FIGHT ME (AND ME, AND ME, AND ME): Varney the Vampire and the Endless Negotiation of Duels

Previously on: Sir Francis Varney has a lengthy conversation with Flora, featuring the phrase “Blood! The vampyre’s motto!” which I am not making up; Admiral Bell proposes to rent the Hall from the Bannerworths; Marchdale flounces.

When Flora is informed that Charles was planning to fight Varney the night he disappeared, she reasonably comes to the conclusion that Varney has shot him. Henry, who had not thought of that (like he does not think of any other things, being profoundly dim), decides to go over to Castle Varney and have a word with him. It goes about as well as you’d expect:

"Go on, sir," said Sir Francis Varney, in a bland and sweet tone; "I am all attention; pray proceed."

"You have failed; for I now here, on this spot, defy you to mortal combat. Coward, assassin as you are, I challenge you to fight."

"You don't mean on the carpet here?" said Varney, deliberately.

"No, sir; but beneath the canopy of heaven, in the light of the day. And then, Sir Francis, we shall see who will shrink from the conflict."

"It is remarkably good, Mr. Bannerworth, and, begging your pardon, for I do not wish to give any offence, my honoured sir, it would rehearse before an audience; in short, sir, it is highly dramatic."

Henry just haaaaates not being taken seriously, and Varney is incredibly good at it. There is some more wordplay, the challenge is accepted, and eventually Henry returns to the hall, just in time for Admiral Bell to come over to Varney’s and challenge him to another duel.

“Now, d—n my carcass from head to stern, if I don't call you out."

"Well, Admiral Bell," said Varney, mildly, "in that case, I suppose I must come out; but why do you insist that I have any knowledge of your nephew, Mr. Charles Holland?"

"You were to have fought a duel with him, and now he's gone."

"I am here," said Varney.

"Ay," said the admiral, "that's as plain as a purser's shirt upon a handspike; but that's the very reason why my nevey ain't here, and that's all about it."

"And that's marvellous little, so far as the sense is concerned," said Varney, without the movement of a muscle.

Varney accepts Challenge 2, and the admiral leaves, fulminating with rage. Cut to the next morning, where Henry informs Chillingworth what he’s done, and Chillingworth is like “that was really fucking stupid but okay, I guess I’ll have to help you out,” and he goes over to Varney’s to arrange matters on Henry’s behalf. When the admiral wakes up, he sends Jack Pringle on a similar errand, and he and Chillingworth encounter one another chez Varney. They have an interminable conversation about logistics:

Mr. Chillingworth looked at Jack, and Jack Pringle looked at Mr. Chillingworth, and then the former said,—

"Well, the admiral means fighting, and I am come to settle the necessaries; pray let me know what are your terms, Mr. What-d'ye-call'em."

"I am agreeable to anything that is at all reasonable—pistols, I presume?"

"Sir Francis Varney," said Mr. Chillingworth, "I cannot consent to carry on this office, unless you can appoint a friend who will settle these matters with us—myself, at least."

"And I too," said Jack Pringle; "we don't want to bear down an enemy. Admiral Bell ain't the man to do that, and if he were, I'm not the man to back him in doing what isn't fair or right; but he won't do it."

"But, gentlemen, this must not be; Mr. Henry Bannerworth must not be disappointed, and Admiral Bell must not be disappointed. Moreover, I have accepted the two cartels, and I am ready and willing to fight;—one at a time, I presume?"

"Sir Francis, after what you have said, I must take upon myself, on the part of Mr. Henry Bannerworth, to decline meeting you, if you cannot name a friend with whom I can arrange this affair."

See, Varney doesn’t have anyone to be his second, and apparently that disqualifies him from playing, so after a hell of a lot of discussion Jack suggests the admiral can take on that responsibility. This is agreed to by all parties, and the time and location for the two duels confirmed. As they leave, they run into Marchdale, who has apparently thought better of his flounce:

"Ah," he said, as he came up, "I see you have been to Sir Francis Varney's, if I may judge from the direction whence you're coming, and your proximity."

"Yes, we have," said Mr. Chillingworth. "I thought you had left these parts?"

"I had intended to do so," replied Marchdale; "but second thoughts are sometimes best, you know."

"Certainly."

"I have so much friendship for the family at the hall, that notwithstanding I am compelled to be absent from the mansion itself, yet I cannot quit the neighbourhood while there are circumstances of such a character hanging about them. I will remain, and see if there be not something arising, in which I may be useful to them in some matter."

I don’t like you one little bit, Marchdale. Even if you do make a valid point that it’s probably a better idea for you to be Henry’s second than Chillingworth:

"What I was about to say was this,—Mr. Chillingworth has much to lose as he is situated, and I nothing as I am placed. I am chained down to no spot of earth. I am above following a profession—my means, I mean, place me above the necessity. Now, Henry, allow me to be your second in this affair; allow Mr. Chillingworth to attend in his professional capacity; he may be of service—of great service to one of the principals; whereas, if he go in any other capacity, he will inevitably have his own safety to consult."

They agree that this is the plan, eventually, oh my GOD do these people take forever to have a conversation about anything:

"And now," said Chillingworth, "you are to meet to-morrow morning in the meadow at the bottom of the valley, half way between here and Sir Francis Varney's house, at seven o'clock in the morning."

Which they do. Varney shows up looking even less prepossessing than usual, and makes faces at them, and when they finally get around to the shooting part — instead of blowing Henry’s head off — he fires into the air. Everyone is perturbed, even more so when Varney produces the bullet Henry had shot at him:

"If Mr. Henry Bannerworth demands another fire, I have no objection to it, and will fire at him; but as it is I shall not do so, indeed, it would be quite useless for him to do so—to point mortal weapons at me is mere child's play, they will not hurt me."

"The devil they won't," said the admiral.

"Why, look you here," said Sir Francis Varney, stepping forward and placing his hand to his neckerchief; "look you here; if Mr. Henry Bannerworth should demand another fire, he may do so with the same bullet."

"The same bullet!" said Marchdale, stepping forward—"the same bullet! How is this?"

Apparently vampyres have a selective ability to withstand projectile weapons, since he totally got winged by Flora that one time and it made a hole. This is never explained in the text, like so many other things. They argue about it for a while until distant shouting distracts them, and we are treated to the first of so very many angry mobs:

The cries of the mob became more distinct as they drew nearer to the party, who began to evince some uneasiness as to their object.

"Surely," said Marchdale, "Mr. Chillingworth has not named anything respecting the duel that has taken place."

"No, no."

"But he was to have been here this morning," said the admiral. "I understood he was to be here in his own character of a surgeon, and yet I have not seen him; have any of you?"

"No," said Henry.

"Then here he comes in the character of conservator of the public peace," said Varney, coldly; "however, I believe that his errand will be useless since the affair is, I presume, concluded."

"Down with the vampyre!"

"Eh!" said the admiral, "eh, what's that, eh? What did they say?"

"If you'll listen they'll tell you soon enough, I'll warrant."

"May be they will, and yet I'd like to know now."

Sir Francis Varney looked significantly at Marchdale, and then waited with downcast eyes for the repetition of the words.

"Down with the vampyre!" resounded on all sides from the people who came rapidly towards them, and converging towards a centre. "Burn, destroy, and kill the vampyre! No vampyre; burn him out; down with him; kill him!"

It turns out that Chillingworth told his wife about all the stuff that’s been going on and she, being (shudder, patronize, sneer) a woman, immediately ran out and told all her friends OMG A VAMPYRE, so the pitchfork-and-torch brigade is out in force.

Can you remember why this makes no sense? Allow me to refresh your memory, way back in the chapter where we meet the admiral and Jack:

But nowhere was gossiping carried on upon the subject with more systematic fervour than at an inn called the Nelson's Arms, which was in the high street of the nearest market town to the Hall.

There, it seemed as if the lovers of the horrible made a point of holding their headquarters, and so thirsty did the numerous discussions make the guests, that the landlord was heard to declare that he, from his heart, really considered a vampyre as very nearly equal to a contested election.

THEY KNOW ABOUT THE GODDAMN VAMPYRE ALREADY

PEOPLE ARE COMING FROM ALL OVER THE REGION TO HANG OUT IN THE TOWN AND TALK ABOUT THE VAMPYRE, HOW COME THEY WAITED UNTIL NOW TO GET ALL MURDEROUS ABOUT IT

Rymer/Prest have clearly either forgotten what they’ve already written, don’t care that they’re contradicting themselves, or assume that the reader doesn’t notice or care, and I am salty about it. Meanwhile, back in the present, Varney legs it, which seems to me prudent, and also represents the first of many chase scenes, and Rymer/Prest do a bit of editorializing about how women are terrible, etcetera.

The entire goddamn duel scene, which took so long to set up and involved so many lengthy conversations, is over in a matter of minutes and we’re immediately into a completely different part of the narrative, in which Varney’s activities are constantly being interrupted because of angry mobs; it puts a real damper on his ability to wander around and creep on people in the dark. We will see, as the story continues, that this is his base model of behavior: arrive in location as mysterious nobleman of some description, settle on a nubile young victim, creep like a creepy creeper, get exposed as THE VAMPYRE, run away and find somewhere else to start all over again. He doesn’t learn, does Varney the Vampyre. It’s frustrating, and also kind of hilarious.

Next time, angry mob is angry, Varney runs away.

Blood, the Vampyre's Motto: Varney the Vampire Has Very Little Game

Previously on: Charles Holland is missing; a local gothic ruin totally coincidentally houses a mysterious prisoner; Varney holds a peculiar meeting with a blackmailing dude who apparently brought him back to life at some point and who scares him shitless.

We rejoin our non-hero as he steals across the sleeping countryside toward Bannerworth Hall. Much is made of the fact that he clearly knows this area very well.

He leant against an aged tree, and his strange, lustrous-looking eyes seemed to collect every wandering scintillation of light that was around, and to shine with preternatural intensity.

"I must, I will," he said, "be master of Bannerworth Hall. It must come to that. I have set an existence upon its possession, and I will have it; and then, if with my own hands I displace it brick by brick and stone by stone, I will discover that hidden secret which no one but myself now dreams of. It shall be done by force or fraud, by love or by despair, I care not which; the end shall sanctify all means. Ay, even if I wade through blood to my desire, I say it shall be done."

He pauses by the summerhouse and is terrified to hear a footstep approaching, since he is unarmed (and a coward), but quickly determines that it’s Flora and that she is sleepwalking, and decides to fuck with her some more. She wakes to find him standing right there and opens the conversation with her time-honored refrain:

"The vampyre—the vampyre!"

"Yes," said Varney, "the vampyre. You know me, Flora Bannerworth—Varney, the vampyre; your midnight guest at that feast of blood. I am the vampyre. Look upon me well; shrink not from my gaze. You will do well not to shun me, but to speak to me in such a shape that I may learn to love you."

She is less than thrilled at this proposition, and Varney continues his theme of Stating the Obvious Multiple Times:

"Hold!" said Varney. "Dress not up in the false colours of the imagination that which in itself is sufficiently terrific to need none of the allurements of romance. Flora Bannerworth, you are persecuted—persecuted by me, the vampyre. It is my fate to persecute you; for there are laws to the invisible as well as the visible creation that force even such a being as I am to play my part in the great drama of existence. I am a vampyre; the sustenance that supports this frame must be drawn from the life-blood of others."

"Oh, horror—horror!"

“I have to persecute you. It is inevitable. It is my destiny.”

"But most I do affect the young and beautiful. It is from the veins of such as thou art, Flora Bannerworth, that I would seek the sustenance I'm compelled to obtain for my own exhausted energies. But never yet, in all my long career—a career extending over centuries of time—never yet have I felt the soft sensation of human pity till I looked on thee, exquisite piece of excellence. Even at the moment when the reviving fluid from the gushing fountain of your veins was warming at my heart, I pitied and I loved you. Oh, Flora! even I can now feel the pang of being what I am!"

OH COME ON DUDE

SERIOUSLY

"May you even yet know peace and joy above."

"It is a faint and straggling hope—but if achieved, it will be through the interposition of such a spirit as thine, Flora, which has already exercised so benign an influence upon my tortured soul, as to produce the wish within my heart, to do a least one unselfish action."

"That wish," said Flora, "shall be father to the deed. Heaven has boundless mercy yet."

"For thy sweet sake, I will believe so much, Flora Bannerworth; it is a condition with my hateful race, that if we can find one human heart to love us, we are free. If, in the face of Heaven, you will consent to be mine, you will snatch me from a continuance of my frightful doom, and for your pure sake, and on your merits, shall I yet know heavenly happiness. Will you be mine?"

This is some bullshit but I can’t actually tell if Rymer/Prest mean it to be part of the vamp(y)re mythos or just Varney making stuff up to be a manipulative creep. It goes badly, either way:

A cloud swept from off the face of the moon, and a slant ray fell upon the hideous features of the vampire. He looked as if just rescued from some charnel-house, and endowed for a space with vitality to destroy all beauty and harmony in nature, and drive some benighted soul to madness.

"No, no, no!" shrieked Flora, "never!"

"Enough," said Varney, "I am answered. It was a bad proposal. I am a vampyre still."

This is legitimately funny. What happens next, however, is hilarious:

"Spare me! spare me!"

"Blood!"

Flora sank upon her knees, and uplifted her hands to heaven. "Mercy, mercy!" she said.

"Blood!" said Varney, and she saw his hideous, fang-like teeth. "Blood! Flora Bannerworth, the vampyre's motto. I have asked you to love me, and you will not—the penalty be yours."

BLOOD! THE VAMPYRE’S MOTTO!

It’s difficult to tell if he actually means this, or if he’s just fucking with her because he can. Flora presents a perfectly rational and justified objection:

"No, no!" said Flora. "Can it be possible that even you, who have already spoken with judgment and precision, can be so unjust? you must feel that, in all respects, I have been a victim, most gratuitously—a sufferer, while there existed no just cause that I should suffer; one who has been tortured, not from personal fault, selfishness, lapse of integrity, or honourable feelings, but because you have found it necessary, for the prolongation of your terrific existence, to attack me as you have done. By what plea of honour, honesty, or justice, can I be blamed for not embracing an alternative which is beyond all human control?—I cannot love you."

Varney goes into hyper-manipulative mode. He tells her about how terrible and awful and no-good very-bad it is to be a vampyre, and how dreadfully he suffers, woe:

Flora looked intently at him, and listened, while, with a serious earnestness of manner, he detailed to her something of the physiology of the singular class of beings which the concurrence of all circumstances tended to make him appear.

"Flora," he said, "it is not that I am so enamoured of an existence to be prolonged only by such frightful means, which induces me to become a terror to you or to others. Believe me, that if my victims, those whom my insatiable thirst for blood make wretched, suffer much, I, the vampyre, am not without my moments of unutterable agony. But it is a mysterious law of our nature, that as the period approaches when the exhausted energies of life require a new support from the warm, gushing fountain of another's veins, the strong desire to live grows upon us, until, in a paroxysm of wild insanity, which will recognise no obstacles, human or divine, we seek a victim."

"A fearful state!" said Flora.

"It is so; and, when the dreadful repast is over, then again the pulse beats healthfully, and the wasted energies of a strange kind of vitality are restored to us, we become calm again, but with that calmness comes all the horror, all the agony of reflection, and we suffer far more than tongue can tell."

"You have my pity," said Flora; "even you have my pity."

Call the 18th-century equivalent of the waaambulance.

"I might well demand it, if such a feeling held a place within your breast. I might well demand your pity, Flora Bannerworth, for never crawled an abject wretch upon the earth's rotundity, so pitiable as I."

"Go on, go on."

"I will, and with such brief conclusions as I may. Having once attacked any human being, we feel a strange, but terribly impulsive desire again to seek that person for more blood. But I love you, Flora; the small amount of sensibility that still lingers about my preternatural existence, acknowledges in you a pure and better spirit. I would fain save you."

"Oh! tell me how I may escape the terrible infliction."

"That can only be done by flight. Leave this place, I implore you! leave it as quickly as the movement may be made. Linger not—cast not one regretful look behind you on your ancient home. I shall remain in this locality for years. Let me lose sight of you, I will not pursue you; but, by force of circumstances, I am myself compelled to linger here. Flight is the only means by which you may avoid a doom as terrific as that which I endure."

I REALLY WANT YOUR HOUSE OK JUST GO AWAY AND LET ME HAVE YOUR HOUSE FOR REASONS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BECOME CLEAR AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE KTHX

She asks whether she’s going to be a vampyre too, and he reassures her: “The attacks must be often repeated, and the termination of mortal existence must be a consequence essential, and direct from those attacks, before such a result may be anticipated." So that’s all right then. She agrees to leave the Hall as soon as possible. Then something interesting happens:

"Flora, you know that this spot has been the scene of a catastrophe fearful to look back upon, in the annals of your family?"

"It has," said Flora. "I know to what you allude; 'tis a matter of common knowledge to all—a sad theme to me, and one I would not court."

"Nor would I oppress you with it.

But he’s going to anyway.

Your father, here, on this very spot, committed that desperate act which brought him uncalled for to the judgment seat of God. I have a strange, wild curiosity upon such subjects. Will you, in return for the good that I have tried to do you, gratify it?"

"I know not what you mean," said Flora.

"To be more explicit, then, do you remember the day on which your father breathed his last?"

"Too well—too well."

"Did you see him or converse with him shortly before that desperate act was committed?"

"No; he shut himself up for some time in a solitary chamber."

"Ha! what chamber?"

"The one in which I slept myself on the night—"

"Yes, yes; the one with the portrait—that speaking portrait—the eyes of which seem to challenge an intruder as he enters the apartment."

"The same."

"For hours shut up there!" added Varney, musingly; "and from thence he wandered to the garden, where, in this summer-house, he breathed his last?"

"It was so."

"Then, Flora, ere I bid you adieu—"

These words were scarcely uttered, when there was a quick, hasty footstep, and Henry Bannerworth appeared behind Varney, in the very entrance of the summer-house.

"Now," he cried, "for revenge! Now, foul being, blot upon the earth's surface, horrible imitation of humanity, if mortal arm can do aught against you, you shall die!"

DAMMIT HENRY I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE DEAL WAS

Varney, prudently, knocks a hole through the old rotten wood of the summerhouse’s wall and departs at speed, while Flora shrieks and clings to her brother.

"For Heaven's sake, Flora," he said, "unhand me; this is a time for action."

"But, Henry, Henry, hear me."

"Presently, presently, dear Flora; I will yet make another effort to arrest the headlong flight of Varney."

The men troop off toward the wood to search for him, but joke’s on them:

Flora had promised George that she would return immediately to the house, but when, in compliance with the call of Henry, George and Marchdale had left her alone, she felt so agitated and faint that she began to cling to the trellis work of the little building for a few moments before she could gather strength to reach the mansion.

Two or three minutes might thus have elapsed, and Flora was in such a state of mental bewilderment with all that had occurred, that she could scarce believe it real, when suddenly a slight sound attracted her attention, and through the gap which had been made in the wall of the summer-house, with an appearance of perfect composure, again appeared Sir Francis Varney.

"Flora," he said, quietly resuming the discourse which had been broken off, "I am quite convinced now that you will be much the happier for the interview."

"Gracious Heaven!" said Flora, "whence have you come from?"

"I have never left," said Varney.

"But I saw you fly from this spot."

"You did; but it was only to another immediately outside the summer house. I had no idea of breaking off our conference so abruptly."

This would be a lot less ridiculous if it were made clear that he has the ability to make himself unnoticeable; as it is, the perceptive powers of the entire rest of the cast are thrown into serious doubt. This dude is tall and very distinctive: my disbelief is not suspended.

Flora’s like “what do you want NOW”:

"Have you anything to add to what you have already stated?"

"Absolutely nothing, unless you have a question to propose to me—I should have thought you had, Flora. Is there no other circumstance weighing heavily upon your mind, as well as the dreadful visitation I have subjected you to?"

"Yes," said Flora. "What has become of Charles Holland?"

"Listen. Do not discard all hope; when you are far from here you will meet with him again."

"But he has left me."

"And yet he will be able, when you again encounter him, so far to extenuate his seeming perfidy, that you shall hold him as untouched in honour as when first he whispered to you that he loved you."

"Oh, joy! joy!" said Flora; "by that assurance you have robbed misfortune of its sting, and richly compensated me for all that I have suffered."

"Adieu!" said the vampyre. "I shall now proceed to my own home by a different route to that taken by those who would kill me."

Sounds like a good plan, all things considered.

The next day the assembled cast, minus Varney and Holland, are having a council of war. Flora has told them all about her interview with the vampyre, and proposes to leave the Hall; the others are less crazy about this, and there is yet again an argument between Marchdale and the admiral, which results in a shouting match and the former’s long-awaited departure. FINALLY. Fuck off, dude, go be mysteriously snide somewhere else. In the heat of the moment, the admiral solves their cash-flow problem for them:

"Hark ye, Mr. Henry Bannerworth, you ain't best pleased with me, and in that case I don't know that I shall stay to trouble you any longer, as for your friend who has left you, sooner or later you'll find him out—I tell you there's no good in that fellow. Do you think I've been cruizing about for a matter of sixty years, and don't know an honest man when I see him. But never mind, I'm going on a voyage of discovery for my nephew, and you can do as you like."

"Heaven only knows, Admiral Bell," said Henry, "who is right and who is wrong. I do much regret that you have quarrelled with Mr. Marchdale; but what is done can't be undone."

"Do not leave us," said Flora; "let me beg of you, Admiral Bell, not to leave us; for my sake remain here, for to you I can speak freely and with confidence, of Charles, when probably I can do so to no one else. You knew him well and have a confidence in him, which no one else can aspire to. I pray you, therefore, to stay with us."

"Only on one condition," said the admiral.

"Name it—name it!

"You think of letting the Hall?"

"Yes, yes."

"Let me have it, then, and let me pay a few years in advance. If you don't, I'm d——d if I stay another night in the place. You must give me immediate possession, too, and stay here as my guests until you suit yourselves elsewhere. Those are my terms and conditions. Say yes, and all's right; say no, and I'm off like a round shot from a carronade. D——me, that's the thing, Jack, isn't it?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

There was a silence of some few moments after this extraordinary offer had been made, and then they spoke, saying,—

"Admiral Bell, your generous offer, and the feelings which dictated it, are by far too transparent for us to affect not to understand them. Your actions, Admiral—"

"Oh, bother my actions! what are they to you? Come, now, I consider myself master of the house, d—n you! I invite you all to dinner, or supper, or to whatever meal comes next. Mrs. Bannerworth, will you oblige me, as I'm an old fool in family affairs, by buying what's wanted for me and my guests? There's the money, ma'am. Come along, Jack, we'll take a look over our new house. What do you think of it?"

"Wants some sheathing, sir, here and there."

"Very like; but, however, it will do well enough for us; we're in port, you know. Come along."

Next time: EVERYBODY CHALLENGES VARNEY TO A DUEL.

Varney the Vampire Develops the Outline of a Character, Plus Standard Gothic Novel Shit

Previously on: Charles disappears; mysterious letters purporting to be from Charles are found, conveying the general theme of “fuck you I’m out”; everyone except Flora believes them to be legit, because they have the collective reasoning power of a novelty goldfish; an incomprehensible Clue is found.

Chapter 29 opens with some good old-fashioned purple description of a local well-known ruin of partly-ecclesiastical origin named Monks Hall:

The lingering rays of the setting sun are gilding the old ruins with a wondrous beauty. The edges of the decayed stones seem now to be tipped with gold, and as the rich golden refulgence of light gleams upon the painted glass which still adorned a large window of the hall, a flood of many-coloured beautiful light was cast within, making the old flag-stones, with which the interior was paved, look more like some rich tapestry, laid down to do honour to a monarch.

So picturesque and so beautiful an aspect did the ancient ruin wear, that to one with a soul to appreciate the romantic and the beautiful, it would have amply repaid the fatigue of a long journey now to see it.

And as the sun sank to rest, the gorgeous colours that it cast upon the mouldering wall, deepened from an appearance of burnished gold to a crimson hue, and from that again the colour changed to a shifting purple, mingling with the shadows of the evening, and so gradually fading away into absolute darkness.

I will give Rymer/Prest props where props are due: this is kinda gorgeous in its over-the-toppitude. It gets dark, everything is super quiet, suddenly the silence is broken by an anguished cry, which produces a truly wonderful phrase:

A few startled birds flew from odd holes and corners about the ruins, to seek some other place of rest. The owl hooted from a corner of what had once been a belfry, and a dreamy-looking bat flew out from a cranny and struck itself headlong against a projection.

A DREAMY-LOOKING BAT

I’m stealing that. A mysterious figure emerges from the shadows of the ruin, and then another mysterious figure shows up; they have a lengthy conversation before disappearing back into the dark. Cut to A Pathetic Prisoner in Durance Vile; many words are expended on describing the terrible dungeon in which he lies; there appears to be rising damp. Mysterious Figure A and Mysterious Figure B show up and try to get the Pathetic Prisoner to sign a lengthy document, but he is too Pathetic and lacks sufficient consciousness to manage:

In vain the pen is repeatedly placed in his grasp, and a document of some length, written on parchment, spread out before him to sign. In vain is he held up now by both the men, who have thus mysteriously sought him in his dungeon; he has not power to do as they would wish him. The pen falls from his nerveless grasp, and, with a deep sigh, when they cease to hold him up, he falls heavily back upon the stone couch.

Then the two men looked at each other for about a minute silently; after which he who was the shorter of the two raised one hand, and, in a voice of such concentrated hatred and passion as was horrible to hear, he said,—

"D—n!"

Mysterious Figure A snickers at his companion’s discomfiture; as they leave, Mysterious Figure B apparently has another idea and returns to the swooning dude to give him a dose of something Mysterious from a bottle he has in his pocket. Dun dun dun. Rymer/Prest apparently assume their readers are as dim as their characters, because they add a tagline stating that ~time~ will reveal the identity of these people.

Off we go back to the Hall, where Flora and the admiral are engaging in some good old-fashioned sexism:

"Why, my dear, you see the case is this. In affairs of fighting, the less ladies interfere the better."

"Nay, why so?"

"Because—because, you see, a lady has no reputation for courage to keep up. Indeed, it's rather the other way, for we dislike a bold woman as much as we hold in contempt a cowardly man."

"But if you grant to us females that in consequence of our affections, we are not courageous, you must likewise grant how much we are doomed to suffer from the dangers of those whom we esteem."

"You would be the last person in the world to esteem a coward."

"Certainly. But there is more true courage often in not fighting than in entering into a contest."

She’s trying to get him to promise not to go fight Varney. He changes the subject and asks about their cash flow situation:

"I cannot deny it, sir."

"Then don't. It ain't worth denying, my dear. Poverty is no crime, but, like being born a Frenchman, it's a d——d misfortune.”

He basically offers to give them however much they need, which is nice of him, and then we’re off to Castle Varney Ratford Abbey, where OMG FINALLY SOMETHING IS BEGINNING TO HAPPEN I AM DELIRIOUS WITH JOY

(This bit is legitimately good. I think it’s a stopped-clock situation, but nonetheless it’s actually good. I’m going to be quoting quite a lot of text.)

Sir Francis Varney is in what he calls his own apartment. It is night, and a dim and uncertain light from a candle which has been long neglected, only serves to render obscurity more perplexing. The room is a costly one. One replete with all the appliances of refinement and luxury which the spirit and the genius of the age could possibly supply him with, but there is upon his brow the marks of corroding care, and little does that most mysterious being seem to care for all the rich furnishing of that apartment in which he sits.

His cadaverous-looking face is even paler and more death-like-looking than usual; and, if it can be conceived possible that such an one can feel largely interested in human affairs, to look at him, we could well suppose that some interest of no common magnitude was at stake.

He’s waiting for someone and has worked himself up into such a state over the impending visit that he forgets what time it is.

"Eleven! But eleven! How have I been deceived. I thought the hour of midnight was at hand."

He hastily consulted the watch he wore, and then he indeed found, that whatever he had been looking forward to with dread for some time past, as certain to ensue, at or about twelve o clock, had yet another hour in which to prey upon his imagination.

This is completely believable, and for the first time we actually kinda feel sorry for the guy. And finally, finally, at so long last, WE GET SOME INTERESTING SHIT:

"How could I have made so grievous an error?" he exclaimed. "Another hour of suspense and wonder as to whether that man be among the living or the dead. I have thought of raising my hand against his life, but some strange mysterious feeling has always staid me; and I have let him come and go freely, while an opportunity might well have served me to put such a design into execution. He is old, too—very old, and yet he keeps death at a distance. He looked pale, but far from unwell or failing, when last I saw him. Alas! a whole hour yet to wait. I would that this interview were over."

That extremely well known and popular disease called the fidgets, now began, indeed, to torment Sir Francis Varney. He could not sit—he could not walk, and, somehow or another, he never once seemed to imagine that from the wine cup he should experience any relief, although, upon a side table, there stood refreshments of that character. And thus some more time passed away, and he strove to cheat it of its weariness by thinking of a variety of subjects; but as the fates would have it, there seemed not one agreeable reminiscence in the mind of that most inexplicable man, and the more he plunged into the recesses of memory the more uneasy, not to say almost terrified, he looked and became. A shuddering nervousness came across him, and, for a few moments, he sat as if he were upon the point of fainting. By a vigorous effort, however, he shook this off, and then placing before him the watch, which now indicated about the quarter past eleven, he strove with a calmer aspect to wait the coming of him whose presence, when he did come, would really be a great terror, since the very thought beforehand produced so much hesitation and apparent dismay.

Of course because this is this book we are then treated to a completely unnecessary story-within-a-story that serves to knock out all our gathering interest and drop a giant boulder in the way of what was beginning to be interesting pacing. Writing Tip: When you are beginning a suspenseful sequence, with dread and anticipation and really well executed description and an actual mystery, don’t randomly insert several thousand words of digression.

When we finally cut back to Varney, the stranger arrives, and does not look particularly dreadful in any way except for his eyes, which display “a most ungracious and sinister expression, a kind of lurking and suspicions look, as if he were always resolving in his mind some deep laid scheme, which might be sufficient to circumvent the whole of mankind.”

They do a so-who-talks-first silence, and the stranger breaks it:

"I presume I was expected?"

"You were," said Varney. "It is the day, and it is the hour."

"You are right. I like to see you so mindful. You don't improve in looks since—"

"Hush—hush! no more of that; can we not meet without a dreadful allusion to the past! There needs nothing to remind me of it; and your presence here now shows that you are not forgetful. Speak not of that fearful episode. Let no words combine to place it in a tangible shape to human understanding. I cannot, dare not, hear you speak of that."

"It is well," said the stranger; "as you please. Let our interview be brief. You know my errand?"

"I do. So fearful a drag upon limited means, is not likely to be readily forgotten."

Aha, we think, Varney is being blackmailed for something! Or is something more serious going on?

"Oh, you are too ingenious—too full of well laid schemes, and to apt and ready in their execution, to feel, as any fearful drag, the conditions of our bargain. Why do you look at me so earnestly?"

"Because," said Varney—and he trembled as he spoke—"because each lineament of your countenance brings me back to the recollection of the only scene in life that made me shudder, and which I cannot think of, even with the indifference of contempt. I see it all before my mind's eye, coming in frightful panoramic array, those incidents, which even to dream of, are sufficient to drive the soul to madness; the dread of this annual visit, hangs upon me like a dark cloud upon my very heart; it sits like some foul incubus, destroying its vitality and dragging me, from day to day, nearer to that tomb, from whence not as before, I can emerge."

"You have been among the dead?" said the stranger.

"I have."

"And yet are mortal."

"Yes," repeated Varney, "yes, and yet am mortal."

"It was I that plucked you back to that world, which, to judge from your appearance, has had since that eventful period but few charms for you. By my faith you look like—"

"Like what I am," interrupted Varney.

"This is a subject that once a year gets frightfully renewed between us. For weeks before your visit I am haunted by frightful recollections, and it takes me many weeks after you are gone, before I can restore myself to serenity. Look at me; am I not an altered man?"

"In faith you are," said the stranger "I have no wish to press upon you painful recollections. And yet 'tis strange to me that upon such a man as you, the event to which you allude should produce so terrible an impression."

"I have passed through the agony of death," said Varney, "and have again endured the torture—for it is such—of the re-union of the body and the soul; not having endured so much, not the faintest echo of such feelings can enter into your imagination."

"There may be truth in that, and yet, like a fluttering moth round a flame, it seems to me, that when I do see you, you take a terrific kind of satisfaction in talking of the past."

"That is strictly true," said Varney; "the images with which my mind is filled are frightful. Pent up do they remain for twelve long months. I can speak to you, and you only, without disguise, and thus does it seem to me that I get rid of the uneasy load of horrible imaginings. When you are gone, and have been gone a sufficient lapse of time, my slumbers are not haunted with frightful images—I regain a comparative peace, until the time slowly comes around again, when we are doomed to meet."

DAMN

LOOK AT THAT, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT OCCURS

"I dare not deceive you, although to keep such faith I may be compelled to deceive a hundred others."

"Of that I cannot judge. Fortune seems to smile upon you; you have not as yet disappointed me."

"And will not now," said Varney. "The gigantic and frightful penalty of disappointing you, stares me in the face. I dare not do so."

He took from his pocket, as he spoke, a clasped book, from which he produced several bank notes, which he placed before the stranger.

"A thousand pounds," he said; "that is the agreement."

"It is to the very letter. I do not return to you a thousand thanks—we understand each other better than to waste time with idle compliment. Indeed I will go quite as far as to say, truthfully, that did not my necessities require this amount from you, you should have the boon, for which you pay that price at a much cheaper rate."

"Enough! enough!" said Varney. "It is strange, that your face should have been the last I saw, when the world closed upon me, and the first that met my eyes when I was again snatched back to life! Do you pursue still your dreadful trade?"

"Yes," said the stranger, "for another year, and then, with such a moderate competence as fortune has assigned me, I retire, to make way for younger and abler spirits."

"And then," said Varney, "shall you still require of me such an amount as this?"

"No; this is my last visit but one. I shall be just and liberal towards you. You are not old; and I have no wish to become the clog of your existence. As I have before told you, it is my necessity, and not my inclination, that sets the value upon the service I rendered you."

"I understand you, and ought to thank you. And in reply to so much courtesy, be assured, that when I shudder at your presence, it is not that I regard you with horror, as an individual, but it is because the sight of you awakens mournfully the remembrance of the past."

"It is clear to me," said the stranger; "and now I think we part with each other in a better spirit than we ever did before; and when we meet again, the remembrance that it is the last time, will clear away the gloom that I now find hanging over you."

"It may! it may! With what an earnest gaze you still regard me!"

"I do. It does appear to me most strange, that time should not have obliterated the effects which I thought would have ceased with their cause. You are no more the man that in my recollection you once were, than I am like a sporting child."

The stranger takes his leave, after some more pleasantries, and Varney is enormously relieved — and shortly afterward sets off for Bannerworth Hall. Because it’s this book, Rymer/Prest feel the need to do some unnecessary editorializing on what’s just happened, which is neatly efficacious in throwing the reader out of the text again:

Whether or not this man, to whom he felt bound to pay annually so large a sum, was in the secret, and knew him to be something more than earthly, we cannot at present declare; but it would seem from the tenor of their conversation as if such were the fact.

Perchance he had saved him from the corruption of the tomb, by placing out, on some sylvan spot, where the cold moonbeams fell, the apparently lifeless form, and now claimed so large a reward for such a service, and the necessary secrecy contingent upon it.

That’s the end of the chapter; next time, Varney goes back to being creepy as fuck.

"Good God," said Henry, "I did not think of that!" Varney the Vampire and the Truly Dim Supporting Cast

Previously on: Charles Holland, provoked beyond reason, has challenged Varney to a duel; Varney has pointed out to the Admiral that lol, he’s the bestest swordfighter that ever swordfought; Charles has snuck out for his midnight appointment with swordfighty death, apparently leaving behind mysterious letters to the Bannerworths saying “fuck all y’all and your vampyre shit, I’m out.”

A point I forgot to mention in the previous episode: Dr. Chillingworth provides evidence that Varney is the vampyre, the vampyre, because he actually sent for Chillingworth:

“When I was introduced to him I found him lying on a couch, and looking pale and unwell. In the most respectful manner, he asked me to be seated, and when I had taken a chair, he added,—

"'Mr. Chillingworth, I have sent for you in consequence of a slight accident which has happened to my arm. I was incautiously loading some fire-arms, and discharged a pistol so close to me that the bullet inflicted a wound on my arm.'

"'If you will allow me," said I, 'to see the wound, I will give you my opinion.'

"He then showed me a jagged wound, which had evidently been caused by the passage of a bullet, which, had it gone a little deeper, must have inflicted serious injury. As it was, the wound was but trifling.

"He had evidently been attempting to dress it himself, but finding some considerable inflammation, he very likely got a little alarmed."

"You dressed the wound?"

"I did."

"And what do you think of Sir Francis Varney, now that you have had so capital an opportunity," said Henry, "of a close examination of him?"

"Why, there is certainly something odd about him which I cannot well define, but, take him altogether, he can be a very gentlemanly man indeed."

Chillingworth is the only one of them who’s a trained observer, and he mentions that the likeness to the portrait is noticeable but that in his opinion Varney can to some extent control how obvious it is. Henry’s like DID U ASK HIM ABOUT BEING A VAMPYRE and the doctor rolls his eyes:

"It was all one to me whether he was a vampyre or not, professionally, and however deeply I might feel, personally, interested in the matter, I said nothing to him about it, because, you see, if I had, he would have had a fair opportunity of saying at once, 'Pray, sir, what is that to you?' and I should have been at a loss what to reply."

"Can we doubt," said Henry, "but that this very wound has been inflicted upon Sir Francis Varney, by the pistol-bullet which was discharged at him by Flora?"

"Everything leads to such an assumption certainly," said Charles Holland.

I love Chillingworth. Unfortunately this is his last screen appearance for some time, because now we have to have an operatic-level Misunderstanding Sequence. Our heroes open the letters purportedly signed by the absent Charles Holland, and lose their collective shit:

"The scoundrel—the cold-blooded villain! I renounce him for ever! he is no nephew of mine; he is some d——d imposter! Nobody with a dash of my family blood in his veins would have acted so to save himself from a thousand deaths."

"Who shall we trust now," said Henry, "when those whom we take to our inmost hearts deceive us thus? This is the greatest shock I have yet received. If there be a pang greater than another, surely it is to be found in the faithlessness and heartlessness of one we loved and trusted."

"He is a scoundrel!" roared the admiral. "D—n him, he'll die on a dunghill, and that's too good a place for him. I cast him off—I'll find him out, and old as I am, I'll fight him—I'll wring his neck, the rascal; and, as for poor dear Miss Flora, God bless her! I'll—I'll marry her myself, and make her an admiral.—I'll marry her myself. Oh, that I should be uncle to such a rascal!"

And so on. They show Marchdale the letters and he’s all “ha, I knew that guy was an asshole”:

The fact is, I never did entertain a favourable opinion of the young man, and he knew it. I have been accustomed to the study of human nature under a variety of aspects; I have made it a matter of deep, and I may add, sorrowful, contemplation, to study and remark those minor shades of character which commonly escape observation wholly. And, I repeat, I always had a bad opinion of Charles Holland, which he guessed, and hence he conceived a hatred to me, which more than once, as you cannot but remember, showed itself in little acts of opposition and hostility."

"You much surprise me."

"I expected to do so. But you cannot help remembering that at one time I was on the point of leaving here solely on his account. I only suspected from little minute shades of character, that would peep out in spite of him, that Charles Holland was not the honourable man he would fain have had everybody believe him to be."

"And had you from the first such a feeling?"

"I had."

"It is very strange."

"Yes; and what is more strange still, is that he from the first seemed to know it; and despite a caution which I could see he always kept uppermost in his thoughts, he could not help speaking tartly to me at times."

"I have noticed that," said George.

"You may depend it is a fact," added Marchdale, "that nothing so much excites the deadly and desperate hatred of a man who is acting a hypocritical part, as the suspicion, well grounded or not, that another sees and understands the secret impulses of his dishonourable heart."

Which — okay, I don’t know about you but I don’t get this at all. Charles Holland is a boring twit, like the Bannerworth brothers, but all the sequences in his POV show him to be a perfectly ordinary and reasonably trustworthy dude; I never understood why Marchdale hated his guts from the start, unless it’s because Marchdale secretly wanted to marry Flora himself, which is possible but a bit of a stretch. The only sketchy thing Holland has done is fail to stick out his two years of semi-enforced exile, and even that is basically just a function of being 21 and missing his girlfriend a whole lot. He had a little bit of angst regarding whether or not he could/should marry Flora given the vampyre thing, but seems to have gotten over it and is squarely on the heroes’ side, so I don’t know what Marchdale’s deal is. If this book were written by someone else, someone I trust to be basically competent, I’d assume this unexplained weirdness has some purpose, but…it’s Varney the Vampire.

Anyway, they show Flora the letters and give her the one addressed to her; she opens it; her reaction is somewhat different:

She read the whole of the letters through, and then, as the last one dropped from her grasp, she exclaimed,—

"Oh, God! oh, God! what is all that has occurred compared to this? Charles—Charles—Charles!"

"Flora!" exclaimed Henry, suddenly turning from the window. "Flora, is this worthy of you?"

"Heaven now support me!"

"Is this worthy of the name you bear Flora? I should have thought, and I did hope, that woman's pride would have supported you."

"Let me implore you," added Marchdale, "to summon indignation to your aid, Miss Bannerworth."

"Charles—Charles—Charles!" she again exclaimed, as she wrung her hands despairingly.

"Flora, if anything could add a sting to my already irritated feelings," said Henry, "this conduct of yours would."

What the fuck, dude.

"Henry—brother, what mean you? Are you mad?"

"Are you, Flora?"

"God, I wish now that I was."

"You have read those letters, and yet you call upon the name of him who wrote them with frantic tenderness."

"Yes, yes," she cried; "frantic tenderness is the word. It is with frantic tenderness I call upon his name, and ever will.—Charles! Charles!—dear Charles!"

YOU ARE NOT RESPONDING THE WAY THE MEN EXPECT YOU TO, FLORA, STOP IT AT ONCE AND BEHAVE CORRECTLY

"This surpasses all belief," said Marchdale.

"It is the frenzy of grief," added George; "but I did not expect it of her. Flora—Flora, think again."

"Think—think—the rush of thought distracts. Whence came these letters?—where did you find these most disgraceful forgeries?"

"Forgeries!" exclaimed Henry; and he staggered back, as if someone had struck him a blow.

"Yes, forgeries!" screamed Flora. "What has become of Charles Holland? Has he been murdered by some secret enemy, and then these most vile fabrications made up in his name? Oh, Charles, Charles, are you lost to me for ever?"

"Good God!" said Henry; "I did not think of that."

BECAUSE YOU ARE A COMPLETE DINGBAT, HENRY, you did not think of this thing, you never think of any things. The only halfway intelligent people in this book are the vampyre, the doctor, and the woman, and again if this were written by somebody else I’d salute that as a deliberate authorial choice, but…nah.

There is now a lot of emotional discussion; the admiral and Flora agree with great vigor and a number of tears that Charles did not write these letters, that some evil must have befallen him, and that they will seek him out. Henry is confused. Marchdale continues to be an inexplicable dick.

"As God is my judge," said Henry, holding up his hands, "I know not what to think, but my heart and feelings all go with you and with Flora, in your opinion of the innocence of Charles Holland."

"I knew you would say that, because you could not possibly help it, my dear boy. Now we are all right again, and all we have got to do is to find out which way the enemy has gone, and then give chase to him."

"Mr. Marchdale, what do you think of this new suggestion," said George to that gentleman.

"Pray, excuse me," was his reply; "I would much rather not be called upon to give an opinion."

The admiral and the Bannerworth brothers trundle off to figure out how to locate the missing Charles, leaving Marchdale alone with Flora and her barely-there mother. He insists his point of view is justified:

"Those letters," said Flora, "were not written by Charles Holland."

"That is your opinion."

"It is more than an opinion. He could not write them."

"Well, then, of course, if I felt inclined, which Heaven alone knows I do not, I could not hope successfully to argue against such a conviction. But I do not wish to do so. All I want to impress upon you is, that I am not to be blamed for doubting his innocence; and, at the same time, I wish to assure you that no one in this house would feel more exquisite satisfaction than I in seeing it established."

She’s like “dude, I don’t care what you think, he’s innocent,” and Marchdale is all “well if you REALLY BELIEVE that clearly inaccurate thing I disagree with, then of course I will help everybody search for him, despite the fact that I’m right and you are wrong,” and Flora’s mom is all for him:

"My dear," said the mother, "rely on Mr. Marchdale."

"I will rely on any one who believe Charles Holland innocent of writing those odious letters, mother—I rely upon the admiral. He will aid me heart and hand."

"And so will Mr. Marchdale."

"I am glad to hear it."

"And yet doubt it, Flora," said Marchdale, dejectedly. "I am very sorry that such should be the case; I will not, however, trouble you any further, nor, give me leave to assure you, will I relax in my honest endeavours to clear up this mystery."

He rejoins Henry and the admiral, and they continue to have an incredibly boring and pointless conversation in which it is made ever more clear that Marchdale disagrees with the others but is Helping Them Because Flora, and eventually even Henry has had enough:

"Come," now interposed Henry, "let me hope that, for my sake as well as for Flora's, this dispute will proceed no further."

"I have not courted it," said Marchdale. "I have much temper, but I am not a stick or a stone."

"D——e, if I don't think," said the admiral, "you are a bit of both."

"Mr. Henry Bannerworth," said Marchdale, "I am your guest, and but for the duty I feel in assisting in the search for Mr. Charles Holland, I should at once leave your house."

"You need not trouble yourself on my account," said the admiral; "if I find no clue to him in the neighbourhood for two or three days, I shall be off myself."

"I am going," said Henry, rising, "to search the garden and adjoining meadows; if you two gentlemen choose to come with me, I shall of course be happy of your company; if, however, you prefer remaining here to wrangle, you can do so."

This had the effect, at all events, of putting a stop to the dispute for the present, and both the admiral and Mr. Marchdale accompanied Henry on his search. That search was commenced immediately under the balcony of Charles Holland's window, from which the admiral had seen him emerge.

FINALLY SOMEONE IS ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING

They locate a particular stretch of the wall where the ivy is disturbed, and go around to see what’s on the other side, and there’s obvious signs of a struggle:

The moment they reached it, they were panic-stricken by the appearances which it presented. The grass was for some yards round about completely trodden up, and converted into mud. There were deep indentations of feet-marks in all directions, and such abundance of evidence that some most desperate struggle had recently taken place there, that the most sceptical person in the world could not have entertained any doubt upon the subject.

Henry was the first to break the silence with which they each regarded the broken ground.

"This is conclusive to my mind," he said, with a deep sigh. "Here has poor Charles been attacked."

"God keep him!" exclaimed Marchdale, "and pardon me my doubts—I am now convinced."

Writing Tip: this is not how you set up and resolve conflict.

Seriously. All the business with Marchdale Dislikes Holland And Doesn’t Believe Him For Unknown Reasons, which has stretched on for most of the narrative thus far, is now apparently resolved by…looking at a patch of churned-up ground. We don’t know what this dude has against Holland, we don’t know why he’s so mistrustful and has been ever since they met, and we don’t know why all those doubts suddenly vanish as soon as Marchdale sees this particular evidence of a fight having taken place. Rymer/Prest, you suck and your technique sucks and your characters are unbelievable.

Anyway, they are like “omg what if he met the vampyre” and what I do not get here is since the admiral KNEW he was planning to fight Varney, why they didn’t start with that supposition. The proposed duel seems to have completely vanished from the collective radar. Charles had asked his uncle not to do anything regarding the duel until the next morning, and snuck out that night; his uncle saw him sneaking out; he’s missing in the morning; why the hell wouldn’t they start out by thinking “maybe he went to fight the vampyre and lost”? I do not understand these people in the least.

They find A Clue, a crumpled-up bit of paper in the mud, but can make no sense of it:

When freed from the mixture of clay and mud which had obscured it, they made out the following words,—

"—it be so well. At the next full moon seek a convenient spot, and it can be done. The signature is, to my apprehension, perfect. The money which I hold, in my opinion, is much more in amount than you imagine, must be ours; and as for—"

Here the paper was torn across, and no further words were visible upon it.

This reminds me of the note from the Lead Masks Case, because my brain is weird like that, and also presents a good place to pause. Next time: Flora has the vapors and Weird Shit Happens to Varney.

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.

I Defy You To Your Teeth, Sir: Varney the Vampire (Finally) Heats Up

Previously on: we met Admiral Bell and his associate Jack Pringle, to general dismay and regret; Flora and Charles dithered; Varney showed up at the Hall again, apparently bent on freaking Flora out sufficiently to make the Bannerworths move so he can get their house (or possibly just to be a dick, which he likes doing). It is not clear why he wants the house, but boy does he ever, as we’ll see.

Charles has just escorted Flora indoors while she continued to complain about the vampyre, the vampyre, and returns to find Henry, George, Marchdale, and Varney heading for the Hall to get out of the rain. Social awkwardness ensues:

Charles felt himself compelled to behave with courtesy, although his mind was so full of conflicting feelings as regarded Varney; but there was no avoiding, without such brutal rudeness as was inconsistent with all his pursuits and habits, replying in something like the same strain to the extreme courtly politeness of the supposed vampyre.

"I will watch him closely," thought Charles. "I can do no more than watch him closely."

Sir Francis Varney seemed to be a man of the most general and discursive information. He talked fluently and pleasantly upon all sorts of topics, and notwithstanding he could not but have heard what Flora had said of him, he asked no questions whatever upon that subject.

This silence as regarded a matter which would at once have induced some sort of inquiry from any other man, Charles felt told much against him, and he trembled to believe for a moment that, after all, it really might be true.

"Is he a vampyre?" he asked himself. "Are there vampyres, and is this man of fashion—this courtly, talented, educated gentleman one?" It was a perfectly hideous question.

Henry is like “wait, didn’t I tell you not to come over here?” and Varney says he’s super curious about this portrait that he’s supposed to resemble:

"Did you hear, sir," added Henry, "that my sister was alarmed at your likeness to that portrait?"

"No, really."

Nah, she just screams and faints like that all the time for no reason.

"I pray you walk in, and we will talk more at large upon that matter."

"With great pleasure. One leads a monotonous life in the country, when compared with the brilliancy of a court existence. Just now I have no particular engagement. As we are near neighbours I see no reason why we should not be good friends, and often interchange such civilities as make up the amenities of existence, and which, in the country, more particularly, are valuable."

Henry grits his teeth and lies that yes, that sounds wonderful, and Varney apparently realizes he hasn’t been sufficiently creepy during the course of the conversation and takes steps to correct this:

"Oh, yes, of course—certainly. My time is very much occupied, and my sister and mother see no company."

"Oh, now, how wrong."

"Wrong, sir?"

"Yes, surely. If anything more than another tends to harmonize individuals, it is the society of that fairer half of the creation which we love for their very foibles. I am much attached to the softer sex—to young persons full of health. I like to see the rosy cheeks, where the warm blood mantles in the superficial veins, and all is loveliness and life."

Charles shrank back, and the word "Demon" unconsciously escaped his lips.

EWWW

We haven’t had a Let’s State the Obvious session for a little while, so Rymer/Prest provide us with one of the best so far:

"Do you know, sir, that Miss Bannerworth declares the vampyre she fancies to have visited this chamber to be, in features, the exact counterpart of this portrait?"

"Does she indeed?"

"She does, indeed."

"And perhaps, then, that accounts for her thinking that I am the vampyre, because I bear a strong resemblance to the portrait."

"I should not be surprised," said Charles.

"How very odd."

"Very."

"And yet entertaining. I am rather amused than otherwise. The idea of being a vampyre. Ha! ha! If ever I go to a masquerade again, I shall certainly assume the character of a vampyre."

"You would do it well."

"I dare say, now, I should make quite a sensation."

"I am certain you would. Do you not think, gentlemen, that Sir Francis Varney would enact the character to the very life? By Heavens, he would do it so well that one might, without much difficulty, really imagine him a vampyre."

"Bravo—bravo," said Varney, as he gently folded his hands together, with that genteel applause that may even be indulged in in a box at the opera itself. "Bravo. I like to see young persons enthusiastic; it looks as if they had some of the real fire of genius in their composition. Bravo—bravo."

Very occasionally Varney can approach Havelock Vetinari levels of ambiguous irony. This isn’t on the order of “do not let me detain you” or “I think it is quite possible that I will never forget you said that” but it’s close. I like to see young persons enthusiastic; it looks as if they had some of the real fire of genius in their composition, DAMN.

Back to business: the actual plot is addressed, to wit, Varney really really really wants this house:

"You seem anxious to possess the Hall," remarked Mr. Marchdale, to Varney.

"I am."

"Is it new to you?"

"Not quite. I have some boyish recollections connected with this neighbourhood, among which Bannerworth Hall stands sufficiently prominent."

"May I ask how long ago that was?" said Charles Howard, rather abruptly.

"I do not recollect, my enthusiastic young friend," said Varney. "How old are you?"

"Just about twenty-one."

"You are, then, for your age, quite a model of discretion."

Again with the irony. They press Varney to a glass of wine, which he accepts but doesn’t actually partake of, and note that he appears to have a bandage on his arm underneath his coat: evidence of the wound he received when Flora shot him the other night in a fit of uncharacteristic badassery. At this point our heroes can take no more (I sympathize) and address the vampyre in the room:

"Will you drink it?"

"Not at any man's bidding, most certainly. If the fair Flora Bannerworth would grace the board with her sweet presence, methinks I could then drink on, on, on."

EWWWWWWWWWW

"Hark you, sir," cried Charles, "I can bear no more of this. We have had in this house most horrible and damning evidence that there are such things as vampyres."

"Have you really? I suppose you eat raw pork at supper, and so had the nightmare?"

"A jest is welcome in its place, but pray hear me out, sir, if it suit your lofty courtesy to do so."

"Oh, certainly."

"Then I say we believe, as far as human judgment has a right to go, that a vampyre has been here."

"Go on, it's interesting. I always was a lover of the wild and the wonderful."

"We have, too," continued Charles, "some reason to believe that you are the man."

Varney tapped his forehead as he glanced at Henry, and said,—

"Oh, dear, I did not know. You should have told me he was a little wrong about the brain; I might have quarreled with the lad. Dear me, how lamentable for his poor mother."

"This will not do, Sir Francis Varney alias Bannerworth."

"Oh—oh! Be calm—be calm."

"I defy you to your teeth, sir! No, God, no! Your teeth!"

At this point Varney has spent the past forty-five minutes deliberately antagonizing the fuck out of these people, relying on their manners and sense of propriety to stop them from retaliating; when Henry and Charles snap he gets all huffy about it:

Sir Francis Varney drew himself up to his full height, and that was immense, as he said to Henry,—

"I pray you, Mr. Bannerworth, since I am thus grievously insulted beneath your roof, to tell me if your friend here be mad or sane?"

"He's not mad."

"Then—"

"Hold, sir! The quarrel shall be mine. In the name of my persecuted sister—in the name of Heaven. Sir Francis Varney, I defy you."

Sir Francis, in spite of his impenetrable calmness, appeared somewhat moved, as he said,—

"I have already endured insult sufficient—I will endure no more. If there are weapons at hand—"

"My young friend," interrupted Mr. Marchdale, stepping between the excited men, "is carried away by his feelings, and knows not what he says. You will look upon it in that light, Sir Francis."

"We need no interference," exclaimed Varney, his hitherto bland voice changing to one of fury. "The hot-blooded fool wishes to fight, and he shall—to the death—to the death."

Now, the case can be made that he’s doing this deliberately in order to put Henry in a position where he, Varney, can dispatch him and take the Hall through fair means or foul, but — having read this thing before, and knowing a little more about Varney’s character and tendencies — I think it’s more along the lines of he can’t stop himself from needling people until they snap. I’ve seen this in humans, too: it’s a function of wanting attention and not knowing how to get it and not liking the kind of attention it ends up being. Varney is not a well-adjusted sanguivore, news at eleven.

Anyway, he stalks off with his nose in the air, and Marchdale follows him, at which point there is a mad banging upon the door and George answers it to discover Admiral Bell and Jack Pringle, at your service. The admiral has some decent lines, in particular

"Come along, then; yet, stop a bit. I say, young fellow, just before we go any further, tell us if he has maimed the vampyre?"

Just in passing, you know, like you do, has he maimed the vampyre yet? Cause if not, we can totally do that on the way to pick up a couple things at the convenience store this afternoon. George plays dumb and refuses to answer any more questions; the admiral spies the distant figures of Varney and Marchdale just in time for the former to deck the latter and leg it with all speed, which is a fine place to pause in my opinion. :D

Oh Honey No, You Can't Write Dickens, Plus the Summerhouse of Foreshadowing: Varney the Vampire, cont'd

Previously on: we met Sir Francis Varney face to peculiar face for the very first time; it’s Charles’s turn to shoot him; and Weird Shit Might be Going On With the Ominous Portrait, But Probably Isn’t.

Chapter 15 is painful. I will be kind and spare you the spectacle of Rymer/Prest (I think of them as a sort of portmanteau of failure, rather than two discrete fails) attempting to do Dickens pastiche, to wit: Highly Voice-y Supporting Characters with Vocal Tics & Clearly Classist Caricature.

What happens is this: Since the Bannerworths and their staff cannot fucking shut up about their vampyre (The vampyre! The vampyre!) it’s turned into a kind of local phenomenon, and vampyre enthusiasts are flocking to the region and driving up business for inns and restaurants.

But nowhere was gossiping carried on upon the subject with more systematic fervour than at an inn called the Nelson's Arms, which was in the high street of the nearest market town to the Hall.

There, it seemed as if the lovers of the horrible made a point of holding their headquarters, and so thirsty did the numerous discussions make the guests, that the landlord was heard to declare that he, from his heart, really considered a vampyre as very nearly equal to a contested election.

We are introduced to three new characters over the course of the chapter. The first two arrive at the Nelson’s Arms and right away we are encouraged to entertain conjecture that they might, at some point, potentially have had acquaintance with the sea. We are encouraged strongly and repeatedly. I’m afraid I must show you a brief sample, to communicate this theme:

As the chaise drove up to the door of the inn, this man made an observation to the other to the following effect,—

"A-hoy!"

"Well, you lubber, what now?" cried the other.

"They call this the Nelson's Arms; and you know, shiver me, that for the best half of his life he had but one."

"D—n you!" was the only rejoinder he got for this observation; but, with that, he seemed very well satisfied.

"Heave to!" he then shouted to the postilion, who was about to drive the chaise into the yard. "Heave to, you lubberly son of a gun! we don't want to go into dock."

"Ah!" said the old man, "let's get out, Jack. This is the port; and, do you hear, and be cursed to you, let's have no swearing, d—n you, nor bad language, you lazy swab."

"Aye, aye," cried Jack; "I've not been ashore now a matter o' ten years, and not larnt a little shore-going politeness, admiral, I ain't been your walley de sham without larning a little about land reckonings. Nobody would take me for a sailor now, I'm thinking, admiral."

"Hold your noise!"

"Aye, aye, sir."

I said I was sorry. The old man, Admiral Bell, turns out to be the uncle of Charles “Sad Feelings” Holland, which we learn in due course, and has traveled to the area in response to a mysterious letter sent to him:

The admiral opened the letter, and read:—

"If you stop at the Nelson's Aims at Uxotter, you will hear of me, and I can be sent for, when I will tell you more.

"Yours, very obediently and humbly,

"JOSIAH CRINKLES."

It is shortly revealed that there is a great deal more to the letter than this, which we are not allowed to see for several thousand more words. There is some byplay in which Bell is informed that Crinkles, whom I am not making up, is a lawyer, and responds with stentorian disapproval of the legal profession, but eventually tells the landlord to send for the bastard anyway so he can explain why the admiral has had to travel 170 miles to talk to a d___d lawyer.

Crinkles, in due course, appears, and is made to read the whole of the letter:

"To Admiral Bell.

"Admiral,—Being, from various circumstances, aware that you take a warm and a praiseworthy interest in your nephew, Charles Holland, I venture to write to you concerning a matter in which your immediate and active co-operation with others may rescue him from a condition which will prove, if allowed to continue, very much to his detriment, and ultimate unhappiness.

"You are, then, hereby informed, that he, Charles Holland, has, much earlier than he ought to have done, returned to England, and that the object of his return is to contract a marriage into a family in every way objectionable, and with a girl who is highly objectionable.

"You, admiral, are his nearest and almost his only relative in the world; you are the guardian of his property, and, therefore, it becomes a duty on your part to interfere to save him from the ruinous consequences of a marriage, which is sure to bring ruin and distress upon himself and all who take an interest in his welfare.

"The family he wishes to marry into is named Bannerworth, and the young lady's name is Flora Bannerworth. When, however, I inform you that a vampyre is in that family, and that if he marries into it, he marries a vampyre, and will have vampyres for children, I trust I have said enough to warn you upon the subject, and to induce you to lose no time in repairing to the spot.

"If you stop at the Nelson's Arms at Uxotter, you will hear of me. I can be sent for, when I will tell you more.

"Yours, very obediently and humbly,

"JOSIAH CRINKLES."

"P.S. I enclose you Dr. Johnson's definition of a vampyre, which is as follows:

"VAMPYRE (a German blood-sucker)—by which you perceive how many vampyres, from time immemorial, must have been well entertained at the expense of John Bull, at the court of St. James, where no thing hardly is to be met with but German blood-suckers."

Crinkles then explains that he’s never seen the letter before in his life, which causes marvel and consternation, and then they decide to talk this thing over:

"Well—well, never mind; it has brought me here, that's something, so I won't grumble much at it. I didn't know my nephew was in England, and I dare say he didn't know I was; but here we both are, and I won't rest till I've seen him, and ascertained how the what's-its-name—"

"The vampyre."

"Ah! the vampyre."

"Shiver my timbers!" said Jack Pringle, who now brought in some wine much against the remonstrances of the waiters of the establishment, who considered that he was treading upon their vested interests by so doing.—"Shiver my timbers, if I knows what a wamphigher is, unless he's some distant relation to Davy Jones!"

See what I mean about the Dickens pastiche? Rymer/Prest is trying so hard, and it’s so not working. The jolly sailors and the lawyer discuss the nature of the beast and Charles’s predicament with regards to his chewed-upon fiancée:

"And she might herself actually, when after death she became a vampyre, come and feed on her own children."

"Become a vampyre! What, is she going to be a vampyre too?"

"My dear sir, don't you know that it is a remarkable fact, as regards the physiology of vampyres, that whoever is bitten by one of those dreadful beings, becomes a vampyre?"

"The devil!"

"It is a fact, sir."

"Whew!" whistled Jack; "she might bite us all, and we should be a whole ship's crew o' wamphighers. There would be a confounded go!"

They agree that the situation is sub-optimal, and requires adjustment, and Crinkles departs, leaving Bell and Jack to assail the reader with more naval terminology:

"Do! What shall we do? Why, go at once and find out Charles, our nevy, and ask him all about it, and see the young lady, too, and lay hold o' the wamphigher if we can, as well, and go at the whole affair broadside to broadside, till we make a prize of all the particulars, after which we can turn it over in our minds agin, and see what's to be done."

"Jack, you are right. Come along."

"I knows I am. Do you know now which way to steer?"

"Of course not. I never was in this latitude before, and the channel looks intricate. We will hail a pilot, Jack, and then we shall be all right, and if we strike it will be his fault."

"Which is a mighty great consolation," said Jack. "Come along."

Note that Jack refers to Charles as “our” nephew, which raises some interesting questions about the nature of his relationship to Bell, but further speculation does not seem tremendously worthwhile.

At this point, thank fuck, we rejoin our core cast members at the Hall. Charles and Flora are in the summerhouse, having the same conversation over and over and over and over again, viz. “I love you but I am hideously corrupt and will turn into a monster and we should probably not have kids,” “No, I love you anyway, marry me,” rinse & repeat. It’s a little like the yes! yes! yes! no! no! no! bit in The Dancing Cavalier:

“I then implore you, Charles, finding me what I am, to leave me to the fate which it has pleased Heaven to cast upon me. I do not ask you, Charles, not to love me."

"'Tis well. Go on, Flora."

"Because I should like to think that, although I might never see you more, you loved me still. But you must think seldom of me, and you must endeavour to be happy with some other—"

"You cannot, Flora, pursue the picture you yourself would draw. These words come not from your heart."

"Yes—yes—yes."

"Did you ever love me?"

"Charles, Charles, why will you add another pang to those you know must already rend my heart?"

And so on. He’s managed to make some headway with her when there is an almighty crack of thunder which Flora takes to be the voice of the Almighty saying “NOPE,” but shortly thereafter a breach in the clouds sends a crepuscular ray down to bathe Flora in heavenly light, so she decides it’s okay after all, when OH NO GUESS WHAT

GO ON, GUESS

A shriek burst from Flora's lips—a shriek so wild and shrill that it awakened echoes far and near. Charles staggered back a step, as if shot, and then in such agonised accents as he was long indeed in banishing the remembrance of, she cried,—

"The vampyre! the vampyre!"

Varney is leaning in the doorway like “sup, I’m just waiting out this thunderstorm, keep making out, don’t mind me,” and Flora is broken-record-ing “THE VAMPYRE,” and Varney is all super smooth about it:

Mechanically, then, he turned his eyes towards the door of the summer-house, and there he saw a tall, thin man, rather elegantly dressed, whose countenance certainly, in its wonderful resemblance to the portrait on the panel, might well appal any one.

The stranger stood in the irresolute attitude on the threshold of the summer-house of one who did not wish to intrude, but who found it as awkward, if not more so now, to retreat than to advance.

Before Charles Holland could summon any words to his aid, or think of freeing himself from the clinging grasp of Flora, which was wound around him, the stranger made a very low and courtly bow, after which he said, in winning accents,—

"I very much fear that I am an intruder here. Allow me to offer my warmest apologies, and to assure you, sir, and you, madam, that I had no idea any one was in the arbour. You perceive the rain is falling smartly, and I made towards here, seeing it was likely to shelter me from the shower."

These words were spoken in such a plausible and courtly tone of voice, that they might well have become any drawing-room in the kingdom.

Flora kept her eyes fixed upon him during the utterance of these words; and as she convulsively clutched the arm of Charles, she kept on whispering,—

"The vampyre! the vampyre!"

"I much fear," added the stranger, in the same bland tones, "that I have been the cause of some alarm to the young lady!"

Oh, Varney, you’re having way too much fun with this.

"Release me," whispered Charles to Flora. "Release me; I will follow him at once."

"No, no—do not leave me—do not leave me. The vampyre—the dreadful vampyre!"

"But, Flora—"

"Hush—hush—hush! It speaks again."

"Perhaps I ought to account for my appearance in the garden at all," added the insinuating stranger. "The fact is, I came on a visit—"

Flora shuddered.

"To Mr. Henry Bannerworth," continued the stranger; "and finding the garden-gate open, I came in without troubling the servants, which I much regret, as I can perceive I have alarmed and annoyed the lady. Madam, pray accept of my apologies."

"In the name of God, who are you?" said Charles.

"My name is Varney."

"Oh, yes. You are the Sir Francis Varney, residing close by, who bears so fearful a resemblance to—"

"Pray go on, sir. I am all attention."

"To a portrait here."

"Indeed! Now I reflect a moment, Mr. Henry Bannerworth did incidentally mention something of the sort. It's a most singular coincidence."

He does blasé to an almost risible extent; it’s kind of impressive. The others arrive, summoned by the screaming, and find themselves in a bizarre social situation:

Varney bowed to the newcomers, and was altogether as much at his ease as everybody else seemed quite the contrary. Even Charles Holland found the difficulty of going up to such a well-bred, gentlemanly man, and saying, "Sir, we believe you to be a vampyre"—to be almost, if not insurmountable.

"I cannot do it," he thought, "but I will watch him."

"Take me away," whispered Flora. "'Tis he—'tis he. Oh, take me away, Charles."

"Hush, Flora, hush. You are in some error; the accidental resemblance should not make us be rude to this gentleman."

"The vampyre!—it is the vampyre!"

Aaaand Varney goes over the edge from amusing to creeptastic, a habit of his:

"The young lady, I fear, is very much indisposed," remarked Sir Francis Varney, in a sympathetic tone of voice. "If she will accept of my arm, I shall esteem it a great honour."

"No—no—no!—God! no," cried Flora.

"Madam, I will not press you."

He bowed, and Charles led Flora from the summer-house towards the hall.

The constant repetition in this text is partially an artifact of it having been initially released in serial form, so that the audience needs their memory of previous episodes sharpened, but it is also partially an artifact of Rymer/Prest being super not all that great at this. Once more, with feeling:

"Flora," he said, "I am bewildered—I know not what to think. That man most certainly has been fashioned after the portrait which is on the panel in the room you formerly occupied; or it has been painted from him."

"He is my midnight visitor!" exclaimed Flora. "He is the vampyre;—this Sir Francis Varney is the vampyre."

Got that, everyone? I think we may be able to come to some form of conclusion here regarding the identity of the vampyre and its relation to the identity of their neighbor, but I could be mistaken. Next time, our heroes have to put up with more of Varney being a Grade-A dick, plus Admiral “I’m Naval” Bell and his unspeakable comrade arrive at the Hall.

Charles Holland's Sad Feelings, Plus More Gunfire: Varney the Vampire, cont'd

Previously on: The gang has discovered Sir Marmagate Runnerworth’s mortal remains do not reside in that gentleman’s coffin; Dr. Chillingworth is the only sane person; Varney the Vamp(y)re has now been shot at four times, once at point-blank range by Flora; Charles Holland has returned from the wilds of Weak Plot Device Country and is now having the angst because Flora doesn’t want to marry him because she might turn into a vampyre and it would be weird.

He is angsting in the room where the Ominous Portrait hangs, and notices something weird about the frame, like it might hide a secret passageway, and that it might have been broken recently in an attempt to remove it. At this point something mysterious starts knocking on the door, but when he opens it, no one is there although he hears a creepy sigh in the hallway.

Charles is understandably creeped out and says “who’s there” loud enough to get Henry’s attention in his own room down the hall. He comes to join Charles and together they try to get the Ominous Portrait off the wall, but discover there’s no cool secret passageway behind it. There is, however, a vampyre at the window, and because Charles is the guest it is his turn to shoot at it.

(If you’re keeping track, that’s five times.)

Marchdale takes the opportunity to tell Henry to leave the Hall and Charles not to marry Flora because vampyre, and Charles is like fuck you, dude, and Marchdale says he’s leaving and never coming back, which — okay? I think they just got sick of writing him. An investigation turns up no vampyre, dead or otherwise, except one thing:

The party made a strict search through every nook and corner of the garden, but it proved to be a fruitless one: not the least trace of any one could be found. There was only one circumstance, which was pondered over deeply by them all, and that was that, beneath the window of the room in which Flora and her mother sat while the brothers were on their visit to the vault of their ancestors, were visible marks of blood to a considerable extent.

It will be remembered that Flora had fired a pistol at the spectral appearance, and that immediately upon that it had disappeared, after uttering a sound which might well be construed into a cry of pain from a wound.

That a wound then had been inflicted upon some one, the blood beneath the window now abundantly testified; and when it was discovered, Henry and Charles made a very close examination indeed of the garden, to discover what direction the wounded figure, be it man or vampyre, had taken.

See that? Everybody else except the mother and Chillingworth have shot at Varney, either through a window or from a distance, and the only one that’s made him bleed is Flora. You go, lady.

In the morning, another of the servants quits, and Henry gets another letter from his weird neighbor:

Dear Sir,—"As a neighbour, by purchase of an estate contiguous to your own, I am quite sure you have excused, and taken in good part, the cordial offer I made to you of friendship and service some short time since; but now, in addressing to you a distinct proposition, I trust I shall meet with an indulgent consideration, whether such proposition be accordant with your views or not.

"What I have heard from common report induces me to believe that Bannerworth Hall cannot be a desirable residence for yourself, or your amiable sister. If I am right in that conjecture, and you have any serious thought of leaving the place, I would earnestly recommend you, as one having some experience in such descriptions of property, to sell it at once.

"Now, the proposition with which I conclude this letter is, I know, of a character to make you doubt the disinterestedness of such advice; but that it is disinterested, nevertheless, is a fact of which I can assure my own heart, and of which I beg to assure you. I propose, then, should you, upon consideration, decide upon such a course of proceeding, to purchase of you the Hall. I do not ask for a bargain on account of any extraneous circumstances which may at the present time depreciate the value of the property, but I am willing to give a fair price for it. Under these circumstances, I trust, sir, that you will give a kindly consideration to my offer, and even if you reject it, I hope that, as neighbours, we may live long in peace and amity, and in the interchange of those good offices which should subsist between us. Awaiting your reply,

"Believe me to be, dear sir,

    "Your very obedient servant,

"FRANCIS VARNEY.

"To Henry Bannerworth, Esq."

Henry, who is not as dim as George but fairly slow on the uptake, realizes something.

"How strange," he muttered. "It seems that every circumstance combines to induce me to leave my old ancestral home. It appears as if everything now that happened had that direct tendency. What can be the meaning of all this? 'Tis very strange—amazingly strange. Here arise circumstances which are enough to induce any man to leave a particular place. Then a friend, in whose single-mindedness and judgment I know I can rely, advises the step, and immediately upon the back of that comes a fair and candid offer."

Naturally, he can’t actually take it because then the book would be over, but he asks Marchdale for advice. Marchdale says “why don’t you offer to let it to him for a year and go somewhere else, and see if the vampire comes with or stays at the Hall,” and everyone else agrees, so Henry finally, finally, finally sets off to meet Sir Francis Varney face to face.

It does not go well:

"My master, gentlemen, is not very well; but he begs me to present his best compliments, and to say he is much gratified with your visit, and will be happy to see you in his study."

Henry and Marchdale followed the man up a flight of stone stairs, and then they were conducted through a large apartment into a smaller one. There was very little light in this small room; but at the moment of their entrance a tall man, who was seated, rose, and, touching the spring of a blind that was to the window, it was up in a moment, admitting a broad glare of light. A cry of surprise, mingled with terror, came from Henry Bannerworth's lip. The original of the portrait on the panel stood before him! There was the lofty stature, the long, sallow face, the slightly projecting teeth, the dark, lustrous, although somewhat sombre eyes; the expression of the features—all were alike.

"Are you unwell, sir?" said Sir Francis Varney, in soft, mellow accents, as he handed a chair to the bewildered Henry.

"God of Heaven!" said Henry; "how like!"

"You seem surprised, sir. Have you ever seen me before?"

Sir Francis drew himself up to his full height, and cast a strange glance upon Henry, whose eyes were rivetted upon his face, as if with a species of fascination which he could not resist.

"Marchdale," Henry gasped; "Marchdale, my friend, Marchdale. I—I am surely mad."

"Hush! be calm," whispered Marchdale.

"Calm—calm—can you not see? Marchdale, is this a dream? Look—look—oh! look."

"For God's sake, Henry, compose yourself."

"Is your friend often thus?" said Sir Francis Varney, with the same mellifluous tone which seemed habitual to him.

"No, sir, he is not; but recent circumstances have shattered his nerves; and, to tell the truth, you bear so strong a resemblance to an old portrait, in his house, that I do not wonder so much as I otherwise should at his agitation."

"Indeed."

"A resemblance!" said Henry; "a resemblance! God of Heaven! it is the face itself."

"You much surprise me," said Sir Francis.

Varney is enjoying the hell out of this, even if he is mildly indisposed. Henry continues to be uncivil and Varney continues to be suave (NB: he isn’t often all that suave, so enjoy it while you can):

"You know, from common report, that we have had a fearful visitor at our house."

"A vampyre, I have heard," said Sir Francis Varney, with a bland, and almost beautiful smile, which displayed his white glistening teeth to perfection.

"Yes; a vampyre, and—and—"

"I pray you go on, sir; you surely are far above the vulgar superstition of believing in such matters?"

"My judgment is assailed in too many ways and shapes for it to hold out probably as it ought to do against so hideous a belief, but never was it so much bewildered as now."

"Why so?"

"Because—"

"Nay, Henry," whispered Mr. Marchdale, "it is scarcely civil to tell Sir Francis to his face, that he resembles a vampyre."

"I must, I must."

"Pray, sir," interrupted Varney to Marchdale, "permit Mr. Bannerworth to speak here freely. There is nothing in the whole world I so much admire as candour."

"Then you so much resemble the vampyre," added Henry, "that—that I know not what to think."

"Is it possible?" said Varney.

"It is a damning fact."

Varney basically goes “huh,” and then winces, and admits he has hurt himself “in a slight fall,” which obviously Henry and Marchdale are like O RLY, especially when they then go into the I do not drink…vine scene. Henry is like “omg fuck I’M STANDING IN A ROOM WITH A VAMPYRE AAAHH,” and Varney completes the vampire stereotype by creeping on Henry’s sister:

"How very unkind. I understand you have a charming sister, young, beautiful, and accomplished. Shall I confess, now, that I had hopes of making myself agreeable to her?"

"You make yourself agreeable to her? The sight of you would blast her for ever, and drive her to madness."

"Am I so hideous?"

"No, but—you are—"

"What am I?"

Okay there, Edward Cullen. They leave, with a promise that Henry will consider his offer for the Hall, and Henry proceeds to have hysterics:

"Adieu," said Sir Francis Varney, and he made one of the most elegant bows in the world, while there came over his face a peculiarity of expression that was strange, if not painful, to contemplate. In another minute Henry and Marchdale were clear of the house, and with feelings of bewilderment and horror, which beggar all description, poor Henry allowed himself to be led by the arm by Marchdale to some distance, without uttering a word. When he did speak, he said,—

"Marchdale, it would be charity of some one to kill me."

"To kill you!"

"Yes, for I am certain otherwise that I must go mad."

"Nay, nay; rouse yourself."

"This man, Varney, is a vampyre."

ONCE MORE FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK, HENRY

"I tell you, Marchdale," cried Henry, in a wild, excited manner, "he is a vampyre. He is the dreadful being who visited Flora at the still hour of midnight, and drained the life-blood from her veins. He is a vampyre. There are such things. I cannot doubt now.”

And neither can we, my dude. Neither can we. Stay tuned for more.

Varney the Vampire Gets Shot Some More, Also There Is Breaking and Entering

With varying effects!

Last time we left our heroes preparing for their vigil, and it seems that they are to be rewarded, because Henry freaks out at hearing footsteps underneath the window and proposes to riddle the shrubbery with bullets:

"Hold!" said a voice from below; "don't do any such thing, I beg of you."

"Why, that is Mr. Chillingworth's voice," cried Henry.

"Yes, and it's Mr. Chillingworth's person, too," said the doctor, as he emerged from among some laurel bushes.

I love Chillingworth. He’s come to stab him some vampire with his kickass sword-cane, and Marchdale and Henry are packing, so they go off to investigate mysterious sounds outside the park. From the top of the wall they spy what looks like a dead body lying some distance away, except…

As the moonbeams, in consequence of the luminary rising higher and higher in the heavens, came to touch this figure that lay extended on the rising ground, a perceptible movement took place in it. The limbs appeared to tremble, and although it did not rise up, the whole body gave signs of vitality.

"The vampyre—the vampyre!" said Mr. Marchdale. "I cannot doubt it now. We must have hit him last night with the pistol bullets, and the moonbeams are now restoring him to a new life."

So they shoot him again.

Mr. Marchdale levelled the pistol—he took a sure and deliberate aim, and then, just as the figure seemed to be struggling to its feet, he fired, and, with a sudden bound, it fell again.

"You have hit it," said Henry.

"You have indeed," exclaimed the doctor. "I think we can go now."

"Hush!" said Marchdale—"Hush! Does it not seem to you that, hit it as often as you will, the moonbeams will recover it?"

"Yes—yes," said Henry, "they will—they will."

"I can endure this no longer," said Mr. Chillingworth, as he sprung from the wall. 

You and me both, Chillingworth. Varney gets up again and makes for the relative safety of the woods, and they shoot him yet again, but apparently miss, and stand around discussing what they just saw. Chillingworth has the best lines, as usual:

"There are more things," said Marchdale, solemnly, "in Heaven, and on earth, than are dreamed of in our philosophy."

"There are indeed, it appears," said Mr. Chillingworth.

"And are you a convert?" said Henry, turning to him.

"A convert to what?"

"To a belief in—in—these vampyres?"

"I? No, indeed; if you were to shut me up in a room full of vampyres, I would tell them all to their teeth that I defied them."

"But after what we have seen to-night?"

"What have we seen?"

"You are yourself a witness."

"True; I saw a man lying down, and then I saw a man get up; he seemed then to be shot, but whether he was or not he only knows; and then I saw him walk off in a desperate hurry. Beyond that, I saw nothing."

I love scientists. Marchdale suggests they go dig up Sir Runnagate Bannerworth and see if he’s properly dead or not, to set Henry’s feverish mind at rest, and they determine to follow this course of action. Time for an entire chapter of infodump regarding the history of the Bannerworth family and introducing Flora’s absent fiance Charles Holland!

Essentially, the Bannerworths used to have a bunch of money but a series of wastrel heads-of-family burned up all the cash, including Henry’s deceased father, and they are basically right on their uppers, but don’t want to sell the Hall. Henry’s received a good offer for it, and has been asked to let it, and both times he’s refused — partly because if they move, Flora’s fiance won’t be able to find them when he comes back from Weak Plot Device Country. They met while traveling abroad somewhere; she fell off her horse; he rescued her; heart eyes; he has to go spend two years doing unspecified things elsewhere and promises to come home and marry her afterward, and presumably is so dim a bulb that he will be incapable of finding her unless she stays where she is at Bannerworth Hall. However, everything sucks because of vampyre attacks and servants quitting and it seems more and more like moving would be a good idea.

We now return to our narrative, where Henry takes it upon himself to recap out loud:

"Look you, George; as yet, everything that has happened has tended to confirm a belief in this most horrible of all superstitions concerning vampyres."

"It has."

"Now, my great object, George, is to endeavour to disturb such a state of things, by getting something, however slight, or of a negative character, for the mind to rest upon on the other side of the question."

"I comprehend you, Henry."

"You know that at present we are not only led to believe, almost irresistibly that we have been visited here by a vampyre but that that vampyre is our ancestor, whose portrait is on the panel of the wall of the chamber into which he contrived to make his way."

"True, most true."

"Then let us, by an examination of the family vault, George, put an end to one of the evidences. If we find, as most surely we shall, the coffin of the ancestor of ours, who seems, in dress and appearance, so horribly mixed up in this affair, we shall be at rest on that head."

You get the feeling George is going “…okay then, Captain Obvious.” A minute later Marchdale shows up and they rehash the whole thing all over again:

“You have now, as you cannot help having, a disagreeable feeling, that you may find that one coffin is untenanted. Now, if you do find it so, you scarcely make matters worse, by an additional confirmation of what already amounts to a strong supposition, and one which is likely to grow stronger by time."

"True, most true."

"On the contrary, if you find indubitable proofs that your ancestor has slept soundly in the tomb, and gone the way of all flesh, you will find yourselves much calmer, and that an attack is made upon the train of events which at present all run one way."

"That is precisely the argument I was using to George," said Henry, "a few moments since."

"Then let us go," said George, "by all means."

"It is so decided then," said Henry.

"Let it be done with caution," replied Mr. Marchdale.

"If any one can manage it, of course we can."

And then they spend another several thousand words determining how it is to be managed. Eventually they set off and are joined by Chillingworth, and break into the church via the time-honored Gothic novel method of picking the lead out from around a windowpane and reaching through to unlock it, which is of course the way the Vampire of Croglin Grange got in to snack on Amelia Cranswell. There is lengthy discussion of candles and matches, and then lengthy discussion of unfastening the screws holding the vault door shut, and then lengthy description of this procedure being performed, and eventually they get into the goddamn vault and start looking at coffins. At this point Sir Runnagate Bannerworth magically, and without explanation, becomes Marmaduke Bannerworth, and you can sort of picture Rymer/Prest going “…let’s see if anybody notices.”

They eventually locate the coffin of Marmaduke Bannerworth, Yeoman, who either died in 1540 or 1640, because Rymer/Prest can’t keep their goddamn dates straight between paragraphs, and of course there’s nothing in there but some rags. Chillingworth thinks like a lawyer:

"Mr. Chillingworth, can you take upon yourself to say that no corpse has undergone the process of decomposition in this coffin?"

"To answer your question exactly, as probably in your hurry you have worded it," said Mr. Chillingworth, "I cannot take upon myself to say any such thing; but this I can say, namely, that in this coffin there are no animal remains, and that it is quite impossible that any corpse enclosed here could, in any lapse of time, have so utterly and entirely disappeared."

And like the scientist he is:

"Think again, Mr. Chillingworth; I pray you think again," cried Marchdale.

"If I were to think for the remainder of my existence," he replied, "I could come to no other conclusion. It is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fact."

They put the lid back on and leave, and Henry starts to whine about how everything is terrible forever and nothing matters and nobody has ever experienced an affliction worse than his and woe. Chillingworth tells him to stop being a twit and do something about it:

"Henry," he said, "the best way, you may depend, of meeting evils, be they great or small, is to get up an obstinate feeling of defiance against them. Now, when anything occurs which is uncomfortable to me, I endeavour to convince myself, and I have no great difficulty in doing so, that I am a decidedly injured man."

"Indeed!"

"Yes; I get very angry, and that gets up a kind of obstinacy, which makes me not feel half so much mental misery as would be my portion, if I were to succumb to the evil, and commence whining over it, as many people do, under the pretence of being resigned."

"But this family affliction of mine transcends anything that anybody else ever endured."

"I don't know that; but it is a view of the subject which, if I were you, would only make me more obstinate."

"What can I do?"

"In the first place, I would say to myself, 'There may or there may not be supernatural beings, who, from some physical derangement of the ordinary nature of things, make themselves obnoxious to living people; if there are, d—n them! There may be vampyres; and if there are, I defy them.' Let the imagination paint its very worst terrors; let fear do what it will and what it can in peopling the mind with horrors. Shrink from nothing, and even then I would defy them all."

"Is not that like defying Heaven?"

"Most certainly not; for in all we say and in all we do we act from the impulses of that mind which is given to us by Heaven itself. If Heaven creates an intellect and a mind of a certain order, Heaven will not quarrel that it does the work which it was adapted to do."

"I know these are your opinions. I have heard you mention them before."

"They are the opinions of every rational person. Henry Bannerworth, because they will stand the test of reason; and what I urge upon you is, not to allow yourself to be mentally prostrated, even if a vampyre has paid a visit to your house. Defy him, say I—fight him. Self-preservation is a great law of nature, implanted in all our hearts; do you summon it to your aid."

I LOVE CHILLINGWORTH OKAY

The authors cast some shade:

Mr. Chillingworth was one of those characters in society who hold most dreadful opinions, and who would destroy religious beliefs, and all the different sects in the world, if they could, and endeavour to introduce instead some horrible system of human reason and profound philosophy.

Sounds good to me. Off they troop, but back at the Hall Flora is having adventures of her own, having half-expected another visit from their friend:

One glance, one terrified glance, in which her whole soul was concentrated, sufficed to shew her who and what the figure was. There was the tall, gaunt form—there was the faded ancient apparel—the lustrous metallic-looking eyes—its half-opened month, exhibiting the tusk-like teeth! It was—yes, it was—the vampyre!

It stood for a moment gazing at her, and then in the hideous way it had attempted before to speak, it apparently endeavoured to utter some words which it could not make articulate to human ears. The pistols lay before Flora. Mechanically she raised one, and pointed it at the figure. It advanced a step, and then she pulled the trigger.

A stunning report followed. There was a loud cry of pain, and the vampyre fled. The smoke and the confusion that was incidental to the spot prevented her from seeing if the figure walked or ran away. She thought she heard a crashing sound among the plants outside the window, as if it had fallen, but she did not feel quite sure.

If you’re keeping track, that’s four times people have shot at Varney so far. I’d forgotten how much of this book consists of people shooting at Varney in between having THE MOST BORING CONVERSATIONS IN THE WORLD.

Anyway, Charles Holland shows up, and everybody gets brought up to speed on the situation vis-a-vis vampyres, and Flora is all like oh no I can never marry you I am tainted with the vampyre’s bite and am totally going to become one myself and it would be gross, upon which Charles Holland has sad feelings. Which is literally part of the next chapter’s title.

The Probable Consequence of the Mysterious Apparition's Appearance: Varney the Vampire

This time on Varney the Vampire we are introduced to the most sensible character in this part of the book and encounter a hint of Plot.

We left our heroes just as Varney finally manages to escape, getting shot (again) and vanishing over the wall; when they go to look for the body there is no sign of it, and after another several pages of dialogue they go back inside. It is revealed that the Ominous Portrait on Flora’s bedroom wall, which looks a hell of a lot like the thing that was snacking on Flora not so long ago, is of their ancestor Sir Runnagate Bannerworth, a double-dactylic wastrel who ninety years before “first, by his vices, gave the great blow to the family prosperity." I’ll take heavy-handed foreshadowing for three hundred.

In the morning Flora wakes up and has the screaming horrors at the sight of sunlight, which is a nice touch. The others proceed to have the world’s longest and least interesting discussion of whether vampires exist and, if so, if the thing they saw is one, eventually coming to the conclusion “yes.”

"Tell no one that which I am about to say to you. Let the dreadful suggestion remain with ourselves alone, Henry Bannerworth."

"I—I am lost in wonder."

"You promise me?"

"What—what?"

"That you will not repeat my opinion to any one."

"I do."

"On your honour."

"On my honour, I promise."

Mr. Marchdale rose, and proceeding to the door, he looked out to see that there were no listeners near. Having ascertained then that they were quite alone, he returned, and drawing a chair close to that on which Henry sat, he said,—

"Henry, have you never heard of a strange and dreadful superstition which, in some countries, is extremely rife, by which it is supposed that there are beings who never die."

"Never die!"

"Never. In a word, Henry, have you never heard of—of—I dread to pronounce the word."

"Speak it. God of Heaven! let me hear it."

"A vampyre!"

And so on. Eventually Henry decides to fetch a doctor to see Flora, and because he is an idiot is surprised to find that everyone is gossiping about vampires:

He had never thought, so engaged had he been with other matters, that the servants were cognizant of the whole affair,

Douchebag.

and that from them he had no expectation of being able to keep the whole story in all its details. Of course such an opportunity for tale-bearing and gossiping was not likely to be lost; and while Henry was thinking over how he had better act in the matter, the news that Flora Bannerworth had been visited in the night by a vampyre—for the servants named the visitation such at once—was spreading all over the county.

As he rode along, Henry met a gentleman on horseback who belonged to the county, and who, reining in his steed, said to him,

"Good morning, Mr. Bannerworth."

"Good morning," responded Henry, and he would have ridden on, but the gentleman added,—

"Excuse me for interrupting you, sir; but what is the strange story that is in everybody's mouth about a vampyre?"

Henry explains that uh, no, someone…broke into the house, that’s the ticket, no vampyres around here, and continues into town. He tells the doctor about his hideous suppositions and the doctor, Chillingworth, is like “don’t be ridiculous.” I like Chillingworth: he is the most sane and level-headed person we have met so far.

Back at the house Flora has come to the obvious conclusion herself, and while Chillingworth dismisses her fears, his scientific curiosity is piqued. We then get another little nugget of vampire lore which previously appeared in at least one other classic, Polidori’s The Vampyre:

"You have, of course, heard something," said Henry to the doctor, as he was pulling on his gloves, "about vampyres."

"I certainly have, and I understand that in some countries, particularly Norway and Sweden, the superstition is a very common one."

"And in the Levant."

"Yes. The ghouls of the Mahometans are of the same description of beings. All that I have heard of the European vampyre has made it a being which can be killed, but is restored to life again by the rays of a full moon falling on the body."

"Yes, yes, I have heard as much."

"And that the hideous repast of blood has to be taken very frequently, and that if the vampyre gets it not he wastes away, presenting the appearance of one in the last stage of a consumption, and visibly, so to speak, dying."

"That is what I have understood."

"To-night, do you know, Mr. Bannerworth, is the full of the moon."

Oh, Chillingworth. You’ve already made up your mind to pursue this matter. Polidori’s book came out in 1819, and Varney was published in serial form between 1845 and 1847, so it’s a fair bet that Rymer/Prest were cribbing off the earlier text; Lord Ruthven is definitely killable, and definitely comes back to life under the influence of moonlight.

(A brief aside re. taxonomy: In my verse, Varney is a lunar sensitive, a subspecies that uses the Y spelling and features the moonlight-resurrection trait, and I’ve borrowed the virgins-only thing from Blood for Dracula (Ruthven looks pretty much exactly like the young Udo Kier). Ruthven, however, is a classic draculine vampire with an I, who can drink anybody’s blood but who does not undergo moonlight resurrection, and who is extremely shirty about Polidori’s getting his taxonomy and his details wrong. Carry on.)

The Bannerworths now get a letter from Sir Francis Varney himself:

"Sir Francis Varney presents his compliments to Mr. Bannerworth, and is much concerned to hear that some domestic affliction has fallen upon him. Sir Francis hopes that the genuine and loving sympathy of a neighbour will not be regarded as an intrusion, and begs to proffer any assistance or counsel that may be within the compass of his means.

"Ratford Abbey."

To which they basically go “not now, dude, fuck off,” and get ready to sit up in Flora’s room all night, but Mr. Marchdale has another unsettling piece of evidence: a piece of cloth he had ripped off the vampyre’s coat the previous evening, which not only smells like the grave but matches exactly the coat Sir Silly Name is wearing in the Ominous Portrait, DUN DUN DUNNNN.

That’s enough for now. Tune in next time for Varney the Vampire Gets Shot A Whole Bunch More Times, With Varying Effect!

VS Presents Varney the Vampire, or, The Feast of Blood (and is not making any of it up)

I recently wrote on Twitter that one of the best parts about writing this book series is that I get to re-read Varney the Vamp(y)re again, and one of the worst parts was having to re-read Varney. There’s a lot of it. A lot a lot. The edition over on Gutenberg is 96 chapters long and that’s not even the whole thing; it was originally published as a penny-dreadful serial, and you get the feeling that authors James Malcolm Rymer and/or Thomas Preskett Prest were getting paid not by the word but the inch, or possibly the yard. (According to Wiki, grain of salt included, the entire book contains something like 667,000 words.)

And since I’m reading it again, or skimming it, anyway, to find useful details, I am going to share a little of it with the internet, in a series of brief recaps, to introduce the wonder and horror that is Varney to people who have never encountered him before. You can thank me after you try to un-see lines like the girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!


Varney begins with it was a dark and stormy night:

What is that—a strange, pattering noise, as of a million of fairy feet? It is hail—yes, a hail-storm has burst over the city. Leaves are dashed from the trees, mingled with small boughs; windows that lie most opposed to the direct fury of the pelting particles of ice are broken, and the rapt repose that before was so remarkable in its intensity, is exchanged for a noise which, in its accumulation, drowns every cry of surprise or consternation which here and there arose from persons who found their houses invaded by the storm.

Now and then, too, there would come a sudden gust of wind that in its strength, as it blew laterally, would, for a moment, hold millions of the hailstones suspended in mid air, but it was only to dash them with redoubled force in some new direction, where more mischief was to be done.

Oh, how the storm raged! Hail—rain—wind. It was, in very truth, an awful night.

We are introduced to our heroine, or at least our first heroine, Flora Bannerworth, who is as lovely as a spring morning and possesses a neck (and bosom) of exceeding pulchritude; she is asleep in an exhaustively described bed in an exhaustively described bedchamber furnished with an ominous portrait, and right away we go thoroughly creeptastic, in the time-honored fashion of vampire lit:

Oh, what a world of witchery was in that mouth, slightly parted, and exhibiting within the pearly teeth that glistened even in the faint light that came from that bay window. How sweetly the long silken eyelashes lay upon the cheek. Now she moves, and one shoulder is entirely visible—whiter, fairer than the spotless clothing of the bed on which she lies, is the smooth skin of that fair creature, just budding into womanhood, and in that transition state which presents to us all the charms of the girl—almost of the child, with the more matured beauty and gentleness of advancing years.

Ew. Flora and her glistening teeth keep sliding in and out of the present tense, but she is woken by the storm and then does a bit of screaming because the unearthly jagged flashes of lightning reveal unto her a tall dark figure climbing into her window:

The figure turns half round, and the light falls upon the face. It is perfectly white—perfectly bloodless. The eyes look like polished tin; the lips are drawn back, and the principal feature next to those dreadful eyes is the teeth—the fearful looking teeth—projecting like those of some wild animal, hideously, glaringly white, and fang-like. It approaches the bed with a strange, gliding movement. It clashes together the long nails that literally appear to hang from the finger ends. No sound comes from its lips. Is she going mad—that young and beautiful girl exposed to so much terror? she has drawn up all her limbs; she cannot even now say help. The power of articulation is gone, but the power of movement has returned to her; she can draw herself slowly along to the other side of the bed from that towards which the hideous appearance is coming.

This is genuinely freaky, and may be the inspiration for some of Murnau’s aesthetic choices in Nosferatu (see Willem Dafoe, as Schreck, doing the nail thing in Shadow of the Vampire). Rymer and/or Prest don’t waste any time in setup before they go right to the vampyre at his hideous repast. Notice here the polished tin description of Varney’s eyes, which is (I think) unique to him, and a wonderfully specific note which I had a lot of fun writing about. People whose irises are literally reflective should wear sunglasses to play poker.

Anyway, so Varney bites her, like you do, and she screams and faints, like you do, and this very slowly rouses the household. The dialogue here is unbelievable:

"Did you hear a scream, Harry?" asked a young man, half-dressed, as he walked into the chamber of another about his own age.

"I did—where was it?"

"God knows. I dressed myself directly."

"All is still now."

"Yes; but unless I was dreaming there was a scream."

"We could not both dream there was. Where did you think it came from?"

"It burst so suddenly upon my ears that I cannot say."

There was a tap now at the door of the room where these young men were, and a female voice said,—

"For God's sake, get up!"

"We are up," said both the young men, appearing.

"Did you hear anything?"

"Yes, a scream."

"Oh, search the house—search the house; where did it come from—can you tell?"

"Indeed we cannot, mother."

Another person now joined the party. He was a man of middle age, and, as he came up to them, he said,—

"Good God! what is the matter?"

And so on, for several pages, before they finally get around to breaking open Flora’s door, and Varney knocks over one of the dimwitted brothers and bounds out the window, but not before the slightly-more-competent houseguest Mr. Marchdale shoots at him. We are then treated to one of the finest scenes ever put to paper in the canon of literature: Varney Tries to Climb a Wall.

"God help us all. It is not human. Look there—look there—do you not see it?"

They looked in the direction he indicated. At the end of this vista was the wall of the garden. At that point it was full twelve feet in height, and as they looked, they saw the hideous, monstrous form they had traced from the chamber of their sister, making frantic efforts to clear the obstacle.

Then they saw it bound from the ground to the top of the wall, which it very nearly reached, and then each time it fell back again into the garden with such a dull, heavy sound, that the earth seemed to shake again with the concussion. They trembled—well indeed they might, and for some minutes they watched the figure making its fruitless efforts to leave the place.

"What—what is it?" whispered Henry, in hoarse accents. "God, what can it possibly be?"

"I know not," replied Mr. Marchdale. "I did seize it. It was cold and clammy like a corpse. It cannot be human."

"Not human?"

"Look at it now. It will surely escape now."

"No, no—we will not be terrified thus—there is Heaven above us. Come on, and, for dear Flora's sake, let us make an effort yet to seize this bold intruder."

"Take this pistol," said Marchdale. "It is the fellow of the one I fired. Try its efficacy."

"He will be gone," exclaimed Henry, as at this moment, after many repeated attempts and fearful falls, the figure reached the top of the wall, and then hung by its long arms a moment or two, previous to dragging itself completely up.

FROZEN WITH TERROR OF THE UNDEAD FIEND here, y’all. Varney eventually gets away, with a bullet wound and no dignity whatsoever, and thus sets up the main theme of the book: Varney Gets Chased By Various Individuals After Doing Something Reprehensible. Next time: thirty pages of stultifying dialogue before the Bannerworths even float the concept of Flora’s attacker being a vampyre, and we get to see Sir Francis Varney being snide.

So, Readercon 2018.

I've just got back from spending eight hours on a train from Boston to Baltimore and am thus somewhat incoherent, but I did want to mention some of the highlights of this year's Readercon:

  • Getting to see friends again whom I only have a chance to see occasionally, catching up with them, talking about what everybody's writing and where they are in the OH GOD I CAN'T DO THIS WAIT NO I JUST DID AND IT'S AWESOME cycle
  • Meeting people face to face whose work has been so important to me for so long
  • The strange high hotel on the hill which will never not be a Stephen King setting
  • PROGRAMMING -- I didn't get to go to all the panels I wanted to, but the ones I did were fantastic
  • For the first time ever, having people come up to me and recognize me and tell me how much they liked my work -- or, in one particular instance, how much they appreciated the research I put into the medical aspects of the books
  • Spending much of Saturday learning wirework from Elise Matthesen, whose artistry I have loved and lusted after ever since I first saw her work, and now itching to get my hands on improved equipment and supplies because I want to play so much more with the techniques she taught us
  • Having the concept of larger and smaller infinities actually explained to me by none other than Seth Dickinson, who was wonderfully patient while I worked out where I wasn't following
  • Getting to meet all kinds of awesome people and talking with them about all kinds of stuff including practical necromancy, air crash investigation, the fact that screaming skulls lay eggs, and a whole lot more
  • Dinner at the Indian place with dear friends for the second year in a row
  • Firming up plans to write an actual novella starring Devin Stacy the NTSB necromancer 
  • FOUNTAIN PEN GEEKERY
  • In-depth discussion of Stephen King's The Outsider with John Wiswell and Arkady Martine
  • SPACE PANTS
  • feeling like I'm part of this world, really and truly, rather than an outsider myself
  • finding a copy of book one for sale in the bookshop/dealers room and offering to sign it
  • getting to meet Melissa Caruso even super briefly -- that was AWESOME :D
  • barcon in general

My first Readercon, three years ago, I was a very stripling and had absolutely no understanding of this strange new world; it felt like being given a glimpse into a complex and fascinating universe I very much wanted to be part of. This year, I did feel part of it, and I want to thank everyone who helped make this year so particularly special. 

And next year will be even better. 

:D :D :D