Heaven, there's a d——d strange-looking shadow creeping over it."

Mr. Chillingworth looked almost with suspended breath. Even he could not altogether get rid of a tremulous feeling, as he saw that the shadow of a human form, apparently of very large dimensions, was on the outside, with the arms spread out, as if feeling for some means of opening the window.

They watch while it goes about its task:

There was a strange cracking sound at the window, as if a pane of glass was being very stealthily and quietly broken; and then the blind was agitated slightly, confusing much the shadow that was cast upon it, as if the hand of some person was introduced for the purpose of effecting a complete entrance into the apartment.

"He's coming in," whispered the admiral.

"Hush, for Heaven's sake!" said Mr. Chillingworth; "you will alarm him, and we shall lose the fruit of all the labour we have already bestowed upon the matter; but did you not say something, admiral, about lying under the window and catching him by the leg?"

Aaaaaand there we go, back to risibility. They just cannot keep the tone straight, and I don’t think it’s on purpose.

"Why, yes; I did."

"Go and do it, then; for, as sure as you are a living man, his leg will be in in a minute."

"Here goes," said the admiral; "I never suggest anything which I'm unwilling to do myself."

Whoever it was that now was making such strenuous exertions to get into the apartment seemed to find some difficulty as regarded the fastenings of the window, and as this difficulty increased, the patience of the party, as well as his caution deserted him, and the casement was rattled with violence.

Varney can’t even climb into a goddamn window with any grace. He’s a vampyre, he’s supposed to be inhumanly quick and strong and stylish as hell, and he’s rattling the window because dammit he can’t get insiiiide. Eventually it opens:

Mr. Chillingworth saw, by the moonlight, a tall, gaunt figure standing in the balcony, as if just hesitating for a moment whether to get head first or feet first into the apartment.

Had he chosen the former alternative he would need, indeed, to have been endowed with more than mortal powers of defence and offence to escape capture, but his lucky star was in the ascendancy, and he put his foot in first.

He turned his side to the apartment and, as he did so, the bright moonlight fell upon his face, enabling Mr. Chillingworth to see, without the shadow of a doubt, that it was, indeed, Varney, the vampyre, who was thus stealthily making his entrance into Bannerworth Hall, according to the calculation which had been made by the admiral upon that subject. The doctor scarcely knew whether to be pleased or not at this discovery; it was almost a terrifying one, sceptical as he was upon the subject of vampyres, and he waited breathless for the issue of the singular and perilous adventure.

He stick his legy out real far, and the admiral grabs his boot; unfortunately Varney is not completely stupid, and makes good his escape, one boot short. There follows a truly incomprehensible Three Stooges scene in which gunfire is exchanged out the window, various objects are thrown into the window, including part of a tree, there is much yelling, and it turns out that the person shooting at them from the garden was in fact a confused Jack Pringle. All of this is very confusing and unnecessary, but it comes to an end just in time for this to occur:

At this instant there was a strange hissing sound heard below the window; then there was a sudden, loud report, as if a hand-grenade had gone off. A spectral sort of light gleamed into the room, and a tall, gaunt-looking figure rose slowly up in the balcony.

"Beware of the dead!" said a voice. "Let the living contend with the living, the dead with the dead. Beware!"

The figure disappeared, as did also the strange, spectral-looking light. A death-like silence ensued, and the cold moonbeams streamed in upon the floor of the apartment, as if nothing had occurred to disturb the wrapped repose and serenity of the scene.

Ooookay then.

They apparently don’t waste time discussing this apparition, instead choosing to conduct a post-mortem on the night’s attempted activities. Chillingworth, again, is the brain trust of the group.

"Why, we ought to have watched outside the house, instead of within it. There can be no doubt that if we had lain in wait in the garden, we should have been in a better position to have accomplished our object."

"Well, I don't know, doctor, but it seems to me that if Jack Pringle hadn't made such a fool of himself, we should have managed very well: and I don't know now how he came to behave in the manner he did."

"Nor I," said Mr. Chillingworth. "But, at all events, so far as the result goes, it is quite clear that any further watching, in this house, for the appearance of Sir Francis Varney, will now be in vain. He has nothing to do now but to keep quiet until we are tired out—a fact, concerning which he can easily obtain information—and then he immediately, without trouble, walks into the premises, to his own satisfaction."

"But what the deuce can he want upon the premises?"

"That question, admiral, induces me to think that we have made another mistake. We ought not to have attempted to surprise Sir Francis Varney in coming into Bannerworth Hall, but to catch him as he came out."

That would have been a much better idea. They decide they’d better tell Henry about what’s happened and ask him what he thinks they ought to do, and are discussing breakfast and bickering amongst themselves when someone rings the bell at the gate, throws a note over into the garden, and runs away.

The admiral, after looking at it for some time with very great wonder, came at last to the conclusion that probably to open it would be the shortest way of arriving at a knowledge of who had sent it, and he accordingly did so.

The leap of intellect, it is staggering.

The note was as follows:—

"My dear sir,—Feeling assured that you cannot be surrounded with those means and appliances for comfort in the Hall, in its now deserted condition, which you have a right to expect, and so eminently deserve, I flatter myself that I shall receive an answer in the affirmative, when I request the favour of your company to breakfast, as well as that of your learned friend. Mr. Chillingworth.

"In consequence of a little accident which occurred last evening to my own residence, I am, ad interim, until the county build it up for me again, staying at a house called Walmesley Lodge, where I shall expect you with all the impatience of one soliciting an honour, and hoping that it will be conferred upon him.

"I trust that any little difference of opinion on other subjects will not interfere to prevent the harmony of our morning's meal together.

"Believe me to be, my dear sir, with the greatest possible consideration, your very obedient, humble servant,

"FRANCIS VARNEY."

The admiral gasped again, and looked at Mr. Chillingworth, and then at the note, and then at Mr. Chillingworth again, as if he was perfectly bewildered.

"That's about the coolest piece of business," said Mr. Chillingworth, "that ever I heard of."

"Hang me," said the admiral, "if I sha'n't like the fellow at last. It is cool, and I like it because it is cool. Where's my hat? where's my stick!"

Chillingworth is like “you’re kidding, right?” but the admiral is determined to breakfast with a vampyre, and the chapter comes to a close.

Next time: Varney the Vampyre Is A Real Dick, News At 11.

REAL ESTATE DECISIONS OMG, or, Varney the Vampyre Doesn't Do A Whole Lot

So I’m writing this on the train. NYCC was amazing — I had a lovely time, and now I am entertaining myself on the way back south.


Previously on: Varney has agreed to fight both Henry and the admiral in duels; only one of these long-arranged logistical feats has occurred when A FEARSOME MOB appears, bent on destroying the vampyre. Sir Francis beats feet for the local gothic ruins wherein lies the Prisoner, and they engage in a scuffle. Meanwhile the angry mob gets drunk and goes to dig up some dude’s coffin, only to detect that rather than a corpse OR a vampire, it contains…a brick.

We return to Bannerworth Hall, where the family is still dithering over whether or not to run away. Henry doesn’t wanna, but is going to anyway.

“I must confess that I would fain have clung with a kind of superstitious reverence to this ancient abiding-place of my race, but it may not be so. Those, perchance, who are more practically able to come to correct conclusions, in consequence of their feelings not being sufficiently interested to lead them astray, have decided otherwise; and, therefore, I am content to leave."

"Do not grieve at it, Henry. There has hung a cloud of misfortune over us all since the garden of this house became the scene of an event which we can none of us remember but with terror and shuddering."

"Two generations of our family must live and die before the remembrance of that circumstance can be obliterated. But we will think of it no more."

There can be no doubt but that the dreadful circumstance to which both Mrs. Bannerworth and Henry alluded, was the suicide of the father of the family in the gardens which before has been hinted at in the course of this narration, as being a circumstance which had created a great sensation at the time, and cast a great gloom for many months over the family.

The reader will, doubtless, too, recollect that, at his last moments, this unhappy individual was said to have uttered some incoherent words about some hidden money, and that the rapid hand of death alone seemed to prevent him from being explicit upon that subject, and left it merely a matter of conjecture.

As years had rolled on, this affair, even as a subject of speculation, had ceased to occupy the minds of any of the Bannerworth family, and several of their friends, among whom was Mr. Marchdale, were decidedly of opinion that the apparently pointed and mysterious words uttered, were but the disordered wanderings of an intellect already hovering on the confines of eternity.

Indeed, far from any money, of any amount, being a disturbance to the last moments of the dissolute man, whose vices and extravagances had brought his family, to such ruin, it was pretty generally believed that he had committed suicide simply from a conviction of the impossibility of raising any more supplies of cash, to enable him to carry on the career which he had pursued for so long.

But to resume.

Rymer/Prest actually say that, “to resume,” as if they have the faintest hint of self-awareness. It’s almost cute. Chillingworth tells the Admiral all about the goings-on in town and how the disturbance has required that the authorities send for backup, and he tells Henry to get out of there lest things get even dicier for them:

"Why, it's a sure going proverb to say, that a nod's as good as a wink; but, the fact is, it's getting rather too well known to be pleasant, that a vampyre has struck up rather a close acquaintance with your family. I understand there's a precious row in the town."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; bother the particulars, for I don't know them; but, hark ye, by to-morrow I'll have found a place for you to go to, so pack up the sticks, get all your stores ready to clear out, and make yourself scarce from this place."

"I understand you," said Henry; "We have become the subject of popular rumour; I've only to beg of you, admiral, that you'll say nothing of this to Flora; she has already suffered enough, Heaven knows; do not let her have the additional infliction of thinking that her name is made familiar in every pothouse in the town."

"Leave me alone for that," said the admiral. "Do you think I'm an ass?"

"Ay, ay," said Jack Pringle, who came in at that moment, and thought the question was addressed to him.

"Who spoke to you, you bad-looking horse-marine?"

Sometimes I like those two. Sometimes. Henry goes to Flora, whom we might remember wanted to move in the first damn place:

"Since we are all agreed upon the necessity, or, at all events, upon the expediency of a departure from the Hall, I think, sister, the sooner we carry out that determination the better and the pleasanter for us all it will be. Do you think you could remove so hastily as to-morrow?"

"To-morrow! That is soon indeed."

"I grant you that it is so; but Admiral Bell assures me that he will have everything in readiness, and a place provided for us to go to by then."

"Would it be possible to remove from a house like this so very quickly?"

"Yes, sister. If you look around you, you will see that a great portion of the comforts you enjoy in this mansion belong to it as a part of its very structure, and are not removable at pleasure; what we really have to take away is very little. The urgent want of money during our father's lifetime induced him, as you may recollect even, at various times to part with much that was ornamental, as well as useful, which was in the Hall. You will recollect that we seldom returned from those little continental tours which to us were so delightful, without finding some old familiar objects gone, which, upon inquiry, we found had been turned into money, to meet some more than usually pressing demand."

"That is true, brother; I recollect well."

"So that, upon the whole, sister, there is little to remove."

NOW THAT THAT’S SETTLED. In fact the admiral is like “lol, what furniture, you let the house to me as is, furniture and all, which means y’all just have to get into a carriage and FINALLY GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE and quit worrying.” I have lost count of how many millions of words it has taken to get this far, but at this point one of Varney’s servants shows up unexpectedly to needle Henry and the admiral about their recent little adventure with pistols and abortive duel attempts:

"The devil!" said the admiral; "if that don't beat all the impudence I ever came near. Our flurry! Ah! I like that fellow. Just go and tell him—"

"No, no," said Henry, interposing, "send back no message. Say to your master, fellow, that Mr. Henry Bannerworth feels that not only has he no claim to Sir Francis Varney's courtesy, but that he would rather be without it."

"Oh, ha!" said the footman, adjusting his collar; "very good. This seems a d——d, old-fashioned, outlandish place of yours. Any ale?"

He continues to be obnoxious until Jack and the admiral grab him, stick his head under the pump, and perform a rough eighteenth-century version of “you get to drink from the fire hose”. At length they get bored with it and kick the dude out, and wonder what the hell Varney’s up to:

How it was that Sir Francis Varney, after the fearful race he had had, got home again across the fields, free from all danger, and back to his own house, from whence he sent so cool and insolent a message, they could not conceive.

Me neither, since the last time we saw him he was locked in a vital struggle with the Pathetic Prisoner, who is obviously Charles Holland. We have no idea what happened in the rest of that scene, and Rymer/Prest are not even slightly interested in telling us. Instead we rejoin the other thread of the narrative, to wit: the activities of the townspeople.

But were the mob satisfied with what had occurred in the churchyard? They were not, and that night was to witness the perpetration of a melancholy outrage, such as the history of the time presents no parallel to.

The finding of a brick in the coffin of the butcher, instead of the body of that individual, soon spread as a piece of startling intelligence all over the place; and the obvious deduction that was drawn from the circumstance, seemed to be that the deceased butcher was unquestionably a vampyre, and out upon some expedition at the time when his coffin was searched.

How he had originally got out of that receptacle for the dead was certainly a mystery; but the story was none the worse for that. Indeed, an ingenious individual found a solution for that part of the business, for, as he said, nothing was more natural, when anybody died who was capable of becoming a vampyre, than for other vampyres who knew it to dig him up, and lay him out in the cold beams of the moonlight, until he acquired the same sort of vitality they themselves possessed, and joined their horrible fraternity.

In lieu of a better explanation—and, after all, it was no bad one—this theory was generally received, and, with a shuddering horror, people asked themselves, if the whole of the churchyard were excavated, how many coffins would be found tenantless by the dead which had been supposed, by simple-minded people, to inhabit them.

The presence, however, of a body of dragoons, towards evening, effectually prevented any renewed attack upon the sacred precincts of the churchyard, and it was a strange and startling thing to see that country town under military surveillance, and sentinels posted at its principal buildings.

This measure smothered the vengeance of the crowd, and insured, for a time, the safety of Sir Francis Varney; for no considerable body of persons could assemble for the purpose of attacking his house again, without being followed; so such a step was not attempted.

It had so happened, however, that on that very day, the funeral of a young man was to have taken place, who had put up for a time at that same inn where Admiral Bell was first introduced to the reader. He had become seriously ill, and, after a few days of indisposition, which had puzzled the country practitioners, breathed his last.

SO OBVIOUSLY he’s a vampyre, and a chambermaid has a look at his dead body and has the screaming horrors:

"Come into the house—come into the house! Look upon the dead body, that should have been in its grave; it's fresher now than it was the day on which it died, and there's a colour in its cheeks! A vampyre—a vampyre—a vampyre! Heaven save us from a vampyre!"

Oh shut up. Rymer/Prest presume to instruct us on the particulars of forensic anthropology vis-a-vis the decay process, claiming that “after four or five days, or even a week, the bodies of many persons assume an appearance of freshness, such as might have been looked for in vain immediately after death,” and then proceed to sneer at the chambermaid’s lack of intelligence and her superstitious beliefs. The mob runs into the inn to come have a look at the dead guy:

The presence of so many persons at once effectually prevented any individual from exhibiting, even if he felt any superstitious fears about approaching the coffin; and so, with one accord, they surrounded it, and looked upon the face of the dead.

There was nothing repulsive in that countenance. The fact was that decomposition had sufficiently advanced to induce a relaxation of the muscles, and a softening of the fibres, so that an appearance of calmness and repose had crept over the face which it did not wear immediately after death.

It happened, too, that the face was full of flesh—for the death had been sudden, and there had not been that wasting away of the muscles and integuments which makes the skin cling, as it were, to the bone, when the ravages of long disease have exhausted the physical frame.

There was, unquestionably, a plumpness, a freshness, and a sort of vitality about the countenance that was remarkable.

For a few moments there was a death-like stillness in the apartment, and then one voice broke the silence by exclaiming,—

"He's a vampyre, and has come here to die. Well he knows he'd be taken up by Sir Francis Varney, and become one of the crew."

"Yes, yes," cried several voices at once; "a vampyre! a vampyre!"

ALL TOGETHER NOW: A VAMPYRE

They stake the random dead guy, and of course there are rumors that the body uttered a terrible groan at the hammering in of the stake (credible, corpses totally make sounds after death, gas escaping, etc) or that the countenance became distorted with agony and the limbs writhed and so on. The soldiers who have been sent to quell the mob arrive soon afterward and are horrified and sickened at the sight of the violated body, understandably enough, and now we do a complicated and unnecessary rapid flicking back and forth between the mob hiding in the inn against the wrath of the soldiers and the mob not hiding in the inn who decide hey, why not, let’s go burn down the vampyre’s house, it’s just that kind of a night.

But it is necessary, now that we have disposed of the smaller number of rioters who committed so serious an outrage at the inn, that we should, with some degree of method, follow the proceedings of the larger number, who went from the town towards Sir Francis Varney's.

These persons either had information of a very positive nature, or a very strong suspicion that, notwithstanding the mysterious and most unaccountable disappearance of the vampyre in the old ruin, he would now be found, as usual, at his own residence.

Off they go, and hit upon the cunning plan of knocking on the door to gain admittance:

They had abundant faith, from experience, of the resources in the way of escape of Sir Francis Varney, and not one among them was there who considered that there was any chance of capturing him, except by surprise, and when once they got hold of him, they determined he should not easily slip through their fingers.

The knock for admission produced no effect; and, after waiting three or four minutes, it was very provoking to find such a wonderful amount of caution and cunning completely thrown away.

At this point a servant opens a little wicket-gate in the main door and asks them what the fuck they want; they ask if Varney is at home; he declines to answer and tells them to go away. This causes consternation and lengthy discussion amongst the members of the mob, whom at this point I cannot help but picture with knotted handkerchiefs on their heads a la the Python Gumbys.

"I wish we could get in."

"But how is a question I don't very well see," said a large specimen of humanity.

"The best thing that can be done will be to go round and look over the whole house, and then we may come upon some part where it is far easier to get in at than by the front door."

Instead they decide to try knocking again. I cannot get over these people.

The big countryman left the main body, and resolutely walked up to the main avenue, and approached the door, accompanied by about a dozen or less of the mob. When they came to the door, they commenced knocking and kicking most violently, and assailing it with all kinds of things they could lay their hands upon.

They continued at this violent exercise for some time—perhaps for five minutes, when the little square hole in the door was again opened, and a voice was heard to say,—

"You had better cease that kind of annoyance."

"We want to get in."

"It will cost you more lives to do so than you can afford to spare. We are well armed, and are prepared to resist any effort you can make."

"Oh! it's all very well; but, an you won't open, why we'll make you; that's all about it."

This was said as the big countryman and his companions were leaving the avenue towards the rest of the body.

At this point the servant inside discharges a blunderbuss through the little wicket-gate in the door. This goes on for some time before they split up and start using battering rams to force their way in, which eventually works. It’s just so embarrassing, the whole thing.

The fact was, a party of the mob had clambered up a verandah, and entered some of the rooms upstairs, whence they emerged just above the landing near the spot where the servants were resisting in a mass the efforts of the mob.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob below.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob above.

There was a momentary pause, and the servants divided themselves into two bodies, and one turned to face those above, and the other those who were below.

A simultaneous shout was given by both parties of the mob, and a sudden rush was made by both bodies, and the servants of Sir Francis Varney were broken in an instant. They were instantly separated, and knocked about a good bit, but they were left to shift for themselves, the mob had a more important object in view.

"Down with the vampyre!" they shouted.

"Down with the vampyre!" shouted they, and they rushed helter skelter through the rooms, until they came to one where the door was partially open, and they could see some person very leisurely seated.

"Here he is," they cried.

"Who? who?"

"The vampire."

"Down with him! kill him! burn him!"

"Hurrah! down with the vampire!"

In the heat of the moment they forget how to spell him. Eventually after a lot more of this nonsense they locate a person calmly sitting in an armchair.

The room was well filled with furniture, and there was a curtain drawn across the room, and about the middle of it there was a table, behind which sat Sir Francis Varney himself, looking all smiles and courtesy.

"Well, dang my smock-frock!" said one, "who'd ha' thought of this? He don't seem to care much about it."

"Well, I'm d——d!" said another; "he seems pretty easy, at all events. What is he going to do?"

"Gentlemen," said Sir Francis Varney, rising, with the blandest smiles, "pray, gentlemen, permit me to inquire the cause of this condescension on your part. The visit is kind."

The mob looked at Sir Francis, and then at each other, and then at Sir Francis again; but nobody spoke. They were awed by this gentlemanly and collected behaviour.

"If you honour me with this visit from pure affection and neighbourly good-will, I thank you."

"Down with the vampyre!" said one, who was concealed behind the rest, and not so much overawed, as he had not seen Sir Francis.

There’s always one. Varney smiles at them, showing his teeth, and slips behind a curtain.

"Down with the vampyre!" rang through the apartment; and the mob now, not awed by the coolness and courtesy of Sir Francis, rushed forward, and, overturning the table, tore down the curtain to the floor; but, to their amazement, there was no Sir Francis Varney present.

"Where is he?"

"Where is the vampyre?"

"Where has he gone?"

These were cries that escaped every one's lips; and yet no one could give an answer to them.

Which, okay, it’s either that he has a secret passageway or he can do one of the vampire shapeshift things that show up across the canon: some vampires can become mist, most can do the bat thing, some can be wolves. It’s completely unclear from context how Varney manages his disappearance, and because Rymer/Prest suck at this, the uncertainty is not an enjoyable mystery for the audience so much as a “what the fuck just happened” moment.

Meanwhile the mob decides to search the cellars, ostensibly to find the vampyre but mostly to get wasted on Varney’s considerable wine collection, preparatory to setting the house on fire, which they do with gusto. When the soldiers arrive it’s completely engulfed in flames and there’s no hope of saving anything:

The officer gazed for some moments upon the burning pile without speaking; and then, turning to the next in command, he said in low tones, as he looked upon the mob,—

"We have come too late."

"Yes, much."

"The house is now nearly gutted."

"It is."

"And those who came crowding along with us are inextricably mingled with the others who have been the cause of all this mischief: there's no distinguishing them one from another."

"And if you did, you could not say who had done it, and who had not; you could prove nothing."

"Exactly."

"I shall not attempt to take prisoners, unless any act is perpetrated beyond what has been done."

"It is a singular affair."

"Very."

"This Sir Francis Varney is represented to be a courteous, gentlemanly man," said the officer.

"No doubt about it, but he's beset by a parcel of people who do not mind cutting a throat if they can get an opportunity of doing so."

"And I expect they will."

"Yes, when there is a popular excitement against any man, he had better leave this part at once and altogether. It is dangerous to tamper with popular prejudices; no man who has any value for his life ought to do so. It is a sheer act of suicide."

Yup, there’s the sentiment to take away: if people don’t like you, you should leave. Very encouraging and uplifting, Rymer/Prest.

Next time: a bunch of idiots are idiotic; the admiral and Jack are naval; the Bannerworths finally, finally, finally leave Bannerworth Hall.

DOWN WITH THE VAMPYRE: Brave Sir Francis Runs Away

Previously on: Bell and Henry challenge Varney to two consecutive duels, which take most of the chapter to set up and arrange; Varney is selectively immune to bullets; an angry mob approaches.

Chillingworth has come along with the mob in hopes of calming them down, but this does no good:

"Mr. Bannerworth, it has become known, through my indiscretion, that Sir Francis Varney is suspected of being a vampyre."

"Is this so?"

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob. "Down with the vampyre! hurrah! where is he? Down with him!"

"Drive a stake through him," said a woman; "it's the only way, and the humanest. You've only to take a hedge stake and sharpen it a bit at one end, and char it a little in the fire so as there mayt'n't be no splinters to hurt, and then poke it through his stomach."

The mob gave a great shout at this humane piece of advice, and it was some time before Henry could make himself heard at all, even to those who were nearest to him.

Henry tells them to go away and stop helping. This doesn’t work either.

"If anything," pursued Henry, "could add to the annoyance of vexation and misery we have suffered, it would assuredly be the being made subjects of every-day gossip, and every-day clamour."

"You hear him?" said Mr. Marchdale.

"Yes, we does," said a man; "but we comes out to catch a vampyre, for all that."

"Oh, to be sure," said the humane woman; "nobody's feelings is nothing to us. Are we to be woke up in the night with vampyres sucking our bloods while we've got a stake in the country?"

"Hurrah!" shouted everybody. "Down with the vampyre! where is he?"

Yet again we are treated to Rymer/Prest’s attempts to master Dickensian comic classist caricature. The entire mob sequence, including a weird and abortive attempt to exhume someone to see if they are a vampire, is written in this somewhat excruciating style, so I will inflict little of it upon the rest of you.

Henry discovers within his breast a hitherto unthought-of wellspring of sympathy, and so does the admiral; neither of them much like the idea of Varney being torn apart by a bunch of angry yokels, and the admiral proposes to loose a few pistol shots over the mob to disperse them, when Varney appears out of the woods:

Sir Francis Varney had been seen, and was flying before those implacable foes who had sought his life.

He had divested himself of his huge cloak, as well as of his low slouched hat, and, with a speed which nothing but the most absolute desperation could have enabled him to exert, he rushed onward, beating down before him every obstacle, and bounding over the meadows at a rate that, if he could have continued it for any length of time, would have set pursuit at defiance.

So: courtly gentleman, exquisite manners except when engaged in home invasion and assault; accomplished swordsman; Olympic sprinter (in eighteenth-century heeled slippers, to judge by the illustrations). He also has strange-colored eyes. Varney is a Sue.

The Bannerworth party sets off for the town to get some actual authorities involved in the situation, and we rejoin Varney, running like hell across hill and dale to — where else? — the mysterious gothic ruin wherein lies the prisoner we encountered several million words ago. His pursuers arrive shortly thereafter, and are convinced that they’ve caught him now: they have the ruin surrounded and do not expect him to be able to escape, although when they begin to search the structure and find no sign of him, morale suffers somewhat.

Over and over again the ruins were searched—hastily and impatiently by some, carefully and deliberately by others, until there could be no doubt upon the mind of every one individual, that somehow or somewhere within the shadow of those walls, Sir Francis Varney had disappeared most mysteriously.

Then it would have been a strange sight for any indifferent spectator to have seen how they shrunk, one by one, out of the shadow of those ruins; each seeming to be afraid that the vampyre, in some mysterious manner, would catch him if he happened to be the last within their sombre influence; and, when they had all collected in the bright, open space, some little distance beyond, they looked at each other and at the ruins, with dubious expressions of countenance, each, no doubt, wishing that each would suggest something of a consolatory or practicable character.

One of them, a slightly brighter spark than the rest, proposes that the mob should go home (and be heard, loudly, to be departing and no longer interested in capturing Varney), but leave one sentinel behind to observe if the vampyre should actually emerge from the ruins. This is agreed upon, but:

They then all set off at full speed; but the cunning fellow, who certainly had not the slightest idea of so practically carrying out his own suggestion, scampered off after them with a speed that soon brought him in the midst of the throng again, and so, with fear in their looks, and all the evidences of fatigue about them, they reached the town to spread fresh and more exaggerated accounts of the mysterious conduct of Varney the vampyre.

You guys suck at this. Seriously.

Meanwhile Rymer/Prest go back to the Pathetic Prisoner:

We have before slightly mentioned to the reader, and not unadvisedly, the existence of a certain prisoner, confined in a gloomy dungeon, into whose sad and blackened recesses but few and faint glimmering rays of light ever penetrated; for, by a diabolical ingenuity, the narrow loophole which served for a window to that subterraneous abode was so constructed, that, let the sun be at what point it might, during its diurnal course, but a few reflected beams of light could ever find their way into that abode of sorrow.

The prisoner—the same prisoner of whom we before spoke—is there. Despair is in his looks, and his temples are still bound with those cloths, which seemed now for many days to have been sopped in blood, which has become encrusted in their folds.

Eww. The prisoner is super depressed because he’s a prisoner: this theme is enlarged upon and embroidered to a thoroughly unnecessary and yet characteristic extent, until he hears footsteps approaching on the ground above — someone is coming! — who could it be?

He hears some one labouring for breath—panting like a hunted hare; his dungeon door is opened, and there totters in a man, tall and gaunt; he reels like one intoxicated; fatigue has done more than the work of inebriation; he cannot save himself, and he sinks exhausted by the side of that lonely prisoner.

The captive raises himself as far as his chains will allow him; he clutches the throat of his enervated visitor.

"Villain, monster, vampyre!" he shrieks, "I have thee now;" and locked in a deadly embrace, they roll upon the damp earth, struggling for life together.

OK DUDE HOW DO YOU HAVE THE ENERGY TO THROTTLE ANYBODY YOU HAVE BEEN LYING HERE IN DURANCE VILE FOR WHAT HAS TO BE DAAAAYS

And just when things were getting interesting we have to go back to Bannerworth Hall and have a truly interminable conversation between Henry and Flora regarding Varney, their situation, the Hall, the disappearance of Charles Holland, the opinion of Marchdale, the lack of superstition on the part of Chillingworth, and any other goddamn thing they can think of to discuss:

"And now, sister, before we leave the place which has been a home to us from earliest life, let us for a few moments consider if there be any possible excuse for the notion of Mr. Chillingworth, to the effect that Sir Francis Varney wants possession of the house for some purpose still more inimical to our peace and prosperity than any he has yet attempted."

"Has he such an opinion?"

"He has."

"'Tis very strange."

"Yes, Flora; he seems to gather from all the circumstances, nothing but an overwhelming desire on the part of Sir Francis Varney to become the tenant of Bannerworth Hall."

"He certainly wishes to possess it."

WE KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE

"Yes; but can you, sister, in the exercise of any possible amount of fancy, imagine any motive for such an anxiety beyond what he alleges?"

"Which is merely that he is fond of old houses."

"Precisely so. That is the reason, and the only one, that can be got from him. Heaven only knows if it be the true one."

"It may be, brother."

Henry pretends to be perceptive and intelligent, instead of having the mental capacity of a gummy eraser:

"As you say, it may; but there's a doubt, nevertheless, Flora. I much rejoice that you have had an interview with this mysterious being, for you have certainly, since that time, been happier and more composed than I ever hoped to see you again."

"I have indeed."

"It is sufficiently perceivable."

Flora’s like “yeah so I’ve been thinking about that”:

"Somehow, brother, since that interview, I have not had the same sort of dread of Sir Francis Varney which before made the very sound of his name a note of terror to me. His words, and all he said to me during that interview which took place so strangely between us, indeed how I know not, tended altogether rather to make him, to a certain extent, an object of my sympathies rather than my abhorrence."

"That is very strange."

She points out that there was almost certainly a time in Varney’s existence when he was not the vampyre, and that he was someone’s victim just as Flora herself is his. Henry has to admit there’s some truth there, and they discuss what to do: she wants to leave the Hall but not go very far, because of the missing Charles. Just then the admiral and Chillingworth saunter up to them and suggest that Flora needs a change of air, and that the family should repair to some other locale which the admiral will pay for with his considerable fortune:

“I am going to what the lawyers call invest it."

"A prudent step, admiral, and one which it is to be hoped, before now, has occurred to you."

"Perhaps it has and perhaps it hasn't; however, that's my business, and no one's else's. I am going to invest my spare cash in taking houses; so, as I don't care a straw where the houses may be situated, you can look out for one somewhere that will suit you, and I'll take it; so, after all, you will be my guests there just the same as you are here."

Flora and Henry protest that they cannot take advantage of his generosity:

"Indeed I was urging upon Henry to remove," said Flora; "but yet I cannot help feeling with him, admiral, that we are imposing upon your goodness."

"Go on imposing, then."

"But—"

"Psha! Can't a man be imposed upon if he likes? D—n it, that's a poor privilege for an Englishman to be forced to make a row about. I tell you I like it. I will be imposed upon, so there's an end of that; and now let's come in and see what Mrs. Bannerworth has got ready for luncheon."

I like Bell a lot, when he’s not entirely a caricature: he, like my vampires, has discovered that most problems go away quite quickly if you throw enough money in their direction, and has sensibly decided to do so.

Meanwhile back in town everyone is convincing each other that the vampyre, the vampyre, is menacing the whole lot of them, and one clever-boots instigator plants a seed in their collective mind:

The only individual, and he was a remarkably clever man, who made the slightest remark upon the subject of a practical character, hazarded a suggestion that made confusion worse confounded.

He knew something of vampyres. He had travelled abroad, and had heard of them in Germany, as well as in the east, and, to a crowd of wondering and aghast listeners, he said,—

"You may depend upon it, my friends, this has been going on for some time; there have been several mysterious and sudden deaths in the town lately; people have wasted away and died nobody knew how or wherefore."

"Yes—yes," said everybody.

"There was Miles, the butcher; you know how fat he was, and then how fat he wasn't."

Clearly Miles is the victim of a vampyre, and therefore likely to be a vampyre himself, and it’s time to go play ‘Salem’s Lot:

"There is but one plan—Sir Francis Varney must be found, and put out of the world in such a manner that he can't come back to it again; and all those who are dead that we have any suspicion of, should be taken up out of their graves and looked at, to see if they're rotting or not; if they are it's all right; but, if they look fresh and much, as usual, you may depend they're vampyres, and no mistake."

On their way to the churchyard they cause random mayhem and destruction:

A species of savage ferocity now appeared to have seized upon the crowd, and the people, in making up their minds to do something which was strikingly at variance with all their preconceived notions of right and wrong, appeared to feel that it was necessary, in order that they might be consistent, to cast off many of the decencies of life, and to become riotous and reckless.

As they proceeded towards the graveyard, they amused themselves by breaking the windows of the tax-gatherers, and doing what passing mischief they could to the habitations of all who held any official situation or authority.

They also break into a pub, so by the time they get there they are drunk as well as temporarily insane, and it is such a mess, y’all. SUCH a mess. The town beadle gets beaten up, the vicar runs away and locks himself in the vestry, and they dig up Miles’s coffin and get up the nerve to open it and inside is…

…a brick.

No explanation for this is ever given as far as I can make out. The dude who has taken charge of this operation, one Dick by name, has a suggestion:

Dick's astonishment was so intense that his eyes and mouth kept opening together to such an extent, that it seemed doubtful when they would reach their extreme point of elongation. He then took up the brick and looked at it curiously, and turned it over and over, examined the ends and the sides with a critical eye, and at length he said,—

"Well, I'm blowed, here's a transmogrification; he's consolidified himself into a blessed brick—my eye, here's a curiosity."

"But you don't mean to say that's the butcher, Dick?" said the boy.

Dick reached over, and gave him a tap on the head with the brick.

"There!" he said, "that's what I calls occular demonstration. Do you believe it now, you blessed infidel? What's more natural? He was an out-and-out brick while he was alive; and he's turned to a brick now he's dead."

The mob feels somewhat dissatisfied by this result, and start throwing stones at him.

"Hark ye," he then cried, with a loud voice, "don't interfere with me; you know it won't go down. There's something wrong here; and, as one of yourselves, I'm as much interested in finding out what it is as any of you can possibly be. There seems to be some truth in this vampyre business; our old friend, the butcher, you see, is not in his grave; where is he then?"

The mob looked at each other, and none attempted to answer the question.

"Why, of course, he's a vampyre," said Dick, "and you may all of you expect to see him, in turn, come into your bed-room windows with a burst, and lay hold of you like a million and a half of leeches rolled into one."

There was a general expression of horror, and then Dick continued,—

"You'd better all of you go home; I shall have no hand in pulling up any more of the coffins—this is a dose for me. Of course you can do what you like."

He demonstrates to them that they’re a bunch of cowards; they run off; the kid out of sheer bloody-mindedness gets into the empty coffin, and he and Dick decide to scare the shit out of the townspeople when they come back, which they do, and … what the hell was that all about?

SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE BRICK OR BY GOD I WILL WRITE FIX-IT FIC

Next time, our heroes very slowly prepare to leave Bannerworth Hall, and a bunch of people burn down Varney’s house.

FIGHT ME: Varney the Vampyre and the Dryly Witty Correspondence

Previously on: Admiral Bell and his presumable valet-de-chambre Jack Pringle arrived at Bannerworth Hall in time to see Varney in the distance punching Marchdale’s lights out and legging it; some more discussion of Charles & Flora’s future; Varney reappears in Flora’s room and puts a proposition to her amongst much gross vampire stereotype.

We pick up with Charles and his uncle discussing what to do about the situation. The admiral encourages Charles to send a FUCK YOU, FIGHT ME letter to Varney, which he does, and then has a bit of introspection in which he reflects that Varney has to be at least 150 and is super strong and fast and good at everything and maybe this wasn’t the absolute best choice of actions but NO HE MUST DO IT for Flora’s sweet sake, and so on.

Meanwhile the admiral and Jack go over to Castle Varney to deliver the letter, and the admiral very craftily and with no foreshadowing whatsoever, at all, nope, suggests that he rather than Charles fight Varney tonight with pistols. Varney’s all “lol, what kind of rank johnny-come-lately amateur do you take me for, it’s swords or nothing,” and the admiral has to admit he has the right to pick the weapon. There is some amusing byplay, and Varney gets some decent lines for once:

"Upon my word, you take these affairs easy. I suppose you have had a few of them?"

"Oh, a good number. People like yourself worry me into them, I don't like the trouble, I assure you; it is no amusement to me. I would rather, by a great deal, make some concession than fight, because I will fight with swords, and the result is then so certain that there is no danger in the matter to me."

"Hark you, Sir Francis Varney. You are either a very clever actor, or a man, as you say, of such skill with your sword, that you can make sure of the result of a duel. You know, therefore, that it is not fair play on your part to fight a duel with that weapon."

"Oh, I beg your pardon there. I never challenge anybody, and when foolish people will call me out, contrary to my inclination, I think I am bound to take what care of myself I can."

"D—n me, there's some reason in that, too," said the admiral; "but why do you insult people?"

"People insult me first."

"Oh, nonsense!"

"How should you like to be called a vampyre, and stared at as if you were some hideous natural phenomenon?"

"Well, but—"

"I say, Admiral Bell, how should you like it? I am a harmless country gentleman, and because, in the heated imaginations of some member of a crack-brained family, some housebreaker has been converted into a vampyre, I am to be pitched upon as the man, and insulted and persecuted accordingly."

"But you forget the proofs."

"What proofs?"

"The portrait, for one."

"What! Because there is an accidental likeness between me and an old picture, am I to be set down as a vampyre? Why, when I was in Austria last, I saw an old portrait of a celebrated court fool, and you so strongly resemble it, that I was quite struck when I first saw you with the likeness; but I was not so unpolite as to tell you that I considered you were the court fool turned vampyre."

"D—n your assurance!"

"And d—n yours, if you come to that."

The admiral was fairly beaten. Sir Francis Varney was by far too long-headed and witty for him. After now in vain endeavouring to find something to say, the old man buttoned up his coat in a great passion, and looking fiercely at Varney, he said,—"I don't pretend to a gift of the gab. D—n me, it ain't one of my peculiarities; but though you may talk me down, you shan't keep me down."

Bell is fuming, and Varney is being insufferable, and I feel bad for Varney’s staff:

Admiral Bell turned at the door, and said, with some degree of intense bitterness,

"You look rather poorly. I suppose, to-night, you will go and suck somebody's blood, you shark—you confounded vampyre! You ought to be made to swallow a red-hot brick, and then let dance about till it digests."

Varney smiled as he rang the bell, and said to a servant,—

"Show my very excellent friend Admiral Bell out. He will not take any refreshments."

The servant bowed, and preceded the admiral down the staircase; but, to his great surprise, instead of a compliment in the shape of a shilling or half-a-crown for his pains, he received a tremendous kick behind, with a request to go and take it to his master, with his compliments.

Back at the Hall, Charles and his uncle talk, and the admiral sucks at lying and it’s not very long before he admits the whole thing. Charles is like “uh, I’m pretty good with a sword actually, I was on the Continent with all those German undergraduates who kept slicing open each other’s faces and all that kinda stuff” and the admiral humphs and then SOMEONE sends Charles a note:

The note was properly directed to him, therefore Charles Holland at once opened it. A glance at the bottom of the page told him that it came from his enemy, Sir Francis Varney, and then he read it with much eagerness. It ran thus:—

"SIR,—Your uncle, as he stated himself to be, Admiral Bell, was the bearer to me, as I understood him this day, of a challenge from you. Owing to some unaccountable hallucination of intellect, he seemed to imagine that I intended to set myself up as a sort of animated target, for any one to shoot at who might have a fancy so to do.

"According to this eccentric view of the case, the admiral had the kindness to offer to fight me first, when, should he not have the good fortune to put me out of the world, you were to try your skill, doubtless.

"I need scarcely say that I object to these family arrangements. You have challenged me, and, fancying the offence sufficient, you defy me to mortal combat. If, therefore, I fight with any one at all, it must be with you.

"You will clearly understand me, sir, that I do not accuse you of being at all party to this freak of intellect of your uncle's. He, no doubt, alone conceived it, with a laudable desire on his part of serving you. If, however, to meet me, do so to-night, in the middle of the park surrounding your own friends estate.

"There is a pollard oak growing close to a small pool; you, no doubt, have noticed the spot often. Meet me there, if you please, and any satisfaction you like I will give you, at twelve o'clock this night.

"Come alone, or you will not see me. It shall be at your own option entirely, to convert the meeting into a hostile one or not. You need send me no answer to this. If you are at the place I mention at the time I have named, well and good. If you can not, I can only, if I please, imagine that you shrink from a meeting with

"FRANCIS VARNEY."

OH NO HE DI’INT.

Charles is like OKAY YOU TOOTHY ASSHOLE IT IS ON and prepares his weapons (apparently deeming that coming to a sword fight with a couple of pistols is prudent, rather than breaking the rules, and I’m with him all the way), and has a long extremely boring conversation with Flora about how they love each other a whole bunch. Then we have a confusing but undeniably eerie account from the admiral of how he once served on a ship where a mysterious stowaway showed up and demanded to be given coffee with brandy in it and refusing to move, claiming a fragile state of health, and every time anyone approached him basically doing judo on them until everybody on board had to just sort of get used to That Asshole Sitting On the Water Cask and — well, presumably it’s an improvement over Dracula’s storied run from Varna to Whitby aboard the Demeter in ballast with silver sand, but still, WEIRD.

By this time it’s late afternoon and Charles has had this very odd conversation with his uncle and is getting ready to go meet the vampyre, the vampyre. Rymer/Prest suck enormously at pacing:

As nothing of any importance occurred now in the interval of time till nearly midnight, we will at once step to that time, and our readers will suppose it to be a quarter to twelve o'clock at night, and young Charles Holland on the point of leaving the house, to keep his appointment by the pollard oak, with the mysterious Sir Francis Varney.

Charles sneaks out the window, but his uncle is watching and sees him emerge, going to find Henry and telling him Charles has left the house. Subsequently letters are found addressed to the admiral, to Henry, and to Flora, purportedly from Charles. They are very obviously not from Charles. However, our heroes are not the collective brain trust we might have wished.

To the admiral:

"MY DEAR UNCLE,

"Of course you will perceive the prudence of keeping this letter to yourself, but the fact is, I have now made up my mind to leave Bannerworth Hall.

"Flora Bannerworth is not now the person she was when first I knew her and loved her. Such being the case, and she having altered, not I, she cannot accuse me of fickleness.

"I still love the Flora Bannerworth I first knew, but I cannot make my wife one who is subject to the visitations of a vampyre.

"I have remained here long enough now to satisfy myself that this vampyre business is no delusion. I am quite convinced that it is a positive fact, and that, after death, Flora will herself become one of the horrible existences known by that name.

"I will communicate to you from the first large city on the continent whither I am going, at which I make any stay, and in the meantime, make what excuses you like at Bannerworth Hall, which I advise you to leave as quickly as you can, and believe me to be, my dear uncle, yours truly,

"CHARLES HOLLAND."


And to Henry:

"MY DEAR SIR,

"If you calmly and dispassionately consider the painful and distressing circumstances in which your family are placed, I am sure that, far from blaming me for the step which this note will announce to you I have taken, you will be the first to give me credit for acting with an amount of prudence and foresight which was highly necessary under the circumstances.

"If the supposed visits of a vampyre to your sister Flora had turned out, as first I hoped they would, a delusion and been in any satisfactory manner explained away I should certainly have felt pride and pleasure in fulfilling my engagement to that young lady.

"You must, however, yourself feel that the amount of evidence in favour of a belief that an actual vampyre has visited Flora, enforces a conviction of its truth.

"I cannot, therefore, make her my wife under such very singular circumstances.

"Perhaps you may blame me for not taking at once advantage of the permission given me to forego my engagement when first I came to your house; but the fact is, I did not then in the least believe in the existence of the vampyre, but since a positive conviction of that most painful fact has now forced itself upon me, I beg to decline the honour of an alliance which I had at one time looked forward to with the most considerable satisfaction.

"I shall be on the continent as fast as conveyances can take me, therefore, should you entertain any romantic notions of calling me to an account for a course of proceeding I think perfectly and fully justifiable, you will not find me.

"Accept the assurances of my respect for yourself and pity for your sister, and believe me to be, my dear sir, your sincere friend,

"CHARLES HOLLAND."

Varney didn’t append “BY VARNEY THE VAMPYRE” but it’s not like he needs to. However, since Charles has snuck out of the house, he is not there to answer these allegations, and because this is this book and everybody is an idiot, both the admiral and Henry believe the fake letters at once and are INCENSED.

Next time: MAYBE THERE’S SOME ACTION, IDK

And Now for Something Completely Different: Varney the Vampire Hijacked by Totally Random Story (Also Wow, Vampires are Gross)

NB: This one features some absolutely classic gross creepy vampire stuff with absolutely classic gross non-consensual undertones; skip it if you’d rather not encounter same.

Previously on: Varney visits the Hall to examine the Ominous Portrait; provokes Henry into direct accusation and proceeds to get angry about it before stalking off; Admiral Bell and Jack arrive in time to see Varney randomly deck Marchdale and run away.

The narrative resumes with an explanation of Charles’s backstory: the reasons he had to go abroad for two years have to do with when he’s going to come into his inheritance (boring) and he was supposed to stay there but got the sad feelings about being away from Flora so snuck back early, okay, fine, whatever. He has the mixed feelings about encountering his uncle, who was one of the people who told him to go abroad in the first place, but of course it turns out all right, with much back-pounding and hand-shaking and exclamations of “my boy.”

Henry and Charles discuss how much Charles loves Flora (a lot) and whether this is touching (it is) and share a manly embrace:

"Where is Flora now?" said Charles.

"She is in her own room. I have persuaded her, by some occupation, to withdraw her mind from a too close and consequently painful contemplation of the distressing circumstances in which she feels herself placed."

"You are right. What occupation best pleases her?"

"The pages of romance once had a charm for her gentle spirit."

"Then come with me, and, from among the few articles I brought with me here, I can find some papers which may help her to pass some merry hours."

Charles took Henry to his room, and, unstrapping a small valise, he took from it some manuscript papers, one of which he handed to Henry, saying—

"Give that to her: it contains an account of a wild adventure, and shows that human nature may suffer much more—and that wrongfully too—than came ever under our present mysterious affliction."

Charles obviously just wants feedback on his novella. This is not the time, dude. He departs to go discuss the vampyre thing with his uncle, and Henry gives Flora the manuscript, which she proceeds to read.

IN THE TEXT. IT’S ALL THERE. THE WHOLE STORY.

I’m not making this up. I couldn’t. Rymer/Prest actually spend four thousand words (4090, to be exact) telling this completely different goddamn story about some count and countess who are up to no good, I don’t know, I didn’t read it because I was so blankly amazed at the choices being made. It doesn’t matter, anyway, because when Flora comes to the end of the manuscript something much more interesting happens. One single solitary guess what it might be:

The footstep which Flora, upon the close of the tale she had been reading, heard approaching her apartment, came rapidly along the corridor.

"It is Henry, returned to conduct me to an interview with Charles's uncle," she said. "I wonder, now, what manner of man he is. He should in some respects resemble Charles; and if he do so, I shall bestow upon him some affection for that alone."

Tap—tap came upon the chamber door. Flora was not at all alarmed now, as she had been when Henry brought her the manuscript. From some strange action of the nervous system, she felt quite confident, and resolved to brave everything. But then she felt quite sure that it was Henry, and before the knocking had taken her by surprise.

"Come in," she said, in a cheerful voice. "Come in."

The door opened with wonderful swiftness—a figure stepped into the room, and then closed it as rapidly, and stood against it. Flora tried to scream, but her tongue refused its office; a confused whirl of sensations passed through her brain—she trembled, and an icy coldness came over her. It was Sir Francis Varney, the vampyre!

OH DAMN NOW WE’RE TALKING

He had drawn up his tall, gaunt frame to its full height, and crossed his arms upon his breast; there was a hideous smile upon his sallow countenance, and his voice was deep and sepulchral, as he said,—

"Flora Bannerworth, hear that which I have to say, and hear it calmly. You need have nothing to fear. Make an alarm—scream, or shout for help, and, by the hell beneath us, you are lost!"

There was a death-like, cold, passionless manner about the utterance of these words, as if they were spoken mechanically, and came from no human lips.

Flora heard them, and yet scarcely comprehended them; she stepped slowly back till she reached a chair, and there she held for support. The only part of the address of Varney that thoroughly reached her ears, was that if she gave any alarm some dreadful consequences were to ensue. But it was not on account of these words that she really gave no alarm; it was because she was utterly unable to do so.

This is a pretty good description of this kind of shock and fear.

"Answer me," said Varney. "Promise that you will hear that which I have to say. In so promising you commit yourself to no evil, and you shall hear that which shall give you much peace."

It was in vain she tried to speak; her lips moved, but she uttered no sound.

"You are terrified," said Varney, "and yet I know not why. I do not come to do you harm, although harm have you done me. Girl, I come to rescue you from a thraldom of the soul under which you now labour."

UH, BECAUSE YOU ARE FREAKY AND HAVE ALREADY VIOLENTLY ATTACKED HER ONCE AND ARE NOW IN HER ACTUAL ROOM, THAT WOULD BE WHY

She manages to faintly gasp for help from Heaven and he’s like “pff, don’t waste your time, listen to me, I gotta say something,” and then launches into an absolutely classic and also absolutely gross sequence of remarks on her beauty and how her boyfriend doesn’t really love her, nope, not the way someone else does, he knows better than other people — and caps it off with his version of thrall, the beauty of his voice. He does, however, eventually make his point: he wants the house. We know that, dude. Presumably he specifically wants the Ominous Portrait:

"The house, and all within, I covet," he said, uneasily. "Let that suffice. I have quarrelled with your brother—I have quarrelled with one who just now fancies he loves you."

"Charles Holland loves me truly."

"It does not suit me now to dispute that point with you. I have the means of knowing more of the secrets of the human heart than common men. I tell you, Flora Bannerworth, that he who talks to you of love, loves you not but with the fleeting fancy of a boy; and there is one who hides deep in his heart a world of passion, one who has never spoken to you of love, and yet who loves you with a love as far surpassing the evanescent fancy of this boy Holland, as does the mighty ocean the most placid lake that ever basked in idleness beneath a summer's sun."

M’lady.

There was a wonderful fascination in the manner now of Varney. His voice sounded like music itself. His words flowed from his tongue, each gently and properly accented, with all the charm of eloquence.

Despite her trembling horror of that man—despite her fearful opinion, which might be said to amount to a conviction of what he really was, Flora felt an irresistible wish to hear him speak on. Ay, despite too, the ungrateful theme to her heart which he had now chosen as the subject of his discourse, she felt her fear of him gradually dissipating, and now when he made a pause, she said,—

"You are much mistaken. On the constancy and truth of Charles Holland, I would stake my life."

He abandons that line of conversation and tells her why he actually needs her help: he wants her brothers to sell the Hall to him, but since he was such a giant douche earlier they will not now consider doing so, and he can Foresee the Future in which he’s gonna have to fight duels with them and those guys are sixteen kinds of dead the second they get started because Varney is such a badass, yo.

"Mercy! mercy!" gasped Flora.

"I will spare either or both on a condition."

"What fearful condition?"

"It is not a fearful one. Your terrors go far before the fact. All I wish, maiden, of you is to induce these imperious brothers of yours to sell or let the Hall to me."

"Is that all?"

"It is. I ask no more, and, in return, I promise you not only that I will not fight with them, but that you shall never see me again. Rest securely, maiden, you will be undisturbed by me."

She’s like “‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d” and he tells her she must keep this meeting secret:

"I will not; I have no secrets from those I love."

"Indeed, you will find soon the expediency of a few at least; but if you will not, I cannot urge it longer. Do as your wayward woman's nature prompts you."

There was a slight, but a very slight, tone of aggravation in these words, and the manner in which they were uttered.

Those women, with their wayward natures. Fuck off, Varney. He’s not done being creepy yet, either:

As he spoke, he moved from the door towards the window, which opened into a kitchen garden. Flora shrunk as far from him as possible, and for a few moments they regarded each other in silence.

"Young blood," said Varney, "mantles in your veins."

She shuddered with terror.

"Be mindful of the condition I have proposed to you. I covet Bannerworth Hall."

"I—I hear."

"And I must have it. I will have it, although my path to it be through a sea of blood. You understand me, maiden? Repeat what has passed between us or not, as you please. I say, beware of me, if you keep not the condition I have proposed."

And because this is this book, while she’s conducted herself reasonably and with considerable bravery throughout this encounter, Flora now reverts:

"Thanks—a thousand thanks. You may not live to regret even having made a friend of Varney—"

"The vampyre!" said Flora.

He advanced towards her a step, and she involuntarily uttered a scream of terror.

Theeeere we go, there’s the Flora we know and love. “The vampyre, the vampyre,” scream, faint, scene.